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Now that the most wonderful time of the year for us gaming nerds has come and gone, I think it’s high time to get into the biggest hits and misses of what was, without question, a truly exceptional show. It’s difficult to think of another year (without any new console announcements) that was even close to matching this one in terms of excitement and excellent game announcements, and that’s really the best thing that could possibly be said about it. And so ladies and gentlebastards, without further interruption, I give you the 17 biggest hits and misses of E3 2015!

Xbox One Backwards Compatibility

I’m somewhat on the fence with this one as I don’t personally see the benefit of packing backwards compatibility into new consoles, but I can certainly see the benefit for those who may be looking to liquidate their 360s following the news. I plan to keep mine, mostly for the dozens of sweet XBLA games I’ve collected over the years, but there is no denying how much space that dusty old Xbox is taking up on my shelf now. Either way, I’m including this little nugget of functionality here because, at least in my opinion, it shows that Microsoft is implementing features with gamers in mind instead of TV hungry folks who have no interest in a game console to begin with. Sure, it’s a little confusing as to how it all actually works with its disc-to-digital method and a little annoying that not all games works off the bat, but it’s SOMETHING, right?

Nintendo Puppets

Nintendo has been called out for their underwhelming showing at E3 and, while I agree wholeheartedly that they didn’t show enough exciting games, I absolutely loved their presentation. Their typical charm and fun attitude coupled with Jim Henson Co’s masterful puppetry made for a wonderfully bizarre and entertaining digital event. I sincerely enjoyed that you could tell how much fun they were having, and I think all other conferences paled in comparison in that regard alone. Had they shown some truly gangbuster titles and surprises, I have a feeling that their stocks would have grown instead of tumbled. Oh well, at least we know Zelda is coming SOME DAY, right?

No Man’s Sky

Though it’s undoubtedly a title that exists outside of my typical gaming comfort zone, No Man’s Sky looks to basically take over the world when it launches. If it stands up to the promise of its developers, it will be a truly endless, time devouring experience. Allegedly every little dot of light in the game’s sky marks a planet that can be explored and fought on, resulting in an experience that will never be entirely seen by any given gamer, let alone in the same way. The implied scope in that statement alone seems impossible to me but, like most other gamers eager to try it for themselves, I can’t wait to get lost in this one and find out for myself.

Star Wars Battlefront

Few, if any, franchises enjoy the brand equity across all mediums that Star Wars does, so it’s no surprise to see game developers continuing to pump out Star Wars titles as often as reasonable. The big difference between it and other licensed properties is that the Star Wars games tend to be labors of love and reverence from people who are clearly fans, making them mostly good experiences. Now, if EA and Dice can maintain the level of quality shown in their gameplay footage for Battlefront and avoid turning the game into a DLC vending machine, we could be looking at the best Star Wars combat game ever. It’s going to be an absolute eye-popping rush to relive some of the film’s best combat scenarios in this level of detail.

Recore

The dude behind Mega Man partnered with some of the folks behind Nintendo’s sublime Metroid Prime games. That tag alone is more than enough to sell the game to me. Luckily, while they didn’t show anything even close to resembling gameplay, the concept illustrated in their debut video was intriguing enough to warrant following the project closely. If they give us enough ways to change the core’s creature shells and make meaningful gameplay mechanics out of that gimmick, Recore could be addictive as all hell and one of X1’s best properties thus far.

Uncharted 4

The gameplay footage shown looked more like a fence smashing simulator, but damn if it isn’t a fine looking fence smasher! I adored Drake’s adventures on the PS3 and Vita, so this one is an absolute no-brainer for me. It looks ridiculously beautiful and, most importantly for me, shows that they’ve maintained the interaction between the franchise’s fun cast of characters. It’s the little things that always set Uncharted apart and 4 looks to have it all in spades. If they can maintain most of the magic of the 2nd and 3rd games, we could be looking at PS4’s biggest first party hit, something the console has been sorely lacking, when this game hits.

Doom

Holy SHIT this looks fun! They’ve really nailed that feeling of old school game design with modern technology, and it shows in the reaction and appreciation for this game. I personally can’t wait to wield those ridiculously huge weapons and cut through the swath’s of the game’s demons. My sole concern lies in the brutal kill mechanic shown in the trailer, where you approach a weakened enemy and dispose of them theatrically. It looks like something that could quickly move into QTE territory or get very repetitive but, nonetheless, I can’t wait to see more of Doom leading up to its inevitably successful launch.

