Sure we’ve looked at how the biggest game companies in the world fared at E3, but when you really get down to it, the expo is more about the individual games that will come to define the next year and far, far beyond.
While this year’s E3 may have been no different, it is unique from previous events in that there wasn’t that one game that clearly stood above all, but rather a host of intriguing titles that promise to bring a variety of incredible gaming experiences to this generation and the next.
That may be great for gamers, though not their wallets, but when trying to narrow down such a stacked field to only 10 titles, you open yourself up to a world of disagreement, self doubt, and the feeling that ultimately you forgot something. Nevertheless, through it all, these were the 10 best games on display at E3 2013.
10. Star Wars Battlefront – Ok, ok, this one wasn’t really on display long, and as such we know less about “Star Wars: Battlefront” than any other major game revealed at E3, but what we do know is it’s the unlikely revival of the highly underrated “Star Wars” online multiplayer series made by the same people who have been making some of those exceptional “Battlefield” games of late.
And you know what? That’s all we need. Get excited people, because this is really happening.
9. Rain - I’m a fan of unique concepts in games, because even if things don’t completely work out, you’re left with something that stands apart at the least.
In that spirit, “Rain” is already a success of some sort, as its invisible protagonist illuminated solely by the falling rain provided one of the more original visuals of the entire show, and promises to refresh the age old ideas of puzzles and platforming by building everything else around that design. “Rain” could very well be the next indie darling for the PS3 and gamers everywhere.
8. Sonic Lost Worlds - Of all the unlikely possibilities that could of occurred at E3, the biggest one that came true would have to be…well probably the return of “Battlefront.”
But right after that would be a Sonic game being the highlight of Nintendo’s showing. Sonic has had a rough fifteen years in terms of quality games, but “Sonic Lost Worlds” looks to erase that long dry spell in a big way. Sure it may take a design idea or two from “Mario Galaxy,” but with gameplay that fast and exciting, no Sonic fan (or soon to be Sonic fan) is likely to balk.
7. Evil Within – Ask any horror gaming fan what the problem with the genre is today, and they’ll likely tell you it’s the action heavy focus made popular by the revolutionary “Resident Evil 4.”
While many have promised to buck the trend, the very real gameplay shown of “Evil Within” looks to actually be doing just that. It takes all of the aspects required of a good horror game (a mix of scares, great environment, and crafty production) and builds it around an enticing story that looks to be ready to make good on that whole scaring the beejesus out of you thing gaming has been lacking of late.
6. Beyond Two Souls - We’ve known the next game from the developers of “Heavy Rain” was going to be a cinematic journey for some time now, but after the extended preview at E3 2013, it’s still clear we don’t have a grasp of exactly what it is.
While some are worried by the action heavy trailer, if Quantic Dreams can combine the subtle storytelling and literary quality character interactions of “Heavy Rain” with the surprisingly interesting action we saw in “Beyond’s” E3 preview, “Beyond Two Souls” could be much more than anyone was expecting, and make a serious game of the year run in one of the most stacked years in recent memory.
5. Titanfall - While no one is going to try to pretend the Xbox One had a great showing at E3, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t individual highlights during their presentation, particularly in the exclusives department.
Of those, “Titanfall” made the most noise, and with good reason. It’s combination of first person shooter and mech combat gameplay shown in a highly cinematic fashion (and set to some great music), was one of the more visceral reveals of the show, and even has gamers who’ve already sworn off the Xbox One keeping close tabs on it.
4. Destiny - While I wouldn’t go so far as to call Bungie a one trick pony, the developer hasn’t had much reason to veer from “Halo” in the last decade or so and flex their creative muscles.
With “Destiny” they appear to be making up for lost time by introducing some intriguing new ideas into the genre they re-shaped with “Halo” (console first person shooters), and have so far displayed a game that may be promising a lot, but continues to look better with every minute of gameplay shown. Should they be able to make good on their ideas, this could very well be the premier FPS franchise of the next generation.
3. The Division – Some games can generate hype by just breaking down their pedigree. “The Division,” an open world, online team based, post-apocalyptic shooter RPG, set in the ruins of New York, is one of those games.
