E3 Conferences Impressions

This year’s E3 conferences were quite different than past years, despite being good, there wasn’t one who stood out as remarkable or unforgettable. Without many surprising moments that would make the audience go crazy, most of them felt lukewarm, as if companies were keeping their cards close to their chests, or didn’t really have many novelties to show.

Here I’ll talk about them from worst to best, in my opinion, and some things I noticed about how companies are changing some aspects of how they approach their conferences:

EA

As last year, EA came up with the worst presentation, even though it certainly has improved. Many strange and cringy moments happened, mainly because it feels that the company is striving to look cool, trying to talk with the millennial generation without completely understanding it.

Youtubers that had problems with teleprompters,  feet out of place in a presentation willing to appeal not only to customers but also to stakeholders. Sports games would have overly long presentations at times, and yes, it is an integral part of the company strategy and finance, however, a leaner, more dynamic segment would work better for them. Jokes, long introductions, a trailer focusing on eSports also didn’t help the presentation, making it feel longer than it really was.

Battlefront 2’s multiplayer demonstration felt out of place, especially after EA’s focus on the singleplayer campaign ever since its announcement. Revealing that it won’t have a season pass is nice, and the multiplayer does look interesting, but showing just a little bit of the story would feel like a reward after the unimpressive Battlefront.

A way out

Although there were some problems, not all was lost. Need for Speed Payback looked amazing, with a truly great demo, showing a little bit of its mechanics, characters, mission structure, appearing to be a better game than we expected. And the best moment was A Way Out, part of the EA Originals program, a game that shows real innovation, with an unusual and unique gameplay mechanic. Becoming one of the best games to show at the event, with an effective trailer, and a very enthusiastic developer.

Sony

I might be too harsh on them, but after last year’s stellar presentation, this year’s just felt underwhelming. A repetition of the games seen last year, many still remaining without any release dates, a lack of new and exciting titles, and a feeling that something was missing, marked the presentation. By the way, I’m not considering the sound issues, these things happen.

Starting with Naughty Dog and Guerrilla was a smart move, but an Uncharted stand alone game and Horizon DLC doesn’t really hype up the audience. Destiny and Call of Duty being part of it isn’t a surprise, after all, both are expected to be the biggest sellers of the year, but none had an exciting showing.

The same can be said of Monster Hunter World and Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, that looks very strange, with last-gen graphics, especially when compared with Street Fighter V and the superb Injustice 2. I have to say that I was surprised that they mentioned VR, with a good number of games, although they still feel more like tech demos than full-fledged games. Please, let’s stop releasing Skyrim on every platform, compared to more modern titles, it doesn’t look great, neither graphically, nor mechanically.

The one surprise of the presentation was the remake of Shadow of the Colossus, that looks incredible, but this one is on me, I can’t muster any excitement over a remake or remaster anymore. Detroit: Become Human is on the verge of saturation for me, it feels like I’ve seen this games more times than I needed too, and the lack of a release date doesn’t feel like a sign we’ll see it soon, probably next year.

God of War had a new trailer that highlighted the story and the relationship with Kratos and his son, what seems to be the part that the developers are giving the most attention to. The trailer itself was good, the story indeed looks intriguing, but the way it was cut was a little strange, I preferred last year’s gameplay chunk.

Days Gone

The best parts for me were the first gameplay reveal of Insomniac’s Spider-Man, and Days Gone, that after last year’s lukewarm presentation, they came out with an unexpected demo. Days Gone with a stunning demo finally gave us more on the background of the game, that may be very promising. God of War will be huge, but the prospect of a The Last of Us with an open world is something to look for. What looked like another zombie game that solely focused on action, now appears to one with a soul, highlighting human relationships, instead of waves of enemies. A game that I couldn’t care less about, became one I’ll keep my eye on, although Bend still hasn’t released anything that impressive.

Spider-Man is a beautiful title that based on the pedigree of the studio behind and what we saw, won’t disappoint. The combat is fluid, the world and the animations are beautiful, and the action set-piece was entertaining, reminding an Uncharted with a superhero as the main character. The high number of QTE’s can be troubling, but we’ll only find out next year, earlier than expected.

Bethesda

It started in a great way, with developers and their kids talking about what they did for a living and their excitement over games, something that was quite strange, as Bethesda’s game tend to be very violent, but it was fresh, funny and why not, cute. Then a video presentation started with great animation, showing the lineup of Bethesda, it was short, straight to the point, and very pleasant. However, the more I think about it, the less I like it.

Everything that was anticipated was there, Skyrim is coming out again, now in VR, Doom too, Elder Scrolls online, Legends were part of the presentation, but nothing that stood out. Quake legends appealed to the eSports side of the game. Dishonored DLC looked great, like every Dishonored trailer, with a very cool twist on the story, that may have some serious repercussion in the future of the franchise.

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The 2 surprises that ended up not surprising anybody, were the highlights. The Evil Within 2 had a very curious trailer that focused on the struggles of the leading character, the impact of his past on his life, and apparently, on his mind. With a beautiful soundtrack and a striking visual style, it showed great promise.

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus came with a long trailer that never ceased to amaze. The graphics are mesmerizing, the story fascinating. It’s nice to see that MachineGames appears to have improved on every area. The New Order was a great game, but The New Colossus may take the franchise a step further, with crazy characters, charismatic villains, and visceral action.

Microsoft

Unlike Bethesda, the more I think about Microsoft’s conference, the more I like it. When it ended I was completely deflated, mainly due to the lack of a massive AAA announcement of an exclusive for their new console, but pondering on what was presented, there were some very interesting games. Cuphead finally got a release date and a feature long awaited, OG Xbox backwards compatibility was announced.

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It started with the reveal of the Xbox One X, formerly known as Project Scorpio, that looks very slick in spite of being a lot more powerful than the original Xbox One, actually, it is smaller than the S model. The price is way too high, eliminating any chance to compete with the PS4 Pro, that may have fewer teraflops, but has better exclusives, let’s face it. Especially if multiplatform games don’t run that better on the X.

