PCs shine at E3, but in the background
Between all the console talk and publishers rushing to reveal their hot new games ahead of the E3 press crunch, the annual “Day Zero” press conferences held by gaming’s biggest publishers before E3’s doors officially open don’t hold quite as much luster as they used to. But don’t let that dissuade you! Day Zero is chock full of info about the biggest games barreling down the pipeline in the coming months, and now that all the major consoles pack AMD hardware, the vast majority of those blockbusters are destined to grace PCs, too—even if publishers typically only hype up the console versions at E3.
From Fallout 4 to Doom to Star Wars Battlefront—and plenty more in between—here are the big-name games you can expect to play on your computer soon.
The E3 press conferences started a day early this year as Day Zero newcomer Bethesda kicked things off late Sunday night. The game everyone’s been endlessly begging for acted as the cornerstone: Fallout 4.
Of course, Bethesda took the wraps off Fallout 4 with a trailer the week before E3, but it whetted appetites even further with a thirty minute preview of the game’s new features.
VATS is back, as expected, but now you’ll also be able to build settlements in Sims-like fashion, load up your guns with a slew of weapon modifications, and even tinker with the loadout of your power suit. Even better: The game starts before the nukes start flying and plunge the world into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Even even better: The Fallout 4 Collector’s Edition will ship with a real-life Pip Boy that you can slot your phone into and use as a second screen experience. Even even even better: PC mods will work with the Xbox One version of the game.
After years of development hell, at least one complete do-over, and legendary iD founder John Carmack jumping ship for Oculus, the long-promised Doom reboot is finally in the home stretch. Bethesda revealed its reimagining of the iconic franchise Sunday night, and well, it looks an awful lot like Doom, only a whole lot prettier—and with a console-ready onscreen control wheel for fast weapon switching. That’s not necessarily a bad thing! The game still oozes that fast-paced, violent Doom vibe in spades.
It’ll also come with Doom Snapmap, an easy-peasy level creation tool that will let you quickly toss together arenas and gameplay scenarios, then share them with the world at large.
Mass Effect Andromeda
EA's Mass Effect Andromeda trailer for 2015 was basically a glorified "Hey, don't forget: This exists," which I chart as one step above last year's pulling-back-the-curtain video of "Yeah, we're actively thinking about making this game."
Still, we'd be remiss not to be excited for another Mass Effect, regardless of the fact we don't know what it'll be like, who it'll feature in a post-Shepard world, or when it's even aiming to release. Let's just hope it can compete in a post-Witcher 3 world.
The original Dishonored was a majestic blend of luscious world building and freedom-filled stealth-stabby gameplay—a true successor to the Thiefs and Deus Exes of yesteryear. So of course it’s getting a sequel.
Details were light in the announcement trailer, but included one very interesting twist: Dishonored 2 will let you opt to play as either Corvo Attano, the protagonist of the first game, or Emily Kaldwin, the (spoiler alter!) daughter of the Empress from the first game. In Dishonored 2, she’ll have her own set of magic-infused assassin powers.
Just Cause 3
Square Enix tried its damnedest to make Just Cause 3 seem boring during its E3 event on Tuesday, but even the droning James Earl Jones-esque voice explaining each and every bit of the new 5-minute trailer couldn’t snuff out the excitement for Rico’s upcoming adventure.
Of particular note, the trailer aped scenes from Fast and the Furious scenes, which fits right into Just Cause’s explosive, fast-moving gameplay. More wonderful tidbits: You’ll be able to wield multiple grappling hooks without mods, ride an ICBM, and play with unlimited C4 in Just Cause 3, proving that developer Avalanche groks what makes the franchise so great.
Dark Souls 3
The rumors were (thankfully) not true: Dark Souls 3 is still planned for a PC release, despite what pre-E3 murmurings would've had you believe.
And while some people are saying it's "Too much Dark Souls, too fast," I think we can safely assume those people are only saying that because they own a PS4 and played Bloodborne. For the rest of us, by the time Dark Souls 3 releases in Spring 2016 it'll have been two years since we prepared to die.
Star Wars: Battlefront
EA made us wait until the end of its press conference for a taste of Star Wars: Battlefront, which shows you how much EA is counting on you loving this game. Will you? I still don't know. It's definitely gorgeous—no surprise, considering it's Frostbite Engine.
But we still haven't seen real on-the-fly game footage. The demo today was highly stylized, heavily controlled "game footage," and while it looks impressive I still have some qualms about the on-rails nature of the AT-ATs and the weird "TIE Fighters and X-Wings battling in the atmosphere" vehicle battles.
