This year's E3 is now in full swing, and already we've started to notice some common threads among the many E3 2014 games shown off thus far at the press conferences and on the show floor. Make no mistake: most of the games shown offer up unique premises and new spins on existing franchises. But amidst all the innovation, some concepts seem to popping up over and over again.
Granted, the trends aren't nearly as obvious as E3 2012's obsession with archery and Kanye West's music. But they're definitely there--and we want to clue you in on them. These are the recurring trends we noticed during E3 2014, and should persist well into the coming year of exciting game releases.
If you need to get from Point A to Point B in no time without dropping your gun, you're gonna need a grappling hook. With shooters getting faster and wilder, you can count on grappling hooks, ziplines, and all sorts of quick-travel items that make it easier to get closer to the things you need to shoot. It's no surprise to see the main character in Sunset Overdrive weilding one; we knew that was going to be a fast-paced game the moment Insomniac announced it.
On the other hand,Battlefield: Hardline's ziplines were a bit surprising. It's not as though the DICE-developed games were slow, plodding affairs, but with Visceral's more fast-paced take on balls-to-the-wall heists, being able to get from one building to another in a matter of seconds is vital, and a grappling hook is key. Rainbow Six Siege and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare also employ tactical grapples. Of course, there's also the Caped Crusaders classic grappling hook in Batman: Arkham Knight, in addition to Darkwing Ducks grappling hook is in Disney Infinity 2. WHAT'S UPPP!?
Not to be outdone by Battlefield: Hardline's grappling hooks, Activision's rival shooter has a method of fast traversal all its own. Putting the game 40 years in the future gives Sledgehammer Games some room to play with futuristic tech in Call of Duty: Advance Warfare, and chief among the new toys are jetpacks that take the advanced soldiers to new heights. If you're going to take down giant robot spiders and enemies wearing insanely armored exoskeletons, you're going to need the higher ground.
And while we knew Evolve was going to employ jetpacks so that your team of four hunters could search and destroy monsters, we got to see yet another reason why flight is a requirement instead of a recommendation. When you're being chased by a giant Kraken-like creature that can crush you with its tentacles or fry you with bursts of electricity, you'll want to escape as fast (and as high) as possible. And again, Infinity makes three, as we know Buzz Lightyear's prefered method of traversal.
Yes, dragons have been a mainstay of video games for years--there's just something naturally intimidating about a giant, scaly monster who can immolate you with its breath. But judging by the Microsoft E3 2014 press conference, dragons are the hot new thing to feature in your trailer. Between Dragon Age: Inquisition, Fable Legends, and especially Scalebound, you'd think the Chinese zodiac would mark this as the Year of the Dragon. (For the record, it's currently the Year of the Horse.)
Unlike Sean Connery in Dragonheart, we didn't see any of these dragons conversing with players or one another; it was mostly just spewing fireballs onto noble warriors and a Dante lookalike. But hey--we're totally cool with dragons making a comeback as the new fantasy villain in vogue. Anything to move us further away from retreading zombie territory. Unfortunately, Nintendo didn't add much to the fray, as their press event came and went with nary a mention of any Dragon Quest translations.
As gaming becomes increasingly invested in online communities and connections, more and more games are working to let you share your experiences. And while this trend isn't anything particularly new, the E3 2014 press conferences practically beat us over the head with demonstrations of four-player co-op woven into AAA games. Assassin's Creed Unity, Evolve, Tom Clancy's The Division, Dead Rising 3's DLC (which boosts the co-op action from parties of two to four), Fable Legends, and The Crew all emphasized that cooperating quartets are the wave of the future. Nintendo's unique foray into online shooters, Splatoon, will also pit teams of four players cooperatively covering stages in paint before their opponents do.
Though four seems to be the magic number of E3 2014, there was also an emphasis on massive multiplayer, as seen in games like Just Dance 2015, Rainbow Six Siege, and Battlefield Hardline. Basically, if you don't have an Internet connection in this day and age, then 1) you're not going to enjoy upcoming games to the fullest and 2) how are you even reading this right now.
We've long known of the DLC exclusivity war being waged between Xbox and PlayStation when it comes to the annual military shooters. Microsoft has Call of Duty, Sony has Battlefield, and it shall be so into perpetuity. However, this E3 revealed that Microsoft and Sony have nabbed a few additional exclusives to make their version of third-party games more attractive than the competitor's.
On the Xbox front, if you want the DLC for the new FPS experiences offered by the likes of Evolve and The Division, Microsoft's console will be the place to play it first. Xbox fans of fantasy have more than Scalebound and Fable to call their own--for a brief window they'll have Dragon Age: Inquisition content before it comes to PlayStation 4. Not to be outdone, Sony fired back with exclusive content for the likes of Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition and Disney Infinity.
