VICE Gaming was at E3, in Los Angeles, last week. So too were a lot of new video games. So many that there is no way one man, or even several of them working together in shifts, covering each show floor, every off-site presentation and the various other LA Conference Center–orbiting previews around Downtown (some of which I definitely cannot tell you about, sorry), could see them all without experiencing some sort of mental and/or physical breakdown. VICE Gaming didn't have several journalists on site—just me, for the most part, though you'll have seen from our coverage so far that a few stateside freelancers kindly mucked in, too. But boy, did I leg it about the place. Here's a roundup of everything I saw, and even sometimes played, during the three days (and more) of E3 2016.
(Looking for VR coverage? Over here.)
Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare
I've already written a standalone piece on this got-me-all-interested-again sci-fi twist on all things CoD. Naturally the Battle-fielders out there aren't about to be easily swayed, but what I saw of this in action—both in a group presentation and [REDACTED]—was very promising, indeed. The problem, such as it is, is that it's a Call of Duty game—if this was branded as a new IP, I get the impression more people would be less quick to judge it a bag of bullshit.
'The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild,' official E3 2016 trailer
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
The game of the show, surely, if we're talking about punter excitement and demand. The lines for the one game Nintendo brought to the party, properly, were enormous, and I never had time enough to join one. Heidi Kemps had a bash at it, though, and you can read her thoughts here.
Horizon Zero Dawn
Again, here are more in-depth words on Sony's big exclusive of early 2017. You can color me excited for it, especially now I know it plays, surprisingly, quite a lot like_The Witcher 3_.
Consider this small paragraph a placeholder because we will (soon) have a proper preview of the new, post-apocalyptic open-worlder from Sony's Bend Studio, a team best known for the Syphon Filter series. It looked OK in the press conference, but personally, just that. They're not zombies, we're told, that are after you en masse; merely zombie-like creatures. Cool. I guess. And here is that proper preview, enjoy.
Detroit: Become Human
David Cage's Quantic Dream studio constantly divides the games-playing ranks with its output of, and do try to not choke on the words, "interactive dramas." The Paris team's previous release, Beyond: Two Souls, featured an arresting performance from Ellen Page but a forgettable story stuffed with supernatural hokum. Detroit looks a lot stronger of narrative, its "neo-noir thriller"–styled story set in a near future—with "no flying cars or laser guns," says QD co-CEO Guillaume de Fondaumière—where androids have filled many public sector positions, like nurses and transit operatives. As a result, unemployment is at 40 percent, and tensions among the population run high.
The game plays a lot more like 2010's Heavy Rain than it does Beyond, with an emphasis on environmental analysis and piecing together the bigger picture before any game direction-determining confrontation. The player will control four characters, and every one of them can die during the course of the game—just like Heavy Rain. We see one, the advanced prototype android Connor, attempt to defuse a volatile situation involving a "deviant" home-help 'droid, a dead father and the family in question's child. The scene's played two ways by de Fondaumière. First, Connor loses both perp and hostage, who fall to their deaths; second, by better analyzing the crime scene and running reconstructions in his (buckle up for this one) "mind palace," he can deduce how to talk the hostile into peaceful submission. It may not be saying much that this looks a hell of a lot better than Beyond, but it sure is relieving to say it, all the same.
'Detroit: Become Human', E3 2016 trailer
Boss Key Productions, headed by Gears of War designer Cliff Bleszinski, is hoping that this four-on-four multiplayer shooter flies in the face of genre convention by offering greater verticality, gravity-disrupting powers, and evenly matched characters. But the problem is that, in the wake of Overwatch,LawBreakers feels so gray, and so slow, with a tired-looking cast of avatars and uninspired near-future environments. Count me out.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
Point yourself here for Willie Clark's full preview of Ubisoft's follow-up to the surprisingly not total shit The Stick of Truth.
