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Veering away from the North Hall where the big 3 console developers were found yesterday (Nintendo, Xbox and Playstation), today we spent almost all of our time in the South Hall. There, a gaggle of the industry’s biggest publishers and developers—some gargantuan in stature, others small and independent—all vied for supremacy in a voluminous room where explosions, cheers and even dance-offs cacophonously rang out everywhere. Today had more variety in terms of game styles, and some of the most jaw-dropping games of the near (and not so fear) future came out with a strong showing.
Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain – Konami
Konami had a display presentation (nothing playable) of the upcoming Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain at their booth. An odd, helipad of sorts was present as a raised platform for fans to watch the demo. The game has a completely befuddling level of options available. The demo opens on what will serve as Snake’s “base,” the transport helicopter that brings him in and out of missions inside early 80’s Afghanistan. There, he can both choose from a variety of buddies, cassette tapes for his own Walkman (styled as an iDroid) and even what weapons, equipment and vehicles to airdrop in with him. At first, the demo presented Snake as having new character Quiet as the assigned buddy. Much in line with recent controversy over the character, Quiet is essentially a buxom beauty wearing a bikini top instead of military fatigues. The demo presenter quickly switched the buddy to a dog named D. Dog. D. Dog apparently even has a sheath and a knife which he can pull out and wield himself to knife opponents. Not kidding. Knife-wielding dog. From there, the two are air-dropped into a hot zone with a specific mission. The word is essentially wide open, and Snake can walk, run, ride or drive to his objective depending on his buddy or available vehicle. Once at a military outpost, with D. Dog’s aid he systematically takes out the guards in standard MGS fashion, creeping along, hiding some in lockers, killing others, and in a new twist: using a Fulton recovery balloon to literally send captured soldiers up into the air to be recovered by his own mini Air Force. Some captives go willingly and offer new services such as language interpreting and others not so much, but still yield useful information. Without going into scene-by-scene detail here, the flexibility of the world—in its own kwirky MGS way—is pretty astonishing. Every piece of the environment can be interacted with, and enemies learn your covert tactics as you use them, adjusting slightly to try to counter your efforts. One massive sequence featured a full-on firefight between armed guards, manned cannons and a tank, with snake countering using his own helicopter air support and a ride-able robot droid with a gatling gun. Needless to say, when you screw up and you’re not cautious enough, all hell breaks loose and it requires concentration and care to get to safety.
For the nostalgic 8-bit purist in us all, CAPCOM had a good display highlighting the history of Mega Man to coincide with their upcoming Megaman Legacy Collection. The collection features Megaman 1 through 6 in all their forward-thinking, platforming glory. There’s not much to say here, as only Megaman 1 and 2 were playable in the demo and the games exist exactly as they did when first released. There are some “museum”-style features where concept art and other unreleased goodies galore are viewable though. Otherwise, this is the best way to get your retro Megaman fix all in once place.
Yesterday and today we spent some time with the newly formally announced Street Fighter V. Like a lot of titles we’ve seen this week, this is a shinier, higher-fidelity take on king of one-on-one fighting games. At this time, either because that’s all CAPCOM means to include at first play of the game or that’s all that’s ready to be properly demoed, the only playable characters are Birdie, Cammy, Chun-Li, M. Bison, Charlie and Ryu. If you’re unskilled like us, the average E3 attendee can completely whoop the crap out of you. But needless to say, the game looks more fluid and painstakingly crafted. Things a mile off in the background are equally stunning and also distracting when someone’s kicking you in the face.
At the Indiecade area we were literally enraptured by the mere design of a retro, Castlevania-style platformer called Death’s Gambit. Not much has been detailed yet as to the full plot of the game, but it looks like the gist is that you’re sent to another planet by the embodiment of death itself to rid that planet of otherworldly immortal creates. Good enough for us. Here, we had the ability to wield a sword or fire a bow and arrow. Gameplay was challenging, and death could happen easily, but the design of the game more than made up for its difficulty. In the early trailer recently released footage shows the protagonist scaling massive monsters larger that only Shadow of the Colossus could be an accurate measuring point.
