E3 may have come and gone, lost like tears in the rain, but its legacy lives on in the form of jaw-dropping trailers, hands-on impressions pieces, slowly amassing piles of drool around our desks as we dutifully wait like Fry’s dog Seymour for the hottest titles we saw at E3 2014. Last year, we had plenty of promises that came along with the next generation of consoles, but now that one year has passed since their E3 debut, did publishers deliver? Judging by the seriously impressive crop of games we saw this year, the answer is a resounding “yes”.
People always ask, “Who won E3?” The answer isn’t Sony or Microsoft or even Nintendo (despite a terrific press conference); rather, the winner at this year’s E3 (and every year’s E3) is the gamers. We’re the ones who will get to play these innovative titles, so with that in mind, Gaming Editor Malik Forte and I deliberated long and hard about which games we wanted to celebrate with our Editor’s Choice seal of approval and which game we wanted to raise above the rest to take home our coveted Best in Show award.
Evolve – 2K Games/Turtle Rock Studios – PC, PS4, Xbox One
Dan: Having sunk countless hours of my life into Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2‘s Versus Mode, I was understandably excited when I got the chance to sit down and play developer Turtle Rock Studios’ latest offering, Evolve. Beautiful in its simplicity and maddeningly compelling in its depth, Evolve is an asynchronous competitive multiplayer shooter that pits two teams – 4 players control hunters armed to the teeth, 1 player controls a gigantic, superpowered monster – against one another in what is essentially hide and go seek on bath salts. E3 2014 saw the reveal of the game’s second monster, the Kraken, which looks like Cthulu if he did pilates, and made for some seriously intense, adrenaline-fueled matches that have me counting down the days until October 7th.
In terms of e-sports, though, I think this is definitely going to be the hot new thing. We were fortunate enough to be asked to host the first ever Evolve E3 tournament, and it was the most fun I had at E3 2014, hands down. Even when I wasn’t directly involved in a match or I was walking past 2K’s gigantic booth, I found myself drawn into the action up on the screen and before I knew it I’d been watching and cheering like it was a World Cup match. Easy to watch and fun to play? You might just be on to something Turtle Rock…
Malik: Turtle Rock Studios is doing something with Evolve that’s never been done before– recreating the intensity of some of your most monumental boss battles, and giving the boss the mind of a human being. This creates one of the freshest and most unique dynamics that the first-person shooter genre has seen in a very long time.
As Dan said, the potential for this game garnering a solid e-sports community is extremely practical. Watching this game is more entertaining than most sporting events you’d find on television, and the amount of strategy involved in Evolve mixed with the high energy required to implement said strategies is right up the MLG/WGC’s alley. Don’t be surprised if there’s a high profile national championship of some sort for this game in the coming years.
Rainbow Six: Siege – Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal – PC, PS4, Xbox One
Dan: Seeing the look of unbridled joy on Malik Forte’s face during the Ubisoft press conference said it all. In a shooter field increasingly homogenized by the Call of Dutys of the world, Rainbow Six: Siege feels like a breath of fresh air in spite of its similar spec ops subject matter. With a focus on strategic, tactical gameplay, Rainbow Six: Siege looks like it will offer the kind of old school gameplay and modern innovations that first-person shooter fans are clamoring for. And shooting a hole in the drywall to give your sniper a better vantage point? Come on — tell me that didn’t have you hyped up.
Malik: Probably the most exciting moment for me last week, was the announcement of Rainbow Six: Siege at the end of Ubisoft’s media briefing. This was, of course, before I got up close and personal with the game on the E3 show floor, and seeing it in action reassured me that the series is, indeed, making a return. They’ve taken away the third-person cover system from the Vegas games and gone completely back to the roots of the series.
