E3 2016 is imminent... stand-by
E3 2016 is mere weeks away, and we already have a good idea what games will be at the show. PS4, Xbox One, PC, and even Nintendo - who have increasingly shied away from the event - will all be looking to make a splash for various reasons. Microsoft and Sony are battling for your attention in this crucial, mid-life-cycle stage of their console's lifespan, PC owners are being courted for VR, and Nintendo desperately needs to get back on the horse.
With that in mind, here are the very biggest games you can expect to see at E3 2016. It's not an exhaustive list, but it boils down the titles that will raise the biggest cheers at the show. Obviously there will be surprises too, but here are the hottest games we already know about.
The Battlefield 1 reveal caused quite a stir, and with good reason. Heading back to WW1 feels - ironically - like the breathe of fresh air the series needs, and response to the announcement trailer has been unprecedented. What’s got us excited? It’s the promise of more intimate combat, with shorter range weaponry and melee implements featuring more heavily. There’s a more analogue, direct feel to the weaponry that makes everything feel less complicated, more simplistically savage. On top of that the settings should be genuinely fresh, plus the prospect of new classes, heaps of vehicles, horses, and the ability to pilot a zeppelin or battleship… it’s all hugely exciting, and the world still knows relatively little about the whole thing.
Titanfall was a hell of a good time and an engaging spin on multiplayer shooters. Did grabbing a pilot out of their Titan ever get old? No. No, it did not. Neither did shooting down a drop ship at the last moment, foiling the other team’s escape. Several elements of Titanfall did get old a bit too quickly, though. The game had a lot of great ideas, but what it didn’t have was any kind of single-player mode, and with just a handful of game types and maps, it all began to feel too thin too quickly. Titanfall 2 will hopefully build on what came before, delivering the fast-paced, wall-running, mech-punching combat we adored, along with enough variety to keep players around for the long haul. We are prepared for Titanfall... again.
Gears of War 4
Gears of War 4 is a fresh start on pretty much every level. We have a new developer, The Coalition, led by ex-Epic man Rod Fergusson. We have a new cast and story, picking up 25 years after Gears 3 with Markus’ Fenix’s son, J.D. But perhaps most importantly, we have a clean slate, Gears 4’s design sweeping away the last couple of games’ excesses and stripping things back to the basics of the 2006 original. Fear, tension, close, demanding combat, a two player co-op limit, and a set-up where a single enemy is enough to scare the crap out of you. Sounds incredibly refreshing.
The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda Wii U is a bit of a mystery at the moment. Nintendo has been coy about revealing too much about it; we haven't seen Link in his traditional green garb, there's new open-world gameplay we know nothing about, and there are no clues about the story whatsoever. That's why I'm so excited to see what Nintendo is going to show at E3 2016. The game is still said to be released this year, and if that's true, Nintendo needs to put the new Zelda in the spotlight. There are also strong rumors that the game could end up on Nintendo's NX, and if Zelda is going make that transition, it might be the game that showcases the capabilities of the new console.
Destiny expansion / Destiny 2
We don't know for sure that Destiny 2 will be announced at E3 2016, but mounting evidence certainly seems to suggest it. As to why it's worth getting excited over, you need only look at how much vanilla Destiny has changed since launch. Three expansions later, Destiny finally has a leveling system that makes sense, more customization options, and a story that … well, at least there is one now. The lessons learned by Bungie were hard, as critics and players alike lamented the lack of content, nonsensical, threadbare plot, and the slog for better gear. If Destiny is the proof of concept, look to Destiny 2 as the game that will prove the formula not only works, but can be truly exceptional. Even if it doesn't garner the hype that the original did, as long as Bungie adds matchmaking to Raids, I'm in.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
It’s going to be an interesting time for Adam Jenson in Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. While the previous game had a range of possible endings, Mankind Divided picks the one where all augmented people went crazy. As a result anyone with enhancements is now treated like a criminal and it’s basically a bad time for people with robot bits. Cue resistance and Adam’s new role hunting down rogue augs. This instalment promises to nail the freedom that the previous game didn’t quite perfect with new gear and hopefully more freedom, building on what already works from before. So that means better shooting if you want to take the action route, and more exciting non-lethal options if you still want action but with a lower body count.