But if buzzwords and genres alone don’t convince you, then surely its extended gameplay demonstration will, as it shows a massive online shooter in the style of an apocalyptic “Arma II” with enticing futuristic features like tablet support, but still based upon the classic idea that shooting with friends is fun. This is an incredibly ambitious idea that may soon quickly grow a rabid fanbase and move some consoles.
2. The Witcher 3 - The team behind the “Witcher” series seem to have their brains firing on a different level, as their ability to craft a massive RPG story composed of smaller moments, and built on a foundation of unique combat and gameplay has quickly turned the franchise into a runaway cult hit for hardcore RPG fans across all platforms.
With the “Witcher 3” it appears the team is looking to expand that fanbase by crafting a more accessible, but no less brilliant, masterpiece. While it takes some cues from competitors here and there, the “Witcher 3” is promising a unique open world experience with truly dynamic scenarios and environments that doesn’t sacrifice any of the gameplay that made the franchise what it is. At an E3 filled with the phrase “Next-Gen,” this looks to be one title that truly encompasses the idea.
1. Watch Dogs - “Watch Dogs” wasn’t just the surprise of E3 2012 because it was an unannounced original concept from a high profile developer, but because of just how good it looked even in its early stages.
A year later and not much has changed. Just when “Watch Dogs” looks to have shown all of its tricks, another gameplay demonstration comes out, and we are left to realize that there is not only more than meets the eye to Ubisoft’s next big thing, but that it all seems to be coming together to form something as creative as it is polished.
Even if “Watch Dogs” fails to live up to its lofty hype, it could be no worse than an incredibly entertaining game. As of now though, it appears to be much more than that, and the best game of E3 2013 to boot.
However, this year it seems that every major developer and publisher was determined to re-kindle that old spark the event used to have, and across the board triumphantly accomplished just that with an E3 filled with the usual great game announcements, but bolstered by one time only events like Microsoft’s follow up to the “Xbox One” debacle, Nintendo’s rebellious direct service announcements, and of course the true reveal of the PS4.
Ultimately, like so many E3s, it would be the announcements of the “Big 3” that stole the show, and are still on the lips of gamers worldwide. Now that the presentations are done though, how did the world’s largest game companies fare at the most publicized video game event in the world? Well, let’s start with…
Microsoft had a lot of explaining to do after a reveal of the Xbox One that emphasized multimedia capabilities over gaming, as well as invoked the dreaded ideas of used game restrictions, and mandatory internet connectivity, that generally left a lot of people feeling pretty irate, and unsure of the future of the system.
While there were many ways to go about this, they made the somewhat interesting decision to go out on stage, drop a turd, hang a $499 price tag on it, and exit stage left.
It’s not that the presentation wasn’t better than the reveal, it certainly was, but even though they did things like focus on major gaming announcements over any media aspects, it seemed even the best announcements came with a catch. A good example is the return of “Killer Instinct,” in the form of a free title. While it should have been an untainted glorious moment of shock and hype, even that was watered down by the reveal that you can only play as one character on the outset, unless you paid into the game’s freemium model. As for major reveals and unique announcements, they were few and far between, and did little to excite.
More than any individual announcements though, it was the greater ideas that hindered Microsoft and the Xbox One. Try as they might they couldn’t escape the stench of bullshit that lingered well after every mention of used games restrictions, online connectivity, and even ideas which challenge the very notion of game ownership itself. As a result, there was a certain tension surrounding the proceedings that prevented even the most exciting announcements from drawing more than the odd applause here and there. It was uncomfortable to watch at its best, and embarrassing at its worst.
Yet I can’t give Microsoft failing marks. Like it or not, they have created a system that addresses issues in the industry from a business perspective, and even though they are horrible, dreadful, just plain awful ideas for consumers, they are at least original approaches to creating a system. But despite the fact no one can accuse Microsoft of playing it safe, there’s also no conceiving the argument that says they played it smart, or even intelligible.
