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 411mania » Games » Columns

The 8 Ball 6.24.14: Top 8 Games Announced at E3
Posted by Marc Morrison on 06.24.2014

Welcome all to another edition of The 8 Ball. With E3 over (from last week) and giving everyone time to decompress from it, this is a good time to talk about some of the game that impressed us (Liana and I) the most from the show. These are our own personal lists, not meant to be the "be all and end all" from the show, so understand that before diving in.

8. Assassin's Creed: Unity (Multi)

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Yeah…another Assassin's Creed game. It's hard to get excited at this point. Still, I do have some love for the series left, that Ubisoft is close to driving out with this annualized franchise. To me, I couldn't give one hoot about if you play as a male or female, or any of the drama surrounding the game. The game looked damned impressive running on a "next gen" (well, now current gen) engine with a metric ton of NPC's running around. The more exciting part to me is that it is set back in Europe, specifically France. It's not an attack against AC3, AC4, or even AC: Revelations (to an extent) but the series veered away from the dense, grandeur buildings that AC 1 and 2 were kind of known for. The series went off in a weird wilderness direction that wasn't necessarily bad, but did kind of feel out of place in spots – especially when you were jumping between carefully designed tree paths. I hope this game is a nice return to form for the series.

7. Mortal Kombat X (Multi)

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Honestly, the fighting-game aspect looks similar to the last blend of NetherRealm games. Good, hard-hitting action, with X-Ray moves, some background interaction, and a new stamina meter for your running. I am way more excited by the story elements and new characters they've shown off. I love that the game will somewhat take place in the future of the world, specifically 25 years. This allows them to introduce offspring like Cassie Cage (Sonya Blade/Johnny Cage's daughter), and Kotal Kahn, who is probably related to Shao Kahn in some fashion. The variation system sounds scarily like the "ISM" system from Street Fighter Alpha, but we'll have to wait and see if is balanced or not.

6. Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox One)

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I firmly believe still that Forza Horizon is one of the best racing games ever made, giving it a 9.0 on this site, and somewhat underscoring it in retrospect. Forza Horizon 2 looks built upon the same open-world, festival-backdrop framework as the first game but with a very nice graphical upgrade system to it. I like that in the Horizon series you're not just racing on the same tracks like I Motorsport. "Ok, we get it, Nürburgring is a decent track, let's move on." The weather system should affect the handling in fun ways (like in DiRT), and the news of them dropping their stupid micro-transaction token system is a good step for the series. I'm a little worried about the "Open world Drivatars" bit from the trailer, though. The Drivatar system is, by most accounts, what partially ruined Forza Motorsport 5. I really hope that isn't going to be the case here.

5. Cuphead (Xbox One)

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Here's the thing about Cuphead: this is a game where he art style and look entirely make or break the game. If it works for you, like it did me (and others it seems), then that is great. If it didn't click for you, then you may need to move on. Looking at the trailer, Cuphead honestly just looks like a 1930's version of Mega Man. They don't show a lot of gameplay clips but the way Cupman (I presume is his name) runs, shoots and dashes around make him look like a cross between Mega Man and Axel (who can fire in different directions). The somewhat return of the 2D platformer is nice, with this game and Mighty No. 9 picking up the slack where Capcom has left off.

4. Splatoon (Wii U)

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My first thought when seeing Splatoon was "This is a game deserving of a better system than the Wii U." That's not an explicit indictment of the Wii U itself, but more that by limiting the game to just that platform, not a ton of people are going to play it, and that seems a shame. The novel idea behind Splatoon is that it's a team based third person shooter where you are trying to cover up the map with your team's color and cover up the other team's color with your own. If anyone has ever seen the short film "Rainbow War", it looks like that (the trailer is up on Youtube). There are probably other things that inspired it as well, but this is the one I know. Still, it is an incredibly novel idea for a team-based shooter and hopefully it comes to Steam at some point.

3. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (Multi)

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In terms of sheer technical graphical quality, I don't think any game on the show could match Witcher 3. The game just looks incredible with the sweeping vistas, weather effects, and animations done by CD Projekt Red look truly next generation. Not bad for a game franchise that originally was born from the Neverwinter Nights game engine. I look forward to an actual open-world version of the Witcher, I didn't get deep into Witcher 1 at all, but Witcher 2 did feel constrained with the story elements vs. actually exploring all you could. Plus, it'll be nice to see Geralt's quest come to a (hopeful) end, finally confronting the Wild Hunt and reuniting with Yennefer and Ciri. I already pre-ordered this game on Steam, despite it not coming out for 8 months, that is how excited I am for it.

