San Diego Comic Con is just about a month away and there’s a ton of stuff that we’re excited to see come out of the show, like the big announcements from all of the major movie and TV studios and comic book big (and little) shots. However, one of the major draws to the West Coast mecca for geek culture is the exclusive toys that are available at the show.
Over the last couple of weeks, Funko, the purveyor of fine Pop! vinyls, has announced their lineup of SDCC exclusive figures. We have compiled everything right here for you so you can decide before you go which ones you can’t live without (or salivate over the exclusives you’ll need to hunt down on eBay if you can’t make it to San Diego).
E3 is the stuff that gamer dreams are made of, even nearly a month after all the announcements. It is never too late to report on hype, so here I am sharing the E3 experience, as told by some guy watching from his couch. I have been following the event for 14 straight years now, and it is customary for me to been write out my thoughts and reactions to all of the announcements. This is my gamer holiday, my gamer Christmas…E3 is my gamer Mecca. Allow me to take you through my journey of E3 2016, and why I think it was one of the most successful trade shows in the history of the business.
Living Through the Hype
There is nothing quite like the Electronic Entertainment Expo for a passionate gamer like myself. Every year E3 acts as a temperature check for hype of the industry, but more importantly it proves that this industry isn’t going anywhere. It is as healthy as it has ever been and while a trade show like E3 may not be around forever, it will take a new form in terms of being a hype generating machine. We need trade shows and press events like this, and while more and more studios, companies, and developers drop out in turn of trying out their own personal conferences, one thing is for sure, there is nothing in this world quite like the week of E3.
This year there weren’t any “next gen consoles” to announce, it was just all about the games, and boy howdy were there some interesting looking experiences. Sure Microsoft tried to sneak in a few words about their slim line system as well as their .5 step up labeled the Scorpio, but they did it with class and it took up minimal time of the press conference. You would think Sony would have spent so much time on showing VR games that are near impossible to show in a press conference setting, and while they did show up with some news, it was such a small fraction of time that they took up. Everybody who showed up for E3, including EA, Ubisoft, Bethesda and Nintendo, came to win. They came to murder the competition and explain why their games are the experiences you should be playing this fall and going forward. I think all of them had strong showcases (with a few major stumbles from EA) and delivered on the one currency that matters in this industry…hype.
As an agent of hype, I go out of my way to be overly excited about any and all games. Pushed release dates, games that won’t come out for another 3 years, and completely out of context CG trailers do not put me off. Speculating on these games that are not out yet is one of my favorite activities to do. I like to build my own story and elevate my own hype on these experiences that are years out, and then the payoff of getting them when they finally do arrive is unmatched to any feeling this industry can evoke. Has my hype ever turned against me? Sure every once in a while, but I don’t let that ruin future potential to be excited about something. I’d rather be excited and let down than spend the road to launch being pessimistic and worried. Gosh that just seems incredibly draining; I’ll take the hype any day. So we all get it now right? We are on the same page? E3 gets me hyped and now it’s time to break this year’s conferences wide open. I just want to focus on my personal High and Low of each conference.
This was the first conference of the week and by far the weakest, but I think it set expectations correctly for my mind (and hopefully yours) to be efficiently blown by the coming conferences. What was not lacking however was how they started the conference. That first game announcement is the hook, and blowing out Titanfall 2 at the top of the show was an amazing idea. That game showcased so well, and the single player trailer got me more than hyped to get back into this series. I really enjoyed the first game, and it is quite easy to tell we live in a post Titanfall FPS world now that all games have taken their locomotion mechanics. It’s hard to find a shooter nowadays that you aren’t jet-packing, double jumping, and wall running around, and that’s totally okay but just remember who pioneered it! Titans seem to have personalities and characteristics now, and I have a feeling that will be on full display in the story mode. It is very hard to top the new whip though, which adds to your maneuverability as well as works as a melee weapon. Gosh, the end of that trailer where the two pilots are in the sky and whipping towards one another…that’s how you evoke mass excitement!
Unfortunately I have some negative things to say about this conference. A few things really rubbed me the wrong way, and the biggest offender Mass Effect. This was the year to show that game; this was the time for a blowout. Mass Effect Andromeda is coming out next year and we already suffered a delay this year. After the trailer showed, we knew nothing more than what we did a year ago and that is a MAJOR issue. Did I enjoy the trailer? Of course I did, I will enjoy anything with Mass Effect in it. Was it a tease? Overwhelmingly so. We need to know more about this game, and this little trail of breadcrumbs is just not enough. We need facts, we need gameplay…we need some real news Bioware.
