Awarding E3: The Best of the Next Generation’s New Wave of Games
This was one hell of an E3. For the first time in a long time, the magic returned to the Los Angeles convention center, and it felt like gamers had an overwhelming amount of titles to look forward to. Usually there are only a handful of titles to get hyped about, but this year there are so many. And so, in an attempt to parse through the long list of titles, here are the best of the best from this year’s E3.
Best Wii U: Super Smash Bros.
Nintendo’s showing was good if you’re a Nintendo diehard and decent if you’re anyone else – but what most people can agree on is that the best part of their E3 was the new Super Smash Bros. game. Adding in Mega Man was proof that the developers have been listening to what gamers wanted. Oddly enough, the Internet also took to Animal Crossing’s Villager instantly (though they did turn him into a psychotic murderer).
And while many felt the Wii Fit Trainer’s inclusion was a bad joke, it was a genius move. Not only did Nintendo get a few hearty chuckles, they also added another strong female character to the franchise and used an IP in a way no one expected. What’s more, she makes a good role model for the impressionable kids that might play, and there’s something to be said for that.
Of course, we haven’t seen much gameplay, but what has been shown looks good. While cross-console gameplay is a no-go, it also looks like a game that both casual and hardcore fans of the franchise can play.
Best 3DS: The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
There weren’t a lot of 3DS games with the spotlight on them, but one that most deserved its attention was A Link Between Worlds. After all, it has been a long time since gamers have gotten a top-down iteration of the popular series, and this Legend of Zelda game was fun to play.
The demo I played was your typical dungeon, rife with monsters crawling around and puzzles to solve. I didn’t manage to reach the end before my time expired, though, but I think that’s a good thing. A game with puzzles isn’t something that anyone should breeze through. And while the new mechanic in this Zelda game (melding into the wall and becoming a 2D version of Link) is certainly intuitive, it also presents the right amount of challenge.
What’s more, it presents the puzzles in a way that isn’t contrived, and as I progressed in the demo dungeon, I was constantly using my 2D Link in new ways, building off of what I’d already learned. If anything that fact right there makes this game worth playing. It’s rare to find a game that handles novel mechanics deftly, and A Link Between Worlds certainly does.
Honorable mention: Pokémon X/Y
Best Xbox One: Titanfall
When Microsoft and EA showed off Titanfall at their conferences, they showed that there was hope for the Xbox One after all. If any game is going to sell the Xbone, it’ll be this one.
By injecting online multiplayer with a heavy dose of story, Titanfall solves the biggest problem with FPS shooters: incentive. Right now, the only draw for online multiplayer FPS modes is competition (and swearing at each other, apparently), but that isn’t the case anymore. Titanfall now gives people who consider a good story crucial to videogames (people like me) a reason to play online. Now, I have no idea if this story will be good or bad, but it has to be better than your typical “’MERICA NEEDS TA KILL THE TERRISTS!”
But there’s so much more value to Titanfall than that. While there was no playable demo at E3, the glimpses the public saw were pretty revealing about what to expect. First and foremost, Titans will affect the dynamic of the game heavily, but it’s also good that staying a foot soldier won’t render players useless. Plus, with all the wall-running and jet-packing to do, Titans may not end up being the best part of the game.
Honorable mention: Project Spark
Best PS4: inFamous: Second Son
I’ve never played an inFamous game all the way through, but one look at Second Son was all I needed to become rabidly invested in this game. The new smoke-based powers look completely badass, and Delsin is shaping up to be an interesting character to follow. Getting around looks a lot more fun, too, and Seattle will make a fun playground. There aren’t a lot of story details to go off of, but inFamous has done a good job with that in the past, and I’m confident Second Son will live up to the legacy.
But really, the smoke powers though!
Honorable mention: Killzone: Shadow Fall
Best Shooter: Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare
Just keep an open mind for a minute before you do something rash like not finishing this article. Yes Garden Warfare isn’t your typical shooter, but that’s the damn point. Aren’t you sick of stomping over the same retreated ground of melodrama and a hyperactive sense of American patriotism? I mean, it would be one thing if all those games changed drastically every time, but they really don’t.
Well, not only does PvZ offer something pretty new in terms of tone and gameplay, it does a really good job with it. It doesn’t quite have as much versatility (in terms of weapons and gadgetry) as other shooters, but if the core game is solid, that’s what will count. I don’t think it will ever catch on as much as Call of Duty or Battlefield, but it will definitely be the most underrated shooter of the next year.