Mass Effect Andromeda
It’s definitely time to move on and the lack of a '4' on the end of Mass Effect Andromeda is a very clear sign we’re shifting into fresh and uncharted territory without our beloved Commander Shepard. Given the fact that we still don’t have a name for our hero - other than the widely rumoured ‘Rider’ emblazoned on a set of dog tags in the trailer - expect that to finally be revealed at this year’s E3. We’re also banking on footage of the teased increased exploration, more vehicles and settlement building as humans colonise the Andromeda galaxy. And, hey, did someone say something about jetpacks?
Horizon: Zero Dawn
Now this is a post-apocalypse that I can really get behind. Civilization as we know it is a thing of the ancient past in Horizon: Zero Dawn, but this new world is vibrant and thriving. Life has, uh, found a way, and bizarre new creatures roam the land. Giant animals made from the detritus of our former world, flocking and hunting like their flesh-and-blood predecessors? Yeah, sign me up. We’ve seen futures that go high-tech and those that go low, but Horizon looks to be blending the two into a new and intriguing spin on the open world adventure as heroine Aloy takes down mighty technobeasts with her bow, her arrow, and her wits. We don’t know a darn thing about the story yet, so hopefully this E3 will clue us in.
The surprise hit of last year’s Gamescom, our recent two-hour play of the historical open-world crime spree revealed that the best of the series is still present and correct, but reshaped to create a far more involved free-roaming experience, with freedom and tactical choice at its core. Beating down the mob means hitting all of their going concerns so that you can take over, and your means of doing that are vast and varied. Assassination, destruction of property, good old fashioned theft... All are open to be tackled, and in any way you see fit. Go loud, ghost it through, get creative with explosives and traps, or snipe a target from across the road and walk away. There's almost a light touch of Metal Gear and Hitman in anti-hero Lincoln's freedom to get the job done, making Mafia 3 the open-world game to keep an eye on this year.
Final Fantasy 15
After ten years of development hell and a false start as a spin-off of a previous entry, Final Fantasy 15 is beginning to take shape as a very real game that you'll be able to play on September 30 of this year. But despite the recent Uncovered event and two playable demos released to the public, there's still a lot of mystery surrounding how everything will fit together in the final version. What are our J-Rock band of heroes up to in their slick convertible? Why are there so many giant monsters living next to fairly busy freeways? How will the game actually play? E3 is one of the last big stops before the game’s release just a few months later, so here's hoping Square Enix gives us a substantial look at what Final Fantasy 15 really has to offer.
Resident Evil 7
It's been a long, hard road to the obvious, but it sounds like Capcom is finally rebooting Resident Evil back to its survival-horror roots. There's strong word - from trusted insider Serkan Toto - that Resident Evil 7 will be a back-to-basics clean slate, and revealed at E3 2016. Perhaps the undeniable, critically battered mess of Resident Evil 6 is responsible, perhaps the ongoing success of real, first-person horror in the indie sector, and the towering popularity of P.T. But either way, it sounds like the sensible move is now being made, and that Resident Evil might be on its way back to respectability. And if the rumour of involvement by Jordan Amaro, a developer on P.T. and Metal Gear Solid 5, turns out to be true, then the return to form could be legitimately barnstorming.
All we've seen of Dishonored 2 thus far is the gorgeous cinematic debut trailer from last year's E3, but that footage - combined with the stellar pedigree of the first game - was more than enough to stoke the fires of supernatural assassination hype. We know that you'll be able to choose between playing as Corvo or his almost-definitely daughter Emily in this slick-looking sequel, and that it takes place in the coastal city of Karnaca rather than the grimy streets of Dunwall. We can't wait to see how the distinctly creepy vibes of the original are reimagined for Dishonored 2, from a disgusting insects-in-the-intestines disease in place of a rat plague to new powers like ethereal tendrils you can use like a grappling hook to zip up and across rooftops.
Visceral's Star Wars game
Look, you could just slap the Star Wars logo on anything at this point and I would be in. The only thing I know for sure about Visceral’s next title is it's a Star Wars game. That's it. Now, the rumors swirling around make it sound amazing. It could be set in an open-world, and let's be honest, open-world in Star Wars can only mean open-galaxy. Based on the logos and development photos, the story might be set around a smuggler (Han Solo) or pirate character inhabiting the universe's underworld rather than the force and its lightsaber-wielding users. Hopefully we get our first glimpse at the game at E3. You know there's a Star Wars game in progress at Titanfall creators Respawn, right? We probably won't see it this year, but just keeping you informed...