Malik: One of the surprises at E3 this year, Middle-earth: Shadow Of Mordor is delivering an interesting narrative concept mixed with an intuitive and fun combat system. A highlight feature in the game is the “Nemesis System,” which makes every enemy AI unit unique in the sense that they will remember you and their altercations with you. For instance: if you are killed by an enemy, he will be promoted within his ranks and the next time you run into him, he’ll know the gravity of battling you based on your previous meeting. Pretty much sounds like what Resident Evil 3 wishes it could’ve done.
Dan: Talk about a pleasant surprise. After two dreary Hobbit films, my appetite for adventures in Tolkien’s universe was all but non-existent. But then I wound up playing a little game called Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, and I remembered the sort of awe and wonderment I felt when I first read the books back in middle school. Expansive in its scope, towering in its ambition, and seamless in its execution, Shadow of Mordor is an engaging, addictive sandbox experience that puts you in the shoes of Talion, a ranger in Mordor who is possessed by a spirit of vengeance. Armed with a set of supernatural abilities, an arsenal of ways to assassinate all manner of orcs and mythical beasts, and a sense of purpose thanks to the Nemesis system, Shadow of Mordor is going to be one of the biggest surprises of the fall season. I went in expecting to play for fifteen minutes. Forty-five minutes later, I emerged a believer, ready to cleanse the land of all Sauron’s scum.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – CD Projekt Red – PC, PS4, Xbox One
Dan: Open-world was definitely the name of the game at this year’s E3 and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt might just take home the award for Prettiest RPG in All the Land. Seriously, it looks that good. During the forty-five minute guided demo, we were taken through the bustling city center of Novigrad to a swampy, eerie moor filled with fell beasts and dangerous bandits to a haunted hillside populated by werewolves and demonic tree spirits. I kept wanting the guys from CD Projekt Red to stop chasing down the next quest objective and to just stare off into the middle distance at the beautiful mountain vistas, lush forests, and sweeping valleys. Fortunately, the devs told us that everything you see is fully explorable; there aren’t any invisible barriers impeding your progress. With a Lovecraft-meets-Miyazaki aesthetic to the creature design, a fluid yet challenging combat system, and incredible attention to detail and world-building minutiae, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt looks like it’s going to raise the bar for what we can expect from role-playing games.
Super Smash Bros. – Nintendo/Sora Ltd./Bandai Namco Games – Wii U
Malik: Fans of the Super Smash Bros. series are very delicate when it comes to changes. When Nintendo introduced “tripping” to the game, fans rioted. The Wii Fit Trainer raised more than enough eyebrows and playing Smash on the Wii U Gamepad isn’t the most popular solution for the game’s experienced combo specialists. But couple the release of the Gamecube controller adapter with Nintendo’s willingness to listen to its fans and embrace the competitive Smash scene, and you’ve pretty much got yourself the ultimate Super Smash Bros. experience lined up.
Dan: Even after getting pummeled into a bloody pulp, damaged up to 300%, murdered by an errant Pokéball, and shamefully falling to my death time and time again, I can’t quit playing Super Smash Bros. The Wii U edition is a natural evolution for the series, offering smoother gameplay mechanics, sleek graphics, and a slew of exciting new fighters that series fans will come to love, hate, and whine about ad nauseaum. But, then, even the most stalwart of complainers will land a killer combo as Little Mac and send their opponent rocketing off the screen and you’ll remember why this is one of the single most addictive games of all time.
Bloodborne – From Software/Sony – PS4
Malik: For the love of Odin, Bloodborne is already looking like one of the most challenging titles that will hit next-gen platforms. It’s only fitting, considering the team behind the Souls series is at the helm on this one. And the game looks beautiful, giving the 19th century Victorian era a gothic twist, and throwing you in front of some highly detailed, and might I add, huge bosses. Sign me up for this one, STAT.
Dan: One of my biggest regrets of E3 was that I didn’t get to play this game or at least see a gameplay presentation. Start stocking up on spare controllers now because if there’s one thing you can expect from From Software, it’s a maddening level of difficulty that sinks its hooks into you and just won’t let go.
