In the first ever edition of The Bible Scale, we explored the very worst and “best of the worst” on the showroom floor at E3. You know, video games that this Monsignor had a problem with. This second piece, on the other hand, dives into games that could head in either direction. Most of these games come from big studios, had great promotion, and even greater lines of exhibitors just waiting to get their hands — or at least private room eyes — on them. Sure, these aren’t “Best in Show”; but they could very well end up sleepers for Game of the Year. This year.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Activision/Sledgehammer) – Look. There’s no beating this franchise. Titanfall may have revolutionized the First Person Shooter, Battlefield may have brought back classic cops & robbers, and Rainbow Six may have dropped the unannounced bomb at the Convention, but it’s COD that will eventually sell the most. Somehow, the game will still earn its share of positive reviews (by shady means or not), and, this time, they have Kevin Fucking Spacey. Not even Michael Bay can say that! Furthermore, Sledgehammer Games bring their Dead Space sci-fi sensibility to the brand. Expect the horror — via San Fran, Seoul, or more — to come with startling swarms of drones, more exoskeleton cloaking, boost-pack double-jumps and ghost grenades (yeah, whatever that is). There’s two thing to fathom here: I was more impressed with last year’s COD: Ghosts closed-room presentation at E3 than this one (who didn’t love Riley!?), and Activision always has a surprise for multiplayer ala Ghosts‘ Extinction Mode. While Advanced Warfare remains at the bottom of the Top 20 Games GHG witnessed at E3, it’s hard to count these brutes out this early in the match. I’ll have more for you come #Gamescom.
The Evil Within (Bethesda/Tango) – As you might already know, this new survival horror IP comes from the mind of Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami. While there was apparent influx of action-driven moments in the trailer I witnessed in Bethesda’s demo room, the mansion level I got my hands on played much like R.E. 4. A good thing! The mood of this particular level was also quite chilling, as it packed more murderous oddities than those who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. More interesting, is the wonder of whether your protagonist is slipping on reality or hellbent on hallucination. So long as this Evil leans more towards those quieter moments of drear than just zombie guns-a-blazin’ (which was the other level at the Expo), you can expect this Nightmare Before Christmas to end up on our year-end best.
Madden NFL 15 (EA/Tiburon) – I played the game against the GM of Tiburon. How cool is that? Well, seeing your New Engand Patriots get slaughtered 28-zip through the first half isn’t exactly fun, but I was able to interview him casually while throwing multiple picks with Tom “Not So” Terrific, and like any good GM would, he deflected several quemments I had about the new presentation, custom music, etc. Hey, he’s handling the paperwork and not the engineering. That I get. Cool thing is, he was a cool fucking dude and tipped me off on a few things: Madden 15 features the Niners new stadium: Levi’s (no, Favre hasn’t bought the team…), and the EA team has hired Brian Murray of NFL films to overhaul the previously saddened presentation. While I’m not sure Nance and Simms improved drastically behind the booth (E3 is megaloud, yo), at least the cameras leading up to the battle on the gridiron look fantastic. Replays are actually solid, and there’s even a live video of the team’s star heading into the coin toss. Throw in the fact that there will be a minute-and-a-half halftime highlight reel and I’m happy. But not content. While the game looks better, the focus on defense scares me. The improved tackling modes (a cone signal now gives you the option of wrapping, or lunging for a big hit) make the game almost too much fun to play defense. And isn’t the goal of the game to score points? Guess we’ll all find out this coming August.
Forza Horizon 2 (Microsoft/Playground) vs. The Crew (Ubisoft/Ivory Tower) – So, The Crew was announced at E3 last year — and Microsoft decides to release a next-gen, open-world Forza of their own (September 30)…just a month and a half before them (November 11). Foul! The Good News is that, despite their similar baseline premise, both racers will play completely different. Forza already owns when it comes to the engine; for the Drivatar system coming over from Forza Motorsport 5 shall remain untouched. Also, as far as car cosmetics and the new Southern European locale, Horizon 2 may wind up the most visually stunning racer of all time. And that’s more so due to their newly refined lighting technology, than any sort of 3D rendering. Also, announcing — and showcasing — weather change and nighttime racing to the franchise was, simply put, brilliant. Still, The Crew is just F-U-N. I had a blast competing in the various multiplayer modes, and while not nearly as detailed on the scale of Forza, still looked great. Even with the off-road paths and shortcuts of Horizon 2 (rather than the usual merry-go-round repetition of Motorsport), The Crew offers a more simplified enough class option: Street/Dirty/Raid/Performance/Circuit. And that’s all this casual racing clergyman needs in order to turn the party up full throttle.
