The Best of E3 2016

by Matthew Thompson

Another year and another E3 in the books. It was an impressive show with great new looks at known quantities and plenty of first looks at freshly announced games. After watching the press conferences and digging through previews and interviews, I’m here to talk about what stood out to me from gaming’s annual showcase. Here it goes!

The Big Ones

Three games separated themselves from the rest of the pack as I looked back at the week that was, so I will be focusing on those in this first segment.

God of War

God of War PS4 1

Days after E3 has passed, God of War is the game that keeps swirling around in my mind. This next entry represents a bold reinvention of the series. I was hoping they’d move to a new mythology and I thought maybe it was time for a new camera. I got both. Norse and the close, over the shoulder point of view weren’t what I would have went with, but seeing them in action, I quickly grew to like them. I still have questions though. I can see how the combat plays out, but can the new camera work for other typical GoW elements like platforming, bombastic setpieces, and large-scale boss fights? Director Cory Barlog reassured fans like myself that all these things would still be present in this new take on the franchise. Now I’m just excited to see how they might be implemented.

The new narrative direction surprised me as well. I never cared much for Kratos as a character. And I would have been fine if the series left him behind with the shift to a new mythology. But I find myself intrigued by this new journey for him now. It and the new mythology along with a number of hints found in the demo of what the full game might have in store are another reason I have found God of War in my thoughts since its reveal. Which Norse Gods will play a part in the story? Are the boy and his mother known figures in Norse mythology? What are that faerie and creepy-looking ghost thing that fly past in the demo up to? Will Kratos be taking on that dragon? How will that enormous serpent seen in the background of the final shot factor into the game? All this has me frothing at the mouth for new info and the chance to eventually play the game for myself.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild

Breath of the Wild 2

The next Legend of Zelda is another game taking a series in a new direction, but it feels like a throwback to the very first Zelda at the same time due to its more open structure and the freedom given to the player to explore the world at their own pace. After a decade of not getting one, my biggest wish for the next Zelda was a new, fully explorable overworld. Breath of the Wild over-delivers on this front. They haven’t just moved to a full-on open world, this is a legitimate sandbox allowing players to use Link’s vastly expanded set of tools to play in this brand new version of Hyrule. It seems to bring with it an unrivaled sense of discovery. And I don’t just mean finding the next hidden treasure chest or seeing what lies at the top of that far off mountain, but also the possibilities brought about by playing with the systems available in BotW’s more emergent gameplay. Everyone that played this at E3 seemed to have a fun story to tell stemming from this new style. There were tales of fire propagation and snowboarding on shields and leaping off tamed horses into slow-motion arrow shots and much, much more. I can’t wait to explore this new world myself and see what I can discover.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Horizon 8

Horizon didn’t surprise like the two above titles. That was what it did last year when it walked away from E3 as one of the most talked about games of the show. This year it just solidified its place as a game to watch with another impressive demonstration of what this intriguing new IP will have to offer. Everything that wowed me before was back in full effect. We got to see further glimpses of the beautiful world that Guerrilla Games has created. We got to see more of the tactical combat that finds protagonist Aloy squaring off against various robotic foes. The new features shown off are the kind of things you might expect, but cool nonetheless. I love the ability to use some robots as mounts which will aid you in combat and exploration. The slingshot fits nicely alongside your bow. Dialogue with NPC’s will allow players to further delve into the mysteries of this world and Aloy’s background. Horizon: Zero Dawn looked as good as ever at E3 2016 and I can’t wait to get my hands on this title early next year.

The Best of the Rest

There were a number of other games that caught my eye beyond those big three and I’ll be giving a quick rundown of those in this next section.

Gravity Rush 2

Gravity Rush 2: Largely absent from Sony’s press conference, the sequel to one of my favorite Vita games looks to be coming along nicely. I like how much smoother the combat looks with tweaks to the targeting and how easily you can pick up objects to hurl at enemies (you can even pick up enemies to hurl at other enemies now). No radical changes here, but given how unique the first game was, that is fine by me. A better playing Gravity Rush should be a great time and it is still on track to release later this year.

ReCore: It was good to see some actual gameplay for this. The trailer shown at Microsoft’s press conference was rather stylish and did a good job of showcasing some of the abilities your robot buddies will have as well as the general feel of the game. The raw gameplay footage looked a little less impressive. I’m not exactly sold on the combat and its lack of budget/quality engine certainly shows at times. But I still like what I saw, especially how platforming seems to be a significant aspect of the game, and I look forward to playing it this Fall. The cheaper pricing doesn’t hurt.

