The biggest and best games we saw at Tokyo Game Show

See the near future of gaming from East and West

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Tokyo Game Show isn't just about chocolatey in-jokes and embarrassing booth disasters — there's a ton of actual video games to play as well. While the Japanese games industry doesn't have the global status that it once enjoyed, TGS is still the biggest annual stage for local developers and publishers. And as the last major event on the gaming calendar each year, it's also a good chance to check in on some of the biggest releases coming out this holiday season. Read on for our thoughts.

Driveclub

driveclub

It’s disappointing when a game gets delayed, but it’s often for the best. Case in point: Driveclub. I saw Evolution Studios’ racer at Tokyo Game Show a year ago when it was set to launch with the PS4 last November, and it was kind of a mess — the graphics and performance just weren’t there. But here we are 12 months on, with the game finally coming out in October, and it’s looking fantastic.

The visuals are beyond beautiful (even if I wish the game ran at 60 frames per second), the courses I played were well-designed, and the handling is a heady mix of simulation-style weightiness and breakneck arcade fun. Sony is pushing the social aspects of Driveclub hard, with players able to form virtual "clubs" and compete against the world. That’s not the sort of thing you can evaluate during a trade show demo, but it does at least look like Evolution has nailed the racing basics.

By Sam Byford

Bloodborne

Bloodborne has no direct ties to the story of action RPG Dark Souls, but fans of the cult hit see From Software's next game as the real Dark Souls 2. It's being created by Hidetaka Miyazaki, the game director of Dark Souls and its similarly brilliant predecessor Demon's Souls, and mechanically, it looks markedly similar to both. You still guide their character in a third-person view through arenas filled with infamously tough enemies, and you're still but a few hits away from death. But Miyazaki has said that too many players hid behind shields in Dark Souls, and that he wanted Bloodborne to be a faster game. His solution — remove the shields.

For my first life in Bloodborne's damp and gothic world, with blunderbuss rather than shield in my left hand, I felt like I was fighting with one arm tied behind my back. I died. On my second life, I changed my weapons, and shifted my approach. Instead of a retractable scythe, I took two daggers into battle against the long-limbed and rotting residents of tainted city Yharnam. Instead of a pilgrim's hat and black jacket, I dressed as a flamboyant plague doctor, complete with a black feather cape. I got much further, slashing quickly to interrupt enemy attack animations, before throwing myself backwards to avoid their retaliatory strikes.

It quickly felt familiar. Bloodborne is an exciting new Dark Souls in all but name, blessed with that game's taut, measured, and immensely satisfying combat, and given a new gothic setting more theatrically grim than even Dark Souls' darkest depths.

By Rich McCormick

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

metal gear solid v

Although playable teaser Ground Zeroes came out around six months ago, the full course of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain isn’t yet ready to be played by the public. But director Hideo Kojima was on hand at TGS to show off some new gameplay footage, concentrating on how the sniper Quiet engages in co-operative stealth combat with Snake. For example, she managed to shoot off one guard’s helmet, allowing Snake to take him down with a tranquilizer dart and airlift his body away.

The Phantom Pain will come out at some point next year — while I wasn’t fully convinced by Ground Zeroes’ darker turn, on this showing Kojima doesn’t seem to have lost his touch for putting a quirky, innovative twist on gritty military action.

By Sam Byford

Sunset Overdrive

sunset overdrive

Sunset Overdrive is a riot of noise and color. It's a welcome change to the gray and gunmetal of modern military shooters, but amid Tokyo Game Show's own surplus amount of noise and color, it's tough to work out quite how to best succeed at Insomniac Games' upcoming Xbox One title. Dropped into a co-operative multiplayer mode, I was tasked with holding off swarms of monsters. The monsters, previously people that had been mutated with some unheimlich energy drink, were covered in glowing pustules and attacked in waves of ten or more at a time. Just above their heads, I sent my character, an obnoxious cartoon man, sliding between power lines on a grappling hook.

