E3 may be over but some of us can't stop talking about all the cool things we got to see and play at this year's show. There was just so much good stuff on display, both for current-gen and next-generation consoles.
Brett Makedonski: Tom Clancy's The Division
Tom Clancy's The Division is to E3 2013 as Watch Dogs was to E3 2012. It's the game at the show that has a ton of buzz around it, as everyone realizes that it's built around a genuinely cool concept. At the same time, everyone wonders if it can possibly live up to the hype. I think it can. The reasoning is that The Division is not only built around an intriguing theory, but seems like it'll have the perfect infrastructure to support it.
The Division also has a companion app that has the potential to be truly revolutionary. It promises to put mobile players in live action alongside those on HD devices. If this touted seamless integration works, this cross-functionality might actually be the future of gaming. It looks legitimately interesting, and hopefully it's more than just a gimmick.
We don't know a ton about The Division yet, and there's plenty of time for things to go either north or south. However, it's got ambition in spades and I'm anxious to learn more. That's why it's the personal highlight of my E3 2013.
Other favorites: Infamous: Second Son, Killzone: Shadow Fall, Assassin's Creed IV, Rayman Legends
Jayson Napolitano: Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
I didn't have any expectations going into Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2. I appreciated the first game as a worthy reboot, but felt they could have thrown more of a bone to classic series fans. Right out of the gate with this installment, however, names like Simon Belmont and Alucard were dropped, and I was immediately intrigued to find out how this chapter would relate to two of my favorite characters from the Castlevania universe.
Then there's playing as Dracula. Despite the fact that I'm not big on action titles like this, I couldn't wait to get my hands on Dracula's moves and abilities, and the team has done a great job not only making you feel like a badass in combat, but also will have you cheering for the bad guy. The addition of a section where Dracula scales and destroys a giant siege weapon brought back memories of Shadow of the Colossus, which I don't even need to explain how cool that is.
While I can't say there's anything profoundly new with this game, it brings together so many different and great things into one experience. That's why I love it and can't wait to play more of when it's released this winter.
Other favorites: Dragon's Crown, Dark Souls II, Super Mario 3D World, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Tony Ponce: DuckTales Remastered
If you are not smiling while playing DuckTales Remastered, you are as heartless as Flintheart Glomgold. From the second the theme music started up, I was back in my elementary years, catching the exploits of Scrooge McDuck and his nephews on the Disney Afternoon. In a sense, Remastered is a continuation of the show, featuring the return of almost all the cartoon's voice cast for a generous amount of nostalgia-tickling cutscenes.
The levels are familiar to seasoned players of the NES original, although they've been expanded with new areas and surprises to give them a refreshing spin. Controlling Scrooge is second nature, made all the better through incredibly fluid and detailed animation, and the remixed boss battles offer a challenge that will put feathers on your chest only to pluck them off hard.
If the rest of the game is even half as amazing as the demo, this may easily become one of my favorite platformers of all time. So not lying.
Other favorites: Castle of Illusion Starring Mickey Mouse, The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds, The Wonderful 101, Angry Video Game Nerd Adventures
Jonathan Holmes: Pikmin 3
This was my fifth year at E3, and it was easily the most interesting showing I've seen yet. It seems like the console space has almost caught up to something that's been the norm on PC for years -- small, independent games and huge, big budget games standing alongside each other like it's no big thing.
As nice as that is, my personal taste leans more towards games that take the sensibility of those small games and matches it with the budget of a big retail release. Sadly, games of that style are in shorter and shorter supply these days. Killer is Dead, The Wonderful 101, and Bayonetta 2 arguably fit that description, and games that weren't playable like Below and Sunset Overdrive might end up going that way, but the king of them all was easily Pikmin 3.
From the surprisingly variant and cutthroat versus multiplayer, to the always disarming turnabout that comes from being a commander of 100 loyal Pikmin, to being the grieving, lost loser post-Pikmin massacre, to the new mechanics like pinpoint eyeball attacking and launching other playable characters to otherwise unacceptable areas, the game left me feeling a wealth of emotions in just a few minutes.
It's weird that Pikmin 3 still felt so fresh to me. Not only is it the third game in a series, but it was also on the show floor last year. That may speak more to the lack of freshness that comes from witnessing the PS3 and 360 wind down as the Wii U still works to pick up steam. Regardless, Pikmin 3 kicked ass and I want it.
Other favorites: Aban Hawkins and the 1,001 Spikes, The Puppeter, Gravity Ghost
Hamza Aziz: Titanfall
Titanfall is exactly what I've been looking for to revitalize my love for the first-person shooter genre that has increasingly becoming more and more stale. The game is ridiculously fast-paced between you're parkour-like abilities while on foot. Plus the giant mechs you can pilot aren't the slow lumbering hunks of metal you'd expect, making for a beautiful blend of frenzy combat.
The most important thing here is that it looks like fighting between humans and mechs will be pretty fairly balanced. From wall running, hitching a ride on the back of a friend's mech, stopping and then throwing bullets back towards enemies, to ripping out another pilot from their mech and tossing them to the ground -- There's so much on offer here to make you feel like a total badass.
