Post by KostaAndreadis @ 12:41pm 19/06/21 | Comments
We went through the many, many showcases and presentations that made up this year’s E3 season and put together our list of the games that impressed us the most. Basically, everything we can’t wait to play.
E3 2021 was a little hit and miss, a little all over the place. For every impressive showing (your Xbox & Bethesda Showcase, your Nintendo Direct, your Battlefield 2042 reveal) there were a number of, well, duds. No doubt it’s hard to put on a show, especially in a digital-only environment. And following on from a year that hit the industry in a number of ways, from development through to production and hardware shortages, it was still great to see so many, well, games.
So with that out of the way let’s get to it -- because there’s a number of games that either blew us away or got us to that place where we can’t wait to see more. And with that, here’s the AusGamers Family (Stephen Farrelly, Kosta Andreadis, Joab Gilroy, Adam ‘Griz’ Mathew, and Nathan ‘Nachosjustice’ Lawrence) going through the games of the show.
Forza Horizon 5
Stephen: What struck most with the Forza Horizon 5 reveal was just in how Xbox let the game do the talking. There was no fanfare, hype or countdown-esque build-up to an official unveiling of what is arguably the most impressive-looking new-gen game on the Series S|X yet. And if Microsoft had gone down that path, in seeing what Playground has crafted here, you wouldn’t have been able to scold them for it. But plonking this right in the thick of everything and just letting it breathe was a genius idea, and made the whole reveal more impactful.
What equally spoke to the strength of the new entry is that it wasn’t flash-in-the-pan, either. There was gameplay substance right from the outset which meant the mind was multitasking in trying to imagine what the game would offer when it’s out in the wild while trying to pick our jaws up off the floor. Horizon 5 was more than just a feast for the eyes, it was a saving grace.
Kosta: This was one of those classic E3 out of nowhere reveals. Based purely on the opening moments of the trailer, which showcased near-photo-real environments set south of the border, there was a distinct Red Dead Redemption 2 vibe. What could it be? From there we got a close-up of some fancy Italian sports car and the ‘what if’ became, ‘oh, this is Forza 7 or 8 or whatever’.
I’m not really a fan of racing sims so the sentiment quickly changed from restrained interest to sheer unbridled joy. And a “mama mia, this here be Forza Horizon 5!” thanks to the, err, Italian sports car still on screen. From the stunning visuals to the vast open-world to the fun multiplayer exploration, racing and activities, Horizon is the most exciting franchise in all of racing. And its next gen debut is looking tasty.
Adam: Starfield has me entranced, even with my “historically speaking, Bethesda can over-promise” hat on. Yes, the exclusivity of it all sucks, but what a pretty feather to have in one's cap — a “Han Solo simulator” in a world where the once mighty Mass Effect series has gone completely off course. The phrase “NASA meets Indiana Jones” could only be more enticing if your venn diagram also included a “nail attractive aliens” circle as well. A lack of such docking procedures isn't a deal-breaker, but I'd be surprised if our inner Kirk wasn't indulged.
Kosta: A teaser and a release date for what is one of the most exciting RPGs currently in development. The next Todd Howard joint and game from the team behind Oblivion, Fallout 3, Skyrim, and Fallout 4. A brand new IP focused on space exploration and grand star-based adventuring. Though you can’t really glean any of that from this teaser that showcases NASA-like equipment and space-shippery on a seemingly empty alien planet.
Based on interviews and a few other behind-the-scenes teasers we now know that there will be alien races to interact with, cities to visit, and a number of planets to explore -- all wrapped up in a Skyrim-style choose-your-own-adventure and choose-your-own-path narrative. And with that it sounds like we’re getting the Mass Effect meets Elder Scrolls crossover we never thought we’d see.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2
Adam: The original Breath of the Wild was all-time. Hell, as I'm replaying it with my sons — which makes it the fifth time — I'm STILL noticing cool graphical flourishes and exploitable little physics nuances. It's such a phenomenal game, I'd often find myself wondering how Nintendo was going to top it. Their answer: expand the breadth of “the wild” by ascending into Hyrule's clouds. No idea what all that's gonna mean, specifically. But I'm up for it. My expectations are sky high.
Stephen: I’m sick of how often my nine-year-old swoons over IGN bigwig, Cam Shea, and his irrepressible Breath of the Wild videos. I work in games too you know, Son! Ahem, so yeah, having something beyond what still incredibly isn’t an overly flogged, rotting Epona, to get excited for in Breath of the Wild 2 is kind of special.
Most of the gaming fraternity on the industry side of the fence have this as their game they play with their kids, while still thoroughly enjoying it as a core experience themselves. So something new to jaunt through both as a family or just on your own, with what looks to be a stack of new, innovative gameplay features and a different way to experience Hyrule with half of it now floating in the sky just screams awesome. All of that and you can just never have too much Zelda.
Joab: I love Dark Souls. Love it to bits. I love it more than anyone else, and I will fight you, Player vs Player, to prove it. And the Elden Ring Trailer has me falling in love all over again. The monster design, the world aesthetic, the small things it hints at, like horse jump pads and summoning and dragons and dudes with too many arms and more.
And afterwards, subsequent interviews with Hidetaka Miyazaki have only served to excite me further. Insane amounts of build customisation, multiple endings, Sekiro-style stealth, pokemons you can summon, crafting, covenants, PvP and more have all been confirmed for the game. The pitched release date — January 22 next year — is apparently well on track.
Kosta: Okay, so I don’t exactly love Dark Souls. In fact, you could say that I generally bounce off games that are, err, challenging in ways tied to trying to simply take a few steps forward or see what’s around a corner. Based on this new gameplay trailer and details that have emerged, it all paints the picture of a world as vast and interesting as the creatures and enemies are odd, strange, and well monstrous in design, scope, and scale. There’s a good chance I might bounce off this too come January -- but before that happens I plan on jumping on horseback, and exploring as much of Elden Ring as I can.
