OCC E3 2013 Awards
Reviewed by: ClayMeow
Reviewed on: July 2, 2013
We're back with the second annual OCC E3 Awards and boy was this E3 jam-packed with goodness! While Nintendo got a head start last year with its new console, this year saw Microsoft and Sony join the party with the highly anticipated reveals of their next-gen consoles, the Xbox One and PlayStation 4, respectively. With it came a plethora of new game announcements, but the PC and current-gen systems got their fair share of games as well. All in all, there was certainly something for every gamer out there to be excited about.
It was also an E3 filled with surprises. While last year's big surprise was Ubisoft's Watch_Dogs, it seems the games industry has gotten better at keeping secrets, as this year saw quite a few games come out of nowhere – Star Wars: Battlefront, Tom Clancy's The Division, Kingdom Hearts 3, and a new Halo. Alright, just kidding about Halo – who didn't see that coming? A new Xbox without a Halo game would be like Nintendo having a console without a Mario game – never going to happen. But I digress...
Once again, OverclockersClub did not have a physical presence at E3, but if you checked out the Official E3 2013 Thread, you would have seen a ton of coverage. Unfortunately, due to a scheduling conflict, aaron6581230 could not participate this year, but bp9801 and ClayMeow are back and better than ever. To make up for it, a few new categories have been added and although we avoided platform-specific awards last year, with the unveil of the next-gen consoles, we thought it was only right to have awards for best PlayStation 4 and Xbox One exclusives. Here is the full list of awards:
- Best Action-Adventure Game
- Best Action Hack-and-Slash Game
- Best Shooter
- Best Platforming Game
- Best Strategy Game
- Best Adventure Game
- Best MMO
- Best Role-Playing Game
- Best Free-to-Play Game
- Best Survival Horror Game
- Best Fighting Game
- Best Racing Game
- Best Family Game
- Best New IP
- Best Indie Game
- Best PlayStation 4 Exclusive
- Best Xbox One Exclusive
- Most Innovative
- Biggest Surprise
- Biggest Disappointment
- Game of the Show
Whether you agree or disagree with our picks, as always, we welcome you to discuss these choices in our forum. We thought long and hard to come up with our winners and runners-up, even wavering back and forth and making some last-minute changes. There were so many great games shown off at E3, picking the best of the best was no easy task. You can see a full Categorized List of E3 2013 Games here, giving you a taste up just how difficult it was to narrow it down to just one winner and a runner-up or two.
Best Action-Adventure Game
Winner: Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain (PS3, PS4, 360, XBO)
The action-adventure category is almost too big for its own good, with at least a dozen games that could have walked away the winner. For me, however, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain has that certain something that enables it to stand above the crowd. Maybe it's the multitude of new stealth elements to keep Snake hidden that does it. Or maybe it's the day/night cycles and the open-world desert setting of it. In actuality, it's all those and more that push MGSV over the edge for my winner. I mean, it's an open-world Metal Gear Solid that looks amazing already, and series creator Hideo KoJima actually said it can look even better when it ships. What's not to like about that? There's still plenty we don't know about MGSV however, and Kojima is being his usual cryptic self about what to expect. That still doesn't sway me from picking Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain as my winner, in fact it helps it even more because this game can only get better.
Runners-Up: Wolfenstein: The New Order (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO), inFamous: Second Son (PS4)
I considered both of these games as winners, but ultimately settled on MGSV for the reasons above. Actually I could have gone with any number of games as winner and then runners-up, but ultimately the two that stand out the most are Wolfenstein: The New Order and inFamous: Second Son. The new Wolfenstein takes us out of the World War II setting and into the 1960s, except it's the 1960s with the Nazis as the world's dominant power. It's a darker world with fantastic technology that we've only glimpsed in trailers and gameplay demos, with various mechs and supernatural elements aplenty. Developer MachineGames is keeping the first-person shooter history of Wolfenstein intact, but this is a game built around a story you can actually get invested in and one that creates a lot more tension than just making sure you have enough bullets.
InFamous: Second Son may share its name with the first two games on the PlayStation 3, but this PS4 game isn't an exact sequel. It's more of a new look into the world created by Sucker Punch, and one that looks incredible. Instead of a giant yet fictional city, Second Son is set in Seattle, Washington, albeit Sucker Punch's take on the city so there'll be some differences between real and virtual. The main character, Delsin Rowe, differs from inFamous 1 and 2's Cole MacGrath in that Rowe can absorb the powers of other superhumans as well as manipulate the environment around him. You can fly by pushing down while your arms are covered in flames, change into smoke to infiltrate buildings, or charge up the chains around Rowe's arms with the powers. There's plenty more Sucker Punch isn't showing just yet, but as a PS4-exclusive, this is definitely one to look forward to.
Winner: Watch Dogs (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO, Wii U)
Action-Adventure was the category I struggled with the most. It wasn't just that there were a plethora of titles to choose from, but because I struggled with whether it was right to award Watch Dogs anything this year since it was my Biggest Surprise and Game of the Show last year. In the end, I decided that Ubisoft showed off enough new material to warrant Watch Dog's eligibility. But more importantly, what was shown had me itching to play yet again. The "Exposed" trailer shown during Ubisoft's press conference was absolutely outstanding – I will certainly be visiting that "sushi bar" when the game launches. But it was the seven-minute gameplay video that really clinched it. Watch Dogs is an open-world, action-adventure game set in modern day Chicago, and while it looked amazing last year, I questioned just how open-world it would really be. The gameplay video showed protagonist Aiden Pearce driving around Chicago, getting discovered by a civilian as a wanted man, using a video camera feed to direct his friend how to stealthily move past guards, and hopping into a boat to cruise the Chicago River after causing a temporary blackout. It certainly looked open-world to me and seems like a more grounded GTA. We don't know Aiden's motives just yet, but either way, Watch Dogs is highly promising.
Runners-Up: Batman: Arkham Origins (PC, PS3, 360, Wii U), Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain (PS3, PS4, 360, XBO)
The best thing I can say about Batman: Arkham Origins is that it looks just like the previous Batman: Arkham games. It's an even bigger deal when you consider that Rocksteady, the developer of the first two games, is not developing Origins – instead it's Warner Bros. Games Montreal at the helm. Because of my love of the first two games, this is actually the game I'm looking forward to most, even more than Watch Dogs. As the name suggests, the game actually takes place prior to the events in the previous two games, telling the story of how Batman first came into contact with various villains. The premise of the game is that Black Mask, a brutal crime lord, has put a hefty bounty on Batman's head and eight of the world's best assassins all come to collect on a single night – Christmas Eve. Festive, no? While many of the assassins have not been revealed, we do know Deathstroke and Deadshot are among them. We also know Joker, Penguin, Bane, and Anarchy make appearances as well. Of course the real question everyone wants to know is if Riddler will be making a return or will someone else be providing additional hidden challenges?. Guess we'll have to wait and see. What we did learn at E3 was the addition of a new item, the Remote Claw. The Remote Claw allows you to tether two people or objects together. Seeing Batman tether two enemies together, causing them to knock each unconscious, was hilarious. It also seemed a bit too overpowered, but there is still time to tweak it before the October release.
Then we have Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, which kicked off the Microsoft Press Conference. The lengthy trailer was impressive, but it's the promise of a "true open world experience" that is really exciting. While the previous Metal Gear game, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, was relatively well-received, it was a huge departure from the series, trading in stealthy tactical play for action hack-and-slash. Thankfully, based on the E3 gameplay trailer, it seems the series is shifting back to its stealth roots, but this time with a lot more options – and a realistic day/night cycle. Color me intrigued!
Best Action Hack-and-Slash Game
Winner: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 (PC, PS3, 360)
It almost seems weird for me to consider a Castlevania game in the hack-and-slash category, but lately the series has been revived as one with Lords of Shadow. The sequel, Lords of Shadow 2, was announced last year, but at E3 2013 is where we really got to see a lot more of it. Visually the game continues what we saw in the first, just with more refinement. The camera is now free instead of locked, which should give all of us a much greater look at the incredibly detailed environments. It's also set in the "modern times," which is quite a bit removed from the setting of the first game, yet it makes perfect sense given how LoS 1 ended. Your character is the Prince of Darkness himself, and that means all the sweet, sweet vampiric powers are now at your disposal. Lords of Shadow 2 is supposed to have a far longer story than the first game, as well as no loading times, so it already sounds like a game you won't want to miss.
Runner-Up: Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z (PS3, 360)
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z may bear the famous series' name, but this is a standalone affair with much more of a comedic focus. You take on the role of undead ninja Yaiba out to avenge his death at the hands of Ryu Hayabusa. Yeah, the traditional Ninja Gaiden star is now the enemy in Yaiba, but there are a multitude of zombies to slice and dice on your way to that final confrontation. The game itself is brutal, which is to be expected from something bearing the Ninja Gaiden name, but like I said it has some comedy to it. Zombies can be defeated by slicing them up, or they can be used as weapons to go after more undead. It's a different spin on zombie games, but one that looks absolutely bonkers. And in this case, that's a good thing as I'm looking forward to seeing how this zombie-fied Ninja Gaiden spin-off ends up.
Winner: Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z (PS3, 360)
Have you ever wanted to fight a giant two-headed zombie baby? That's just one of the insane enemies in Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. Most hack-and-slash titles are insane, but Yaiba takes it to the extreme, combining brutal hack-and-slash action with dark comedy. The game also uses cel-shaded graphics to really give it that dark graphic novel feel. As you may have guessed from the name, Yaiba is a spin-off of Ninja Gaiden with zombies. It's a classic revenge story – Yaiba Kamikaze, a ninja killed by franchise protagonist Ryu Hayabusa, is ressurected as a cyborg to squash a zombie plague. In return, he'll be given the power to get his revenge on Ryu. While most of the game seems to be about dispatching zombies and various undead monstrosities in various brutal ways, the zombies can also be used as weapons. Kamikaze can toss zombies, trigger traps, or even use various body parts as makeshift weapons. A perfect example of this was no more apparent than when Kamikaze faced off against a boss simply referred to in-game as "Fat Flaming Fuck" (did I forget to mention this game was for mature audiences only?).
When Kamikaze finally defeats FFF, he employs a finishing move that rips off its giant head, with the words "Rigor Mortar" briefly appearing on screen. Kamikaze now carried the head on his back and could use it whenever he wanted in one of two modes: as a mortar or a flamethrower. It was after a brief killing spree with said head that the giant two-headed zombie baby stumbled into view. Sadly, that was where the E3 demo ended, so your guess is as good as mine how a creature of that sort fights or if Kamikaze acquires a new weapon from defeating it. Ninja Gaiden purists may scoff at the game, but it seems like a rather entertaining experience. It is clearly a spin-off and not the direction the franchise is taking, so there really shouldn't be any worry. If Quentin Tarantino created a video game, it would look remarkably like Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z. It might not be for everyone (and clearly not for children), but for me... bring it on!
Runners-Up: RYSE: Son of Rome (XBO), Killer is Dead (PS3, 360), Dragon's Crown (PS3, Vita)
While Ryse: Son of Rome is a third-person hack-and-slash, it's as far from Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z as possible while still being in the same genre. In fact, it's far different than practically every hack-and-slash game to date, priding itself on realism rather than over-the-top violence. On the flip side, Killer is Dead has more in common with Yaiba, featuring a protagonist with a cybernetic arm that can be transformed into various weapons, while he wields a sword in his human hand. Lastly, I was very impressed with the side-scrolling beat 'em up Dragon's Crown, coming to PS3 and Vita later this summer. It may not be a true hack-and-slash like the other titles, but its unique combination of brawler plus RPG has me intrigued.
Winner: Tom Clancy's The Division (PS4, XBO)
The shooter category is one where any number of games could win, but for me that distinction goes to Tom Clancy's The Division. When this game was being announced and set up during Ubisoft's press conference, I wasn't quite sure what to make of it. It looks like a third-person shooter, yet there's this persistent MMO quality to it that sets it apart. It also has RPG elements, Ubisoft is even calling the game an "open-world online RPG," with skill trees and classes that players can utilize. However, for me The Division is very much a shooter, albeit a tactical one that requires a lot of voice communication with your team/guild/squad. Players can even make use of their smartphone or tablet to jump into a game with their friends, as the E3 demo featured a player-controlled flying drone that zipped in to help out before leaving again.
Visually The Division looks stunning. If you've seen the gameplay footage from E3, you may have thought the opening minute was a CG sequence of New York. Well, it wasn't, as once it focused on the player you saw this was actually the game. Snow was falling and swirling around, water reflected everything around it, smoke and steam billowed properly, and the characters themselves just looked right. The UI elements look very minimalistic, with a brief squad menu displayed next to your ammo count. Pulling up the skills, world map, or other menus are done on the player's watch, and the world map displays this really snazzy holographic affair. There's still a lot more to be shown on The Division, but it's definitely one I can see myself playing a lot of once it arrives.
