E3 2016 has come and gone, and with it has the inevitable hype and disappointment. Many announcements were unexpected, some were predictable, and some were unfortunately leaked. This year has a lot more to be excited about than I expected, so in no particular order, here are my favorite moments of E3 2016.
Xbox One S
It’s a shame that this was leaked the day before, but the Scorpio wasn’t the only console announcement Microsoft had. To open the show, we got a look at the latest model of the Xbox One, the pleasantly white Xbox One S.
The redesigned form factor is 40% smaller than the original Xbox One and gets rid of the little niggles like the Kinect port and external power brick. It will also be available with a 2TB hard drive alongside 500GB and 1TB models. As far as extra features, it’ll have built-in 4K media and high-dynamic range support.
Starting at $299, the Xbox One S will sidle up beside the Wii U as the lowest-cost console this August. With the Scorpio officially a powerhouse and the S as the new standard, the Xbox One lineup is looking very strong.
Horizon: Zero Dawn
It seems like every time Horizon: Zero Dawn is shown off, it’s looking more and more interesting. With a new trailer released right before E3 and the gameplay shown during Sony’s conference, the game is looking rather huge. The gameplay here is mostly more of what was seen before, but we got some new features like a large open-world and mountable robo-fauna, as well as a cool boss fight with a corrupted robot.
Horizon: Zero Dawn’s strikingly beautiful art style is really put on display here. Guerrilla Games’ technical prowess from Killzone: Shadow Fall transfers nicely here and the juxtaposition between tech and nature makes it that much better. While it has been delayed to February 2017, that extra time is sure to make the game extra special.
Pokémon Sun and Moon
Yes, a new Pokémon game is coming and yes, its E3 showing is as expected. New gameplay, new region, and new Pokémon. However, from the footage shown, the presentation and gameplay improvements take it up a notch.
For starters, the world is no longer mapped on a grid. Free-form movement may not seem like a huge step, but it really brings the Pokémon series into the modern era of RPGs. Some new Pokémon were also shown, including the Alola region’s staple bird, bug, and mammal Pokémon, Pikipek, Grubbin, and Yungoos.
Perhaps the biggest improvements are in the battle interface. Now, once you’ve attacked a Pokémon with a move, it’ll show you whether or not that move is effective that same species. Stat buffs and debuffs are also shown on the bottom screen. While some will argue that this just makes the game easier, I think it takes what many are thinking mentally and just makes it a visual instead. That way, you don’t have to memorize the system to be strategic. Improvements like these that help new players without really affecting veterans make Pokémon Sun and Moon stand out and I am excited to play in November.
It’s hard to get excited over just a pre-rendered trailer, but this E3 had a few that got me. After rumors of a new Spider-Man game coming to PlayStation 4, it made me hope for something to wash the taste of the Amazing Spider-Man games out of my mouth. Not only was that rumor true, but this new Spider-Man games is also being developed by Insomniac Games of Ratchet & Clank and Sunset Overdrive fame. While the Spider-Man design and a 2017 release date are the only confirmations, Marvel’s statement of wanting to make high-quality games inspires confidence.
The Last Guardian
After awaking from its deep slumber last year, The Last Guardian coming to the PlayStation 4 was one of my favorite announcements from E3 2015. While not much more has been revealed about the game, the next game from the studio behind Ico and Shadow of the Colossus doesn’t really need much more details.
Some other interesting tidbits from the trailer was that the titular creature is not exactly the only one, but best of all was the incredibly close release date of October 25th, 2016. It hard to believe that we’ve only got a little over 4 months to go, but I can’t wait to play and see the creature totally survive until the end and not die tragically.
Xbox Play Anywhere
Cross-Buy as a feature is pretty common in this generation. Cross-buy support on PlayStation 4 and Vita is great, and on the Wii U and 3DS it’s good in the rare cases it exists. As for Microsoft, the Xbox One and Windows 10 platforms are perfect for this support.
With the launch of the Xbox Play Anywhere initiative, players who buy the Xbox One version of a Play Anywhere game will also get the Windows 10 version free and vice versa. Starting with Gears of War 4, several games are getting this support, including Forza Horizon 3, Sea of Thieves, ReCore, Scalebound, Phantom Dust HD, Halo Wars 2, and State of Decay 2.
In addition, some of these game will support cross-play; a nice feature, but a detriment to competitive games where mouse and keyboard is superior. Otherwise, it’s commendable for Microsoft to make such an effort for PC gaming. As long as the games and developers aren’t negatively affected, it’s a win-win situation.
After last year’s Unravel, it was safe to say the EA may have a new category in their E3 showing, namely the “AAA indie” game. This year was Fe, a small open-world game with a high-contrast polygonal art style developed by Zoink Games in Sweden. While not as eye-catching as Unravel to me personally, it still looks rather interesting.
On top of that, this will be the first game under EA’s new program, EA Originals. The idea is to offer resources to indie developers for their first games. This includes allowing the developers to take all the profits. The details are a bit unclear, but this is still a positive step forward for upstarts.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
After Nintendo’s unexpected focus on the next Zelda entry, I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to the hype. At the very least, I didn’t think that it could hold the attention of an dedicated Nintendo Treehouse livestream day. I’ve never been happier to be wrong, as The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is my favorite game of E3 2016.
The reveal trailer showed off some of the new features, like stealth, weapon types, physics-based world manipulation, and climbing. However, the Treehouse streams showed so much more. This Zelda is most definitely going back to the roots of traditional 2D Zelda games, while modernizing it with gameplay elements like crafting, weapon degradation, and equipment.
To prevent story spoilers, the E3 build didn’t have any towns or NPCs besides one, and even then the world looks vibrant. The mixture of colorful wilderness and tech armaments breathes new life into Zelda, and the emergent gameplay that comes from the tools at hand are what makes this standout over other open-world games. For instance, you can fight the walking machines from the E3 2014 trailer (called Guardians) by shooting bomb arrows on horseback at it, or light the grass beside it on fire, jump off your horse, pull out a hang glider and ride the draft up to a slow motion arrow shot right in the Guardians eye. All of this is with the polish you may expect from Nintendo, and it’s still got plenty of time to cook. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild will be the Wii U’s swan song and the NX’s killer app, and I can’t wait!
Overall, while it was disappointing to see conferences moving away from live demos, I’ve learned to accept that pre-recorded gameplay is the best of both worlds. Live banter is still cringe-inducing and hype trailers are still prevalent, but this year stands strong on it’s own after the exceptional E3s of 2014 and 2015. With PSVR and NX coming within a year and the PS4K and Scorpio coming in the next, the future of console games looks bright.