I went into E3 this year not expecting much. The things I’ve been drawn to aren’t the kinds of games that get much attention on fancy stages or in the deluge of coverage from major sites. Sadly, there were less of those games that grabbed me than any year before. But that’s not something to dwell on today. Nope, this post is all about the stuff that got me hype, made me nod approvingly, smirk with satisfaction or tap my toe frantically with anticipation.
Alphabetical by PlayStation 4, Xbox One and 3DS console exclusives and then by multiplatform
ABZU (PlayStation 4 from Giant Squid)
Several former thatgamecompany employees formed Giant Squid and it shows in PlayStation 4 exclusive, ABZU. It’s Journey, but underwater. At least, that’s what everyone keeps saying. I love underwater exploration and despite my interpretation of the ending, I loved Journey as an experience. So I’m sold on this one from what I’ve seen.
Firewatch (PlayStation 4 and PC from Campo Santo)
You can joke about not knowing what Firewatch is but from what I’ve seen already, I’m in. I love the remote setting and the almost mundane feel of the tension I’ve seen so far. It’s not end-of-the-world sci-fi and it isn’t over the top, torture porn, crazy mountain man horror. It’s a mystery and if the game in hand feels like the trailers then it’s just the right mix of exploration, introspection and danger for me.
Horizon: Zero Dawn (PlayStation 4 from Guerilla Games)
I think just about everyone will list this one as a surprise. Gone is the passe gameplay of the Killzone series, replaced by a gorgeous, post-post-apocalyptic world where tribal humans inhabit a world of robotic animals. Hunting, crafting and survival ensue as you, no doubt, will come to unravel what happened to our world. It’s one of my favorite settings and the twist with the robot animals is all the more enticing. The only thing I don’t like is the title. It’s supremely forgettable and any 3 random words would fit just as poorly. Vanished: Tomorrow’s Ascent. Primal: Evolution Imperative. Robots: And Arrows, wait, that legitimately explains something about the game.
NieR New Project (PlayStation 4 from Square Enix)
Against all odds, I am a fan of a modern JRPG. NieR was just weird enough to offset the melodramatic babblings of its horrible anime characters to keep me playing. It’s also set in a distant future, long after our modern civilization is nothing but ruins. I told you, I like that stuff. NieR New Project sounds like it’ll be more of the same with a combat system beefed up by Platinum Games’ expertise. So far it’s just a bunch of concept art with Japanese names attached to it but I am simply happy and totally surprised to see it coming back.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One from Crystal Dynamics)
The murderous avalanche chase scene from the E3 demo wasn’t all that exciting but the promise of more actual tombs to explore was. Also, yay Jonah! Unfortunately, Tomb Raider comes out on the same day as Fallout 4 which means I’m not going to be playing it any time in 2015, maybe not even 2016.
Tacoma (Xbox One and PC from Fullbright)
I liked Gone Home. It had atmosphere and for the first hour I was certain things were going to kill or chase me even though I knew they weren’t. It was palpable. The only thing that could’ve made it better is if it were set in an even more mysterious space station so Tacoma is hitting all the right buttons and I’m very much looking forward to it.
Gotcha Racing (Nintendo 3DS from Natsume)
There’s just something that seems pleasant and fun about this little top-down racing game. The way the action expands across both screens looks neat and car upgrades are doled out via gashapon capsules. It’s no colossal mega-hit but I’m into it.
ADR1FT (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from Three One Zero)
This one falls into my newly-coined favorite genre of entertainment: Space Calamity. It’s probably amped up because we’re currently listening to the audiobook of The Martian but even on its own ADR1FT looks terrifying and tense in all the ways that video games usually aren’t. Unfortunately, it’s another September release but if it’s a short enough experience maybe I’ll squeeze it in around the major timesinks of Metal Gear and Fallout 4.
Fallout 4 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from Bethesda)
UGH! Can it just be September already!? As a latecomer to Fallout 3 and New Vegas I’m even more excited to jump into Fallout 4 alongside everyone else. The layers of mechanics revealed at Bethesda’s show hit me with waves of amazement. You get to see the world pre-apocalypse ~WHOOSH~ There’s base building now ~WHOOSH~ The guns and power armor are immensely modable ~WHOOSH~ All the junk in the world can be broken down for parts ~WHOOSH~ The Junk Jet is a gun that uses all that junk as ammo. ~WHOOSH~ September can’t get here soon enough!
Hitman (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from Io-Interactive)
I went into Hitman Absolution ready to love it but with each new chapter I would exclaim with increasing desperation: it’s still not over!? I came out of it washing my hands of the series and initially wrote off this E3 reveal. Thanks to some show-floor impressions, though, I’m back on board. It sounds like Io is trying to get back to the classic Hitman strategy while pushing forward with unique and intelligent new mechanics in an… open world? There’s loads more I need to know first but I’ll once again toss my hat into Hitman’s ring.
Just Cause 3 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from Avalanche Studios)
I giggled at the original teasers for Just Cause 3 but after the showing at E3 (and the reactions from seeming everyone who saw it) it’s officially my new December video game. It’s like the Mercenaries sequel I always wanted. It’s like a new Red Faction Guerrilla only more destructible. It’s like Just Cause 2 but even crazier. I don’t really need to see or hear any more to know I’m in.
Mass Effect Andromeda (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from BioWare)
Some have scoffed at the Johnny Cash/space cowboy teaser trailer but for me, I’ll take just about anything Mass Effect at this point! Things may change by next E3 but for now it fills my head with dreams of new adventures in a familiar (and not-so-familiar) universe. And hopefully one that isn’t so damn fate-of-the-universe serious so I can have some fun.
Metal Gear Solid V (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from Kojima Productions)
The best news I could possibly hear about The Phantom Pain from E3 is that it’s mostly an HD follow-up to Peace Walker. Having just spent 90 hours consumed with that game — and only walking away because I ran out of things to do — it was all I needed to hear. Story be damned. Kiefer Sutherland be damned. I am SO very ready for Kojima’s swan song.
SteamWorld Heist (Just about every platform but 3DS first, from Image & Form)
Finally! I’ve been waiting to find out what SteamWorld Heist is for ages and after E3, I finally know. It’s side-scrolling XCOM. Got it. Yeah, that’s reductive but so are any further details on the game so for now I’ll just say I’m down with it.
I’ll be back soon with my sorta opposite list: Things that make me say ‘oh… umm’.