Another year, another hundred video games to invest in. It’s E3, where even nerds too busy playing with their joystick stop to stare at all the wondrous hype in media’s most profit-driven form of entertainment. Thing is, GHG isn’t just here to report the news; we’re here to REVIEW the news.
Over the next week, the Congregation of Cool will bust through every behind-closed door meeting and showroom floor demo to deliver you the goods, the bads, and the terribly uglies. It’s our E3 2015 Bible Scale, and we hope you enjoy The Good Word’s latest entries.
This article will be updated constantly throughout the week, so please check back every day. Love you. (Last updated 6/25: MAD MAX, STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC, MIRROR’S EDGE: CATALYST, MADDEN NFL 16, NHL 16, STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT), and BRAND NEW gameplay videos for XCOM 2 and JUST CAUSE 3!!
MADDEN NHL 16 / NHL 16 (EA Sports – August 25 / September 15) – Hey, if you’re known as “The Worst Company in America”, you mind as well own it. That’s exactly what EA Sports did throughout E3, spotlighting games no one cares about like Rory McIlroy (who?) PGA Tour 2016 and NBA Live 16 (you’re kidding), while not exactly being “hands-on” for what else was new on their slate. I’ll get to that in a moment. EA’s best-selling game is a soccer one, which had its own booth, mind you; but the E3 showroom floor was also open to their next two biggest franchises — and the only two I care about, really: Madden NFL and NHL. Typically I both buy and enjoy them every year. But! For the first time ever, I was more excited for what Madden 16 had to offer, considering last year’s edition was actually excellent for once and far superior to NHL. In year’s past, EA devs would walk you through a slide-show or demo of their looming releases, breaking down all of the new gameplay features and graphical upgrades; or, better, they would play the game alongside with you and answer any questions you had that had nothing to do with the prospects of in-game highlights and a halftime show.
(cont.) I suppose the two titles haven’t changed that much, because EA felt there was no need to break anything down for us, unless we went out of our way to ask. For Madden NFL 16, we were thrown into a new gameplay mode named Draft Champions, which is yet another that generates a low-rated shit team for you. I couldn’t demo Madden 16 as my favorite team, the real Super Bowl Champs; instead, I had Raiders QB Derek Carr manning the field in Patriot blue, and without the usually solid O-line, there was no way I could get the rock to my #1 choice, coverboy Odell Beckham Jr. You can read EA’s details on this new mode here, but I already hate it. Had I played with the team I liked, I would have likely paid more attention to all the new gameplay features, which includes Penalty Traits (how likely one will commit a penalty) that are assigned to players based on real-world NFL data; new head and eye sense tracking (quarterbacks will scan the field for open receivers, players may even look up at the scoreboard, etc.); and, a pair that focus most on their new “playmakers” motto: Improved pocket scrambling, and 400 new catch animations/traits with Air Supremacy. The ironic thing in all of this: Madden 16 appears to have hundreds more improvements than NHL 16, but I had a better time with next-gen pick this side of the Bruins playing like the Bruins (offensive domination, no goals).
(cont.) The presentation is far superior than Madden‘s, with its excellent NHL on NBC branding making its return this year (in addition to cool mascots, end board netting, more realistic arenas with more enthusiastic crowds and commentary, and player BEARDS!) and, most importantly to hardcore NHL players, EASHL. As far as on-ice action goes, not much was different; but EA’s NHL series has always been a widely consistent, invigorating play. The new element most noticeably visible in my 2-0 loss to the Canucks (#sadlife), were the on-ice visual training prompts that indicate where the best possible pass should go and where shots should be aimed. This will help newcomers, and those who took NHL 15 off such as yours truly, considerably (of course, you can always shut this new option off). Puck pick-ups and behind net play were much better, although it was a little tougher to keep the puck in the O-Zone than, say, 2014. Look, both EA games look promising, and there’s no doubt they’ll find space on my blu ray rack come late summer; I just don’t enjoy the way EA enjoys being a bad company.
STAR FOX ZERO (Nintendo – Q4 2015) – New Star Fox! How does it play? Well a lot like Star Fox 64. Those familiar with that entry will have almost no problem jumping into this one. The Arwings are back, but with a few new “enhancements”, such as the ability to transform into a bipedal “Walker” not unlike Star Wars’ AT-ST’s. For the demo we were taken back to the planet of Corneria, a main staple in the Fox series. My nostalgia induced excitement was in full effect from the moment I got my hands on the controller, but started on the steady decline once I attempted to wrestle with the, at times wonky, motion controls. Maybe I just wasn’t accustomed to it yet, but they felt more a hinderance than anything.
