18 Jun 2016

E3 2016: My Thoughts

With the recent Brexit vote and other real-life things getting in the way, I must apologise for the lateness of this post. The Electronic Entertainment Expo took place earlier this month, where game publishers advertise upcoming games, tech and merchandise. It's a big deal within the gaming world, and while it's an industry-only event, it's all livestreamed thanks to the power of the internet, allowing me to enjoy the show from the comfort of my bedroom. I'll now go on to discuss some of the games that left an impression on me.

Battlefield 1 (PC, XONE, PS4)


Battlefield is returning to the roots of modern warfare by featuring a World War One setting. The classic shooter has seen iterations across many different time periods, beginning with WW2, moving to Vietnam, futuristic and modern day settings, it looks like the 1910s will be a refreshing change of pace for the series.




From the small gameplay segments we saw, it was a battle somewhere in Europe taking place between the English and the Germans. The traditional Battlefield formula returns once again with a large array of weapons and vehicles. The destructive environments and wide open maps allow for large-scale, epic battles, and the variety in different theaters of war means the player may not ever feel exhausted from this setting.

I skipped out on the last few Battlefield games, but I think I might just pick this up and restart the series again.

Watch_Dogs 2 (PC, XONE, PS4)


Despite my earlier rant about the first Watch_Dogs, the sequel has me intrigued. I have to remain skeptical about Ubisoft games due to the fact that their previous games being downgraded after the initial E3 presentation, but this one doesn't seem like it will fall into that trap. For starters, it's only a few months away from release, compared to the years of waiting between the reveal and releases of games such as The Division, Rainbow Six: Siege, and Watch_Dogs.

Set in the San Francisco Bay area, you play as Marcus Holloway, a DedSec hacker working to take down the city's advanced surveillance system. The gameplay is similar to the first game; there's an open world that you can explore, with different kinds of technology to hack. Missions that involve infiltration can be completed aggressively by shooting enemies, or taking the stealthy approach by evading them. In the revealed gameplay footage, the developer shows off Marcus infiltrating an apartment to download information. Several different hacking methods were shown; an RC quadcopter was used to get closer to the building without being seen, and could hack into the building's camera system. The player could then lock doors and create distractions using the in-game smartphone that Marcus carries.

It looks a bit of the same, but if Watch_Dogs 2 can build on the strengths of the first game and not be a buggy mess, it should be vastly better.


Sniper Elite 4 (PC, XONE, PS4)


In Sniper Elite 4, you are a US sniper in wartime Europe performing missions of stealth, marksmanship and exploration. The developer has promised that this game features a larger open world to explore in each mission, allowing you to carry out your task in many different ways. In the level that was showcased, the player had to demolish a bridge controlled by the Nazis by planting explosives on it and shooting it from afar. The player started by sniping enemies from a nearby hilltop, then took up close quarters arms and snuck through the woods. After evading several patrols, the player got into a firefight on the bridge and had to take action. After planting the explosives, they fled and completed it by shooting them from afar, destroying the bridge.


One particular trademark of the games is it's pathological approach to showcasing kills. When sniping an enemy from a great distance, the game goes into "bullet time" and follows the bullet soaring through the air. When the bullet hits the enemy, we go into x-ray vision and get to see exactly how it's fucking up the enemy's internal organs. It's an incredibly creative way of making a sniper game more interesting. I remember playing Sniper Elite 2 and having the constant need to snipe someone just so it meant I could watch those sickly tantalising graphics.

Of course there are always some iffy bits with these games. The AI isn't great, often they'll completely ignore you even in plain sight. There's also an emphasis on close-quarters combat which I think doesn't really fit in a sniper game. Sniper Elite 4 seems to have all of this once again, but as long as it builds on its strengths rather than compensates for its weaknesses, it'll be a fine game.

Death Stranding (PC, PS4)


The weirdest and most cryptic trailer of this year's E3, Death Stranding is a new game from the mind of visionary game director Hideo Kojima. After his contract was terminated at Konami late last year, Kojima reformed his studio as an independent developer, and this is his first project. Other than the trailer, there isn't actually a lot more to go off. It features a Norman Reedus (previously part of Kojima's cancelled Silent Hills) on a beach with a baby and beached dead sea creatures. It's heavy on symbolism and allegory; you get a sense that there's supposed to be a connection between life and death in this trailer, as well as between man and creature. There are crazy theories about what it means on the internet, which I won't discuss here, but safe to say this is something the more scholarly and investigative folk might want to check out. Considering Kojima's track record in the past, it should be a deep experience.

