Monday was one of the biggest days for gamers the world over, as the traditional run of E3 press conferences happened to coincide with Apple’s WWDC keynote. I watched press conferences by Microsoft, Apple, EA, Ubisoft and Sony from 5:30 PM to 4:00 AM, almost continuously.
With Microsoft and Sony introducing their next-generation consoles, the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4, it was one of the most memorable E3s in a long time. Here are the five games I’m most excited for.
5. Watch Dogs
To be fair, Watch Dogs was first unveiled at last E3 – but we saw a great deal more of it this year. The game is an open-world stealth action game, with a heavy focus on augmented reality and hacking equipment in its near-future setting. Players can hack cash points to steal money, hack cameras to view from their perspective, and hack phones to find out new information.
The game is also one of many at this year’s E3 which makes use of second-screen cooperative play – players on tablets can provide assistance by hacking from an overhead view. The game looks like a mashup of Grand Theft Auto and Deus Ex, and that sounds like pretty much the ideal game to me.
Watch Dogs will be available for the release of the Xbox One in late November this year, and will be available for PC, PS3, PS4, X360, X1 and Wii U.
4. The Crew
One of the coolest and most-wide ranging demos this year was at Ubisoft’s press conference from The Crew, a social driving game. The game treads the line between singleplayer and multiplayer, with races in the game being populated with AI opponents, human players or a mixture of the two. As you might have guessed from the name, players can take on cooperative challenges as a crew, as well as face off against rivals.
Like competitor Need for Speed, the game offers arcade-style racing, but The Crew has a much larger setting that takes place across an idealised United States. Developers Ivory Tower claim is the largest game world ever. Driving from New York to Los Angeles will take 90 minutes real-time in some of the fastest cars in the game, with differently styled climates along the way, including deserts, plains, cities and mountains.
Again, The Crew offers players something to do on second screen tablets as well. You’ll be able to tweak your car here at a deep level, with some really nice animations as the car is taken to pieces and rebuilt from the ground up.
The Crew will be released in early 2014 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.
Bungie regained its independence from Microsoft a few years ago, passing the reins of their titanic Halo franchise to new Microsoft firm 343 Studios. Since then, they’ve been working on a new game set in a new world: Destiny.
Destiny is a first person shooter, like Halo, that also incorporates Action RPG and MMO elements, in a similar fashion to Borderlands but on a potentially greater scale. Players can go through the game by themselves, cooperatively with a friend, or with around a half-dozen players in certain optional boss battles. Weapons are dropped by defeated enemies, and these weapons can be improved through an upgrade tree.
The setting of Destiny is particularly intriguing – 700 years in the future, on an Earth that has been through a golden age of space colonisation but has then mysteriously collapsed into one remaining human city. Players take the role as Guardians of that city, defending the last bastion of humanity against alien invaders and hoping to find out what caused the collapse in the first place.
Destiny is coming in 2014 to the PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. A (potentially later) PC release has been teased but not confirmed.
Like Destiny, Titanfall is the first new game from the original developers of a big multiplayer shooter franchise – where Destiny’s developers made Halo, Titanfall’s made Call of Duty. Titanfall is an unusual multiplayer shooter in that it pits players fighting on foot (pilots) against those fighting in massive, fast-moving mechs (titans). Teams compete in various modes to complete objectives, with human players supplemented by easily-killed computer-controlled players (popcorn enemies).
As a pilot, you experience a lot more freedom of movement than is typical for a current-generation shooter. You can use jetpacks to double jump and wall-running to reach traditionally inaccessible areas. There are few if any invisible walls in the game, allowing for a more free-flowing parkour-like movement during battles. Titans are also relatively mobile for their size, with powerful weapons but also weak points that can be exploited by savvy enemy titans and pilots.
Titanfall will be launched in the first quarter of 2014, supporting all of Microsoft’s platforms – Xbox One, Xbox 360 and PC. The game uses Microsoft cloud computing for multiplayer servers, physics and AI in the Xbox One version.
1. The Division
The biggest surprise of the show for me was Tom Clancy’s The Division. The game, like so many others at E3 this year, combines multiple genres: massively multiplayer online, tactical shooter, and action role-playing.
The game is set in a near-future where a disease spreads on bank notes on Black Friday, causing the United States to collapse in less than a week. Players are part of the titular Division, which is established to combat the spread of the infection and its societal impact. In the seven minute gameplay video shown, a small group of players work together to explore the city, help local police officers and take down bandits. It’s rare to see MMORPGs that exist outside of fantasy settings, so a shooter set in a post-apocalyptic near-future setting definitely appeals to me.
What really catapulted the game to the top of the list to me was something rather different though – the game’s user interface. It’s really minimal, just white text and icons floating at the bottom of the screen instead of constrained in boxes along the edges. Stuff like equipping new items and skills are holograms that float around a character’s wrist watch, while maps are projected onto the ground.
The Division also includes probably the coolest second-screen functionality I’ve seen yet as well. Instead of hacking from afar or modifying your car, in The Division players on a tablet can hop in as the pilot of a quadrocopter, marking enemies and providing direction from above. That’s awesome; I can’t wait to do that.
The Division is headed for next-generation consoles – the Xbox One and the PlayStation 4 – and is also the subject of a petition for PC support. It’ll be released in 2014.
I’m so pumped for these games – just writing this list and watching these announcement videos over again has made me giddy with excitement. I’m impressed with how so many of them blur the line between singleplayer and multiplayer, and between different genres.
The second screen functionality on many of these titles is also impressive – I can definitely see tablets becoming ideal gaming accessories when these titles start launching; I’m seriously considering buying an iPad and a desk stand to make sure I can get the most out of these games.
What were your favourite games announced at E3? Let me know in the comments below!