(cont.) The game is a generally pretty game, nothing that’ll knock one’s proverbial socks off–but its style definitely fits the Star Fox Universe. As far as intro levels go, this one was par for course, but compared to Corneria from Star Fox 64, it doesn’t quite hold up as well (I know, big shoes to fill). Here’s to hoping the full release allows some tinkering with the motion controls and more engaging level design in future levels.
GHOSTBUSTERS PUZZLE CAPCOM (Capcom – TBD) – A puzzle/ fighter hybrid available sometime soon from the Apple Store, Ghostbusters is a hybrid puzzle-fighter game that pits your three characters against three baddies from the expanded Ghostbusters universe. Pulling from the movies, cartoons, and comics, there are familiar and unfamiliar characters to battle as and against– although they have taken liberties with appearance (when did Jeanine get sexy and Vince Clotho get buff??). There is a storyline that leads you though the gameplay, which means a lot of clicking the screen; but no real intro on how to actually play the game, which can cause a new player lots of frustration and confusion and they master the learning curve. Additional support, power-ups, and bonuses can be added for a cost during play. For a smartphone app, it’s an enjoyable way to pass the time, especially if you’re a fan of the original Ghostbusters.
SID MEIER’S CIVILIZATION: BEYOND EARTH – RISING TIDE (2K Games – Fall 2015) – Destiny isn’t the only game that developers are trying to fix through DLC and expansions. Firaxis Games is also trying to make their 4X strategy game, Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth into the near masterpiece that it’s predecessor, Civilization V, is considered. Unlike Bungie, however, Firaxis was only a few tweaks away from their goal and it looks like the Rising Tide expansion comes with all the perfect additions and features to get them there. Players can now explore the seas, gather resources from deep within the oceans, discover ancient alien artifacts to gain power or build wonders, and even tame creatures to work for you. Diplomacy has also been streamlined in a way that I wish they could retroactively patch onto Civilization V also. For any Civ V fan that felt slightly underwhelmed, this is the expansion that you were hoping for.
(cont.) Now, if only they sold it that way. The mere 15-minute demo found that special place in pacing hell where it was too short, provided the content they were showing, but still felt like it was dragging. Playing Civ is like heroin: You lose hours upon hours of time completely sucked into an intellectually stimulating, but physically sedating session with no intention of ever stopping. Watching Civ is more like ambien. Marketing to strategy fans should be more than just listing off the features in VO while showing them in action. We’re nerds who get off on skill discovery trees and attempting to emulate the principles of Sun Tzu’s The Art of War through a combination of diplomacy and strategic troop placement– we can handle the minutia of the new content, trust us.
UNTIL DAWN (Sony – Fall 2015) – Until Dawn was obviously made for a certain type of gamer– one that places story above action, cinema above chaos. As one of the eight 20-somethings trapped in a remote cabin and facing an unknown danger, you have to make choices that will allow you to survive the night. Visually, Until Dawn looks great, and for those watching, it plays out like a computer generated film, with sweeping backgrounds, icy mountains, and deep woods to heighten the sense of danger your character faces. But how does all that translate into gameplay? Unfortunately, it means you spend a lot of your time moving your cursor around to find items to click on, and there is a decided lack of action and fast paced movement.
(cont.) There are some opportunities to attack characters, but they come infrequently, and attacking is not always your best option. For some, this may be a bonus; for others, not so much. With the Butterfly effect system, your decisions — and how you decide to react to events — helps determine how your story ends. The story, and the numerous outcomes you can achieve my making small changes, may keep players coming back once they have made it until morning, but only time will tell.
GIGANTIC (Microsoft – Fall 2015) – Like MOBAs? What about 3rd person action gaming? If you said “yes”, then this surprise hit is right up your alley. Gigantic makes you work as a team to hold points and drive your team to victory. The gameplay works by having your team defeat enemy players and capture points on the map, which in turn gives you level ups and pushes your team’s “gigantic” beast further across the map. When the beasts meat up they clash and battle, leaving “wounds” on the beasts which can be shot at to destroy it and give your team the win. What about the characters? Well as I said its like a MOBA in that there are several characters to choose from, each with badass abilities and styles that can be enhanced with every level gained and used points. Gigantic is a refreshing new style of team battle; one that I did not know existed, but surprised me with excellent gameplay and enjoyment.
