This year’s E3 Expo was one of the most impactful and exciting in years, managing to surprise even the most jaded, cynical gaming enthusiasts with it’s many announcements and trailers. Now that the expo has drawn to a close for another year, we thought we’d round up the ten announcements, demos and trailers that took us most by surprise.
1. Horizon: Zero Dawn
A viking warrior woman versus hundreds of robotic animals in a post-apocalyptic wasteland full of crumbling cities? Count us the hell in. Guerilla Games, creators of Sony’s Killzone franchise, pulled the wrapping off their brand new IP during Sony’s press conference with an impressive six-minute trailer starring a quippy, athletic female warrior hunting a variety of robotic creatures using a mixture of stealth and open combat.
Bethesda’s press conference was one of the most exciting in years, giving us our first substantial look at Fallout 4, but nobody seemed to be expecting id’s fourth installment in their long-running FPS franchise, DOOM, to blow their hair back. What we got instead was three frenetic, deliriously violent trailers that gave fans exploding barrels, gibs, fast weapon switching and brutal melee combat. This is taking the style of Machinegames’ no-frills, run-and-gun Wolfenstein reboot to the extreme and we are very keen to check it out. Listen to the reaction from the assembled crowd of journos and fans in the trailer!
3. The Last Guardian
Alright, show of hands, who thought there was no way The Last Guardian was still alive? Come on, be honest. Most went into Sony’s E3 presser hoping that maybe this year we’d see something to suggest that Team ICO’s next adventure was still on the way. Sony kicked off their show with a brand new trailer that shows the game’s young protagonist working with his monstrous but friendly and obedient companion to complete a series of physics-based puzzles. The game looks to have the resonant emotional core that grabbed people’s attention when it was announced back in 2009 and it’s great to know that we might still get to play it one day.
Among a number of announcements at Microsoft’s E3 press event this year was ReCore, a project from Mega Mandesigner Keiji Inafune and a number of key developers who worked on Metroid Prime. Who the hell saw that partnership coming?! The trailer shows a young woman and her robot dog in the desert. Upon discovering a large, inactive bot, the pair are set upon by insectoid hunter killer robots. Her dog destroyed in the fight, the girl places the glowing orb that remains into the deactivated bot and continues her adventure. This one has a lot of promise. We anxiously await more information.
This may be my personal favourite announcement from the show. Unravel is a side-scrolling puzzle game in the vein of Little Big Planet that took E3 by storm. Featuring a character called Yarny, you must solve puzzles and guide Yarny through the world. The more time and distance required to solve the puzzle, the more Yarny unravels and the closer you get to dying. When creative director Martin Sahlin took the stage during EA’s conference to introduce his game, he was visibly nervous and genuinely thrilled to be there. A wonderful moment – a game and developer completely devoid of cynicism in a week rather full of it.
6. Shenmue III
The announcement that Shenmue III was coming was certainly a long-awaited one, but what few expected was that we would be asked to help make it happen. The decision to bring series creator Yu Suzuki out during Sony’s press conference to spruik a Kickstarter rather than actually confirm that the game was in production has been criticised by some corners of the industry and embraced by others. Regardless, the project funded in record time and still has several weeks to go before funding closes.
7. Ghost Recon: Wildlands
It’s really nice when a developer is willing to take an established franchise and do something really different with it. Ubisoft have gone back to the drawing board with Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, showing off a game that eschews the military shooter tropes the series is known for and embraces a different aesthetic. Featuring the Imagine Dragons track “Friction”, the trailer introduces us to the new Ghosts as they take apart a desert-based drug cartel in both on-foot and vehicle combat. A great new direction for the series and we’re looking forward to the finished product.
8. Super Mario Maker
Making its formal debut during the Nintendo World Championships, Super Mario Maker will allow burgeoning game developers the chance to build and run their own Mario levels on their Wii U console. The game uses graphics, sound and music from any of the 2D Mario titles from the original Super Mario Bros. to New Super Mario Bros. and will bring out the sadistic level designer in all of us. It’s also notable for a segment during Nintendo’s Digital Event that saw creator Shigeru Miyamoto gently passing the torch to a new generation of designers.
9. Kingdom Hearts III
Another title many were beginning to lose hope of ever seeing made an incredibly welcome appearance at Square-Enix’s E3 press event. Kingdom Hearts III was extremely bright and energetic moment during the otherwise very formal and businesslike show. The new trailer gives us our first actual look at gameplay, showing off crazy special attacks, new locales like Rapunzel’s tower from Tangled and gives a hint as to the game’s plot as well. Now if only we could convince Square to squeeze a Marvel-centric level in there somewhere!
10. Microsoft HoloLens
Using a special camera rig, Microsoft blew people away during their E3 press conference with a demonstration of their HoloLens Augmented Reality headset and a game of Minecraft. Manipulating an entire world on the surface of a table, the demo gave a startling look at one possible application for the HoloLens tech and you can see it at work in the trailer above. One thing that some publications have pointed out since, however, is that the field of view on the actual HoloLens rig is not as wide as the trailer above would have you believe. Regardless, this is still a very impressive tech demo and continues to raise eyebrows a week after its premiere.
There you have it, our ten picks for most surprising E3 announcements. These were just a few of the extremely cool titles announced during the show and it’s clear that the next twelve months are going to be very busy indeed for gaming enthusiasts.