Since new consoles are on their way, there were a lot of surprises at this year’s E3 in Los Angeles around what games they would be powering. An undercover octopus and 24 foot tall mechs are part of just some of the games I’m most excited for.
Contrast (PlayStation 4/PlayStation 3/Xbox 360/PC)
Contrast is one of the many indie games coming to the PlayStation 4. Compulsion Games, an independent Canadian studio, is creating the game. In Contrast, you play as a woman named Dawn who must help a young girl named Didi cope with her troubling family problems. Didi created Dawn to be her imaginary best friend.
The game features a unique gameplay element with the ability for the character to blend into the environments and move across levels as a shadow. You can also manipulate light to make shadows in the environment for Dawn to move forward on. Contrast combines this element with platforming and puzzle sections across a city set in the 1920s with a noir style.
Even more than its gameplay, Contrast’s storyline draws me more into the premise of the game. It has adult storyline themes not depicted much in a lot of other games. Besides The Walking Dead (2012), BioShock 2 (2010) and a few others, not many have this parent or mentor figure relationship to a child. Dysfunctional family relationships from a child’s perspective are rarely, if ever, depicted in games.
There’s deep, relatable human storylines told through the gameplay, with Didi trying to escape her reality since she’s powerless as a child to change the situation. Issues such as rejection, fear and abandonment all being worked out through the shadows where Didi has control. It will be fascinating to see how Didi resolves her issues through the course of the gameplay.
Contrast is a great addition for console gamers when it releases as a download later this year.
Titanfall (Xbox One/PC/Xbox 360)
Titanfall is a multiplayer-focused shooter where you’re not pretending to be a G.I. Joe hero overseas like most out today, saving the world from nuclear catastrophes or rogue militant groups. This game is in development from Respawn Entertainment, a studio made by the co-founders of Infinity Ward after being controversially fired and then sued by Activision in 2010. Many former members of Infinity Ward are part of Respawn as well. Titanfall arrives in spring 2014, being published by Electronic Arts. I’m excited because it’s partly the team that worked on Call of Duty when it was still a competent series, with one of the best multiplayer on consoles found in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (2007).
The game is set in a futuristic, sci-fi world. From this storyline trailer, Titanfall takes place a different planet. Frontier settlers are living on another world, minding their own business, when a corporation comes in to take all the planet’s resources with the blessings of Earth’s leaders. That means war. Players can battle on the ground as human pilots or by controlling and fighting giant mechs called Titans.
Titanfall is a fast-paced multiplayer game. The Titans move quickly when you’d expect them to be sluggish. They are also part of the pilot’s identity, a new extension of the soldier. You can wall run or jump off the environment as a pilot using parkour skills or jet-pack into the air. You can even eject out of the Titan and fly really high above the battlefield too. It seems like there’s enough balance so pilots have a good fighting chance against the Titans. Large, open maps should create hectic gameplay between the two sides. There’s AI enemies in the campaign at the same time as real human players too, which could create an even crazier environment.
While the game is multiplayer-only, Titanfall blends the single player and multiplayer experiences together. The multiplayer is structured like a campaign mode with the competitive action of online play. It’s not reinventing multiplayer, but Titanfall’s gameplay feels fresh because of the two combating sides. The game could be an addicting multiplayer experience. Titanfall is a definitely game to check out if you’re buying an Xbox One and would have been a great launch title this November.
The Evil Within (PS4/Xbox One/PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
The Evil Within is Shinji Mikami’s return to survival horror. “Survival horror is back!” Mikami said in a recent interview with Giant Bomb. Mikami is the creator of the Resident Evil franchise that started in 1996, so it’s only fitting he’d be the one to revive it. The game is in development by Mikami’s new studio Tango Gameworks and being published by Bethesda Softworks. The Evil Within is set to release at some point in 2014.
Described as a “pure survival horror game,” The Evil Within looks incredibly disturbing. You play as a detective named Sebastian who gets a call to an asylum and winds up in a terrifying hell. Bodies are hanging from the ceiling and Sebastian himself gets captured alongside them and almost killed. Sebastian must figure out what in the world happened in that asylum while also trying to get out alive. Oh yeah, there’s a deranged pyscho chasing you around with a chainsaw too.