They promised to show more than 40 games, 22 exclusives, however many were timed exclusives, and others didn’t really impress the audience. Like The Newton Project and Lucky’s Tale, that felt generic and uninteresting. What was curious about the conference was that there were a significant number of good games, with a little bit for everybody, and that’s why I liked it.

First-party titles looked great, but nothing close to the size of a Halo or Gears. State of Decay 2 looks like an AAA title now, with many possibilities, although I would prefer a gameplay demo instead of the trailer shown, it felt a little long. Forza 7 is more beautiful than ever, it just didn’t make a lot of noise because everyone knew it would come out.

We saw Crackdown 3 after years of silence, bringing Terry Crews to the trailer, and the game, the letdown was that we didn’t see much of the title. Sea of Thieves had a much better showing than last year, with a mission that displayed the new features of the game, a little bit of the team aspect, finally revealing more about what it is all about.

Phil Spencer’s trip to Japan really worked out well for the company, a section was devoted to Japanese titles, with Dragon Ball Fighter Z standing out in a completely unexpected way.

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But the highlights for me were clearly The Last Night, an indie game that combines a beautiful world that resembles Blade Runner, using a pixel art aesthetic, attracting a lot of attention for its beauty and mysterious world. Assassin’s Creed Origins brought the franchise back to E3 after a year off, and it looked like that decision paid off, new features were shown, combat has changed, Egypt looks impressive, leaving some hope that the franchise might have a bright future ahead.

A Life is Strange prequel was revealed, and that was the moment in which I really got excited, in spite of the fact that Chloe’s voice actress has changed, it was nice to see the franchise being recognized on a big stage. And to finish things off, Anthem, the new Bioware IP had their gameplay reveal, and it looked amazing, maybe too beautiful at times. But the changes of gameplay that happened seamlessly were impressive, the world hypnotizing, it looked like a Destiny with a more fleshed out world and story.

Nintendo

I was baffled with how much I enjoyed Nintendo’s conference, given that I’m not somebody who really cares about their games or even consoles. The last one I had was a Super Nintendo, and for the first time since the SNES, I’m thinking about buying a console from them.

Their spotlight was short, effective, showed new games, and had a different feeling than the other companies had. The beginning was a little strange with a trailer focusing on the Switch, followed by Reggie Fils-Aime reflected on game and life, something that was funny, quickly proceeding to the games.

And here is where Nintendo always shines, their games don’t really have a story, but they have a trademark style. Starting with Xenoblade Chronicles 2, a huge RPG that is exclusive to the console, looking massive, diverse and beautiful. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle looks like XCOM for kids, with a stunning art style, and a gameplay that genuinely looks fun.

New games of Kirby, Yoshi were shown, with different mechanics that work around the genre they’re in. They talked more about Breath of the Wild’s DLC, shedding some light on what could be expected from now on. Two projects stole the show, a Pokémon RPG is coming to Switch, and we expect for it to be a massive game, and Metroid Prime 4, that appears to be at the very beginning of its development cycle.

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The grand finale was the bizarre Super Mario Odyssey, and how crazy is that game. Taking the approach of bigger worlds, we managed to see the game running for the first time, and it reminds 64 and Sunshine, with open landscapes, a looser experience. And the hat, that we finally understand why was highlighted, allowing you to possess the body of any character in the world, creating endless possibilities for puzzles, representing something new to the genre. As I said, it was short, there weren’t dozens of games, but the ones that were shown were meaningful projects, in an E3 that felt lukewarm.

Ubisoft

I might be biased as I tend to enjoy their conferences, and the company as a whole, they make mistakes but they look honest, and I feel that this year they showed that. What an improvement when compared to last year, instead of overly long demonstrations, we saw a much better-structured show, if it was sports, it would’ve gotten the most improved player award.

Just Dance didn’t have a long dance routine that would bore everybody, it was short and swift. The way it started was brilliant, bringing Shigeru Miyamoto to the stage to talk about Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, and to see the emotion and the passion of the developers was truly remarkable. Although the Rabbids can be very annoying at times, the presence of Mario balances that, in a game that looks delightful to play.

Assassin’s Creed Origins had a smaller presence, after appearing with an extended gameplay on Microsoft’s stage. Here was the strangest moment, when we were shown someone playing on a screen announcing a gameplay that would air after the conference, it just didn’t make any sense.

The Crew 2 was impressive, with many different styles of racing, planes, boats, cars, a beautiful world, and an Inception style effect. It feels like a much-improved title, looking like another case of Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs 2 syndrome.

Some moments didn’t land, South Park appeared again, an Elijah Wood project didn’t have a lot of details revealed, Steep has DLC, and a toys-to-life game was announced, long after the genre died.

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A new game based on pirate life, Skull & Bones, surprised the audience, looking like the Black Flag spin-off we were all waiting for. Naval battles with a multiplayer focus, in a beautiful world, and the possibility of creating a pirate squad, that’s not bad. Far Cry 5 continues to look like a significant improvement over Far Cry 4, that felt tired. More options to use NPC’s as part of the missions, hiring friends to help you, a world that responds to your actions, it appears to be a real sequel.

To end things off, they brought Beyond Good & Evil 2 back from the dead. With a new look, characters, feel, working as a prequel to Jade’s adventure. To see Michel Ansel tearing up on stage was truly special, it was nice to see that in such a rich industry you can see love for what they do. Whether we’ll actually play it we’re not sure, but it was great to see such a beloved franchise making a comeback, let’s hope that for good now.

A few things that caught my attention:

  • Every company is crazy to get their share of eSports.
  • Long gameplay demos became more scarce, it feels that companies are preferring gameplay trailers.
  • Microsoft didn’t talk about new features and Game Pass.
  • Companies are looking to make open worlds more responsive, reacting to your actions, like in GTA V.
  • Some are taking the Nintendo approach, making the conferences shorter, usually lasting less than one hour, with minimal presence from executives, like Bethesda and Sony did.
  • Speaking of Sony, it was strange to see that Hidden Agenda, the new Supermassive project, was part of the pre-show, especially when their VR projects, that looked much worse, took the main stage. And it is intriguing to see the downfall of Gran Turismo, that was too a part of the pre-show. We’re talking about the highest-selling franchise Sony has, and it is astonishing that it wasn’t part of the main show.