KINGDOM HEARTS 3 (Square Enix – Honestly, who knows?) – I’ve been waiting for this game for ages and finally I get to wait a little less! While the game wasn’t present for demoing, the new gameplay trailer was enough to whet one’s appetite. I’ve seen it, you’ve probably seen it, and its beautiful. The action matches that usual KH fluidity we’ve come to expect. The environments are larger, the models are gorgeous, and the fighting seems better than ever. While we probably won’t get the game for some time, the hype train is being boarded at the station.
BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT (WB – June 23, 2015) – T-minus 6-days until the release of Rocksteady’s last entry into the Batman: Arkham series, Batman: Arkham Knight adds elements that worked in previous Arkham games while adding new features that make every Bat-fan’s dream come true. I got some hands on time with the Batmobile and the criminals are right to burst into a sprint when this monster peels around corners. The Batmobile is such an organic and welcome addition to the Arkham-verse that you wonder how Batman ever lived without it in the previous iterations. The same gameplay of “minimum input for maximum output” has become a staple for action games for good reason, but there are some new additions. The Batman lives up to his namesake as he can steal a baseball bat from an enemy’s hands and wail on them without mercy ala The Animated Series. The Batmobile is integrated into combat as well when Batman uppercuts a thug into the air leaving it wide-open for a rubber bullet from the Batmobile.
(cont.) The visual fidelity of Batman: Arkham Knight will turn heads as it is one of the most aesthetically pleasing games I have seen this generation so far. I stopped by thug-beating to watch puddles ripple from the rain fall and all over Batman’s new armor. There were a few bugs that I noticed that hampered my demo experience. There were times where Batman would encounter graphical glitches and perform ground-takedowns on invisible enemies. I assume that this E3 build will not be the final retail release of the game so it’s not worth getting bent out of shape about. Still, it did affect my experience more than I would’ve liked it to have. It’s hard to let those aspects get to you when you freefall down to the city streets of a fully-realized Gotham City and jump into the Batmobile for more ass-kicking. Feel free to follow up with my full thoughts on Batman: Arkham Knight when we debut our review podcast in the coming weeks.
MIGHTY NO. 9 (Square Enix – TBD) – This kickstarter revival of the Mega Man series, after creator Koji Imaeda failed to get Mega Man Legends 3 off the ground, resulted in a completely realized game that raised over 4 million dollars and is playable on every platform except the original Wii. Style-wise, Mighty No 9. plays similar to the original Mega Man and Mega Man X. For those who have played and enjoyed the originals, MN9 is like coming back to an old friend, who has been given some new tricks and slick power up combo abilities. Throughout the gameplay, you play as Beck, the 9th and only remaining Mighty Number Combat Robot, who has to fight robots gone bad, battle various bosses, and work with 3 scientists to discover who destroyed the world. With easy to learn controls, a linear storyline, and callbacks to the original, Mighty No 9. has appeal for both diehard players of the Mega Man series and new players alike.
MIRROR’S EDGE (EA – February 23, 2016) – Next February EA, and their in-house developer DICE, are asking us to have a little faith once again. Well, more specifically, they want us to BE Faith one more time. That’s right, we’re going to visit the City of Glass in a prequel to 2008’s first person platformer, Mirror’s Edge. Expo attendees were treated to a 15-minute demo on the show floor that featured a little bit of story, and a little bit of the open world exploration that will be brand new to the game. For better or worse, ME: Catalyst plays just like the first ME game. Upwards and downwards movements are mapped to the L1 and L2 buttons, respectively, with speed being just as important as precision. The story’s themes seem just as broad and head-y as ME1, while being actually rendered in-game as opposed to the comic book style cutscenes as the first game.
(cont.) The open world element is the biggest game changer, and is a welcome replacement to the time trials as far as post-campaign replay-ability is concerned. The three events that were featured in the demo were elements of the old game, but parsed out. There was a time-trial mode that ended right next to the starting trigger for a fight mode that had Faith delivering a package while taking out some guards, all capped off by more of a puzzle mode where you had to figure out how to ascend a skyscraper to electronically hack a billboard. Thanks to the return of the minimalist art-style that features strategically placed red objects to highlight the default route, the open world navigation seems natural – and even encourages some experimentation in how you navigate the world. While Catalyst isn’t doing too much to change the Mirror’s Edge format, it’s enough to please anyone that was a fan of the first first person sleeper.