2. Grim Fandango (PS3/PS4/Vita)

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Way to go Sony, actually announcing a legitimate surprise that made everyone excited. I have no great love of Grim Fandango growing up. I wasn't able to play it when I was young (I was a console kid back then), and when I did try to play it like 6 years ago, the game really didn't want to play nice with Windows XP, creating graphical hiccups and issues. Even ignoring those, the controls (at the time) felt very archaic and hard to actually use. Everyone I know though, including Liana herself, who did play Grim Fandango at that time, speaks of it in hushed tones and with the reverence that it was the best thing since sliced bread. I eagerly await this remake, since it'll be the first time I (and most people under 20-25 years old) will be able to play it. Like with Splatoon though, it better come to PC, or else there will be hell to pay.

1. Iwata vs. Reggie

It's not strictly a game, but imagine if it was!

1. No Man's Sky (Multi)

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If Witcher 3 has the technical side of graphics locked down, then No Man's Sky has got the creative/imaginative side down, easy. The sense of scale this game has, not just on a planetary body, but when it comes to the galaxy is captivating. The fact you can just go in your space ship (all in first person) and go from one fully realized planet to another, in a mostly seamless way, should make every scifi fan be interested. More impressively is that the game is done by a team of 10 people. Just throwing endless amounts of time and money at a game isn't always the answer, sometimes it takes innovation and originality to get a game off the ground. Big "AAA" publishers should take note: No Man's Sky is coming for you, and hopefully will be everything that it promises.

The Better Half with Liana K

Liana's Top 8 Games of E3

Another E3 has come and gone, full of sound and fury. But what did it signify? The big buzz words were "procedural universe". If you don't know what this means, it means that a game's play space based on an algorithm instead of pre-rendered art.

So, what were my favorite games coming out of E3? I'm limiting my selections to things I actually got a chance to play, or that had extended behind-closed-doors looks that I got to see. So, sadly, no Warner Bros stuff or Destiny. I didn't get enough info. (Boo on the Destiny publicist who promised me an Alpha code and didn't deliver.)

Honorable Mention: Landmark (PC)

Sony Online Entertainment has created the illegitimate child of Everquest and Minecraft, and it's really freaking cool. Instead of building things block by block, there are vector-based building tools, and a copy/paste function, that make a three-hour Minecraft project take about thirty minutes. But the procedural world is also completely destructible for resources, and you can mine into caves that go 4000 feet deep. They're just getting into a combat system and working on some beta-related issues, but this is an MMO I might actually play if I had the time. The thing is, I know I won't. This makes me sad, and that's why Landmark is just an honorable mention. If you're looking for a positive community to set down roots in, however, you can do a lot worse.

8: Sunset Overdrive (Xbox One)

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That's a photo of the Sunset Overdrive takeover thingie that was waiting for me in my bathroom mirror when I got back to my room after press conference day. It scared the crap out of me, but I'm not holding it against the game.

It's going to be a war for my soul between the Xbox One and the Wii-U this year. I was even tempted by Forza Horizons 2, before I reminded myself that I'm awful at driving games. But the most compelling Xbox One exclusive for me was Sunset Overdrive, just because it looks absolutely ridiculous. Furthermore, it has a fully customizable protagonist who can be either male or female, and interesting gameplay that encourages you to stay off the ground and use the environments. Also, the idea of an energy drink turning people into monsters just delights me in ways I can't explain.

7: Yoshi's Woolly World (Wii-U)

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I played this game just to be nice to the very friendly Nintendo people, but I have to admit, it was a crazy amount of fun. The great part about Yoshi's Woolly World is that the knitted appearance isn't just textures. It's – pardon the pun – woven into the gameplay mechanics. The best way to play is co-op, which makes everything that much crazier.

6: Splatoon (Wii-U)

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Splatoon has some controls refinements to work out, especially the gamepad tilt sensitivity, but there is an option to switch back to traditional controls. Otherwise, Splatoon plays fast and fun, and while I have no idea how the campaign is going to work, the multiplayer sold me. Splatoon is Nintendo at its best: a random concept based on solid gameplay mechanics that don't reinvent the wheel, but do provide a new experience. And it's not Mario branded, which is a welcome change.

