E for All
With another E3 in the books, it's time to discuss the greatest games shown at the convention. Sure, there were exciting reveals by way of Uncharted 4 and a new Legend of Zelda, but those were only briefly teased. Here, we'll celebrate the games that were actually at the show--the ones we could play, or at least see in-action.
We played dozens of games and watched hundreds of demos, getting an inside look at what 2014 (and 2015, and 2016, and 2017) have to offer. Want to know what your gaming obsessions will look like in the future? Look no further than GamesRadar's list of the best games of the show, all of which have received some very specific awards.
Dragon Age: Inquisition wins the "How to Maim Your Dragon" award
Why is Dragon Age: Inquisition one of our absolute favorite games of E3 2014? Where to start... How about the fact that, for the first time in the series, there's a giant open world to explore? Hell, just one of Inquisition's zones is bigger than the entirety of Origins. Then there's the revamped combat, which seems to be an excellent middle-ground between Origins and Dragon Age 2; the moment-to-moment battles are very heavy on the action, but you can also use the Tactical View to pause the game, issue out commands to your team, and then execute on your strategy. Yes, please.
Perhaps the most exciting new feature is that players have the opportunity to lead the Inquisition, an ancient order whose purpose is to restore balance in times of chaos. You'll bring an end to the war between the Templars and Mages by recruiting forces into the Inquisition, capturing precious keeps, and sending your troops on critical missions. Oh, and the dragon fights in Inquisition? Absolutely insane. These aren't a cakewalk--you need to coordinate your party if you hope to defeat the massive fire-breathing creatures. But knowing victory will lead to some sweet, sweet rewards will make it well worth the effort. This is the sort of massive RPG we can't wait to dig into.
Bloodborne wins the "Wait, Why Isn't This Just Called Demon's Souls 2?" award
Pfft, check out this Dark Souls wannabe. We've written at length before about what makes FromSoftware's Dark Souls series so special--so when we got a chance to see Bloodborne, the dev's next game, in action at E3, we were eager to learn what it actually was, and how it would separate itself from the Souls games we know and love. In short: it's very much a spiritual successor to Dark Souls, but with a much bigger emphasis on aggressive play.
You'll be happy to know that Blodborne's core is all about deep exploration and perilous combat. Where Dark Souls is a more passive experience--you spend a lot of time cautiously learning enemy attack patterns--Bloodborne requires a more proactive approach to battle. You have no shield or defensive tools outside of dodging, so you have to act quickly and strike down enemies before they kill you. Expect to die fast, and expect to die a lot. Sure, this might be a faster-paced experience than any of the Souls games, but it'll offer the same sense of challenge and reward. Sounds good to us.
Battlefield Hardline wins the "Shake it Up, Don't Break it Up" award
Ah, the eternal question for game developers: how to keep your series fresh while retaining the stuff players know and love? Battlefield Hardline is repackaging the rather lovely shooting from Battlefield 4 with an exciting, new copsnrobbers theme. We've been playing the Beta, and while it feels familiarly slick, the new modes open up an array of fresh tactical options.
The new modes--Heist and Blood Money--force players to rethink the way they approach combat and movement around each map. And this is the real reason to get excited about the latest Battlefield; its a very different spin on a game that we already love. The deep customization, even more advanced levolution, and more vibrant urban maps are just neat little extras that round-off an exciting prospect for the end of 2014. And who knows: maybe the single player will be good this time too. Maybe.
Rainbow Six Siege wins the "Rising from the Ashes" award
Rainbow Six Patriots is dead--long live Rainbow Six Siege, the next entry in Tom Clancy's acclaimed series. Instead of trying to follow in the footsteps its action-based contemporaries, Siege opts to double down on small-scale, competitive multiplayer. The demo at the show featured a small house, and tasked a team of Rainbows with breaking in to take out the Rogue Spear enemies inside and to rescue a hostage. It was a small and intimate match, and a breath of fresh air when compared to the massive, sprawling arenas where most modern shooters take place.
Nearly everything is destructible, but it's not a nonstop cacophony of explosions and drywall. Dying knocks you out for the round, so you'll need to be careful when blowing holes in the wall or planting a breach charge. It just adds more strategic options to a game already high on strategy.
Far Cry 4 wins the "Best Selfie" award
Any game that allows--and encourages--you to storm an enemy fortress while riding a rampaging elephant and cackling like a gun-toting maniac (what, was that just us?) has our vote. And thats just a random ten minutes of Far Cry 4.