Runner-Up: Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare (PC, 360, XBO)
Plants vs. Zombies is one of the most popular tower-defense games around, so what's this Garden Warfare version doing in the shooter category? Well that's because this game is a third-person multiplayer shooter where you get to control the plants or zombies as you wage war against the opposite species. It's an interesting take on the series, and one that somehow looks like it belongs. No longer are the characters presented in a cartoony, 2D style, as EA and Popcap have turned Garden Warfare into a 3D game that still captures the original design of the title characters. Like I said, PvZ: GW is a multiplayer shooter, which in this case means four-player co-op or 24-player online battles. Excited? You better be!
Winner: Wolfenstein: The New Order (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO)
I have not played a Wolfenstein game since 2001's Return to Castle Wolfenstein, but Wolfenstein: The New Order has me super excited to get back to killing Nazis. Wolfenstein takes place in an alternate history where the Nazis won World War II. In The New Order, players take on the role of William "BJ" Blazkowicz in the 1960s. But unlike previous Wolfenstein games, The New Order isn't simply a run-and-gun popcorn shooter. In fact, developer MachineGames isn't calling it a shooter at all, but rather a "story-driven, first-person, action-adventure" game. That's not to say shooting won't play a predominant role, but it's all put into context by a compelling story. The gameplay demo shown at E3 takes place in London. An ally suicide bombs a Nazi facility in order to help you infiltrate it and steal a stealth helicopter. Immediately after the bombing, as you're making your way through the rubble, you're introduced to one of the more unique enemies in a shooter – a robotic dog, of sorts. MachineGames is going for a retro sci-fi look and feel to everything – a futuristic version of 1960s technology. Shortly after the encounter with the robotic dog, the player comes face-to-face with a Nazi mech-like war machine.
While story is the main focus, the shooter aspects is certainly well-refined and you'll be utilizing your fair share of super weapons. In addition, almost every weapon can be dual-wielded – though you can't mix-and-match. Later in the demo, after dual-wielding some machine guns, the player mans a turret, which provided a glimpse into the level destruction present in the game. The player also ducked and leaned behind the turret to avoid gunfire, which was something I hadn't seen in a shooter before. As for the health system, The New Order marries the old school and modern shooter approach. Like the original games, the player can have up to 100 health and 100 armor. When out of battle, health regenerates to the nearest 20%, so if you escape a situation with a sliver of life, you'll at least have a fighting chance at the next encounter.
Lastly, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that the game looks absolutely stellar. The New Order is the first game since 2011's Rage to utilize the id Tech 5 engine. Rage had its share of launch issues, but after a few patches and hotfixes, it turned out to be one of the prettiest games I've ever played and is certainly one of the most underappreciated shooters. With id Tech 5 having two years to mature, I have high hopes for the visuals of The New Order.
Runners-Up: Tom Clancy's The Division (PS4, XBO), Destiny (PS3, PS4, 360, XBO), Titanfall (PC, 360, XBO)
After action-adventure, picking my top shooter from E3 was the toughest decision because so many shooters were damn impressive. Even though Ubisoft is calling it an "open-world online RPG," I just couldn't leave out Tom Clancy's The Division. Though it may feature RPG elements such as a skill tree, The Division is very much a tactical third-person shooter and it looks quite good. Being billed as a "shared-world shooter," Destiny injects some traditional MMO elements into the usual first-person shooter – and thankfully it still feels very much like an FPS. The gameplay trailer shown during the Sony Press Conference gave us a glimpse at strange alien ninjas and large robotic enemies amongst a huge open world. I go more in depth on both games later on, so stay tuned.
Titanfall is quite different than the previous two games – a fast-paced shooter featuring free-running, double-jumping human pilots and giant, agile mechs called Titans. Players can choose to battle on foot or hop into their own personal Titan at any time, with advantages and disadvantages to both. It certainly seems like developer Respawn has done a great job at balancing both sides, which will be crucial to its success. Titanfall is a multiplayer-only shooter, though Respawn is promising single player elements, such as a plot and NPCs. This is Respawn's first project, but the studio consists of former Infinity Ward employees, so there is plenty of online shooter experience to go around. One of the most surprising things of all is that the game uses the Source engine, albeit a modified one. The game looks damn good though.
Best Platforming Game
Winner: Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee: New 'n Tasty! (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO, Wii U, Vita)
The Oddworld series is one of those franchises that has been around for a while, but the later games left the 2D side-scrolling nature behind for a more 3D look. Luckily, Abe's Oddysee: New 'n Tasty changes all that, as this is an HD version keeping that 2D feel in a 3D engine while introducing some new elements. One of the benefits of a 3D engine is that the faster Abe moves, the more the world shifts to give a better view of what's ahead. Maybe there's a Slig that just enters the screen, and instead of running head first into it, you can slow down and work your way around it. The 3D engine also means any flip screen scrolling elements from the original are gone, since there's no longer a need for them.
Calling New 'n Tasty an HD remake isn't entirely accurate, as the entire game is being built from the ground up in 3D. Many of the puzzles and levels are kept intact, but all the original FMVs are now redone in the new engine. Some modern gaming elements have been added too, like a quicksave system that is rather nice to see. Actually, Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee making a return is nice to see, as I think a platformer with puzzles to solve is a good break from the typical games. Plus it's coming out on pretty much every platform available, so there's no reason to not pick this game up and experience it.
Runners-Up: Knack (PS4), Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate (Vita, 3DS)
Knack is a platformer that we haven't really seen much of, not just because it's a new game but also in terms of what the platforming genre has become. In many ways, Knack is a throwback to the likes of Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon (most likely because designer Mark Cerny worked on those games), with an almost animated movie feel to its visual design. That's not to say the game doesn't look amazing, because it does, and it also means this is a platformer for everyone. It doesn't look like it relies on a complicated control scheme or even feature sweeping cinematics. Knack just looks like a game where you can kick back and have some fun, regardless of age.
The Batman: Arkham series has proven that a truly great Batman game can actually exist, with the third game, Arkham Origins, due out later this year. We're also going to be getting Arkham Origins Blackgate at the same time, but this isn't like the other members of the series. Blackgate is a 2.5D platformer for the Vita and 3DS, with the action taking place after Arkham Origins. Many of the mechanics and items from the big versions are making their way to Blackgate, just with some tweaks. The combat system is being entirely reworked, while Batman can move not just left to right, but also in the background or foreground. Blackgate includes the detective/predator vision too, but now Batman can see the sightlines of the enemies in order to stay hidden better. The game looks impressive on the handhelds, and with a story introducing Catwoman for the first time and further developing Batman's working relationship with a young Captain Gordon, this is definitely a game you won't want to miss if you own either a Vita or 3DS.
Winner: Puppeteer (PS3)
If we had a Most Unique category, Sony's Puppeteer would certainly be in the running. Puppeteer tells the story of a boy name Kutaro, who was turned into a puppet and had his dead torn off by the evil Moon Bear King. Kutaro steals the Moon Bear King's magical scissors, Calibrus, and then sets out on a dangerous quest to retrieve his head. Howeve, you'll not be playing as a headless puppet boy – Kutaro has the ability to pick up heads along the way, each granting him different powers, such throwing bombs or deploying a hook. According to Creative Director Gavin Moore, there are 100 heads throughout the game and your heads act as life – you can have three heads at a time and if you get hit and lose a head, you have three seconds to recover it before you die. You can also switch heads on-the-fly, which is quite essential during boss battles.
What sets Puppeteer apart from other 2.5D platformers is its setting – a magical theater. The theater changes every five to ten minutes, with the sets rotating and moving in and out. The characters in the game also frequently break the fourth wall, talking to the audience and narrator. If Tim Burton created a video game, it would look very much like Puppeteer – a dark fairy tale with vibrant colors.
Runners-Up: Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate (Vita, 3DS), CounterSpy (PS3, Vita, Mobile), Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee: New 'n Tasty! (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO, Wii U, Vita)
While Batman: Arkham Origins is getting the majority of the spotlight, there's a spin-off in the works for handheld devices that is equally exciting. Batman: Arkham Origins Blackgate is a 2.5D side-scrolling platformer coming to PS Vita and Nintendo 3DS on the same day as its big brother. Transforming the Batman Arkham series into a 2.5D platformer is a huge risk, but if the gameplay demo shown at E3 is any indication, it's going to pay off. Blackgate takes place after the events of Origins with Batman investigating Blackgate Prison in the wake of a prison riot. It also happens to tell the story of how Batman first met Catwoman. A demo of the game was playable on the Vita at E3 and from what I saw, it captures the essence of the Batman Arkham series perfectly. I didn't see the 3DS version, but I can tell you the game looks gorgeous on the Vita's OLED display. If you're a fan of the Batman Arkham games and own one of the handhelds, Blackgate is shaping up to be a must-have companion.
CounterSpy is an action espionage game set during the Cold War that tasks you with infiltrating a base to prevent a missile from launching. While CounterSpy looks like your typical 2.5D platformer on the surface, when the player goes into cover, the camera swivels around to provide a 3D view, giving the game quite a lot of depth during firefights. I guess you can consider it the first 2.75D platformer. The art style itself is very stylized, giving a blocky, paint-like look. If you haven't heard of the game before, I advise you check out the gameplay demo.
Oddworld: New 'N Tasty! is an HD remake of 1997's Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee, a 2D side-scrolling platformer. What's really appealing about New 'N Tasty is seeing the series go back to its side-scrolling platformer beginnings, unlike the most recent titles that were 3D platformers and shooters. Based on what was shown at E3, New 'N Tasty seems to capture the feel of original game while pouring on a nice new fresh coat of paint. If side-scrolling platformers aren't your thing and you enjoy 3D platformers more, Knack, Tearaway, and Super Mario 3D World were all very impressive.
Best Strategy Game
Winner: Total War: Rome II (PC)
There are few strategy games as well known and well loved as any entry in the Total War series, and it's small wonder why Total War: Rome II is my winner. Building on the impressive yet nearly decade old Rome: Total War, the sequel is centered on the Roman Republic with the opportunity to turn it into the mighty Roman Empire. Along the way you'll have to conquer various tribes, regions, and provinces, while fighting off any uprisings or rebellions; oh, and let's not forget ruling an empire. Everything in Total War: Rome II is being expanded, with a multitude of new battles (including naval ones) added, decisions to make (like turning Rome into an empire), traits to assign to legions instead of just generals, and even customizable weapon loadouts for the legions. There's also a few dozen factions to encounter in the game, with eight playable when TW:R2 arrives.
Developer The Creative Assembly has expressed a desire to bring out a more human side to war, which means facial animations allowing for soldiers to react to their comrades falling next to them or their general giving a rousing speech before a siege tower arrives. The game's new engine looks simply awesome, with immense battles captured like never before. Thousands of soldiers can be seen at once, with cameras that can zoom in to a personal level in order to capture that human side of war. All I know is that Total War: Rome II is shaping up to be the best entry in the series yet, and I just hope there's enough time in the day to see it all.
Runner-Up: Company of Heroes 2 (PC)
Company of Heroes 2 is a strategy game I've been looking forward to for a while, yet just like last year, it has to reside in the runner-up category. That's not to say anything bad about CoH 2, it just means there are too many tough choices in one of my favorite genres. The game is shaping up rather nicely, and visually it looks to be on the same kind of level as Total War: Rome II. Just, you know, with nearly two millennia of warfare technology improvements. CoH 2 focuses on the Eastern Front of World War II, where the Russians and Germans battled and lost millions of men. The Eastern Front may not be as well known, but its importance in the war was no less significant. The snow and absolutely brutal conditions of the Russian winter look to be captured perfectly, with weather playing a major part in battles. It's one thing to lose soldiers to a tank, but something else to lose them to frostbite. Snow can impede movement as well, and while that frozen lake may seem to offer sancutary, it could just as easily break and swallow a tank division.
It sounds like a whole new level of strategy is going to be required in Company of Heroes 2, and it's certainly a welcomed one.
Winner: Company of Heroes 2 (PC)
Company of Heroes 2 was my Best Strategy Game of E3 2012, so I really wanted to avoid selecting it again. But even a year later, it still happens to be the most impressive strategy game at E3. I talked about the realistic snow and "true sight" mechanic last year, both of which are still major reasons to be excited for CoH 2. Based on the gameplay demo shown at E3, I was equally impressed with the smoke, lighting, and extreme detail of the units. While its often best to play a real-time strategy game as zoomed out as possible, CoH 2 begs you to zoom in – and indeed you can get right up close and personal with each unit. As far as gameplay goes, while the game has your typical single-player campaign, skirmish, and multi-player modes, it's the Theater or War mode that's most intriguing – 18 co-op missions divided equally between the Soviet Red Army and German factions. The original game is the highest rated RTS to date, so the sequel has some big shoes to fill.
Runners-Up: Total War: Rome II (PC), Transistor (PC, PS4), Merc Elite (PC)
I could never get into the Total War series, but I'm certainly not blind to its greatness. Total War: Rome II is impressive to say the least. While Rome: Total War was released back in 2004, there have been five other Total War games since and they keep getting more massive. Rome II is indeed massive, but also allows you to zoom into the unit level to get an up-close look at the bloodshed. Still, it's all about vast armies battling equally vast armies in a spectacle unmatched by any other game.