5: Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege (Xbox One, PS4, PC)

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Again, it was only a multiplayer hands-on. Again, it was a stupid amount of fun. The pace of the game is blistering, the teamwork is rewarding, and everything can be wrecked. I don't think I can put into written words how fun the experience of playing the Rainbow Six: Siege multiplayer was, so all I can say is that it's fun, exciting, and not out yet! D'oh! I wanna play more!

4: The Order: 1886 (PS4)

The Order 1886 was the best-looking game I saw all show, with Forza Horizons 2 running a close second with a rough patch in the beta build they were showing. Most next-gen games are struggling to get the lighting right, so the characters look like they're green screened into the scene. Except for a few small moments, The Order: 1886, avoids this visual dissonance,and displays glorious textures, reflections, and character expressions. The Whitechapel area of London was recreated with such painstaking detail that I was able to pull plot points out by reading the signs hanging throughout the level. Because of the care that's clearly going into the product, I have high hopes for the story of the game. There are elements to the game that will be divisive, including a deliberate lag on a gatling gun to maintain the historical realism of the weapons, a decreased movement rate on the character carrying said gatling gun because it's so heavy, and radio communicators and other technology that's ahead of the historical curve. I suspect, however, that the tech is going to be a plot point, because the story goes way back to King Arthur's court. If you're willing to accept The Order 1886 on its own terms, I think there will be a lot to love about it, because next gen isn't just about graphics.

3: Dragon Age: Inquisition (Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC)

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Gasp! DA: I is only at number three. Okay I admit, I did have it at number one, but I knocked it down a few pegs for not being playable -- I do still have some journalistic objectivity. That being said, the behind-closed-doors alpha build had multiple elements that reduced my fears that Dragon Age was going to fall prey to the derivative quality that too many EA franchises take on after a few games. However, after the rush job that was Dragon Age II – which was still a perfectly decent game, for the record – the epic scope of Thedas is back, with signs of a vast story with lots of humor, solid writing, and characters with heart.

It stands to be the best-looking Dragon Age game to date, but because it's gotta scale down to play on the Xbox One, it won't compete with next-gen exclusives on visuals. The thing is, Dragon Age could go back to Baldur's Gate's Infinity Engine and I wouldn't care. What's important to me about Dragon Age is its storytelling. It doesn't allow itself blanket heroism or villainy, and it subscribes to the theory of true player choice, not just the appearance of it. It's one of the few game franchises that allows me to decide, for myself, what I think about various characters instead of being forced into a given perspective by ogling camera angles, hack writing, or lazy game design. However, it also causes me to adopt in-game ethics I would not share in the real world, because the world is so well-crafted that it creates not just setting and character, but culture. So mock me all you want for my love of this series (and trust me, Marc does) but it's one of the few corners of the video game industry where I don't have to contend with eye-rollingly regressive attitudes just to play a damned video game. EA's big corporate hammer hasn't destroyed Bioware's heart. Yet.


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Normally "Free-to-Play" means "walk the other way" for me. But I was charmed by BATLLECRY's character designs, because I'm a sucker for Viktor Antonov's work. He was at the Bethesda booth, and in person, he's a crazy cool dude who practically sweats passion for his work. And this passion infuses every element of BATTLECRY, which is the first game I've ever played that uses free-to-play as just a revenue tool and not a crutch to excuse a shallow gameplay experience. (League of Legends came close to this, but fell short due to lax community conduct standards that turned the play experience into a ganky, abusive mess.) When you sit down to a session of BATTLECRY, you'll swear you're playing a game from the glory days of Valve, only with a sense of earnest romance that Valve never had the balls to attempt. You'll also recall the bloody beauty of Dishonored, without having to deal with gameplay that compromises a skill requirement for player freedom.

I felt like I instantly knew the characters because of the stories their costumes and expressions tell. I got an immediate understanding of the world because theme is everywhere. I was allowed to let the juxtaposition of beauty and brutality wash over me because I was a part of it. There's something exceptionally personal to sword combat that gunplay will never match, and while BATTLECRY's gameplay constantly moves, its visuals encouraged me to occasionally pause and just take it all in. I can't say enough good about this game, and I've already joined the mailing list for the beta. Battlecrythegame.com to sign up!

