The biggest week in gaming is here. While the 2013 edition of E3 in Los Angeles was focused primarily on the impending launches of the Xbox One and PS4, 2014 is more about games than hardware. Microsoft will try to show why a Kinect-free console is still compelling, while Sony will be intent on improving its lead in the early days of the console race. Nintendo, meanwhile, is out to prove there's still a place for the struggling Wii U. Add in the burgeoning field of virtual reality, an increased focus on indie games, and there's a lot to look forward to in LA. You can keep up with the latest right here.
Myst was a masterpiece, but it hasn't aged well. Its structure is rigid and its puzzles are obtuse, but there's still something about that beautiful, mysterious island that's just aching to be explored. There have been sequels, but Jonathan Blow's The Witness might just be the first proper successor.Read Article >
It too takes place on a strange island filled with puzzles and weird technology. But it's also a completely open world, letting you explore wherever you want at your own pace. "Once you get out of the tutorial you can literally walk anywhere," says Blow. "It lets the player follow their curiosity."
As I write this, there are VR tracking systems for most of your extremities. Stompz are little foot cuffs with sensors. PrioVR is a harness that fits around your wrists and elbows. Both are designed to work with headsets like the Oculus Rift, which many see as the current linchpin of virtual reality. But alongside these are companies whose work wasn’t conceived with the Rift in mind, focused on bringing your body into a virtual world. Some are new. Some have been here all along. And some are right here at E3, right next to the latest big-budget games that they want you to be able to touch as well as see.Read Article >
Control VR is an older and, its founders claim, wiser project than something like PrioVR. Though it’s raising money on Kickstarter, it grew out of Synertial (formerly Animazoo), a 20-year-old motion-capture glove and body suit company whose clients include Hyundai, Ubisoft, and Raytheon. With the Rift’s popularity came new chances for a consumer version. Control VR’s system is a pair of soft open-tipped gloves connected by elbow sensors and a plastic shoulder yoke. "This’d be great for Iron Man," said one user, pointing at the glowing round symbol resting below his clavicle.
Here's the thing about the Arkham series: Bruce Wayne is a complete psychopath, even by Batman's usual standards.Read Article >
This wasn't all that clear in Batman: Arkham Asylum, the original game that combined fast-paced brawling with hidden object puzzles and endless gliding. But as soon as he got put into the open world of Arkham City, it became evident that the most fun thing to do was swoop around the city and drop down on unsuspecting groups of inmates complaining about how hungry and cold they were. "It's the freakin' Bat!" they would shout, as I goaded them into a fight and then threatened to torture them for information about Riddler trophies. The combat system was just so flowing, the flight so graceful, that closing myself into a standard mission was the last thing I wanted. For every person I rescued, there were probably about a dozen thugs I beat up for my own amusement. It turns out the more options you give Batman, the more terrible a person he'll become.
All it took was a failing console to spark Nintendo's creativity.Read Article >
As the Wii U struggles with consistently disappointing sales, Nintendo has tried to reverse its fortunes by releasing some of its most exciting and inventive games ever, including the likes of Mario Kart 8 and the whimsical Tomodachi Life. But at E3 in Los Angeles, the company has taken things a step further, announcing a huge range of creative titles for its home console. Soon you'll be able to use your Wii U to build your own Super Mario levels and explore a vast open world in the first HD Legend of Zelda. The next Super Smash Bros. is filled with an almost overwhelming amount of content and ideas. After a lengthy period of being boring, Nintendo is exciting again.
iOS Game controllers have always seemed like a good (if niche) idea, providing powerful controls for games without covering most of your iPhone's screen. But they've mostly been unusably large, or just plain unusable. Razer's new Junglecat, however, looks like it might be one of the best options yet.Read Article >
The $99 Junglecat, which comes in black or white, looks to the unsuspecting eye like any other plastic iPhone case. It just about doubles the thickness of the iPhone, though it's not terribly heavy. But the bottom half of the case slides out to reveal a four-way d-pad, ABXY buttons, and two bumpers for your index fingers — suddenly your iPhone looks a bit like a Nintendo 3DS or the Sony Xperia Play. It's small and comfortable to use, with slightly mushy but completely usable buttons, though I really wish the D-pad were a joystick instead. There's no battery inside the hefty case, but Razer says it doesn't use much power — and it has a Micro USB port that can charge your phone through the case. This is a controller you're meant to leave on all the time; it's for the hardest of hardcore gamers.