Fallout 4/Fallout Shelter – Bethesda
So, this week everyone is talking about Fallout 4. Unfortunately for attendees, one of the most hotly anticipated titles just announced isn’t yet playable. The footage available to be seen is the same released at Bethesda’s press conference earlier this week. The game looks incredible, visiting the pre-Fallout world and the main character’s immediate re-entry twenty years later. However, Bethesda has done something pretty neat, and just this week made available, completely for free, an iOS spinoff called Fallout Shelter. Much in the vein of the popular Simpsons: Tapped Out series, this is a somewhat freemium game where you build things to get resources, and then have to wait for set durations to get those resources. There are options to rush things, and thankfully rushing doesn’t cost you real-world money, you just risk potential disaster and the health of your citizens. In this, the game is lovingly styled on the Vault Boy caricature retro art and all your denizens are fashioned this way. In this, you endlessly try to expand your underground vault, adding new rooms and jobs for your citizens to man. Not surprisingly, it’s very addictive.
Battlecry – Bethesda
Also at Bethesda, was the playable combat (and team factioned) Battlecry. Much like Blizzard’s upcoming Overwatch and Gearbox’s Battleborn (which we’ll get to in a little bit) this is an open world free-for-all in the style of the vintage Unreal Tournament showdowns. Only, instead of everyone possessing the same array of projectile guns, each character has distinct abilities and weaponry. Some characters are purely melee, using weaponry. Others cloak and can become invisible for a short-time. Still others like the one we used can summons orbiting satellites to spot the enemy or send out simple automatons to blow up the enemy. Playing 5-on-5 is fun, but there just wasn’t enough “Oomph” here to make this one truly jump off the page, at least not yet. There’s a certain satisfaction to decimating your opponent, but in the highly competitive world of shoot-em-ups, it’s hard to be good enough to not find yourself eradicated every time your turnaround.
Batman: Arkham Knight – Rocksteady Studios
The popular Batman series also returns here with the sparkly and polished Batman: Arkham Knight. Much like the previous title Batman: Arkham City, this franchise has taken some of the mostly open-world dynamics made famous by Grand Theft Auto series and applied them across the Gotham City world of Batman. The developers onhand showed us how the game’s playing field is literally three times the size of the previous title, and some of the play still exists in the now shut down Arkham City. Similar to Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain, the greatest highlight of this game is how seamlessly you can shift between driving the Batmobile, cape flying through the city or repelling down for some close-quarters combat. The game will have numerous side missions, but besides the Scarecrow, Two Face and Riddler, the developers on hand were a bit cagey as to exactly which Bat baddies will be in the game. This is basically Batman: Arkham City on steroids, as everything runs smoother, feels more natural and just looks impossibly finer in detail. Flying down from a building in the rain the slickness of the water literally glistens off the back of his cape. Not bad. Not bad at all.
Lego Avengers – TT Games
For beat-em-up, coin collecting madness you just can’t beat the Lego-branded IP games. Lego Avengers is an adorable take on the multi-billion dollar Marvel film franchise. A developer on hand told us that the game covers all of the events of Avengers and Avengers: Age of Ultron. The one scene we could play featured Captain America, Black Widow and Hawkeye trying to save civilians right in the heart of Loki’s Chitauri invasion in the Battle of New York. Characters can be switched between instantly and certain dynamics for each character had to be utilized to progress through the game. Fire, for example, could only be destroyed using Captain America’s shield. Large debris could only be pulled over using one of Hawkeye’s grappling hook arrows. It may be something we’ve seen a hundred times before from the Lego-branded games, but who are we kidding? Sign us up. Our inner comic book dork can’t wait to play through this one.
Battleborn – Gearbox Software
Lastly, we come to Battleborn. Battleborn is a cooperative first-person shooter game, utilizing several specially styled characters. Like Battlecry which we covered earlier, Battleborn takes each character and makes them unique through a bevy of different features. One features a humorously large gatling gun, another has four hands and casts spells, and another—which we got saddled with—uses not much more than an axe and a rushing attack. On the plus side, each and every character has been lovingly designed, intentionally inspired by the developers favorite fiction and influences stretching back over the last thirty years. On the negative side, the game is just explosively colorful. It’s fast, and it’s hard to follow the action unless you’re a twitch gamer extraordinaire. There’s a lot of depth and variety to be had here, and it’s fun playing with a team to a cooperative objective, but being stuck with a Viking-ish character that has to pick up his axe after he throws it in a total onslaught of action can be a bit daunting.