E3 Exclusive Coverage
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E3 2016, Exclusive Coverage
Written by Jesse Seilhan and Josh Schilling
It felt like E3 might become a thing of the past, with huge companies like EA, Disney, and Activision pulling out of the yearly trade show. Rumors swirled of the show’s demise for months leading up to the first press conference, but we’re here to say that the state of gaming is as strong as ever and E3 is still the place to go if you want to see the latest and greatest in gaming. And while a few companies did take off, plenty filled up in their place, like 2K’s giant faux-New Orleans booth for Mafia III and Bethesda’s shrine to their various games like Doom, Skyrim, and Fallout. Nintendo converted their entire show floor to The Legend of Zelda, complete with 160 demo stations that required up to six hours of waiting just to get a chance to play Link’s new adventure.
The press conferences were a little less exciting than usual, with very few surprises announced leading up to the big show. Sony is rebooting God of War in a Norse setting, ditching the isometric bloodfest for an over-the-shoulder combat system that stars Kratos and his son. Microsoft unveiled a slimmer, sleeker Xbox One S, complete with a redesigned controller and HDR capabilities. They also closed their show by teasing an upgraded Xbox One, due out next holiday and codenamed Scorpio. Ubisoft showed off their known franchises while debuting Steep, an extreme sports title for the GoPro generation. And EA updated most of its sports games while still keeping quiet on the myriad of Star Wars games it has been working on for years, sparing a few minutes to briefly tease the next Mass Effect game.
We played over 30 games this year, from top titles coming out this holiday to future projects with vague release dates. Regardless of what console you own, all three major systems are getting quality games this year and PC gamers will have the best-looking versions of them all. Here are the top six games we played and why you should be excited to get your hands on them!
One of the biggest shockers from Sony’s press conference was the news that Rocksteady was going back to the Dark Knight well, designing a Playstation VR exclusive Batman experience dubbed “Arkham VR.” The trailer showed next to nothing, other than Mark Hamill’s wonderful Joker dialogue, but we got to try on the headset and give being Bruce Wayne a spin for about 15 minutes. And after trying half a dozen VR games and demos, Batman left a huge impression and might be one of the best reasons to buy Sony’s new accessory come October.
The demo starts off in Wayne Manor, where Alfred approaches from your right to hand you a key. You have full range of motion here, so you can move your hands as they clutch the Move controllers and your 1-to-1 movement is mirrored on the display. You use this key to unlock the piano in front of you, which can then be played by grazing your hand over the keys. Once you’ve had enough, the floor underneath opens to reveal that this is actually the entrance to the Batcave and you’re about to don the Caped Crusader’s costume. You grab the floating bat symbol in front of you and throw it on your chest to get dressed. You grab the cowl and place it over your head, stick your hands in some cylinders to get the gauntlets, and further your descent down into your lair. You’re then given some batarangs to toss around and the Batclaw to fire at targets, all before being positioned in front of your trusty supercomputer. Unfortunately, the screen faded and our time was over before I could really see what was going on in Gotham.
Now this demo was short, but Rocksteady is promising an hour or so worth of content. Some of which we already know, like a detective mode section that has Batman tracking down the villain who killed his trusty ex-sidekick Nightwing. A Batmobile driving mission was also revealed, meaning this game might actually have some teeth to it. With price and full scope yet to be revealed, it is hard to say if the entire package will be worth it, but what we played was impressive enough to keep it on our radar.
Few racing games are as fun as the Forza Horizon series. Some might have more cars, more realistic physics or graphics, pluck real race courses from around the world, but they often lack the heart and soul that Horizon wears on its sleeve. We’ve been to Paris and we’ve seen Colorado in the past few years, so the team at Playground is taking us Down Under. Australia is the perfect setting for a new game, with luscious jungles, dense urban environments, and beachfronts fit for the dune buggies being added to the franchise. We got our hands on the PC version and it looked incredible from the starting line to the finish line.
Our demo was short but sweet. Starting off behind the wheel of a Lamborghini Centenario, we whipped around the coastlines and through tunnels, fighting off the competition with massive speed and tight handling. Then we crossed paths with a souped up jeep, which took us into the off road sections, with plenty of brush to get lost in. We eventually made our way to the beach, where the dune buggy showed up and handled completely differently, but still packed ton of fun with the bumpy dunes in our path. Finally, we got to experience those trademark Forza moments by racing a helicopter that was towing a jeep. The series has often had these high-stakes races against giant vehicles and this one is no different, with all the near misses and rubber band AI found in the prior two.
Over 350 cars will be in this game, as will the always up-to-date and modern music selection. The team working on the game are taking the visuals very seriously and sent a team to Australia to film the night’s sky for an entire summer. That attention to detail is obvious with each passing moment, as the environments pop like no other racing game we’ve played thus far. And with Microsoft’s new Play Anywhere program, people who buy the digital version of the game when it launches this September will get a free copy on their PC, with cross-save and cross-play built right in. For racing fans who never got into the Microsoft console game but have spent plenty of cash building a nice PC, Forza Horizon 3 is a must-buy on day one.
NeatherRealm Studios is back doing what they do best, putting out a new fighting game every two years. And with the massive success of Injustice, the team is back with another superhero-filled brawler, but this time the character list has been expanded and a new gear system spices up the metagame. We were shown a short presentation that had us wanting to pick up our fighting sticks and hash out our super beef after seeing the massive brutality and excellent new roster additions. And given how the first game ended, we’re wondering how they are going to top the crazy story that put Superman in a space prison and turned the comics upside down.