I saw Tom Clancy’s The Division twice at E3, and if not for the title cards, I might have thought I was seeing two different games. At Microsoft’s press conference, it was a strategic team-based shooter with a thudding bass soundtrack and a firefight on the steps of New York’s James Farley Post Office. Its bouncy, ironic Christmas music made it feel a little like Die Hard.Read Article >
At Ubisoft’s show a few hours later, it was a quiet tragedy. A sobbing woman sang "Silent Night" as the camera panned over an empty house, time-lapse video subtly depicting a child dying and a man begging for his life. Blood spattered on the window of a New York brownstone. A group of Division agents appeared as saviors, their expressions suggesting that they might cry at the sight. And then some mooks in gas masks showed up, and everybody pulled out the rifles. Until that point, you could probably have called it Tom Clancy’s The Road.
Jun 12, 2014
I played a mode called "Strike." It's essentially a series of short cooperative missions where you infiltrate an area, kill lots of bad guys, and try to take down a boss. I started by driving a speeder bike through the ruins of Old Russia alongside two other players, before entering a fairly generic industrial building. It was the kind of place filled with lots of huge crates and metal staircases, but also weird armored aliens wielding laser swords and floating space wizards that hurl magical energy bombs your way. Making my way through the dilapidated building felt a lot like it did in other FPS games: there was lots of cover to hide behind, and when you entered a big room it soon filled with enemies. One sequence involved fighting off multiple waves of bad guys while a robot assistant slowly hacked through a security system.Read Article >
The combat itself feels solid, if not particularly distinct or memorable. The laser guns have a satisfying kick, and the controls make it easy to scroll through weapons and toss grenades without fumbling too much. You can even summon your speeder bike just by holding a button, which is incredibly cool. But, at least in the limited time I played, it didn't really feel all that different from playing Halo. The mission structure was standard, and even with a few neat enemy types — space wizards are a real pain — it mostly just felt like a standard FPS firefight. Shoot some guys, move to the next room, revive your buddy if they die. Rinse and repeat.
As I slide open the door on the second floor of Microsoft's cavernous green booth at E3 2014, the gorgeous (and unreleased) game Ori and the Blind Forest fills the screen in front of me. Sometimes, Phil Spencer tells me as he shakes my hand, he likes to take a break from interviews and just play for a minute.Read Article >
Spencer has been head of Xbox at Microsoft for two months, but he's been a gamer much longer. And since his promotion from head of Microsoft Studios, he's sought to remind the world that the Xbox One is, above all, a device made for gamers. He spent all 90 minutes of Xbox's E3 press conference talking about games, and he believes firmly that those games are the one and only thing that will determine the success of his console. Not TV features, not streaming services, not voice commands. Games.
Sony's Project Morpheus has only been public for a few months, and without the wealth of community projects that Oculus has, its demos have been thin. Today, though, the company finally showed off something undeniably fun. The "Street Luge" tech demo is like a roller coaster that you control, dodging and turning by tilting the headset. If you've got a low couch or beanbag chair, which Sony kindly provided for us, the movement feels natural, though you quickly realize that you don't need to shift your entire body weight and just start twitching your head. We've seen a growing ecosystem around virtual reality at E3 this year, and while we still know basically nothing about when Morpheus will come out, the journey towards release is slowly getting more exciting.Read Article >
While waiting in line to play Alien: Isolation, I heard screams from inside the demo room. A few minutes later they were mine.Read Article >
The latest game to tackle the Alien universe is perhaps the scariest thing on display at this year’s E3, a first-person survival experience unlike just about any big-name video game before it. One of the most important things about the game is its name — this is Alien, not Aliens. Whereas the series, both in film and game form, has shifted towards action, Isolation takes its inspiration from the original Ridley Scott horror masterpiece. The premise is nearly identical in both experiences: you're stranded on a space station, with a hulking alien wandering around. You need to find a way to get off the station before the alien finds you. If it does, you’re dead.
"What I'd like to do now is have you take a look at this gorgeous image," said Super Smash Bros. director Masahiro Sakurai, gesturing to an illustration of Sonic, Mario, Mega Man, and newly announced character Pac-Man. With the addition of Pac-Man, Nintendo's fighting game series now features perhaps the four most iconic characters in the medium. "This really is a miracle."Read Article >
The Super Smash Bros. series has always had a taste for history. The collectibles you unlock and stages you battle in are all based on Nintendo franchises, both popular and obscure. The addition of Pac-Man only further cements this. The big yellow ball appears as the more cartoonish Pac-Man seen in games like Pac-Land, but when he performs certain attacks, he turns into the retro, pizza-shaped character we all know and love. He can even eat dots and summon ghosts.
Jun 11, 2014
Virtual reality development has come full circle.Read Article >
When we first saw John Carmack's version of what would become the Oculus Rift, it was playing a copy of Doom 3. But over time, developers realized that motion sickness and outmoded interfaces made first-person action games a tough sell. At the 2014 Game Developers Conference, Oculus declared that VR was more of a "seated experience," putting you in cockpits and on couches.