The demo Ubisoft laid out during its press conference was slick and pulse-pounding, showing our hero hopping from rooftop to hijacked jeep to wingsuit in a haze of action and insanity. When we got our hands on the game for that aforementioned elephant ride it handled smoothly, letting us tear through the compound with--barring the heavily armed terrorists--the greatest of ease. This edition of Far Cry also promises at least a hint of multiplayer to supplement your exotic adventure, a feature we think will add even more value to the experience. Throw in a throat-stabbing, psychotic villain and this looks like the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Assassins Creed: Unity wins the "Sassiest Public Execution" award
Do you hear the people sing, singing the song of angry men? Well, Assassins Creed: Unity didnt have much singing (too busy with the stabbings and beheadings), but it looks to be seriously sweet nonetheless.
Unity attacks the series first wholly new gen experience head-on, improving the gameplay weve come to know so well with small but critical changes. Refined vertical movement, a HUD that can be toggled on and off, greater environment variety, and crowds you can actually hide in all bring significant improvements. Theres also plenty of acrobatic kills and mayhem to look forward too, in addition to dozens of conspiracy theories and Assassin-Templar shenanigans, so whats not to love? We, for our part, cant wait to get ahold of our hidden blades again.
Ori and the Blind Forest wins the "Ugh, it Taps Into Our Cartoon Affection" award
In the last few years, there has been an 8,000-percent increase in games that feature a stunning handdrawn aesthetic: Child of Light, Rayman Origins/Legends, Valiant Hearts, and more. Now, you can add Ori and the Blind Forest to that list. This 2D metroidvania game caught us totally by surprise. Not only is it super gorgeous, it makes a great first impression with its challenging platforming and focus on mobility.
You play as Ori, a forest spirit raised and fostered by some sort of owl thing. But one day, the forest in which you live goes dark, and you set off to discover what's going on. In practice, this means exploring the richly detailed environments, battling deadly creatures, and unlocking new abilities that grant access to areas that were previously inaccessible. The controls feel incredibly tight, and the game is immensely challenging; battles are more about dodging projectiles and enemy attacks than they are stringing combos, so the focus on platforming comes through in all aspects of the game. Don't let its cute looks fool you: Ori and the Blind Forest is a metroidvania game that promises to put your skills to the test.
The Witcher 3 wins the "REAL Men Hunt With Swords" award
Make no mistake: Geralt of Rivia, a badass monster killer, he's a better hunter than any of us could ever hope to be. He doesn't need fancy bait piles or tree stands: he just turns on his Witcher instincts to see the tracks of his prey, follows said tracks to the target's nest, then slashes it to death with one of his two swords. Guns? Who needs 'em when melee weapons do the trick? Of course, Geralt being a Witcher, he can also just use some of his spells to catch things on fire, so that's pretty cool, too.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is downright massive in scope. This open world game is noticeably larger than Skyrim, and is packed with tons of quests to complete, monsters to hunt, and gorgeous vistas to admire. It'll be one of the first open world games to truly tap into the hardware potential of the PS4 and Xbox One, so get ready for a vast experience packed with awesome combat and some great opportunities for exploration.
Evolve wins the "REAL Monsters Hunt Alone" award
After years of playing shooters that went out of their way to make sure everything was as balanced as possible, there's something magical and exciting about asymmetrical multiplayer. In Evolve, one team plays what is basically Left 4 Dead, trudging through the jungle and trying to hunt down a massive monster. That big beasty is more than just an AI-controlled brute, though--there's a player behind those big, nasty eyes, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
Though it might sound complicated, it's actually quite brilliant in action. Unlike some other multiplayer modes that cast players as either a super-powered hero or mindless grunts, both sides feel satisfying and rewarding. The hunters are all about strategy and camaraderie, like something out of Predator or Jaws. And the monsters? Well, they're just badass.
No Mans Sky wins the "Too Big To Comprehend" award
After seeing No Mans Sky in a private E3 demo, we started to get an idea of what exactly the game encompasses--which is basically the infinity of the universe. The sci-fi game procedurally generates plants, spacecraft, and entire planets full of wildlife into the inky void of virtual space, constantly creating more and more for players to discover. In our short time with it, we saw the protagonist walk out of a cave, pass by a few massive dinosaurs, hop into his ship, fly out of the atmosphere into space, blast past a fleet of starships, and then land on an entirely new planet.