The gear system is the most important change to the franchise, as you will actually get loot drops after each match, like an RPG or shooter. Each piece of loot modifies your physical appearance, your stats, and your moveset. So a level one Superman will look, play, and feel different than a level 100 son of Krypton, decked out in alien armor and powered with some explosive new laser eyes. The whole thing is going to require some major tuning and balancing to work, but the level of variety amongst even just one character is impressive enough to give them the benefit of the doubt. Who knows what crazy combinations people will come up with when all of the loot is finally on the table.
Of course guys like The Flash, Aquaman, Batman, and Supes are back, but joining the cast are Gorilla Grodd, Atrocitus, Supergirl, and plenty of other DC folk. The silhouetted character select screen gave us plenty of juicy thoughts about characters like The Riddler and Booster Gold, but time will tell who eventually makes the cut. They have also said to expect their strong DLC tradition to continue, with more fan favorites and probably a guest character or two from Mortal Kombat or another Warner Brothers property. No date is set yet, but you can be sure that the tried and true NetherRealm April release window will be hit in 2017. Also, it should be noted that after the epic fail that was MKX’s PC release, only the current generation of consoles are getting releases this time around.
This is definitely the year of virtual reality becoming a real thing that exists. Gone are the fantastical dreams of late 80’s and 90’s VR. Now we have actual products that can deliver a believable immersive experience in a headset you wear over your face. But even though VR is here, it hasn’t been totally proven yet, with some of the experiences on the currently available platforms feeling thin. Sony will enter into the VR space this October, and the recently announced Farpoint seems to be a true attempt at making a killer game for the system.
Farpoint puts you in the boots of an astronaut exploring a remote alien world filled with hostile bug monsters. Being a Playstation VR title allows you to get an up close look at this treacherous world, and the view inside the PSVR headset makes it feel like you are surrounded by danger on all sides. Controlwise, the game works pretty well. If you want to look at something, you just do. Want to stare down that chasm or peek around that rock formation? Simply do it in real life that the effect is pretty convincing. Moving is handled through an analog stick like a regular video game, and while this takes a bit to get used to, it works pretty well.
As for handling the alien hostiles, you use the new Playstation VR Aim rifle controller, shown for the first time alongside Farpoint. The PSVR Aim is very cool, with two analog sticks for moving and adjustments, and plenty of buttons to use for ammo types and reloading. It also feels good to hold, and while you play the game, does a great job of roughly matching the image of the cool weapon you see in VR. There are some smart design decisions in Farpoint as well, like lifting the gun controller towards your back to switch weapons, as if you were pulling that shotgun off of your back to blast that space spider in the face. Aiming and firing is also as easy as putting the controller up to your face and pulling the trigger, with the result being incredibly satisfying. Farpoint should be launching sometime this year along with Playstation VR.
It seems crazy, but there really aren’t enough good video games with dinosaurs in them. They used to be all over the place, but the gaming world seemed to move on. Maybe there weren’t enough new ideas about dinosaurs? Thankfully, Guerrilla Games came up with a great twist for their upcoming adventure RPG, Horizon: Zero Dawn: What if the dinosaurs were also robots?
Horizon: Zero Dawn takes place in the distant future, after mankind has supposedly lost in the apocalypse, and machines have taken over. People start living a tribal, caveman type existence, and the robots find a biology book and decide to just copy-paste everything they see in there. Now you have giant apatosaurus-like creatures with satellite dishes for heads, mechanical crabs that carry around cargo containers on their backs, and robot cows that roam around in herds. You play as a young woman named Aloy who seems to have some superior technology that allows her to hack these beasts and ride them around as she tries to discover what happened in the past.
This crazy setting really allows Horizon: Zero Dawn to do some cool stuff. Aloy’s primary weapon is a bow and you can craft different arrows for specific reasons. Fire arrows let you weaken an enemy, rope arrows let you tie the beasts to the ground, and your focus mode slows down time while you aim for the robots’ glowing weak points. The best part is, when you shoot those weak points, not only do you do extra damage, that actual part of the robot dinosaur may actually fall off, becoming a special crafting material you can hopefully make into a cool weapon or arrow. The game seems like it will have a compelling story and an interesting setting, but the real exciting part of Horizon: Zero Dawn looks to be the way the different creatures all interact with each other and with you. This certainly seems to be one of the most thrilling titles to come to the Playstation platform next year.
Depending on your history with the Dead Rising series, the next sentence may not mean anything to you, or it may mean everything: Frank West is back! If that gets you excited, then Dead Rising 4 looks to be some of the most fun you can have this holiday, and it fits perfectly as this zombie free-for-all is set during Christmas in the town where it all started, Willamette, Colorado!
Dead Rising 4 puts you back in the shoes of the famous wartime photographer, and seems to have some of the same open-ish world leanings as its predecessor, Dead Rising 3. The map seems massive, the mall is back as an explorable area, and the craziness of the survivors seems at an all time high; all of the things you want out of this series. However, some smart changes are coming along as well. Now you can have different classes of weapons attached to different buttons on the controller, so pressing X will make you swing your melee weapon, pressing the bumper will toss a throwable item like a grenade, and pulling the left trigger will automatically aim your gun, or in some cases, firework launcher. This change feels great as it is less cumbersome than the old system of cycling through all the different types of weapons, and allows you to mow down zombies even faster.
And for those worried that Dead Rising may get too serious and lose some of its charm, have no fear. Dead Rising 4 seems chock full of the goofy and humorous antics of the past games, with Frank West donning a triceratops helmet that blows fire, cutting the dead up with an ice sword, riding around in an electrified go-kart, or even wearing powered-up robot armor and tearing zombies in half! Whatever the story ends up being, Dead Rising 4 looks to be a hell of a good time, and may end up being the most fun you will have this holiday season!
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