The dust has settled, leaving gamers upset by the no-shows while simultaneously salivating over the promising titles to come. E3 2014 was perhaps one of the most successful in recent memory, containing savory new footage of hotly anticipated games that most of us knew little about while also surprising us with ones many of us never knew we wanted (Grim Fandango Remake, Why don’t I own you already?). Whereas past shows mostly displayed various new trailers and gameplay footage of games that were already announced beforehand, 2014’s roster of titles felt rejuvenated by the inclusion many hotly anticipated next-gen sequels alongside a relatively large number of interesting new IP’s. No, The Last Guardian didn’t show up, but that shouldn’t stop us from being excited about the cool games that did. Here are some reasons why 2014’s E3 one for the books:
Batman: Arkham Knight will be the most ambitious and immersive Batman game to date
Want to explore a fully-realized Gotham as the Dark Knight, complete with a drivable Batmobile that can be summoned on the fly? That day will arrive in 2015. And on that day, gamers will have access to what might go down as Rocksteady’s most complete Batman game in the most richly-developed interactive Batman world ever seen. The graphics prove that next gen really is here and they almost appear to have been ripped straight out of a CG film. Animated Batman (CGI or otherwise) has never looked this good. And while the prospect of the Joker being included is likely a pipe dream, Kevin Conroy (of Arkham Asylum, City and Animated Series fame) will reprise his role as Batman. Take my money.
Grim Fandango returns
In an announcement that surprised and delighted both fans and developers, Tim Schaffer has reclaimed the rights to his 1998 PC Adventure game classic and, for the first time in about 15 years, Grim Fandango will be playable again. And that’s only the beginning – expect to see improved graphics and presentation as well. No word on whether this will be a full-on remake or an HD port with improved character models, but given the timeless nature of the game, the latter option is perfectly fine with us.
We finally know what Destiny is. Kinda.
Bungie’s newest game, even after the official announcement, was an enigma for years. We knew certain details: it involved first-person-shooting, online multiplayer, vehicles, and a sci-fi theme, but the big picture was blurry. The description of the game that seems to be the most accurate is “Shared world shooter”, whatever that means. And while it does have MMORPG elements, it isn’t an MMORPG. Nor is it totally open world. Last week, the studio helped pull the sheet off the mystery a bit and we now know that Destiny is a shooter that assigns players to matches in a co-op campaign more or less based around hopping to different levels disguised as planets. No, it’s not the open-world universe many were probably hoping for, but to Bungie’s credit, the levels are huge (The one I played in the alpha felt like a multiplayer map, albeit one that’s much bigger than any I’ve ever seen) and the game is fun as hell. There are still some vaguely understood features that will only come to light when the finished game hits stores, but based on what was shown at E3 (and played ), it looks like Bungie might have another huge IP on their hands. For a game that costs $500 million to develop, it certainly should be.
No Man’s Sky: A game featuring an endless, explorable universe
Gamers disappointed by Destiny’s lack of an open universe needn’t fret too much: Hello Games will release a title that allows players to explore an infinite, procedurally-generated universe complete with suns, moons, spaceships and planets – some of which are teeming with life. While it’s too early to say for sure, it seems like the final game will deliver on the promise of the E3 trailer. And there’s more yet to reveal. Most exciting of all is the nature of the game’s design – players will probably never see the same kind of planet twice, which hopefully will provide more than enough incentive to keep exploring. The gameplay for No Man’s Sky is abstract and even the lead designer finds articulating it in layman’s terms to be a challenge, but basically, expect to explore space, land on planets in real time, and engage in battles with spaceships and various hostile fauna. At this point there doesn’t seem to be much structure to the game, but while many gamers might find that to be disheartening news, others will welcome it as a refreshing alternative to most games on the market.
The new Zelda looks like a return to form and an exciting step forward
About a month ago, I wrote a piece on how Nintendo can help take the Zelda franchise into the modern gaming era. And while Nintendo has probably been working on this for a *bit* longer than a month, I’m nevertheless ecstatic to see confirmation from the company that looking at the series’ past is the best way to move forward. In the first two NES Zelda games, the player felt a sense of isolation while exploring what felt like a vast landscape teeming with mystery and hostility. Hyrule seemed to be designed with the intent to immerse the player – a design choice that felt lost in the translation to 3D, where it was more of a giant playground. Thank goodness Nintendo is now aware of it too. This most recent Zelda features a timeless cell-shaded art style, and vast, rolling landscapes that promises the feeling of exploring a huge, interactive painting. Nintendo’s other goal when constructing Hyrule Field, finally, seems to be to capture the essence of nature (as opposed to using the overworld to illustrate gameplay scenarios and little more than that). That alone makes the latest Zelda out to be more of a work of art than previous installments. While there’s still much more to reveal, what we know right now is without a doubt a pleasant surprise.