Star Wars: The Old Republic's 'Knights of a Fallen Empire' expansion
Star Wars: The Old Republic got off to a rough start, but BioWare hasn’t abandoned its MMO yet. EA announced a new expansion dubbed Knights of a Fallen Empire during its E3 event.
The expansion returns to BioWare’s “storytelling roots,” EA claims, and the rendered trailer shown revolves around two Force-wielding boys who grow up to be fierce warriors. The expansion lifts the level cap to 65, includes a level 60 character so you can jump into the story immediately, and—best of all—will be completely free.
Ghost Recon: Wildlands
It's a Far Cry! It's a Just Cause! Nope, it's Ghost Recon: Wildlands!
Ubisoft showed off a brand-new Ghost Recon today, and it's looking like some sort of open-world island invasion game, as if the Bay of Pigs were turned into a game about raiding random drug facilities (and also was not a massive international disaster).
Most interesting to me? There's apparently no main quest. Considering that's what I just harped on with The Witcher 3, I'm actually kind of excited—even if it took a big shoot-dudes-in-the-face game to get here. Hopefully the writing is good enough to support that sort of approach.
Call of Duty: Black Ops III
With Activision demurring on throwing its own E3 press conference, Black Ops III showed up at Sony's presser instead.
I'll admit, the Black Ops franchise is probably the point where I'm most interested in Call of Duty—but that was partially a fondness for Cold War-era politics. Black Ops III seems to abandon that era for the near-future trappings of both Ghosts and Advanced Warfare, the other two Call of Duty series. I'm not sure if I'm as interested in the campaign, as a result.
As for multiplayer, it looks even more like Titanfall than Advanced Warfare did—wall-running, insane jumps, you name it. I guess the old Treyarch/Infinity Ward dynamic still exists, even when Infinity Ward is in fact Respawn.
Congrats, Cities: Skylines, on making a fantastic city builder for all those boring Earth humans.
But Earth is so 2015. Ubisoft's new Anno 2205 is taking the city-builder to the moon, with the ability to evolve your society to a point where you're creating lunar colonies. Not only is it a cool premise, but it's great to see Ubisoft give a niche PC-oriented genre a big presence on an E3 stage.
Cuphead is that game that keeps popping up at conferences and surprising me with its Max Fleischer-inspired cartoon art style, then disappearing into the void again. When is it releasing? No idea. What kind of game is it? I don't really know that either.
But damn it looks beautiful. Like Banner Saga's take on classic Disney animation, Cuphead proves to me that some of the best 2D art comes from video games these days.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole
"We might regret it, but we're doing it again," said Matt Parker, in regards to South Park: The Fractured But Whole, a new superhero take on what Obsidian started with Stick of Truth.
And I'm glad! I think Stick of Truth, although flawed, was a solid foundation to build on. Bringing back the same core ideas, but with a superhero theme? I'm game to check it out. Now to see whether it meets with the same delays that plagued its predecessor. Ubisoft's building the sequel in-house, however, rather than handing the game back to the RPG vets over at Obsidian.
No Man's Sky
A mere trailer at Sony’s E3 event last year, No Man’s Sky was shown in proper gameplay demo form at the E3 2015 PlayStation event. The demo made good on the promises for the game, starting in an epic multi-ship space battle before revealing an insanely large galaxy map brimming with procedurally generated planets and systems, then warping to one of those unexplored globes to touch down and explore the land for artifacts and alien life.
It’s basically like Elite: Dangerous but slightly more arcadey-looking and even vaster in scope. I was sold on No Man’s Sky’s potential long before this E3 demo. Now if only we could get a release date.
Rainbow Six: Siege
I think Rainbow Six: Siege is a fairly known quantity at this point, thanks to the alpha test earlier this year. Even plagued with alpha bugs and balance issues, it's still a hell of a lot of fun. Maybe a little smaller and less tactical than previous Rainbow Six games, but I stand by what I said last year: This is the first truly next-gen feeling shooter.
Sure, team-based firefights have been done before. But the tight, claustrophobic spaces and the ability to destroy absolutely any part of the environment—want to blow a hole in the floor to get the drop on bad guys? No problem—make this something special.
Mirror's Edge Catalyst
Have Faith. After years of teasing—like Mass Effect Andromeda and Star Wars: Battlefront, this game was also highlighted at EA’s 2014 E3 press conference—Mirror’s Edge Catalyst is almost a game you can actually play. An origin story rather than a sequel, Catalyst features a wide-open city with no levels or loading times.