The upsets did not end there however, EA was nice enough to bring up the Star Wars games and that is pretty much all they did with them. They might as well have just had somebody come on stage and say, “They exist!” I love seeing Amy Hennig with Visceral talk about Star Wars, and I love seeing dudes in mo-cap suits playing with lightsabers with the Respawn logo in the background. Seeing glimpses of in engine screen shots is always welcomed…but I just needed more to get that level of hype I love to dwell in. If wanting more is the worst thing I can say about this conference, then to me I’d say they still did pretty well.
Bethesda really knew how to pick up where EA faltered. They came out strong with a Quake announcement and then it never let up until the conference’s end. The high point of Bethesda’s hour for me was the new Prey trailer. I had no idea I was watching a Prey trailer until I saw the title reveal. I was never a big fan of the first game but was excited about the idea of the sequel announced a few years back. Well now that’s out and this reboot/rebrand is in. The narrative that the trailer showcases is awesome. I was so drawn in by this man who ends up speaking to himself by the scene’s end while living a Groundhog’s Day experience as he relives the same day over and over. Who is this man, what is happening to him, and how does he fit into the real story? I don’t know, and I don’t need to know. The trailer sets a tone that I am interested in and I cannot wait to see how it all pans out.
I wanted to give Skyrim Special Edition as my high for this conference but I have put 300 hours into the original, and despite me being the one of many who feverishly asked for this game, I would feel bad to give it a highlight spot when something new and fresh like Prey should get some of my much deserved limelight. So while Skyrim SE is probably what I am most excited for, Prey is the real show stealer here.
It is hard to nail down a low point for this conference, and heck pretty much every conference going forward. At gun point I would have to say there was a bit of a stumble with announcing the Fallout 4 DLC. I thought it showed well, but it was too quick, and I guess I figured there would be a much bigger announcement. Perhaps those expectations are unfair because Far Harbor DLC did just come out, but for a conference I guess I just hoped for something a bit more than adding working conveyor belts to your settlements. This just comes off nitpicky and that is because it is. The conference was great and it is hard to find anything negative about it. For the new kids on the conference block (this is only their second year at E3) they really knocked it out of the park.
Microsoft was up next on Monday and just like the last few years, they really came out swinging. Sure they opened with an announcement of a slim model which is good, because it just gets it out of the way so the focus can turn to what matters, games. After watching this conference I thought there was no way that Sony had the lineup to usurper Microsoft this year. More on how that turns out later.
Microsoft had so many highs that it’s hard to pick one. It is so easy to go with something like We Happy Few which felt like a completely Bioshock inspired game. Every fiber of my being is shouting at me to write about Scalebound and their awesome presentation…but deep down I know that what wowed me the most was Sea of Thieves. During the entirety of it’s on stage demo (and its following hands on impressions from trusted industry types) I was just thinking of how many friends I knew who owned a Xbox One…and how do I get them to buy this game so we can all go on swashbuckling adventures together. Luckily it will take no convincing because the game speaks for itself. Want to meet up in a tavern and drink with friends? Go for it. Find a treasure map on the island you are on? Go look for it! Want to rob people coming out drunk from the local tavern? By all means do it. The real meat and potatoes is boating up with a crew and hitting the high seas. Out there you can run into sea monsters, or worse, other ships with their own crew. Each crew member has a function. One needs to man the sails, the other the anchor, somebody needs to be in crows nest navigating, and a trusted pirate friend needs to be at the helm. Everybody has a function, and everybody must be communicating to ensure that the dangerous ships and crews you face out there will not lead you to a watery grave. The first thing I am doing? Loading up my boat with booze, pals, and instruments, and we will sing sea shanties all the way to Davy Jones’ locker.
There were next to no low points in this conference. I feel that I do have to point out that I thought ending with the big Scorpio reveal (Microsoft’s .5 console) was a misstep. Really Microsoft? This is the thing you were most excited to show us? Well, I was not excited and while I understand why these .5 systems exist, I do not care to upgrade at this moment in time, especially if all games will continue to work on the current versions of the consoles. Was it a bad announcement? By no means, I thought they did a good job at giving us the information…but I just don’t feel it was the announcement to end on.