Transistor may seem like an action-RPG on the surface, but it hides a turn-based strategy game on the inside. At any time, you can enter "Turn", which stops time and allows you to plan out your movement and attacks, with each action consuming a certain portion of an action bar. It's an interesting twist on the typical hack-and-slash combat seen in most action-RPGs. Oh, and it's also being developed by Supergiant Games, the indie studio behind the critically acclaimed Bastion. So yeah, there's that too.
I wouldn't be surprised if you never heard of Merc Elite, but you should certainly keep your eye on this "free modern warfare MOBA military game." While it's being called a MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena), like Dota 2 and League of Legends, it plays very differently – it plays like a top-down shooter. It's much more like a top-down Counter-Strike than it is a militaristic Dota, and indeed it does feature free-aiming like a shooter rather than the click-to-attack found in your more typical MOBAs. So even if you're not a MOBA fan, if you're looking for a free-to-play co-op shooter, Merc Elite may do just the trick.
Best Adventure Game
Winner: Murdered: Soul Suspect (PC, PS3, 360)
Murdered: Soul Suspect puts you in the shoes of a detective who has to solve a murder: yours. It's not often where a game begins with the main character already among the deceased, but that's the case with this one (no pun intended). Your character, Ronan O'Connor, is a ghost who has to piece together the clues to find out who killed you. It sort of plays out like the investigation cases in L.A. Noire, just with stealth and combat more fitting for a ghost. Possessions, teleportations, and the always sweet ability to pass through solid objects are just some of O'Connor's spectral bag of tricks. Of course that last ability does mean interacting with the physical world is an issue, and even possessing someone doesn't grant you full control but rather thoughts and ideas can be implanted. Interacting with other ghosts isn't an issue, as they can give side missions and information to lead to your killer.
You'll have to possess people to hide from demons too, as encountering a demon while in ghost form spells game over. It adds some action to the game, but make no mistake, this is more about solving your murder than getting into fights. If you like a good detective game, or even just a good adventure game, this should be one to get.
Winner: Murdered: Soul Suspect (PC, PS3, 360)
Murdered: Soul Suspect puts a unique twist on the typical detective adventure – the main mystery you set out to solve is your own murder. That's right; before you even start the game, you're killed by a mysterious man. As (former?) detective Ronan O'Connor, you now go on the hunt (as a ghost) to discover who killed you and why. Being a ghost gives you the unique ability to possess the living (though you never get direct control) and see ghostly impressions left behind by previous humans. Unfortunately, one of the drawbacks is that you cannot interact with physical objects.
Aside from solving your own murder, there are various side quests you can complete, such as helping a ghost find their body. Aside from other friendly ghosts, there are also demons looking to consume your soul. The only way to defeat a demon is to sneak up on them by possessing a human. If they get to you while you're in ghost form, it's game over. While this adds a little action element to the game, Murdered is predominantly a story-driven adventure game and should be on every adventure fan's wishlist.
Runners-Up: Stick It to The Man! (PS3, Vita), The Witness (PC, PS4, iOS)
Remember when I said Puppeteer would be in the running for a Most Unique category, if one existed? Stick It to The Man! would be right there alongside it. Stick It to The Man! is "a mind-reading game set in a paper and sticker universe." When a mysterious canister knocks protagonist Ray unconscious, he wakes up from a coma with a 16-foot pink spaghetti arm sticking out of his head. This arm gives him the ability to read anyone's thoughts, but also allows him to put the thought's of one person into the head of another. The latter ability is used to solve puzzles, but also provides some laughs – the dialog is written by Adventure Time's Ryan North. There are over 100 characters and each one can be mind-read. In fact, developer Zoink! recorded over ten hours of voice acting. The art style is also fantastic, with a flat, paper-like presentation.
The Witness is a 3D puzzle game created by Jonathan Blow, the guy behind Braid. Not much is known about the game, but based on what I saw at E3, I'd liken it to a modern day take on Myst. The game takes place on an uninhabited island and is all about exploration. Puzzles are strewn across the island, but you're given no clear direction – you have to learn as you go. Based on the gameplay shown at E3, it seems all the puzzles are 2D mazes of sort, but they impact the world around you, ultimately leading to an end-game. If you're not a fan of puzzle games, The Witness may not be for you, but if you like the idea of more organic story-telling like Dear Esther, The Witness may be the next evolutionary step – you know... actually being a game.
Winner: The Elder Scrolls Online (PC, PS4, XBO)
It was my runner-up last year, but this year it gets bumped up to the winner's circle. The Elder Scrolls Online has had a steady stream of information since its reveal last year, and so far everything about it sounds promising. There are three factions with certain races tied to each one; the Aldmeri Dominion has High Elves, Wood Elves, and Khajiit; the Daggerfall Covenant has the Redguards, Bretons, and Orcs; and the Ebonheart Pact has the Dark Elves, Argonians, and Nords. You'll notice the Imperials aren't mentioned anywhere, and that's because they're going to appear as NPCs since the Imperial City is kind of without an Emperor. But the good news is the Empress Regent has agreed to a deal with the King of Worms, Mannimarco, to bolster Imperial forces by reviving the dead warriors. Wait, that's not exactly good because Mannimarco went ahead and made a deal with Molag Bal, Daedric Prince of Corruption and Darkness, to take over Mundus, the plane of existence featuring the planet Nirn (where The Elder Scrolls is set).
Molag Bal, in all his evilness, is seeking to merge all of Tamriel with his plane of Oblivion, Coldharbour. His realm actually resembles Tamriel, just a perversion of it with sludge for ground, a sky constantly on fire (yet the air is freezing), and even a replica of the Imperial Palace that's covered in blood and corpses. It's really an inhospitable place and all the more reason for the three factions in TESO to prevent it. Most of Tamriel is going to be in the game, although I imagine some parts are going to be left out so they can be added in via expansions later. Hey, it is an MMO afterall. That being said, one of the big unknowns is the cost of The Elder Scrolls Online. We really have no idea what ZeniMax has in store, whether it's going to be free-to-play or require a monthly subscription, and that's really the biggest questions still to be answered. I'm hoping for free-to-play, but we'll just have to wait and see. Regardless, TESO is an MMO high on my list.
Runner-Up: Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade (PC, PS4, XBO)
At one point in time we were supposed to be getting a Warhammer 40,000 MMO by the name of Dark Millenium. Then THQ, the game's publisher, went bankrupt and it seemed like we'd never get a WH40K MMO. Well, surprise surprise, as Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade was announced at E3, which looks like it'll be a worthy replacement in the MMO landscape. Eternal Crusade sees the Space Marines, Eldar, Orks, and Chaos Marines struggling to repel a massive Tyranid invasion, which are AI-controlled to keep everything in balance. It seems simple enough, and in some ways kind of like the Dawn of War II game, except Relic Entertainment isn't anywhere to be found as Eternal Crusade is handled by Behaviour Interactive.
Eternal Crusade is a premium free-to-play MMO, however free players will only have access to the Orks, namely the dime a dozen Ork Boyz. Five of the Boyz are required to take down a single Space Marine, and since Behaviour expects free players will always outnumber paid, it's a way to balance out the sheer numbers of the Orks. When a player decides to purchase something in the game, they're able to then have access to all four races and the full progression path for each. There's no telling what all you can purchase in the game, but hopefully that'll be revealed soon.
Since the crux of the game is fighting back a massive Tyranid invasion, Eternal Crusade's campaigns last for three months and are focused on a single world. At the end of those three months, a winner is decided based on territory control and dominance, and then it's off to a new world. Think of it like the changing of seasons. The MMO has a blend of PVE and PVP, but PVP is the main attraction, and rightfully so in a universe that knows only war. If you're familiar with Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, then you'll feel right at home with Eternal Crusade's over-the-shoulder camera and seamless blend of ranged and melee combat. There's really a ton more to dive into, and plenty more we don't know, but Warhammer 40,000: Eternal Crusade is planned to launch two years from now. An open beta is targeted in a year and a half, so you can begin counting down already.
Winner: ArcheAge (PC)
I know you probably expected me to choose The Elder Scrolls Online. Instead, I go ahead and choose a Korean MMO you probably never heard of. Well, if you're looking for a true MMO, start paying attention. I'm not sure who thought it was a good idea to inundate MMOs with instanced zones, but as an old school gamer, I remember the good ol' days were MMOs were truly persistent open-world games – yes, even the dungeons. ArcheAge features a huge zoneless world. Even its player-built houses are within the game world , not in instanced zones. In fact, there's only one instanced area in the game, Mirage Island, which is simply where you go to buy schematics to build everything. You can build houses, boats, even a castle! While the starting two areas are safe areas, the high-level areas are open-world PvP, so you'll want a few friends in the game if you're going to start building, especially if you have your heart set on a castle – not to mention those take a whole lot of resources to build.
By building your own house, you also get a recall skill to get back there, which is handy since there's no fast- travel in the game. Instead, you'll have access to various mounts, a glider, or the aforementioned ships. Everyone starts with a basic glider and rowboat, but they can be upgraded or new ones built. Some gliders can even shoot arrows and go stealth. As for your character, you can choose one of four races and then choose three of ten ability trees, resulting in 120 possible classes. ArcheAge is very much a game about choices and doing whatever the hell you want to do. That choice can even be to steal and kill other players. But if you do so against players of your own faction, you may be labeled a pirate and exiled to your own resource-limited island. As a pirate, NPCs on the other islands won't want to deal with you.
While many people are wary of Asian MMOs – and with good reason – ArcheAge has a lot of promise. The game launched in Korea at the beginning of the year, but it wasn't until E3 that I even heard of it. I'm really glad I did.
Runner-Up: The Elder Scrolls Online (PC, PS4, XBO)
The Elder Scrolls Online was my runner-up last year and sadly it's stuck in that position yet again. It was tempting to have TESO as my biggest disappointment because what was shown and discussed at E3 was rather lackluster. The biggest piece of news was that it's coming to both next-gen consoles – sorry if I'm not impressed. Call it PC bias, but I'll always prefer my MMOs with a keyboard and mouse. In any case, the most important piece of information everyone wanted to know is still unknown – the pricing model. While the prospect of exploring Tamriel with friends is enticing, I just can't get as excited as I should be. I just have this bad feeling about it – but I sure hope I'm wrong. I do like that you can feed your mounts and what you feed them determines how they progress, such as getting faster or more armored. It's also nice that the UI will be completely customizable on the PC/Mac versions via LUA scripting. So there's that. Like last year, it's sadly still too early to tell.
Best Role-Playing Game
Winner: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC, PS4, XBO)
There's little doubt that The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is the game I'm most looking forward to, although placing it as my winner in the RPG category was rather hard. All you have to do is take a look at my runners-up below and you'll see why. However, there's just so much to The Witcher 3 already, and all of it speaks to an RPG you cannot miss. CD Projekt RED is creating a world 30 times larger than The Witcher 2 and 20% bigger than the land of Skyrim in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. Then there's the main quest that'll take 50 hours of your time, a multitude of side quests to take yet another 50 hours, and you'll soon wonder why the sky is getting bright again when it was dark just a moment ago.
The Witcher 3 features an open world with absolutely no loading screens as you journey from one end of it to the other. You'll experience a variety of different landscapes, architecture styles, and climates, so moving from one to the other should feel and look magnificent. Side quests can be undertaken in the wilds, or you can just venture off and investigate new areas. Hunting plays a huge role as well, as you can go after massive creatures that are sure to test every bit of your combat prowess. Hopefully the rewards will be great for doing that, but I imagine a sense of accomplishment for taking down a huge monster, like the one featured in the banner above, will be just as rewarding.
I could go on and on about The Witcher 3, from the wealth of new combat animations to the seamless blend of melee and sign (magic) usage to the fact Geralt's tale is of a more personal nature than the past two games. There's just so much about The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt that I love, and this is a game that truly looks like a next-generation title, thanks to REDengine 3. We still have to wait until next year to get our hands on this game, but it's a wait that's going to be well worth it.
Runners-Up: Final Fantasy XV (PS4, XBO), Kingdom Hearts III (PS4, XBO), Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX (PS3), Dragon Age: Inquisition (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO)
As you can see there are a lot of RPGs I'm looking forward to, just The Witcher 3 wins out. Honestly I could have put pretty much every RPG shown at E3 here, but I didn't want to write for days on them. If you hadn't guessed, RPGs are my favorite genre since it's the first one I really cut my teeth on when I just started gaming. The Final Fantasy series has been around for ages, and many moons ago we were supposed to get a game called Final Fantasy Versus XIII. Funny thing is we didn't really hear much of it, even with Final Fantasy XIII and XIII-2 launching, plus the impending Lightning Returns having more shown in the past year than Versus XIII ever got in the last seven.
During E3, Final Fantasy XV was shown off with amazing graphics, and then came the news that Versus XIII is now FFXV. Talk about a reversal, but hey, after seven years something had to give. FFXV is a much darker and realistic tale than most other Final Fantasy games, with human emotion and more believable characters included. The game is more of an action-RPG affair and even features some shooting elements, with a battle system reminiscent of the one in Kingdom Hearts. Like KH, the party is limited to three characters and you can switch control between them at will, which should make for a much more involved battle system. There's really a lot more to talk about with FFXV, but I have plenty more RPGs to go over.