Sniper Elite 4
Nut-shots. I mean, really, it's all about the nut-shots. Beyond that wickedly amusing, seriously-it's-never-getting-old slow-mo "kill cam" feature in this 1943-set tactical stealth shooter, developer Rebellion has taken advantage of the PS4 and Xbox, one grunt to create a game far larger than its predecessors. It's not open world, but each area is impressively wide, with a great deal more height to exploit than previous entries. I'm tasked with clearing out a bridge of fascists, and set about doing so with relish. A carefully placed bullet in the head here, another to an enemy's heart there—though, naturally, the more noise you make popping shots off, the quicker your position is going to be set upon by angry men with guns. Using binoculars marks your targets, and they stay highlighted, because Office of Strategic Services operatives had special, superhero-like powers in the Second World War. Or: because video games.
Batman: A Telltale Series
Here are a whole lot of words on this forthcoming five-part series, which I don't get to play at E3 but would really like to, thank you very much. The first episode is out this summer.
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Pro Evolution Soccer 2017
I'll keep this short: The new Pro Evo is better, even at this demo stage, where the only selectable teams are Arsenal, Atlético Madrid, Germany, and France, than the last Pro Evo, of 2016, and that was by a margin the best soccer game on the market. I tweeted after my session with PES 2017 that FIFA, these days, with its new melodramatic "The Journey" story mode and Ultimate Team support, feels like a video game about soccer, whereas Konami's alternative is a soccer game. People seemed to get that. I like FIFA, a lot, but it's a different game entirely. PES is the warts-and-all play, the grind-it-out one-nils, the real soccer I know from watching it week in, week out. FIFA is the fantasy, which is cool, but it's good to wake up once in a while.
It's between this 2K-published, 1968-set affair and Ubisoft's sequel to Watch Dogs for open-world dominance this autumn. And right now, I wouldn't want to call it. Ubi's more contemporary, hack-everything-with-WiFi adventure has definitely converted a few critics of its predecessor, but Mafia III's New Bordeaux, a fictional take on New Orleans, looks to me the more attractive, inviting game world. Its features ten distinct districts full of personality and a wealth of slimy crime bosses to off as protagonist Lincoln Clay sets about establishing his own grip on the city and surrounding area. One, Uncle Lou, heads up the French Ward, and we're shown game-play of Clay cornering him in a swamp and, well, to say much more would be a messy spoiler.
Mafia III is loud, generously bloody, and certainly very ambitious—it's the debut game from a new studio, Novato-based Hanger 13, with a lot riding on it. But I'm not taking to its leading man just yet, as Clay seems to be motivated exclusively by revenge and pursuit of personal profit. A lot of Mafia III's appeal then, for me, will hinge less on its action, and more the story it wraps around it. Hopefully it proves more nuanced than what's been shown so far.
Resident Evil VII
I didn't shit myself. (That fucking mannequin, though.) Read more words on Capcom's new horror, coming early 2017, over here.
The home-systems port(s) of Bandai Namco's arcade release of March 2015 is looking good. The build I get my hands on is the first that the studio has shown to the press, and it already feels fairly complete. I'm not all that brilliantly educated on all things Tekken, having not played one of these games since the second installment came out on the PlayStation half a lifetime ago (I'm reliably informed that the Street Fighter crossover of 2012 does not count), but get five or six matches in and have a fine time doing so. Capcom's red-eyed devil-man Akuma guests, taking his place beside series favorites like King and Nina, and apparently having some kind of almighty beef with Heihachi. The game's E3 trailer certainly suggests as much.
'Tekken 7,' E3 2016 trailer
After so much hi-def violence at E3, it was a joy to sit amongst Playtonic's team and see them demo_Yooka-Laylee_, a fantastically bright revival of 3D platformer's from the 1990s. Its makers include people behind the likes of Banjo-Kazooie, Donkey Kong Country, and Viva Piñata, and that experience is clear to see all over the screen. Yooka is a chameleon with the ability to camouflage against the environment and curl up into a faster-traversal-enabling ball; and Laylee is a bat that can use sonar to aid exploration and combat and, obviously, her wings to provide the pair with aerial mobility. There are mini-games promised, races against NPCs, and mine-cart rides to discover. New abilities are bought, using quills, from a shorts-sporting snake called Trowser. Troswer Snake. Awful puns aside, this is shaping up beautifully.