While airborne I could take potshots at the mutants below, but they kept coming. The mode demanded I defend generators with my teammates against the monster attack, but I suffered from lack of feedback as to how well I was performing my duties. Sunset Overdrive is designed to let seasoned players pull off dazzling combo strings by mixing up attacks and striking from the air, but without a plan and a steady hand at the controls, it felt a touch unwieldy. My attempts to call upon years of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater experience and build a high-scoring string were foiled before I got far off the ground as I lazily slid around power lines, ineffectually shooting at isolated monsters.

But away from distractions and with time to toy with the tight controls, Sunset Overdrive is a promising project — part Sonic the Hedgehog, part skateboarding game, with a day-glo aesthetic that's not often seen in an industry dominated by the grim and gray.

By Rich McCormick

Mighty No. 9

mighty no. 9

Mighty No. 9Mega Man creator Keiji Inafune’s Kickstarted indie homage to the Blue Bomber, is making its first public appearance at this year’s TGS. And, well, it plays a lot like Mega Man — in a good way. The controls are tight, enemies move and attack in the same kind of patterns, and the clever level design will trip you up like it’s 1988.

But that’s not to say that developers Comcept and Inti Creates haven’t put twists on the formula. There’s a fun new dash mechanic that sees you charge through stunned enemies to absorb their powers, the 3D visuals (on a 2D plane) allow for things like varying levels of camera zoom and bad guys firing at you from the background, and of course the graphical overhaul helps the game feel a lot more modern.

I will say that I’m not the biggest fan of Mighty No. 9’s art style, which so far doesn’t quite match the pixelated personality of the best Mega Man games. But it’s still early days in development, and I’d need to battle my way to each boss fight before passing final judgement here. At this stage, Mighty No. 9 is fun enough to be worth keeping an eye on.

By Sam Byford

Halo: The Master Chief Collection

halo master chief collection

There's more than a decade between the release dates of the first and last games in Microsoft's upcoming Master Chief Collection, but they all look almost as good as each other. The games — Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4 — have all been given graphical upgrades for release on Xbox One. While the prettied-up version of 2001's Halo: Combat Evolved doesn't quite look as shiny as Bungie's latest title, Destiny, the upgrade means all four Halos now run at a welcome 60 frames per second.

The Master Chief Collection also includes the games' much-loved multiplayer modes. Going back to Halo 2's multiplayer on the TGS show floor, it felt somehow both bare — without the perks and sprints and iron-sights that Call of Duty imposed on the genre — and pure. It's Halo 2 that receives the most work for The Master Chief Collection's release, getting a full Anniversary edition that allows players to switch between updated and original graphics mid-game. It still plays well, too: the core FPS mechanics Halo laid down at the turn of the millennium remain as satisfying today, and at 60 fps, the game's guns feel both powerful and balanced.

By Rich McCormick

Project Morpheus

Gallery Photo: Sony Project Morpheus virtual reality headset photos

Sony revealed a hugely creepy demo for its prototype virtual reality headset, Project Morpheus, at a press conference in Tokyo a couple of weeks ago; called Summer Lesson and developed by the Tekken team, it involved ogling a schoolgirl and not a lot more. The title was set to be shown off at TGS, but was mysteriously (and thankfully) removed from the lineup at the last minute. But Morpheus was still on the floor, complete with a demo that we hadn’t seen before.

It involved flying a fighter jet through a series of checkpoints while battle raged above and below you; I was using a flight stick and throttle controller, and the experience was exhilarating as I looked around the cockpit. Morpheus still has a narrower field of view than the Oculus Rift, which does make it a little less immersive. Sony’s in-house ability to create these kinds of experiences, however, make it easy to imagine Morpheus as a commercial product in the not-too-distant future.

By Sam Byford

Evolve

evolve

Evolve works best with friends. The game is built on asymmetrical first-person combat — one person plays as a monster, four other play the humans trying to kill it — but on the TGS show floor, I don't click with my team. I'm playing as Evolve's Medic, and it's my job to shadow the game's three classes and keep them alive. But separated by language, unfamiliarity, and the inability to be heard over background trade show white noise, it doesn't go well.