EVE: Valkyrie – CCP Games – Oculus Rift / Project Morpheus
Dan: This is the game that turned me from VR skeptic to a believer. One of the most immersive, instantly accessible, and overwhelmingly fun gameplay experiences I’ve had in a long time, EVE: Valkyrie manages to capture that feeling of pure, unadulterated joy that made me want to play video games in the first place. Having played it on the Unreal 4-powered Oculus Rift DK2 and an earlier build on Sony’s Project Morpheus, I can affirm that it is a smooth, intuitive experience that will have you dodging, rolling, and flying your way through asteroid fields and spaceship detritus in an effort to shoot down your opponents. Being able to look down and see your body, look behind you and see the rest of your spaceship, and target independently of your field of vision, EVE: Valkyrie feels like a revelation. A space-based dogfighting sim seems so simple in concept, but CCP Games nailed the execution, creating what I wager will be the killer app that VR needs to break through to the mainstream. Add in Katee Sackhoff as the main character and you’ve fulfilled every Battlestar Galactica-related dream I’ve had since 2004. Well, except the one where I’m Fat Adama. That was a weird one.
Civilization: Beyond Earth – 2K Games/Firaxis Games – PC, Mac, Linux
Dan: Having been fortunate enough to spend nearly an hour trying to colonize the inhospitable alien landscapes of Civilization: Beyond Earth before E3, there was little doubt in my mind that this would be the single best strategy gaming experience the show had to offer, especially if you’re a hardcore 4X fan like so many of my friends. Blending the best elements of Alpha Centauri with the core gameplay mechanics that made Civilization V one of the greatest timesinks in history, Civilization: Beyond Earth feels like a natural evolution for the series, familiar yet brand new all at the same time. From the addition of the sprawling tech web in lieu of a traditional tech tree to the lurking terror of Siege Worms erupting from the soil to turn my soldiers into a fine red mist, Civilization: Beyond Earth is a harrowing, consuming experience that will leave you breathless, bleary-eyed, and uttering that old adage: “Just one more turn…”
Dragon Age: Inquisition – BioWare/Electronic Arts – PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Although The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt had me slightly more hyped up, it’s hard to deny the beauty, grandeur, and depth of Dragon Age: Inquisiton makes it one of the most anticipated RPGs of 2014/2015. What I saw behind closed doors at the EA booth was a playable alpha build that looks better than most finished games I saw at the show. Having just played Dragon Age: Origins recently, it was remarkable to see how far it has come as a franchise. While the game retains is signature customizability, expansive dialogue options, and richly detailed world, it’s also bigger in every conceivable way. To wit, each level in Dragon Age: Inquisition is as large as Dragon Age: Origins, so you can put things in perspective. With a complex, highly strategic combat system, breathtaking moments of betrayal and high fantasy, and a sense of scale that makes the game world seem almost daunting, Dragon Age: Inquisition is going to be a vast, player-driven, RPG experience that you won’t want to miss.
Metal Gear V: The Phantom Pain – Konami/Kojima Productions – PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Malik: Metal Gear Sold V: Ground Zeroes was an excellent first taste of Hideo Kojima’s vision for a next-gen MGS game that was ended way sooner than anyone could’ve hoped. Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain, however, is said to be 200 times larger than Ground Zeroes, and every bit of gameplay demonstrated for this game at E3 showcased the sheer scale of the game’s environment, which is sure to keep fans of the series occupied for quite some time.
I’m satisfied with this new open-world direction that the Metal Gear Solid franchise is taking. Kojima seems to be taking a Red Dead Redemption approach to story telling within a sandbox play area, seamlessly blending the gameplay with plot sequences that play out as the player traverses the game’s environment. Also, this cast of characters gets more and more interesting with every new face they introduce. When all is said and done, I think it’s safe to conclude that Phantom Pain will definitely be worth the wait.
