With another E3 behind us, the industry has been left with one of the strangest expos in years. Across all seven press conferences and live streams, each one tackled E3 with vastly different approaches. EA was too short while Ubisoft was too long; Microsoft was very informative while Sony was incredibly showy, and Nintendo managed to hold our attention with a three hour stream of one game. But as it is every year, a handful of announcements raised questions and propelled speculations that’ll carry on for months, if not years to come. Out of that handful, here are my top five picks for E3 2016.
Resident Evil 7
I’m not even a Resident Evil fan, and this announcement made me happy in so many ways. E3 is all about surprise announcements, and like everything on this list, seeing the Roman numeral VII spell out “EVIL” in Resident Evil 7 knocked me on my ass.
Although the reveal of the next instalment in Capcom’s chief horror franchise was predicted by some, its well-choreographed announcement was very effective nonetheless. Set in a heavily P.T.-inspired, grimy, decaying house, the trailer was shrouded in grotesque mystery. The first-person view immediately tricked us into thinking that this was nothing but a very detailed, albeit short survival horror virtual reality vignette. For the record, this is actually true, as the trailer is indicative of a short precursor to the full game.
But here’s what’s so effective about being introduced to Resident Evil 7: It’s, again, in first person (a first for a numbered title in the franchise), it’s made an about-face towards its survival horror roots arguably more so than any previous instalment in the series, and it’s going to be fully playable in both regular display and VR. I cannot think of a better way to announce the next instalment in the Resident Evil franchise.
Before the show, everybody believed that there was no prayer of Hideo Kojima showing up at E3. At the end of last year, it was made official that Kojima was no longer at Konami. Earlier this year, his partnership with Sony was announced, and he went public stating that he was searching for an engine for his new game. That was mere months ago. To see Andrew House introduce him was shocking, but for him to show an in-engine trailer for his new game came out of nowhere.
And let’s not forget that Death Stranding is looking to star Norman Reedus, the former face of Kojima’s killed project, P.T. This shows that the auteur is incredibly determined in making his vision a reality in any way shape or form, and extends the biggest eff-you he could have possibly directed towards Konami. It’s important to note that while the trailer was very impressive and provocative, there are radical changes that are bound to come about before its release; Kojima even announced that what was shown was only one of two engines that he has eyed for his new game. But not even a year after his stealth masterpiece, Metal Gear Solid V, it’s wonderful to see Kojima step back into the spotlight so quickly, giving his fans something to very much look forward to.
You have to hand it to Microsoft and Phil Spencer for getting in front of the rattling anxiety behind this new order of generationally ambiguous consoles. Project Scorpio, the much rumoured “half step” console was made official at the tail end of Microsoft’s press conference. All the specs turned out to be true: 6 teraflops of GPU power, 8 CPU cores, 4K support, and 320+ GBPS of memory bandwidth. Microsoft is looking to rebrand the Xbox One and unshackle the machine from the lingering effects of Don Mattrick.
The most respectable excerpt came when Phil Spencer expressed the purpose of the revealing Project Scorpio now for Holiday 2017; to give developers a head start so that they can focus on the console’s specs. The most exciting news came when Spencer confirmed, like what many suspected Playstation Neo’s existence was hinged on, that Project Scorpio was going to support VR. Todd Howard’s appearance in the announcement video only drove that point home with the recent reveal of Fallout 4 VR.
Unlike the yet-to-be-publically revealed Playstation Neo, Scorpio holds more of a purpose than raw performance upgrades. Having the Xbox finally join the VR market will seemingly propel the console market in a new direction. Announcing that Microsoft will not develop VR internally, and hearing dodgy answers in interviews asking ‘who’ will Microsoft pair up with for VR, all point at full Oculus Rift support on Scorpio. This only makes sense since the two companies are already partnered up with packed in Xbox One controllers for the Oculus, and streaming support on the headset. Holiday of next year won’t only make VR accessible to a much wider audience, but it will drastically change the course of the console space.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
Saying that The Legend of Zelda has us excited again doesn’t do Breath of the Wild justice, as there are always feverish levels of excitement after every console Zelda reveal. But Nintendo’s seemingly foolish confidence in streaming their new Zelda title for 3 hours ultimately paid off by showing just how radically different this new instalment is. (Be sure to read our full write up on all the details in Breath of the Wild here.)
RPG elements are abound, as looting, crafting, and buffing are all a part of this new Zelda game. Link can jump! Link can climb! Link can surf on his freakin’ shield! Nintendo has run wild (but not out of breath) with a dizzying amount of new features that have never even been flirted with in a Zelda title before. Nintendo has justified Breath of the Wild’s open world, with emergent moments that await at every turn; from setting a Bokoblin camp on fire, to knocking off a Stalfos’ arm and equipping it as a weapon. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is the most promising Zelda title since Ocarina of Time.
God of War
I’m a sucker for stories about daddies seeking to find their identities in children. It worked for me in The Last of Us, and its working for me here in God of War. The series previously known for over-the-top action, topless women, and forever angry protagonists has undergone a profoundly significant transformation in such a way that many people predicted that this would be a full reboot for the franchise.
Kratos is back, bearded, and experimenting with fatherhood in a new mythological setting. The idea of a man finding himself after his abandoned path of destruction (burning Olympus to the ground in a fit of fury and persistent anger) is a metaphor for the creative maturation of God of War as a franchise. Past instalments played out like a power fantasy in the most adolescent way possible, but this God of War steps back from those games. Kratos is a changed man, a settled down man, and he’s watching his anger as he tries to teach his son how to hunt. But this isn’t a Red Dead Redemption: John Marston Runs a Farm story. With the immediate threats of existing in this version of Norse mythology, God of War will still be an action game.
But even in this aspect, God of War isn’t the same. Santa Monica is looking to take the series in a more Tomb Raider styled direction, with an existing world that’s more open for both you and your son to explore; this hints at a much bigger game than God of Wars past. Kratos and the character action games that he led starting 11 years ago was an icon and a franchise of the past, priding itself with a particular style that in 2016/2017, just isn’t very interesting anymore. But this God of War has modernized itself in a way that cannot be ignored, and has risen to the top of my top 5 E3 list.
With the unexpected direction of old franchises, to VR becoming an integral part in the console space, this year’s E3 did not leave us disappointed. What were your favorite announcements at E3? Let us know in the comments below.