Ubisoft, Ubisoft, oh where art though Ubisoft? Seriously this is the Ubisoft I have always wanted. No annual Assassin’s Creed to slow the conference down, and the weird ecstasy filled dance party at the top of the show was their only “weird moment.” Never before has Ubisoft came out so strong at E3, and that is probably why they are suffering form a corporate hostile takeover by Vivendi. You’re looking too good these days Ubisoft! In any case, Ubisoft focused on all the right things and ended their conference with a big new IP. Sure at surface level Steep seems just like a snow extreme sports game, but is much deeper and you have a community enriched experience filled with so much freedom in terms of traversal and activities. While this was a big moment, it is far from game of the show material.
The moment of hype comes in the form of, South Park: The Fractured But Whole. Not only is this an insanely fun title to say and type, but it also showcased wonderfully. Trey and Matt (the creators of South Park) came out and discussed their heavy involvement in the game. They gave us a very funny trailer which completely satires the blueprint of the Marvel Cinematic Universe Phase system. If that wasn’t enough, we get three awesome gameplay snippets. The demo itself was filled with great South Park jokes, and Matt and Trey themselves just seemed so excited to show off this game. It was such a treat to see them so passionate about this project. They were very vocal about how demanding The Stick of Truth was and it seemed like they would never do a game again…yet here they are. Guys and gals, it is more than we deserve as gamers!
The low point was hardly low. If anything this is just another positive masquerading around as a negative. I am not a big Watch Dogs fan, so there was not much the sequel could do to get me on board. I thought the first game was hollow, the main character to be as interesting as a wet rag, and found every single mechanic to be less than a game like Grand Theft Auto V. However, this showcasing of the sequel actually has me looking at the game in a much more positive light. The game seems fun, the new character comes off as interesting, and all the little mechanical gripes seemed to have been fixed. Am I back in? Nope, but I can and will recognize that this game does seem to be in good shape. I feel the demo went on a bit long but in the end it did what it set out to do, and that was showing off that they were indeed listening to the fans and their complaints of the original. That is classy as hell Ubisoft.
Sony my Sony, my sweet and fair Sony…you had so much riding against you this year. You have constant lack of first party games, and all of your delays on properties announced last year are more than noticeable. I had little hope you would take the W this year. Well that’s what I get for thinking. I had figured that they would come out; talk too long about VR and their new .5 system upgrade. Instead you pulled the rug out from underneath us all, and proved why you are still leading this generation.
Where do I even begin in breaking down the major highlight of this conference? How do I choose one? Heck, I could not even choose a game and instead talk about their incredible pacing of their showcases, or even their choice of not resting on their games announced last year. Hell I would even love to gush about the live orchestral performance that lasted through the entire conference. Instead of hearing about Kingdom Hearts 3, Final Fantasy 7, and Shenmue 3, we get a totally new roster of awesome announcements. Some we knew of, while others were major surprises. Is it worth me dwelling on how much God of War rocked me? Never been a fan of the series, but what I saw had me caring in a big way. What about the Heavy Rain inspired game Detroit: Become Human? Sure it was impressive but it was just validating what I already knew.
The show opened up with Syphon Filter’s developer Sony Bend studio and their new game Days Gone. While the trailer itself had a very Last of Us feeling, the real bread and butter came from the end of conference gameplay. Wow what an impressive stage demo. The game’s enemy, whom can only be described as the zombies (don’t call them that though!) from World War Z, moves like cascading water in tandem with one another like a wave of bodies. Well look at that, it seems this may have been my highlight of the conference. Sometimes you just have to work these things out on paper before realizing what really wowed you the most. It would have been so easy to talk about how awesome Horizon showed, or talk about the big Resident Evil 7 reveal with a PT like marketing demo. While all of these announcements are game of the show worthy, I truly feel that the surprise of Days Gone landed in a big way for me. The fact that so many people did not feel the same way alarms me, but we like what we like.