Immediately following the FFXV reveal was one for Kingdom Hearts III, which makes sense considering Tetsuya Nomura is the director for both. KH3 has been rumored for years, and finally we got our first glimpse at it. The teaser trailer was incredibly brief and basically showed Sora picking up the Keyblade on a beach (most likely on Destiny Islands), and then running from a mob of Heartless. There isn't a ton known about KH3, but hopefully there'll be a ton more worlds added in since Disney has acquired Marvel, LucasFilm, and Pixar since the release of Kingdom Hearts II. Imagine squaring off against Darth Vader or Dr. Doom while Iron Man or Buzz Lightyear fight by your side. It'd be freaking awesome, but we'll just have to wait for a lot more information on KH3.
Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 ReMIX may already be out in Japan and it's not exactly a "new" game since it's an HD remake of Kingdom Hearts Final Mix and Re:Chain of Memories. Kingdom Hearts 358/2 Days is also included, but it'll be about three hours worth of cinematics telling the story instead of a playable game. That being said, HD 1.5 ReMIX is going to be a fantastic way to get back into the Kingdom Hearts world, just with the first game more resembling KH2 thanks to the tweaks of the Final Mix. The camera and command menu are similar to KH2, and means a more consistent gameplay experience throughout the series. Hopefully an HD remake of KH2 isn't far behind, and maybe with another one or two of the portable games for good measure.
You may think it odd seeing the new Dragon Age listed here after the way Dragon Age II was botched, but I have high hopes for DA: Inquisition. The game is running on the Frostbite 3 engine and BioWare has said gameplay will be a mixture of the best elements from DAO and DA2. What exactly that means we have no idea, but hopefully it's more of a tactical combat experience with some more speed to the animations. Customization of companion characters is also going to return, which was effectively stripped out in DA2. As for the story, well, there isn't a ton to go on, but the Circle of Magi have effectively gone rogue, with the Templar Order separating from the Chantry in order to wage a civil war on mages. DAI is said to feature much more of Thedas than ever before, possibly taking us to Orlais, and hopefully that means a more open world to explore. Hey, after seeing the same five dungeons in DA2 over and over, I'll take more variety any day.
Winner: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC, PS4, XBO)
I'm sure you've heard the saying, "Go Big or Go Home!" That seems to be CD Projekt RED's mantra for the final game in The Witcher trilogy. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is 30 times larger than the previous game and 20% larger than the reigning open-world RPG champion, Skyrim. However, unlike Skyrim, The Witcher 3 is a very story-driven game, not a sandbox experience. CD Projekt is promising around 50 hours of gameplay for the main storyline and another 50 for side quests in the open world. The world is also seamless with no loading screens – so if you want to walk, ride or sail from one end to the other, you can do so... though I imagine that would take awhile.
Powering The Witcher 3 is the new REDengine 3, a 64-bit engine designed specifically for developing open world environments. Merely in the alpha stage of development, the game already looks absolutely gorgeous. Combat also looks a lot slicker than the previous games, though that's not surprising – Geralt now has 96 action sequences compared to just 20 in The Witcher 2. And if you despise quick-time events (QTEs) like I do, you'll be happy to learn that there will be none – every attack will be up to you, nothing will be scripted. If you worry that combat may get repetitive, CD Projekt RED is promising up to 80 unique monster types. And unlike some other well- known RPGs, enemies won't scale, so you better be careful where you traipse early on. If you're an RPG fan and The Witcher 3 isn't on your radar, you need to have your head examined.
Runners-Up: Dark Souls II (PC, PS3, 360), South Park: The Stick of Truth (PC, PS3, 360), Dragon's Crown (PS3, Vita)
Like The Witcher 3, Dark Souls II is a mature RPG. Unlike The Witcher 3, it's not so much about story as it is about dying over and over again in the hopes that you eventually learn something. While developer From Software has stated that the beginning of the game will be more accessible to newcomers, don't believe for one second that the game will be a cake walk. Like the first game, dying is simply part of the experience. In fact, during E3, publisher Namco Bandai announced that they would give out a free t-shirt to anyone who could beat the boss monster, Mirror Knight, at the end of the E3 demo. Nobody earned the coveted t-shirt. While one boss battle during a demo doesn't prove anything, it should at least restore some faith that the sequel will be every bit as challenging as the first game. For PC gamers, the promise that the game is receiving the proper care and attention it deserves is reason enough to be excited. From Software was excused for the shoddy PC port of Dark Souls, but the PC gaming community won't be so kind this time around. I think the company knows that.
South Park: The Stick of Truth was my Best RPG last year and it certainly continued to impress this year. After the collapse of publisher THQ, it was just nice to see it at E3 at all (it's now being published by Ubisoft). The trailer shown during the Ubisoft Press Conference was classic South Park, introducing us to a fart called the Nagasaki. It's called that, because when done correctly, it makes you go "oooooooo." Yes, the trailer was both hilarious and offensive – in other words, South Park! While The Witcher 3 and Dark Souls II are labeled mature RPGs due to their extreme violence and occasional nudity, South Park rated for mature audiences because of, what I guess some would call, immaturity. If you've never watched an episode of South Park and laughed your balls off, this game probably isn't for you. But if you're a South Park fan, even in the slightest, consider this gaming gold.
If you checked out Best Action Hack-and-Slash (and of course you're reading every single page, right?), you may remember me mentioning Dragon's Crown. Dragon's Crown is an action-RPG masked as a side-scrolling beat 'em up. You can choose one of six characters (fighter, amazon, wizard, elf, dwarf, and sorceress) and party with up to three friends as you hack-and-slash your way through hordes of enemies. In true action-RPG fashion, your characters and skills level up, and there are a ton of items you can acquire and equip. Visually, the game has a hand-painted, exaggerated style. While combat may get repetitive, if you love collecting better and better loot, you'll surely be able to sink hours upon hours into Dragon's Crown.
Best Free-to-Play Game
Winner: Project Spark (Windows 8, 360, XBO)
When you look at Project Spark, you may see a lot of similarities with LittleBigPlanet on the PlayStation 3. I sure did, but the more I watched the more I saw Project Spark is something else entirely. Sure, it's a game where you basically have free reign to create whatever type of game you want in it, but there's more to it. Maybe you create the template for a game, drop in some towns, creatures, and then upload it with the community. From there community members can play around with the level, and you their's, to create and add more stuff to it. In the demo shown at E3, a fairly basic level was created, but when gone back to after some other people had played around with it, it became this massive adventure where you have to defend the town from an army of goblins. It truly was amazing seeing what could be done, and it's basically like those choose your own adventure stories, just on a whole new level.
Perhaps the best part of Project Spark is that while it was shown on the Xbox One, it'll also be coming out to the Xbox 360 and the PC. The PC version kind of requires Windows 8, and actually beta testing begins for the Win8 version before either console one. It's a grand idea, and could be the final reason gamers need to switch over to the newest OS if they were delaying.
Runner-Up: Mighty Quest for Epic Loot (PC)
The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot is a game all about excess, where the more loot you have, the higher your status in society. It's a hack and slash game where you battle monsters and obtain some sweet loot, but also a tower defense game where you design your very own keep in order to keep out others. In this game, the keeps you explore are designed by other players, so you can be sure some will be extremely devious in order to keep you from the loot. Manage to reach the treasure room, however, and you'll be richly rewarded. Conversely, it's your duty to keep others from reaching your treasure room, and the more deaths in your keep, the larger your treasure pile.
It's currently in a closed beta right now, so you can register to try and get a key for it. There's also various contests to get a key, plus you can always buy a Double-O pack for as little as $10 (with higher ones available) to gain immediate access. The game will remain free-to-play once it officially launches, just there's a way to support the developer and get into the closed beta right away.
Winner: Project Spark (Windows 8, 360, XBO)
Project Spark isn't a game so much as a game creation platform, but when I heard it would be free-to-play, there was no way I could select anything else for this category. Project Spark was one of the most impressive and ambitious projects shown at E3. When it was unveiled during the Microsoft Press Conference, I believe my exact words to Troy via Steam chat was, "OMG, this is like LBP on crack!" LBP, or LittleBigPlanet, may be a platformer on the surface, but its huge success is because of the user-generated content it fosters. Project Spark is like the next evolutionary step in the game-making genre. If you're not the creative type, you can always just download other people's creations, which can then be modified.
Project Spark would have been one of the biggest reasons to get an Xbox One, but it was later revealed that it would be coming to Windows 8 and the Xbox 360 as well. In fact, beta testing will occur on Windows 8 before either console. Of course that would actually mean "upgrading" to the insufferable Windows 8. But if anything would make me switch, it's Project Spark.
Runners-Up: ChronoBlade (PC, Mobile, Ouya), ArcheAge (PC)
ChronoBlade is a free-to-play, cross-platform, online action-RPG. Similar to Dragon's Crown, ChronoBlade plays like a side-scrolling beat 'em up, but features a skill and loot system. On the PC, the game is played entirely in your browser using Flash. There are currently two characters to choose from, Aurok and Lophi, but more will come later. Aurok is the "main pugilist, punching guy" while Lophi is a caster with an orb-like companion. Each character can equip four skills and four items at a time. The skill tree seems rather elaborate, while the loot is equally extensive. In fact, as of E3 there are 2377 unique pieces of equipment, and that's just counting unique looks, not all the variations on stats. The game features a multiverse of various dimensions, each with different aesthetics. Best of all, the loot from each dimension matches the look, so if you're in the steampunk dimension, expect the item drops to look decidedly steampunk. It's a promising game and hey, it's free-to-play, so what do you have to lose? You know, other than all the hours collecting loot.
Lastly, I just wanted to give a nod to ArcheAge. You can check out Best MMO to read all about it. While it hasn't officially been confirmed as free-to-play when it comes to North America, it's switching over to a free-to-play model in Korea next month, so odds are good.
Best Survival Horror Game
Winner: The Evil Within (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO)
The survival horror genre has lessened of late, with previously big names falling further into the shooter department and relying on some rather "saw it coming from a mile away" scares. However, The Evil Within is looking to change all that thanks to Shinji Mikami and his team at Tango Gameworks. Mikami is the creator of the Resident Evil series, and if you remember how those games use to be, you'll know he is very intimate with the survival horror genre. This game is all about keeping gamers on the edges of their seats, with no real insight as to what potentially gruesome thing awaits you. Players take on the role of Sebastian, a detective who is investigating a mass murder at an asylum. Sebastian and his partner arrive only to see other police officers succumb to grisly fates, and then you get knocked unconscious. When you awake, you're hanging upside down in a meat locker and have to find a way to escape.
It gets worse from there, actually, as terrible monsters roam around the building and you need to find exactly what the hell is going there. You also have to deal with your partner's fall into madness while investigating the asylum, oh, and find a way to escape, of course. Publisher Bethesda is promising a true survival horror experience for The Evil Within, and I have to say from everything shown at E3, it's looking to deliver on that. A modified version of id Tech 5 is powering the game too, so you can be sure Mikami's new vision of hell will look spectular. Just try and not wet your pants while playing, or even watching any gameplay footage for that matter. Oh, and before you think you can do the same thing after dying in the game, think again; the AI is dynamic.
Runners-Up: Daylight (PC, PS4)
Daylight is another game that can be considered a true survival horror, especially when you realize your character lacks weapons. You're armed only with a cell phone, and it serves as your light source, too. Daylight has you waking up in an abandoned hospital, and outside of that we don't really know a ton. We do know the game features procedurally generated levels, so no two experiences are ever going to be the same. It also means items you find in one playthrough could be in a totally different spot or gone altogether in another, so try to not freak out too much. Daylight is being built with Unreal Engine 4, so it's going to have some really incredible lighting, shadows, water, and more to add to the horror.
Winner: The Evil Within (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO)
Some of you young folk may only think of Resident Evil as the action shooters they are now rather than the survival horror games they used to be. There hasn't been a really good, true survival horror game in a long time, but the genre seems to be making a comeback – thus the addition of the category this year. While I was impressed by all the survival horror games this year, The Evil Within is the most promising. Resident Evil's creator, Shinji Mikami, is at the helm and publisher Bethesda promises "a return to pure survival horror." Aside from creepy atmosphere and mysterious creatures, that also means limited resources – don't expect to be gunning down too many enemies.
Bethesda is being tight-lipped with the story, but we do know you play as a detective who is called to a distress call at an asylum where things go horribly wrong. Cliché, I know, but have faith. The gameplay demo shown at E3 is the beginning of the game, where you wake up after being knocked out unconscious to find yourself hanging upside down in a human meatlocker of sorts. Later in the demo, the player triggers an alarm when he tries to escape and is then pursued by a large humanoid wielding a chainsaw. Let's just say it didn't end well for the player. The game has a very cinematic feel, aided by the 2.35:1 CinemaScope aspect ratio, which is wider and thinner than the typical 16:9 or 16:10 ratios. The id Tech 5 engine powers the game.
The Evil Within is a purely single-player game, but not every playthrough will be the same – AI is dynamic. As such, you will not be able to simply memorize enemy movement patterns and behaviors – The Evil Within wants to always keep you on your toes, move cautiously, and adapt on the fly. While the demo simply had the one chainsaw- wielding guy, there will also be several grotesque horrors to contend with. For example, if you watched the live- action announcement trailer, you may still have nightmares of some bloody, multi-limbed, female-like monstrosity. Yes, "she" will be in the game.