Mikami said The Evil Within’s story will be driven by its gameplay and it will be what scares players the most. As seen in this E3 gameplay demonstration, The Evil Within is played with a third-person viewpoint. There’s limited resources and limited ammo. The player doesn’t hold complete control over the game. Instead the game controls the player. You’re not playing as a guy with a whole crate of weapons and ammo, enough to support a small country’s entire military, mowing down hundreds of zombies. The gameplay doesn’t ruin the atmosphere. The goal is to bring back tension and high levels of stress. This should be a game that’s challenging as part of its survival horror roots. If you die, you have to adapt to changing AI patterns when you return.
Ironically I don’t enjoy watching horror films but I love playing survival horror games. You’ll never catch me in a theater watching one, because I’ll be the guy throwing his popcorn in the air and missing most of the movie after running out fifteen minutes in. Ever since I took a trip inside that infamous mansion in the 90s and couldn’t sleep because of Tyrant-infested nightmares, I’ve been drawn to the genre though. With Capcom sending the Resident Evil franchise into the toilet and Silent Hill not as horrifying as it was 10 years ago, it’s ripe time for a new headliner.
“For me, personally, why I came back to survival horror is that survival horror as a genre is becoming all action now and there aren’t any real survival horror games in the world right now. That is the biggest motivation for me,” Mikami said. If anyone can reinvent and restore the genre for a new generation it’s the man who helped put it on top in the first place.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze (Wii U)
The Donkey Kong Country trilogy on the Super Nintendo are some of the best games ever made. It started in 1994 and Tropical Freeze is the next in the long-running and recently revived series coming from Retro Studios, the team behind the Metroid Prime franchise and Donkey Kong Country Returns (2010).
In Tropical Freeze, viking-style sea creatures and animals have taken over Donkey Kong Island, forcing Donkey Kong and his pals to fight back and get the vikings out. The game features platforming action in fantastic looking, high definition visuals, something we haven’t seen this good on a Nintendo console before since Wii games couldn’t compare to PS3 and Xbox 360 releases. Two players can go at it together in co-op on the Wii U. Dixie Kong makes a return in Tropical Freeze and is a playable character, bringing another strong female icon back into the fold for Nintendo.
Even better, David Wise, the man behind the classic music of the Super Nintendo games, is also coming back to create the soundtrack for Tropical Freeze. While it disappointed a lot of people that Retro Studios weren’t working on another Metroid game or even a totally new IP, I’m really excited for the next Donkey Kong Country. Tropical Freeze could be of the must-buy games for the Wii U when it releases this November.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch (PS4/PC)
Octodad: Dadliest Catch is a quirky game from Young Horses, a Chicago-based independent developer. Dadliest Catch was part of Sony’s independent games showcase during its E3 conference.
In the game, you play as an octopus who is leading a secret double life as a husband, father and family man. As the trailer’s song by Ian McKinney states, nobody suspects a thing.
Dadliest Catch is the sequel to Octodad, released in 2010. The main character Octodad can barely move around without knocking stuff over. In this gameplay demonstration Octodad attempts to walk down the aisle to marry his wife without somehow causing a scene. As you can see, it’s not that easy to keep a low profile as an octopus. He tries to live a normal life and do mundane activities without breaking everything, but that’s almost impossible when you’re also fitting six extra arms inside your suit.
Dadliest Catch has tons of personality. It’s premise is absolutely hilarious, but the gameplay makes it even funnier. I always fall for games with legitimate humor put at the forefront. The game industry needs more laughs instead of more of the status quo. Octodad: Dadliest Catch is launching sometime in spring 2014 for the PS4.
Murdered: Soul Suspect (PS3/Xbox 360/PC)
Murdered: Soul Suspect is one of the more unique and intriguing games shown at E3. Soul Suspect comes from Airtight Games and Square Enix. The game is about a police officer with a muddled past, a man who used to be a criminal named Ronan O’ Connor. While on the job, Ronan was thrown out a window and shot in the street by a mysterious being. Now he’s a ghost existing in The Dusk, a supernatural world between the living and the dead, created from human suffering. Ronan must solve his death using powers from the other side. Soul Suspect takes place in fictionalized version of Salem, Massachusetts, a town with obvious historical ties to the game’s themes.