It is hard for me to pick out any moments where I felt the pace of the show was hindered. The show was nonstop trailers with minimal talking or presenting, so when those slow moments came with the Skylander’s reveal and the minimal VR…it was necessary to slow that heart rate. The amount of excitement that they built through the run-time of the show was so intensely satisfying that the down time ensured our poor little hearts wouldn’t breakthrough our rib-cage. Do I care about Skylanders? No I do not; I could not even begin to care less. Do I want stage time on VR? Not particularly, but they didn’t dwell on it long and moved right past it and back to their original pacing. What I am trying to say is, that I had little to zero issues with this conference and it should be the defining mold of E3 press conferences moving forward.
Living Post Hype
So with E3 now in our rear-view mirror, a lot of us have that post E3 depression. We’ve all heard so many good things about so many games that aren’t even close to being out. So you may ask, Kyle, how do we even cope with knowing we are so far away from so many great experiences? My answer, give into the hype. I am not saying blindly love and be excited for all of these things until they reach unobtainable levels of interest. What I mean is just give into the excitement, ride the wave of hype all the way to release. The excitement you get from pondering on a game on the horizon is unlike anything else. You will never have this road to excitement other than now, so why even fight it? Excitement and hype are good. For me there is no such thing as “over-hyped.” It is a term I see thrown around all too often. While the game may not have lived up to expectations, nothing can take away those moments of pure concentrated excitement that you felt all the way up to launch. It is a good feeling, so embrace it. E3 is a time where we all as gamers come together and get excited for our healthy industry. I feel that pessimism is in low reserves during this week. Of course it is re-birthed the week after and the internet goes right back to its awful self, but in that moment…we all have E3…we all have the hype.
These trailers were some of the most talked about from E3 2015 (aside from Final Fantasy VII obviously), but some of the best parts the public never got to see! We’re here to give you the scoop on what you missed from The Last Guardian, Uncharted 4, and Horizon.
The Last Guardian
The trailer everyone saw started out with the boy and catbird, named Trico we found out, on a bridge navigating some precarious heights. The trailer press was treated to in Sony’s theater on the floor started out about ten minutes earlier. The boy is navigating some very old ruins when he comes across Trico. The creature isn’t hostile to him, so it’s not clear whether or not the boy and Trico are already friends or not, but even if they weren’t, a quick rub on his face and some reassuring words have the boy on catbird’s good side.
The boy then runs around Trico and climbs on him. By the way, the feathers on Trico are so spot on, it’s incredible. Remember when you first saw LA Noire and were like “Oh god, faces can be that good?” Same thing, but for feathers. The boy notices that catbird’s been really injured, two large spears are embedded in him. Trico’s clearly tried to get them out himself with how splintered they are, but they’re at a weird angle to where he can’t pull them out himself. The boy ends up pulling both of the spears out, with small yelps of pain from our creature friend.
It’s then time for Trico to get up and eat his preferred meal, small barrels of something. Who knows. But Trico’s jonesin’ for the stuff enough that he stands up on his hind legs so the boy can enter a part of the dungeon he can’t in order to retrieve the barrels he wants. It’s very indicative of the symbiotic, caring relationship between the two, and really builds a bond the player’s mind between boy and catbird. After the boy opens the gate, both of them proceed out to the bridge where the press conference trailer picked up.
Though this extended trailer bit wasn’t terribly important, it did a great job of building the bond between the two characters and making you feel for Trico. Considering everyone thought this title was dead a month ago, it’s looking pretty damn good.
When Sony’s E3 2015 press conference trailer of Uncharted 4 last left Drake, he was being dragged by a large truck into a pile of wood while hanging off a bridge.. The trailer/gameplay continues from there as Drake is being pulled over the lake, past a pedestrian boat, narrowly avoiding wooden pillars until he finally slams in to dry land as the bridge ends. But that’s not where Drake gives up, oh no. He maintains his grip and is then unceremoniously dragged through the mud behind the truck, trying to avoid hitting things while also trying to pull himself up to the truck WHILE ALSO SHOOTING DUDES. After finally making it up to the truck and punching the hell out of some poor sap, it’s time to crank it up even further, as is tradition with Uncharted. While we’re not clear on the details, the car Drake is on catches on fire. Of course it does. So he’s forced to jump on someone else’s bike, kick off the owner, and keep driving with the caravan to get up to his brother. After two more vehicle hoppings, Drake is in a truck pulling up next to his brother, followed by a ton of troops. They both want the other to get on their vehicle. As brothers do, they start arguing about who will get on who’s vehicle.