Runners-Up: Dying Light (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO), Daylight (PC, PS4)
While The Evil Within may be the more frightening and intense experience, Dying Light may very well be the more enjoyable one. The latter is a first-person, open-world zombie game developed by Techland, the studio behind the Call of Juarez and Dead Island games, as well as the upcoming Hellraid. But Dying Light is not another zombie hack- and-slash game – it's more about scavenging for supplies during the day and surviving the night. It's Dead Island meets Don't Starve meets Mirror's Edge. Why the latter? Oh, did I forget to mention that there's Parkour? Unfortunately, gameplay was shown behind closed doors, so I cannot say how the game looks, but Dying Light will be using a new version of Techland's Chrome Engine, aptly named Chrome Engine 6. The cinematic trailer sure looked good though.
Not to be confused with Dying Light, there's also an upcoming survival horror game called Daylight. Daylight is an indie game, so it may not have the visual fidelity of the other two games, but it does have something they don't – procedurally generated levels. No two experiences will be alike. Not much is known about the story, but you play a female who wakes up in an abandoned hospital with only your cell phone for illumination. There are various objects in the game, such as flares, but the procedural generation affects items as well, so you can never count on anything. It's great to see the resurrection of survival horror games!
Best Fighting Game
Winner: Tekken Revolution (PS3)
The Tekken series is one of the longest running fighting series around, with countless games released over the past two decades. Tekken Revolution is the newest entry and its also the most unique, as it's a free-to-play fighting game. A total of eight fighters are available right from the get-go, with four more available to unlock as you play. More characters are planned to arrive via future updates, so if your favorite isn't available now, just give it some time. Three modes are available to play - Arcade, Online Player, and Online Ranked - with tokens being given for players to head into each. Tokens are awarded every couple of hours, but you can also purchase them directly through the PlayStation Store. It's entirely possible to not have to spend any money if you take your time and wait for the free tokens to accrue.
Tekken Revolution changes things up from the series outside of being F2P, as characters can now level up via an XP system. XP can be spent in the Power, Endurance, and Vigor categories, which boost your offense, defense, and critical hit/health required for Rage mode, respectively. It's a way to help make your fighter better and to keep players coming back for more, and I have to say it's a great addition. New mechanics like Special Arts and Critical Arts are designed to help new players get more skilled, while the Bound mechanic, where players can stagger others, has been removed. The only way to stagger someone now is through various stage interactions, like falling a distance.
Visually, Tekken Revolution doesn't quite stack up to the recent Tekken Tag Tournament 2, and it does lack cinematics. Then again, it's a free-to-play fighting game that comes in at 1.8GB, so some sacrifices had to be made to make it easier to download. It's still a fantastic entry in the series, and hopefully the wave of the future for fighting games. Provided there's a good selection of characters to choose from right away, which is something Tekken Revolution thankfully delivers.
Runner-Up: Super Smash Bros. (Wii U, 3DS)
I'm a huge fan of the Smash Bros. series, but for me the newest entry just doesn't quite make its way to the winner's circle. Don't get me wrong, It's fantastic to see the series on both the Wii U and 3DS, plus the addition of Mega Man, but there's just something about it that doesn't do enough for me. Seeing the game in HD on the Wii U is going to be sweet, as will the cel-shaded style on the 3DS, but maybe it's the fact there's no cross-platform play between the two. I understand the lack of it is because the Wii U version has stages based on console games and the 3DS' on handheld games, it just seems rather odd to have that excuse. Character customizations will transfer between the two, just we have no idea what that means. It won't be costumes or features, so it's anyone's guess as to what customizations are transfering.
Maybe Nintendo couldn't get cross-platform play perfect between the two systems and decided to ax it in favor of the transferable character customizations. Whatever the reason behind it, I can't comfortably put the new Super Smash Bros. as my winner, despite my love of the series.
Winner: Super Smash Bros. (Wii U, 3DS)
I hate myself for picking Super Smash Bros. I mean, I've always loved the series, but honestly, it's just the same rehashed game every time. Whether it's Melee or Brawl, does it really matter? This new version for the Wii U and 3DS adds Mega Man, which is super awesome, but is it enough? Well there's always the Villager from Animal Crossing and the... Wii Fit Trainer. WTF?! Yep, out of all the iconic characters Nintendo could have chosen, they go with a generic female.
While Super Smash Bros. is coming to both Wii U and 3DS, each game will feature different stages. The Wii U version will feature stages designed after Nintendo's console games, while the 3DS version will features stages designed after Nintendo's handheld games. Director Masahiro Sakurai claims that because each version will feature different stages, there will be no cross-platform play, though you will be able to transfer custom characters. Sounds like a cop-out to me. When the Wii U was first unveiled, cross-platform play with the 3DS was touted as a feature and Super Smash Bros. was mentioned as a franchise that could take advantage of it. Sounds to me like Nintendo realized it didn't have the technology and infrastructure to handle cross-platform play and thus introduced different levels to provide an excuse. Lame.
Runner-Up: Tekken Revolution (PS3)
Tekken Revolution may be the newest Tekken game, but its most intriguing feature is that it's free-to-play. At release, last week, eight characters were provided for free, playable in Arcade Mode (vs. Computer) and Online Mode. Though Killer Instinct and Dead or Alive 5 Ultimate: Core Fighters will also be free-to-play, Tekken is the first fighter I know of that has adopted the model. With its huge roster of characters, fighting games seem perfect for the free-to-play model, so it may not be long before we see other franchises join the craze. In fact, since many players tend to focus on just one or two main characters, being able to cherry-pick characters they want to spend money for actually makes sense. Due to the innovative free-to-play model, I was tempted to choose Tekken Revolution over Super Smash Bros., but I know I would personally enjoy the latter more. Not that I'd ever by a Wii U or 3DS.
Best Racing Game
Winner: The Crew (PC, PS4, XBO)
The Crew was a bit of a surprise when Ubisoft unveiled it at E3, as it looked like a very solid racing game with an open world. Open-world racing games typically focus on a single city, however The Crew is focusing on an entire country. You can take your car from one coast of the United States to the other, with a drive time of 90 minutes or so to complete the journey. Cities like New York, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, and Miami are included, and a lovely part of the Black Hills as well, with some fairly appropriate geography filling in the gaps. More cities and areas are bound to be shown off the closer The Crew gets to its release early next year, so it'll be pretty interesting seeing what all Ubisoft adds in.
Where The Crew sets itself apart, aside from the massive landscapes, is a 20-hour campaign you can complete solo, with friends, or random people. The single player and multiplayer components blend seamlessly, and you can group up with your buddies to form crews in order to compete against others in various races, take-downs, and other challenges. There's an RPG system as well, with kits getting unlocked to customize your cars, a level up system complete with experience points (Combat Points), and a high degree of human interaction like an MMO. The Crew doesn't feature a single loading screen or pauses, so your journey from coast to coast will be one big trip. Everything about it so far sounds like a great time, just hopefully there's enough of your friends who pick the game up to add even more enjoyment.
Runner-Up: DriveClub (PS4)
DriveClub was first shown off when the PlayStation 4 was unveiled in February, and since then the game is looking like an incredibly solid launch title for the system. Developer Evolution Studios is at the wheel, and unlike its past MotorStorm series, DriveClub is focused on road racing. There's no RPG elements to it or multiple versions of cars; once you unlock a model, it's the very best model of that particular type. It's designed to be accessible within moments, so you won't have to relearn how to drive a video game car when you load it up. It's an arcade racer like Grid 2, but visually it looks like a simulation. Cars are highly detailed, grass has individual blades, and stones in the pavement can be seen clearly, well, if you happen to take a moment and look around.
One of the best parts about DriveClub is there's a free special edition planned for PlayStation Plus subscribers. It has a smaller selection of cars and tracks than the full edition, but the mechanics are all there and sounds like the perfect way to see just what a next-gen racing game is like.
Winner: The Crew (PC, PS4, XBO)
Ubisoft is calling The Crew an "MMO-CarPG". Clever. The Crew is a persistent, online, open-world racing game set in the United States with no in-game loading screens. If you want, you can drive from coast to coast, seamlessly – it would take you 90-150 minutes to do so though, if you have a high-end vehicle, so plan accordingly. There's a main campaign that takes roughly 20 hours to complete, which you can do alone, with friends, or with random online co-op players. But even if you choose to solo missions, you're never truly alone, just as in any other MMO. Another MMO-like feature is late-game PvP, though details are sparse. As for the RPG aspects, you can unlock new items (kits) to customize your vehicle. Each vehicle is being handled like a "19-piece puzzle" consisting of both performance and aesthetic parts. And of course you earn experience, which in turn earns you Combat Points when you level up, which in turn can be spent on various Perks. If you have a few friends to join you, The Crew seems like it could be a whole lot of fun. If you go it alone and have to rely on randoms and pick-up groups, I'm not so sure.
Runner-Up: Mario Kart 8 (Wii U)
Unsurprisingly, Mario Kart 8 is the eighth installment (not counting arcade versions) of the classic kart racing franchise. It's actually been over five years since the last Mario Kart game appeared on a home console (Mario Kart Wii), as 2011's Mario Kart 7 was for the Nintendo 3DS only. Mario Kart 8 takes the 12-player racing of Mario Kart Wii and the hangliders and underwater racing from Mario Kart 7, but adds anti-gravity sections where you can drive up walls and ceilings. Like Super Smash Bros., Mario Kart 8 isn't adding much over previous versions, but those waiting for a Mario Kart game on the Wii U probably won't care. They'll have to wait until next year.
Best Family Game
Winner: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (PC, PS3, 360, Wii U, Vita, DS, 3DS)
The LEGO video games are some of the best fun around for kids of all ages, and LEGO Marvel Super Heroes is shaping up to be no different. A staggering 120 characters from the Marvel universe are included, with ones like Iron Man, The Hulk, Captain America, and Black Widow joining the likes of Deadpool, The Abomination, and yes, even Phil Coulson. In LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, the Silver Surfer gets knocked out of the sky and his surfboard shatters into Cosmic Bricks across Earth. The Bricks are capable of immense power, so Nick Fury calls upon the superheroes to retrieve them before villains like Loki, Magneto, and Venom can.
There's bound to be a ton of humor in the game like past LEGO ones from Tt Games, along with some puzzles to solve amidst all the action. LEGO versions of New York City and Asgard are set to appear, and hopefully LEGO versions of the Stark Tower, Quinjet, Helicarrier, Dr. Doom's Castle, and any number of locations from the Marvel universe. This is surely one game you won't want to miss, whether you're a fan of LEGO or Marvel, and regardless if you're a child or a child at heart.
Runner-Up: Pokémon X & Pokémon Y (3DS)
I know seeing a Pokémon game here may seem a little odd, but the long running series is a fantastic way to help young kids learn to read. There's no voice acting in the games, with thousands upon thousands of lines of text being included in each title. It requires players to read to understand what's going on and even get hints as to where to find some of the more unique Pokémon in the world. Pokémon X and Pokémon Y are the newest entires in the series and the first ones to be set in an entirely 3D gameworld. Black and White 1 and 2 both had some 3D elements, but the characters and Pokémon were still presented as sprites. Not so in X and Y, which is a much welcomed transition for the series. It also means the battles are overhauled to take advantage of 3D, with livelier reactions to attacks, and even new battle types.
Sky Battles take place between two Pokémon that can fly, as well as some that can Levitate, and is a way to battle between trainers who are on opposite sides of a cliff. Horde Encounters are a new wild encounter where up to five Pokémon attack you at once, with your single Pokémon having to withstand up to five attacks in a row. Some attacks like Rock Slide can hit all the opposing Pokémon at once, and winning the encounter can reward a ton of experience. A new type, Fairy, has been introduced, with some older Pokémon switched over to it. The Fairy type is a way to help balance out the powerful Dragon type, which before was only weak to itself and Ice. It's unknown what Fairy will be weak to, but perhaps it'll be similar to Psychic in that regard.
There's plenty more to get into with X and Y, from the new region of Kalos (based on France) to the ability to ride certain Pokémon and smash through obstacles, to the hopefully large amount of new Pokémon being introduced. Pokémon X and Pokémon Y arrive worldwide (a first for the series) on October 12, and is a game pretty much everyone can get in to thanks to the series' surprisingly robust RPG mechanics.
Winner: LEGO Marvel Super Heroes (PC, PS3, 360, Wii U, Vita, DS, 3DS)
As I said last year, with LEGO The Lord of the Rings, the LEGO games are some of the few games that actually appeal to gamers of all ages. Considering they can also be played co-op, they really are the perfect family games. This year, we have LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, which is arguably an even more kid-friendly universe. The game features over 100 characters from the Marvel Comics Universe. I'll let that sink in a little – over 100 characters! To put that in perspective, there were only around 60 characters in LEGO Batman 2 and around 80 characters in LEGO LOTR. But it's to be expected – the Marvel Comics Universe is so far superior than the DC Comics Universe. Yeah, I went there.