The last several years of gaming have taught us that there are quite a few ways to make a gaming announcement.
For instance, you can bring out a bunch of awkward presenters who sound like they’ve only seen a video game as a word atop an earnings report, you can hire a bunch of celebrities to shamefully shill your product, you can insert enough cheap jokes and crowd pop attempts to make pro wrestling blush, and of course you can overspend on the presentation to compensate for your drastic under planning on the actual execution.
In unveiling their new console today, Microsoft pulled out all of these, and more. Of course, we should have anticipated this as soon as we heard the name of that console, the Xbox One, which displays as much creativity as any of those mentioned techniques.
Putting aside the fact that Microsoft is comfortable naming their console of the future after a term used when people are specifying the original Xbox in conversation, the actual hour long unveiling that would follow was a jumble of ideas that probably didn’t leave the punch in the gut impression that Microsoft had intended.
Now granted, there were a few moments of inspiration during the presentation, but most of them were centered around the initial demonstration of the Xbox One’s voice operated multimedia capabilities which, even though it was more of an extended demo of the new Kinect, was exactly the kind of thing that you expect from the next generation of gaming system.
From there though, things moved downhill. While aspects like the console’s bland looks, terrible, terrible name, and dull presentation style are ultimately trivial, what isn’t is the general impression that Microsoft is more interested in creating a multi-media device than they are a gaming system. This is evident in the lack of sufficient game announcements, dearth of in-game footage, choice to treat EA annual games like a big deal, and larger emphasis on getting RGIII and Steven Spielberg to cut promos over providing gamers with details like a price point (on Live and the console) or a solid release date.
Then again, the point is that the Xbox One doesn’t appear to be a gaming console as we’ve known it. While that could be a good thing in doses, and it’s obviously financially beneficial for Microsoft to focus on a multimedia device, if you’re a real gamer you’re probably still left shivering from that hour long cold shoulder.
Of course, realistically it is still too early to draw long term conclusions on the Xbox One, but the fact remains you only get one first impression, and the Xbox One’s first impression was not that of a confident gaming system. You could argue that Microsoft is saving all of that “game stuff” for E3, but as mentioned, that is a bloated and archaic institution, whereas this was the moment that Microsoft was supposed to have all to themselves.
It’s quite possible that what we’ve just seen is the inevitable future of the business of video games. If it really is all about figures and market shares though, then Microsoft will do well to take notice of the rise in Sony’s stock shortly following the Xbox One announcement not as an apparition, but as a clear message of the dangers, and benefits, of first impressions and that this is a true make or break system for the Redmond institution that shows they cannot afford to rest on their laurels, and come out with many more major whiffs, as they did today.
There has been a recent flood of information leaking the technical aspects of the new Playstation (and Xbox), that suddenly has everyone realizing that the official unveiling of Sony’s new system is indeed imminent. While we’ve learned a lot more about that new Playstation in the last week thanks to those leaks, there is still a great deal of the unknown as gamers eagerly await to see what Sony’s next gen system will bring them.
One thing that is becoming clear though is that the classic DualShock controller will not be part of that unveiling, as several sites, citing internal sources, are now reporting that Sony will be ditching their tried and true DualShock controller design and coming up with a fresh model. While it is unknown if the new Playstation controller will maintain basic elements of that old controller, already there are rumors of new features like a built-in touch LCD screen, and biometric sensors in the controller that would allow for readings of player’s certain physical properties such as sweat and nerves that could affect things like the character’s aim.
Obviously with Nintendo going bonkers with the Wii U remote (and redefining what a controller meant to a system with the Wii) every other company was going to have to step up their designs, and so this announcement is a bittersweet one, due in large part to the DualShock controller being the greatest video game controller of all time.
Even if you ignore the most basic features of the controller like it’s smart layout and curvy features that just naturally felt right in your hands, it’s the dual analog sticks and vibration ability that secures that lofty title for the DualShock. It’s easy to forget that the re-design from the original Playststion was a response to the analog stick on the N64, as it became quickly evident that the traditional four direction D Pad was not going to be enough to properly handle a new generation of 3D gaming. Humorously though, with the original dual analog controller re-design (minus the rumble feature) Sony still included a little button that would turn the analog feature on and off so gamers wouldn’t feel overwhelmed or burdened by the new technology. They in fact wouldn’t make a game that fully required its use until the brilliant “Ape Escape” which made considerable beneficiary use of the new design.