During its keynote presentation last night, Sony bet big on the upcoming game Destiny. The highly-anticipated title will be available to PlayStation 4 owners in a limited-window alpha this weekend, and a beta is coming next month. For the game's full release, however, Sony is putting together a special bundle package that will feature the game, a white PlayStation 4, and a matching controller.Read Article >
Sony has both on display here at E3, along with a pair of white branded headphones. Simply put, it's a stunning combination, proving that the PS4's design chops don't need to be cloaked in black to score a win against the Xbox One. The PlayStation 4 Destiny bundle will be available on September 9th.
If you want to get a sneak peek at some of the most interesting unreleased games, there’s no better place than E3. During its presentation last night, Sony gave a bravura performance, showing off clips and gameplay footage from new properties like The Order 1886 and Destiny, to sequels like Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Most of the games won't be exclusive to Sony or the PlayStation 4, of course, but Sony got to do the dramatic unveilings in Los Angeles.Read Article >
It’s a lot to take in, particular when you throw in things like the ruthlessly violent fatalities from Mortal Kombat X and the insane-looking Batmobile (Bat-tank?) from Batman: Arkham Knight. Simply put: buckle up, and get ready for the ride.
Nintendo is bringing back one of its most beloved franchises. Today the company announced that a Wii U version of the classic sci-fi dogfighting series Star Fox is in the works. It will be the first original game in the series since 2006's Star Fox Command for the Nintendo DS, and will utilize the Wii U Gamepad's motion control capabilities, letting you fire weapons and pull off tricks like barrel rolls using gestures. Development is being led by iconic Nintendo designer Shigeru Miyamoto, the creator of the likes of The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Bros. The new Star Fox is still very early in development, however, with no release timeframe revealed as of yet. "Originally, we weren't targeting E3 for the announcement of Star Fox," Miyamoto told Polygon. "But in developing it, we really came to like and [we] wanted to motivate ourselves to complete the game as quickly as possible."Read Article >
It's also far from the only Wii U game in the works at Nintendo. At its digital-only E3 keynote this morning, the company announced other upcoming Wii U releases, including the adorable Yoshi's Wooly World, a sequel to the Wii's Kirby's Epic Yarn. The developers describe the experience as a "new kind of Yoshi game." Also in the works for the console is Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker, an isometric exploration game starring the diminutive Toad. Most exciting, Nintendo teased its long-awaited new Legend of Zelda game, showing off a new art style and what appears to be much more open gameplay. The company even announced a rare brand-new IP, with the multiplayer, squid-themed shooter Splatoon, as well as a build-your-own Mario game dubbed Mario Maker.
Jun 10, 2014Read Article >
Doom is returning at long last, and its developer has just released a first look at it. The teaser promises a return to its hellish, sci-fi landscapes, but this time, filled with beasts that have been fused with high-tech weaponry. It sounds absurd, evil, and appropriately creepy, and it looks as though the game will be just as nightmarish of a shooter as Doom 3, which was released a full decade ago. The new Doom has supposedly had a prolonged and troubled development, and this is the first we're seeing of what's come out of that.
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At its digital-only E3 keynote this morning, Nintendo provided the best look yet at the next entry in the Legend of Zelda series. Not only does the Wii U game sport a slick new high definition art style, but it will also be the first in the series to provide an open world to explore. According to the developers, that means that you'll be able to embark on adventures in a much less linear fashion compared to the more structured games of the past. "This is a clean break from the conventions of past games in the Zelda series," says producer Eiji Aonuma, "where you had to follow a set path and play through the scenario in the right order." The game was first revealed in 2013. You can check out the teaser in the video above, while the game itself is expected to launch in 2015.
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During its E3 presentation Nintendo just announced one of the most compelling reasons yet to pick up a Wii U. Mario Maker is essentially a Mario Bros. game construction set for the Wii U, letting users build their own levels — either in the classic Super Mario Bros. style, or using the visual elements from New Super Mario Bros. U — and then play them. There's no pricing or hard release date just yet, but the game should arrive sometime in 2015. A leaked shot from Nintendo's E3 booth first gave us a hint that the project might be coming, but it's authenticity wasn't verified at the time. Of all the cool news that we've heard thus far at E3, the ability to build our own Super Mario Bros. worlds is right near the top of the list, and no doubt Nintendo is hoping it will help prop up those disappointing Wii U sales.
