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Simon Miller, Editor-In-Chief – Batman: Arkham Origins
There was a lot to get excited about at E3. I immensely enjoyed Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario World 3D World and I think Metal Gear Solid V looks as ridiculous as I had hoped it would. What grabbed me the most, though, was Batman: Arkham Origins.
On many levels, this may sound stupid. After all, the previous games have been masterpieces and, as you can tell from the trailers, Origins isn't exactly doing that much different. In my defence: Batman. Also, though, since it was announced I had this nagging feeling that the change in developer may sour the experience. That's not a knock on Warner Bros. Montreal but Rocksteady had set the bar so high that it was only healthy to be slightly hesitant just in case, as has happened in the past, the switch of creative heads turned out to be a poor decision. Thankfully, nothing could be further from the truth.
Arkham Origins is so good and so faithful to what made the previous iterations what they were that we are on the verge of entering a world where the last three Batman video games have been wonderful. It wasn't so long ago we were all trying to convince ourselves that Rise Of Sin Tzu wasn't a pile of absolute garbage*. With a few tweaks thrown in for good measure – the new Martial Artist enemy that can counter Batman is marvellous – the Arkham trilogy may be gaming's answer to the Dark Knight run of films. I am a happy man...
Get all the info you need from the game here.
Steve Burns, Reviews and Features Editor – Watch Dogs
After last year’s breakout success, Ubisoft’s E3 2013 Watch Dogs presentation could hardly have been more disappointing. CG footage of Aiden walking around, beating people up? Boring. ‘Show us the game’ was the plea on social networking sites after Ubisoft’s conference.
Ubi duly did at the Sony keynote, and also with a second, more impressive demo behind closed doors. What I saw from the latter confirmed my stance that Watch Dogs has the potential to be one of the games of the year. Demoing the open world’s different districts and off-mission gameplay, while expanding on the hacking aspect and showcasing invasion-based PvP, it was once again one of the games of the show.
So far we’d seen a lot of talk about the different hacking systems you could use, but it wasn’t until now that we could really see how they all interlink. You can read about it all here, but in short it’s nicely integrated alongside all the bang-bang.
The most exciting element of the demo, for me at least, was the ‘invasion’ gameplay. Similar to Dark Souls, other players can enter your game. Not that you’d immediately be aware of that - it’s not until you’re hacked that other people become visible. It’s city-wide vehicular cat-and-mouse after that, as players have to chase down and kill the hacker to prevent them escaping their game with the data. An impressive addition to an already exciting game.
David Scammell, Deputy News Editor – Need For Speed: Rivals
Rivals certainly wasn't the most innovative game on show at E3 – titles like The Division, Watch Dogs and Titanfall appear to be far more impressive in the originality stakes – but I had the most fun with it by some distance. As I said in my preview, it's Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit 2 in all but name - and the only title that left me genuinely excited to play more.
Granted, I'm still slightly cautious about how well the score-chasing concept and apparent dependency on multiplayer will translate to the final game: the 10 minute snippet on show was an absolute blast to play with my E3 peers, but whether it'll hold up when stretched across numerous hours is a genuine concern. But after expecting 2013 to be one of Need For Speed's off-years, Ghost's debut looks as if it could give Criterion's games a run for its money, and a racer certainly worth keeping on your radar.
Matt Lees, Video Production Editor - Tom Clancy's The Division
Being up to my eyeballs with video editing, I didn’t have time to watch the Ubisoft conference. Glancing at Twitter after things had settled down, it seemed like the hype revolved around a new game called ‘The Division’. After squeezing my way through the crush of the immensely popular Ubisoft booth, my first experience with the game was a full-length developer demo. Even without the conference bombast, I walked away substantially impressed.
Riffing on Steven Soderbergh’s excellent Contagion, The Division depicts a world that swiftly fell to pieces after everyone simultaneously got the sniffles. As man-with-gun it’s up to you to roam New York and pick up the pieces, restoring order to the mess that remains. On paper it sounds astoundingly boring, but what they’ve crafted so far looks superb.
The graphical fidelity and art direction are amazing, as is the impact you have on the world. Tiny rays of light pour through the fresh bullet holes you’ve made, and your character even closes car doors if they’re in the way as he’s edging around them for cover. Tiny details like these mean nothing on their own, but merge to form a world that feels weighty and cohesive.
Speaking as a man who thinks Apple can naff off, I’m also impressed by the tablet and phone stuff, which lets you hop into any online co-op game in the form of a floaty overhead drone. In contrast to the usual spin-off nonsense, the entire of The Division’s open world has been created to render in multiple versions: Crikey-HD for modern systems, and Fuzzy-Fuzz mode for tablets and stuff. As a drone you can mark targets, and whack down friendly buffs and airstrikes. You’re effectively playing a real-time strategy game where the squad you’re following are all real players. Go back and explain this to Matt Lees circa 1999, and he’d immediately spaff himself into oblivion. For that reason alone: Game of show.
Chris Bratt, Video Producer – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Goodness gracious, did you guys see the trailer for The Witcher 3? It looks absolutely wonderful. Both Matt and myself were eyeing up the appointment with CD Projekt, but thankfully Mr Lees was busy at the time, or I think we may have come to blows over the matter. He’s got really long arms as well; I don’t even know how you’re supposed to fight someone with that physique.
Anyway, I saw about 30 minutes of Wild Hunt gameplay and it certainly didn’t disappoint. The final part of Geralt’s story is still wonderfully dark, with the characters he meets being just as morally disgusting as you’d expect from a game in this series.
I remain a little cautious about the transition to this huge open-world of theirs, but the demo did its very best to convince me that it won’t feel too empty. The majority of the presentation focused on a village suffering from the incursions of a grouchy forest spirit and I was pleased to see that it was jam-packed full of NPCs that, at least on first glance, felt like real characters who made sense within their environment. Yet it was the small details that I was keen to make note of: the travellers passing by on the roadside; the side quest that becomes available after you allow a particularly rare monster to escape; the day/night cycle and the influence it has on the enemies you meet and their abilities.
The demo was hands-off and was clearly being played in a way that would best show off these individual moments, but if it was anywhere close to being a fair representation of the game itself, then it could end up being really really special.
Fancy a look at our alternative E3 awards? Just hit play on the video below...