Square Enix’s Yosuke Shiokawa, the creative director for Soul Suspect, came up with the idea when he thought of a game where “Die Hard’ meets “Ghost,” if John McClane died during the movie but kept on trying to save the day like Patrick Swayze.
Solving your own murder drives the storyline. In this E3 gameplay demo, the player can use paranormal powers like possessing people to examine their memories or gain evidence by seeing through their eyes. A strong focus of the gameplay is investigating crime scenes and looking for clues around Salem. As a ghost you can walk through walls and the environment. Since he’s a ghost he can’t exactly go to the police and present the evidence, so he has to influence others to do it instead by manipulating the environment to grab people’s attention and lead them to the truth. In combat you’re encountering evil spirits that can quickly kill you if you try to take them head on so you need to find different ways to fight.
At its core Soul Suspect is a detective game. The developers also said it would be a story-driven experience, which combines two of some of my favorite elements of games. There’s also side quests revolving around encountering other ghosts and helping them solve their own deaths, setting them free from The Dusk. This sounds like it could be a game all by itself.
Soul Suspect reminds me of L.A. Noire (2011) with a nice dose of the “X-Files.” Soul Suspect looks like a great concept, but Airtight Games also made the 2010 Dark Void, so it might be a good idea to be cautiously optimistic. Even so, this might end up being a game many people fall asleep on that could turn out to surprise everyone. Soul Suspect will release for current systems in early 2014.
The Division (PS4/Xbox One)
Tom Clancy’s The Division came out of nowhere. Ubisoft unveiled it during the company’s E3 conference. The Division actually feels like a real next generation title from Massive Entertainment.
The storyline trailer shown at E3 describes how the American society collapsed. The spread of disease through the flow of money and our addiction to $2 towels on Black Friday did us all in. The man-made virus spreads quick, crippling the nation. Nobody is there to keep the wheels greased so everything shuts down. I love post-apocalyptic settings and storylines. There’s always a chance it could very well happen and nobody would be prepared for it, so what better way to experience it than in a game instead of outside in the real world.
The Division is an online, open world, role playing game with third-person shooter elements. The game take place across New York. The main characters are Division agents, people trained to deal with this sort of disaster. The gameplay is centered around restoring New York back to some of its former glory in small ways by doing missions around the city. You can play with your friends with up to four in a group or by yourself. Visually so far the city looks fantastic as a huge world sent into armageddon. There’s an area in the game called the Dark Zone, where you can come into contact with other groups of players and work together or take them out for trying to steal your resources.
Encountering random groups of real people sounds terrific and adds another layer of intensity on top of everything already going on. You have supplies for 72 hours and then have to start gathering resources like food and weapons left in the city. Progressing and changing your character on the RPG side of The Division allows you to be the way you want instead of following strict class limits for the rest of your playthrough. The Division is a game that could potentially last a long time, leading to perhaps more than a 100 hours of gameplay.
It’s also adding a second screen to the game that doesn’t feel like a cheap, useless gimmick. There will be companion gaming on a tablet when you’re away from The Division at a family gathering or during a long commute to and from work. On the second device you’ll be in control of a drone as a support member or part of a firefight with your friends. The Division also has this interesting matchmaking system tailored to a person’s life, where it could pair you with fellow students, or parents with young children, or maybe even people that hate other people. This is a lot better than getting with random players who mess up the game or blast annoying music into your headset. Instead you’ll be teamed up with other players who have similar styles to your own or who can only play during certain times or days of the week.
The Division has similar themes to Ubisoft’s other big game, Watch Dogs, but on a larger scale. Evolving, connected console games appears to be the next wave of the industry, where something is always going on, even when you’re not playing. The Division could have a long lifespan and be one of the games that shows if this is a viable model for next generation systems. It will be a long time before we can play The Division though since it’s coming out during winter 2014.
*Honorable Mentions: Mirror’s Edge 2 and Star Wars Battlefront, but we need to see more!