Other favorites: Destiny, Bayonetta 2, Tearaway, The Division, Saints Row IV
Conrad Zimmerman: Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes
It pains me to know how few people played the original Aban Hawkins & the 1000 Spikes when it released on Xbox Live Indie Games, but that was to be expected because nothing noble can survive in that place.
I take some comfort in the fact that Aban is getting another chance. The new version, Aban Hawkins & the 1001 Spikes, adds a lot more than just one extra spike. It looks bright and beautiful on the PS Vita screen, where the OLED black levels really allow the sprites to pop, and they've packed in a bunch of additional animations. Beyond that, a new golden idol collectible has been added to each stage which awards one additional life (but always represents an additional risk as well) and the game's producer was teasing me with promises of many more hidden extras and content to be discovered once the game releases. I'm not sure it will ever get the respect and sales I think it deserves, but it remains one of the purest platforming experiences on the market.
Other favorites: Hotline Miami 2, Pikmin 3, Super Mario 3D World
Caitlin Cooke: Contrast
It's so refreshing to see a game with such a unique concept and style on the show floor. In Contrast you play as a little girl's imaginary friend -- a lanky yet graceful woman who has a penchant for jumping in and out of shadows. The burlesque noir setting is showcased through manipulating light sources and navigating through shadows.
I adored the originality poured into the game and I can't help but feel a bit whimsical after playing. I also love that the music is entirely original and blends together the style of the game through jazz. At an E3 where bro games seemed to reign, this was a breath of fresh air.
Other favorites: Gravity Ghost, Magrunner: Dark Pulse, Hohokun, Rune Factory 4
Jordan Devore: Pikmin 3
It's a sick world we live in when I only get to play a few minutes of Pikmin 3 and that's all I can think about for most of E3. It's not even anyone's fault -- I just love the series that much. When I wasn't strolling by the Nintendo booth, I spent all of my unscheduled free time trying out independent titles for PlayStation Vita. It wasn't at all what I thought this E3 would be about, what with new consoles making their expo debut, but it does speak to my interests as a gamer these days.
The limited play time I did get with Nintendo's long-in-the-making third installment confirmed to me that I do still love Pikmin as much as I thought I did and that -- good lord! -- Nintendo should have started making high-definition games long ago. They're gorgeous in a way few other studios can pull off. And, yeah, they're fun. So much freakin' fun.
Other favorites: Hotline Miami 2, Hohokum, Spelunky (Vita), The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Wesley Ruscher: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag
To say one of my favorite series this generation has fatigued me would be an understatement. Ubisoft's assassin simulator has easily become the Call of Duty of action adventure games and after five console offerings and a handful of portable side-stories, I was about to write this one off. That is until I saw the amazing ship combat in all its spectacular glory running on a PlayStation 4.
If you read Hamza's preview, then you know what to expect. I saw the same jaw-dropping gameplay at E3. The beauty and varied terrain of the Caribbean lend itself perfectly to creating another fun open-world playground for all your assassinating needs. But where climbing and exploring your surroundings were always the main attraction, altered slightly from time to time with side missions, this time they play second fiddle to sailing the seas with your crew on the Jackdaw.
Ubisoft has created an amazing ocean that is brimming with as much variety as the ground game. Raiding ships, navigating through storms and water tornadoes, the awe of watching a massive whale come crashing out the water mere yards from your ship ... It may be too much. That said, one things for sure: I better start playing Assassin's Creed III if I want to be ready this fall.
Other favorites: Killer is Dead, Bayonetta 2, Killer Instinct, Transistor, Dragon's Crown
Steven Hansen: The Witness
Amidst the pomp and circumstance of E3, Jonathan Blow's The Witness stood out as a thoughtful, meditative experience so refreshingly divorced from combat barks, attempted hyper realism, and shooting. Usually E3 brings with it plenty of big name titles that I'm all about, but I found myself less impressed with AAA announcements than last year. Ignoring how much I am expectedly salivating over Final Fantasy XV, follow up to franchises like Killzone and Infamous aren't doing much for me, while almost everything I've seen from the Xbox One's library has been massively disappointing.
Every element of The Witness' design seems intricately considered to serve Blow's intentions and through this fastidiousness a plainly interesting puzzle game was borne. It's bound to have the deeper philosophical underpinnings characteristic of Blow's Braid, yet at its most basic it's at least an excellent puzzle games. Beyond the puzzles, the game looks absolutely stunning with it's almost 3D vector art aesthetic and gorgeous cherry blossom trees, among other geography. I'm a sucker for cherry blossoms. Overall The Witness has some of the best trees in games.
Smaller titles brimming with character and original ideas. That's what I'm looking for. That doesn't always mean one person indie games or things like Hohokum that most people are in the dark about. The Witness has a 16 person team presently. Sony Japan's Puppeteer might end up being my game of the year, and Media Molecule's Tearaway is wonderful. Payday 2 managed to steal my heart and it's a first-person shooter. This E3 was a great year for niche, indie, and medium sized titles still willing to try new things.
Runners up: Puppeteer, Payday 2, Hohokum, Tearaway, Final Fantasy XV
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