It’s the ‘summer’ of 2016 and that means two things: E3 has come (and gone) and the Steam Summer Sale is surely just around the corner! I’d readily admit that I didn’t binge-watch the entirety of E3 in my boxers (however much I would’ve loved to), but I did catch up with some of the presentations – namely Sony, Bethesda, Microsoft, Ubisoft and PC Gaming.
Before I continue, I’d like to issue a PSA: E3 is a giant, week long advertising event. The developers and publishers you saw on-stage over those precious days are all desperately trying to sell you their games, in the coming months or years. Things will change between now and The Future; Ubisoft will downgrade their graphics, you’ll fall through the floor in a Bethesda game and you might not get the “highest quality pixels” from Microsoft. Do not leap at the hype train yet, wait until the carriage has come to a complete stop and the doors have opened.
But, while the iron is relatively hot, I want to give you some of my impressions on a few of the things we saw at E3 2016…
Overall, there were a good number of announcements that I was generally interested in from across the board. We are on the cusp of the Age of VR, although there is a worrying amount of exclusivity cropping up in different camps – reports mention that Oculus are offering large amounts of money to developers to make their games exclusive to the Rift. I can’t confirm the statement, it’s just what I’ve heard. There were also announcements from the console camps about halfway-step consoles, bringing higher fidelity graphics and more power to the living room with Project Scorpio and Neo (Microsoft and Sony, respectively).
There were some downsides along the way, as well; I’m not overly interested in a remastered Skyrim, although that could just be because of my roots in PC Gaming. If I wanted a HD version of Skyrim, there are HD texture packs available online to mod my game. Perhaps for the console generation, being able to take advantage of the more powerful Xbox and Playstation will really be able to make a difference to the game, though I’d question how many people will reinvest hundreds of hours in the open-world fantasy epic now.
I was also a little put out by the PC Gaming segment, not only because the stream I was watching cut off the end of it to go to Ubisoft but also because the presentation seemed gimmicky to me – trotting out a load of indie titles one after another, a lot of which I hadn’t heard of. Maybe I’ve missed the point of the PC Gaming Master Race here, but I do tend to use word of mouth sources and Steam to find my new indie twists.
As there is so much to go through, I will pick out a few of my highlights and lowlights from different presentations. I’m sorry it’s a bit of a cop-out, but I’m only one man!
Besides the Skyrim remaster, that almost everyone knew was incoming, Bethesda also announced 3 more Fallout DLC’s (Contraptions, Vault-Tec and Nuka-World), Dishonoured 2, Quake Champions, The Elder Scrolls: Legends and Prey. I am interested in the DLC announcements for Fallout, as it seems to me that Bethesda are giving away their tools of creation and leaving the players to make their content now – this will lead to a lot of interesting screenshots and gifs on Reddit, and I’m glad I paid up front for my Season Pass, but I do think we are near the end of Fallout 4 content… Saying that, though, they are also bringing Fallout Shelter – the surprise smash mobile game – to the PC as well, which is an interesting move. Sure, I’ll have another easy game to ‘play’ while I watch TV as I’m terrible at remembering to keep checking my mobile Vault, but was it a necessary step?
I’m yet to play Dishonoured properly and I’m hoping that my luck will turn up during the Steam Sale. I’ve played a couple of hours of the start of the game and it was enjoyable, a little glitchy and difficult to master, but a solid gameplay experience. The trailer for the new game makes it look equally as impressive and interesting, so it’ll definitely be something I keep my eye on in the future. Likewise, I’ve not played the original Prey (from what I understand, the new trailer is for a remake), but the trailer has piqued my interest – they seem to be focussing on different styles of gameplay, with melee and stealth in Dishonoured and first-person shooting and horror elements in Prey.
Looking over the annoucements notes, there’s also a new trend in standalone card games, probably in the wake of Hearthstone’s success. Bethesda’s option is Elder Scrolls: Legends, a card game about Elder Scrolls I wager. You can sign up for the beta, if you want.
I will shamefully admit that, despite my upbringing and love for the Legend of Zelda series above all, I didn’t watch the Nintendo presentation. Of course I heard about Breath of the Wild and immediately watched as much of the gameplay as I could. It’s a stunning visualisation of Hyrule and I love the survival aspect to the game, collecting food and resource, setting up camp and defending yourself. It’s vibrant and gorgeous to look at as well. I don’t think we’ve seen much of the dungeons or bosses yet, so I’m looking forward to coming across that in the future! The only downside to Breath of the Wild is that I’m going to need to convince the missus that we need an NX to enjoy the experience…
Of course if I’m wrong about bosses and dungeons, please do let me know and show me some videos! I’d love to be completely up to date.
Moving swiftly on to the Ubisoft presentation; I’m wary of their games in general, they’ve fully embraced the open world style of gameplay where you’re dropped on a huge map and given several dots to investigate whenever you’re ready. So I’ll start with something I’m pretty sure I’m going to enjoy – South Park: The Fractured But Whole. I haven’t reviewed the first game yet (The Stick of Truth), but I have played most of it. The particular humour can be pushed a bit far at times, but that’s the whole point of South Park. I love the idea of the kids playing different games and going on different adventures, although I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the second of two installments – where can they go from here?
