E3 Highlights

E3 has come and gone, and despite not having as many announcements or incredible moments as the previous years, it was a great show. And here I’ll talk about my favorite games that were part of the conferences.

A Way Out

Sometimes a new project comes with real innovation, and this is a perfect example of that. We always hear about innovation on games, but we rarely see it, and A Way Out brings it to not only storytelling but to gameplay as well. A couch co-op game in which you control two inmates willing to escape from prison.

The difference is that each player will control a different character at the same time with different perspectives, and ways to push the story forward. Creating scenarios that could be played in several ways, with each character having personalities that could make a situation easier or harder to deal with. It’s great to see EA bringing an experience with such an unusual approach to the market.

Anthem

Speaking of EA, here’s a demonstration of their range. From an indie game like A Way Out, to a colossus called Anthem, a huge AAA project from Bioware. Closing Microsoft’s conference, Anthem, a Destiny with an apparent bigger focus on story, impressed everybody with an incredible demo, showing what Bioware’s main team had been working on for years now.

The graphics looked simply breathtaking, to the point it was too beautiful to believe sometimes, we’ll hardly see it looking like that on consoles. What was very surprising was how easily the game could change from a jetpack, to ground combat, to water without hiccups or meaningful changes. They claim it will be released next year, let’s hope.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

A prequel to the franchise, Assassins Creed Origins looked to show how the franchise would shape up after taking a year off. And from what we could see, it looks like a soft reboot, telling the story behind the beginning of the brotherhood in ancient Egypt, a setting that allowed the team to make some interesting changes.

With a larger focus on the RPG aspect, Origins appears to be a lot more profound the previous titles of the franchise, something Unity tried to do before. Combat was revamped, taking notes from Dark Souls, with a slower pace, that requires players to think before attacking. The world looks beautiful, reactive, alive, the animations on the other side didn’t look like they were very improved. If they deliver on what they promised this could be not only an amazing AC game but an amazing game overall.

Far Cry 5

Beyond all the controversy surrounding it, Far Cry 5 has been getting a lot of attention for the changes that have been made. After Far Cry 4 and Primal’s underwhelming results, showing signs that the franchise seemed to exhaust its formula, Far Cry 5 feels like a real step forward, at least from what we’ve seen.

Instead of lush environments, Montana is the new setting, a change that can bring new gameplay experiences. The demo spotlighted the co-op experience, showing NPC options to assist you in your missions, as well as with other players. Like Assassin’s Creed Origins, the world around the player will react to your actions, assisting or fearing you. If the villain is great, and the new features work well, it can be a comeback.

Need for Speed Payback

The reboot was a good game that unfortunately didn’t really resonate with the fans of the franchise. The FMV cutscenes were criticized by many, personally, I found it strange and funny at times. When it came to gameplay, it was neither horrible nor incredible, the graphics were mesmerizing, on the border of becoming photorealistic. But the world felt lifeless, and the always online feature would punish those who wanted to play offline or that had an unreliable internet connection.

With all that baggage, I didn’t expect much from Payback, however, what we saw was a silly, fun, high-octane game with a heavy Fast and Furious atmosphere. And that can be a smart way to bring the franchise back, when it comes to simulators there are worthy competitors, Forza Horizon 3 was everything an arcade game needs to be. Feeling like a Burnout game with a story, charismatic characters, customization options and great gameplay can be what the franchise needed.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Last year a trailer revealed an important exclusive for Sony, a Spider-Man game produced by Insomniac, and the hype train started. From that moment on, we heard nothing else about the project.

This year, an extended gameplay showed how the game runs, and in the end, it looks like an Arkham game with color. The combat resembles the Arkham series, but with flashier movements, a more acrobatic style. New York looks stunning, with traversal looking simple and loose. As we can expect from Spider-Man, there was a lot of bantering, jokes, a lighter tone. My only concern is with an excessive use of QTE’s, that if used wisely, only during action sequences can work very well, but if exaggerated can remind Resident Evil 6.

Sea of Thieves

At last, it looks like we finally know what Sea of Thieves is all about, after 2 years of demos that wouldn’t really show much. And despite being a little too long, the gameplay demo shown this year followed a crew on a mission, and it does look different, and fun.

Teamwork seems to be the best way to play it, as things can go bad quickly. Storms can affect the way the ship handles, special treasures can change gameplay, other crews can attack you. This might be the cause why the game won’t succeed, as it relies heavily on multiplayer, as we saw with Evolve, Battleborn. But Sea of Thieves looks like a much richer game than the examples above, with more things to do, a lot of features, and a unique style.

The Crew 2

This one was unexpected to me, when I saw that it was The Crew 2 I thought about checking my email or doing something else, I’m glad I didn’t do it. It appears to be another case of Ubisoft’s great improvement on the second title in a franchise. The first title was very underwhelming, wasting an immense potential. With The Crew 2, it looks like we’ll finally get what we were promised before.