Pixel Titans' FPS is shamelessly in thrall to DOOM and Quake, and designed first and foremost for the PC market, mouse-and-keys over control pads. It's demoed on the Devolver lot, opposite the LACC, using an old Amiga keyboard, the clacking taking me back 20 years and more. Levels are generated at the commencement of each game, the player's choice of shotgun, rail gun, or machine gun affecting the layout of what follows, and enemy placement. It's loud, fast, and thrilling to watch in motion. Next: to actually play the bloody thing, because time was against me, and I had to duck out of this one before going "hands on."
The Dark Knight kicks Superman in his big dumb chin, and other stories. I wasn't anticipating much from Injustice 2, the sequel to a fighter that I had no interest in playing. But, you know, this follow-up is pretty neat. I play a couple of rounds beside a chap from developers NetherRealm, who shows off the game's super-powered set-piece special moves, including smacking your opponent off the screen and into a passing train, and grabbing a patron of a Metropolis bar and using him as a projectile. The environment-aided attacks are reminiscent of Mortal Kombat X, by the same studio, and, because I'm old, Eternal Champions. (It was all about the Mega-CD version, I'm telling you.) After each bout, competing characters receive new gear, allowing the play to customize their avatars of choice. This might be a fresh-out-the-box cape, a pair of mean-looking gauntlets, or some sexy new boots, and equipping these does more than just change someone's appearance. Stats are adjusted, defenses buffed, and attacks improved, and so on, with NetherRealm promising 1,000 options for each category of gear. Yeah, against the odds, really, I'm quite up for seeing more of this DC-branded fighter.
'Absolver,' reveal trailer
French studio Sloclap's multiplayer melee game, mixing methodical combat and fantasy land exploration, is perhaps the hardest title of any here to get a feel for in a short preview, but the impression it leaves is considerable. You play with and against friends as a mask-wearing avatar, looking like its stepped out of a place somewhere between Dishonored and Volume, who mix martial arts with fierce swordplay, learning new moves and stances as the game processes by using a system not too unlike Remember Me's "combo lab." Aesthetically it looks like nothing else on show at E3, and by rewarding only carefully timed attacks, using a (poorly positioned right now, in the screen's top left, away from where the action is) combo meter, and punishing button-mashers with health-smashing counters, it's a game that also feels very unlike the proverbial competition. Sloclap are a long way off completing Absolver, but based on its E3 showing, it could easily become of 2017's greatest indie-made successes.
God of War
Over to Heidi again for this reboot of Sony's myths-and-monsters-and-so-many-murders series.
Gremlins, Beetlejuice, E.T., The Goonies. Sometimes I think Traveller's Tales are making Dimensions just for me, and then I remember other people exist and feel a little less special. Characters from these personal-favorite 1980s movies and more—the new Ghostbusters flick, Mission: Impossible, Adventure Time, the Harry Potter franchise, Sonic (the Hedgehog), and Knight Rider among them—are coming to Dimensions, and I get to see game-play from both the Busters and M:I packs, the first a new story, and the latter more of a hub environment. How these games play is going to be similar to everything that's come before—this is LEGO, and LEGO hardly ever changes—with small tweaks to suit each new set and character(s). For example, M:I's Ethan Hunt can wear disguises to get through security-cam gates, and no doubt Bettlejuice's Betelgeuse, not that we see him, will be able to change his form to solve simple puzzles. I straight up love LEGO Dimensions, and it's my big play-it-with-the-boy (my boy, my five year old, you understand) game. So all of this new #Content gets the thumbs up from this cranky dad, even as his wallet groans.
The Last Guardian
I spent 40 minutes with this singular delight and wrote up my thoughts over here. Anyone who's played either of Fumito Ueda's spiritual predecessors to this long-awaited one-boy-and-his-beast adventure, Ico, and Shadow of the Colossus, will have some idea of what to expect: strong emotions and a schizophrenic camera.
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