Honorable mention: Battlefield 4
Best RPG: South Park: The Stick of Truth
When THQ went down, I was actually kind of worried that this game would die in the process, but Ubisoft picked it up and is seeing it through – and thank goodness they did! While all of the farting (it’s a central game mechanic) starts to feel a little crude after a while, the rest of it is as sharp and hilarious as the TV show we all love.
The weapons and abilities are things that 4th graders would consider imaginary substitutions, like a bucket of water and car battery for a lightning attack or an improvised flamethrower for a fire one. Plus the weapons can be pretty hilarious (aside from a vibrator with a putrid, brown aura which is just really gross).
Either way, it’s something new that’s been executed well, and that gives it a leg up over the other straight RPGs.
Honorable mention: Lightning Returns
Best MMO: ESO
When I went to check out Elder Scrolls Online, my colleague and I almost missed our next appointment because of how caught up we were in this game. If you’re a fan of Skyrim, Oblivion, or any other Elder Scrolls game, this is everything you could hope for from Bethesda – unless you happen to hate MMOs. The questing is far better than any big-budget MMO I’ve played in a long time, with far less mob grinding and fetch quests than usual. There wasn’t enough time to even see a fraction of everything the game has to offer, but the sliver I got my hands on was immensely satisfying.
Best open world: The Division
With the power behind this generation’s consoles, there are sure to be a lot of games with open-world settings. But, out of the first batch, The Division’s world looks to be one of the most impressive. The idea is a nice twist on the end of the world despite how mundane it is. It’s almost comical how, with all of these convoluted apocalypses in games, a simple epidemic and financial collapse became the most appealing story.
Exploring the world of The Division is going to be full of memorable and haunting moments, and its sheer scale and dangerous nature is sure to captivate any gamers who play. What’s more, the world extends past the console and onto smart-phones and tablets. While integrating tablets into games was quite popular this E3, no game will benefit from it as strongly as The Division.
Honorable mention: Watch_Dogs
Best action adventure: Watch_Dogs
Last year this game blew the community away with just a trailer and a tiny bit of gameplay, and while there was still no playable demo this year, Watch_Dogs still has everyone excited. Hacking isn’t a new idea when it comes to video games, but anchoring it in a near-future version of Chicago is.
While all of the digital infiltration seems mundane on the surface (hacking cameras and traffic lights), it’s been handled in such a way that it augments the other action-adventure elements tenfold. Hell, I’d be content if there were no guns and it was just all hacking and stealth. Granted, I’m not complaining, as this game is going to be chock full of ways to beat it, and each is probably going to kick ass.
Honorable mention: Batman Arkham Origins
Best zombie game: Dying Light
Everyone should come to terms with that fact that zombies aren’t going away any time soon, and also take solace in the fact that there are at least some good zombie games coming down the pipe.
Originally I expected Dead Rising 3 to take this award. When I saw the extended demo and all of the awesome weapons the player could wield, I was pretty sold. But then, on some down time, I decided to check out Dying Light and was thoroughly impressed.
The two games are extremely similar in some ways: both involve crazy weapon creation, both involve hordes of zombies, and both look like good fun. But while Dead Rising 3 just takes the player out of the mall, Dying Light does a lot more.
Making the game first-person is huge for the scare-factor because it limits what you can see. In a third-person game it’s easy to see what’s sneaking up on you, but that’s not so in first-person.
Then there’s also the day/night cycle, which adds a whole layer of suspense to the game. During the demo, as the sun set, the music picked up and the main character’s contact back in the safe-zone sounded increasingly urgent and distressed. And then when the sun finally set all hell broke loose. More zombies crawled out of the cracks in the world, they became less docile, and some crazy strong zombies started patrolling the street.
The tensest part was when one of those patrolling zombies noticed the main character sneaking around and the game went from “slaughter zombies” to “oh my god, oh my god, run for your fucking life.” No game made me as nervous at E3 as Dying Light did, so it definitely beats its competition.
Honorable mention: Dead Rising 3
Best remake: The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker HD
I wanted to give this to Final Fantasy X-X2 HD because it’s one of my favorite entries in the series, but it just didn’t change enough to stand above the rest. The Wind Waker HD does solve a lot of its past problems while also rendering the graphics in a much more modern manner. Sailing is faster and some of the slower parts of the game have been (supposedly) improved. And for making a great Legend of Zelda game even better, Wind Waker wins best remake.