Release dates in 2015
Let's get one thing out of the way, first; it was refreshing to hear so many E3 demos end with exact 2014 dates being delivered alongside the new footage. After fretting about how barren this holiday season seemed due to recent delays, hearing some high-profile titles announced for October and November was a nice change of pace. That said, there were plenty of games announced today that seem pretty far away, as they came with reveals that we won't be seeing release anytime over the next six months.
The reveal of the November-due Halo: The Master Chief Collection was nice, but it came with a twinge of disappointment that we won't be playing the final version Halo 5 this year (though we are promised entry into the multiplayer beta before year's end). For as long as its taken to see Playdead's next game after Limbo, we'll have to wait until early next year to play Inside. Nintendo's had a history of announcing games with a short turnaround time, but even their digital event was replete with 2015 releases like Kirby and the Rainbow Curse, Yoshi's Wooly World, Xenoblade Chronicles X, and the new Legend of Zelda coming to Wii U. Combine those with previously announced delays for the likes of The Division and The Witcher 3 and the fact that anything revealed for the first time during a press conference likely won't see the light of day until 2015 or later (heck, EA even said new info for Star Wars Battlefront won't even be revealed until next year), and we're starting our New Year's countdown a little bit earlier this year. Like right now.
"Conceptual prototype" footage
What do you do when you need to drum up hype for a game, but it's not really ready to be shown off just yet? If you're EA, you say "Screw it" and tease the game anyway. Footage of early prototypes served as the basis for everything related to the new Mirror's Edge, an unnamed Mass Effect follow-up,Star Wars: Battlefront 3, and Criterion's untitled multi-vehicle racer.
It was like EA was hellbent on showing off these games in their infancy, hinting at vague concepts without showing anything truly concrete. Hey, we'll take any bit of information we can get on these titles--but still, it was a wee bit of a letdown to be left scratching our heads at what we should expect rather than jumping up and down with anticipation.
Unnamed new IPs
Where most pressers came with release dates and in-game footage, EA couldn't be bothered to even name some of its reveals. In addition to the new Mass Effect game (which doesn't have a legit title mind you), BioWare is also working on an unnamed IP. That weird first-person racer which Criterion performed serious feng shui on their cubicles to make happen? Also too early to name.
Sure, we're used to "Codename: This" and "Project That" (heck, Microsoft still hasn't settled on a real name for Project Spark, and that debuted a year ago, and you know Nintendo's gonna milk the subtitle anticipation with The Legend of Zelda on Wii U for a few more months). But there comes a time when you just need a name to the game, EA. Here, we'll do one for you: Mirror's Edge 2. MIRROR'S EDGE TWO. No subtitle you can think of will be clearer than that.
Multiplayer beta invitations
You know what's exciting?! QA testing games for developers--FOR FREE! We kid; in all seriousness, it's pretty awesome that so many triple-A titles are opening the gates for multiplayer beta well before release. At E3 2014, it seemed like publishers were chasing after cred with the gaming masses by offering up beta sign-ups on-stage.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection grants access to the Halo 5: Guardians beta this December. The Crew and Battlefield Hardline sign-ups are available now. Xbox One gamers will get exclusive access to the Evolve beta this fall. Fable Legends multiplayer beta starts this holiday season. Destiny has both a beta and an alpha for fans to test. With that many betas to choose from, it's a wonder how anyone could find the time to play games that have actually gone gold.
We have to write about E3 2014's weirdest trend, but first let me take a selfie! Both of the third-party publishers had games featuring the hottest trend in amateur photography, albeit in drastically different forms. EA reflected the practice a little more normally, as it showed that Sims can photograph themselves. You may be able to alter a Sim's emotions, but you can't stop Maxis' faux-humans from being vain as all heck. EA earns extra points for incorporating an IRL selfie, as famed exec Peter Moore snapped this shot before the presser began.
Ubisoft tackled this pop-culture trend by making it extremely creepy. After offing one of his underlings for messing up your capture, Far Cry 4's offbeat villain Pagan Min tried to lighten the mood by taking a selfie with the game's presumed protagonist before a still-alive crony pulled a bag over the hero's head. Say cheese!
Hot off the eight arachnid heels of Watch Dogs' success in integrating robot spiders, two of the most disparate reveals of E3 showcased giant mechanized bugs. With Call of Duty: Advance Warfare, the Microsoft presser mainstay franchise showed a new side of shooter combat with some futuristic implements of destruction to take down insane enemies like you guessed it a giant robot spider tank.
During the final E3 pre-show presentation, however, Nintendo showcased that you don't need an army to take down giant enemy arachnids. While Link's bow was still pretty advanced (OMG TRANSFORMING ARROW), it was still pretty impressive to see one Wii U-bound warrior have enough skill to take down the mechanized spider.
It's the hot new thing
Those are the trends we noticed so far at E3 2014. Got any common threads you've seen between the big-name games? Enlighten us in the comments below!