Visually it is a lot superior to the first Crew, with New York looking amazing, the game also uses an effect that reminds Inception to change locations ocasionally. The fact that you can change from a car to a plane to a boat immediately is something we haven’t seen in a racing game, hopefully, it will be better implemented than it was in Steep. From an insipid title, we may get an alive one, much like the Watch Dogs to Watch Dogs 2 transition.

The Last Night

Sometimes a smaller game comes and steals the show, and The Last Night was one of those gems. An example that graphics aren’t everything, it has a special art style, pixel art, something I was tired of, in a futuristic cyberpunk world that looked like nothing else we saw this year. Whether it will be great we’re yet to see but it shows a lot of promise.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Crazier, more beautiful, with an improved story, an even bigger focus on the characters, that’s all that a sequel should have. And Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus looks like exactly that. The New Order was well-received but didn’t seem to explode as it should’ve, in part to some gameplay choices, in part to a very slow start in the campaign.

From what we’ve seen, MachineGames heard the criticisms and greatly improved on them. The story, that was very good in The New Order, appears to be even more interesting, bringing Nazis to America, making you fight them as part of the revolution. The characters are bizarre, the villain scary, if it is anything like the trailer it will be an amazing ride.

Those were my favorite games, did I forget one you liked? Comment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

E3 Expectations: Ubisoft

The craziest, funniest conference, sometimes for some strange reasons, comes back in their usual Monday slot. Ubisoft has released a small video “hyping” what we could see in the conference, promising a lot of surprises and unexpected things. With franchises coming back and awkward moments, what can we expect from Ubisoft this year?

Silly Just Dance Moment

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All jokes aside, that’s why I love their conferences

Every year, sometimes in the beginning, it is a certainty that we’ll see a bizarre, to the point it gets funny, moment revealing that year’s Just Dance. Enthusiastic dancers with colorful clothes will dance to the sound of a pop song, and maybe the singer will be there to join them. In the end, we’ll get a release date, some novelty on how to play, and I guess it will lose the number, and embrace the Just Dance Unlimited subscription model for future iterations.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

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It’s not a secret anymore that the next Assassin’s Creed will be set in Egypt, and will be called Origins, mainly because of leaks from shirts. Expected to be a reboot, this is the game I’m most curious about, if this extra year was used for improvements on gameplay, mission structure, we can probably see a renaissance of the franchise.

There are no doubts that they can create beautiful, lively worlds, but without relatable characters and an interesting story, something the AC franchise has struggled a little, it wll be just another entry in the franchise. A clean slate enables them to rework the Abstergo story, enhance the missions, highlight the world, bringing the long requested Egyptian location as the background. It will probably be released this Fall, November maybe, and I think will appear with a trailer and an extensive demo.

Splinter Cell

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As part of my expectations from Microsoft, I mentioned that the series may come back as an exclusive title for the Xbox. 4 years have passed since Blacklist was released, to positive reception from the media, but lukewarm sales. Reports of Michael Ironside’s return as the voice of Sam Fisher have surfaced, and I think it’s been long enough for the franchise to return.

I believe they might try to reboot the franchise, calling the game only Splinter Cell, as a fresh start, with some gameplay changes willing to appeal to a larger market. My guess is that it will come back in less than one year. I don’t know if it has the strength to be released during the Fall season, so Q1 or Q2 2018 would be a nice time to release it.

Far Cry 5

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Following the reveal trailer that garnered some hate, we’ll probably see gameplay for the first time. Set in the US, it looks like an interesting change of setting, as some mechanics might require some changes since the landscape is very different. The controversy around it has the chance to propel the game to an even higher height, receiving attention from groups that might’ve not noticed it otherwise.

New mechanics, like flying planes, will be part of the game, there will be some player customization, and the trailer appeared to focus a lot on the characters, with the most relevant side characters receiving individual pieces. We can expect a bigger attention when it comes to the story side, and if it follows the pattern of past games, the villain will probably steal the show. This is a game that I didn’t really care, but the news coming from it got me cautiously optimistic, let’s see.

The Crew 2

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Despite having a great potential, and an impressive world map that recreated the US with a scale we haven’t seen before, The Crew never fulfilled expectations, being a little underwhelming. Heavy focus on microtransactions, a heavy DLC system, an uninteresting plot and a world that was huge but lifeless ended up leaving a bad taste in their consumer’s mouth.

But Ubisoft’s track record of greatly improving on their second games creates hope for The Crew 2, as we saw with Assassin’s Creed 2 and Watch Dogs 2. I’d guess it will have a new setting, a gameplay demo and for the release date, my bet is Q1 2018.

Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle

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Everything about it leaked, the marketing strategy, amiibos, pretty much all that mattered. A turn-based RPG exclusive for the Nintendo Switch, with focus on exploration, bringing mascots from both companies with different abilities and weapons. According to the leaked material, it is expected to be released in August/September, and sounds like an awesome idea.

South Park: The Fractured But Whole

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Returning for yet another E3, South Park: The Fracture But Whole must bring back Trey Parker and Matt Stone to the stage with a new trailer and some more gameplay.