 

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Scalebound is Another Example Why Microsoft Can’t Have Their “PSX”

This week Scalebound, one of the most expected exclusives of this year on the Xbox platform, was cancelled after more than 4 years of development. Being another exclusive that was announced by Microsoft and didn’t come to fruition in this generation, like Fable Legends, Phantom Dust.

This year’s lineup that didn’t really looked as appealing as in years past now is even weaker. And to me, that’s another example why the Xbox brand doesn’t have the power to have their “PSX”.

For the past three years, PlayStation has organized the PlayStation Experience, a.k.a. PSX, and fans of Xbox have been clamoring for a similar event. Despite using my XONE as my main platform, I just can’t agree with this idea, and the cancellation of Scalebound is a perfect example why, along with many other reasons, such as:

Lack of Strong First-Party Exclusives

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Scalebound was just another example of Microsoft’s policy of using third-party studios to produce their exclusives. And even though a lot of them were excellent titles, like KOTOR, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Ninja Gaiden, Alan Wake, just to name a few, they don’t feel as part of the Xbox brand.

A lot of them never went on to become a franchise associated with the console, going to PlayStation later. All due to a pale number of first-party studios compared to their competitors. And even the amazing indies of the Summer of Arcade age can be played everywhere else, losing any identity with the console.

Inability of Creating Memorable Franchises

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When the game in the image above was announced, a lot of people, including me, thought that it was a new IP and not a revival of Phantom Dust, an obscure Xbox exclusive that is unknown to most gamers. Watching PSX’s conference you could see people cheering for games such as Parappa the Rapper, LocoRoco, Patapon, Dangaronpa, receiving a warm reception in spite of never being huge franchises.

If feels like the Xbox consoles don’t have those smaller, unusual, artistic games that appealed to a hardcore audience, like Journey, Shadow of the Colossus. Having only Halo, Gears, Forza, the now in the limbo, Fable as their trademark franchises, whereas Sony has many cult hits over the years that created a fandom that is extremely faithful to the PlayStation brand.

Something that Microsoft has been unable to do, and we see that in sales numbers, with 4 active PS franchises (Uncharted, Gran Turismo, Ratchet & Clank, God of War) selling over 20 million copies, and only 2 from Xbox (Halo and Gears of War), with no new franchise in sight as a possible massive hit.

No Recognition of Third-Party Games as Theirs

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When you think about Final Fantasy, Metal Gear, Destiny, more recently Resident Evil 7, you end up thinking about PlayStation. With many having no idea that titles of these franchises have been released for Xbox consoles, and in this specific generation it feels stronger than ever. Sony has been able to attach their name to a game so strongly that the audience reacts to them as a first-party title, all due to a successful use of marketing agreements, and titles that were part of the establishment of their brand.

Scalebound was an expected title because it looked like something that the Xbox One doesn’t really have, an exclusive AAA JRPG. In this generation, many of XONE exclusives didn’t take off like Sunset Overdrive for example, and it feels like more games are being cancelled than released.

A large-scale fan event from Microsoft would be great, but unfortunately, the Xbox brand doesn’t have the variety and the franchise power than their competitors have. Like Nintendo and Sony do, and yes, they have more time in this market, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that without Halo, that doesn’t have the same impact as it used to, and Gears, that went through a soft reboot, a Xbox console may fail due to a lack of a established history with gamers.

 

 

The Game Awards 2016 Predictions

Now a tradition, The Game Awards, the biggest awards show in the gaming industry, is upon us, and we can expect some surprise announcements and an Overwatch/Uncharted domination. And this year, that felt a little bit underwhelming, with some of the biggest titles disappointing, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End with 8 nominations, is leading the pack.

Inside, Overwatch and Firewatch have 5 nominations each, with a total of 63 games being nominated overall. And here I’ll try to guess the winners, and in some cases, talk about my personal favorites.

PS: Some categories are not here because I don’t have enough knowledge of the candidates.

Here are the nominees:

GAME OF THE YEAR

For a game that delivers the absolute best experience across all creative and technical fields.

  • Doom (id Software/Bethesda)
  • Inside (Playdead)
  • Overwatch (Blizzard)
  • Titanfall 2 (Respawn/Electronic Arts)
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

If I had to guess

overwatch1280jpg-6daa73_1280w

Overwatch took the world by storm, destroyed the competition, and was critically acclaimed due to the successful combination of smooth gameplay, charismatic characters, great maps and a strong community. All of that with 1 game mode, being extremely addictive, with a foundation so firm that the lack of a single player campaign hasn’t affected the game, something that others like Titanfall, Star Wars Battlefront couldn’t. But if had to choose I’d vote for Uncharted 4, and I don’t understand what Doom is doing here.

BEST GAME DIRECTION

Recognizing a game studio for outstanding creative vision, game direction and design.

  • Blizzard (for Overwatch)
  • Dice (for Battlefield 1)
  • id Software (for Doom)
  • Naughty Dog (for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End)
  • Respawn (for Titanfall 2)

If I had to guess

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Again Overwatch is the probable winner again, giving Blizzard another award, mainly due to how all the elements work well, the design of the characters, which is just outstanding. The gameplay is spot on, being fast and easy to understand but hard to master, and the ability to create an addictive multiplayer-only game is something to be praised.

BEST NARRATIVE

For outstanding storytelling and narrative development in a game.

  • Firewatch (Campo Santo)
  • Inside (Playdead)
  • Mafia III (Hangar 13/2K)
  • Oxenfree (Night School Studio)
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog/SIE)

If I had to guess

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Inside from Playdead is one of those games that you just have to play, the way the complex story is told is simply amazing, without any words. All through smart design, with the world being responsible for it, allied to the use of imagery, being an example that a picture is worth a thousand words. My choice would be Mafia 3, given the importance of the plot especially nowadays, and for making it stand out despite the weak gameplay and repetitive missions.

BEST ART DIRECTION

For outstanding creative and technical achievement in artistic design and animation.