Then Drake gets hit by a god damn truck. OF COURSE he gets hit by a god damn truck.
So as he’s getting his bearings in the flipped over vehicle, realizing he isn’t dead (a shock to us too), the damn thing catches on fire. Of course it does. IT’S UNCHARTED. OF COURSE THEY TOOK A BAD THING AND MADE IT WORSE. A few armed thugs comment that there’s no way he could be alive until he bursts the driver side door open and kills them. “Never underestimate a Drake.” He never says that, but in our fan fiction, he totally did.
His brother picks him up on the motorcycle and the chase is back on as the huge military truck is still on their asses. Nate’s shooting behind him, his brother’s driving, death is looming. Finally, they slide the bike under a large block in the road, which the truck hits and explodes. For the first time, Nate, his brother, and the audience all breathe an audible sigh of relief. Even just watching someone play this was stressful, playing it must be intense.
And just as we were ready for the demo to be over, Drake, his brother, and Sully all make it back to their hotel room, confident that they’ve found the location of a hidden treasure. Their excitement is interrupted by Drake’s wife unexpectedly showing up in his hotel room. She asks how the Monaco job is going and why he’s so off course. You can hear how disappointed she is that Drake lied to her about not being a thief anymore. It’s heartbreaking. Then the trailer ends.
GOD WE NEED THIS GAME.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Admittedly, the amount of content differing between the trailer press go to see and what the public saw is minimal. The demo we saw is functionally the same, but with a few more things shown off with combat. Aloy still comes down, hides in the grass, kills a robodino before it sounds an alarm, then shoots some of the grazing robots to take whatever green goop they’re holding. This murderous human, understandable, upsets mama dinosaur as it turns around and starts a huge fight. So in the press conference demo, it wasn’t quite clear why or how they were doing what they were doing and how to win against this huge foe, but in the private theater, they talked through the strategies that went in to it.
First off, Aloy has many different types of ammo with her bow. There’s explosive, electric, and armor piercing, among others, and they all have their place. First, after rolling around and dodging attacks, you slow down time to get a good shot with the armor piercing arrows to one of the mounted guns on the side, knocking it off. Then that weapon is used to knock off more of the armor plating around the dino’s weak point, somewhere around its upper thigh. This process is repeated for the other size, then you shoot cables to tie the beast down to get in a good shot and hit the weak point with an explosive shot. Boom, creature’s down.
Though it may not have been radically different, it’s at least interesting to get a peek into how Horizon Zero Dawn’s combat will function after its intriguing world roped us all in.
Every year E3 seems to have a few distinguishable patterns in its announcements. One year it was 3D, another it was camera support. So what are the trends we noticed in this year’s E3?
Pander Pander Pander
This year’s E3 was full of pandering, not that it’s a bad thing. After Microsoft’s fiasco of not listening to its consumers and Sony profiting from that negative response, both companies kicked “WE LISTEN TO YOU, BELOVED CUSTOMERS” in to full gear. Microsoft started off Pandercon 2015 with its announcement of Backward Compatibility, something customers have been wanting since the 360 and PS3 came out. Then they went ahead and showed off Gears of War 4 gameplay, which was totally unexpected. Hell, at the end of the Microsoft press conference we said Sony would have to hit with nukes to beat Microsoft.
And boy did they.
They dropped the biggest bombs they could possibly drop all in one press conference. Not only is Last Guardian not dead, but it’s being released next year. Shenmue 3 is happening and its Kickstarter went live during the press conference. And last, but certainly not least, the mother of all remakes is happening. The HD Final Fantasy VII remake for Playstation 4 is official. Not an uprez of the original, not the PC version available on PSN, a legitimate remake of the game everyone’s been requesting for years. Sony went all in with the pandering and it paid off big time.
Even Square Enix jumped in after the Sony presser and released more info on Kingdom Hearts III, more info on the new Star Ocean, and announced a sequel to Nier. Couple that with the Final Fantasy VII remake and their announcement of a game coming from a company literally named Tokyo RPG Factory, and hype was at an all time high.
The pandermachine isn’t necessarily a bad thing for gamers. It’s a great time to be part of a very loud crowd that hasn’t had enough attention. Who knows, maybe we’ll get another Chrono game, a PC port of the newer Halos, or even a new Red Dead game. If this rolling carnival of handouts for the loud and ignored continues, we may even get a Super Mario RPG remake.
