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Special Report: E3 2016

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E3 is always a special time of year for gamers. Over the course of the week, gamers intently follow the press conferences and demos to get a better picture of the games they’ll be playing over the next year and beyond. This E3 was somewhat different though. In addition to the fact that many of the games revealed last year have still not come out, this year’s E3 was plagued by a seemingly larger-than-normal number of leaks and announcements which unveiled many of the surprises before the week’s festivities. Even so, E3 was still a great preview of the future of gaming.

As ever, Microsoft held the first press conference (ignoring EA, Bethesda, SE, and Kadokawa..). Microsoft opened by revealing the new smaller model of the Xbox One, the Xbox One S. While releasing a smaller model has become common since the PlayStation 2, Microsoft would unfortunately squash any compelling reasons to pick up this new model by the end of their press conference. Microsoft then moved on to their docket of games, but also used their press conference to emphasize the Xbox Play Anywhere program -- the expansion of the Xbox ecosystem to PCs. The first game shown was Gears of War 4, a game which occurs many years after the originals and features new characters, new enemies, and a very interactive environment. Gears of War 4, like many of the games Microsoft would show, can be played on both Xbox and PCs with progress saved across both platforms. Microsoft also revealed the General Raam, the Locust commander from the original Gears of War, would be joining the cast of Killer Instinct. Microsoft then presented an obligatory, while admittedly gorgeous, trailer for Forza Horizon 3, and gameplay for ReCore. ReCore was the game which interested me the most during Microsoft’s press conference, and the revelation I could play it on my PC certainly helped bolster my excitement. This was followed by a demo of Final Fantasy XV which featured the Trial of Titan. While the scope and action of the battle looked exciting, the demo was unfortunately hindered by a player who reminded me of my first time battling against the Iron Giant in the Platinum Demo. Then again, I imagine almost everyone on BlueGartr has this game preordered by now, so this demo probably didn’t change anything (at least for us). Microsoft then showcased the Division and Battlefield I before discussing some of the upcoming changes and improvements to Xbox Live. Microsoft then showed another side of the Xbox Play Anywhere program through Minecraft as players on the Xbox, PC, and even tablets were able to play together on stage. They then briefly touched on customizable controllers before moving onto their indie program and games like Inside. We Happy Few, a strange game that many drew connections to Bioshock (even if the developers say otherwise), followed afterwards, and then a reveal of a standalone version of Gwent, the card game featured in the Witcher 3. Microsoft then unveiled a trailer for Tekken 7 which featured Street Fighter’s Akuma. Microsoft then showcased a Christmas-themed Dead Rising 4 and demos for Scalebound and Sea of Thieves which really did not do either game any favors. That said, I actually think Sea of Thieves has potential (which seems to be supported by those who played it during the week) (although it also made me more excited for Yooka-Laylee..). Microsoft then presented another zombie game, State of Decay 2 (which implies there was a State of Decay 1..) and Halo Wars 2. I will admit, as a console RTS, Halo Wars was not exactly a great game, but I would be lying if I said I wasn’t thinking about picking this one up for PC. Then again, it looks like the console restrictions of the first game (namely, limited base building) are still in place, so we’ll see what the final verdict is. After that, Microsoft began to recap their press conference before officially announcing the upcoming Scorpio, a new version of the Xbox One which will be released in 2017 and is significantly more powerful than the current models. Honestly, I’m kinda torn about Microsoft’s press conference. In terms of selling Xboxes and Xbox games, I thought their press conference was a dud -- especially ending with the Scorpio on the horizon which seemingly cripples the Xbox One S’ momentum even before its release. However, I can’t deny that the Xbox Play Anywhere program has me excited. While I don’t imagine I will pick up an Xbox One any time soon, I can definitely see myself picking up ReCore for PC.

