With E3 well and truly behind us, we’ve decided to look back and remind everyone of some of the more surprising yet standout games from the event.
From Ubisoft to Sony, there were plenty of games on offer, so we’ve rounded up some of the games that really stood out to us.
Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man
PlayStation ended their conference on an incredible high with what was arguably one of the best game-play demos in E3 history. Insomniac Games’ Spider-Man looks incredible, and they managed to show-off the slick movement, fast-combat, and free-webbing that we all want from a game featuring Peter Parker.
We saw Spidey running up buildings, swinging around corners, and launching his way between giant skyscrapers in what looks like an open-world New York City. The developer looks to have nailed the feeling of manoeuvrability and strength that controlling a super-agile super-hero should give you. What we saw of the combat was also promising and there are obvious parallels with Rocksteady’s Arkham series in the way that Spider-Man was switching between enemies and stringing together combos to take down the bad guys.
There were several QTE events and exhilarating cinematic moments reminiscent of the Uncharted games and boasting the same high-quality visuals. In fact the whole sequence was breathtaking and relentless in its pace; from Spiderman stealthily attacking and webbing up goons, to the mini-boss fight in the middle, and then the finale of chasing a helicopter leaving a trail of destruction in its wake. In terms of story, the lesser-known Mr. Negative was playing the villain in this particular segment, but that doesn’t mean he will be the only antagonist in the game.
We got a glimpse of Kingpin, and also a “Norman Osborne for Mayor” sign, plus that stinger with Miles Morales might be an indication that we can look forward to seeing other characters we know from the Marvel Universe. All in all, it’s looking like Spider-Man might be one of the best games of next year, and potentially has the chance to be the best super-hero game ever.
A Way Out
EA’s press conference went largely as predicted- Star Wars: Battlefront II, FIFA, Madden and Battlefield 1 all were expected to make appearances and didn’t disappoint on that front. But in between all the mega-franchises we had a glimpse of something special. A Way Out is an upcoming game that has been created specifically for co-op play, which works both online and with a friend sitting next you on the couch.
The story revolves around two men who join forces to escape a prison. Interestingly, the two characters seem to operate independently from each other; during the demo, one player was shown in a cut scene, while the other was still in control of their character. After the initial demo on the EA conference stage, a build of the game was playable on the show floor. Early reports have indicated that the game is not just a 3rd person co-op action/puzzle game, but will also incorporate stealth levels, driving stages and 2D platforming sequences.
A Way Out is part of EA’s efforts to promote and cultivate indie games via a program called EA Originals. It is being developed by Hazelight Studios, who you may remember from the much loved Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons.
Beyond Good and Evil 2
Just the reaction in the room at the Ubisoft conference can tell you a lot- when Beyond Good and Evil 2 was shown to finish the show, there was shouting, screaming, and I suspect a fair amount of crying from the fans who have been waiting for this since it was officially announced nine years ago.
A purely cinematic trailer with stunning visuals showed off a cheeky heist with some beautifully rendered anthropomorphic characters, including chimpanzee Knox, and his target, a hybrid pig-man called Zhou Yuzhu. Knox escapes with his crewmate Shani (a human) and we are treated to an aerial chase scene over a beautiful city of old looking temples and buildings contrasted with more recognisable sci-fi elements like the giant flying police station that our protagonists succeed in blowing up. Once Knox and Shani have escaped, they are re-united with their motley crew and we get a glimpse of a woman with “jade” green eyes… possibly a reference to the main character in the original Beyond Good and Evil.
Creator Michel Ansel was onstage to unveil the game, and later confirmed that this is a prequel to the original. It takes place in a solar-system called System 3, and will contain a “seamless online playground,” – other than this, we still have no idea what the actual game looks or plays like. Interestingly, the tone of the series has shifted as evidenced by the liberal swearing in the trailer.
It will be fascinating to see how the game is positioned to what kind of audience it targets. Even though the game has supposedly been in development since 2008, I would not expect to see the finished product anytime soon as there was not even a release window announced. Confirmed on stage, however, was a beta test for the game aptly named the “Space Monkey” which you can sign up for on the Beyond Good & Evil 2 website.
Mario+Rabbids: Kingdom Battle
For me, the biggest surprise of E3 wasn’t a shocking new announcement, or the reveal of hardware details, but that the Ubisoft developed Mario/Rabbids crossover game actually looks pretty damn fun. When details leaked about the game a few months ago, I (and many others) did not give the game a second glance… Rabbids in the Mushroom Kingdom just did not seem appropriate; as if the lesser- known creatures (who originated from the Rayman series) did not deserve to be rubbing shoulders with gaming royalty such as Mario, Luigi, Peach and the others. This feeling of indifference was only heightened by the claim that the game was set to be a “turn-based strategy RPG”- a genre that you do not normally associate with Mario. How could Nintendo allow this to happen?! They are normally so careful with their properties…
But then at the Ubisoft conference we got an extended look at the game I had prematurely and unfairly written off- and it stood out to me more than all the other games at the show. Having Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto on stage also reflected that this is no third-party cash-in. From the demo, it looked like there was genuine depth to the game-play.
They showed flanking maneuvers, cover-based shooting, using the classic Mario green-pipes to traverse the stages, unique character skills, and even the ability to boost fellow players ahead by throwing them. And even more encouragingly, in the hands-on events on the show-floor, reports have been positive. This is not an XCOM for children, even if the art style makes it appear that way. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle launches on August 29th this year, and I’m now genuinely looking forward to playing it on Switch.
Bioware might’ve slightly damaged their stellar reputation with the release of this years’ underwhelming Mass Effect: Andromeda, but from what we saw of their brand new IP Anthem, it looks like a return to form.
Anthem was teased with a cinematic CGI trailer during the EA Play conference. It was a very brief look at a sci-fi world and some futuristic exo-suits, and it was understandably hard for critics and commentators to avoid the Destiny/Halo comparisons. But the next day, we had a 6 minute gameplay demo at the Microsoft Xbox conference. Starting with the usually encouraging “Everything you are about to see was captured in-game running in real-time” blurb, we were treated to a visually stunning demo. Anthem shown in 4k resolution and running on the Frostbite engine is something to behold.
I suspect that part of the reason why this demo had a lengthy conservation with another human character was to show off the gloriously detailed face of the man talking after the animations in Mass Effect: Andromeda were widely ridiculed(there was still something off about his mouth). It was exhilarating to watch the player in the exo-suit, flying (Iron-Man style) through a lush green landscape full of wildlife and aggressive looking monsters, and the movement appears seamless. The character can touch down on the green landscape and sprint-boost along or take to the skies in a few moments, and the highlight was seeing him dive below the surface of a lake to briefly glimpse some under-water life before bursting up through the surface, all with amazing graphical detail, such as the spray of water droplets on the camera.
It is almost certain that Anthem will be an action-RPG, set in a shared online world much like Ubisoft’s The Division, and of course, Destiny. This is not a new concept, and not much to get excited about on the surface. What interests me the most is whether Bioware, who have a proven track record of engaging stories and interesting characters in games can combine this latest craze for an “always online” element with an interesting narrative that will keep me coming back for more. The signs are promising- the original Mass Effect and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic writer Drew Karpyshyn is back on writing duties for Anthem.