A surprise interest of mine was in Ghost Recon Wildlands, which was shown off in a madcap mission to extract a ‘commander’ from a fortified camp. The infiltration and extraction gameplay was very cool to watch, with a good focus on teamwork to be successful. As the entire operation started unravelling, it was a rush to capture their target with new commands and options for use to organise the team. I have no doubt that this will be stripped back to core mechanics and will be subject to the UbiWorld design, but for a first look it’s impressive.
We were also ‘treated’ to a trailer for Watch Dogs 2, a sequel I doubt anyone had truly asked for. You might remember how I felt about the original, which was an unoriginal cover shooter with a hacking mechanic tacked onto the side. They seem to be changing the gameplay with the sequel, making it faster paced and more interesting – as long as major grump Aiden and his ‘iconic’ hat have buggered off, I’ll be happy.
A final note for Ubisoft is regarding their brief VR show-off, Eagle Flight. It’s an interesting concept, but I’m not sure whether it can be extended beyond ‘get the thing, take it home, repeat’. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t have a VR headset so I can’t really say!
Onwards to one of the more impressive presentations of the week: Sony – there’s a lot to be said for having your presentation accompanied by an orchestra and it definitely made a difference. Although the choice to have Shawn Layden walk on to the Battle Royale theme was … different.
So, a couple of standouts for me from the Sony presentation were Detroit Become Human, which is an interactive video game experience by the M Night Shyamalan of the gaming world: David Cage. The trailer does look interesting, with what looks like a very heavily player-based storyline in scenes that reminded me of L.A. Noire in a way. I only suspected after the trailer that it might have been a David Cage experience, when I began to question why it couldn’t just be “Become Human”. Another something I’m going to keep an eye on.
One of the most surprising trailers, for me at least, was a particular first-person shooter game. I was very impressed by the scenery and gameplay, especially the seamless transition between aerial and ground combat, which incorporated non-lateral combat and the player was affected by gravitational pull and all sorts of things.
And then I realised it was Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. I felt dirty, I felt cheated, I felt very impressed by the trailer in all honesty. I didn’t fall victim to the dogpiling on the Infinite Warfare trailer when it was released, I just didn’t watch it. I know I’m not interested in Call of Duty and I haven’t been since I was 18. It didn’t bother me that people thought it was bad and that Activision were being shafted for it. Now that I’ve seen it, I’ll admit it was a good trailer and I think people have just shouted and screamed about nothing.
But enough of that, let’s talk about something I was very taken by: Horizon Zero Dawn. I really hated the choice to leave the title until the end of the trailer, because I was immediately hooked. I loved the concept of nomadic tribespeople going against, what I can only describe as, dubstep monsters in a techno-fantasy world. The combat was fluid and dynamic, with a wide array of different weapons to switch between as you’re on the move to try different tactics. All the while, the structures and terrain seem to be destructible in so many interesting ways as well! On the premise alone, I’m sold, but I do have to calm down and remember: no pre-orders.
Days Gone was another interesting announcement, although I worry that it’s a very late entry to the zombie survival genre that I thought had died. Here it is though, reanimated in an interesting trailer. I wasn’t a massive fan of DayZ, which the trailer made it look similar to, but I did think the horde AI for the zombies was quite nifty and pretty scary. Changing the focus to run and gun as opposed to stand and deliver could be a well received change to the formula.
And I don’t think I’d be able to withstand the hate if I didn’t mention the return of two men screwed over by Konami: Hideo Kojima and Norman Reedus, with the weird and wonderful Death Stranding. I couldn’t begin to guess what’s going on in that trailer, so that’s something I’m going to look at later!
Sony announced a range of other new games, that I have very little interest in (unfortunately). There was Resident Evil 7, with a VR experience, a new Final Fantasy, with a VR experience, and three more VR experiences just in case: Batman, for punching, Farpoint, for shooting, and X-Wing Assault, for flying.
My final mention in this post will be to Sea of Thieves, by Rare Ltd and announced in Microsoft’s panel. If you couldn’t guess, Sea of Thieves is about being part of a pirate crew and plundering all the lands. Grab your friends, grab a ship and cannonball each other to death! It looked stunning, brilliantly fun and absolutely crazy! I don’t know if I’d be able to commit to being in a pirate crew, but I’d certainly like the opportunity. Aside from a heavy focus on sharing games between Xbox and Windows, the rest of the panel passed me by.
Believe me, this is not a full rundown – I wish I could go on, but I’m at 2000 words and if you’ve made it this far, you have some patience! Check out the videos on YouTube to see what I’ve missed out and let me know if you saw anything great, I’d love to hear about it. Hidden in each presentation were great gems that players will be passionate about, like the Crash Bandicoot remaster, Halo Wars 2 or the new Gears of War, Spiderman, God of War… It was a great round this year.
Just remember, don’t use up all your hype now. Things are going to change before these games are out and you don’t want to find yourself disappointed on the other side. We’ve seen some amazing footage, but this is a whole lot of marketing to reel you in. Be wary and approach carefully.