Call of Duty Infinite Warfare
Not just GUNS this year but SPACE GUNS. The in no way confusing combination of Infinite Warfare being developed by Infinity Ward is finally taking one giant step for shooter-kind and launching the series properly into far future sci-fi. After the exoskeleton half measures of recent games this isn’t just firing you into the stars in a spaceship, it’s making you the captain - having to shoulder the responsibility of command while fighting rogue off-world colonists. Precise details are still a bit teasey but we know there’ll be planetary combat, and space fighting - both in fighters and space suits. There’s hints of Halo and Starship Troopers here (despite the human enemy), and given COD’s tenancy to cannibalise tropes, ideas and lines wholesale from films expect this to pillage every sci-fi film this side of Metropolis.
Final Fantasy 7 Remake
Rumors sprang out the day of Sony’s E3 2015 press conference that Square would be announcing a Final Fantasy 7 remake and the world rightfully scoffed. Sure, Internet, of course there’s going to be a Final Fantasy 7 remake. Just like there was going to be one at E3 2014. And E3 2013. And every freaking E3 since 1998. Only this time it actually turned out to be real, a massive, multi-game recreation of the landmark PlayStation original wrought in Advent Children-style detail. While 2016 is Final Fantasy 15’s time to shine, Square will almost assuredly give us another taste of the remake as we approach the game’s 20th anniversary.
Crackdown has gone quiet since Gamescom 2015, but expect explosions (literally and figuratively) at Microsoft’s press conference. The game’s ambitious plans to use the power of the cloud to create an enormous city with persistent damage makes this one of the most promising action games of the year. How it accelerates the busting up of that city, however, remains to be seen. Action games have moved on since the last Crackdown, and superhero movies are intensely hot right now, so Xbox owners will be expecting something truly special from this one.
Kingdom Hearts 3
Tetsuya Nomura hasn’t finished a game directed solely by him since Kingdom Hearts 2 in 2006. He’s worked on plenty of projects, including writing the stories and scripts for the myriad hallucinatory Kingdom Hearts spinoffs that have been released in the intervening decade, but he’s never finished another game by himself at the helm. It’s not surprising. Kingdom Hearts 2 is possibly the strangest game ever made. It’s about a young anime boy defeating 13 sinister clones of a madman. His best friends in it were Johnny Depp and Goofy. With the prelude collection Kingdom Hearts 2.8 due out this year, Square will undoubtedly have a fresh trailer and maybe even a bonafide demo for Nomura’s return to his insane world.
Samurais, knights and vikings battling to the death? What’s not to love? Ubi surprised us with this multiplayer hack n slash last year and that means we’re hoping for a pre Christmas release date and plenty more juicy info. From what we played last year the combat initially takes a bit of getting used to, but as you defend in specific directions before raining sword blows satisfyingly onto your opponent’s weak spots, it suddenly all clicks violently into place. There’s seas of enemies on each battlefield but it all boils down to a tense 4 v 4 skirmish where only those with the fastest thumbs can reign victorious. Button bashers need not apply.
Watch Dogs 2
What do we know about Watch Dogs 2? Very little outside some leaked concept art, and a handful of Tweets that suggest the tone of the game will be ‘very different’ to what was in the original. That’s no bad thing - Aiden Pierce isn’t the most distinct or memorable of characters, and the grim Chicago setting put a downer on what was actually a fun blend of old-fashioned shooting and new-fangled hacking. Speaking of which, it seems likely the setting will change, although expect some elements of the original’s narrative to remain.
Ghost Recon Wildlands
The Division - while imperfect - has whetted our appetite for co-op Clancy, making Ghost Recon Wildlands an even more thrilling prospect. Last year’s E3 revealed the game, and gave everyone a good idea of how it’ll play. Essentially, it’s like Far Cry but with military dudes. And some of the military dudes are your friends. Sometimes - while drop in/drop out cooperative play is going to be the best way to play Wildlands (because who doesn’t want to plan free-form missions across a massive, varied open-world with their buddies?) there is an option to just battle through on your lonesome.