Battlefield: Hardline (EA/Visceral) – This is one of those scenarios where being the “winner” of E3’s Media Briefings only leads to more caution. We’ve been fooled in the past. Thankfully, EA was smart enough to get out of the military business and opt for the cop-and-robbers glory of 1988 NARC past (or, better yet, De Niro & Pachino’s Heat). It’s crazy to think there hasn’t been too many games like this in the traditional sense; unlike that of Payday or GTA, you get to play as our favorite donut-munching crimefighters, as well. And I can tell you as an LA resident — and someone who works frequently downtown — that the multiplayer landscape I cruised around in was pretty much 1-to-1. Now, don’t get me wrong; this is very much a Battlefield game. Everything feels like traditional Battlefield, from the FPS controls right up to the daring cinematic environments, and, when it comes to tactics, it’s far more S.W.A.T. than CSI: LA. Still, the game runs well, sounds great, has an exhilarating pace, and the presentation feels more intimate and TV-styled than any other previous game in the series. And, in case you’re wondering, you can tase a mofo and slap the cuffs on ’em.
FIFA 15 (EA/EA Canada) – Whether you’re watching the World Cup in the comfort of your living room sofa or down at your local watering hole, one things for sure: You can certainly feel the emotion. Soon, diehard fans of EA’s much beloved soccer (or fútbol) franchise will be able to experience much of the same on their next-gen consoles. Emotional intelligence is the new draw, where players will react organically to certain calls, and even show differing attitudes towards how great or terrible their teammates and opponents are playing. Emotions will run much heavier throughout a major cup or tournament game than a mere friendly. Your Monsignor also adored FIFA’s all-new ball physics, where the momentum of the pass or shot is all based on your players’ movement and spin of the footie.
Far Cry 4 (Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal, etc.) – This lays sort of in the Borderlands: Pre-Sequel mode, where the franchise is likely not going to stray too far away from its predecessor. The difference, besides the fact this Himalayan sequel is going next-gen? Flying gyrocopters & riding elephants. And it’s as great as it sounds, watching my leather-skinned pal bust through strongholds, stomping and “trunking” foes, causing havoc everywhere while I gunned down those intelligent enough to run for cover. Toss in FC4‘s new multiplayer mode, Guns for Hire (your friends can hop seamlessly in and out of your campaign!), and Troy Baker’s next iconic insane villain — who actually likes you! — and there’s no doubt Mister Moods is as excited for this one as any other game come this Holiday season.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (WB/CDProjekt) – While I wasn’t as blown away by the game as much as other video game journalists — seeing how it won the most awards at E3 this year, with 100 (not to mention, another 49 last year) — you can bet this one will fall under every RPGer’s radar. Our “Saint Superkick”, Kenny Sanders, will have more on Geralt’s final mission this coming week.
Assassin’s Creed Unity (Ubisoft/Ubisoft Montreal) – I’d argue that, other than NBA 2K14 last yer, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag was the prettiest — if not the best — last-gen to current-gen (formerly next-gen) port ever. The game looked amazing. Now, just imagine what those Ubi Canadians can do with a game solely built for Xbox One, PC and PlayStation 4? Not only is ACU is a prettier package, it has the engine to include 1000s of street pedestrian NPCs on-screen at once. People loot, mob and riot in the streets during this French Revolution era’s “Reign of Terror”, making it even easier for you to go unnoticed. And therein lies the problem. From what I witnessed in the demo room, if even you — or any of your three brothers, since the game now offers seamless co-op missions — make a mistake and accidentally alert a guard, it didn’t look all that tough to put him away But, more importantly, it’s going to be more fun tagging in your hooded pals to finish the deed. In addition to map icons now appearing on-screen (meaning, no need to pause for a map, or look down at your tablet), player animations also look more fluid, and you can even parkour downward rather than rely on an incredulous leap into a haystack. Stealthy.
E3 ’14 [The Bible Scale, Part III] will hit the Holy Gaming Masses sometime early this week.