As the devs tell it, thats just a fraction of a fraction of what can be explored and discovered in the galaxy theyve already created. And thanks to the procedural nature of the content, they fully expect players to discover things the devs never imagined. The devs intend to boldly going where no one has gone before--not bad when you consider the developers last game was the much smaller scale Joe Danger.
Mortal Kombat X wins the "Most Delighted Squeals of Horror" award
We thought wed seen it all with Mortal Kombats gleeful brutality, but we underestimated the developers at Netherrealm. Mortal Kombat X is the teams first game for the PS4/Xbox One, and that next-gen upgrade means that the gratuitous gore is more detailed than ever. Just watching the E3 trailer made us scream multiple times with a mix of excitement and horror.
Its even crazier to play and see the new bone-crushing, spine-ripping X-Ray moves play out. You'll wince seeing Scorpion jab Sub-Zero in the eye with a kunai. You'll cringe when a skull shatters into dusty fragments. You'll likely scream the first time you see an new move that shows someones testicles getting punched until they explode. And if this is what theyre showing at E3, just how creative (or kreative) will the rest of the action get?
Batman: Arkham Knight wins the Is it 2015 Yet? award
This years E3 was full of games that wont be available until the next calendar year--and that makes waiting all the more difficult. But no wait feels as painful as the one for Batman: Arkham Knight, especially now that weve played the E3 demo. The game looks gorgeous, with the transforming Batmobile being a particular standout that makes next year feel very far away.
The demo showed some of the earliest meetings between Bats and Arkham Knight, the newest nemesis intent on putting Gotham at risk. The Batmobile helped fight Arkham Knights army of thugs, becoming as good a sidekick as Robin has ever been. After 30 minutes with Rocksteadys next Bat-adventure, we really hope the game gets released in the first half of 2015, because we dont think we can take the frustration of another E3 tease next year.
Yoshis Woolly World wins the "OMG IT'S SO CUTE" award
OMG IT'S SO CUTE. Yoshi's Woolly World is an absolutely adorable platformer, turning the already-charming land of Yoshi's platformers into a bundle of overwhelming cuteness. Everything looks like it was created by hand, from the knit trees to the puffy cotton clouds. The world, and everything in it, is tangible and beautiful.
But, more importantly, it's fun to play. Following in the footsteps of the Yoshi's Island franchise, the green (or red, if you're down for co-op) dinosaur can jump, flutter, eat, and toss eggs at its enemies. Wait, did we say eggs? They're actually BALLS OF YARN :3.
Super Smash Bros. wins the "Welcome Back, Wavebird" award
After a year of teasing, we finally got to go hands-on with Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U and 3DS, and yeah, it plays exactly like you want it to. Grab a GameCube controller, plug it in to the Wii U adapter, pick a character, and you're brawling just like you did in the past. There are, of course, plenty of little differences that make it feel unique, but it's really the ways it stayed the same that has us excited.
But the thing that really pushed it over the edge onto this list was Amiibo, Nintendo's NFC figurines. Launching with Smash, the toys will sync up with your system to allow you to train and fight different characters. It's a great concept, and should make the wait for the game a little easier.
Alien: Isolation wins the "Too Scared to Breathe Award" award
Alien: Isolation is relentless. It has no respect for you, your nerves, or whatever watered down, weak-sauce horror games you might have played before. It is intelligent, it is calculating, it is even beautiful in its own way, but it absolutely will not stop until it has horrified you into a coma. Its nigh impossible to relate the experience to someone who hasnt played it, being so unlike any other survival-horror game in its methods, emotional impact, and sheer, invasive sense of terror. But once you do play it, youll have trouble looking at the genre in the same way again.
The truly intelligent, unpredictable, decision-making Alien is essentially alive. There are no easy, video game-y ways to manipulate it. It wants to kill you, and without a consistent, flawless display of improvisation, tactical evasion, and so, so much hiding, it will do exactly that. And the stark, oppressive, ink-black 70s sci-fi interiors all of this plays out in are nigh indistinguishable from the film in both look and atmosphere. Fear it.
Until next year!
So, that was E3! Obviously there were plenty of other great games to talk about--and believe us, we'll talk about 'em--but these were the ones that most ferociously tickled our fancies. Disagree? Agree? Let us know in the comments, below!