Though the trend isn’t a HUGE one, it still definitely exists. After the success of Kirby’s Epic Yarn, fabric-based textures seem to be a growing trend in games. Both Yoshi’s Woolly World and Unravel are based around characters made out of yarn and how adorable they are.
Think about it, if Yarny wasn’t made out of yarn, but was rather a little dude running about through the woods, you wouldn’t care nearly as much. And the same goes for Mario’s dino friend. Yoshi’s New Island came out to a tepid response with its map color-esque graphics. We postulate that just maybe the game would have been more successful if it had just been a lot more cute. The game didn’t have bad gameplay, it just looked kinda meh. Slap a layer of yarn, fabric, and some cute details on it and you’ve got a hit!
Remember that trend a few years ago where everything was brown and grey and terrible? Like Fallout 3, Gears of War, et al.? Well we’re finally coming out of that, it seems. Fallout 4 seems to have finally shrugged off the terrible color palette that characterized its predecessor, allowing for a far more visually interesting title to come forth. At the time, Fallout 3 looked amazing and the world was huge, so the limited color palette could be overlooked, but playing it now, the game gets so visually boring so so quickly. The graphics in Fallout 4 aren’t even all that much better than in Skyrim, but the colors sets it so far apart from Fallout 4 that it looks like it was done by a different studio. We can’t emphasize how much better it looks.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution was lauded as a great, beautiful game. But everything in the god damn thing was orange and black! Every. Thing. The new title, Mankind Divided, looks much less visually constricted, as if they finally allowed themselves to use greens. It’s a wonderful difference. Even Gears of War, the brownest brown that ever browned, had a nighttime trailer in which the camera showed off other colors. It was crazy. It’s like video games finally discovered the other side of the color wheel.
Star Wars Battlefront
It’s basically Battlefield 4 with a skin of Star Wars on top. AT-ATs are on rails. There’s no space battles.
Those are all completely valid criticisms of DICE’s Star Wars Battlefront game. That being said, it’s also fun as hell.
The demo plopped two people down in a sort of objective-based wave killing mode in which you’re two rebels fighting off waves of Storm Troopers while trying to complete missions. We were skeptical at first, but once we were in the game taking down Imperial scum, we knew we’d be getting it. The combat feels fluid and the environments are gorgeous. The planet we were on appeared to be Tatooine with its desert motifs and high cliffs. Even just looking across the valley we were stationed in looked gorgeous.
Then the Troopers came. And as quickly as they came, they were gone, banished by our blasters. First wave down, no biggie. Hell wave two came and went almost as fast. Then more heavily armored troopers were introduced and we were still okay. Then a walker with the troops and we actually had to start using our abilities. First off, the jetpack is incredibly fun. Getting a huge, fast boost up in the air in these terrains is an absolute joy and one we’re happy to have. It’s just so much fun bouncing about through the valley it’s hard to focus. There’s also a shield for deflecting blaster fire while you try and make a getaway. The valley also spawns random powerups from a group shield to a sniper rifle, encouraging you to do more than just hole up with your partner. After six waves and many dead Storm Troopers, we made it out alive and with far more enthusiasm about this game than we came in with. Though it may not be Battlefront 3 we were all hoping for, it’s still a really enjoyable experience. The gameplay is solid, fast paced, and a hell of a lot of fun.
We didn’t know much about this game coming in to it aside from what we gleaned from the statues by their booth — it had a giant man with a teeny tiny head in it. On the last day at the last possible time we could, we hopped in line and got to be one of the last groups of E3 2015 to try the game, which is pretty damn cool.
Battleborn is a new FPS game made by the people behind Borderlands. As you’d expect, there’s a multiplayer cooperative story mode in which you and three friends pick characters and go through missions together . The main difference between this mode and Borderlands are the amount of characters to choose from and the variety of options with those characters. Each of the 24 characters characters has their own unique abilities and play style. Instead of focusing on massive amounts of loot, players don’t pick up different guns, but instead shards with which they can upgrade their characters. This shift makes character selection much more important as all you’ll really have are the characters abilities and your upgrades. The graphics are also not in Borderlands pseudo-cel-shaded style, but rather something more akin to TF2 with its cartoonish, smooth style. The characters are also supposed to represent tropes from the FPS genre from military testosterbros to wee, but powerful dwarf warriors.