In any case, if you've never played a LEGO game before, there's no better place to start. As great as all the previous LEGO games have been, I have a feeling that this one will be the best yet. With all the plethora of varied Marvel characters at its disposal, how could it not be?
Runner-Up: Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
If you're one of the few people to own a Wii U, then there's another option for family co-op play: Super Mario 3D World. SM3W is a follow-up to 2011's Super Mario 3D Land for the 3DS and features free-roaming 3D gameplay mixed with your classic 2D side-scrolling platformer action. The game features four playable characters: Mario, Luigi, Princess Peach, and Toad. If that cast sounds familiar, it's the same cast that appeared as playable characters in Super Mario Bros. 2. And like that game, each character controls slightly differently: Mario has average speed and jump height; Luigi has the highest jump and falls slower; Peach can jump and float; and Toad is the quickest. The player can select any character they like at the beginning of a level or you can play up to four-person co-op with each player sharing from a pool of lives. Unfortunately, there's no online co-op, which is yet another missed opportunity for Nintendo.
While the platforming elements and enemies will be immediately familiar to any Mario fan, one new item introduced at E3 was the Cat Suit, which allows players to climb walls, run faster, and pounce enemies. If you manage to keep the Cat Suit to the end of a level, it also allows you to scurry up the flag pole to easily achieve that coveted 1UP. Aside from that, the other major addition to the series is transparent pipes. The green pipes still exist, but now there are also transparent ones that may contain coins, enemies, etc. The game also makes use of the GamePad, wherein you can rub the touchscreen to reveal hidden blocks or items, or even hold enemies to assist players. Sounds like a gimmick that's going to get annoying rather quickly – stopping every "frame" to scrub the screen for any hidden secrets. You can also tilt the GamePad to affect the camera view, but you can do the same thing with the analog stick. About the only redeeming feature of the GamePad is that the game does support Off-TV Play. Despite my distaste of the GamePad, Super Mario 3D World is a refreshing departure from all the Super Mario Bros. rehashes. But the real question is, will it actually release before the end of the year? Nintendo has tentatively said Decemember 2013, making it the only new game unveil actually launching this year. Way to support your struggling console, Nintendo!
Best New IP
Winner: The Order: 1886 (PS4)
The Order: 1886 was presented as an in-engine trailer, and despite the lack of gameplay, what was shown has me incredibly intrigued. The game is developed by Ready at Dawn, which is incredibly well versed in handheld games but not so in consoles. However, that doesn't look to be an issue, as The Order is set in an alternate reality where the Industrial Revolution came about to try and put an end to inhuman monsters. It's this incredible blend of large airships, radios, high-powered firearms, and horse-drawn carriages in Victorian Era London, where you take on the role of a knight from an elite order facing off against... something. It isn't entirely clear what the monsters are, just they're super fast and extremely deadly. Vampires? Werewolves? Demons? We don't know yet, but hopefully we will soon.
The game is a linear, story-focused, third-person shooter, and honestly, all of that just sounds sweet to me. Ready at Dawn says The Order is a "filmic experience," which means it looks like it's shot with various camera lenses, and it certainly does from the trailer. It just looks dirty and grimy, and that's a very good thing. Sadly, we don't know when The Order: 1886 is coming out, but it's definitely one you won't want to miss on the PS4.
Runners-Up: Mad Max (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO), Tom Clancy's The Division (PS4, XBO)
When Mad Max was shown, I imagine some people thought it was going to be Fallout 4. The look and tone certainly made sense, but when you see that distinctive outfit and car, there's only thing it could have been. In development at Avalanche Studios, the team that brought us the Just Cause series, Mad Max features a large open world with a heavy focus on vehicular combat. Max sets off on a journey after his Interceptor is stolen by a deadly gang of marauders, and really, if your badass car was stolen, you'd do anything to get it back too. The one thing that's kind of bugging me, and apparently a lot of others if you peruse for more information, is the demo from E3 features a rather basic American accent for Mad Max. You may think "big deal, who cares?" except for the fact that Mad Max is set in Australia. Hopefully the E3 demo has just a placeholder voice while Avalanche finds a suitable Aussie actor since Mel Gibson isn't slated to reprise the role that made him famous.
There isn't a whole lot more I can say about The Division that I didn't before, but despite the Tom Clancy name, it falls squarely into the new IP category. Here's this game where the world is falling to pieces and you have to find some way to survive the crisis. Blending a third-person tactical shooter, an MMO, and an RPG into something that immediately skyrocketed to the top of must-play titles for pretty much everyone probably isn't the easiest thing, yet Ubisoft has done just that. Like I said before, we need more information on The Division, but everything that's been discussed so far is something no one should miss. I just hope there's some news on a PC version too, but if not, it looks like it'll be another game to get on my PS4.
Winner: Tom Clancy's The Division (PS4, XBO)
The Ubisoft Press Conference came to a close with one of the biggest surprises of E3 2013, and it did so in dramatic fashion. We now know the game to be Tom Clancy's The Division, but for ten minutes, it was just a guessing game. First was a three-minute trailer, setting up the back story. It was an intense and poignant trailer rooted in reality. It started by discussing a real-world bio-terror attack simulation conducted in 2001 called Operation Dark Winter, designed to test emergency response systems in the United States. The trailer goes on to then explain how a world-wide pandemic in the future is inevitable, as a pathogen jumps from tainted dollar bills to human skin – millions will be infected by the time Patient Zero develops symptoms.
The trailer describes a world in ruin. Day One, hospitals will reach capacity and panic will strike. Day Two, quarantine zones will be established, resources will be rationed, and transport will go into lockdown. Day Three, international trade will stop, the oil will dry up, and the stock market will collapse. Day Four, the power will fail, shelves will be empty, and taps will run dry. Hunger and despair will take hold and people will do anything for survival. By Day Five, everyone will be a potential threat. The trailer ends with a simple question: "What will it take to save what remains?" It almost sounds like the premise for a post-apocalyptic survival game. But then the cinematic trailer faded into a gameplay video, with Christmas music playing in the background and a snowy New York City coming into view.
What came next was seven minutes of gameplay of what seemed to be a third-person shooter. The detail shown was remarkable. New York City is instantly recognizable to anyone who's ever visited, but there are also stark differences – mainly that it's clearly gone to ruin, with debris, trash, and abandoned cars piling the streets. Despite the ruin, this is not a post-apocalyptic game. Ubisoft is referring to it as a "mid-crisis situation" where various aspects of society are failing, but the players have the ability to restore them and "fix" New York. The Division utilizes a dynamic content system so every play session is different. Missions are also not hand-fed to you, but rather acquired organically as you move through the world, if you want them. In a sense, it's almost as if it's a game full of side quests. But it does behoove you to do complete missions because your choices will affect the world.
Ubisoft is calling it an "open-world online RPG" despite its third-person shooter exterior. Before you begin, you customize your character like you would in most RPGs. But you don't choose a class – The Division features a classless system, allowing you to not only select various types of skills, but also respec and change them on the fly. For example, if you're going it alone, you may want to carry along some healing, but if you group up with friends and someone else takes the healer/support role, you can swap out those skills for some additional fire power. You're never forced to reroll new characters because one character can do everything. There will also be a companion app for tablets, allowing you to control a drone and help your friends out even when you're not by your TV. Drones can mark targets, debuff enemies, and heal or buff allies. Each action fills up a resource meter which, when full, can then be uses to launch a devastating missile attack, sure to turn the tide of any battle.
The Division has been in development for roughly 1.5 years and, as mentioned, takes place in New York City (the demo took place in Brooklyn, but you could see the Manhattan skyline toward the end). However, it's quite possible surrounding areas are added in the future with ongoing content expansions rather than a direct sequel. As of now, The Division is only planned for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, but Ubisoft isn't ruling out other platforms. In fact, the company has told PC gamers to sign a petition if they'd like the game on PC. I take that as unofficial confirmation a PC version is coming because I don't think Ubisoft would have said that if one wasn't already planned. Maybe that's just wishful thinking.
Runner-Up: Destiny (PS3, PS4, 360, XBO)
In my opinion, Halo is one of the most overrated series of all-time – compared to other shooters, it's far inferior. The original Halo took advantage of the times, being the first big console shooter since GoldenEye, and subsequent games have been riding the coattails of fanboys. Needless to say, I did not have high hopes for Destiny, Bungie's first new IP since Halo. But then I saw the gameplay trailer during Sony's Press Conference and my fears vanquished. Like Halo, Destiny is a sci-fi first-person shooter with vehicular combat as well, but thankfully its similarities seem to end there. Destiny is being called a "shared-world shooter," which seems to mean an MMO-like experience similar to The Division. And like The Division, there will be a dynamic event system to ensure players are constantly experiencing something fresh and exciting.
Destiny takes place on a post-apocalyptic Earth, seven hundred years from now. The mysterious white orb on the game's poster is known as the Traveler and is responsible for saving the last of mankind. With the Traveler hanging low above Earth, the remaining survivors built a city under its shadow. Players take on the role of Guardians of the City, tasked with protecting humanity. Guardians actually consist of three races that players can choose from: Humans, Exos, and Awoken. Players also can choose amongst three classes: Hunter, Titan, and Warlock. Hunters are the reconnaissance class, reminiscent of bounty hunters. Warlocks are the sci-fi wizards, not only using standard weapons, but also special powers granted by the Traveler. Titans are you classic future solder, using heavy weapons and melee attacks.
While the game seems to take place primarily on (what's left of) Earth, there are three other confirmed locations players can travel to: The Moon, Mars, and Venus. My guess is that those may be high-level, end-game areas. While there's still a lot of unknowns, the gameplay shown at E3 left me excited. At one point during the demo, a giant, six-legged, spider-like, robotic war machine dropped out of the sky, which I assume is one of those dynamic events, but may just be a typical group/raid boss battle. Either way, it looked completely badass. As of now, Destiny is just planned for the PS3, PS4, 360, and XBO, but a PC version has been hinted at – Bungie has expressed interest in bringing it to PC, so it seems like it's all up to publisher Activision.
Move over, Call of Duty and Battlefield – with The Division and Destiny on the horizon, shooter fans are going to have two great alternatives to choose from.
Best Indie Game
Winner: Transistor (PC, PS4)
Supergiant Games splashed onto the scene in a big way with Bastion, and Transistor looks to continue that success. Like Bastion, Transistor has a narrator and it seems like an action-RPG, but take another look and that isn't quite true. The narrator is your talking sword, the Transistor, and the game is more turn-based strategy than anything else. Your character, Red, has come into possession of Transistor, and a group/entity known as The Process wants both it and her. Red has an action bar that, once full, allows her to enter a planning mode where she can map out her movements and actions, and then execute them all with immense speed. When the action bar is depleted you have to dodge attacks and the enemies until the bar is full again. I imagine there'll be a lot more to Transistor once Supergiant is ready to talk about it, but it's already sounding like a runaway hit.
Runner-Up: Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee: New 'n Tasty! (PC, PS3, PS4, 360, XBO, Wii U, Vita)
There's plenty to like about Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee: New 'n Tasty, and it's why it won the platforming category for me. A ground up recreation of Abe's Oddysee on the Unity Engine means new gameplay elements, like a screen that shifts forward the faster Abe moves. It allows for players to see further ahead of them, since there's no more screen flipping, and to sneak past enemies like a Slig. Many of the levels and puzzles are kept intact, just with any modifications needed to better translate to a 3D engine. And since it's coming out on a variety of platforms, there's really no reason to miss Oddworld: Abe's Oddysee: New 'n Tasty.
Winner: The Witness (PC, PS4, iOS)
While The Witness may have only been a runner-up for Best Adventure Game, when it comes to indie games, it narrowly beats out Stick It to The Man! as the one I'm looking forward to the most. The Witness epitomizes an indie game – a unique game that stands out from the norm and takes a bit of a risk. AAA titles are great, but developers don't usually take many risks because it's too expensive to fail. Indie developers don't have that problem and as a result, we get some pretty zany, unconventional games. The Witness marries two niche genres – adventure and puzzle – into one experience. But while taking niche genres and making something new out of them is risky, I also think it's the perfect time to do so. Adventure games have seen a renaissance of late, thanks largely to Telltale Games' critical and commercial success, especially with its most recent adventure series, The Walking Dead. Puzzle games have been injected with new life thanks to social networks, smartphones, and tablets. The Witness is set to be the best of both worlds.
The Witness is a non-linear, puzzle adventure game. You wake up on an uninhabited island with no instructions and quickly discover its riddled with various maze-like puzzles. Puzzles can be tackled in pretty much any order, so if you get stuck on one, you can head on over to a new area – and maybe that new puzzle actually winds up being easier, but introduces you to a mechanic that helps you solve the previous one you were stuck on. The island is open-world, but very concise, with a puzzle never too far away. Despite the game's density, it does feature various locations, like a golden brown forest or a fortress. Though the game isn't quite complete, Blow estimates gameplay at around 25 hours, which is pretty high for a single-player game. While he signed a timed-exclusivity deal with Sony to put it on the PlayStation 4, the deal does not affect the planned PC and iOS versions, so hopefully all three are available in early 2014 when the game is expected to be ready.