Civilization VI (PC)

In a 12 minute show, we got to see some of the new features of the next Civilization game. The video showed the Chinese civilization building and expanding across the world, before making a deal with the Americans, led by Theodore Roosevelt, and then subsequently being attacked by Cleopatra of the Egyptians. Being built on a new engine allowed for many new and exciting things to come from this game, for example cities are now built across multiple tiles, each tile separated into a different district such as science, religion or production. This will make things interesting when being attacked. If you flock your units to the city centre, then you may lose one of your districts. It also opens up opportunities for attacking your opponent, as you may choose to cut off only their production district, meaning they will be unable to build as effectively. Some units are also more streamlined, such as the worker which builds instantaneously but has a set of charges before you must build a new worker.


With a new engine also comes new visuals. The world map now begins as a blank piece of parchment, and as the player explores this map will be filled in a pencil-drawn, stencil manner (this serves as the fog of war) - which reflects the age of discovery theme the game is going for. Each building and unit has a more cartoony look to it, which many veterans of the series may disagree with, but the developer is confident that it's a good change to come with the engine. There's also a day/night cycle, which can be turned off, but makes the game look more beautiful when you can view your cities at night. Ultimately, Civilization VI is the same kind of stuff you'd expect to see in a Civ game, but everything from the UI to the art style is incredibly smooth, cleaner and friendly to newer players of the series.

We Happy Few (PC, XONE)


Probably one of the more disturbing games shown at E3, We Happy Few is set in a retro-futuristic 1960s Britain where everyone is controlled by a "joy pill", which not only makes them happy but also alters their perception of reality - think like Brave New World in a sense. The basic premise of the game is that you play a character who must escape this dystopia by finding a hatchway that leads out, however to do so you must refuse the brainwashing of the pill. If the townspeople suspect this, they will attack you. So you can control this by taking small amounts of the joy pill, however taking too much will end the game. It's an interesting concept, something I would be keen to see more of in the future.

Days Gone (PS4)


I completely understand the criticism that the zombie genre is oversaturated in games, however, that does not stop me from enjoying one that is well made. Days Gone looks to be the The Last of Us of this current console generation. I wouldn't have been too intrigued by this title until I saw the scope of the enemies. Just tune into this video around the 3 minute mark and watch until the end to understand what I mean. The amount of stuff going on is crazy, and might be overwhelming for the player, but we'll just have to see.

State of Decay 2 (PC, XONE)



I really loved the first game. State of Decay was an open world zombie survival with an emphasis on resource and survivor management. It was a good concept, because not only did you have to worry about surviving zombie hordes, but also keeping an eye on your base; whether you had enough food to last, or enough materials so you could build that medical bay. It had it's flaws, but was generally a really fun game. One of the most requested features was co-op multiplayer, which is the only thing confirmed for SoD2, so colour me impressed.

Dead Rising 4 (PC, XONE)


Yes, another zombie game. Though I feel like I must make a small comment on this because the Dead Rising series has been my favourite of all time. The game looks to be going back to its roots with the return of Frank West, the protagonist from the first game, as well as returning to the town of Willamette. Looks fun, I always enjoy zombie media if it's set in a rural location. Not sure why, it just seems more harrowing.

I'm a bit disappointed that Frank isn't voiced by T.J. Rotolo. His voice was perfect for the character and now he seems to be replaced by a generic Hollywood action voice. Meh. I'm also really sad that a remaster of the first game isn't coming for the 10th anniversary. I really want that.

Mass Effect: Andromeda (PC, XONE, PS4)


In an age of discovery, Mass Effect: Andromeda takes players far beyond the reaches of the known galaxy, to the Andromeda galaxy. Set hundreds of years after Mass Effect 3, this time players are tasked with going to Andromeda in order to find a new home for humankind. Sounds a bit like Interstellar, if I'm honest. All the typical elements of a Mass Effect game are there; with character customisation and playstyle variation, though Bioware promises to bring the Mako vehicle more into play, showing that the game may feature more exploration than previous titles. I played through the trilogy only once, but this new standalone title sounds just like something I should invest into. It releases Q1 2017.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Special Edition (PC, XONE, PS4)



Of all the possible Elder Scrolls products Bethesda would be working on, I never guessed a Skyrim remaster would be on the table. It promises improved visuals, including remastered, higher resolution art and effects, volumetric god rays, dynamic depth of field and more. But it's only a five-year-old game, what's the point? With their recent "mods on console" business model for Fallout 4, it's pretty obvious that this version of the game is aimed at PS4/XONE gamers that want to have a more PC-like experience. Which is why I think it was a good move to release this for free for owners of Skyrim: Legendary Edition on PC. Plus, it has 64-bit support, meaning access to more RAM and bigger mod potential. Since it's free for me as a PC player, I'll more than likely migrate to this version when it's out.