Xbox Play Anywhere
Gears 4 looks new and exciting
ReCore gameplay looks compelling
We Happy Few resembles Bioshock in a good way
Sea of Thieves could be a great game

Xbox One S is D.O.A. because of Scorpio
Why do I need an Xbox with Xbox Play Anywhere?
Some demos were especially terrible

Final Grade: C

Sony returned to the Shrine Auditorium this year and opened their press conference with a full orchestra which left viewers confused until it led into the reveal of a new God of War game. Kratos returns, this time with a son, what appears to be a massive open world, and seemingly perched to fight the gods of Norse mythology. I’ll admit that I have only played the first game in the franchise, but I’m a little curious to hear how they explain the unexpected change of setting. This was followed by an introduction to Days Gone, a post-apocalyptic zombie game developed by Bend Studio which many viewers, myself included, thought bore a strong resemblance to phenomenal The Last of Us. Sony then presented The Last Guardian and revealed it would finally be released on October 25th. Shadow of the Colossus is still one of my top ten games of all time, and like many gamers, I have been eagerly waiting for its release, so finally learning it is only a few months away is definitely welcome news. Next, Sony showed players nearly ten minutes of gameplay from Horizon Zero Dawn Ygritte Shoots Mecha-Dinos. When Guerrilla Games unveiled this game last year, I will admit I was unimpressed. However, this year, the gameplay, the combat, and the gorgeous and intriguing world sent this game from off my radar to probably a day-one pick up for me. A trailer for Quantic Dream’s next game, Detroit: Become Human was next. It looks fairly similar to other games by Quantic Dream, so if you’re into that type of game, I imagine this one looked pretty good -- if you’re not, this game probably looked disappointing. While Microsoft used their press conference to push the Xbox Play Anywhere program, Sony used theirs to push the integration of VR technology. The next reveal was a demo for a terrifying Resident Evil 7. After the last few games, I assume most gamers would agree that the Resident Evil franchise has taken a disappointing turn away from its survival-horror roots. Although we didn’t get to see much, this demo looked closer to the older, more terrifying Resident Evil games than its recent siblings. Sony then revealed that the PlayStation VR would be released on October 13th at $400 and would feature fifty games from launch to the end of the year. Sony then unveiled a number of VR games, including Farpoint, a new sci-fi first-person shooter, Battlefront VR Mission, Arkham VR, and an exciting new trailer for Final Fantasy XV which ended with a section which revealed players could use the PlayStation VR to and play as Prompto. Sony then showcased the next Call of Duty game, Infinite Warfare, which will take players to space for typical epic Call of Duty set pieces and unbelievable action. They also announced that the original Modern Warfare would be remastered and released on the PS4, but given that it is only the first game and not the full trilogy, I have a hard time getting excited for this announcement. Sony also announced that a number of the Crash Bandicoot games would be remastered and Crash would be joining Skylanders. This was followed by a trailer for Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, which looks to continue the trend of hilarious Lego takes on franchises, and then an appearance by Hideo Kojima who revealed a minimal and fairly confusing trailer for his new game, Death Standing. Sony then unveiled a new PlayStation exclusive Spiderman game being developed by Insomnia games before closing with a gameplay demo for the previously revealed Days Gone. After the initial reveal suggested this game would resemble The Last of Us, this trailer revealed a more action oriented gameplay experience which, honestly, did little to impress. In any case, while Sony did a lot of things right, I feel I was less impressed with their press conference than many others. It definitely started strong with exciting gameplay for God of War, The Last Guardian, and Horizon Zero Dawn, but the later content was less satisfying. Still, there is no denying that Sony definitely has some major games coming out this next year which have me very excited.

