Sarah’s Favorite Things From E3 2015

Now that I’m a few days removed, I can honestly say that E3 2015 is easily among my favorites. It was my seventh trip to the annual gaming conference, though I’ve followed many more. I have no way of knowing what impression the livestreams of media briefings and tournaments had on those watching at home, but I do know that the vibe at the show was one of the most positive I’ve experienced. In fact, it seems like the current generation is finally hitting its stride, and I’m so excited about the 2015 and 2016 gaming line-ups.

It’s hard to judge games based on the brief time we get with them before and during E3; it’s a lot easier to discuss what titles and trends stood out to me personally. These are the things that made me smile, left a lasting impression, and had me excitedly rehashing details to anyone who would listen. These are my favorite things from E3 2015.

Uncharted 4

I’d almost forgotten how much I missed Nathan Drake. Seeing him onscreen during Sony’s press conference and again during a presentation at the convention center was almost like seeing an old friend for the first time in a few years. The Uncharted series means a lot to me personally, particularly the second game in Sony’s flagship franchise, and I was already excited to see what the next generation of globe-trotting adventures had to offer. I was not disappointed.
Some will say that Uncharted 4 is more of the same, and it’s a valid criticism – but for me, that’s not an issue. Why fix what’s not broken? I want more of what I love: more of Naughty Dog’s incredible dialogue and character models; more intense gunplay; more exhilarating set pieces; more Nate, Sully, and Elena. I’m not expecting to change your mind if you don’t care for Uncharted, but for those of us who do, Uncharted 4 can’t come soon enough.

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Super Mario Maker

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Super Mario Bros. was the first video game I ever played (cliché, I know). As such, the series has been with me for my entire gaming life. Despite some gamers’ complaints of Nintendo’s heavy focus on first-party series, I’ve never gotten tired of new Mario games. That said, I didn’t go into Super Mario Maker expecting to like it as much as I did.

That it was one of the standouts on the show floor shows how much progress can be made in a year. This game has evolved so much since its initial announcement, particularly in how Super Mario Maker encourages the community to create and share with one another. Now I can see the charm, fun, and long-term potential of this build-your-own-Mario Bros. title. I can’t wait to play more zany user-created stages, and I’m hoping to build a few clever levels of my own.

Oculus Rift and Touch

Oculus Rift and Touch

I can’t get over how cool it was to use Oculus Touch for the first time. Even though it was a fairly basic tech demo, I loved the way the half-moon prototype controllers felt in my hands, how easy it was to interact with the environment in a natural way, and how quickly I forgot where I was and what I was actually doing. It was my very last hands-on of E3, and even though I was exhausted and overwhelmed by the events of the week, I was glad that there was still one last thing to make a big impression on me.

Of course, we can’t talk about Oculus without talking about the VR headset itself. I wasn’t sold on VR before last week, but I’m definitely coming around. Now I can see why gamers would prefer virtual reality to a standard TV-and-controller interface for certain experiences. I still want to know what was going on in Edge of Nowhere. Using the latest iteration of Oculus hardware with real games – particularly games as intriguing as Insomniac’s first VR effort – took my perspective on Oculus Rift from a mild curiosity to a genuine interest.

So Many Surprises

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When discussing what we were hoping for ahead of last week’s wave of E3 media briefings, my response to my colleagues was always the same: surprises. Sure, I loved seeing the games we all knew were coming; Fallout 4, Uncharted 4, and Kingdom Hearts III (for the entire microsecond it was shown) were more than welcome. But it’s the things you don’t see coming that make these experiences so memorable, and this year had them in droves.

Microsoft stunned the audience right off the bat by announcing backward compatibility for the Xbox One. Sure, they left out the fact that it would be limited, at least at the start, but that’s still a hardware advancement I didn’t even think was possible. Among the big guns at Microsoft – Halo, Gears of War, Tomb Raider – were plenty of small surprises. Stylish indie games galore! A promising pirate-themed Rare game that didn’t require Kinect! A collection of Rare titles that made Battletoads jokes obsolete! But it didn’t stop there: Sony hit hard later that night with The Last Guardian (it exists?!), Final Fantasy VII remake (is this real life), and Shenmue 3 (WHAT?). Even third-party publishers had some surprises; who knew that a downloadable platformer starring an adorable yarn creation would create more buzz than most of EA’s line-up?

Some would say these things are just silly self-promotion for games that won’t be available for months or years. That there’s no way to judge something based on a 30-second trailer or minutes-long demo. I’m not promising that any of these announcements guarantee greatness. All I know is they made E3 2015 one to remember.

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