Vampyr (PC, XONE, PS4)



A gothic tale of vampires and pandemics; Vampyr is a semi-open world role-playing game developed by Dontnod Entertainment, the minds behind Life Is Strange. The player controls a vampire doctor whose thirst for blood compels him to kill innocent people. To do this successfully, he must gather information about his targets—study and change their habits, collect clues and maintain certain relationships by communicating with the inhabitants of 1918 London; during the Spanish flu pandemic. As in Life Is Strange, the way the plot and rest of the game plays out depends on who you decide to kill, and doing so will unlock new vampiric abilities. It's also possible to finish the game without killing a single person, but that leaves you incapable of levelling up.

Vampyr gives the player the freedom to pursue the story however they wish. It'll be interesting to really get inside the mind of a monster, and to explore the ironic dualism of a character killing people to survive while also being a doctor. I really enjoyed Life Is Strange for what it was, so I'll definitely be playing this when it releases.

Mafia III (PC, XONE, PS4)



Mafia 3 is set in the swinging sixties, featuring Vietnam war veteran Lincoln Clay, who builds a new black mob to confront the Italian mafia on act of vendetta. The 20 minute presentation of Mafia 3 showed off a little bit of everything. We got to see a large open-world interpretation of New Orleans, as well as gunplay. Unlike the previous games, stealth will also become an important tactic on missions. It seems as if the core visuals capture 1960's New Orleans really well, and I hope they manage to convey the social and political climate of the time just as well. There's going to be themes related to the Civil Rights Movement and anti-war sentiment, which would be a bold choice for an action game.

Resident Evil 7: Biohazard (PC, XONE, PS4)



In a surprising reveal, Capcom unveiled the next entry in the Resident Evil series. Judging from the trailer, this game seems to be taking a more nostalgic direction and returning to the survival horror-esque foundation it was built on. It sounds much needed, especially after the last half-dozen titles of the series had basically devolved into action shooters with only vague elements of horror in them. Alongside the trailer also came a playable teaser (similar to Silent Hills) that is available to download on PS4. In the demo, the player must try and escape an old dilapidated house that belonged to the Baker family. As the demo goes on, you can sort of see similarities between that and redneck horror stories such as The Hills Have Eyes.

I must say that while the graphics looked stunning and the storytelling was great, I was a bit disappointed by the demo. I believe I got it in my head that it was going to be like P.T., and would feature largely cryptic, creepy messages and moments of Lynch-esque madness - but it turned out to be a creation that borrows so heavily from other works of horror that it didn't really seem unique. I just didn't find it scary enough.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U, NX)



I can't really dwell on this too much, as I'm not much of a Nintendo gamer. Watching the trailer for this game really made me appreciate the visuals. It was like seeing a game made by Studio Ghibli, mixed in with some Shadow of the Colossus. I'm unsure what Zelda fans think of it, but I really admire the trailer for it's beauty.

Dishonored 2 (PC, XONE, PS4)


Dishonored is a series of stealth-based action-adventure games set in a Victorian steampunk-esque setting, while also being based off certain pirate stories and the works of artist John Atkinson Grimshaw. I remember playing the first game back in 2012 and having a lot of fun with how much freedom the player had. Missions could be done stealth or loud, with high chaos or low chaos. This ultimately affected the outcome of the game, as well as the player's designated skillset. In fact it was even possible to complete the game without taking a single life. The sequel shows to be bringing the same kind of features to the table.

Set fifteen years after the first game, Dishonored 2 allows the player to choose to play as either Emily Kaldwin, or her father Corvo Attano (the protagonist from Dishonored). This time around, players can do non-lethal combat moves, affecting the level of chaos which is reflected through setting and dialogue. There's also the use of supernatural powers to accomplish missions, as in the first game, and the available powers will differ between Corvo and Emily. This allows missions to go in completely different ways, depending on who the player is controlling and what their preferred method is. This combination of certain factors will mean that each playthrough will be unique to the player while also adding replay value.

Lastly, one mission shown off in the game showed the player at an abandoned mansion, though they possessed an item to allow themselves to see, as well as shift, into the past, when the house was in it's former glory and guards roam about. The use of this time device is needed to complete. Dishonored 2 looks like an incredibly fun sequel to an already fun game. I should go and replay the first.

Summary

Despite not going, it was a great E3 to watch from the comforts of my own home. There's been so much more I would have liked to cover, namely God of War, Gwent: The Witcher Card Game, Agents of Mayhem and Detroit: Become Human, as well as the new consoles, but that would have delayed this post even further! There were too many good games to really highlight which was my favourite, but I'd have to say Dishonored 2, Civilization VI and We Happy Few would be my picks for most anticipated. See you all at next year's expo!

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