  • Abzu (Giant Squid/505)
  • Firewatch (Campo Santo)
  • Inside (Playdead)
  • Overwatch (Blizzard)
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog/SIE)

If I had to guess

uncharted-4-africa

A testament to the level of quality that Naughty Dog has achieved, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is breathtaking, with amazing vistas, varied locales. An attention to every single detail, every expression of Nate and Elena, they way they interact with objects, Uncharted 4 is a true example of masterful design. If Inside wins, it is fair, the way Playdead uses design is unique, as it’s an important part of storytelling.

BEST MUSIC/SOUND DESIGN

For outstanding audio, inclusive of score, original song, licensed soundtrack and sound design.

  • Battlefield 1 (DICE/EA)
  • Doom (id/Bethesda)
  • Inside (Playdead)
  • Rez Infinite (Enhance Games)
  • Thumper (Drool)

If I had to guess

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DICE created a Battlefield that has surpassed any expectations especially due to a meaningful campaign. And a significant part of that success came from an exquisite sound design, from the melancholic soundtrack that was simple yet beautiful, to the individual noise of every weapon, enhancing the experience of being in the battlefield. I missed seeing Mafia 3 here, after all, it had an incredible soundtrack, but you can’t get everything.

BEST PERFORMANCE

Awarded to an individual for voice-over acting, motion and/or performance capture.

  • Alex Hernandez as Lincoln Clay, Mafia III
  • Cissy Jones as Delilah, Firewatch
  • Emily Rose as Elena, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Nolan North as Nathan Drake, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
  • Rich Summer as Henry, Firewatch
  • Troy Baker as Sam Drake, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End

If I had to guess

uncharted-4

All actors in this category did a great job in their roles, with Uncharted 4’s standing out, mainly due to the “end” of the franchise. And Nolan North is expected to win, not only because it was his last time playing Nathan, but also because he did without ever sounding cheesy, bringing a lot of charisma and quality to one of the flagship characters of recent years.

BEST INDEPENDENT GAME

For outstanding achievement in a game made outside the traditional publisher system.

  • Firewatch (Campo Santo)
  • Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine)
  • Inside (Playdead)
  • Stardew Valley (ConcernedApe/Chucklefish Games)
  • The Witness (Thelka, Inc.)

If I had to guess

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In a year filled with indies that far surpassed the quality of many of the most expected AAA titles, Inside brought something unique to the market. An emotional, brutal, thought-provoking game that actually was far superior than anybody expected, especially working as a follow-up for Limbo. Despite The Witness’ superb gameplay ideas and innovations, it didn’t have the same impact as Inside did.

BEST ACTION GAME

For the best game experience focused around first or third person combat.

  • Battlefield 1 (DICE/EA)
  • Doom (id Software/Bethesda Softworks)
  • Gears of War 4 (The Coalition/Microsoft Studios)
  • Overwatch (Blizzard)
  • Titanfall 2 (Respawn/EA)

If I had to guess

titanfall-2

Given the nomination for game of the year, if Titanfall 2 doesn’t win this category it will sure be strange, especially since Overwatch might dominate the show. Bringing a revered campaign, that surprised critics and gamers alike, Titanfall 2 also brought new and creative situations in the tired FPS genre, unfortunately receiving less attention that it deserved because of a strange decision regarding the release date.

BEST ACTION/ADVENTURE GAME

For the best game experience that combines combat with traversal and puzzle solving.

  • Dishonored 2 (Arkane Studios/Bethesda Softworks)
  • Hitman (IO Interactive/Square-Enix)
  • Hyper Light Drifter (Heart Machine)
  • Ratchet & Clank (Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End (Naughty Dog/Sony Interactive Entertainment)

If I had to guess

dishonored-2

Even though my gut feeling says that Uncharted will win another category, my mind says that Dishonored 2 might steal it from Naughty Dog’s title. Reviews have been praising Dishonored for its world building, characters, story, with many considering it their game of the year. And despite Uncharted 4 quality, it definitely isn’t the best in the franchise, and its campaign had some issues.

BEST RPG

The best game designed for rich player character customization and progression, both offline and online, including massively multiplayer.

  • Dark Souls 3 (FromSoftware/Bandai Namco Entertainment)
  • Deus Ex: Mankind Divided (Eidos Montreal/Square-Enix)
  • The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt — Blood and Wine (CD Projekt RED)
  • World of Warcraft: Legion (Blizzard)
  • Xenoblade Chronicles X (Monolith Soft/Nintendo)

If I had to guess

dark-souls-3

In a weak year for RPG’s, with an expansion (that really is incredible) being nominated, Dark Souls 3 was a beautiful finish to one of the most beloved franchises. More beautiful than ever, DS3 took advantage of the PS4 and XONE, to bring a more interesting world, and impressive bosses, maintaining the level of quality and ending this saga in a very satisfying manner.

BEST FAMILY GAME

Best game for family play, including toys-to-life, rhythm/music/dance, and other genres.

  • Dragon Quest Builders (Square Enix)
  • Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens (TT Fusion/WBIE)
  • Pokemon Go (Niantic)
  • Ratchet & Clank (Insomniac Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Skylanders: Imaginators (Toy for Bob/Activision)

If I had to guess

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An insanely beautiful game that worked as a reboot, Ratchet & Clank astonished everybody for its capacity to change the story whilst keeping its spirit. Breathtaking places, a funny and compelling cast, Imsoniac’s trademark arsenal of imaginative weapons, bringing color and fun to an industry filled with violence and grit, and being family friendly without being boring.

BEST SPORTS/RACING

For traditional and non-traditional sports and racing games.

  • FIFA 17 (EA Canada/EA Sports)
  • Forza Horizon 3 (Playground Games/Microsoft Studios)
  • MLB The Show 16 (SCE San Diego Studio/SIE)
  • NBA 2K17 (Visual Concepts/2K Sports)
  • Pro Evolution Soccer 2017 (PES Productions/Konami)

If I had to guess

Forza Horizon 3 City Skyline

I know NBA wins every year, and 2K17 is an amazing entry, but Forza Horizon 3 deserves to win this year. Playground Games’ recreation of Australia is just outstanding, allowing the player to cruise through the Outback, Surfer’s paradise in one of the most beautiful games of this generation. And the level of customization, from creating championships and challenges, to the visual of the cars, is unlike any other.