The Trapper, usually responsible for laying down snares to keep the giant human-controlled monster in place before deploying a large bubble to stop it escaping, keeps getting eaten by computer-controlled mini monsters. The Assault class player has a tendency to wander off, breaking connection from my gun-shaped healing ray by disappearing behind rocks. And while the Support player is trying his best, his character is best used to augment an already successful team's abilities: there's not much point in turning the team invisible if the team's dead. I'm not faring any better. I mistime my shot with my armor-piercing sniper rifle and instead of hitting the monster's skull, creating a weak point for others to attack, hit it on one of its four-foot fingers.

But not everyone playing Evolve is useless: the player controlling the giant Cthulhu-esque Kraken copes admirably, killing my team inside of five minutes. The experience shows Evolve's promise — it's quickly apparent that there's a lot of options available to co-ordinated teammates — but also shows that without experienced monster hunting colleagues, you might have more fun alone.

By Rich McCormick

Final Fantasy XV

Final Fantasy had a rough time last generation — XIII was long delayed and disappointed upon its release, its gratuitous two sequels failed to make waves, and the MMO XIV had to be completely revamped after a disastrous launch. But while Final Fantasy XV isn’t yet ready to be shown off in playable form, this stunning new trailer has been the talk of TGS.

There’s a weirdly laid-back road trip vibe to the clip, which sees footage of characters driving around the world interspersed with glimpses of what looks like a fully real-time, action-based combat system. And with long-time director Tetsuya Nomura now off the project, XV might just be the most exciting Final Fantasy game since the series’ glory days.

By Sam Byford

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime

lovers in a dangerous spacetime

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime is a space shooter with a difference. You fly a giant, unwieldy, circular ship around the galaxy rescuing cute bunnies and frogs while fighting off alien attacks, but what really sets it apart is the direct control you (or a friend) have over the spacecraft’s crew.

When I played by myself, I could jump around the ship to pilot it or activate various functions while frantically ordering my pet dog to man the cannons on all four sides. As a same-couch two-player game, though, your partner has another captain to help you out, making for a unique co-op experience. With its infectious sense of fun and adorable art style, Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime feels like it could be the next IRL multiplayer indie hit when it comes to Xbox One and PC.

By Sam Byford

The Evil Within

the evil within

Shinji Mikami defined video game survival horror with Resident Evil. He redefined the genre with Resident Evil 4. It's too early to say whether his next game, horror shooter The Evil Within, will revolutionize survival horror again, but based on a 15-minute demo playable on the TGS show floor, it feels more like an iteration on the existing template. Like Resident Evil, hero Sebastian Castellanos stumbles across a mansion in the woods. Like Resident Evil, there's a dining room with a large table, and like Resident Evil, there's a shambling, rotting creature crouched over a corpse. But when that creature lurches to face you, The Evil Within is Resident Evil 4, giving you a gun and an over-the-shoulder view with which to shoot it.

Playing through the level at TGS, I pumped a round into the creature's head, which promptly exploded. Another appeared behind him, and I readied my handgun to send a chunk of metal through his face, before realising someone had got there first. The second zombie had a two-foot piece of rebar embedded in his skull, entering at his jawbone, exiting at his forehead.

The second creature shows The Evil Within's aesthetic. The game's enemies fusions of metal and flesh: zombies wrapped in barbed wire, demonic butchers with metal boxes for heads. They're sufficiently gruesome, but they're also slightly clichéd: they look like they've stepped from a Cannibal Corpse album cover into the game world. Spookier are The Evil Within's nods to psychological horror. At one point during the TGS demo I stumbled across an exposed brain in a piece of medical apparatus, and a spike. The game wanted me to drive the latter into the former, destroying the part of the brain labelled "Hope" on an accompanying diagram. Jabbing the brain resulted in the arrival of The Evil Within's antagonist, a white-cloaked figure who appears from thin air to menace the player.

A short while later, the game sent a roving band of masked madmen after me. An eye appeared on screen to indicate I was being searched for, so I hid in a closet and watched through a crack in the door as the monsters prowled the room, with Sebastian's breath ragged and my heart pumping fast. The Evil Within also has jump frights — one section sent me reeling back from the screen and booth attendants over to make sure I was okay — but as befits a game with such a focus on brain matter, it also promises cerebral scares.

By Rich McCormick