E3 2015 was one for the history books. After attending six E3s in my lifetime, this one was definitely the best. Hell, I don’t think an E3 has made me this excited since 2009, when Microsoft rocked the video game world by unveiling “Project Natal.” Not only that, but the event was enveloped in overall positivity and enthusiasm on levels I don’t remember experiencing in the past. The current generation of gaming has finally awoken and sucker-punched the industry in a collective offering of awesome line-ups and technology that everyone should be excited for. It’s about time.
Even though every nook and corner of the convention was filled with something to be excited about, we admitingly don’t get that much time with each game. Sometimes you don’t even get any hands-on time. This can make it hard to catch every potential hit and weed out the potential disappointments. That said, there are always the handful of games that catch your particular eye. The following are my favorite things from E3.
King’s Quest: A Knight to Remember
One of my fondest memories in gaming is getting together with my best friend in elementary school to embark on our next floppy disk adventure. Adventure game that is. And our favorite was the King’s Quest series by Sierra. That was back in 1990 and we haven’t been back to Daventry since 1998. But, absence makes the heart grow yonder, and after a 17 year hiatus, King’s Quest is back, baby. It’s back!
In this new reimagining of the franchise, an aging King Graham reflects back on his life in a series of stories told to his granddaughter, Gwendolyn. Now, nostalgia is a funny thing when it comes to games and a franchise reboot always leaves me skeptical, but it seems like Sierra is doing it right. The team consulted with none other than Roberta and Ken Williams themselves, co-founders of the original Sierra, and leading figures in adventure games and King’s Quest. The game is beautifully hand-painted using watercolors and includes and all-star cast of voiceactors. But more importantly, after an hour with the game, it seems to have captured the spark that made the original a classic. Above all, you can tell just by watching the new game’s creators take you through it that this was a labor of love, and so far, I love everything about it. Next month’s first chapter release can’t come soon enough!
As we hunker down in a ravine among the mountainous desert wastes of our surroundings, we know they’re coming. Wave 5 is upon us and any minute now, another brigade of stormtroopers will breach the horizon. At first, the battle goes well, but before I know it, I am suddenly flanked, E-11 plasma filling the air. I activate my shield and I see their sights turn on my teammate. I need to make these seconds count, and I run up to do some major damage while I’m still invincible. But, my gun doesn’t fire. Holy shit, why can’t I fire!? “Well, that’s actually part of Star Wars canon, and you can’t shoot…” the developer leans in so I can hear him above the sounds of gunfire ringing out from my headphones. The realization of what I had done sinks in as it all comes back to me. “Shit, I know!” I interrupt him midsentence. “I know,” as death surrounds me and my shield lowers, now on cooldown.
It was only moments later that we confronted our first AT-ST. I must admit, I wasn’t feeling very confident. I could hear him coming, his durasteel legs pounding the ground with every step. It wasn’t until the chicken walker came into view that my heart stopped. He was bigger than I expected. What gun would I use against that thing!? As he walks right past me, I realize he hasn’t actually SEEN me yet, as is scanning the field to me left. I sigh in relief and look away to reanalyze my load out, hoping to find exactly what I would need. That is, until he suddenly stops and looks right at me. Shit.
Xbox One Elite Controller
I readily admit to the fact that I prefer playing games on an Xbox over a PlayStation because of the controller. In my opinion, it is one of the best, most comfortable controllers ever designed. I even own a third-party PlayStation controller specifically because it is shaped like the Xbox controller. I can’t help it. It’s how my hands are built.
If you would have told me Xbox would design a new controller that controls and feels better in your hands, I would never have believe it possible. Well, they have, and possible it is. Even though I’m the first to scoff at its price tag, the moment I picked it up, it felt like a $150 controller. Its weight and tactile underside feel just right. But if that isn’t enough, it delivers button mapping for any game (regardless of in-game remapping support) and two profiles you can switch between. Its included paddles and swapple components come off easily without feeling cheap and you can now turn the trigger buttons into hair triggers, which was the one area I felt the PlayStation controller was superior. The material used for the controller’s faceplate is less than ideal, but it’s definitely not a deal breaker. The Xbox One Elite will definitely be at the top of my Christmas list this year.
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
Could DICE recapture the spark of the original first-person, free-running, parkour-filled adventure, while delivering a game that the original’s promise suggested it could be? After my first hands-on at E3 2015, I am excited to say that the answer seems to be yes. DICE has approached Mirror’s Edge Catalyst with four important priority goals, which was the first indication this might be the game I always wanted: Stay true to the original, rebuild the mechanics, expand its horizons, and dig deeper into gameplay.
This isn’t a true sequel nor a remake. Simply put, this is Faith’s origin story. Taking a stand against the ruling elite, she is the catalyst for change. In the city of Glass, there is no freedom. But two groups, labeled terrorists by the totalitarian regime, have risen up to fight back. One of these groups is a network of “runners” who live on the fringe of society as couriers who transmit secret messages while evading government surveillance. You are a runner, and in Catalyst, run you will.
Ultimately, I’m excited and intrigued to have a bigger, better Mirror’s Edge. I loved that game and I always hoped it would one day turn into the game it felt meant to be. This might be the day.
There is something really special about being able to rediscover a game you love at E3. In the world of reboots and franchises, it is astonishingly difficult to get it right. Yes, I know, this list contains A LOT of these types of games, but I think E3 2015 is one of the best E3s we’ve seen in 5-7 years. Most of the time, you are delivered the exact same game with a new storyline or something wildly different, which fails to catch the spark that caused you to fall in love with the game’s brand in the first place. This year, we’ve seen advancements, change, and recognition of where things have gone wrong in the past and a willingness to change them. On the 2K front, things are no different.
I thought XCOM:EU was brilliant. But instead of relying on that foundation to do most of the work for them, Firaxis realized they could work on that formula and make it ever better. And it looks like they did just that. I found myself instantly picking out all the small and big changes alike, from the enhanced UI to new and exciting classes and abilities, XCOM 2 delivers everything that made XCOM: EU great, but in a better, upgraded fashion.