BEST MULTIPLAYER

For outstanding online multiplayer gameplay and design, including co-op and massively multiplayer experiences.

  • Battlefield 1 (DICE/EA)
  • Gears of War 4 (The Coalition/Microsoft Studios)
  • Overcooked (Ghost Town Games/Team 17)
  • Overwatch (Blizzard)
  • Titanfall 2 (Respawn/EA)
  • Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (Ubisoft Montreal/Ubisoft)

If I had to guess

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I would love to see overcooked winning, it is one of those special games that reminds me of the days of couch co-op. But Gears 4 also manages to do that, with off and online co-op in the campaign, a great multiplayer, that feels like a greatest hits of the older Gears games, and a revamped Horde Mode that on its own deserves to win this category.

MOST ANTICIPATED GAME

An upcoming game that has shown significant ambition and promise in moving the gaming medium forward.

  • God of War (Santa Monica Studio/Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Horizon: Zero Dawn (Guerrilla Games/Sony Interactive Entertainment)
  • Mass Effect: Andromeda (Bioware/EA)
  • Red Dead Redemption 2 (Rockstar Games)
  • The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Nintendo)

If I had to guess

red-dead-2

This one seems like the easiest one, given the sheer level of excitement that this picture caused. With commotion around the world, the announcement of Red Dead Redemption 2 was one of the biggest stories of the year, and despite the lackluster reveal trailer, there’s no doubt that this is the most anticipated game of 2017.

 

 

Why You Should Play: Forza Horizon 1 & Forza Horizon 2

I’ve always been a huge fan of racing games, with that being one of my favorite genres, from Super Mario Kart, to Top Gear on the SNES, to Gran Turismo 2, NFS: Underground 1 & 2. But as I got my Xbox 360 I felt like I couldn’t find good racing games, I became a orphan of Gran Turismo, since I never had the PS3, and ever since the Underground series ended and the Need For Speed series started releasing title like Undercover, I didn’t have fun with the genre, with the exception of Burnout Paradise. Enters the Forza Horizon series.

But why should you play Forza Horizon and Forza Horizon 2?

Forza Horizon

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In 2012, the first entry of the series, Forza Horizon, was released, and after years of lackluster arcade racing games, a new studio formed by former Project Gotham Racing, Codemasters veterans, introduced us to a spin-off title that deviated from the main series in the best way possible.

The story was very simple, you are a novice racer looking to become the No. 1 driver of the Horizon Festival, a mix of a car show and a music festival in Colorado. And little by little you evolve, unlocking new races, earning XP, money, and recognition, changing the color of your wrist band as you progress, being rewarded not only for coming first as well for the style and skills you exhibit in each race, as well as in free roaming.

The garage had a very  nice number of options, from Range Rovers, to Jeeps, Ferraris, and an interesting customization system, that was greatly improved on the sequel, all being done, purchase of cars, paint shop, in the hub of the festival.

When it comes to races you have the option of normal ones, underground races, where you can make a lot more money, and exhibitions, where you race against a plane, balloons, just to name a few, in a nice twist that brought something new to a genre that lacks innovations sometimes. An interesting decision by the developers was of creating “rivals”, with famous drivers of the festival trash talking you before every race, and giving you a financial boost if you beat them.

forza-horizon-1

Despite being located in only one place, you have a nice variation of scenarios, from mountains to small towns, with a beautiful game, that still holds up, that runs smoothly. Different from the Motorsport series, here you also have a more laid back approach to driving, with the game leaning more towards Arcade, leaving a lot of possibilities to change the assists, making more money and more XP as you turn them off.

And everything is enhanced by my favorite soundtrack ever found in a game, being better than the sequel’s. Going from indie rock, to electronic, pop, being extremely varied, and so good that you can even use it at a party, playing a huge role in creating this amazing environment, where you can just relax and just drive around the map, enjoying the views, the day-night cycle, going after special cars that are hidden in barns, finding outposts where you can do challenges, never being out of things to do.

Forza Horizon 2

forza-horizon-2-rain

In 2014, Playground Games elevated the level with the release of Forza Horizon 2, bringing many innovations, being the first title of this generation. The story was pretty similar to the first one, but we don’t really play these games because of it, once again with an underdog story, but in a new location.

The graphical upgrade was significant, with the cars looking better than ever, using assets from Motorsport 5, an even greater number of models, with the premiere of Porches, and expanded customization options, all aided by one of the best locations you’re gonna find in any game, the Mediterranean sea, expanding between the Italian and the French coasts. With the world becoming a character of its own, being a real open world, adding rain, a first for the Forza series, looking simply incredible, as well as off-road races in which you can destroy fences, drive through beautiful fields, go pretty much anywhere, all with stunning vistas, that motivated me to stop and use a game’s photo mode for the first time.

getphoto-8

Races are now part of championships, that you need to finish a certain number to challenge the best Horizon Festival driver, with every city having championships that were separated by car styles, against drivatars, ghosts that emulate your friends style of driving, that are much better than those in Forza Motorsport 5. And every time you finish a championship you can choose another city to go and start a new one, but as you go there you go through a road trip with other drivers, having a specific amount of time, always more than enough, to get there and earn a substantial amount of XP, being a nice way to just enjoy a calmer experience in between races.

And each time you level up in the game you earn something, if it’s due to XP gained by wins in championships and exhibitions, you can do a wheelspin, where you can win cars or a specific amount of money. If you level up due to skill displays, you earn points that allow you to unlock perks, like a boost in XP after each win, or a bigger duration of the skill chain, including others.

The exhibitions reached a whole new level, with one being a race of a Ferrari against jets, as seen in the picture above, always being crazier and more interesting than the previous. A new system called Bucket List was also added, with challenges where you have to use your skills to beat them, with different levels of difficulty, trying to outplay your rivals, as well as  the developers.

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The musical side became even more important, with new radios, including one of classical music, reflecting the beauty of the world, with an upbeat feeling, and bands like Chvrches, Pixies, Cage The Elephant, including others. Multiplayer got a lot of attention, becoming easier to find people to play with the addition of Clubs, Meet-ups, and allowing you to take road trips online, all working seamlessly and simpler than in Forza Horizon.