UbiArt comeback

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It’s been 3 years since Child of Light and Valiant Hearts: The Great War came out, to very positive critical and commercial reception, representing something different in the AAA publisher’s market. Games marked by beautiful visuals, stories that didn’t need words to be told, interesting gameplay. There are no rumors regarding a comeback, but that would be something that I would love to see return, after all, quality, introspective games are never enough.

IP That Appeared in Watch Dogs 2

A possible candidate for the final surprise of the conference, a new IP set on space may be unveiled after appearing in a trailer within a mission in Watch Dogs 2. According to reports in the media, sources claim that the game is in development, and it would be an interesting way to end the show, as they did last year revealing a new IP, Steep. Maybe they could repeat.

Other Possibilities and 1 Crazy Thing I’d Like to See:

  • A new IP inspired by Black Flag, focusing on pirate life, and since that came out 4 years ago, it’s been enough time to develop a new game.
  • A new Rayman game.
  • Prince of Persia reboot.
  • Beyond Good and Evil 2 trailer
  • Another new IP coming out of the left field, probably, the surprise in the end.

1 Crazy Thing I’d Like to See: I know remasters can suck, but I’d love to have the Sam Fisher collection, all past games in one package with gameplay and graphics enhancements.

Things I Can’t Stand in Good Games

Usually, we tend to love games, and as in real life, overlook some flaws. And in spite of my affection for some games, they can really get under my skin sometimes, again, as in real life. Some may sound like nitpicking, with one being more of a pet peeve, and even though they are not massive problems, they end up ruining a little bit a great experience, like:

Annoying Secondary Systems

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Let’s begin with my favorite franchise of the last generation, and one of the few that I’ve ever replayed, Mass Effect. Each one of them has something that really got on my nerves. Mass Effect 1, for example, with its horrible auto-save system, that if you didn’t do it manually there was a risk you would need to restart a very long mission. The use of the Mako, and its pathetic handling through empty planets where you would fight a giant worm or sentry turrets.

Mass Effect 2, and a tedious mining system, that would require the player to spend hours upon hours scanning planets searching for minerals. That after an upgrade became faster but remained incredibly boring.

And the worst one for me, Mass Effect 3, and its asinine readiness system. That according to the number of war assets you had, the ending of the game would change. Forcing the player to play side missions that he might not be interested otherwise, and the worst part, in order to increase the percentage and get a better ending, it made you play the multiplayer, or use external apps. Something I never understood and that made give up on getting the best ending.

The Supernatural Twist

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This one is loved by some, hated by many, the classical Uncharted supernatural twist. A game in which you control an Indiana Jones-esque character, that seems grounded until 70% of each game. Uncharted is a truly remarkable series in part because of its storytelling, and I just can’t understand why it needs to copy movies or classic Pulp stories. It feels more like a gimmick in order to present stronger enemies and stretch it a little bit more, than a real, meaningful part of the plot.

1st Person Defenseless Attacks

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This is more of a pet peeve and a major reason why I don’t play horror games with a 1st person view. Far Cry 4 was an example, you are constantly attacked by all sorts of animals, and many of them feel unbeatable, like those damn badges, and those terrible eagles. And I can’t think of a worse feeling than an Alien impaling your character or an enemy in Outlast coming in your direction.

The Obligatory Side Mission

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Mass Effect 3 also does that, but the Assassin’s Creed series has annoyed me a couple of times. In Brotherhood, the necessity to upgrade your brotherhood and add assassins to it in order to play the final mission was pretty underwhelming to me. Black Flag and the ship was another occurrence, a requirement of always improving it to go through the final parts of the game led me to cheese it, and go around ships, finding places to avoid any combat.

Mandatory Internet Connection

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Some may argue that this may not be a good example, since 2015’s Need For Speed ain’t a great title, well, I had a lot of fun with it. But one thing that simply doesn’t make any sense is the need of a constant internet connection. If we are talking about a mainly multiplayer game, like Overwatch, Titanfall, it’s ok, but when it’s a game without any major multiplayer experience, there’s no necessity for this stipulation.

Shoehorned “Singleplayer”

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Overwatch showed that if you’re going to do a multiplayer-only game, embrace it. No game needs a single player mode, but if you’ll add it, do it right. The first Titanfall promised a campaign to players, and in the end, all we got was a shoehorned one, that didn’t really tell more about the lore, the story. It ended up being a few matches where in the beginning a character you had no idea who she was saying something about what happened there.

Unsupportive AI

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There are many titles that suffer from this irritating situation, the AI that was supposed to support you, ends up being in your way. I tried to play Resident Evil 5 alone, but Sheva kept stealing ammo, missing shots, being a complete mess. Finally, I decided to go co-op and finished the game with a friend, and it ended up being much better. But no game should have its gameplay worsened by poor AI.

Endless Grinding

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I loved playing The Division and Destiny, but after dozens of hours, I just grew tired of the endless grind. Both games have a very addictive reward system, and both improved a lot after updates and the release of expansions. But no matter how much you love the gameplay, the world, the constant demand of replaying main and side missions, tends to become tiresome when you realize there’s nothing else to do in the game.