Slowly though, the gainful advantages of the dual stick design became immediately evident as it allowed for an unimpeded 360 degree movement system that was still as precise as any single direction direct input. Just imagine trying to play a modern FPS on a console without the dual stick layout, or a third person action or platform game without the freedom of movement and camera control at the same time. As for the built in rumble feature, you just need to recall “Metal Gear Solid“, and that moment where “Psycho Mantis” moves your controller by activating the rumble at a high capacity. It was an all time classic moment in video games that wouldn’t have been possible without the feature, and is just an example of the new level of interaction that the device was capable of providing.
It all came together to form the perfect gaming controller. When you look back at certain controllers, they’re often too simple, too cluttered, or too specifically remembered for their value in certain titles (the N64 and “Goldeneye” or the original Xbox controller and “Halo” for instance). Games always found a way to smartly use just about every button on the DualShock, and it worked for every style of game, not making itself noteworthy for one title above any other. It’s why Sony felt there was no need to change the design for the Playstation 2 or Playstation 3 (slight modifications and wireless functionality aside), and truthfully if they wanted to, it could still hold up for the next generation some 15 + years after the original design’s retail release.
It’s hard to fault Sony for reconsidering the controller for their next system, but even if they don’t maintain the design of the DualShock, we can only hope they remember the spirit of it, and engineer a controller that doesn’t strive to change gaming, but instead accounts for the natural evolution of the medium and inadvertently does so in the process.
Hey there Sony, it’s your old friend common sense. Long time no see right? Well, listen, I know we haven’t talked much since you didn’t invite me to that 2006 E3 conference, and I’d love to reminisce about those times we hung out and you moved to the CD format and revolutionized the industry, or added a DVD player to your system and changed how a game console was viewed as the central home entertainment piece, but the truth is that I came here to talk about something serious.
It’s just, I thought I should be the one to tell you it’s not a good idea. Take it from me that it just doesn’t make sense. I know you grind your teeth (a practice I also don’t advise) every time you think of the used game market and the money that Gamestop alone takes from it that you essentially don’t see a dime of, just like I know that it makes your blood boil to think of it as anything less than organized piracy. And hey, you don’t need to tell me that if all of those used game profits went back into yours, and the developer’s, pockets, then you could theoretically change the literal fortune of the industry either. Remember, this is your old pal common sense. I get that.
But you can’t honestly believe that you wield a position of unscrupulous power that would allow you to get away with this do you? You do understand that Microsoft and Nintendo (who at least call me for drinks once in a while…just saying) have equal or larger market shares worldwide to boast about , and used the entire last generation for the lone goal of making people forget the name Playstation was once synonymous with video games right? I mean, you know that actually implementing such an idea would only drive gamers to those systems in droves, and as they make the kind of profits you only dreamed about with this act precisely by not implementing it, you could only sit and watch as every loyalist you had jumps ship?
What are you thinking man? Do you believe that you somehow have enough exclusive titles that gamers will still stick with you through this? I got news for you pal, “Uncharted” and “God of War” don’t come out that often. Or maybe you think the massive fan support that the new kid on the block the “Ouya” generated with exactly the opposite kind of philosophy that you are proposing was just a fluke? Or that should Valve release the Steam Box it wouldn’t be the most anticipated console to hit the market in years? Did the Playstation Move, Home, the PSP and Vita, and Wonderbook somehow become amazing successes when I wasn’t paying attention, so you’re not worrying about the repercussions of your actions anymore?
Ok, that was harsh. I apologize.
I Mean, Just Because Someone Else Had It First Doesn’t Mean it Isn’t a Good Idea Right?