Runners-Up: Stick It to The Man! (PS3, Vita), Transistor (PC, PS4)
Choosing between The Witness and Stick It to The Man!, my two adventure game runners-up, was no easy task. Though I ultimately went with The Witness, that should in no way take away from Stick It to The Man!'s potential. As I said above, indie developers often get to create crazy games that AAA developers don't, and Stick It to The Man! is just that. It's a dose of Paper Mario Sticker Star mixed with classic Lucas Arts adventure game humor and outlandish characters. In fact, it's a game more about characters than anything else, featuring over 100 characters to interact with. The head of Zoink! also clearly wishes he had a giant spaghetti arm coming out of his head, as the studio's previous game, Swing King, also featured one. I've never been to Sweden though, so maybe that's just the norm there? Like I said, indie developers be crazy.
Transistor is nothing like The Witness and Stick It to The Man!, but it does merge two genres into one – action-RPG and turn-based strategy. On the surface, it seems like developer Supergiant Games' previous game, Bastion, an action-RPG lauded for its artful narration as you played. This time around, the narration comes from a mysterious talking sword, the titular Transistor. But when you dig deeper, a turn-based strategy game emerges – protagonist Red can pause time and plan out her movement and attacks. It's reminiscent of Dragon Age: Origin's combat system, where you could battle it out in real-time, but are able pause at any time to carefully map out your next attacks. Oh, and did I forget to mention that enemies respawn if you don't collect their souls? While the gameplay demo shown at E3 was the very beginning of the game, I expect these unique combat dynamics to cause some rather intense battles later in the game.
Best PlayStation 4 Exclusive
Winner: inFamous: Second Son (PS4)
The inFamous series is a great reason to own a PlayStation 3, and it's looking like a great reason to own a PS4 with inFamous: Second Son. This third entry in Sucker Punch's series isn't quite a direct sequel but more of a continuation of the events from inFamous 2. Second Son is set in the city of Seattle, Washington, seven years after the end of inFamous 2 and it's just one of many cities where Conduit activity is monitored. One day, Delsin Rowe, a 24-year-old graffitti artist, witnesses a bus crash, and when he goes to see what he can do to help, comes into contact with a Conduit. That contact awakens Rowe's own dormant Conduit abilities, with his being more smoke-based at first. However, Rowe has the ability to absorb other the abilities of Conduits, and so far it looks like he has access to some wicked fire ones taken from an unlucky fellow. That fire can then be transferred to the chains Rowe keeps on his arm, forming a fire whip that just looks so sweet.
InFamous: Second Son has a Karma system like the past two games, and Rowe still has to recharge his abilities like Cole has to. However, Cole's ability is electric-based, and electricity is far more common than smoke, so you may need to really be careful when using Rowe's abilities. The DualShock 4's touch pad comes into play for absorbing smoke, as players simply have to press with both thumbs on it to absorb. I have a feeling staying around fires may be a good idea in Second Son, as the smoke generated would be a good way to recharge.
Visually, inFamous: Second Son looks amazing. The game isn't set to arrive until early next year, but it's already looking incredibly detailed, with smoke that actually looks and behaves like smoke. Fabric moves realistically, the grass and trees move with the wind, and facial animations that accurately mimic real life movements. I guess the only real downside is we have to wait a few months or so after the PS4 arrives before we can play inFamous: Second Son, but really, it'll be worth the wait.
Runners-Up: Knack (PS4), The Order: 1886 (PS4)
When you look at Knack, you may see some similarities to Crash Bandicoot and Spyro the Dragon, and with good reason. Mark Cerny worked on both those classic platformers and he's the director of Knack. He's also the lead architect of the PlayStation 4, so he knows what the new console is capable of. In Knack, players take on the title creature who discovers he has the unique ability (a knack) to take on elements like ice and metal in order to battle the Goblins. Knack is trying to help the humans defeat the Goblins in order to bring peace to the world, and it certainly sounds like an adventure people will want to experience.
There are these things called Relics that Knack has to collect, which not only determine his size but also help keep him alive. Health is a precious thing in Knack, and he needs to collect as many Relics as possible in order to keep ticking. I mentioned Knack's size and that's because he can grow or shrink in the game. However, the larger Knack becomes, the larger his foes become; so while you may start off fighting more human-sized enemies, get too big and you'll be squaring off against Goblin tanks and helicopters. There could also be swarms of Goblins to defeat, which is where the other type of collectible, a rarer one, comes into play. Those collectibles give Knack the ability to execute special moves that are very useful for clearing swarms, and should be particularly satisfying to pull off and see the screen nice and clear again.
While Knack may not look super amazing compared to some of the other next-gen titles, it looks like a ton of fun. It also seems to be a game for everyone, from little kids to adults, from seasoned gamers to ones who may not really play any. It's a throwback to the likes of Crash and Spyro, while also being a fantastic example of how to get everyone gaming.
Just a couple pages ago I mentioned The Order: 1886, and here it is once again. If you hadn't guessed, The Order is a game I'm very much looking forward to. The blend of fantastic technology and Victorian Era London looks like something I want to play, and the fact you're going up against some kind of creatures should make for an exciting adventure. Yes it's a linear game, but really, no one took any knocks at God of War for being linear, and Ready at Dawn seems to know a thing or two about that particular series. I have high faith in the studio's ability to deliver a winner, especially one in a new world. I just wish we knew when to expect The Order: 1886, but regardless it's definitely one that should be on your radar if you're getting a PS4.
Winner: Knack (PS4)
While the PlayStation 4 has plenty of games to be excited about, Knack is the one I wish I could play the most. Knack is part brawler, part 3D platformer. It's Crash Bandicoot meets God of War meets Katamari Damacy, with a Pixar-like coat of paint. As a fan of Crash since the original PlayStation, when I first saw the Knack trailer, it brought back memories. Knack takes the 3D platforming gameplay of Crash and combines it with the growth aspect of Katamari Damacy and the combat of God of War (though not as brutal).
In Knack, goblins have invaded humany territories and picked up rather sophisticated weaponry along the way, such as tanks and planes. A doctor discovered how to bind together ancient relics and give them sentient consciousness – and thus Knack was born. As Knack, your task is to find out where the goblins came from and how to stop them. While you start out at a mere three-feet in height, you can absorb other relics throughout the world and become a thirty-foot tall war machine. Knack also has the ability to incorporate various objects and substances into his body, granting him new skills. The three substances shown during E3 were sun crystals, icicles, and the ability to become transparent. The latter brings you back down to your diminutive three-foot size, but grants you the ability to sneak past security lasers.
While Knack may not seem to show off the power of the PS4 like inFamous: Second Son, it's a game that is deceptively deep and will appeal to gamers of all ages.
Runner-Up: The Order: 1886 (PS4)
While Knack has my heart, The Order: 1886 may be the most intriguing exclusive on any console. The Order: 1886 is a third-person action-adventure game that takes place in an alternate history version of 19th century England. "The Order" refers to a group of individuals tasked with protecting humanity from mysterious and deadly creatures. Thankfully for The Order, the Industrial Revolution has brought about a variety of new weapons to deal with the threat – in the trailer, we got a glimpse of what seems to be a Tesla weapon. As a result, the game has a rather anachronistic feel, featuring high-tech weapons amid horse-drawn carriages – though it doesn't quite push it far enough to feel like steampunk.
While the enemies toward the end of the trailer were mere blurs – or maybe because of it – I was left itching to learn more. And although it was a cinematic trailer, it was captured entirely in-engine, which is very promising for the visuals we'll ultimately see in the game. The game takes place entirely in England, but if the game's a success, expect to see sequels in other parts of the world, as The Order is a global organization. And while it's currently a PS4-exclusive, developer Ready at Dawn stated that its technology runs on the Vita, so it's quite possible a spin-off finds its way to that platform as well.
Best Xbox One Exclusive
Winner: Ryse: Son of Rome (XBO)
The tale of Ryse is a curious one, as once upon a time developer Crytek was touting it as a first-person, Kinect-required game for the Xbox 360. Somewhere along the way it turned into a third-person, controller-friendly Xbox One launch title. A big change to be sure, but one that looks to have paid off. You take on the role of Roman general Marius Titus, however you don't immediately start as a general. You get to see aspects of Titus' life from his early days to being a leader in the Roman military machine, while also showing his quest for revenge. The combat in Ryse: Son of Rome looks absolutely brutal, and yes, there are a great number of QTEs to perform executions. The E3 demo was modified in a way so the enemy health levels were all real low, so you won't just thrust once with your gladius (sword) and then get a QTE to outright kill the guy.
Being a Crytek title, Ryse: Son of Rome runs on CryEngine 3, and boy is it looking good. Everything shown at E3 looked phenomenal, with blood spurting, fire balls engulfing ships, and water that really looked like water. Those impressive visuals also lend itself to combat, with enemies that look and act like barbarians. You have to watch how the enemy moves to determine when to block with your shield or thrust your gladius, while also keeping an eye on any enemies around you. It looks positively brutal, in a good way, but hopefully there's more to the game in the long run. Don't get me wrong, playing as a Roman soldier is going to be awesome, but there's a small part of me that worries if Ryse is a showcase of the Xbox One's potential and then you don't bat an eye at it in a year. I guess we'll just have to see when the Xbox One and Ryse: Son of Rome arrive later this year.
Runner-Up: Dead Rising 3 (XBO)
The Dead Rising series is a very enjoyable zombie killing series, with some comedy mixed in with the horror. Dead Rising 3 looks to continue that trend, but on a much larger scale as the game is now open world in the city of Los Perdidos. There's no loading times, supposedly, and you can now save wherever you are instead of in the nearest bathroom. You take on the role of Nick Ramos, a mechanic who has to fight off the zombie horde and escape the city before a military strike wipes it out. The weapon crafting feature from Dead Rising 2 returns, but this time you can make weapons anywhere you are. Driving is also a huge element of DR3, as getting around the seemingly massive city is going to be much easier in a car. Oh, and you can hit zombies with it too, but just try to keep an eye on the amount of damage you're taking. There's also no time limit in DR3, so you can take your time exploring Los Perdidos before it isn't there. A Nightmare mode is being included to give players a time limit, just there's no idea yet how long it lasts for.
Dead Rising 3 makes use of both the Kinect and SmartGlass, however each one is an optional feature and not required. The Kinect gives the zombies some situational awareness, where loud sounds you make can draw their attention. It can be used to your advantage however, as shouting at the Kinect (try not to laugh too hard) can help you distract some pieces of the horde. As for SmartGlass, it enables you to set waypoints, find abandoned buildings, and specific items, as well as unlocking air strikes, flares, and drone support through exclusive missions inside the game itself. Both Kinect and SmartGlass are optional, which is nice to see. Overall, DR3 looks like it'll be a great way to show off what the Xbox One can do at launch, just I have the same reservations about it that I do Ryse: Son of Rome.
Winner: Ryse: Son of Rome (XBO)
Ryse started out as a first-person, Kinect-only, Xbox 360-exclusive. It's now a third-person, action-adventure hack-and-slash exclusively for the Xbox One; it also gained the "Son of Rome" subtitle. You control a Roman soldier named Marius Titus, on the road to becoming general, but hell bent on revenge for the death of his family. Ryse: Son of Rome is brutal, but the brutality in Ryse is a lot more realistic than your typical hack-and-slash game. The game has a very cinematic feel, but combat is at its core. The gameplay shown at E3 showed the Roman Empire storming a beach that was very reminiscent of the Normandy scene portrayed in several World War II games and films. The ships were massive, the characters were highly detailed, and flaming arrows flew threw the air. Powered by CryEngine 3, the game looks absolutely gorgeous.
Then Titus encounters his first enemy and the scene quickly shifts to a dramatic slow-mo quick-time event (QTE) to perform a death blow. Nooooo! Sorry, but I loathe QTEs! That being said, the demo shown at E3 was heavily modified to show more, with enemy health levels reduced so they would fall in just one or two hits. In the actual game, combat will be deeper and more involved, usually requiring five to six blows before you can kill an enemy. An enemy can be killed with a normal attack, but you can activate the execution feature and be asked to perform a QTE. So while QTEs do exist in the game for death blows, at least they're only done if you choose to do them. Since the executions were beautifully brutal, I can see performing a few here and there, but it's nice that one can stop when it starts to feel repetitious.
Runners-Up: Dead Rising 3 (XBO), Quantum Break (XBO)
Like its predecessors, Dead Rising 3 is an open-world, zombie survival game. It's also reportedly larger than both of the previous games combined. Players assume the role of a young mechanic named Nick Ramos who must escape the fictional city of Los Perdidos, California before a military strike wipes it off the map. As in Dead Rising 2, a lot of the fun comes in crafting and customizing weapons to create some really oddball combinations, and now that can be done on the fly, anywhere. But Dead Rising 3 has a very different feel to the previous games – mainly, it leans more toward realism, rather than over-the-top humor. For those that love the Dead Rising franchise because of its humor and craziness, this may be a bit disappointing. But on the flip side, that just means the game is more about creating your own humor. For instance, in the GameSpot Stage Demo, the player created a Sledge Saw (sledge hammer + buzz saw), and then at one point decided to throw it at a zombie ten feet away, sawing it perfectly in half, vertically. If that's not funny, I don't know what is.