New God of War
The Last Guardian finally has a release date
Horizon Zero Dawn won me over
New Resident Evil might be back to the franchise’s roots

Not convinced by VR
Days Gone went from potentially interesting to meh.
Quite a few games are a long ways away

Final Grade: B

For the past few years, Nintendo has passed on traditional press conferences and instead has used Nintendo Directs. This year, Nintendo took a drastically different approach to their E3 press conference and chose to really only focus (mostly) on one game -- The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Essentially all day, Nintendo showcased various aspects of this new Zelda adventure which will be released for the Wii U and as a release title for the NX. Based on everything we’ve seen, this new Zelda will be an open-world adventure which offers a far more expansive, challenging, and unique story than the previous entries in the franchise. Link can pick up and use weapons from his foes, hunt and gather in the wild, and equip armor and clothing with varying stats. Honestly, it is the game I am most excited for, even though it won’t be out till 2017. All that said, while I admittedly spent most of Tuesday watching Nintendo’s various Zelda streams, I’d be lying if I said I was not disappointed by their approach this year. A day dedicated almost exclusively to Zelda made it feel like there is very little for Nintendo fans to look forward to -- and rightly so given their upcoming release schedule. Yes, Nintendo did reveal some new information about Pokémon Sun and Moon and covered other games during the week, but it’s not the same. And especially with the NX supposedly coming out within the next year, more (read: any) information would have been welcome. When Sony and Microsoft held separate press conferences to unveil the PS4 and Xbox One, respectively, it made sense given that those proceeded E3. With Nintendo waiting till a later date, this E3 felt like a wasted opportunity to offer gamers information on their new system. Then again, I’m probably not fooling anyone -- I grew up as a Nintendo fan, am a huge Zelda fan, and am almost guaranteed to pick up a NX on release just so I can play this new Zelda on the best hardware.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild looks like it is going to be an amazing game

No NX info
No other games, not really..

Final Grade: N/A

Game of E3: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
C’mon is this really a surprise? Not only does the new Zelda look gorgeous, but the gameplay looks like an amazing evolution of one of my favorite franchises. I spent pretty much an entire afternoon watching Nintendo play the new Zelda, and I was enthralled almost the entire time. And the area shown was less than two-percent of the full game! Honestly, did you really expect me to say no to a game that merges Zelda with games like Skyrim and the Witcher 3?
Runner Up: Horizon Zero Dawn

Those are my thoughts on E3 2016, but what are yours? Do you agree with my grades? Was there a game that stunned you? Was The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild your game of E3 (probably, but it’s okay to have another -- I'm not one to judge you for being wrong)? It definitely looks like there are some exciting games coming out this next year.


  1. Lyall -
    Lyall's Avatar
    As the years go by, I become more and more cynical about what's shown off at E3. Not much in terms of the flood of sequels and stuff, but more that everything on display is more or less not indicative of a final product. CG trailers don't show off anything about the game itself. Gameplay trailers similarly don't necessarily translate into hopes: Aliens: Colonial Marine still burns to think about. The Days Gone trailer at the end of Sony's show felt... Wrong to me somehow. It's gameplay? But it's also clearly a tech demo designed to show off, considering the complete lack of UI, almost no prompting in-game and the way the demo ended.

    That's not even touching on the fact at one point the player runs plainly into one of the oncoming hordes and nothing attacks him. That's not gameplay, that's interactive CG.

    VR feels like a fad for me. Hardware is expensive, moreso than either the Kinect or the Move before them, and it's again hard to feel like this isn't going to be a priority for development after the initial rush is over. Semi-relatedly, I was irritated to see Killing Floor 2's VR demo on display when the game's been in Early Access for over a year, already missed its release date by six months and is still missing promised classes (we only just got Sharpshooter last week, something people have wanted since May 2015.)

    I'm also all-in on Zelda, which doesn't surprise me at all. I was happy with the depths of the game they showed off, and I feel like it IS an indication of how the game will play, as opposed to showing off for the E3 crowd. I admit my personal bias though, since I've grown up with the Zelda series and am definitely a homer for it.

    Resident Evil 7 was the other pleasant surprise, even if the demo is self-contained. It was a unique taste of the series and very welcome after the unceremonious end of PT's development.