Nathan: Battlefield 2042 is right at the top of my most-anticipated list. After DICE’s ‘abandon ship’ approach to ditching continued development for the ever-improving Star Wars Battlefront II and Battlefield V for an all-hands-on-deck for this next Battlefield game, all signs pointed to something special.
The gameplay trailer was the real clincher for me, as well as the about-time announcement that there would be no campaign. A fully armed and operational DICE building a next-gen Battlefield multiplayer game with 128 players. Couple that with a Crysis-like on-the-fly weapon-attachment system, Siege-like Specialists with interesting abilities, alongside the promise of ongoing live support, and I am anticipating a new multiplayer obsession come October.
Joab: On my podcast, The GAP (The Generic Acronym Podcast, not The GameArena Podcast), my co-host Luke said he thought the gameplay reveal trailer made the map in question — Hourglass — look like it lacked cover and that it would probably be a sniper's paradise. I don't think I agree. Almost every Battlefield map has had large sections of empty space that it designates as essentially no man's land — territory that you absolutely do not want to be caught out on. Even the very first Battlefield map I played — Wake Island, in the 1942 demo, of course — saw players able to be straight up pantsed on open water if they spent too long out there.
To me, the empty spaces of Hourglass remind me of El Alamein — especially in Desert Combat, where the speed and accuracy of great chopper pilots made the long empty spaces between each flag seem so much smaller. They emphasised teamwork and manpower logistics, and created tension when you got caught out on foot. I could go on and on about how excited I am for Battlefield 2042, but they're giving me the wrap-up signal.
Stephen: Hoooooo boy, did I get excited when I saw this. I even hoped that it was a return to the throne for Amped, which it isn’t, but then the devs said it was like a love-letter to Amped and that just made it even better.
In addition to being another action sports entry in the genre’s resurgence, Shredders looks and feels like it comes from the right place, respecting and representing not just the sport of snowboarding, but the culture and aesthetic that comes with it. Add to that that it looks stunning with amazing animations, blue-bird for days, pow-pow, butters and more and, well, developer Foam Punch in reveal alone has made this salty old snowboarder feel young and energised again.
All that’s left is to learn how the game is structured, what parks and riding opps exist, what sort of editor content we can expect (alongside social sharing in this space) and if we’ll see any major brands like Red Bull or Burton or the like help legitimise the whole thing from a broader perspective. More please.
Kosta: With the legacy of Amped and going back further, 1080 Snowboarding on the N64, getting to see Shredders seemingly come out of nowhere was a definite E3 highlight. And this trailer is just brilliant, showcasing that it's coming from a place of boarder knowledge and not simply nostalgia for an old-timey videogame. In fact, as someone who knows very little about the real-world thing that is snowboarding it’s the music in this trailer that got me -- legit tech-house that built and dropped with style and groove to spare.
After doing some digital crate digging, the artist is Jennifur and the track is an original piece for Shredders.
Age of Empires IV
Nathan: I recently finished the campaign for Age of Empires III: Definitive Edition and have since gone back to Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition to do the same. While other strategy fans cut their teeth on Command & Conquer, Age of Empires has long been my RTS love during my younger Stone Age. With original devs Ensemble Studios sadly no more, it makes sense to pass Age of Empires torch to the current RTS kings: Relic Entertainment.
The truth is I’d play Age of Empires IV regardless of whoever was making it, but knowing Relic is at the helm means Microsoft is taking the next official entry seriously by hiring the right people for the job. It also helps that Age of Empires has finally evolved to a StarCraft place with asymmetric factions (migrating Mongol buildings FTW), which promises to add great variety to campaign, skirmishes and the multiplayer I’ll never play because my family’s “turtling for life” motto doesn’t translate well to the online foray.
Kosta: Relic has been behind some of the best modern RTS games of the last decade - I’m talking Company of Heroes and Dawn of War. And as Microsoft Flight Simulator has shown, well, Microsoft is treating PC gaming better than it ever has. With its own World’s Edge overseeing Age IV, it’s set to be another “platform” that will be supported for years to come. Even so, it’s set to launch with a sizable campaign that will feature a high-quality documentary-style presentation. As seen in the above trailer, real-world footage and re-enactments will transition to full 3D visuals as players get to relive key moments in history. And then Age up to the next.
Kosta: Cinematic sci-fi pixel indie thingies are my jam, as is anything that blends the retro-future aesthetic of Blade Runner with animation that draws on the legacy of classics like Flashback and Another World. A surprise indie reveal from this year’s Xbox showing, Replaced blends impressive 2D animation with well-lit 3D environments in a sci-fi-infused alternate 1980s. The story is set in America and takes place after a catastrophic nuclear event, and deals with AI, corporate greed, organ trafficking, and outlaws. And with that focus on story coupled with the “free-flow action” and 2.5D presentation, Replaced is shaping up to be another 2022 highlight.
Stephen: When you see pixel visuals doing things now they couldn’t do back in the day, you kind of get struck in two places: nostalgia and pride. We’ve come a long way as an industry and artform, but what has long stood out in gaming is how connected we all are to gaming’s roots. Not just art-wise either. There was a serious vibe that came with the games of yesteryear, and that vibe is often carried over pretty successfully in throwback-type titles, but what I’m personally seeing with Replaced is a game that doesn’t just homage an era, it’s working to redefine it.
Big words, sure, but tell me something in the whole presentation for the game that didn’t just *sing* for you -- the music and presentation, the art and animation, the composition and direction… everything is beyond on-point for what the studio is serving us here -- cold, hard 80s realness.