Quantum Break is an ambitious project that brings together a video game and television show into one package. It's not like Defiance where there is an actual television show, but rather live-action scenes that are included with the game. At key points during the game, there are junction points and your decisions at these points will determine what scenes you see during the show. Quantum Break is being developed by Remedy Entertainment, the studio behind the Alan Wake games. Those games were broken up into episodes, so it's likely that's how Quantum Break will be handled as well, just with the television show mixed in. The game itself has something to do with a science experiment involving time going horribly wrong. What was shown at E3 made it seem like an adventure game, but it's apparently a third-person shooter with cover mechanics. Confused yet? Quantum Break is either going to be awesome or flop hard.
Winner: Destiny (PS3, PS4, 360, XBO)
I'm sure many of you were wondering where Destiny was, well, here it is. Bungie made a name for itself with the Halo series, but now it's branching out to something else. There are similarities, sure, but Destiny is an altogether different beast. It's an always-online first-person shooter, but not quite an MMO as it features a "shared-world" system where all the players don't interact with each other at once. Instead you only see your friends and anyone else you've been matched with through the game's matchmaking system. Destiny is described as alive, where in-game events can happen that Bungie didn't plan or even control, which lends itself to an incredibly dynamic gameplay experience.
In Destiny, mankind has explored the stars and even colonized new worlds. However, something went wrong, "the Collapse," which brought about the dissolution of the colonies and actually has mankind nearly extinct. The only known survivors are on Earth, which were saved by "the Traveler," the giant white sphere that's become the de facto symbol of the game. The Traveler appeared centuries earlier (Destiny is set 700 years in the future) and helped launch mankind's space colonization efforts. It now sits above the last remaining Earth city, and it's enabled the Guardians of the City (humanity's last defenders) to wield incredible powers.
However, all is not well in the universe, as Earth's former colonies are now inhabited by alien beings, who have set their sights on the last Earth City. You take on the role of a Guardian who has to do everything in their power to destroy the aliens and keep mankind around. The Guardians are composed of Humans, Awoken, and Exo, with the Awoken being similar to elves/vampires/angels, and Exos akin to the undead and even Halo's Master Chief. Players pick one of those races to play as, plus either the Hunter, Warlock, or Titan class. Hunters are reconnaissance units (think Han Solo or The Man With No Name), Warlocks are described as "space wizards" (think Jedi Knights), and finally the Titans are the heavy weapons and melee experts (Borderlands' Brick meets Master Chief). Each character can be customized by the player, so hopefully each one will be visually unique to set apart the different players.
There's still plenty more to learn about Destiny, but so far it sounds like Bungie has another winner on its hands.
Runner-Up: Knack (PS4)
Knack may not be as innovative as Destiny, but to me it fufills a special place in the pantheon of gaming. Like I said before, Knack is a game that's sure to appeal to everyone, and to me that's where its innovation comes into play. It's an ode to platformers of years past, but it looks to be presented in a way to bring in all kinds of players. Casual, hardcore, and everything in between should find something to love with Knack, and could be the perfect introductory point to the vast world of video games for someone who doesn't play anything more complex than Fruit Ninja. Knack looks like a Pixar movie in video game form, with cartoony visuals and a very endearing (so far) title character. It may not set the graphics bar to a new level, but it doesn't have to if it brings video gaming to a new audience.
Winner: Tearaway (Vita)
If you're a Vita owner, Tearaway should be atop your wishlist, if for no other reason than the fact that it's being developed by Media Molecule, the studio behind the LittleBigPlanet series. Tearaway is a 3D platforming adventure game that really takes advantage of the Vita's unique features. One thing that makes the game immediately stand out is its papercraft world. Media Molecule actually created a Paper Engine that allows them to form the world and characters realistically, including adding tears and wrinkles so it doesn't look flat. But the innovation doesn't end there, it's what Media Molecule does with it.
While you control the protagonist (Iota or Atoi, depending on whether you want a male or female, respectively) using the analog sticks like a typical platformer, you can interact with the world using the front touchscreen and rear touchpad. When using the rear touchpad, you actually "tear away" the paper environment, seeing fingers poking through the world. Tearaway literally wouldn't work on any other platform, as the Vita is the only device with a rear touchpad. It makes you truly like you're a part of Tearaway's world, and that's exactly the point – when Iota or Atoi look up at the sun, they actually see your face thanks to the Vita's frontcam. The protagonist actually recognizing the player is an interesting dynamic, almost like when an actor addresses an audience.
As with any console, it usually takes developers a little while before they master it. While other Vita games have utilized the rear touchpad in various ways, Tearaway is the first game truly designed with that in mind – it's a game that wouldn't be able to exist without it. I applaud Media Molecule for pushing the boundaries and hope it inspires other developers to think about Vita game development differently.
Runner-Up: The Bureau: XCOM Declassified (PC, PS3, 360)
At E3 2010, it was announced that a new XCOM was in development, but much to the chagrin of long-time fans, it would be a first-person shooter. After numerous delays and changes, now that game has returned with a new name and new look. The Bureau: XCOM Declassified is a third-person, squad-based, tactical shooter that tells the origin story of how the clandestine XCOM organization was formed back in 1962. What's innovative about The Bureau is how it handles the tactical combat the previous franchise entries are known for. Developer 2K Marin is referring to it as real-time tactical combat. You control a squad leader named William Carter, while two other squadmates are autonomous, AI-controlled soldiers. They'll attack and seek cover to preserve their own survival, but it will be up to your tactics to create a cohesive and coordinated team.
At any time during combat, you can activate a tactical interface called "Battle Focus" that provides real-time command options – position squad mates, flank enemies, prioritize targets, and even unleash powers or abilities. During Battle Focus, you can also see target probabilities and line of sight – you're essentially observing the battlefield. What's unique and innovative about Battle Focus is that it's not actually pausing the game, but rather putting it into a super slo-mo – you CAN get killed during it if you're not careful. It's not quite like the pause-and-plan interface found in a game like Dragon Age: Origins, but allows a greater breadth and depth of commands than the simplistic real-time squad commands found in a game like Mass Effect.
The Bureau may not look like an XCOM game, but it certainly has the feel of one. That's quite an accomplishment in its own right. Aside from the focus on tactical gameplay, The Bureau even has permadeath for your squadmates (but if Carter dies, it's game over), and Carter and his recruits can gain ranks (level up) to earn points to spend on various Perks. For those gamers that aren't into turn-based strategy games, The Bureau is a perfect introduction to the XCOM universe. For those XCOM veterans, it's a great change of pace.
Winner: Star Wars: Battlefront (TBA)
I'm going to be upfront with you here. When I was watching the EA press conference, my initial thought when this game's trailer started to play was, "oh great, another generic game in the snow." Until a red laser blast rocked your vision and a T-47 snowspeeder came crashing to the ground. Then there was the gigantic foot of an Imperial AT-AT, and my jaw dropped open. No joke, my mouth was wide open when I realized Star Wars: Battlefront is making a return. DICE is at the helm of the new Battlefront, which is being built on the Frostbite 3 engine and is considered a relaunch of the series. It's going to be DICE's interpretation of the series really, with elements from the past games being incoroporated in some fashion. That's basically all we know about Star Wars: Battlefront (aside from Hoth being in the game), and honestly, that's enough for me. Battlefront is back, and time is going to pass very slowly until we find out more.
Winner: Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare (PC, 360, XBO)
I cannot believe it's true – a Plants vs. Zombies third-person shooter! While the rumors of such a project had been circling prior to E3, details were nil and I actually thought it may just be a tease. Then came the EA Press Conference, and what was the first thing shown? Yep, a trailer for Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. I think I was as excited as a fat kid who discovered cake for the first time! Originally released in 2009, Plants vs. Zombies is one of the most critically acclaimed and loved tower defense games ever created. A free-to-play sequel is on its way next month, but that's old news compared to Garden Warfare.
The gameplay trailer showed a four-player online co-op mode where you can select from a variety of plants to hold off against waves and waves of zombies. But the game will also included a 24-player competitive multiplayer mode where you can play as either side! The game will ship with over ten battlegrounds and you'll even be able to personalize and customize your plants and zombies with hundreds of unique items. Garden warfare has a chance to be the next Team Fortress 2! Aside from the possibility of hats, it has a lovely cartoon aesthetic and humor as well. And those graphics are being powered by the Frostbite 3 engine – the same engine being used for Battlefield 4. We'll have to wait until Spring 2014 to get our hands on it, but it'll be worth it!
Runner-Up: Star Wars: Battlefront (TBA)
There are pretty much no details about Star Wars: Battlefront, but the mere fact that it's in development is reason enough for legions of Star Wars fans to be giddy. And while many fans were upset that Electronics Arts acquired the rights to be the sole producer of Star Wars video games, there's honestly no better studio than EA DICE to create Star Wars: Battlefront. Using Frostbite 3, the same engine behind Battlefield 4, Battlefront is bound to look amazing and DICE has years of experience creating massive-scale, multiplayer shooters with land and air vehicles, alongside infantry. I don't care what you think of EA – this is Star Wars Mother&@#%@ Battlefront! We may have only gotten a 23-second teaser trailer, but the potential for greatness is there.
Winner: Xbox One's Price
The disappointment category was a very hard one for me, as you can ask Andrew that I waffled more on this one area than any other combined. E3 is a show where disappointments are to be expected, as games that could be aren't shown, and games that shouldn't be are. However, I finally settled on the price of the Xbox One, and honestly, it's something I can't see Microsoft changing. The new console is priced at $499, which makes it the most expensive console of the upcoming generation. Nintendo undercut everyone with the Wii U, but even Sony managed to bring the PlayStation 4's price down to $399. If you're a console gamer and on a budget, $499 is a lot of cash to consider for a single console, and you may look at the PS4 as a way to get into the new generation while saving some money. That saved money can go towards a new game, and even then it'll still be cheaper than getting just the Xbox One. From a price perspective, it's a disappointment for me, as I'm surely going to consider what $499 can get from one of Microsoft's console competitors.
Winner: Missing Games
My biggest disappointment of E3 2013 were all the games NOT shown. No, I'm not talking about Half-Life 3 – although I'd love that – but rather all the other games we thought would actually be there, but weren't. The Last Guardian was once again absent, even with the PlayStation 4 unveil being the perfect time to bring it back from the abyss. Phantasy Star Online 2, a free-to-play MMO for PC and Vita that's been out in Japan and supposed to be coming to North America, was a no-show. Capcom's stupidly named Deep Down, announced during the PS4 reveal back in February, was oddly missing. Last month, a Sony exec teased an "amazing big title coming to the Vita" that's not an indie game, yet nothing was announced at E3. And then maybe the lowest blow of all – Ubisoft hinted at a Beyond Good & Evil 2 announcement on its Facebook page and then failed to deliver. Not cool, guys; not cool at all.
Game of the Show
Winner: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC, PS4, XBO)
Is there any question? You only have to look at the small novel I wrote on the RPG category to see why The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is my Game of the Show. CD Projekt RED looks to be sending Geralt out on the highest note possible, with a massive world to explore, around 100 hours of quests (both main and side), and more things than you can shake a silver sword at. The Witcher 3 just looks like what I expect a next-gen game to be, and the best part is it's still coming to the PC. I mean, what more can you ask for? OK, I know, more photos/videos of Geralt doing his Witcher's stuff and probably (definitely) Triss Merigold, but give CDP time!
Runner-Up: Tom Clancy's The Division (PS4, XBO)
The Division was a great surprise from E3, and it could have been my Game of the Show except for Geralt of Rivia's conclusion. You have to admit that The Division is shaping up to be an incredible experience, and one you won't want to miss. A large world to explore, tactical shooter elements, MMO social interaction, and RPG mechanics are a unique combination, but one's that work together very well in what Ubisoft has shown so far. My one hope for The Division is for Ubisoft to confirm one way or the other a PC version, but hey, there wasn't a statement to sign a petition if the studio wasn't at least considering it, right?
Winner: Tom Clancy's The Division (PS4, XBO)
E3 2013 certainly did not disappoint. But while there were several outstanding games, my Game of the Show winner is Tom Clancy's The Division. There's not much more to be said that I haven't already mentioned when I awarded The Division Best New IP. It has the setting, graphics, gameplay, and features to make it the standout game of E3 2013. That also means back-to-back Game of the Show winners for Ubisoft, so kudos to Ubisoft's studios for creating some super compelling games. As a PC gamer, it pains me to select a game that is not currently planned for the PC, but I'm still holding out hope. Either way, gamers are in for a treat in 2014.
Runners-Up: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (PC, PS4, XBO), Destiny (PS3, PS4, 360, XBO)
Bigger isn't always better, but don't tell that to CD Projekt RED and Bungie, the studios behind The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt and Destiny, respectively. Both games promise beautiful, massive worlds to explore, amazing graphics, exotic creatures, and exhilarating combat. Although I may have selected The Division as Game of the Show, do not discount these titles, as all three will surely be strong contenders for 2014 Game of the Year.