FOR HONOR / TOM CLANCY’S GHOST RECON: WILDLANDS (Ubisoft – 2016) – I was able to play Ubi Montreal’s For Honor with Angry Joe, and witness a tight closed room demo of the latest entry in the publisher’s wildly popular Ghost Recon series. Here’s the story at the New York Daily News.
STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC – KNIGHTS OF THE FALLEN EMPIRE (EA – October 27) – We were all clamoring at the bit to see exactly what this “remake” of Star Wars: TOR just was. Well, it’s an expansion of the old PC game that splatters “Bioware” story all over it. It’s a reinvention of the old guard, so to speak; and, sadly for those console lovers from a galaxy so far away, it’s only coming to PC. Read all the scoop, via the NY Daily News.
HALO 5: GUARDIANS (Microsoft – October 27) – This fall sees the first new Halo title being released on the Xbox One. Not much of the story is known, but through trailers and videos we know that new Spartan Locke is hunting Master Chief, and I don’t think he means to be friends. At E3 we were given a long demo/presentation, allowing us to experience the upcoming Hololens AR headset and a 20-minutes of the new game mode Warzone. The Hololens was impressive, although the limited viewing area of the floating screen was a bit off putting. Still, the tech is amazing and works just as advertised; it lets you see virtual things placed over the real world, as if it was really there. With Halo 5 we walked through a hallway with waypoints floating in front of us, leading to a central holographic display that explained the Warzone game as if we were Spartans being prepped for battle. Warzone features a map size well beyond what has been seen in previous Halo titles, sitting somewhere in size between Halo “big game” and Battlefield‘s Conquest mode.
(cont.) Gameplay is reminiscent of Titanfall where you have 2 teams, each with AI support that appears when you capture a battle point. And those battle points are important, as they give your team the advantage in terms of weapon choices/spawns, AI support, and vehicle spawn options. And where as Battlefield uses a spawn counter that depletes and leads to match loss, Halo 5 opted for a counter that goes up based on points, leading to match victory. But that isn’t the only way to win, as you can also take over all the battle points which opens up the enemy “core”, and destroying this core ends the match early. At first it seemed a bit overwhelming in all the details; but once you get going, the game itself feels like home again. And as for how it feels? Definitely closer to Halo 3 than 4, as loadouts and killstreaks are now gone, and, in exchange, we are given the option to choose from available weapons or vehicle choices in between respawns (which for Warzone depends on what battle points you control). If you want to read more about Halo 5‘s new co-op campaign and many other new features, our Monsignor Moody has the report via NY Daily News.
STREET FIGHTER V (Capcom – 2016) – RISE UP! So I finally got my hands on SFV and yep just like you expected, its Street Fighter! V! 5!!!!!!!!. But no, seriously. Street Fighter has changed marginally over the years, implementing new characters, some new dynamics, a new graphics engine–ultimately retaining that same Street Fighter gameplay since the Street Fighter 2 days, which is A-Okay with me! At first glance, SF5 looks a lot like SF4, but upon closer inspection you’ll notice how much cleaner and crisper everything and everyone looks, try as you might its hard to take your eyes away from it. Control wise, everything feels very tight.
(cont.) Brother Myke and myself were able to square off against each other for a few rounds and feel out the controls a bit more. Ryu, arguably the poster boy for fighting games everywhere, is his usually awesome self, while many players stated that Chun-Li’s move set has been changed quite a bit. Overall, not much else from the standard versus was available and it felt great. It might take a while to get accustomed to the new V-Meter. If you’re a Street Fighter fan then you pretty much know exactly what you’re getting into, and if you’re not…then you probably still wont be afterwards (I mean come on, this is one of gaming’s oldest series. Either you’re a fan or not).
SUPER MARIO MAKER (Nintendo – September 11, 2015) – Another entry in the Mario series of games, Super Mario Maker brings us something completely different from previous titles: The ability to make our own levels and challenges! Who has not played a game of Super Mario Bros and thought about creating their own levels or changing how existing ones were set up? I know I have many times, and Nintendo is giving that to us in this new release. In Play mode you can browse through the various player-created levels, viewing their completion success by percentage, star rating, name, or even view comments left by others. If you manage to complete one you get to leave a rating and comment as well. Should you fail, you will be shown all the other places that others have failed as well. One for me was a fail from the start, and it was pointed out that I wasn’t alone.