There’s a story for this game, but honestly, unfortunately for 2K, they were right next to the EA booth and we couldn’t hear anything the characters were saying over blaring bass. Hopefully it’s as clever and interesting as the Borderlands dialog. Though we couldn’t hear the story, we did get to experience a really fun multiplayer mission in which four of us fought some spooky looking demons. The demo level was fun to navigate and it was great fun hopping in with strangers, all of us figuring out our cool abilities, and taking down baddies with great prejudice.
Battleborn isn’t just a co-op game, however, as it also has various multiplayer modes. One such mode that has been shown off already is called Incursion, and looks an awful lot like a MOBA in structure, adding to the argument that this isn’t just reskinned Borderlands. Gearbox has promised more modes by the time the game releases this year, so we look forward to seeing what this new game can offer when we get our hands on it.
The most surprising demo we got to try, we didn’t even know was in development until this show. RIGS is Sony’s competitive gaming title for its upcoming VR platform Morpheus. It’s a 3v3 objective-based FPS in which the goal is to accumulate a enough energy to throw yourself through a hoop and score a goal. You get energy by finding it throughout the map or by killing your opponents. There are three classes all with different attributes that you can choose from, all with their own attributes and abilities. The one we picked had a hover ability that proved quite annoying for the team to have to look up to aim. Hehe, suckers.
The VR part is interesting. Instead of aiming with the right stick, you have to look at your target to aim. Upon first hearing this, we were skeptical of how it well it would work, but it was surprisingly intuitive. Once you realize you only see more of the map by moving your head, it’s already natural to be moving your head to stare at the enemy, so you just need to keep it there to keep firing at them. The only bad thing about this aiming system is that if they start moving, you also need to be moving to keep your target on, so it’s actually not terribly difficult to get out of your opponents line of fire. Luckily, it’s that way for everyone so although it’s harder to keep a lock on your target, it’s also harder for them to keep a lock on you.
RIGS was only allowed to shine, though, because of all the VR headsets we’ve tried, the Morpheus was by far the most comfortable. To be fair, we’ve only tried various iterations of Oculus Rift, but that terrible elastic strap on the back makes the whole thing feel uncomfortable. Morpheus, on the other hand, has a piece that extends and contracts to allow you to slip it over your head, kind of like headphones. The padding is a lot softer, it feels more secure, and the experience of taking it on and off feels so much better than Oculus Rift that it’s incredible. The VR itself is also pretty good with very minimal screen door effect and a 120 Hz refresh rate, which should help a lot of people with their VR motion sickness.
If you have PS4, Morpheus is awesome and RIGS is a really great game to show off what it can do. Look forward to both sometime in the future because lol what’s a release date.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
After years of off/on talk about another Mirror’s Edge game, the beautiful if flawed game finally has an official sequel. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst puts you back in the shoes of runner Faith trying to subvert a number of wildly powerful corporations controlled by a man named Gabriel Kruger. The demo starts off with Faith getting out of jail and having the guards basically be huge jerks to her. Once she’s back on the street, some snot nosed punk whose name we’ve thankfully forgot, takes off her government trackers and gets her back on the streets. He’s mainly annoying because he keeps questioning Faith’s abilities and come on, dude, she just got out of jail.
Anyway, the first part of the demo is on the rainy, dark streets as you try to get your runners legs back, jumping over and under obstacles and trying to keep a constant flow. The visual tone of this section is markedly different from most of the original Mirror’s Edge games with its dark colors and messy environment. As you burst through a door, the demo whisks you away to the rooftops at some other time with a style far more familiar with stark whites and a clean environment to run in. The only difference is the biggest one — you’re in an open world. Yes, the huge shift from missions to open world means you can now freerun across the city and explore in a non-mission context, something definitely lacking from the first game. Missions are placed around the environment, in the style of Assassin’s Creed, so that you’re never taken out of the game.
The desire to not break the flow of the game also translates to the gameplay as well. As you keep your running flow going, there are subtle atmospheric differences like a change in music or an increase in speed, giving you subtle ways to feel like running and keeping a flow are important. In that vein, there are really only a few buttons for freerunning, one for upward movement (jumping, climbing, swinging) and one for downward (sliding and dismounting). This configuration makes running a breeze, which is good because combat actually becomes easier the faster you are.
