E3 2015 is underway and games never looked prettier. Yes, everything we viewed on day one of E3 looked immensely expensive to produce. Prettier graphics, larger engines, more free-form mechanics, more, more, more, more, more, more and bigger. The games we saw today represent many millions of dollars of investment, and in some cases, 8 years of development time. Here’s what we got to tinker with on day 1 of E3 2015.
The Banner Saga 2 had a playable demo on display. For those unfamiliar, this is the sequel to popular game available for multiple platforms (even iOS for iPad). The game itself is a mix of turn-based combat mixed with an elaborate and colorful Viking-ish fantasy world. The demo here thrust a small party of characters into the middle of a full-on battle with incredibly large, evil-looking opponents. There was a step-by-step guide on how to make choices and leverage the movement range and attack ability of the characters, but it was hard to know which button pressed which way. One choice would appear to be a, “attack that enemy,” but then it also required a confirmation of that attack. Pressing the wrong button seemingly cancelled the action altogether. Still, a lush, beautiful game.
Star Fox Zero – Nintendo
The biggest hubbub at Nintendo’s monstrous area (literally felt like their “booth” stretched on forever) was all about the newly announced Starfox Zero. Roughly 40 or so terminals all boast long, slow lines for fans to try out the mechanics. If you’ve played the original Starfox 22 years ago, this will all seem amazingly familiar to you. You play Starfox a vaguely humanoid space fighter pilot and along with his equally vaguely humanoid animal team of fighters, fly around, fly through rings and shoot many baddies. Only, in Starfox Zero everything is fully beautiful and rendered gorgeously. Also, the game has been designed from the ground up to optionally be used with the Wii U GamePad controller. This allows the player to see a cockpit view from the gamepad, while a few of the action from the main television screen.
Yoshi’s Woolly World – Nintendo
Things get fully nuts with Yoshi’s Wooly World. You know those elements of Super Mario Bros that makes you wonder if the developers of the Mario franchise take lots of acid? Where the villains can be named anything from shy guys to goombas to cheap cheaps, and the lands can be called Rainbow Road or Cookie Mountain or Moo Moo Meadows? Well look no further than Yoshi’s Woolly World! Here, Yoshi is the lead character (along with a 2nd player similar variant color Yoshi). You eat things as Yoshi often does, but here, you collect and use yarn as a weapon. You use yarn to concoct platforms and environmental elements and you spit yarn at enemies to tangle them up. Somewhere in the midst of that, you collect coins and flowers as bonuses. It’s like knowing what an acid trip is like, without actually taking any.
Super Mario Maker – Nintendo
Equally bizarre, but massively technically impressive, to coincide with the 30th anniversary of Super Mario Nintendo has announced Super Mario Maker. Yes, anyone can now dive in and construct Super Mario levels from scratch, using literally every sprite imaginable from as far back as Super Mario Brothers 1 to Super Mario World. This is smart, as addict fans have been deconstructing and constructing fan-games based on the genius of the SMB franchise for decades (and in a few famous cases like Flappy Birds even become huge as a result of the efforts). Nintendo has done the next best thing and opened a toolkit for players to construct these levels however they want. Want a squiddy with little squiddy attached to it? No problem. Dry Bones on a level that’s not haunted? Sure. Cannons that shoot piranha plants or a hammer brothers riding bowser? Of course. Players can also play levels created by Nintedo fans from all over the world.
Ratchet & Clank – Insomniac Games
Some time back we brought you the news that there would actually a feature-length animated movie of the Ratchet & Clank franchise. It’s still happening and is currently slated for a April 29th, 2016 release. To coincide with the film, Insomniac has constructed a super-sized reboot of the original 2002 Ratchet & Clank game. A special new level was playable here at E3 and was a beautiful upgrade to the title leveraging the PS4’s hardware. Sure, it still looks and operates the way the game always has: loads of different guns, platforming and endless enemies. But, it’s shiny and spectacular now. There’s no denying the simple joy of shooting an opponent with the groovitron and then smacking him in the head with a wrench.
Horizon: Zero Dawn – Guerilla Games
Playstation smartly took three of their biggest demonstrations and sandwiched them all together in three separate makeshift cinemas. Fans could line up, see one and then seamlessly move on to the rest. The first of which was a newly announced title from Guerilla Games called Horizon: Zero Dawn. In Horizon, not only did the world as we know it come to an end, but humans have already returned and the ancient remains of our world are now overgrown by the return of plant and tree-life. Meanwhile, animals seem to have been replaced by massive, autonomous animal-like robots. The main character (and narrator) is a female bow hunter. She’s seeking to harvest the element the grazing portion of the techno animals produce after eating grass. The game play mechanics are an impressive series of real-time decisions, combing the sneakery of Metal Gear Solid and third-person run-and-gunning. The character mostly uses a bow and arrow, and how she uses it to subdue opponents 20 times her size and strength are what make this one look like a ton of fun to be in control of.
The Last Guardian – Team Ico/Sony Computer Entertainment
Remember Ico? Remember Shadow of the Colossus? Well, fans of those two luminous steps forward in game design have been patiently waiting since 2007 for the follow-up to those two games, The Last Guardian. Announced and then delayed again by the Sony-owned development studio Team Ico, the game seems to finally be nearing completion. This go-round, the focus is on the duality of a young-boy lead character and a massive composite creature (think a chimera or griffin) affectionately named Trico. Instead of fighting giant assailants, this time, the giant is your friend, and the whole world is one incredibly beautiful puzzle. You must guide Trico on through a voluminous and decaying castle high above the world below. Expectedly, it looks incredible, but just like its two predecessors, this game might be a little too slow for those eager to blow something up.
Lastly—and definitely not leastly—we have Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. This game is shaping up to be something incredible. By definition, it’s a third-person shooter with the player controlling main character Nathan Drake. But the demo shown, is an eye-popping thrill ride on par with the antics found in the recent Mad Max Fury Road feature film. Drake and mentor Victor Sullivan are in a small, undefined village somewhere, and a mere moment later are assaulted by paramilitary forces both on foot and in an armored car. The two flee down a hill killing their would-be killers, at times on foot or variably in a four-by-four jeep, hanging from a toe line dragged through mud, riding a motorcycle or vaulting from car-to-car. We’re told by Playstation that the footage is entirely in-game and not pre-rendered, making it one of the more impressive third-person experiences we’ve ever seen. Can’t wait for this one!