Far Cry 4 – Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft – PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Dan: In the words of Jessica Chobot, “You know a man means business when he’s got frosted, side swept bangs”. Sure, the game’s platinum-tressed, effete dandy of a villain may seem over the top, but after watching the first five minutes of the game, you know he’s all business. Like a Joker or a Kefka of the Himalayas, Pagan Min is a brutal, despotic, yet manicured warlord and you just so happen to be his guest of honor on another, free-roaming, mindf$%k of a first-person shooter. With elephants goring local militia, seamless transitioning between single-player and co-op gameplay, and truly dazzling graphics, Far Cry 4 is going to take the franchise to new heights — quite literally.
Malik: PETA may have a thing or two to say about Far Cry 4. There’s a lot of weaponized animal action going on in this game, and while some may not be fond of carnivorous tigers being used as killing machines, in regards to a video game, it sounds quite glorious. Far Cry 4 appears to be picking up the fun right where Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon left off, and this time the series has a drop-in/drop-out cooperative feature called “Guns For Hire.” My only issue with this game is the fact that whether or not rideable elephants will be a thing still remains to be seen. But at least we know for sure that we’ll be able to remotely wreak havoc on Kyrat with these giant badasses.
Sunset Overdrive – Insomniac/Microsoft Studios – Xbox One
Malik: Sunset Overdrive oozes with charm, exciting gameplay and an art style as exuberant as the old Jet Grind Radio series. I feel this may pan out to be Insomniac’s best work yet– the witty dialogue and colorful atmosphere make everything in Sunset Overdrive feel like a breath of fresh air. Plus the name of the weapons is pretty epic– “A.K. F**k You Up” anyone? Go on with your bad self and swing from those power lines, and may anyone who mistakes you as Cole McGrath eat a clip of your most viciously twisted ammunition.
Tales From The Borderlands – Telltale Games – PS3, Xbox 360, PC, Mac, iOS
Dan: Before anyone goes about crying “Nepotism!” because Chris Hardwick is a member of the game’s impressive voice cast, you should know that the standout performance, far and away, belongs to Patrick Warburton’s Hugo Vasquez, who may just be the greatest corporate douchebag since Hart Bochner in Die Hard. While at E3, I sat in a plush, 12-seat theater and watched the first 30 minutes of gameplay unfold in traditionally crazy Telltale fashion. Yet, while The Walking Dead traffics in hopelessness and The Wolf Among Us oozes grit from every pore, Tales From the Borderlands seems almost joyous by comparison. It is clever to a fault, laden with jokes, wordplay, and that particular brand of Pandoran mayhem that makes the Borderlands series such a pleasure to play.
At long last, it seems, Telltale can embrace the lighter side of murder. After all, you need to be able to find some levity in seeing a machine gun-wielding Psycho turned into a fine red mist thanks to being crushed by an Autoloader coming in hot from orbit. Like Rashomon with dick jokes, Tales From the Borderlands puts you in control of multiple characters each telling their version of the same story. Who is telling the truth? Who is lying? Who cares? It’s going to be a raucously fun time and a great excuse to make the trek back to Pandora when it drops later this summer. (DC)
Mortal Kombat X – Warner Bros. Interactive/NetherRealm Studios – PC, PS4, PS3, Xbox One, Xbox 360
Dan: Gamers love deep, compelling, well-crafted stories with heartfelt characters, narrative arcs, and a sense of agency over their actions. Then again, they also love tearing their friends limb from limb, pummeling them into smithereens before ripping their still-beating hearts out through their chests. NetherRealm Studios understands the latter of these two impulses and has given the people what they wanted in the form of Mortal Kombat X, the long-awaited sequel to Ed Boon’s venerable series. That isn’t to say that Mortal Kombat is without a meta-story; quite the opposite, in fact. Taking place 25 years after the last game, Mortal Kombat X is going to bring us to a whole new era of asskicking and introduce us to some incredible new characters along the way. For instance, Sonya and Johnny Cage’s daughter. That’s right — their daughter.
