Round Dozen – Best Games at E3 2014, Part 1

Far Cry 4

As this year’s E3 winds down, let’s remind ourselves of the best new games on show

 

Ah, E3 (or Electronic Entertainment Expo, if you’re a pedantic sort). That checkered box on every gaming calendar that is guaranteed to elicit excitement from eager fans panting at the bit for more challenges and trolling opportunities, while the journalists slap on the sceptical spectacles and refuse to applaud the latest videogame reveals after years of unfazed disappointments. Whichever side of the fence you clamber into, it’s sure to be a heady time. And now, with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo all settled in to the new generation after last year’s warm-up act, this was the time for the hardware giants to really deliver the goods and show, not tell us why we should be excited for their revelatory new systems. Unlike Sony’s showstopping performance with the PS4 in 2013, the companies were pretty much on equal ground this time around, all with a killer app waiting in the wings. (Well, EA still sucks, but that’s nothing new – kind of like their games, then *rimshot*).

So, concentrating on the conferences (as well as Nintendo’s Digital Event), here are just a (fairly large) handful of upcoming releases to look forward to in the coming months and beyond.


12) Tom Clancy’s The Division

Publisher: Ubisoft  ||  Developer: Ubisoft Massive, Ubisoft Reflections, Ubisoft Red Storm Platform: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Windows  ||  Release: 2015

 

One of the more welcome surprises to come out of last year’s Expo, The Division is yet another new IP from the increasingly impressive French-based development team Ubisoft. A third-person action MMO set in a post apocalyptic New York, it follows Ubisoft’s emerged remit of online focused gameplay (along with The CrewAssassin’s Creed Unity and Rainbow Six: Siege) and topical themes of social media and consumerism recently envisioned in the hack’and’dash Watch Dogs. Drawing on real-life instances of mock bio-terrorism in the United States, the story opens onto a collapsed America, one brought crumbling down after a disease spreads amongst the populace on the annual mania-inducing shopping event, Black Friday.

With three of their in-house development teams working on the project, The Division will be the proving ground for their new Snowdrop engine, which, on early evidence, looks set to deliver an eye-watering amount of detail, including permanent bullet damage to structures and vehicles, dynamic reflections and snow effects. After the debacle with Watch Dogs’ graphics falling far short from what early marketing suggested, only time will tell whether The Division can follow through on its staggering potential.

 


11) Bloodborne

Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment  ||  Developer: From Software, SCE Japan Studio Platform: Playstation 4  ||  Release: 2015

 

“From the makers of Dark Souls.” And that’s pretty much all the info you need to get excited for Bloodborne, an upcoming exclusive for the Playstation 4 that looks to follow in the tradition of From Software’s Souls series to deliver a relentless, unforgiving beast of a challenge. Although no official gameplay has been released, word from Sony (and lucky passholders at the conference, who got to see a behind-closed-doors demo – check out GameSpot on YouTube for a very quick glimpse) promises an extensive action/horror RPG that replicates the tense one-on-one encounters, intimidating boss battles and unceasing grip of hopelessness that made an early ‘Game Of The Year’ contender out of this year’s Dark Souls 2.

Returning to direct for the studio is Demon Souls and Dark Souls’ original imagineer Hidetaka Miyazaki, for the recognisable story of a weary traveller arriving in the abandoned city of Yharnam in search of a legendary cure. Once there, our protagonist (presumably fully customisable) discovers a ravage of illness has swept through the streets, leaving mentally deranged citizens feverishly prowling as you attempt to survive the onslaught. Will it be as teeth-grindingly difficult as From Software’s previous? One can dream (not necessary good dreams, though).

 


10) Far Cry 4

Publisher: Ubisoft  ||  Developer: Ubisoft Montreal  ||  Platform: Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, Windows  ||  Release: November 18, 2014

 

Probably too preoccupied with abetting the wavering anticipation for their tentpole release Watch Dogs, Ubisoft largely let this one hover unnoticed under the hype radar. But don’t let that put you off. Both Far Cry 3 and last year’s spin-off Blood Dragon (a brilliant little ode to 80’s B-movie actioners) proved that there was still plenty of untrekked terrain to explore, and with this fourth entry for the first-person open world franchise, Canada-based studio Ubisoft Montreal are taking things further afield, from tropical climes to the freezing, snowcapped heights of the Himalayas.

Verticality is the big innovation here, with Uncharted/Tomb Raider‘s cliff-scaling antics a clear influence for our new protagonist’s preferred choice of traversal, not to mention the introduction of ‘copters to ease the journey up, up, up. A tease of co-op and multiplayer integration also raises the appreciation eyebrow, another example of Ubisoft’s newfound dedication to social gaming. Add a Vaas-alike villain, self-appointed king of the Kyrat region Pagan Min (played with simmering relish by industry pro Troy Baker, he of Joel from The Last Of Us, Booker from Bioshock Infinite and Joker from Batman: Arkham Origins fame), and Far Cry 4 could be this year’s late AAA hit before the last generation of consoles takes its final bow.

 


09) Evolve

Publisher: 2K Games  ||  Developer: Turtle Rock Studios  ||  Platform: Playstation 4, Xbox One, Windows  ||  Release: October 21, 2014

 

Turtle Rock Studios’ seminal zombie shooter Left 4 Dead (co-developed with Valve) and its subsequent sequels rests easy at the top of the online gaming ranks. Unlike the Call Of Dutys and Battlefields of the world, the series promoted teamwork over competitive rousing, with a fourway campaign mode forcing players to rely on each other to blast their way through undead hordes in splat-stick fashion. Now, working from a property picked up after THQ’s bankruptcy in December 2012, and working with Borderlands publisher 2K Games, Turtle Rock are taking their guaranteed formula-for-fun and giving it a new-gen polish.

Evolve swaps the walking dead for monolithic beasts (one of which bears a striking resemblance to a certain Lovecraftian creation – see the trailer above), with a quartet of ably outfitted human heroes once again teaming up for the takedown. Players have a choice of three classic FPS classes – assault, medic, support – as well as the intriguing non-offensive tracker type, each with their own unique capabilities to ensure that every squad member remains vital to the monster-hunting mission. But on the flip side, a fifth player can also join the fray as the big beastie, again with its own special skill-set. Extra effort has been made to keep the combat as balanced as possible, to hopefully diminish OP floor-wiping on either side. If Evolve comes even close to the addictive stylings of Left 4 Dead, the inevitable strains on our domestic lives should be cause for concern.

 

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