E3 2014: Stand Out Moments

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Each year, from the big wigs of companies and developers, to the indies, press, and the fans, the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) is meant to show everyone what the video game industry is up to these days. While there are discussions about its overall relevance to the industry, as some of the biggest reveals tend to happen at other conventions or just whenever people please, it still draws out the 10 year old in me (and I know it does for others too). While this year’s E3 wasn’t as thrilling as some of the ones in the past, I’d like to share a few things that still caught my attention and maybe you should check out as well. Below is small list of games or moments that stood out to me as a gamer:

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

There’s HD remakes and compilations of a series on one disc, and then there’s The Master Chief Collection. While it is full of both HD remakes and the practical entirety of the series, this is one collection that does it right. My experience with collections are ones like Sly Cooper and Jak and Daxter franchises for PlayStation, where they include three previous entries in the franchise, but they are all separate and everything must be played through to the end to unlock levels and special features. The Master Chief Collection says, “Amateurs,” to that: Halo 1-4 are open to play immediately and you can choose any level you want, even making playlists of levels across the games; multiplayer includes all maps from all four games; HD remakes of Halo 1 and 2, where switching between old and new graphics is a simple menu button away; a digital series by Ridley Scott; beta access to Halo 5: Guardians. It’s time to continue to try to finish the fight again.

No Man’s Sky

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLtmEjqzg7M&w=590&h=295]
When this game was originally teased at the VGX’s, it took the gaming world by storm. A team of 5 people who previously made the side-scrolling stunt action platformer Joe Danger are making a procedurally generated universe? And by universe, I mean the whole shebang, from individual planetoids, races, species, warring factions, etc. Plus, there’s not a single loading screen from the moment you exit a cave, jump in your starship, rocket into space, get in the middle of a space battle, and plunge into the atmosphere of another planet. There’s no real stated goal to the game, nor are there quests, you just simply start on your own planet and are let loose to do as you please. In fact, every player will start on their own planet, as the game’s universe has been built to scale. Think on that for a second. Anyways, it’s mesmerizing and the scope and scale of the project is staggering. When this hits PS4 first, I’ll probably need someone else to be running the website because I can’t wait to dive into No Man Sky’s universe. I’m just not sure I’ll ever leave.

Assassin’s Creed: Unity

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ptQ-XqaoHGI&w=590&h=295]
One of the most requested eras for the Assassin’s Creed franchise to explore is the French Revolution, and Unity finally brings that moment in time to life. However, franchise fatigue has been setting in for many, including myself, so what about Unity finally makes me excited for an Assassin’s game again? First off, and while this might seem odd, is the crowds. For the first time, crowds really look and feel like actual crowds, with over 3,000 NPCs on screen at a time. Now doing devious deeds in their mists and going unseen seems more realistic instead of when crowds were maybe 150 max at a time you were always getting away with murder. Second, the parkour has been revamped, making descension as easy as ascension for the first time and more buildings are open and accessible than ever before. Lastly, (most) missions can be tackled co-operatively, so working together with three other players ups the assassin’s fantasy and scope which this franchise has been trying to attain since launching in 2007. Here’s hoping the whole package holds up to the tease we’ve gotten so far.

Batman: Arkham Knight

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QCcKyxX15e4&w=590&h=290]
Rocksteady, the developers behind the smash-hits Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, are returning to the franchise they created. Wait, do you need to know more than that? No other Batman game has quite gotten the feeling of being the Dark Knight just right besides the first two entries in the Arkham series and more of a good thing always has a chance of working out just right. Sporting a more armour-intense Batsuit (which looks really heavy!), a larger open-world playground, and the BATMOBILE…you stopped reading right then and went out to stand in line for a midnight release of the game, haven’t you? Yes, the Bats’ ground vehicle of choice is playable for the first time in the series and is armed to the teeth like you wouldn’t believe. Like seriously, I know Bruce Wayne is supposed to be a gazillion-billionaire and all, but does he really have the money to be stocking that kind of firepower for his personal vehicle? After watching the video above, who cares! Look to Batmobile your way through Scarecrow’s machinations in early 2015.

LittleBigPlanet 3

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ymCDdrMKPrY&w=590&h=290]
The original PS3 iteration brought the modding aspects of PC games to console gamers in a somewhat accessible way, under the motto of Play.Create.Share. After a sequel and handheld version for the PS Vita, the franchise had been rather quiet outside an announcement for a free-to-play version. But everyone’s favorite Sackboy/Sackgirl (now a PlayStation mascot) is back…with friends! The new playable characters, a first for the series, are Toggle, a sackperson able to switch between big and heavy to tiny and small, Oddsock, a speedy, wall-hopping maniac of a sackdog, and Swoop, a sackbird who can fly and pick up the other players. What they mean for gameplay remains to be seen, but they open up some interesting new possibilities. And at launch, the game will include over 8.7 million user-created levels from the first and second games, HD-ified. If that’s not a whole lot of game to enjoy with your friends, I don’t know what is.