The demo has a few missions to do including a race, hacking a billboard, and delivering a package from one place to another. Running between missions and objectives felt really free, a feeling that Mirror’s Edge has always been pretty good at instilling. The missions themselves weren’t particularly hard and the only one we couldn’t do as good as you could at was the race. We blame the obnoxiously loud volume of the EA booth.
The game’s story promises to focus on Faiths’ origin, fleshing out our favorite runner in more detail. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until February 23rd of next year to get it. In the meantime, we’ll be painting our eye and buying red shoes. Not freerunning, that looks hard.
Arguably the smallest game that made the biggest splash at E3 this year was about a little guy made of yarn. Unravel is a game about the connections between people told through the eyes of a little creature made of yarn solving puzzles and going on adventures. The idea behind the game is that it’s harder to do things the further away you are from people you love. With that in mind, Yarny starts coming unraveled the further you progress through the stage, meaning you have you find more yarn to rewind yourself as the level progresses.
The demo starts off with a short video of an elderly woman looking at old photographs and smiling at them, reminiscing over tea at her table in her small kitchen. She then walks upstairs with her bag of yarn, taking care to adjust a baby picture on her way up. A small ball of red yarn then bounces out of her and we take control of Yarny from there.
One of the best things about this short demo was how well Yarny was characterized. From the moment you take a step out of the front door, he’s looking around, taking in the world around him. Any time you stop moving, and even a bit while you’re running, Yarny is constantly looking at stuff in the environment, showing how curious the little guy is.
The yarn mechanics also make for interesting puzzles to solve. You can rewind your yarn to pull yourself back up to an area if you’ve gone to far or done something wrong. In that sense, there’s no real way to fail a puzzle. Sure, there are environmental hazards like deep water and toxic materials that can take our little friend out of commission, but there’s no failed puzzle.
Yarny can also swing from his yarn to get in to new areas or cross gaps, kinda like a red, cuter Indiana Jones. You can also attach your yarn to two different static points to create a bridge or a trampoline for yourself. Using these simple mechanics, we take Yarny through the old woman’s front yard and very quickly get spooked by a butterfly. It’s adorable. You also come across bits of memory, which represent themselves as kind of blurry picture formed by light in the sky. This one in particular is of a smiling child running through the grass. The yard is basically a tutorial level, showing you how the yarn works, how attaching and swinging work, and letting you solve a few puzzles.
The second half is where things get intense. Yarny is in a dark forest while it’s raining outside. He still seems pretty excited to be outside until lighting strikes. His whole body language then changes to one of fear. Our friend is hugging his arms together, walking more slowly, and those same eyes that viewed the environment as a wonder now view it as potentially a threat, a big, scary threat. Yarny stumbles out onto a road and very nearly gets hit by a car, which really cranks at your heart strings, making you feel simultaneously bad for our friend and angry at the car that almost hurt him. Once the road is crossed, you’re met with a series of more intense puzzles, making you create and disassemble multiple trampolines or have large leaps of faith. The memories you find also take a more dark turn, one showing a man being dragged away by suited men, and another of people in hazmat suits pushing toxic barrels.
We were hurried out of the room before we could complete the demo, but what we saw really captured us. Yarny is our new best friend and the mechanics, though simple, are so much more charming through the eyes of this innocent protagonist that this is toward the top of the list of games we want to play.
Free to play game seem to be all the rage these days, specifically free to play versus games. Bethesda’s answer to this growing market is Battlecry, a 4v4 class-based shooter. The demo put us in a match of control points in which each controlled area added points to a total until time ran out. There were only 4 classes to choose from in the demo, but they were all very different form one another. From stealth killers to long shots to tanks, we weren’t bored by the class selection at all.
The demo was relatively short and unfortunately, it didn’t come with a tutorial beyond a sheet of paper with buttons on it. It took us until about halfway through to pick a class that we actually enjoyed and figured out how to use effectively. By that time, the other team had already beaten us back to the point that it was hard to make a comeback.
Regardless, the gameplay was fun, especially for the ranged character we played. As you aim longer, the damage your shot will do increases. He’s also got a few special abilities like stealth and shot modifiers that made him a lot more useful, if only toward the end of the match, when we figured out what everything did.
Battlecry is opening itself up to demo soon and you can sign up for it on their website.