This year the great and the good of the video games industry gathered once more to bring us all the news, updates and previews we could possibly want and Leeds Student stayed up well past their bedtime to bring you the highlights from all five conferences.
Many were dubious as to whether Microsoft could recover from their catastrophic performance at last year’s E3 conference but to their credit they came out guns blazing. Microsoft kicked off with the juggernaut that is Call of Duty. Their preview of ‘Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’ offered some truly breathtaking cinematics, offering further proof that the Call of Duty series really has the means (and the budget) to push systems to their limit. Whether you’ve been a fan of the series so far or not – the new futuristic setting and Minority Report-meets-Total Recall style visuals might just pique your interest. If that doesn’t get you curious they’ve thrown in some jet-powered boots for good measure.
Dragon Age fans were also aflutter with some new reveals for the upcoming ‘Dragon Age: Inquisition’. Although it looks like Bioware have really given this game some love, I think it’s a shame that even with such a huge and dedicated fan base the latest instalment still doesn’t seem to have the same polished finish we get from other titles such as Mass Effect. Despite this, the trailer for ‘Inquisition’ seems to have even the most unfamiliar players keen to take up the series.
Another franchise that seems to be gaining new interest and appeal is ‘The Witcher’. The Witcher 3’s new trailer is sure to appeal to your inner hunter-gatherer. The preview shows Geralt, the series’ protagonist, and his adventures as a full time monster hunter and part time botanist. We saw some exciting combat, some non-intrusive side quests and an all-round rich and interesting game-world.
It’s also worth noting that Tom Clancy’s The Division appears to be taking things in an exciting new direction. If you’re a sucker for a post-apocalyptic setting, co-operative gameplay and well-made cover-shooters I can’t see why this game wouldn’t appeal.
For the second year running EA promised us Star Wars: Battlefront announcements and gave us nothing. The Battlefront “update” consisted almost entirely of some holiday snaps that vaguely resembled Endor. Disappointing. EA then made a behemoth announcement; that they’re working on a new Mass Effect game. Unfortunately, this was then followed by shots of artists and programmers working at their desks. Maybe EA should hold off announcing things prematurely just to have something to show at E3? It mostly results in generating a whole lot of hype with basically no substance to back it up.
Sports games are big money and EA know it – they were significantly less under-prepared in this department. Major announcements were made for the UFC, Madden and Fifa franchises to name but a few. The sports game highlight for the entirety of E3 had to be the new PGA Tour game. In their newest instalment EA are bringing you golf…Call of Duty edition. With the tagline “gold without limits” the new PGA game showed golfers teeing off next to battleships in the middle of a war zone and it’s exactly as surreal as it sounds.
Another highlight of EA’s conference had to be ‘Battlefield: Hardline’. This is a game that appears to be the result of many night spent binge watching The Wire and playing Payday 2, and that’s no bad thing. In a turn out for the books, the latest Installment of Battlefield will let you play cops and robbers on a truly epic scale. I can’t be the only one hoping for Omar and Mcnulty DLC.
Ubisoft have been on a winning streak as of late, with a string of fantastic E3 conferences. However, this year the pressure was on after fans felt the company hadn’t delivered on promises made over their latest blockbuster Watch Dogs. With their announcements regarding ‘Assassin’s Creed: Unity’, which is starting to look like more than just the Fifa of stealth games, we can only hope that the astounding graphics and open gameplay turn out to be just as impressive on release. Ubisoft are proving to be deft hands at creating period settings that really feel alive. What stood out most about the Assassin’s Creed preview was its focus on cooperative gameplay showing us what a 4-player mission might look in action.
The ball is certainly in Ubisoft’s court, with ‘Far Cry 4’ set to continue an impressive turn around for the series. It appears we’re set to see more eccentric villains terrorizing back-packers in exotic locations – it’s a formula I really can’t argue with. Ubisoft’s gameplay trailer for Far Cry 4 shows more fun and chaos as players take on new and unknown challenges in the Himalayas.
Ubisoft’s new Rainbow Six game ‘The Siege’ looks incredibly well made, the gameplay style is new and innovative and the atmosphere throughout the preview was tense and dynamic. The Siege will utilize destructible environments on a small scale, which acts as an impressive gameplay mechanic as players demolish walls and ceilings in an attempt to secure hostages.
For driving fans, ‘The Crew’ is a game to look out for in the upcoming months. Its goal is ambitious – to allow players to explore the entirety of the United States by road, freely and openly with a number of vehicles. The game has a distinct focus on multiplayer and will allow players to turn their fantasy road trip into an online social experience.
However, possibly the most refreshing announcement came with ‘Valiant Hearts’ a touching little gem with a charming art-style, focused on the stories of the First World War. It’s reassuring to see big companies investing time and money in games like this.
Sony dropped the ball a little with their conference this year. They promised us it was “all about the games” and then proceeded to flood us with information about movies, TV series and other distinctly non-game-related announcements. I can’t help but think they were biting the hand that feeds them with their opening jab at “lone gamers” who refuse to engage with more social styles of playing. However, the cinematics for ‘The Order 1886’ looked interesting, it’s taken bigger companies a while to get on board with the steampunk trend but it seems they got there eventually.
For fans of fighting games, ‘Mortal Kombat X’ looks to be as outrageously brutal as ever, with Sony’s trailer focusing on the games signature fatality animations. Towards the end of their conference Sony took it upon themselves to get all emotional on us with a new trailer for ‘Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain’. Although I must admit the tone was somewhat compromised by their insistence on the practicality of bikinis in a combat situation. I guess you can’t have everything.
The trailer for ‘Batman: Arkham Knight’ also showed a lot of potential with the series bringing back Scarecrow – a fan favorite from the first installment of the series. The gameplay shown for the batmobile looked exciting and had me wondering why on earth it hadn’t been done before. And of course, there was a new Uncharted – a series I’m finding it harder and harder to distinguish from Tomb Raider.
Nintendo have always taken a different approach to E3, and this year saw them continue to shy away from flashy press-oriented conferences in favor of speaking more directly to fans. There were some exciting new announcements for the upcoming Super Smash Bros game, including the ability to use your mii as a fighter. We also got a brief glimpse at a new open-world style Zelda game, something I am fondly referring to as “Zelda scrolls”.
However, in my opinion the true highlight of Nintendo’s conference this year is without a doubt ‘Splatoon’. Splatoon promises to be a quirky new multiplayer game in which players compete as teams of squid – using their ink to mark their territory and attempting to cover as much of the map as possible before the end of the match. The character designs are gorgeous and the gameplay we were shown looks exciting and fresh. It’s great to see Nintendo exploring new directions and taking a gamble on a new IP instead of just focusing on already established franchises such as Zelda and Mario.
That being said, they brought enough of these classic titles to E3 to satisfy their loyal fan base. Of the more traditional Nintendo fare, Hyrule warriors looked to be the most intriguing – offering an unexpected mash-up of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors. If you’re a fan of either series, I’d highly recommend checking this game out.
Winners of E3 2014: Ubisoft
Honorable mentions: Microsoft
Games to look out for: Assassin’s Creed Unity, Far Cry 4, Rainbow Six: The Siege, Battlefield: Hardline, Dragon Age Inquisition, The Witcher 3, Batman: Arkham Knight, Splatoon, Valiant Hearts, Hyrule Warriors, The Crew.