Cuphead

I understand that this game has been around for a while now, but I couldn’t help but be blown the hell away with its trailer. I LOVED the Disney on acid art style, and the type of game it seems to be is right in my wheel house. Twitch-reflex, bullet hell, challenging side scrollers are the kinds of games I grew up loving, so Cuphead will no doubt be my obsession for as long as it takes to play it to mastery. Seriously though… Just LOOK at this thing and tell me that you’re not at least mildly interested in sampling whatever the hell its creators are on.

Gears of War 4

I’ve always felt that the Gears of War games were underrated in terms of the atmosphere Cliffy B and his minions managed to create with it. I loved exploring its world and the mythos behind it, and thought that it was the true highlight of the franchise, above even its intense action and multiplayer battles. Based on the footage shown for Gears 4, which is arguably not the wisest thing they could have shown to demonstrate the game (especially in how hard everything was to see) to new players who missed out on Gears on the 360, Microsoft’s new development team are really onto something here for those of us who dig the Gears universe. It was dark, gritty, tense and, more importantly, not at all resembling the mess that was Judgment. Show me more soon please!

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Do people like the Tomb Raider reboot as much as I did? I don’t know. Maybe not? Apparently Microsoft did, as they shelled out scads of cash to secure temporary exclusive rights for Lara’s next adventure on the Xbox One. I honestly don’t know what to expect, since I find the developers have been sending mixed signals about whether the game will be more of the same or more exploration based, but this footage is exciting all the same. My hope is that they pack in more of the insanely fun environmental puzzles as seen in the reboot’s few tombs and marry it with tighter combat and more diverse environments. If so, it just might end up on my all time favorites list.

Super Mario Maker

>Are you kidding me!? The ability to create my own Mario stages!? I’ve been playing this series since I was a wee lad in the mid 80s, so this feels like a love letter to me and my gaming peers. This game is obviously not necessarily new as it’s been shown before, but Nintendo did a wonderful job of demonstrating the types of levels that can be created using its surprisingly robust-looking set of tools at this year’s E3. Those of us who watched the Nintendo World Championships even got to see some truly maniacal creations that will surely keep the game spinning long into the night. I can’t wait to create and share my own stages with my friends, and have even taken to planning out a few ideas. I’m expecting this to be the Wii U’s sole holiday driver this year.

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Who the hell knew that the folks behind Sony’s gritty Killzone series would have something this lavishly imaginative in their minds? Now, Killzone was a great series and enjoyed much success during its run, but this looks to be a completely next level experience from the team. I’m endlessly intrigued by what they’ve shown, especially in how awesome it looked to hunt and ultimately dismantle the game’s bizarre mechanical animals. Based on the reaction I’ve seen immediately following this reveal, I’d say that Horizon: Zero Dawn is likely the strongest new IP revealed at E3. It’s great to see companies like Sony gambling on new properties from established game dev houses like this. They could have easily cashed in on another decent Killzone title, but instead Guerrilla is taking the chance at a new IP. Hat’s off to them in that regard alone.

Fallout 4

I may not be a fan of open-world games or some of the crafting elements shown in the gameplay footage, but I’d be an idiot not to acknowledge the significance of this game. Bethesda really knocked it out of the park here and, aside from the FFVII remake, no other game shown at E3 has the fans buzzing as much as this. Given the brilliance of their gen-7 Fallout titles, it’s easy to see why people are clamoring for this so much. The much more vibrant, colorful aesthetic has also drawn my interest, to the point of me considering putting my disdain aside and giving it a go. It’s always fun to challenge your tastes with new games and, by the looks of things, Fallout 4’s gameplay will have more than enough forward momentum to keep me entertained.

Final Fantasy VII Remake

I happen to be one of the people who don’t believe that a remake to this game is necessary at all, but damn if I didn’t get instantly lost in the hype as soon as its existence was confirmed with this delicious reveal. It had been rumored by a couple of outlets immediately prior to E3 starting so some of the surprise was lost on me, but I was definitely among those cheering triumphantly as its teaser aired. If they can manage to marry the beloved original’s classic JRPG sensibilities with the modern flair shown during Sony’s presser, they could be on to one of the 8th generation’s most significant titles.

