E3 2016: The highlights from the world's biggest game show
HUNDREDS of games went on show at E3 in LA but a few stood out from the usual crowd of shooters and racers. Here's my picks from another vintage year at the Los Angeles Convention Center.
(XOne/PC, out September 15)
Co-created by Keiji Inafune of Mega Man, Onimusha and Dead Rising fame, ReCore works as an antidote to Microsoft's otherwise testosterone-fuelled slate. Yes, lead character Joule totes a gun but she's an engaging hero battling rogue robots along with the help of mechanical pets.
The other half of the partnership, Mark Pacini, whose credits include Metroid Prime, supplies many of the glorious gameplay mechanics familiar to that series.
Not many other games plough the platform/shooter furrow and a quick hands-on suggests ReCore has a flavour all its own.
(PC/XOne/PS4, out October 21)
World War I is the theme as Battlefield’s familiar blend of infantry, aircraft and tanks clash in glorious 64-player skirmishes. Visually arresting and surprisingly gadget-happy despite its early 20th-century setting, Battlefield 1 piles on the spectacle.
Whether you’re levelling a village with a tank or raining down hell from the cockpit of an airship, you’re never far from a way to indulge your destructive tendencies. Developer DICE promises a decent campaign mode this time around. On the evidence of some brief time with the pulse-pounding multiplayer, I’m willing to give DICE the benefit of the doubt.
WE HAPPY FEW
(PC/XOne, out July 26)
A delightfully twisted thriller, We Happy Few delves into the story of the one man who refuses to take the pills that make the rest of society “happy” in 1960s England (or an alternate version of it at least).
Microsoft took a chance sandwiching it between the high-octane blockbusters of its E3 press conference but even the normally rambunctious crowd were silent throughout its macabre four-minute demo. You won’t have to wait long to sample this quirky title from the the makers of PS4 launch title Contrast - We Happy Few launches on Xbox Preview in just over a month.
(PC/XOne, out Spring 2017)
From the people who brought us pioneering “walking simulator” Gone Home, now the Fullbright Company explores the chilly wastes of space. Tacoma has echoes of great cinematic enigmas such as Solaris and 2001 in this creepy yarn set aboard a drifting lunar station.
You’re piecing together the last moments of a missing crew, using scraps of information from the computers and holographic records showing multiple angles of conversations.
THE LAST GUARDIAN
(PS4, out October 25)
The perennially delayed potential masterpiece finally sees light of day in October, some nine years after legendary designer Fumito Ueda began development after finishing the revered Shadow of the Colossus.
While the visuals now betray their origin in the PS3 era, it remains a handsome game tracking the adventures of a boy and his giant cat-bird protector, Trico.
Sony’s E3 conference contained the startling revelation that a second Trico exists but did not confirm whether it is friend or foe.
LEGEND OF ZELDA: BREATH OF THE WILD
(Wii U/NX, out 2017)
An epic open-world sequel to one of gaming’s most loved franchises, Breath of the Wild was presented at E3 in typically idiosyncratic Nintendo fashion. Instead of detailing its upcoming NX console, Nintendo focused almost its entire effort on Zelda, constructing its giant booth around the lore of the game.
The queues for hands-on time stretched to several hours but 30 minutes with the game justified the wait for its superlative take on familiar Zelda themes. Many show attendees could tell different stories of their time with Breath of the Wild, suggesting the open world has unprecedented depth and breadth.
GOD OF WAR
(PS4, out 2017, probably)
HEROICALLY angry warrior Kratos made the surprising transition to being a weary dad in the extraordinary theatrical opening to Sony’s E3 conference, soundtracked by a full orchestra in the pit of the beautiful Shrine Auditorium.
A visibly aged Kratos still cut a vicious swathe through hordes of monsters in the short scene shown. But it was the emotive bond with his son and the graphical tour-de-force that made the greatest impact.
Some light RPG elements came to light, suggesting this God of War has more to offer than just brutal finishing moves. No release date was mentioned but my money is on a late 2017 release.
SEA OF THIEVES
The team at Rare have put aside the the motion-tracking japery of Kinect, at least for now, to focus on this piratical parody. Rare offers jolly fun on the high seas as you and up to three other players take control of a pirate’s ship. Cooperation is vital as you embark on a voyage of discovery, pillaging treasure, fighting other ships and, er, drinking grog.
Rare has a real task on its hands to stop Sea of Thieves turning into a Day Z-style free-for-all but lead designer Gregg Mayles was confident at E3 that his team will get the balance right. And if four-player campaign coop just isn’t your thing, Mayles confirmed Sea of Thieves is playable solo, though it won’t be half as much fun by my reckoning.
(PS4/XOne/PC, out November 11)
More stealthy shenanigans as supreme assassin Corvo returns, but this time in a new city, perhaps less grim yet just as dangerous. Corvo’s daughter Emily is also a playable lead character and you choose between the two near the start of the game.
The superb Dishonored may be a difficult act to follow but this sequel arms itself with a fresh collection of superpowers and a time-bending twist.
(XOne/PS4/PC, out September)
Snarling beasts on country roads - no, it’s not a farming simulator but the latest in the venerable WRC rally series. After a low-key entry with WRC 5, this sixth instalment promises more accessibility juggled with more realism - this is an officially licensed sim after all.
A quick blast down the windy tracks of a Portuguese forest showed it to be as challenging as ever, and that was before trying the insane VR version, which left me sweaty and shaking but exhilarated.
AGENTS OF MAYHEM
(PS4/XOne/PC, out 2017)
The outlandish antics of the Saints Row franchise morph into a superhero series with a bit of Overwatch. One player (no coop, oddly) takes control of three heroes and battles a terrorist gang hellbent on the world’s destruction.
The action is over-the-top, although the juvenile humour of Saints Row seems scaled back judging by the demo playable at E3. Deliciously wild superpowers and a roster of 12 heroes from which to choose your three allow for variable play styles.
BATMAN (The Telltale Series)
(PC/PS4/XOne, out July/August)
The adventure masters Telltale chose the Caped Crusader as their next episodic series, but this is an unfamiliar, uncertain Batman. Telltale zoom into his early career, before Harvey Dent became Two-Face. It’s as much about Bruce Wayne as it is Batman, which seems a peculiar decision.
The Telltale demo at E3 broke down as action sequences with Batman followed by conversational gambits with Bruce Wayne. This was only a glimpse at the first episode of five but Telltale has promised to squeeze more variety into the wider game.
(PS4, out 2016)
Virtual reality is all the rage and Sony showcased a range of VR titles at E3 including Farpoint. It shows the power of VR that a bog-standard first-person shooter comes to life with a headset on.
Using the new PlayStation Aim controller, it was a heady experience battling monsters from small bugs to giant screen-filling demons on a dusty planet. The whole game may struggle to maintain its impact but as a demonstration of the power of the technology, it’s a winner.
(PC/PS4, out autumn)
A CARTOONISH version of Paris provides the location for Ubisoft’s simple but impressive VR game Eagle Flight. Singe-player mode enables you to fly around the city as a bird while multiplayer thrusts you into dogfights for possession of territory and objects.
A tilt of the head sends your eagle banking around the sky while the controller allows you to “scream” at opponents like a weapon.