But really my point is this. You’ve changed Sony. You used to be cool. You brought people a system in the Playstation that for the first time got the kids who used to beat up other kids for playing video games, playing the same video games. You changed the world overnight by supporting “Final Fantasy VII”, and shaped a new generation of controller design with the Dualshock. You’ve given countless runaway and unwanted developers and properties homes and turned them into favorite sons. Hell, you invented the Playstation 2!
Yet look at you now. Drawing up papers that would screw over the little guy the world over so you can maintain your finger grip grasp on video game mountain, rather than lend a hand to consumers in greater need. You’d rather sink retail stores, and make gamers pay a premium on all titles they buy, and force parents to work harder to afford the games their kids want for their birthdays or Christmas, just so you can theoretically see profits grow without any creative effort on your part. Also, even just selling this technology to developers for their optional use as you’re rumored to do, doesn’t make this any better than peddling drugs rather than using them.
Maybe this whole idea is just a bluff, but let me tell you something most people know. Puffing up your chest to look bigger, doesn’t really make you bigger.
But hey, I don’t want this to be a fight between us Sony. I just want you to know, that I know, that you would never actually do something so monumentally stupid as attempting to ban the sale of used games. I know that, because should you go through with it, there won’t even be the need for a fight, because in every respect in which success in this industry is measured, you will have lost right out of the gate.
How do I know that? Well, far be it for me to brag, but it is just common sense.
While individual game releases will always (deservedly) get most of the love, there is nothing like a truly great overall year of gaming. Even though it’s never an intended effect, it’s amazing when a group of independent properties come together to create an incredible 365, or 366 if we’re talking leap years, days of gaming. Years like 2001 (“Halo: CE,” “Grand Theft Auto III,” “Final Fantasy X”), 2007 (“Bioshock,” “Portal,” “Mass Effect”), and, of course, the greatest of them all, 1998 (featuring the holy trinity of “Metal Gear Solid,” “Half-Life,” and “Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time”) represent some of the best times ever to be a gamer.
And 2013 has the potential to join, or even exceed, all of them. Thanks to some fortunate timing, and a few delays, it’s looking to be a landmark year of video gaming that will be remembered for many, surely lesser, years to come. While there are many, many reasons for this, here are five that lead me to believe that 2013 in gaming will be one for the ages.
Mobile Gaming is Coming Into Its Own
“Serious” gamers may look down on the mobile gaming market, but it’s time that all gamers realize that we’ve come a long, long way from “Doodle Jump”. Now, instead of being an outlet for puzzlers, tower defense titles, and slightly lesser console ports, mobile gaming is producing intriguing and inventive titles at a rapid pace, due in large part to a sea of developers making use of the simpler programming on mobile devices, and the still interesting touch controls, to provide a constant, and often cheap, flow of amazing games on the go. Since the explosion in tablet sales over the last couple of years, we’re even starting to see more titles developed specifically with their larger sized screens and more powerful abilities in mind.
There hasn’t really been a truly noteworthy traditional handheld gaming system since the Nintendo DS, but thankfully an ever growing community has slowly turned a platform that was only used for brief sessions of “Snake” in your downtime, to one of the most exciting fields for surprising high quality video game releases. Expect this to continue in 2013.
The Next Generation Begins
As the Wii U is proving, a new console doesn’t have to blow minds to still produce some genuine excitement and huge sales numbers. While nothing from the other major gaming companies is official, it’s looking more and more likely that 2013 will bring gamers the next generation of Xbox and Playstation consoles (even if it is only a preview at the least). While that means that gamers will have to soon be plucking down some serious cash on new consoles, accessories and games (not to mention still trying to keep up with the releases still to come for the previous consoles), there is nothing more exciting than the promise of a new gaming generation.
Soon battle lines will be drawn once again as gamers choose their alliances, and new specs and features will again re-shape what we thought was possible in the medium. This has been a great console lifecycle, but it’s gone on for longer than usual, and it’s time for a new day to begin.