It should be noted, however, that there is also a little too much room here for this to be messed up, as they’ve expressed in several interviews that it’s going to have substantial changes to the plot and gameplay. That they intend to muck around with it so much makes me nervous but, who knows. They could end up topping the original game like they’ve always wanted to. Another bonus is the hints that remakes to Final Fantasy V and VI could be in the cards if this ends up being the rousing success it no doubt will be.

A Lack of Bullshit

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While it’s not an announcement, trailer, or anything else of the sort, I’d have to say that my favorite part of this year’s E3 was a significant lack of bullshit. Typically, by the time the conferences are done and everything has been seen, there is an air of cynicism hanging over the crowd. Unwanted gadgets and their inherent gimmicks, DLC content before the damn game even launches, non-gaming interruptions like TV apps… All things that are completely unwelcome to the overwhelming majority of gamers and attendees.

This year, however, I noticed a distinct focus on gaming that I greatly appreciated. The VR tech shown could be considered the sole intruder but, even then, Microsoft’s Hololens demonstration pointed to some intriguing opportunities for asynchronous multiplayer gaming, which I’d love to see more of after spending so much time with the Wii U. Everything I’ve listed before in this feature is proof of this conceit. The focus on gaming alone won E3, and will hopefully influence all E3s to come.

With all of this positive stuff flowing out of the conference, you’d think that there wouldn’t be much to complain about, right? Well, you’re mostly correct, but there were indeed a couple of misses during an otherwise excellent E3.

Square-Enix Conference

Sweet Jesus in hell this was the most boring thing I have watched at E3 in as many years as I’ve been watching it. Amid all of their contemporaries throwing fun, high energy conferences with arguably less to announce, the folks over at Squenix apparently decided to down a bunch of tranquilizers and have a contest to see who could bore the audience to death first. It’s a real shame too because, with games like Final Fantasy VII, Tomb Raider, Just Cause 3, and Kingdom Hearts 3, you’d think there would be more than enough to get the audience off of their asses and cheering loudly for the Japanese giants. Instead, maybe 4 people clapped or cheered the whole time while the presenters sort of stood there, awkwardly awaiting the next lifesaving announcement trailer. They might want to seriously consider staying out of the conference race again next year or, at the very least, pulling a Ubisoft and hiring an entertainer to host their conference for them.

Shenmue III Kickstarter

To be clear, this is not an issue with Shenmue III itself. I am beyond excited for the legions of Shenmue fans out there who’ll now have a chance to see another part of Sega’s ambitious story come to life. Were it anything less than massively anticipated, it wouldn’t have literally broken Kickstarter or shattered every game record on the site in a matter of hours. Shenmue III existing and getting funded is a very, very good thing for gamers indeed.

My issue is that, when AAA developers and publishers start dipping their toes in the tasty waters of crowdfunding, there are too many opportunities for exploitation. We already exist in an era where, in order to get every piece of the content made for any given game, you have to preorder several copies at different retailers or buy ludicrously expensive season passes. Kickstarter, at least in my opinion, is going to devolve into yet another method for greedy publishers to stick their greasy hands into our wallets before we’ve been given anything even remotely valuable for it.There of course is also the argument that these projects serve as a gateway drug to crowdfunding for folks who otherwise wouldn’t have considered it, but my fear stands. My honest prediction is that, sooner than later, we’re going to be seeing more and more big name game companies swooping in and using Kickstarter as a method of gaining yet more money for dubious rewards. If it remains a method to prove consumer interest in an otherwise risky title or sequel, I’m quite OK with it. However, if I’m right and it ends up being yet another vehicle for the bullshit preorder culture we now find ourselves in, I’m not a fan of the precedent Shenmue III’s kickstarter is setting at all.

Well, there you have it folks. All in all I’d have to say it was one hell of an E3. We have plenty of games to look forward in the next 18 months or so and now, more than ever, is the best time to jump into a shiny new gen-8 console.

What do you think? Did the industry’s big dogs do a great job this year? Did I miss any massive hits or misses that got you all fired up? Be apart of the conversation in the comments section below.

Category: Featured, Videogames

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