The best of the rest: Third party games at E3 2016
Both Sony and Microsoft had plenty of great games on show during their E3 press events, but the offerings from third party developers were, as usual, nothing to sneeze at either. From stealth games and arena shooters to awesome new VR experiences, read on as we highlight some of the biggest and best third-party games on show.
Electronic Arts (EA) kicked things off on Sunday with a so-so showing that included a lengthy section on its e-Sports efforts. While it wasn't the most exciting press event of the show (well, actually, the publisher's event was technically separate from the main E3 expo, but we won't get into that), there were a few gems on offer.
Attendees were treated to an extensive look at World War I shooter Battlefield 1, including an hour-long, celebrity-filled stream of a few 64-player multiplayer matches. While the streamed content wasn't as slick as most gameplay you see at events like E3, it's often better to see a game as it will actually look when you play it yourself. Battlefield 1 is full of huge, era-appropriate tanks, bi-planes and horses. It's chaos, and looks like a lot of fun.
EA also provided a look at its sports titles, the most interesting of which is FIFA 17. This year's entry in the soccer series includes a story mode (which actually looks quite good), and is built on the publisher's Frostbite graphics engine, meaning it's prettier than ever.
We got an all-too-brief look at Mass Effect: Andromeda, but given that we're still yet to see gameplay, it's seeming a little unlikely that the game will materialize inside its 2017 release window. We also saw a pair of trailers for mech shooter Titanfall 2 – one single player and one multiplayer – which looks to improve on the formula established by the first game, with a greater number of robots and abilities, and a more fleshed out story.
Despite Bethesda owning a relatively small number of studios, its second ever E3 showcase was packed with great-looking games. Last year, Fallout 4 and Doom took center stage at the publisher's event, meaning that this year's show was unlikely to quite match up.
While the crowd wasn't quite as loud, and the announcements not quite as huge, in the end, this year's show was every bit as interesting. The company started off by announcing a classic franchise reboot in the form of Quake Champions – a PC-only multiplayer arena shooter – and kept the momentum going by announcing a remaster of 2011's hugely popular adventure title Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, coming to PC, Xbox One and PS4 in October.
Bethesda also showed a trailer for Prey, a futuristic first-person franchise re-imagining title set on a space station where a research project has gone horribly wrong. It looks moody with a compelling narrative, and it's more than a little bit reminiscent of sci-fi horror series Dead Space.
Last up was Dishonored 2, which looks to provide deep stealth gameplay, letting the user take control of either a male or female protagonist. The game takes the series to a new city, rich with history, and brings in all new abilities, including a time traveling lens that lets users skip between two time zones to navigate environments, and take out (or avoid) guards.
Bethesda had one other big surprise, announcing a foray into virtual reality, with both Doom and Fallout 4 VR demos on the show floor. The company will bring Fallout 4 to the HTC Vive in 2017.
After EA's reasonable showing, and Bethesda's solid effort, Ubisoft took to the stage the next day to provide a glimpse at what it has in store for the future. While it spent some time talking about games we've already got our hands on, like The Division, the publisher also took the opportunity to provide an in-depth look at some of its hottest upcoming releases.
We got an extensive look at South Park: The Fractured But Whole, which is an extremely crude sequel to the equally crude (and surprisingly great) South Park: The Stick of Truth. If you're a fan of the show, the first game does a fantastic job of translating the visuals and humor into a lengthy, entertaining game. If the sequel follows suit (and everything we've seen so far suggests it will), then it's one to watch.
Ubisoft's also took the chance to show a gameplay demo of its third-person, hand-to-hand combat game For Honor, which lets the player pick between three unlikely enemy factions: medieval knights, samurai warriors and Vikings. The single-player campaign footage featured combat that falls somewhat between God of War and Ryse: Son of Rome, but we suspect there's more depth and nuance here than is immediately apparent. The game is set to hit on February 14, 2017.
Perhaps our favorite moment of this year's big E3 press conferences came out of Ubisoft's event, with a demo of virtual reality title Star Trek: Bridge Crew. For Trekkies, this is a dream come true, tasking players to work together to pilot a star ship. It's set to hit the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and PlayStation VR later this year.
For more on the big reveals of E3 2016, you can check out Gizmag's coverage of both Microsoft and Sony's press events, as well as all the details on the brand new, slimmed-down Xbox One S. We're also on the ground at E3 in Los Angeles, and will highlight any especially good or innovative demos we come across after the show floor opens.