Both games are not only great racing titles, they truly are great games overall, being varied, beautiful, a true joy to play, incredibly fun, aligning gameplay and graphics like few do out there, never harming one in benefit of the other, and working as a great way to just get lost and forget about everything, being friendly to both veterans in the genre as to newcomers.

 

 

 

 

Halo Wars 2 Open Beta Impressions

I’ve never been much of a strategy gamer, with it being one of the genres that I always had interest but the games I’ve tried often felt overwhelming, with Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 being one of the few that I really spent a lot of time playing, and actually had a great time doing it, in part due to the tongue-in-cheek story and the ease of understanding the systems, and thinking of that I decided to give it a try at Halo Wars 2’s open beta, here are some impressions.

The beta begins with a video tutorial explaining the basics of the game, such as the controls, how to select troops, issue orders, improve your base, allocate points, how the attack system works and how to use the menus, after this you get to play the only mode available, 2v2 team deathmatch, that consists on controlling the map, called Domination, and attacking your enemy bases, you can choose between Captain Cutter or Atriox, with an infantry or a grunt squad as your beginning squad.

The attack scheme works in a very interesting way, using a rock-paper-scissor system, in which the infantry loses to vehicles, vehicles to air and air to infantry, with some units countering others, with more advanced units being unlocked as you improve your base, creating an easy to play and hard to master structure, that makes it more understandable for a novice in the genre.

Speaking of improving the base, it can be upgraded in many ways, such as developing its armory, supply drop, generator, amongst other things, developing the capacity of generating energy, that can also be harvested dominating Forerunner energy sources, better units, weapons, with more unlockables as you increase your tech level.

The gameplay flows very well, with the controls working surprisingly well given the limitations of the controller, as usual the map lightens as your units move, displaying new areas and possibilities, the map has a good size, without making combats seem convoluted, through it you can mine for resources and control energy towers to improve your command center, with empty designated areas where you can build bases, and as combat happens you earn commander points that you can allocate in a perks tree, where you unlock special perks, such as a turret or ODST soldiers drop, MED drones in the battlefield.

Since it’s a beta there were some issues, with problems in match loading, ending unexpectedly, but what caught my eye was how beautiful the game was, from small details such as the wind on the flags, or the way how impressive the shadows look, for example when they leave the base at night, how the headlights light the dark, to the particles that flood the screen when the battle begins.

It may not be my cup of tea, but Halo Wars 2 looks like a worthy addition to the already great Xbox exclusives lineup, especially in a genre that doesn’t receive a lot of titles in the console market, with XCOM 2 as the other release, unfortunately we didn’t get a glimpse on the single player, but from what I saw from the multiplayer, Halo Wars 2 may make the fans of strategy games very happy.

Why Sony always steals the show at E3

It’s been 1 week since the press conferences of E3 2016, enough time for the news to sink in, and one thing seems to be the unanimity, that despite the fact of Microsoft having a strong showing, the best show came from Sony, even though most of the games didn’t have any release date, while Microsoft showed projects that in their majority are a few months from release, but why does that happen?

I spent a few days reflecting about it, and I could only come to one conclusion,  the fact Sony has the capacity to appeal to a gamer’s heart in a way that the other companies just can’t replicate.

After the backlash of the fans during the PS3 generation, especially in the beginning, Sony came with a different mindset to this generation, with the mantra of focusing on the gamers, and this strategy has paid off beautifully in the past few years, as we can see on their latest conferences.

And the main reason why they managed to pull this off is mainly due to the company’s rich history and relationship with the consumers, a history with a wealth of remarkable franchises that only Nintendo can go up against, but with the difference that Mario’s company franchises appears to have lost their appeal with hardcore gamers, whilst Sony has from God of War to Parappa The Rapper to The Last of Us, with more than 20 years in the market.

Although Microsoft has successfully established its brand on the gaming market, with the Xbox, they lack the history necessary to make a huge impact on E3, and we saw that when they tried to revive Phantom Dust, a game that only the most hardcore Xbox fan would know, and that didn’t cause any commotion when announced, or Battletoads, that has been teased for years but wouldn’t have the same impact as the recently announced Crash remaster, that with one song made the audience and me go crazy.

The company’s biggest franchise, Halo, is starting suffer of fatigue, with each game since Bungie’s departure becoming less and less important, Gears is having a new entry that has seemed to spark the love for franchise after Judgement, and with new IP’s for the Xbox One having a mild success, despite great reception, such as Sunset Overdrive, being critically acclaimed but only having moderate sales, and an apparent lack of interest of Microsoft on Rare’s franchises.

While Sony has been since the starting point of this generation a customer-friendly company, with a gamer’s first approach, as seen in 2013, when they shot directly at Xbox One’s restrictive features, as seen here:

Since 2015 they chose to use their conferences to fulfill old dreams of gamers worldwide, reviving games that only they would be able to do, beginning last year’s show announcing the comeback of the long dormant The Last Guardian, the long-awaited FF7 remake and the partnership in the Kickstarter of Shenmue 3, and even if not all of them are exclusives, they present the Playstation as the main platform to do experience it.

In 2016, presenting a new God of War, regarded by many as the game of the show, as mentioned before, a comeback of Crash, the new Resident Evil, compatible with PS VR, the release date of The Last Guardian, 3 promising new IP’s, Days Gone, Horizon Zero Dawn and Detroit, bringing Kojima back to the big stage after his departure from Konami in big fashion and the announcement of an exclusive Spider Man game.

And let’s not forget Playstation Experience, an event focused on the hardcore fans, that are the backbone behind the incredible success of the PS4, and that’s the main reason why the company has revived the brand, because they understood the consumers desires,  and most importantly met their expectations, with games that we don’t know when we’ll play, but that appeal to us, something that their competitors seem to struggle, with Nintendo releasing consoles that don’t focus on hardcore gamers, and Microsoft changing their approach only when Phil Spencer took control of the Xbox division, forgetting about entertainment and focusing on games and creating unique experiences.