My fellow Personaphiles know what’s up, but in case you’re new to this gleefully bizarre JRPG series, here’s the sitch: Personas are demons that you can call to your aid to do battle for you, like really angry Pokemon. You can collect them, upgrade them, or fuse them together to form new, more powerful personas that will help you fight your way through strange and deadly dungeons. It’s a whole thing. The dungeon crawling is challenging and exciting, but what sets the Persona games apart is how they explore themes that are actually relevant to your real life, like the importance of friendship, the pressure to please your family, loneliness, and even grief. The characters aren’t just shallow tropes used to shuttle the personas around, they’re fully-realized personalities with oh-so-relatable hangups. There’s also a shapeshifting cat, which, let’s be honest, should be more than enough to get you in the door.
In some ways, GT Sport is more of the same. Tracks, cars, unswerving (probably not literally) realism, and a raft of rather polite menu tunes. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing - if you love motorsports, you’re always hungry for more of Polyphony’s finely, slowly crafted racing sim. This iteration’s big new thing is eSports and competitive racing, so expect all manner of leagues and online options. Perhaps that’s not for everybody, but isn’t competition the very essence of racing? Even if it’s proving that you can get round a circuit quicker than anyone else on the planet?
Beyond Good & Evil 2
I know, I know. At this point, Beyond Good & Evil 2 feels more like a joke entry than a legitimate prediction. But I sincerely believe this will be the year that we hear more about photojournalist and bo staff-wielder extraordinaire Jade's interplanetary adventures. Why? Well, there's the rumor going around that Nintendo will publish the title for its NX console, and Ubisoft recently applied for new trademarks on the intellectual property. Couple that with the revival movement led by Shenmue 3, Final Fantasy 7 Remake, and The Last Guardian, and it's easy to see that plenty are hungry for a return to the classics. Nostalgia has reached its zenith, and Beyond Good & Evil is in prime position to make a return to the stage. If it doesn't happen this year, it's truly dead and gone.
100ft Robot Golf
Not since the likes of Mr. Mosquito or Katamari Damacy has a PlayStation system been graced with such a delightfully weird, absurdly original idea as 100ft Robot Golf. Imagine if, long after all kaiju have been eliminated, the colossal Jaeger mechs from Pacific Rim decided to pass the time with a relaxing round of links - except the hole is smack dab in the middle of a city which you'll inevitably end up tearing to pieces. It's such a goofy, colorful mix of slapstick comedy and satisfying destruction, and who knows what kind of improbable trick shots you'll have to pull to score a Moon-to-Earth hole-in-one. Plus, the thought of experiencing such a bizarre sporting event in PlayStation VR sounds like an excitingly weird. It may be your first - and only - opportunity to wield a golf club while piloting a giant mech.
God Of War 4
Okay, not the clearest of images but then leaks often aren't. And assuming it's true (there's a lot of art that's got out) then that is a new God Of War, and he's a viking. I'm excited for two reasons. Firstly, as God of War moved from its simpler PS2 art style to a more realistic rendering it became clear that Kratos was a dick. It's one thing pulling wings off harpies in low poly-o-vision, but gouging eyes in HD and throwing young girls to their death makes a hero harder to love. So new Kratos, new start. The second thing that makes this exciting is that after Greek mythology, the Norse stuff is probably the richest vein to mine. It's full of amazing monsters, angry gods and vengeance; so much vengeance. And that's pretty much all you need. If E3 delivers an angry beardy Kratos sticking to Odin then I'll be a happy man.
Like Final Fantasy 7's remake announcement at last year's E3, Shenmue 3 still feels like a distant dream we're waiting to wake up from. The games were strange even for their era, with their realistic weather patterns and day/night cycles, the pixel-perfect recreations of old Sega arcade games, and the daily schedules of citizens. Releasing a direct sequel to a game that ended on a cliffhanger 15 years ago somehow seems even stranger now. So what the hell is Shenmue 3, then? Will it stick to its guns, looking like a game emerging from a time capsule buried almost two decades ago, or will it embrace modern game design methodologies and bring the series rushing head-first into the present? Hopefully we'll get to catch our first, real glimpse at E3.
The Witcher 3 is easily one of the best games of the last ten years or so, and CD Projekt Red is continuing to support it with a wealth of incredible additional content. But fantasy… not really my thing. Sci-fi though? Like, hardboiled sci-fi about street punks and hackers and megacorps and loads of neon? Oh yeah. The Polish studio's next project, Cyberpunk 2077, should fit the bill nicely, but we haven't heard or seen a peep about the game outside of a single teaser trailer released three years ago. Will E3 finally be the first time we get to see it in action?