1: The Evil Within (Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, PC)

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There are few things better than a good survival horror game. There are also few things rarer than a good survival horror game. And these two factors combined are why I'm so excited for The Evil Within. The third factor is that The Evil Within is directed by Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami, who seems to have an an instinctual understanding of how to create periods of unnerving tension in a video game while maintaining enough whimsy to make an otherwise scary product fun. There are a lot of nostalgic nods to the original Resident Evil, but there's also a heavy helping of Silent Hill 2.

Fear in a fictional environment is an inherently absurd concept, and the ability to create an adrenaline surge through a product that everyone logically knows is not real is an absolute art. The Evil Within, like Resident Evil and Silent Hill before it, encourages us to get enough distance from our fears – both through a third person perspective, and some truly absurd moments – to create a unique phenomenon in gaming: the dissonance created when interacting with survival horror has the ability to actually enhance the experience, as opposed to detract from it... but only if its achieved with a careful eye, a steady hand, and a fair bit of luck. Never underestimate luck: it's led to some fantastic pop culture.

Complainer's Corner

There were a lot of games for this E3, but many of them were kind of known quantities. "Yep" another Call of Duty, another Battlefield, another Uncharted, etc. That Battlefield game looks terrible, but that is just me. The Mario Maker might be interesting, assuming you didn't know that people have been doing that via rom-hacks for years already. Where is the Mario Paint 2?! Anyways, my secondary list: Far Cry 4, Shadow of Mordor, Smash Bros, Mario Maker, The Evil Within, Costume Quest 2, CoD Advanced Warfare, Battlefield Hardline, Elite: Dangerous, Evolve, Destiny, The Order: 1886, Sunset Overdrive, Dragon Age: Inquisition, and Batman: Arkham Knight

Prediction Rewind

Last week I mentioned doing a prediction summary from a few weeks ago when Liana and I did our E3 guesswork. Of my own 8 predictions, only about 1 and a half of them were actually met. Namely the Forza Horizon 2 guess, and I'm giving myself a half a point for the Mirror's Edge 2 mention (but no Prey 2). There were a lot of weird games missing from the show, Final Fantasy 15, Resident Evil 7, Persona 5, etc., that should be talked about eventually.

Liana here: I was five for eight with my E3 predictions from a few weeks ago. Nintendo did unveil some awesomely strange stuff, most notably Splatoon, which was also one of the numerous new IPs I predicted. I also was on the money about Kingdom Hearts being a disappointment and Ubisoft having another strong year. The attention was not without controversy, but overall I think that Ubisoft had a really good show. The Division trailer blew me away, and Assassin's Creed Unity didn't make my list only because it wasn't physically playable.

There weren't as many hardware bundles as pundits, including myself, predicted, and while Halo was a definite presence in Xbox's offerings, I'm not sure I'd go so far as to say that there was too much Halo. I was dead wrong about the Witcher 3 becoming less rape-obsessed. The Witcher 3 Xbox press conference trailer featured a woman getting the crap kicked out of her by a gang of guys as a "random encounter", and anyone who's played the Witcher knows that in those games, men don't just beat up women. Geralt saves her, but... eesh. Seriously guys? That's trauma trigger territory. I wrote a letter of complaint to CD Projekt RED and Microsoft, that I'll think about publishing if the trolling on this column isn't absurd... oh who am I kidding.

My final prediction was that I'd have an embarrassing fangirl moment over Dragon Age: Inquisition. And... yeah, I ignored Felicia Day, who was sitting right behind me, to quiz the Bioware dev on minute details of the game. I know, I know, that's friggin' lame and stupid. But I did say it was going to happen! I'm pretty sure I drooled at least once.

The General Roundup

As usual, I'll try to respond to a few of the comments: At least two people said Balrog (the Boxer) was their top character. It's nice that a few of you have decided to troll me back. Someone else mentioned Vega (claw hand guy). He's interesting, but the second you lose his claw or mask, he is kind of toast. I think the only "boxer" type of character I've ever liked in a Street Fighter type of game was Tiffany, in the Rival Schools franchise.

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Top 8 Most Anticipated Fall Shows

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