It’s game over for another E3.
This year’s Electronics Entertainment Expo is in the books, and the Los Angeles Convention Center was jam-packed with positive signs for the future of video games. There were updated consoles, a glimpse at the mainstream arrival of virtual reality and an overwhelming slate of new titles.
Here are eight games that particularly caught my eye at this year’s show:
1. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Nintendo showed off exactly one game at E3, a move that left some critics concerned about the future of the uneven game publisher. But that one game became the most buzzed-about title of the entire event.
After several disappointing Zelda titles, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild suddenly looks like the game franchise fans have been waiting for. A 35-minute demo showcased a Zelda that breathes life into the series while still maintaining the look and feel of the franchise.
A younger development team is modernizing a franchise that’s struggled to find itself over the past few iterations, bringing features in like stealth gameplay and offering little touches that flesh out a massive open world. Just how much detail? Gamers can now cook meals to heal protagonist Link, who will shiver in the cold or sweat in sweltering heat if he’s not dressed in the right clothing. He’ll use his shield to surf down massive hills and hunt with a bow and arrow, too.
But it all feels distinctly Zelda, thanks to little touches that only Nintendo could pull off. So when you crouch to stealthily approach an enemy, instead of a basic icon letting you know that you’re hidden, there’s a wavelength-style sound meter encouraging you to stay quiet. A tiny temperature gauge lets you know when Link is feeling cold or warm.
The only letdown? The game won’t be available until 2017, when it hits the upcoming Nintendo NX console and the Nintendo Wii U.
2. For Honor
If not for Zelda, Ubisoft’s nuanced action game would have far and away been my favorite game at E3. Years after the Dark Souls franchise taught gaming that button-mashing couldn’t be rewarding, For Honor delivers the most satisfying combat mechanics of the last two console generations.
It’s For Honor’s stance system that pushes things forward. You play as a Viking, Samurai or Knight at different junctures, and each can hold their weapon in one of three stances, allowing them to block any incoming strikes delivered from the same stance. To successfully attack a baddie, you must recognize their stance, switch to a different one, then deliver a blow.
A deep and involving story rounds out the package for a game that promises to be a hit for Ubisoft. For Honor is due out in February.
3. God of War
Can an older, mellowed-out Kratos really be more fun than the angry God who has long driven Sony’s flagship franchise?
That’s what Sony Santa Monica Studios is betting on with God of War, a new PlayStation 4 title due out next year. And by the looks of things, the developer just might be right. The new God of War pushes an aged Kratos from Greek to Norse mythology, and it aims to tell a more personal story than the great big bloodfests that dominated the PlayStation 2 era.
To that end, it completely revamps the structure of the franchise, ditching the hold action-adventure style for a third-person over-the-shoulder camera that’s reminiscent of Crystal Dynamics’ Tomb Raider reboot. The new God of War also introduces Kratos’ son, and the boy will bring out the softer side of the angry hero.
None of this stops the title from offering up plenty of wild combat, though, thanks to a brand new axe, and a series of still-massive baddies. The new direction feels fresh, and it just might be the biggest action game of next year.
4. Injustice 2
E3 2016 brought plenty of good news for fighting-game fans. But the best news of the genre was the announcement of Injustice 2, a sequel to the DC Comics superhero fighter that was released in 2013.
The new Injustice will arrive next year, and it builds on the solid formula of the original, Injustice: Gods Among Us, in every way, something revealed in a 15-minute play session with the game. The new Injustice will deliver the same pulse-pounding fighting that Netherrealm Studios is known for, along with a persistent brand of upgrades that should make online play far more unique.
Each character can be leveled up and gain “gear” that’s acquired after battles and can later be equipped. This gear changes the appearance of characters, and it also delivers in-game buffs. Your gear can be used in both online and offline play.
That means there will be a variety of distinctive Supermans and Batmans being utilized online.
There will be plenty of other characters avai lable as well: Warner Bros. Interactive also announced three new ones — Gorilla Grodd, Supergirl and Atrocitus — at E3.
5. Resident Evil VII
The new Resident Evil was announced at Monday’s PlayStation presser, one of the highlight games for Sony’s upcoming PS VR. But it’s not just for VR; it’s a full-fledged Resident Evil game that’s due out early next year.
The VR gameplay was shaky, a fun experience, but one that left plenty of gamers (including me) just a little bit queasy. That wasn’t because of fun factor; it was because of a control scheme that just doesn’t feel quite right, and can be bothersome to anyone who has a touch of motion sickness.
But Capcom’s return to the Resident Evil franchise still showcased plenty of potential — and it won’t be relying on VR. Capcom reps told me gamers can freely switch between playing the game in VR or playing it on their big screen (something that all VR games need to adopt if possible).
And no matter how you play it, it’s a return to the franchise’s roots. This isn’t an action game: It’s a survival-horror title, with a major creep-out factor throughout. The experience presented at E3 actually isn’t in the game, Capcom reps said, but it showcases a brand of gameplay reminiscent of classic Resident Evil, heavy on exploration and tension.
6. Horizon: New Dawn
No open-world game stood out quite as much as Horizon: New Dawn, a PlayStation 4 exclusive due out in February. Horizon puts gamers in the shoes of Aloy, a determined and unrelenting heroine, in a world that’s seen robots overtake it and seen humanity flee into hiding.
Aloy is different, though, interested in overcoming the robots and unearthing the secrets to how the Earth became such a wreck. And she has plenty of tools in this quest to do so, in the form of terrific stealth skills and a wealth of action tools at her disposal. Developer Guerrilla Games has created a distinct universe for its new title, and it all handles with tremendous polish.
And the best part of the game just may be Aloy, a red-haired star who’s tough-as-nails and instantly endearing.
7. Sea of Thieves
Amid several big announcements from Microsoft (including that new upcoming Scorpio console and the coming Gears of War 4 and Halo Wars 2 titles) was this charming Rare title, which aims to put gamers into the shoes of pirates.
Sea of Thieves, due out for the Xbox One and PC, is all about being a pirate, and boy, is it fun. There’s nothing wildly complicated here, but you get to go online and do any pirate thing you want: A brief Xbox One demo had me joining up with some other pirates, commandeering a vessel, then instantly taking to the high seas and sinking other pirate ships.
The fun is in the little joys in Sea of Thieves, in the satisfying explosions when you fire a cannon, the simple ways you patch holes in your ship when you take damage, the ability to chug a beer and watch the video game world spin. Sea of Thieves just may have been the most underrated game at E3.
8. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
If there’s a downer with most of the big reveals at E3 it is this: most won’t be released this year. But Square Enix’s Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will be. The sequel to Deus Ex: Human Revolution and it will continue to explore ideas of transhumanism, forcing us to evaluate just how much (and how safe it is) for us to augment ourselves via plastic surgery, or laser surgery, or the cybernetic limbs of the Deus Ex: Mankind Divided future.
That’s the story mode, of course, but Square Enix showed off a new Breach Mode at E3 as well, a mode meant to challenge the gamer and extend the life of the title without as much storytelling. You trade the gold-tinged Deus Ex world for a pink-and-purple world here, engaging in missions that challenge your stealth and combat skills.
It’s terrific fun, and expect more than 70 levels of action here. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided drops in August.
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