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: EA

This week E3 kicks off, with many expectations and a surprisingly low number of leaks, at least so far. The first company to take the stage will be EA, Saturday afternoon, with an apparent stronger lineup than last year, which was a very weak presentation, that had no surprises and little content. But what can we expect from them this year?

Bioware’s New IP and Maybe Something Mass Effect Related

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The Canadian studio has a tough road ahead of them. After the backlash suffered with Mass Effect Andromeda’s release, they need to try to take that bad taste of their consumers’ mouth, while working out a way to reveal their new IP.

And here they face a conundrum, since we’re talking about something completely new, they can’t wait that much to unveil their next project. If we were talking about a game based on a well-known franchise they could postpone the announcement. Being released next year, they need enough time for marketing to present it to the audience, having a least one year to do it. 6 months may work with Assassin’s Creed, Fallout, famous brands, but that won’t for something nobody never heard about before. Gamescom may be the last acceptable date for the reveal, but leaving the biggest show in the industry behind may be a very risky choice.

Mass Effect Andromeda’s lukewarm reception and subpar performance makes it much harder, creating a need to compensate for their mistakes, given that their name is a little tainted to fans. I’ll guess that they might announce that they are creating something for their fans, like for example a free story DLC revolving around a character from the old trilogy, like Wrex, to gain some goodwill.

It’s in the Game

As always, that’s a safe bet, there will be a segment focused on EA Sports and their profitable franchises. We may hear more about the continuation of Alex Hunter’s story in the Journey season 2, and how Madden is changing with the choice to use the Frostbite engine, and get a sneak peek of the story mode hinted at the reveal trailer of this year’s iteration.

Other than that, they’ll use the time to talk about their connection with eSports, how Ultimate Team is successful, more about NHL, NBA Live, and UFC 3, unveiling their cover athletes. Speaking of athletes, we can assume we’ll see some on stage talking a little about the game, maybe on NBA Live or UFC.

Need for Speed: Payback or Family (Your Choice)

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We’ll probably see the first gameplay, or a trailer that will talk about the story and the characters. There’s no doubt that the game will look simply incredible, but it needs to go beyond that to regain some of the love lost for the franchise. Leaving the always-online feature is a step in the right direction, but there needs to be more improvements, especially after the release of Forza Horizon 3 last year, possibly one of the best racing games ever.

Seeking inspiration from the Fast and Furious franchise is an interesting choice, after all, it is insanely successful, being very profitable. But focusing on amazing set pieces and a beautiful world isn’t enough, the gameplay must be finely tuned, leaving that drift camera, improving the feel of the cars, the map can’t be flooded with other cars who seem to aim yours all the time, and some landscape variety would be nice. Of course, they must create charismatic characters, something that racing games rarely do, and that the Fast and Furious franchise understood a long time ago.

Star Wars

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Most likely Star Wars Battlefront II will be the star of the show, and I’ll guess that they will start the show with a sneak peek of the campaign, showing a part of a mission, highlighting the main character, Iden Versio. They announced that 30 minutes before the press conference they will premiere a battle with 40 players, but that looks like multiplayer, and they have focused a lot on the campaign lately.

They might also talk about the state of the other games based on the franchise. Show a little glimpse of the Respawn project, but it would be interesting to finish the presentation with a teaser trailer of the project from Visceral, helmed by Amy Hennig, who is scheduled to be released between April 2018 – March 2019, probably in the Fall of 2018.

Some Predictions and 1 Crazy Thing I’d Like to See

  • Announcement of Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1 and backwards compatible titles coming to EA Access soon.
  • More EA Originals titles, Fe and Unravel 2 release date.
  • Teaser trailer for Motive’s new action IP.
  • Dragon Age 4 revealed on stage.
  • 1 Crazy Thing I’d Like: Skate 4 being shown on stage by the Hawkman, Tony Hawk, announcing a partnership with EA.

 

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.