People Are Choosing the Games They Want, and What They Want in Games
One of the biggest changes to gaming over the last year or two has been the influence of sites like Kickstarter (or more recently Steam’s “Greenlight” program). Now, developers have open forums where they can present their ideas and let the community decide their interest in them, and even help by directly funding the titles. Even though the road to success is not guaranteed, it’s now easier than ever for a good idea to see life, and for gamers to help make sure the games they want get a chance.
But this isn’t just about sites like those. It’s also about events like “Mass Effect 3′s” optional new endings, or “Bioshock: Infinite’s” alternate cover. Now, more than ever, gamers have the ability to directly influence the decisions of major developers, and have a word about the final product. While this is a controversial move, the fact that the average gamer now has so much power to directly influence the titles available to them will have some major, and intriguing, implications in the coming year.
Influence of 2012’s Biggest Games
2012 was not one of those all-time great years of gaming I mentioned, but it did have some all-time great games. It’s natural to build off of what came before, and in the case of 2013, that could mean some exciting and sweeping changes across several genres.
Particularly, look for the success of “The Walking Dead” to lead to a revival of the traditional point and click genre, as well as a greater focus on the effect of storytelling in games. I also wouldn’t be surprised if the indie hit “Slender” put horror game developers back to the drawing board to come up with some fresh ideas for the genre (and veer it away slightly from the growing action elements), and if the praise that “Far Cry 3” is garnering expands the aging FPS market into more of the sandbox gaming territory. Other less likely, but equally welcome innovations would be if more all-star developers got together on independent properties like in “Dishonored,” or if other long dead franchises get exciting resurrections like “XCOM,” or even if “Journey” inspires people to look towards developing with art, and not violence, more in mind.
Whatever the final influences may be, 2012 showed there are still some exciting places for gaming to go. 2013 might just take us to all of them.
Of course, that’s just some of the games that we actually know about. Many of the best games of this year came out of nowhere, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the best game of 2013 is one that no one is talking about yet. Even in an ever expanding industry, at the end of the day games are still king, and the games set for 2013 are some of the most exciting that I’ve seen in a long time.
Originally, I wasn’t sure whether or not to report on the Ouya, mostly because I feel like I met my quota on farfetched console rumors with that Xbox 720 report leak. However, between the underwhelming Wii U unveiling at E3, and Microsoft and Sony remaining mum on their future plans, 720 leaks aside, it’s getting harder and harder to get properly hyped up for the next generation of consoles based on mere official information. So here I am, reporting on another console that may or may not exist.
Cynicism aside, the truth is that there are a lot of reasons to be excited about the Ouya. Because Ouya isn’t just a vaguely dirty-sounding word, but is instead a rumored new entrant into the console wars that has the backing of veterans like Ed Fries (Xbox) and CEO Julie Uhram (IGN).
Now, obviously, anybody trying to make a successful new console has to have an ace up their sleeve to separate themselves from the industry giants. The Ouya’s trump card, as first reported by The Verge, is its Android-powered core, which will supposedly help the console double as a development kit. Essentially, the Ouya is “hacker friendly” and allows for gamers that buy it to create their own titles. Even more appealing is the consoles alleged price tag, which is said to be set at $99, and will feature completely free games.
While there is apparently more information about the Ouya set to break in the coming days, what we have now is tantalizing enough. The idea of a major release system encouraging a lassez faire attitude towards its consumers concerning security policies and publishing rights is an interesting one, and brings consoles closer toward their seemingly inevitable assimilation with some of the finer points of PC gaming. In fact, there is a lot about the Ouya that reflects the recent evolutionary trends in gaming. It combines a little bit of mobile app gaming, the explosion of the indie development market, and is supposedly set to offer the whole package to you for a foundation-shattering price point.
It’s a console based around the concepts of freedom and independence, making the 4th of July the perfect day to consider its potential impact. Because honestly, whether or not the Ouya bucks the trend of previous cinderella entrants into the console market and actually makes it is, at this time, largely irrelevant. As the “Madden” franchise has shown, when there is a lack of real competition in a market, it’s hard for your product to not become stale. And if even half of the information about the Ouya turns out be accurate, it is at least an exciting idea that may hopefully force the major players to consider the benefits of its more appealing ideas.