More importantly, though, Mortal Kombat X is a polished, slickly produced fighting game that is going to fill that fist-shaped hole in our hearts. Taking notes from what worked in Injustice: Gods Among Us, MKX has a heavy emphasis on interactive, dynamic arenas, a surprisingly deep combat system, and, of course, over the top violence. New to the game in particular is the Variations system, which will allow players to select one of three fighting styles for each character. This isn’t just a re-skin or a slight stats boost though; these are three unique movesets and play styles that will lend a tremendous amount of depth to an already thorough combat system. Judging by the Fatalities we’ve seen so far, Mortal Kombat X won’t be pulling any punches when it drops next year — and we wouldn’t have it any other way.
Assassin’s Creed Unity – Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft – PC, PS4, Xbox One
Dan: While the big story at E3 may have been about how Ubisoft couldn’t seem to get its foot out of its mouth concerning female characters, Assassin’s Creed: Unity still managed to impress with stunning next-gen visuals, fluid gameplay footage, and, most excitingly, the addition of campaign-based multiplayer co-op missions. That’s right — you and three other friends can traipse around 18th century Paris sticking it to the gentry and putting a coordinated stop to injustice, one hidden blade at a time. Now, this doesn’t mean those of you with a preference for going it alone are out of luck; according to Ubisoft, the single-player campaign exists in addition to these multiplayer missions, so you’ll still get the full Assassin’s Creed experience of being a preternaturally parkour proficient white dude from yesteryear. And, just remember, if you’re about to make a Les Miserables joke, don’t.
Malik: If there was a series that would benefit the most from adding a cooperative element into its mix, that series would be Assassin’s Creed. The latest installment is taking a step in the right direction and thus, garnering the attention of gamers who’ve never experienced an Assassin’s Creed game before. The idea of fighting (or sneaking) through a collection of obstacles to reach a valuable target with a group of friends feels almost too good to be true, but since Assassin’s Creed: Unity is making this a reality (and doing it damn well might I add), we couldn’t help but slap our seal of approval for Ubisoft Montreal’s upcoming entry to the series. Keep focusing on the games, Ubi, less on making public statements.
Dan: All eyes were on Bungie when they first announced Destiny, their follow up to their sterling work on the Halo series, and for good reason. They changed the face of modern gaming with Halo, the game that launched a thousand Xboxes, but could they do it again? From what I’ve played of Destiny so far, I’m inclined to say yes. An expansive, mesmerizing vision of alien-invaded Earth that blends together the best aspects of Halo with open-world, team-based RPG elements (and a healthy dose of Peter Dinklage as your robotic Navi to boot), Destiny is going to ruin lives in all the right ways. Say goodbye to your social life, say goodbye to sunlight, and say hello to your new obsession: fulfilling your Destiny.
Malik: The amount of hype around Destiny is unheard of for a new IP, and boy, is this game ever living up to it? Bungie’s ambitiously massive first-person shooter combines everything we love about the Borderlands series, everything we love about the Halo series, and everything we love about MMOs, combining them into one marvelous mold of sci-fi illustriousness that is sure to rivet gamers across the globe.
But don’t think because Destiny is borrowing gameplay elements from other titles that it suffers to bear its own identity: this game is working wonders on the innovation side of things as well. During the First Look Alpha that the world received access to during E3, I found that this game had a robust clan and alliance system– an intuitive feature that was severely watered down in the previous gen for accessibility reasons– loads of customization, from the player’s character to the players vehicles, and an immensely enthralling competitive mode, which goes a step beyond Halo in providing fun, fast-paced and balanced competitive action.
God, this game is looking good. I actually almost shed a tear earlier this week when the Destiny First Look Alpha servers went down. Full steam ahead to July 17!
The Division, Valiant Hearts: The Great War, No Man’s Sky, Yoshi’s Wooly World, Story of Seasons, Dying Light, Night in the Woods, #IDARB