This was an E3 where dreams came true.
The Last Guardian, a game that had completely fallen off the face of the gaming world for the last five years, leading many to believe that the game simply was never going to see the light of day, finally made its reemergence with a 2016 release window.
The Final Fantasy 7 Remake was announced! A game that fans have spent 10 years clamoring for; ever since E3 2005 when Sony showed off a tech demo that revealed what Midgard could look like using PS3 technology.
Then you have Shenmue 3‘s kickstarter, backwards compatibility with the Xbox One, a new IP from Rare that doesn’t involve the Kinect… Even the most cynical of us have to admit that this year’s E3, at the very least from an announcement standpoint, was one of the best in years.
But when thinking about my favorite games of the show, it’s important to me to only select games that I actually got hands-on time with. Hands-off trailers and presentations can be tricky, and I’ve been burnt by dishonest demonstrations before. So this is why you won’t see any Fallout 4, Dark Souls 3, The Last Guardian, Horizon, or Kingdom Hearts 3 on my list. Simply because I didn’t have the opportunity to play them.
With that being said, here are my five favorite games from E3 2015.
5. Rock Band 4
Having played both Rock Band 4 and Guitar Hero: Live now, it was a tough choice deciding which one to put on this list. For the first time ever, both the Rock Band and Guitar Hero franchises are trying to do something substantially different from each other, and that’s actually really exciting. As a single player who loves how satisfying it was to work my way up from medium difficulty all the way up to expert, way back when the first Guitar Hero came out, I’m excited to be able to do it all again with Guitar Hero: Live‘s new guitar controller.
But when it comes to rhythm games, I’m a gamer who values fun over all else, and there’s just no matching the fun to be had when playing Rock Band 4 with a group of people who are able to really get into it. The freestyle guitar solos really do a great job of giving players the opportunity to live that fantasy of being guitar shredding rock god, by removing the precision required to get through a tough solo and allowing the player to focus on expressing themselves however they want.
Harmonix also deserves a tip of the hat for making all previous downloadable content transferable, as well as making old instruments compatible with the new hardware.
4. Mighty No. 9
I had a lot of time in between scheduled appointments at E3 to just wander the floor, and if you ever wanted to meet up with me during this free time, chances are you’d find me over at the Square-Enix booth playing Mighty No. 9. It was like an addiction. There were three levels on the floor demo of the game, and I could not get the game out of my head until I beat all three of them.
Once I actually got to play the full demo behind closed doors, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted to run through each of the levels with each of the powers, I wanted to beat the damn highway level that kept on killing me in the same freaking spot, I wanted to see all of the ways that bosses could interact with Beck during the actual levels. I had already seen well more than I actually needed to write my preview, but even after leaving I kept having the urge to see if I could go back and play more. Mighty No. 9 made a believer out of me this E3, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the full game in September of this year.
3. Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain
My biggest problem in my hands-on time with Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain was that even after spending roughly two hours with the game, it didn’t feel like enough. There was so much more to see, so much more of the open world I felt like I needed to explore, and so many mechanics that I wanted to test out. It truly goes to show just how massive of a game The Phantom Pain actually is.
The big takeaway from Phantom Pain that I got was that it’s Metal Gear Solid tailor-made to how you want to play it. No longer are you procuring weapons that were specifically placed by the designers on site. When you go into a mission, everything that you’re able to use is something that you’ve made a conscious choice to upgrade. You can even change your strategy on the fly by calling in air drops with new weapons, new gadgets, and even a new partner character to totally change your approach.
Its this malleability of the gameplay in Phantom Pain that is most exciting, and its one of the many reasons why September can’t get here soon enough.
I got to get an early look at Unravel back at Judges’ Week, so when Martin Sahlin took to the stage at EA’s press conference, I knew beforehand that the unsuspecting audience was about to see something special. Unravel is not a game that treads completely unfamiliar ground. Its visual style is very reminiscent of Little Big Planet, and its physics based puzzles, along with its sense of isolation in an increasingly hostile world, bring to mind Limbo. Unravel sets itself apart from those games in its clever use of of the yarn that the adorable mascot character, Yarny, is made out of.
Yarny can use his yarn to make bridges, create trampolines, and swing from grapple points, but you must be careful because Yarny leaves a trail of yarn wherever he goes, making him thinner and thinner as you move forward, until eventually, he can’t move forward without completely unraveling. So there’s this interesting dynamic of not only having to figure out how to get through an area using your abilities, but also doing so in a manner efficient enough to allow Yarny to proceed without running out of yarn.
Unravel is shaping up to the be the next in a series of brilliant 2D puzzle platformers developed by indie studios, and hopefully it will lead to EA taking more chances on publishing exciting indie games.
1. Halo 5: Guardians
I’ve played a whole lot of Halo in my day. The first game was one of the defining games of my teenage years. I spent innumerable hours going over to a friend’s house, playing split screen multiplayer on Blood Gulch, co-oping our way through the campaign, and sharing in each other’s dread whenever the flood would appear. Throughout the years, Halo has been the one consistent FPS series that I always has the most fun with.
Getting to play several rounds of Warzone in Halo 5 at E3 though, was some the most fun I’ve ever had playing Halo’s multiplayer. And certainly the most fun I’ve ever had while playing with complete strangers.
Capturing points on the map in order to get victory points over time is nothing new to the world of First Person Shooters, but the addition of neutral camps that give players a secondary method of gaining those victory points is a complete game changer. All of a sudden, now there comes the question of whether you leave your bases defenseless in order to take out an AI boss, risking losing a spawn point, a requisition station, and potentially making your core vulnerable, all for a substantial increase in victory points? There’s a ton of depth in the mode, and it will be interesting to see how the competitive Halo community reacts to it.