E3 Highlights

This was a very fascinating year for E3, with many leaks diminishing the excitement regarding some conferences, but with some great surprises and rumours confirmed but sometimes not as reported before, here are some of my personal highlights and low points of the show.

What was great

The orchestra at Sony conference

Even though most of the games didn’t have a proper release date as some complained, it was a real show for fans, being considered by many as the best one, and the orchestra was a big part of that, creating an environment of an event, of something really grandiose, enhancing  the gameplays and showing that to make a great conference you don’t need to focus on the technology but on putting on a show for the viewers, and they were extremely successful at it.

Horizon Zero Dawn

My most anticipated game prior to E3, Guerrilla Games presented us a demo of Horizon that only made my confidence in the quality of this game bigger, giving a sneak peek of the world, the wildlife, the way the robots are seen as corrupted, and a little bit about the leading character, Aloy, played by Ashly Burch, that did an amazing job as Chloe in Life is Strange, showing a strong, fearless woman on a quest for her origin, with amazing graphics and a world that seems to have some very enticing secrets.

Forza Horizon 3

One of my favorite franchises, with Forza Horizon 2 being my favorite racing game in years, Forza Horizon 3 had an amazing showing in the Microsoft conference, with a beautiful environment, using Australia as the setting, with a huge variety of landscapes, from beaches to forests, with breathtaking graphics and some very interesting innovations with off-road racing, co-op, and a world that seems more lively and even more relaxed.

Prey

A long rumoured return happened in Bethesda conference, with the revival of Prey, being a complete reboot of the franchise, with a Groundhog Day style trailer, that started very mysteriously, and with so many questions, such as the red-eye, the what it seems to be the leading character’s Doppelganger, turning Prey into a modern FPS with horror elements.

Spider-man PS4

Confirming rumours an exclusive PS4 game of the Friendly Neighborhood Spider-man is coming, but unlike reported it will come from Insomniac Games, the studio behind Ratchet & Clank franchise and the amazing Sunset Overdrive, with a trailer that made every Spidey fan around the world go crazy and happy to know that the character is in good hands after years of mediocre games.

Crash

Crash

After years of expectation and requests by the Bandicoot fans, Crash returned in great fashion in Sony conference, and I have to say when that song started playing I had a smile on my face, with the announcement of his participation in Skylanders and the best one, a complete remaster, from the ground up, of the first 3 titles of the franchise to the PS4.

Resident Evil 7

Another confirmed rumour was of Resident Evil 7, at Sony stage, but as it turns out it surprised everybody with a trailer that was surprising, especially because it didn’t show any characters, places, nothing that reminded the franchise, with a release date announcement, a demo, the surprise that Capcom’s Kitchen Demo that was highly praise was a concept test to the game, and the biggest one, the fact that it’s compatible with VR and is now in first-person.

We Happy Few

An indie game that has garnered attention for a while received a demo as the biggest title in the ID@Xbox program, with a look that reminds of Bioshock, in a presentation that perfectly displayed the world of the game, and a little bit more of the story, in which pills that were supposed to make the characters happy, seem to make them “blind” to the horrors of the world, being regarded in the media as one of the best games, stealing the show.

Gears of War 4

The biggest title this year in Microsoft’s lineup, Gears of War 4 did a great job with a demo that successfully showed the game’s innovations, the use of Xbox One power with stunning visuals and a weather effect that really affected the battlefield, a different use of the co-op, a better look on Kait Diaz, played by the brilliant Laura Bailey, and served as a statement that the franchise is in good hands.

Kojima

Kojima

After the tumultuous departure from Konami, and the announcement of the partnership with Sony, legendary designer, Hideo Kojima, took the stage lauded by the audience, showing he was back presenting the trailer of his first project with the company, Death Stranding, full of symbolism, and the unexpected reunion with Norman Reedus after the debacle of the Silent Hills project.

Watch Dogs 2

Part of the amazing but overly long Ubisoft presentation, Watch Dogs 2 showed a gameplay demo that showed that Ubisoft’s second entry improvement happened here, with a leading character having an appealing character, instead of Aiden Pierce, a world better realized, beautiful but believable graphics, and a mission that seemed like a real upgrade from Watch Dogs stale structure.

What was horrible

Since I don’t hate people, I won’t put any videos of the worst moments of the event.

EA’s conference

What an anticlimactic way of beginning E3, a presentation that was a real snoozefest, with the long esports segment taking precious time and not appealing to the audience, the lack of real games, with projects we’ll only see 2018, 2019, the infamous developers mini documentaries, and no real news of much-anticipated games and almost no gameplays.

Lack of gameplays

Speaking of gameplays, a worrying trend that happened during EA’s and Bethesda’s conferences was the lack of gameplays, with both companies favouring concept and CGI trailers to real gameplay, creating presentations that seemed like a look at the future and that had some very underwhelming moments in part due to no real exciting gameplay of anticipated games like Mass Effect Andromeda and Amy Hennig’s Star Wars.

So Much Talking

One of the reasons why Sony was so successful was the fact that they only focused on games, whilst some conferences focused on talking, on an event in which we want to see games and games only, from Ubisoft’s long interviews, the long Assassin’s Creed movie conversation, behind the scenes footage, EA’s talking of future projects, esports, the specifications of console and Xbox Live new features talk at Microsoft, moments that could have been used to display new projects were used to moments when viewers lost attentions.

Boring and overly long demos

One of my favorite conferences was the one from Ubisoft, but one thing that everybody agreed was the fact that their demos were too long, clocking over 2 hours, with more than 10 minutes at times, and moment that didn’t appear to work well together as in South Park demo, the disconnected Dishonored 2 demo, that seemed that drag the duration of the conference, creating an underwhelming ending for a good show, and the demos of FF XV, Scalebound, that didn’t create any excitement during the demos despite of the grandiose set pieces or as in Minecraft, that seemed too forced.

 

 

E3 Expectations (Part 1)

It’s the best time of the year for gamers, our “Super Bowl”, “Christmas”, E3 has arrived and it begins today with EA’s and Bethesda’s conferences, and what can we expect from this year’s event? New hardware? The beginning of the end for E3? Surprises? Or just leaks confirmations? We’ll discuss here what we wish we’ll see there.