(cont.) In Creation mode you are given a blank slate to start with and all the possible game tiles available in the Mario games. Should you create a design, but decide you wanted it to be underworld instead? Simply click your world-style choice on the left side and now everything is changed to match it. You can also change the graphics from original Super Mario Bros up through todays New Super Mario Bros, all on the fly with a simple button click. It’s all very exciting and fun to play with, allowing for crazy ideas like putting Koopas inside question blocks for a surprise, stacking Goombas for a wall of terror, or making everyone ride in flying clown cars for a bumper car challenge.
TOM CLANCY’S THE DIVISION (Ubisoft – March 2016) – Extract from downtown demo. Into the dark zone, with everything corrupted by plague, your goal is to collect materials and bring them to extraction points throughout the area. Thankfully, helicopters come through and pick up the shiznit you collected. Working on 3-person teams, co-op players can work with other teams or go rogue — snipe their new pals and take their materials. If you decide to stay on the side of good, you can take out the rogues for extra points and bonuses. Each player has different guns and skill sets (i.e. up-close combat, sniping, etc, and different tactical advantages). Having had the opportunity to play a closed-room demo at the Ubisoft booth on Wednesday, my character had a seeker bomb that could search out the enemy and take them out from afar, keeping me safely out of harms way.
(cont.) Visually, The Division is a masterpiece. Every crack, every bullet hole is beautifully rendered, and it’s as fun to run around and explore as it is to complete the challenges. The demo dropped you into the middle of the storyline, so there’s no way to really know how long the story takes to build up, but based on the available gameplay and visuals — along with the multi-player opportunities — I trust that all of the previous heavily delays will be worth the journey.
BATTLEBORN (2K Games – 2015) – Some really exciting news has been coming from the 2K exhibit at E3: The universe is dying. No, not ours. 2K is referring to the last star’s final stand in the universe of Battleborn. On the surface that particular story mechanic seems to merely justify the eccentric selection of playable characters, but those underlying stakes also resonate throughout the game according to the playable demo that we had the chance to get our hands on at E3. The mission that the demo was centered around was framed as a recounting of one of the legendary battles in the war to keep the star alive. With 25 playable characters so diverse in 5 player co-op campaigns, every mission is meant to feel like an Avengers-style battle of New York. The stakes are so high that these heroes are giving it all they got, finding more power within themselves that’s represented in game by the decision to choose one of two ability upgrades from a skill helix during combat. The character design of selection of all the heroes actually feels more like the roster of a fighting game than your typical squad-based shooters. There’s that same variety of support and assault focused characters, but the way each different hero dispatches their skills makes for unique combinations of those classes.
(cont.) During the demo I got to try out Rath, a swordsman who may or may not be a vampire, and was the first one rushing into skirmishes; but I wasn’t the only one played the ‘tank’ role as another player on my team was playing as the minigun-wielding ‘biologically impossible’ Montana. While I got more of the kills, naturally, I desperately needed Montana to focus on the ‘big brute’ enemies, while I used my spin attack to deal with the overwhelming number of smaller minions — and we only found that dynamic 20-minutes into the mission. It’s a jarring new gameplay loop for Gearbox that’s wrapped in the same comedic/cell-shaded trappings of Borderlands that’s promising to be just as addiciting in an entirely different way.
XCOM 2 (2K Games – Fall 2015) – The black sheep of the video game industry. 2K Games’ gamble of a strategy game amongst the crowd of shooters and actions games, that was a remake of the beloved 90s classic series of the same name, paid off in spades. XCOM: Enemy Unknown challenged the player’s attachment to their soldiers by making death permanent and their patience with countries that would remove themselves from the global effort to fight back the aliens. Fantastic decision-making skills, Australia. China certainly isn’t a more important country as a global superpower.
