Best of E3 2015
This year’s E3 has come to a close, and it has arguably been the most memorable and instantly iconic event in years. Final Fantasy VII remake? Check. The Last Guardian? Check. Shenmue 3?! Check.These are just a few of the announcements that took our breath away, evoking the very sense of wonder and disbelief that define the medium of gaming. All of the major companies had something of worth to show off, even if a pesky leak or two ruined the surprise for some. VR technology was a huge talking point this year, but didn’t have the impact many expected. Instead, nostalgia cemented itself as the pivotal hook in a year that brought about announcements many never thought would come. So, now the dust has settled and all the cards have been played; it’s time to look at the best E3 had to offer this year.
Let’s get this behemoth out of the way first! Bethesda showed off an abundance of lovely Fallout info at their very first E3 conference. Not only did they confidently walk us through the new Boston setting, character creation tools and a brand new crafting system. They also did the unbelievable, thrusting a 2015 release date right into our hungry little faces. Bethesda’s post-apocalyptic interpretation of Boston is a beautiful one. The largely grey and green colour palette of Fallout 3 has been replaced with a visual style absolutely bursting with life, whilst retaining the sense of loneliness and dread that made the 2008 title such a classic. They haven’t forgotten their roots however, hastily reminding us of all the iconic features that will be returning. The exploration, gunplay and roleplaying elements have been refined and adjusted to capitalise upon the world Bethesda has created. It may take us a while to become comfortable with the idea of a speaking protagonist, but at the same time it opens up doors for characterisation that Fallout has never had. Fallout 4 is still months away, but already feels like a living, breathing world that is begging to be explored. I almost forgot about Dogmeat! If there is Pug DLC I can die happy.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED! A decade’s worth of subconsciously pent-up nostalgia burst from my mind the second the trailer’s opening narration kicked in. I knew it was coming, a reunion that I genuinely thought was nothing but a far-fetched dream. The trailer played on this evident nostalgia as well. Skillfully soaring across beautifully reimagined landscapes from the original game before giving us a brief yet brilliant glimpse of Cloud and Barret trudging through the slums of Midgar. Such an ambitious remake of a treasured classic is incredibly risky however;ripe with potential for brutal criticism. The foundations of creating such a colossal RPG are completely different today than they were in 1995. The sheer amount of effort required to recreate the original is an equally frightening and exciting prospect. How will the battle system and exploration be changed to accommodate a modern audience? We could be looking at an open world of ludicrous proportions if Square Enix are truly passionate about this long awaited remake. Even with all of my apprehension I cannot deny my excitement. The unimaginable rebirth of a title that not only defined my childhood, but my entire perception of the medium. So please don’t cock it up guys..
The Last Guardian
For years people have been beating the dead horse – or weird dog/bird thing – that is The Last Guardian. Every year gamers have clung on to what little hope there was of the Team Ico project making an appearance. Sony have frequently laughed at the potential revival of the project, often even dismissing its very existence. So for them to begin their E3 conference this year with a lengthy gameplay demo of the fabled title is something nobody could have predicted. The demo weaved a similar narrative to the very same one we saw back in 2009, albeit with significantly more detail in the graphics department. The short demonstration was sweet and simple, opting to focus on the chemistry between our two leads. How the young boy clumsily explores the environment, coaxing on the abnormal creature. The connection between them emits all the lovable charm we’ve come to expect from Team Ico; encapsulated in a palpable atmosphere of loneliness. The Last Guardian is clearly held back by its PS3 origins, having clearly been ported to a newer system. But the world still manages to look beautiful. The ancient architecture and crumbling ruins filled me with thoughts of Ico and Colossus, making me believe they all existed in a single, cohesive universe. The Last Guardian will be with us in 2016, I never thought I’d get to type that last bit.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
For years, Guerilla Games have been tied to the Killzone series, an enjoyable yet unambitious franchise that never showcased what the studio is truly capable of. That changes now. Horizon: Zero Dawn, a new IP from the studio presents something the developer has never done before. Introducing a post-apocalyptic open world populated by robotic wildlife and tribal pockets of civilization. An obscure mixture of Monster Hunter, Uncharted and funnily enough, Killzone. You play as Aloy, a young woman who has broken away from her tribe, gifted with the advantage of hunting these robotic creatures. Horizon seeks to combine the visual fidelity of Killzone with a more interesting array of mechanics. It seems we will be tasked with sneaking, hunting and doing battle with all manner of creatures. The highlight of the demo featured Aloy squaring up to a colossal, robotic dinosaur. The sense of scale is quite astounding, more so when Horizon boasts an entire world to explore. But the mythos and potential scale of the world is what has me most excited. What little we’ve seen hints at a story with much to say about the preservation of life in a post-apocalyptic world. A refreshing take on a genre that is often fixated on being so dull, lifeless and depressing.
Do you know exactly how to get my attention? Cutesy sentimentality. I’m a sucker for stuff that pokes and prods at your emotions in a way that is charming as it is fundamentally devastating. Unravel, a new product by a small Swedish studio does all this and more. At its heart, Unravel is but another minimalist, physics-based platformer, though its tone and abundance of charmful character is enough to make it stand out. Yarny, a small woolen doll is our protagonist, and he immediately stole my heart. The vulnerably vacant stare he give you makes a lack of sympathy impossible for this poor little bubble of fluff. Besides an adorable aesthetic and heartfelt premise, Unravel does very little to stand out. But you know what, I don’t mind. Ever since Valiant Hearts I’ve been clawing for a bite-sized adventure that will tug at my heartstrings whilst slapping a smile on my face. The finished product will have levels boasting branching paths and multiple outcomes, hopefully lending more depth to the game design.The fact that EA is also publishing this comes as a surprise too, with any further support they give to ambitious indie-projects being more than welcome.
Just Cause 3
I honestly didn’t expect to be so excited about this one. But all the EXPLOSIONS, HOLY SHIT DID YOU SEE THAT? Anyway. Just Cause 3 looks like a damn good time. It shows no shame in relishing in the sheer ridiculousness of its over the top action. Square Enix go into unabashed detail of the destruction you can cause in their E3 trailer. You can grapple four individual helicopters together and watch them tumble out of the sky, or line an entire airfield with C4 just to admire the fireworks. Oh, and did I mention you have unlimited C4? They have also shown dedication to improve the multiplayer capabilities of Just Cause 3, perhaps taking inspiration from popular user-created mods. Tightened vehicle controls and smoother gunplay have also been shown off, squashing many of my qualms I had with the older titles. The adventures of Rico Rodriguez often take pride in their insanity, and that shows no sign of changing. I can’t wait to ride a nuclear warhead across the sky before grappling onto a nearby plane and divebombing into the ocean in a glorious inferno.
So there we have it. E3 has come and gone for another year, and what a year it was! A nest of bittersweet nostalgia and exciting prospects for the coming years. We’ve been served a tempting palette or AAA juggernauts and smaller indie endeavours that are shaping up to be something special. Let us know if I missed anything you were excited about and what you thought of this year’s showcase!