Honorable mention: Kingdom Hearts HD 1.5 Remix
Best surprise: The Division
Ubisoft went into E3 with a strong lineup of great looking games: Assassin’s Creed IV, Watch_Dogs, and The Stick of Truth (among some others). So when they announced The Division, I don’t think anyone was expecting something better than the rest. And with a show that had plenty of surprises (Final Fantasy XV, Kingdom Hearts 3, PS4’s price point), this game needed to do a lot to stand out. It did a lot more than a lot, though – it basically did everything to win our hearts.
Honorable mention: Star Wars: Battlefront
Best game we know little about: Final Fantasy XV
People had expected something like this might happen, but the trailer seemed to imply that Square Enix was sticking with Final Fantasy Versus XIII. And when the title changed at the end, I got the chills. Granted, this is a game that is far overdue, but it seems like the wait will be well worth it. It already looks like there will be plenty of badass characters we can come to care about, and the gameplay seems intriguing. The only disappointing part about this game’s reveal was that gamers are going to have to wait a while to see more about it.
Honorable Mention: Kingdom Hearts 3
Best Indie: Transistor
It would be stupid to ignore indie games, as they’re a new frontier with plenty of great titles that could compete with some AAA games. It would also be stupid to give this award to anyone but Supergiant Games, the makers of the hit indie game Bastion, for Transistor. The game already looks like it’ll be a beautiful look at another great world, and the gameplay promises to mix a lot of elements to make a highly enjoyable experience. If you don’t usually play indie games, this will be a good starting point.
Best of the big three: Sony
Wow, Sony? No way, what a shock. Who saw this one coming?
Seriously though, Sony killed Microsoft this year, and Nintendo kind of got lost in the competition by making too few waves. When Jack Tretton, President and CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment of America, announced that the PS4 would have none of the restrictions originally planned the Xbox One and cost $100 less, everyone flipped out. Applause lasted for a solid five minutes and many people started digging Microsoft’s grave right then and there. And while things aren’t as bad for Microsoft as many are making it out to be, it was still pretty much a slaughter. Not only did they present a better looking console, but they also presented better looking games and a better online subscription structure, even if we don’t get to play online for free anymore.
Best Publisher: Ubisoft
Ubisoft was stacked with games this E3. As if Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and Watch_Dogs weren’t enough, they announced The Division and pretty much cruised their way to the front of the pack. A lot of other publishers had only one great game and some decent ones (Activision), or a handful of great games that were still too early in development to lend them much credit (Square Enix), but Ubisoft brought three amazing games along with a few others that were plenty good as well. So unless one of these games turns out to be a secret disaster, this E3 belongs to Ubisoft.
Best game: Destiny
And yet, while Ubisoft brought the greatest number of quality games, Activision’s Destiny still looks the best. The Division did give Destiny a good run for its money, and while it came far closer to unseating Bungie’s newest game than I thought anything would, it still falls short by the smallest of margins.
As for the reasons why no other game beat Bungie’s, there are a handful. First off, it combines all of the best genres in a way that appears to be successful. It has shooter elements, appealing to people who enjoy games like Call of Duty. It has roleplaying elements like class customization and race selection for those who enjoy games like Final Fantasy. It seems to have a large number of weapons and a heavy focus on loot-based games that people who enjoy games like Borderlands or Diablo. It appears to have eye-poppingly gorgeous and diverse visuals, appealing to anyone with eyes. It also seems to have an interesting story with solid writing – but on that one your milage may vary. Then there’s the part where Destiny is planned to have a 10 year life cycle, meaning there will be new content for a long time. Finally, it looks really fun, and it was designed by people who love making games more than making money, because why else would you leave one of the most lucrative franchises in the history of videogames in someone else’s hands?
Where Destiny and The Division both do the right thing is in an open-world setting and giving the player a game that can be played alone or with very close friends. Both games are going to be game of the year contenders when they’re released, and during any other E3 I think The Division might have one. But this year Destiny claims the top prize.
Honorable mention: The Division (obviously)
The big picture
There are a lot of great games to be excited about, no matter what kind of games you like to play or what system you like to play them on. And after a few E3s that failed to really wow, this one got the job done, and then some. Basically what it all boils down to is, despite what you’re excited for, now is a great time to be a gamer. In the next few years we’re going to be really busy as gamers, whether it’s locked in our rooms alone, playing out in the open with friends, or on the go with all this new focus on tablet integration. And that’s a good thing.
If you think some other game deserved an award it didn’t get though, feel free to say so in the comments! After all, the most fun things to do with games that you can’t play yet is to talk about them instead. Plus I’ll be happy to defend my choices, or even amend them if someone has a great argument.
What do you think? Leave a comment.