(cont.) Thanks to Australia, the aliens have taken over the world in XCOM 2. They have integrated seamlessly with society and it’s up to the new XCOM-Guerilla fighters to combat them. The turn-based gameplay that was present in XCOM and Enemy Within is present here; but what propels the conflicts are the new enemies. The Viper emerged from a police vehicle and snatched one of the player’s troops from across the battlefield, strangled it Anaconda-style minus Jon Voight’s hammy acting. The soldiers have gotten a buff in their abilities as well. The scout brandished a sword that killed The Viper in one swift blow while the tech-specialist class hacked a turret when the odds slowly grew against the XCOM soldiers. The demo concluded with the bombastic arrival of The Berserker -– an ape-like brute that smashed a soldier into a nearby van. The last soldier went to her rescue and carried her to the helicopter in a “just-in-time” moment before the Berserker could finish the job.
DEUS EX: MANKIND DIVIDED (Square Enix – 2016) – Deus Ex: Human Revolution followed the escapades of cybernetic hodge-podge, Adam Jensen. He snuck, shot and negotiated his way through the cyberpunk Detroit, Shanghai and Montreal. The game offered player choice through gameplay in the sense that you could approach a combat scenario any which way you felt. The stealth was underused for boss fights – fixed in the Director’s Cut – but the game retained what players love about the franchise. 4-years later our time and 2 years since Human Revolution, Adam Jensen is back to uncover yet another conspiracy that deals with the Illuminati. The demo that I saw still offered that player choice by giving Adam/the player more choice in how they approached situations and the effectiveness of those options. I saw the taser-fist which allowed you to lock on multiple targets at once. There was also the “shooty-blade” that allowed players to pin enemies to walls – complete with the developers “Predator” joke.
(cont.) Then, there’s the Dishonored-esque blink ability that you used to traverse the more vertical levels and charge into enemies. another highlight of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was that it allowed the player to see what Adam would say if they pick a conversation option. In Mass Effect and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, you pick a dialogue option but you would never know exactly what the character was going to say. This brings more of a “Fallout/Elder Scrolls” experience to the dialogue options and it is welcomed. The developers let the game speak volumes by showing gameplay and demonstrating the strengths of their game. This translated well because I am more excited for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided after I saw the gameplay demo.
FORZA MOTORSPORT 6 (Microsoft – September 15, 2016) – Now that Turn 10 has mastered the game engine with its previous installments Forza 6 and Forza Horizon 2, it appears all of the new features simply do it for me.
Check out my report from the New York Daily News on this heavenly-loaded racer, if you haven’t already.
DOOM (Bethesda – Spring 2016) – Ever since its announcement in 2008 we have been looking forward to another Doom title. Yes fans– our dreams of killing imps, cacodemons, and revenants are finally coming true. Released footage had me on the edge of my seat in awe as we saw recognizable enemies in hellish scenes. The atmosphere was there and the graphics were gorgeous. Yet while the released gameplay footage looks amazing, some fans have found it to be lacking something to really tie it to the originals. One fan by the name of Linkzaki (on YouTube) took to the video by speeding it up and adding in old school sound effects and music, which definitely brings it closer to the classics. And another fan by the name of @RatCasket (on Twitter) went another direction by altering a screenshot and color matching it to look like the originals.
(cont.) I think a combination of both needs to happen, even if as a mod later on. But the story isn’t the end of it, as id Software has been working hard to give us something extra, something that Doom modders and map makers would love and embrace. That something is call SnapMap, and is an included utility that allows you to easily make new maps and game styles, and even share them online. This Saint wouldn’t be surprised if the next-gen Doom received a few “Best In Show” awards.
TOMB RAIDER (Microsoft/Square Enix – November 10) – After much controversy and upset by Playstation and PC fans about the Xbox timed exclusive, most fans were excited to see the newest Rise of the Tomb Raider trailer that was shown at E3. After seeing the gameplay at a private Xbox Showcase event — and extra gameplay shown behind close doors at the convention — my fears are calmed; the team at Crystal Dynamics seems to have made the right choice. The extra budget has given the developers an opportunity to create a better, more well-rounded game. The new engine is finally being realized and its potential is seen in the fluidity of its animation, better camera angles and lighting. The game has expanded and added more attributes to the weapons upgrade system, more relic rewards, complex puzzles, traps (adding danger)– and what the last game lacked: An increased amount of tomb raiding. This Lady Croft, is beyond excited to play and master the game, with exploration hubs that are three times the size from the previous game, where you’ll find more tombs, collectables, side missions and story characters.