EA

Known for playing it safe and rarely presenting any surprises, this year seems like another opportunity for the company to show gameplays and possible minor changes in their franchises, what to expect:

Battlefield 1 gameplay: In last month reveal event we had a taste of the game, with a very interesting trailer, but with little gameplay and even though it was in-engine, it doesn’t mean that showed the real graphics capability of the game, and it will be nice to better understand how the close combat scenario will work in the franchise.

Mass Effect Andromeda reveal: After being in development for more than 5 years, it looks like we’ll have a first look of how the gameplay, world, graphics have changed after being built from the ground up to this generation, especially after some leaked videos showing some interesting innovations like a jetpack, and the possibilities brought by a new galaxy and a new leading character.

Fifa 17 changes: The first game of EA’s sports games to use the Frostbite, they’ll probably show how it’s has changed being powered by a new engine, and a possible reveal of the long rumoured reimagined career story mode.

Amy Hennig’s Star Wars: In a recent interview, Jade Raymond, head of Motive, that has been working with Visceral in Amy Hennig’s Star Wars project, said that the game still was a few years ahead, but we can hope that EA will at least show a teaser trailer of the project, expected to be released in Fall 2017, especially due to the high expectations the market has towards the game.

Titanfall 2 campaign: Despite being a great first entry for a franchise, Titanfall suffered for not having a campaign to explain the world behind the maps, and producers of the sequel promised a real campaign, that has been bringing a lot of expectations to it, most notably because of the team behind it, responsible for Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare’s revolutionary campaign.

Bioware’s new franchise: A story that baffled the media happened a few months ago, when a Bioware was wearing a shirt that revealed the studio’s new IP, and to his own amusement, nobody realized it, and even though it may be a long shot, there’s a possibility it could be teased in Sunday’s conference.

IndiEA: After Unravel’s success, getting a sequel, we might see new indie project from the publisher, especially a reveal of the announced game the Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons creators.

New Skate (Please): It’s a long shot but we can alway hope, the best skated franchise in the marked, sorry Tony Hawk, deserves a new sequel produced to this generation that can’t be represented on the skate genre by Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 5.

Bethesda

After being the surprise conference of last year, being regarded by many as the best, Bethesda surprisingly returns with another conference that despite not having a lot to show in the beginning, in the past week had some very surprising rumours about:

Dishonored 2 world premiere: The game will be shown for the first time after an enticing CG trailer, the sequel to a successful new IP, both critically and commercially, it promises to be even bigger and more impressive than the first one, with 2 protagonists, a bigger world and new ways to go through each mission.

Possible Skyrim remaster: After being longed by the franchises fans, it looks like we’ll finally see a Skyrim remaster to this generation, and this rumour came from a reliable industry insider, and it doesn’t seem too far-fetched, especially because Fallout 4 team remastered the title to become used with this generation machines.

Evil Within 2: Since the release of Evil Within, Tango Gameworks hasn’t released any news regarding a new project, and rumours floated claiming that a sequel might be presented in the company conference.

Wolfenstein 2: With the successful revival of the franchise, it might be a perfect time for a sequel announcement, since it’s been more than 2 years since The New Order’s release, MachineGames has released an expansion pack, The Old Blood, and a possible sequel might be revealed with a date for beginning of 2017.

Prey 2 Rebirth: Revealed in 2011, Prey 2 had an impressive reveal a few years ago presenting a beautiful game with a fast-paced gameplay in an open-world, but as far as we know the project was cancelled, according to rumours because of an impossibility of achieving the same quality in the game as in the demo, but according to an industry insider, the game will come back in this year’s conference, and using a more powerful machine the developers may have finally reached what they aspired at first.

Microsoft

Amidst reports of new hardware, Microsoft still needs to show a strong presentation, specially after Sony’s last year conference focusing on fan service, revealing games long requested by gamers.

New hardware: Still not confirmed by the company, reports claim that the company will show 2 new models of the Xbox One, a slim one with 2TB, and a more powerful one, as the PS4 Neo, codenamed Scorpio, due to release in 2017, as well as a streaming device, under the leadership of Phil Spencer we suppose they’ll have a smoother presentation than the infamous Xbox One reveal event.

Gears of War 4 and Halo Wars 2: The 2 biggest Xbox franchises are scheduled to appear in the conference will a new gameplay o GOW 4, hoping to clear the bad impression left by last year’s demo, and the first gameplay footage of Halo Wars 2, that’s being produced by the studio that produces Total War, regarded as one of the best strategy games of the market, as well as the announcement of an open beta, with both games expected to be part of the Fall lineup of the company.

Forza Horizon 3: Speaking of Fall, a new Forza game will be announced, and if they follow their pattern, Forza Horizon 3 will be announced as another Fall game, with a possible Australian Coast setting, serving as a follow-up to a beautiful Mediterranean setting in the great Forza Horizon 2, as well as new innovations to the franchise.

Rare presence: After a trailer that caught the eyes of long time fans of the studio, Sea of Thieves is set to make a return to the E3 stage, showing gameplay footage of the Pirate open world MMO game, that was highly praised as a possible comeback to Rare’s old days, another possibility, but with a smaller chance is of the reveal of another project from the English studio, possibly a Battletoads revival or a new Banjo game, specially after the latest Yooka-Laylee trailer showing signs that it may happen in the Banjo universe.

Recore and Crackdown: Present in last year’s conference, both games are expected to come back with Recore being shown after a quiet year since last year’s reveal of a CG trailer, with the expectation of the company showing gameplay of the mysterious game, and Crackdown is expected to show more about the its story and the impressive technology behind the game, creating a destructive environment like never seen before.

Red Read 3 and Dead Rising 4: Last week leaks of Dead Rising 4 surfaced with alleged Gamestop posters outing a new entry of zombie franchise being exclusive to Xbox One and PC, and a possibility that has gained force is of a Red Dead 3 reveal in the Xbox conference with a possible backward compatibility announcement attached to it, that has long been requested as one of the most desired by fans.