Nintendo's rumored NFC action figures have finally appeared at E3. At its streamed press conference, the company showed off a line of figurines called Amiibos, similar to Activision's Skylanders and Disney Infinity. Scan one on the Wii U's gamepad, and the character will appear in Super Smash Bros, with support for Mario Kart 8 and other games on the way. In Super Smash Bros. for the Wii U, characters like Mario show up as new fighters that you can spar against, pit against other Amiibo characters, or team up with in a match — something Nintendo of America CEO Satoru Iwata showed off in a battle with president Reggie Fils-Aime. So far, the figurine line includes Samus Aran, Link, Mario, Pikachu, and Princess Peach, with more on the way. Amiibo support is one of a few newly announced additions to Super Smash Bros., including the ability to bring your Mii into the game in one of three different fighting classes.Read Article >
The day before E3, before the show floor even opened, Sony and Microsoft drenched two auditoriums in their signature colors and fought a war of words. As bombastic and exciting as these pre-show press conferences can be, the games of E3 are rarely a surprise; if they haven’t been officially announced, they’ve probably been leaked. But the presentations hint at the trends of the coming year, and more importantly, they let us sum up the entirety of two companies’ prospects in two words: who won?Read Article >
Well, Sony did.
Sony's E3 2014 keynote started out promising the stars. The company devoted plenty of time early on to Bungie's upcoming sci-fi epic Destiny, revealing that the PS4 version of the game would ship with exclusive content and that the game's multiplayer beta would be available to PlayStation gamers on July 17th. We also got a better look at the crazy sci-fi exploration game No Man's Sky, saw an early glimpse of the next-gen version of Grand Theft Auto V, and checked out some brand-new games, including the brutal medieval RPG Bloodborne and Abzu, an underwater adventure from some of the minds behind the acclaimed Journey. There was also an incredibly violent trailer for the newly announced Mortal Kombat X. It's not for the squeamish.Read Article >
One of the key talking points of the night was that regardless of what other platforms they may be on, games are just better on PlayStation. To that end, the company announced plenty of exclusive content for big-name games — Far Cry 4, for instance, will let you play multiplayer with your friends even if they don't own the game. Outside of games, Sony also revealed that the Vita TV — now known as PlayStation TV — will be coming to North America later this year, and we finally got some details on pricing for the PlayStation Now streaming service. It was a lengthy presentation, but you can check out the most important moments condensed to just three and a half minutes in the video below.
PlayStation Now, Sony's ambitious cloud gaming initiative, will go into open beta on PlayStation 4 in North America on July 31st. Although Sony has been operating a closed beta on PlayStation 3 and 4 for some months, the open beta will start with PS4 before expanding to PS3, PS Vita, and the newly-announced PlayStation TV in succession. To date, PS Now has been focused on streaming PS3 games over the internet to other PS3 consoles.Read Article >
Sony isn't saying what the software lineup will be when the beta launches, but there will be more than 100 titles available from first- and third-party studios. Pricing has been announced for the first time, however — most games will be priced between $2.99 and $19.99 depending on the rental period, though Sony notes that it plans to offer subscription options later and that "publishers and developers will ultimately decide their game price points."
No Man's Sky is a glorious oasis in E3's usual desert of gruff space marines and dismembered limbs. Joe Danger studio Hello Games' next release is impossibly ambitious and incredibly beautiful, set in an infinite universe created by procedural generation. In the gameplay trailer shown during Sony's E3 press conference, your player explores an alien world rendered in bursts of color, discovering new species of dinosaur-like creatures along the way, before getting into a spacecraft and seamlessly taking off to engage in combat in an asteroid field.Read Article >
"One of the things we wanted to put across is that No Man’s Sky is a game without limits," says Hello Games founder Sean Murray. "That mountain in the distance is a real place you can visit. So is that planet. And that star." Murray says that the time since the game's initial reveal has seen the team add "hundreds of new procedural systems that have made the universe explode with new alien creatures, amazing geological formations and vegetation patterns, pirates and wingmen."
Jun 10, 2014
Grand Theft Auto V is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC this fall. Sony's Andrew House announced that the game would be coming to PS4 at his company's E3 2014 press conference. Shortly afterwards, developer Rockstar posted a new trailer that confirmed its game, released in September last year, would also be released on Xbox One and PC at the same time.Read Article >
The PS Vita TV, Sony's effort to turn its Vita handheld into a home console, came out last year in Japan with no hint of an international release. But Sony has just announced at E3 2014 that the system will make its way to North America and Europe, rebranded as PlayStation TV and in a new black finish. It will be available for $99 alone, or in a $139 bundle with a DualShock 3 controller, an 8GB memory card, an HDMI cable, and a copy of the Lego Movie game.Read Article >
In our review of the Japanese Vita TV, we praised the system's design and potential, while noting some serious software and compatibility issues. Sony hasn't given specifics on whether it will fix these, but it claims that PlayStation TV will be able to play "most Vita titles" for a total of over 1,000 games, as well as working with PS4 and PlayStation Now streaming. The set-top-box capabilities are still a question, however; while the Vita TV supported various Japanese video services, Sony hasn't announced any similar PS TV apps beyond the movies and TV shows available on its own PlayStation Store.