(cont.) The story follows Lara in her search for the “secret to immortality in Siberia” while battling against the Trinity Organization, who is also in search for the lost city. The environments feel real, with powdered snow, climbable trees and water sources you can dive into for stealth purposes. The story alludes to Lara’s family, by mentioning her parents and her archeological knowledge to find relics that unlock further secrets. During the gameplay we see new attributes like poison arrows that can be crafted on the fly by collecting mushrooms and cloth, fresh animal carcasses that can be used to bound and reinforce a larger variety of weaponry, upgraded attire and increased skills. Lastly, bears are the guardians of the tombs which add an extra layer of difficulty when traversing the land. As a PS4 and Tomb Raider fan, I can tell you that this new game has filled my expectations for Lara’s continued story, perhaps enough to get me to buy an X1!
JUST CAUSE 3 (Square Enix – December 1, 2015) – It’s official: Square Enix and Avalanche studio will be bringing destruction and joy to players Holiday 2015 in the form of Just Cause 3. Along with the official release date of December 1st, the demo that they showed at E3 highlighted many of the new toys Rico Rodriguez has at his disposal to try and free his Mediterranean homeland from the hands of a brutal dictator. I mean, dictators can be awful, but he must have done something truly heinous to deserve the onslaught of violence that Rico will be throwing at him in JC3. The E3 presentation at the Square Enix booth set the tone perfectly for anyone who’s new to the Just Cause world. Through short, telegraphic snippets of gameplay viewers were given options, which the player will be able to choose from in the game, varied from soaring on parachuting while dual-wielding weapons to more simpler solutions — like rolling in on tanks and monster trucks.
(cont.) Other notable additions were monster trucks and Hydra missiles that could be deployed while Rico was airborne. In order to help Rico liberate the islands, the rebels spare no expense. All new bells and whistles aside, the real treat was to see the longer increments of gameplay. The combination of improved parachute stability and fluid wingsuit momentum combined with the added density of the game map and the large scale destructibility truly showed off the meta smirk of Avalanche’s game design. If that doesn’t make sense to you, I’ll just say that they ended the presentation with Rico, almost ten stories up, wingsuiting through the fiery destruction of an industrial structure’s collapsing towers that he just caused.
STAR WARS: BATTLEFRONT (EA – November 17, 2015) – Shocker. The game that just about unanimously won “Best in Show” for E3 2015 from all the major video game journalists also winds up in the Top 3 for GHG. Read my hands-on preview of Battlefront, courtesy of the New York Daily News.
MAD MAX (WB – September 1) – While Star Wars: Battlefront was certainly the game at the top of my list going into E3 — and still is after leaving, by the way — coming in at a strong number two (with a thunderstick hurled by a raging War Boy) is Mad Max, developed by Avalanche Studios and published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment. Boasting a MASSIVE open world and non-linear questlines, my dream of riding alongside Max as he races across this barren, post-apocalyptic wasteland will finally come to fruition. If you’ve either seen the movie or read my review of Mad Max: Fury Road then you’re familiar with the best action movie to hit the cinema in the 21st century. So, it is without hyperbole that I can say Mad Max the game looks equally as masterful. From chaining brutal hand-to-hand combat maneuvers together, to poking a shotgun out of your driver-side window to utterly devastate the custom war-machines riding up beside you, to slamming your custom vehicle into absolutely everything to gaining favor by doing quests for rival Warlords, this game looks to be the best parts of Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto and Fallout all rolled into one heart-pounding, knuckle-whitening, eye-bulging, jaw-dropping event.
(cont.) Key to this successful game-play demonstration was the visceral feel of every action Max undertook, whether it was filling his canteen with precious water, brutalizing some scavengers with your fists or even getting in and out of your vehicle. Sound for me always plays a huge factor in the success of a game, especially weapons and combat, and here (in the spirit of John Hammond) they spared no expense. Thunderous explosions, bone-crunching blows and the roar of your vehicle are all appropriately dramatic. Drawing from all four of the films, and the lore that has sprung up of the last three decades, this looks to be the quintessential Mad Max experience and will certainly be the game I’m playing until Battlefront comes out in November. (P.S. Change the 5 Bibles to 10; since we gave the movie that, it only seems fair!)
FALLOUT 4 (Bethesda – November 10, 2015) – While there were no hands-on demo tours at E3 for Fallout 4, I’d like to think Bethesda’s booth interview with game director Todd Howard was enough to deserve the precious 5. Here’s my coverage of the exclusive interview, via the New York Daily News.
Stay tuned for more game reports throughout the week.