It’s that time again, folks. While E3 is by its very nature a media typhoon, this year has felt particularly hectic in the leadup to the event. With multiple new games getting announced in the last few weeks, many worried that the publishers would leave nothing for E3 itself, and with the new generation of consoles having kicked off people are now looking to the industry to start showing us what these machines can really do. What we got was a bit of teasing of the future, couched in a lot of old and familiar properties.
As is the case with every year, the big media briefings come with their own implied narratives. It seems that Microsoft took to heart the criticisms of last year’s press conference focusing on media applications rather than games, because this year it was all games, all the time. Virtually no mention of Kinect, or even a mention that the new $400 Xbox One SKU launches today Their goal was repositioning XB1 as a games machine, even at the expense of the 360 which they’re still actively supporting. EA and Ubisoft mostly left the world-bending reveals to Sony and Microsoft, leaning more towards familiar franchises than new IPs. Last of all came Sony, who were happy to simply continue on a roll from last year.
What follows is the ten announcements (or in many cases, re-announcements) that made the biggest impression:
GRIM FANDANGO REMASTERED
Want to determine a veteran PC gamer? Say the name Grim Fandango and wait for the eyes to mist up. Tim Schafer’s masterpiece is not only one of the great LucasArts point-and-click adventures, but one of the greatest adventure games of all time. Grim Fandango‘s utterly charming blend of Aztec beliefs on the afterlife and film noir made for a wonderfully original vision, although critical acclaim and a passionate fanbase couldn’t prevent it from performing poorly at retail on its release in 1998. One of many classic LucasArts games thought lost due to poor legacy management and the eventual disbanding of LucasArts by Disney last year, many thought it lost for good which makes the announcement that it is to be remastered by Schafer’s own company Double Fine and released by Disney for PS4 and Vita an amazing surprise.
Oh, and Schafer took to Twitter not long after and said the following:
The original Crackdown is often unsung for being one of the first games to start showing what the Xbox 360 can do, and it seems apt to bring it back so it can do the same for the XB1. In development at Cloudgine under the watch of Dave Jones (Lead on the original Crackdown and co-creator of an obscure little gem called Grand Theft Auto) it’s going to be interesting how the franchise responds to other open-world series co-opting its vertical orb-hunting gameplay.
HALO 5/MASTER CHIEF COLLECTION
Not only did we get a hint at the upcoming Halo 5, but also our first full look at the Master Chief Collection, which is promising a quite silly amount of content: Halo 1-4 in HD, comprising of 45 campaign levels and over 100 multiplayer maps. Also included is Halo 2’s multiplayer, presumably as a standalone option in the overall multiplayer package set up in the collection. Otherwise, it’s all about combining everything into one, huge Halo-flavoured experience. All multiplayer maps can be mixed and matched, and there’s an option for single-player playlists with a combination of any of the campaign levels from the games. Halo 5 beta access and the Ridley Scott-produced Halo: Nightfall digital series will also be thrown in, but it’s clear that this release is all about celebrating the numbered Halo games released thus far. Yet another way of making people pay full price for old games it may be, but one gets the impression that this release is just as much about carrying over the legacy of the early games into the new generation. As long as they don’t make any unnecessary tweaks that piss off the fanbase , this set seems primed to be an online Xbox Live staple for years especially if Microsoft replicate the Halo 2 multi accurately.
We finally got a proper reveal of Bloodborne, the new From Software game (Previously known by its codename, Project Beast) helmed by Demon’s/Dark Souls mastermind Hidetaka Miyazaki. The much rumoured Dark Souls-style gameplay was eschewed for an all-CG trailer, featuring a Gothic 18th Century urban setting, zombies, werewolf-looking creatures and a very Van Helsing-esque figure (Presumably the protagonist). The Dark Souls connection definitely marks it out as one to watch; and it’s interesting to note that while the style of gameplay was touched on in the trailer the general tone has the same grim and oppressive tone as the Souls games. And then there’s the box art:
THE ORDER: 1886
Speaking of gothy 18th Century monster hunting, Sony also dropped this rather tantalising trailer for upcoming exclusive The Order:1886. This title seems to have garnered a fair bit of negativity lately due to being one of the many delayed next-gen games and early footage that, like as with Watch Dogs, displayed much poorer graphics than the initial CG reveals promised. Personally, I’m still excited for it; Olde Worlde Gears of Ware it may be, but it also sports some impressive design and voice acting which, if it’s integrated into the gameplay as smoothly as this trailer suggests, should make for a great time.
STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT
Yeah, it’s little more than a teaser but it works for me. I know I’m not the only one hoping that DICE can pull of a game that improves on the excellent Battlefront 2. With this year’s Battlefield in Visceral’s hands, the trailer also acted as a way to reiterate DICE’s status as an active developer for EA. And way may just get brief flashes of what they’re working on, but those brief flashes are pretty nice…
VALIANT HEARTS: THE GREAT WAR
I’ve always been fascinated by World War I since studying it at school, and it’s a war that’s been ill-served in popular culture. Therefore, Valiant Hearts grabbed my attention when it was first announced, and Ubisoft today dropped a striking trailer that tells us a bit more about the game, which appears to centre around a dog who befriends a band of soldiers. It’s powered by the UbiArt engine, which was used for the recent Rayman games and Child of Light and it’s the latter title this one feels most in step with tonally. It even uses rhymed dialogue, though thankfully it seems a little less forced than Child of Light‘s attempt at it.
ASSASSIN’S CREED: UNITY
Ubisoft took the opportunity to confirm that Unity will feature four-player combat, with the above demo showing four players attempting to assassinate an aristocrat. The crowd tech is certainly impressive, and the idea of starting riots to create distractions sounds like a barrel of fun. The game looks spectacular and the French revolution setting is perfect for the franchise – let’s hope that Ubisoft can carry over the momentum from the excellent Black Flag and knock this one out of the park.
THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT
A bit surprising to see this come up as part of the Microsoft conference, but it can’t be denied that this one’s looking to continue the run of quality seen in the first two Witcher games. The trailer looks fantastic and will hopefully bring the series to the attention to even more people. CD Projekt Red are one of the few developers bringing new games with an old-school RPG sensibility, and exposure like this is only a good thing. What’s more, it’s an encouraging sign that CD Projekt red is pushing the series even further graphically – most trailers have me saying “Nice cutscenes – hope the game looks okay”, but CDPR are one of the few devs who make a point of actually following through with the visuals.
NO MAN’S SKY
Hello Games’s procedurally generated space exploration/action game has already earned itself a storied history, with early trailers turning heads and the game nearly being lost after Hello Games’ offices flooded last Christmas Eve. The refusal of Hello’s insurance company to pay up almost did for the game, but Sony rescued it by securing it as a timed exclusive for PS4. The game looks amazing, with alien species and planets discoverable by and named after online players. While I’d raise an eyebrow at the claim that this is in-game footage – some of the camera moves feel too uniformly smooth to have come from a controller, giving the trailer a cutscene-ish quality – it at least serves as the clearest indication yet of what to expect from the game, and the indications are very good indeed.