The next Assassin’s Creed boasts refinement and improved multiplayer
Not only is Ubisoft’s new Assassin’s Creed game gorgeous – Many of the series’ gameplay hallmarks like parkour and stealth seem enhanced and polished in the gameplay demo shown. Animations are more convincing as well and the game will feature team-based co-op. The latter addition looks the most exciting, due to how the missions are designed to be open-ended, allowing more freedom than ever to pursue your prey as you see fit. Long story short, Ubisoft wants you to feel like an assassin during pivotal points in our world’s history more than ever, and we’re all for that.
You can remix Super Mario Bros games
Have you ever wanted to make your own Mario game, but shrugged it off knowing that it will never match the Nintendo seal of quality? Same here. But while some modders have tried re-designing older Mario levels the hard way, though, Nintendo is giving you the tools to do it right and the result looks promising. Editing is done with the stylus on the Wii-U’s game tablet and designing looks to be as intuitive as you’d expect it to be. Creators can also switch between classic 8-bit graphics and New Super Mario graphics instantly. While online capabilities were not mentioned, there’s a possibility that Wii U owners can upload their own Mario games for others to play. There’s lots of potential, and hopefully Nintendo capitalizes on all of it.
Lots of Halo in the near future
While being a gamer often means being perpetually dissatisfied with your hobby of choice (look at any gaming forum and notice the amount of haters compared to people who actually seem to enjoy video games), Halo fans should feel more than content right now. The Master Chief Collection (Halo 1-4) will be the best way to play your favorite Halo Games as they were meant to be played – all boast improved graphics (Halo 2 has been completely remade for the Xbox One) and improved online modes. New features include a playlist mode, where developer 343 (and, eventually, players themselves) can arrange their favorite levels/maps into the order they see fit, as well as remastered versions of six classic maps. Additional features include remastered cinematics, and access to the Halo 5: Guardians beta. Halo 5 is scheduled to drop in 2015. This will most likely be the announcement Microsoft needed to renew interest into the Xbox One.
Uncharted 4 looks amazing. Might be the last game in the series. Directed by Neil Druckmann.
Sony’s biggest announcement by far was the reveal of the Uncharted 4 teaser. Featuring in-engine graphics that look like full-blown CG, the 4th installment of the Uncharted series might be the game that shows the full potential of Sony’s next gen hardware. This obviously comes as no surprise to Naughty Dog fans. What did come as a surprise is the not-so-subtle suggestion in the trailer that Uncharted 4 would probably be the last game in the series and might end with Nate’s death (as the opening closeup of the fly-attracting and seemingly shot-or-beaten-down protagonist implies). This will probably end up being the darkest Uncharted yet, which makes sense as the director is the same guy who did Naughty Dog’s critical smash hit, The Last of Us.
The Witcher looks like a next-gen Skyrim with a badass protagonist and more of everything
PC gamers have known for a long time about the ambitious story and challenging gameplay of The Witcher series, but console-owners have not been as vocal about taking interests in the adventures of Geralt (even after a console port of The Witcher 2, arguably the finest moment in the series thus far). This is probably going to change very soon. The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt looks to blow out the sense of scope and feeling of epic fantasy adventure seen in previous Witcher games (and perhaps most other fantasy games as well). Based only on what we know, it features amazing graphics, an enormous open world where mountains actually look like mountains (and yes, you will be able to travel to them) and monster-hunting-based gameplay that will probably make you feel like you’re more of a hunter than the huge beasts you’re attempting to kill. The swordplay seems to feel nice and you will be able to chop your opponents up like sushi depending on how and where you slash. The game’s Fantasy-themed visuals and open-ended gameplay, combined with what is sure to be a often violent and shocking storyline, might make The Witcher 3 the closest any of us will come to playing a good Game of Thrones adventure game any time soon. Prepare.
Nick is currently pursuing an Advertising degree at the University of North Texas. He is passionate about video games, movies and cheeseburgers and hopes to recover from Game of Thrones PTSD in time for the next season of Game of Thrones. Follow/tweet him @NickTaylorGFX