Indies

Indie games are definitely on the rise and this year was certainly no exception: Abzu is a Journey-esque game, letting the player explore a gorgeous underworld utopia, but is everything as it seems?; Velocity 2x is the sequel to the fast paced vertical teleporting vehicle based shoot’em up Velocity and it will bring side-scrolling on-foot sections to the series; Hyper Light Drifter, a heavily pixelated 2D action-RPG that easily mesmerizes with it’s scope and gameplay; Axiom Verge, a 16-bit metroidvania game packing nostalgia and innovation in the form of glitches; Ori and the Blind Forest, a sidescroller with beautiful, storybook-like visuals; Titan Souls, a top-down action game where you battle colossal monsters with only one arrow…for the entire game; The Talos Principle, a puzzle game where you play as a robot being spoken to by omnipotent, god-like voices.

Sunset Overdrive

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qmRR6MnS6dc&w=590&h=290]
Insomniac Games is known for their insanely inventive and often hilarious weapon designs, especially in the Ratchet and Clank series where there’s things like a Groovitron, which launches a disco ball and enemies can’t help but bust a move. Well, combine their penchant for weapons with a focus on giving players endless ways to traverse the game-world, constantly keeping you on the move, and then you have Sunset Overdrive. The game is about saving the city from mutants brought about by the newest energy drink and basically plays like Tony Hawk with guns. It’s hard to describe but once you see it in action you can’t help but want to play and this certainly looks to be another hit from the storied developer.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1Rx-Bbht5E&w=590&h=290]
The instantly likable Nathan Drake returns for what looks to be a much darker chapter…and one that might just be the last in the award-winning series. The trailer’s graphics are nothing but eye-popping and jaw-dropping to say the least, though that wasn’t what my focus was on when first watching the trailer. Instead, I was double-checking whether Drake was still wearing his wedding ring. The previous games, with Amy Hennig as creative director (who left Naughty Dog to work for Visceral Games on their Star Wars project), brought a whole cast of loveable and realistic characters to the screen including Chloe, Sully, and Elena Fischer, who is a tough and reliable companion. After 3 games (with a 4th on PS Vita) I found myself caring so much about these character’s relationships with one another that looking for a wedding ring first and the graphics second isn’t crazy. My reasoning for paying so much attention for a wedding ring is due to Elena and Drake’s marriage being on the rocks during the third game and though it was patched up by the end, Naughty Dog certainly likes to play with expectations. Look for more explosive action, a well-told story, intriguing characters, and some treasure hunting when this one hits in 2015.

Virtual Reality

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o8OPQNJtIIk&w=590&h=290]
After the phenomenal response to the Oculus Rift VR project and Sony jumping in with their Project Morpheus, VR is looking to make it’s way into households sometime in the very near future. Outside of some tech demos for the Morpheus and Oculus Rift versions of some upcoming or already released games, the technology still needs to prove itself to the everyday consumer, but the gaming population is certainly excited for the possibilities.

Honorable Mentions:

Scalebound (Dragons! Dragon dueling! Look, it’s got dragons and it’s not on HBO, surprise, right?)
Destiny (A Bungie made MMO…what’s not to love? Beta starts this week)
Rise of the Tomb Raider (more of the humanistic reboot of gaming’s chief vixen is always welcomed)
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (gorgeous, story-rich RPG)
Rainbow Six: Siege (tactical gameplay and destructive environments are always a plus)
Far Cry 4 (On PS4, if you own the game but your friend doesn’t, they can still join your game!)
Splatoon (If you always enjoyed Goldeneye 64‘s paintball mode and wanted a whole game out of the idea, this is your game…plus you’re able to morph into a squid.)
Middle-earth: Shadows of Mordor (Includes the Nemesis system, where enemies remember previous encounters with the main character, and brings parkour to Middle-earth)
Zelda HD (Promises to be less linear ‘open-world’ and more literally open-world. Oh, and it’s Zelda in HD for the first time)
The Order: 1886 (More footage of this beautiful, cinematic, and unique alternate history game is always a bonus)
Tom Clancy’s The Division (While it was my favorite from last year’s E3, it’s supposed 2014 release hopes have been dashed, and I’m tempering my expectations now that it won’t be out till 2015)
Grim Fandango HD remake (While I’ve never played this the first time around, this point-and-click adventure game is considered a classic and it should be interesting to see it holds up 16 years later)

E3 2014 wasn’t exciting nor was is it disappointing, it just simply was okay. Most of what was shown or announced were franchises mostly expected, like another Tomb Raider, Zelda, Far Cry, Uncharted, or games we’d already heard about. And a lot (if not all) of what we were shown had a 2015 release window instead of 2014. Interestingly, most of those 2015 or later games showed up in conceptual or Alpha footage only (looking at you Star Wars Battlefront), and while it’s nice to see what developers are envisioning, it was the most disappointing aspect of this year’s show. Both current-gen systems, the PS4 and Xbox One, have a dearth of AAA console exclusives in 2014 and share a lot of cross-gen games with their previous iterations, and E3’s conceptually driven showcase didn’t look to change that much. But what is coming out for the rest of 2014 includes great looking titles, especially in the indie realm, and they’ll keep gamers busy until more concrete plans for 2015 games begin to take hold.

Ryan is Mynock Manor’s Head Butler. You can follow him on Twitter @BrushYourTeeth.

SEE ALSO:
Execution vs Ideas: Another Cancelled LucasArts Game Surfaces
New Star Wars: Battlefront Trailer Shown at E3
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