Days Gone: I can’t say I needed another zombie game. Nor am I really into the biker aspect of Days Gone. I do really love Bend Studio though and seeing them get to work on something all their own again is pretty exciting. Watching the devs talk about the game shows they are excited about it too. I was impressed with the zombie horde, the freedom exhibited in the alternate path demo released after the conference showing and the way they talked about the open-world. It should be a good time.

Spider Man

Spider-Man: I think Insomniac seems like a great fit for this new Spider-Man game particularly based on the open-world traversal found in Sunset Overdrive. I can’t say I’m all that familiar with Spider-Man, but perhaps this will get me more interested in the character in the same way the Arkham games did for Batman. Insomniac is one of my favorite developers and Marvel is touting this as their biggest game ever, so I think this should be a winner.

The Last Guardian: The trailer looked great, but more importantly it set a release date for this coming October. I mean video game release dates aren’t really to be trusted these days. And after over a decade of waiting for Team Ico’s next game, I don’t want to get my hopes up too much. But if it is truly releasing this year, I’m psyched! Team Ico games are one of a kind and I’m ready to play another.

Watch Dogs 2: I rather liked the original Watch Dogs. Rarely does a new open-world IP come out of the gate in such good shape. The demonstration of the sequel at E3 impressed me by upping the options including some for those looking to take a non-lethal approach. I’ll definitely be playing it this Fall.

Fe

Fe: I mentioned before E3 that I wanted EA to announce something a bit out of their wheelhouse like Unravel last year and Fe definitely fits the bill. It looks sort of like Ori and the Blind Forest meets Journey. I also like the new EA Originals thing they are cultivating which means we can expect more titles like this out of EA in the future.

A few more things:

  • Sony had another truly great press conference, easily the best this year. Not only did it feature a ton of great looking games (many I already talked about in this post), it didn’t have the pacing issues that their pressers usually have. Just game after game. Good stuff.
  • Leaks made for a real lack of surprises this year. I will say that how different Resident Evil 7 looked definitely surprised me. I didn’t even realize it was RE until the logo came up. Steep was cool too. Not necessarily my thing, but not what I expected from Ubi’s new IP this year, so that is a plus (I believe it did leak out during Ubisoft’s conference prior to its reveal though… seriously it was ridiculous this year).
  • We Happy Few had one of the coolest demos at E3 during Microsoft’s press conference, but after looking into what the game is actually like (randomly generated levels, little story) I can’t say I’m excited for it.
  • Gears of War 4 looks fun, but extremely safe, maybe more so next to games like God of War, Zelda and Resident Evil. On the other hand, Gears isn’t as many entries in as those and has a new developer at the helm. Safe might be the way to go. I did like the new disc weapon and weather stuff in the demo.
  • Some other games I’ll keep an eye on: Dishonored 2, Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1, Prey and Bound.

That only scratches the surface of what E3 had to offer. It was an impressive show that has me further excited for the future of gaming. What caught your eye at this year’s E3? Let me know in the comments below. Thanks for reading!

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8 comments on “The Best of E3 2016

  1. Interesting to hear more about We Happy Few, I didn’t realize those details you mention (randomly generated levels, lack of story). I’ll have to look into it, because I agree that those things would turn me off a little. The footage I saw really impressed me.

    Anyway, great round up! I agree about Gears being safe, I think that’s a good way to put it. I am extremely excited for it nonetheless, and happy for the familiarity. Also, I haven’t played Gravity Rush but now I’d like to!

    • I got a real Bioshock vibe from that initial demonstration of We Happy Few, but it seems that may not be totally representative of what the game is. I guess it is more of a survival game with a randomly generated city as opposed to like a structured narrative-heavy affair which is what I was thinking based on the demo. Yeah, Gears still looks like great fun. Safe means we’ll almost surely enjoy it, so no real harm in that. Thanks for commenting!

    • Yeah, Zelda has definitely gotten kind of out of control with the amount of handholding it has, so that would be another plus if they cut back on that. I know Aonuma mentioned the first game being an inspiration for this, so hopefully that is the case. Thanks for commenting!

  2. I was hoping for a little bit more from Gears 4. I like the weather effects and the idea of deployable cover could be interesting. Like you said, the developers played it safe. I think they are also keeping in mind there’s a lot of people who will be playing it for the first time. Great post!

  3. Really looking forward to God of War and Detroit Become Human which wasn’t mentioned but I can understand it’s not to everyone’s taste. Sad to see that new IP’s are a rarity these days, all reboots and endless sequels.

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