E3 2014: The 15 best games on the show floor
E3 2014 was a strong showing for the video games industry. Here, Tom Hoggins picks his favourites from the games on display.
So E3 is over for another year. This was my fourth time at the Los Angeles video games extravaganza and I have to say it has been my favourite. While last year was fascinating due to upcoming consoles, the focus on games and fresh ideas in 2014 has me more excited than any hardware.
Here, in no particular, are my 15 favourite games from the show floor. I'm pleased with the variety and there were more than a few that didn't make the cut. And just as a disclaimer, there are only games that you could see up close at E3. As thrilling as a new Zelda, Uncharted 4 and a new Crackdown all are, I look forward to more than a teaser at next year's show.
Batman Arkham Knight
Rocksteady’s new-generation Gotham looks stunning, with Batman hurtling to earth from the rooftops before crashing through the city’s grim roads teeming with goons. The addition of the Batmobile is great, while the demo also showed off the switch between the thumping combat and thoughtful investigation the Arkham series is famous for.
Nintendo had a cracking show, bringing a wealth of great games and its new line of ‘Amiibo’ figures. While Zelda captured the fiercest excitement during Nintendo’s video stream, it was brand new game Splatoon that impressed the most on the show floor. It’s ostensibly an online shooter, but instead of bullets, you use paint to splatter your foes, instead of ‘kills’ being the most important score, you have to cover the floor with your team’s colour. The more colour, the speedier you can get around the map by turning into a squid and swimming through the goo. Smart, fresh, fun.
Rainbow Six Siege
Ubisoft’s tactical shooter was perhaps the best hands-on demo we played. Teams of five fighting it out in the confined spaces of a suburban home. One team must breach, while the other fortifies, with a hostage in between. It’s a more thoughtful, deadly antidote to the sprawl and bombast of many multiplayer shooters.
Dragon Age Inquisition
BioWare’s medieval fantasy RPG is looking suitably epic. Bigger and more open than previous Dragon Age games, Inquisition has you affecting the world due to your decisions. Combat is fierce and fizzy with a more advanced tactical camera mode. And, of course, BIoWare’s talent for storytelling and lore will no doubt be present.
Yoshi’s Wooly World
While the Wii U may not be as nominally powerful as the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the fantastic work Nintendo’s artists are doing with the system means you often won’t see the difference in visuals. Yoshi’s Wooly World looks glorious, with a knitted Yoshi skittering through a woollen world, unravelling parts of the scenery with his famous tongue. You can even see the fuzz around the edges.
Keeping secrets pre-show seemed a tricky task this year, but few expected to see a new Little Big Planet quite so soon. It looks fabulous, with players able to create bigger levels with more depth. It plays well too, with three new characters giving the platforming and creation an added kick.
The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
While most games on show at E3 showcased their action, CD Projekt Red opted to focus more on their story and characters, with a lengthy demo in the company of Geralt of Rivia. He’s a terrific protagonist, interacting with The Witcher’s gorgeous, bustling world. The writing is excellent, while the upgraded combat —including a new crossbow and plenty more magic spells— looks sharp.
You can feel the Halo heritage when playing Bungie’s new game, with energetic gunplay and smart enemies. But the more we see of Destiny, the deeper it goes. RPG style equipment and looting, smart multiplayer (both co-operative and competitive) and a glorious open-world that you can skate around on your Sparrow vehicle. Bungie’s ambitious game may just live up to its billing.
Forza Horizon 2
The first Forza Horizon was a surprise hit, taking Forza Motorsport’s meticulous simulation engine and making a bit more, well, fun. The second game continues the idea of the Horizon music and car festival, only this time its in a compressed version of Southern Europe taking in Tuscany, the Amalfi Coast and even the Alps. It looks glorious, with dynamic weather systems affecting the road and a wide-open world to drive around in.
Mashing together Jet Set Radio and Ratchet & Clank into a deliriously colourful zombie horde blaster sounds like a tricky ask. But Insomniac seems to have done it with Sunset Overdrive, as you grind on rails and bounce off balloons while firing vinyl records into zombie flesh.
The demo for virtual reality dogfighter Eve Valkyrie was only three minutes long, but that was enough to make you giddy with excitement. Using the Oculus Rift or Project Morpheus headsets, you are surrounded by your cockpit and the yawning space of the Eve universe. You look up and around to track your enemy, while there is the curious sensation of looking down and having your body clad in a pilot’s jump suit. A fine advert for virtual reality.
Turtle Rock’s asymmetric multiplayer shooter caught the imagination on the show floor, with crowds stuffing 2K’s booth (complete with giant monster) in order to watch matches unfold. You play as either one hunter in a team of four, or a powerful monster on your own. Matches are terrifically tense, and the balancing between the hunters and monster is drum-tight.
It might be strange to include a game where I spent the majority of my time hiding in a box, far too afraid to come out, but Alien Isolation left a lasting impression. The demo at E3 put you in a small area with the alien, where the only objective is to escape. Creative Assembly's extraordinary direction, misdirection and use of light as I crept through the area, eyes often glued to the motion tracker. The alien stalks through the walls and vents so you are never safe.
Hidetaka Miyazaki’s newest game is the spiritual successor to Demon’s Souls, but taken from medieval fantasy to a dirty 19th century gothic city. It features the same tension-filled combat and cautious exploration, but now you are armed with a gun and a transforming blade. Though don’t expect your new ordnance will make things easy for you.
MY GAME OF THE SHOW
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
The Phantom Pain had a stunning gameplay demonstration behind closed doors, with Big Boss infiltrating an enemy stronghold. As The Phantom Pain is open world, it allows you to approach objectives with a hugely diverse toolset without losing the painstaking detail that series is famous for. We also saw a glimpse of the customisable Mother Base, where you send captured or rescued troops to help build Big Boss’s army.