Even better, you won’t shoot a single gun during your playthrough. EA actually announced that last year, but it’s worth repeating. Anybody who played the original just let out a sigh of relief.
Need for Speed
Need for Speed's lost its way. The last decade especially has seen Need for Speed bounce between themes and ideas with the rapidity of me trying to decide on which type of taco I want to eat in Los Angeles.
So it's back to what made Need for Speed famous—crazy neon lighting, night racing, and running away from police. And, hopefully, Vin Diesel.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided
Square Enix showed a brief Deus Ex: Mankind Divided trailer running in-game footage powered by its new Dawn engine, as well as providing some story details for the game.
Deus Ex: Human Revolution's Adam Jensen returns as the protagonist, having ditched Sarif Industries for Interpol after the world plunged into "mechanical apartheid" following Human Revolution's "Aug Day" event—even though he suspects Interpol may actually be controlled by the secretive Illuminati. As with other Deus Ex games, your choices will shape the game's events and endings. Sign me up!
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided will be released in early 2016.
More than a year after providing a tantalizing—yet early—first glimpse at its multiplayer-only mixed combat game, Bethesda dusted off BattleCry for the world once again. While Chivalry: Medieval Warfare keeps its hacking and slashing relatively realistic, BattleCry is all about speedy arcade-style fun. To boil it down to a simplistic comparison, BattleCry is like Team Fortress with swords—and yes, it’ll be free to play when it eventually launches.
Bethesda didn’t reveal many new BattleCry details during its E3 conference. A new faction was revealed—the Han Republic—and beta signups are now open for wider testing later this year.
Microsoft’s in-house vanguard for both free-to-play on the Xbox One and cross-platform play between Windows 10 and Xbox consoles made another appearance at another E3, but as with Bethesda’s BattleCry, there weren’t really any new details announced. Instead, we got a moody trailer from the perspective of the “bad guys,” lamenting the death and destruction that heroes and adventurers always bring with them.
Fable Legends will be available for both platforms later in 2015.
Third time's the charm? I hope so. This is now the third year we've seen Ubisoft's post-apocalyptic shooter The Division at E3 and…it's still pretty much the same game we saw two years ago. Snowy. Guns. The end of the world looks like a dreary place, albeit one with very fancy hand animations.
There's a beta coming early next year, and the game will totally, actually, finally release March 8, 2016—or so says Ubisoft.
Ubisoft touted For Honor as a "brand new genre" during its E3 press conference, but that seems like a bit of an oversell—it's a multiplayer-focused swordfighting game, a la Chivalry or War of the Roses.
The key differences? There seem to be a few ideas—like the hack-and-slash equivalent of Dota 2's creeps—cribbed from MOBAs, because that's the hot thing right now, and the game also spans three different eras/societies (Knights, Samurai, and Vikings).
Hitman's coming alive. Subtitled “World of Assassinations,” Hitman will continue to be updated after it launches to add new missions, new assassinations, and even entirely new levels to the game. One example Square Enix provided was of an assassination target that only appears for 48 real-time hours, and Agent 47 only gets one chance to take him out—or fail the mission.
Contracts mode will now let you mark your own assassination targets and share them with friends, as well. Hitman will hit the streets December 8.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Okay, okay, Lara Croft’s latest adventure may be an Xbox exclusive for now, which is a damned shame because the glimpses revealed thus far look gritty and great. But you know it’ll wind up on PCs eventually. In the meantime, play the 2013 Tomb Raider reboot if you haven’t yet. It’s pretty great—and pretty darn cheap these days.
Smack dab in the middle of EA's blown-out, explosive press conference we got a trailer for this platformer about a little yarn-man trying to survive in a Honey I Shrunk The Kids-esque world. If we gave awards for "Most Adorable E3 Trailer," Unravel would take this year's honors.
Well, here was something somewhat unexpected. Gigantic is a new 5 vs. 5 third-person MOBA—you know, like Dota 2—with over-the-top characters and a vibrantly cartoonish art style that immediately brings the Xbox One’s Sunset Overdrive to mind. Oh, and the teams fight alongside massive, monstrous “guardians”—hence the name, most likely.
Look for this free-to-play game to land on the Xbox One and PCs in beta form this August.
Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2
"What if we made Titanfall, except like, with plants and zombies?"
That's pretty much the logline for EA's new Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2. With the first game a silly take on Battlefield, the new game features some of the mech-ejecting fun from Titanfall wrapped in a family-friendly package.
Part of Microsoft's "Token Indie Games" section this year, Tacoma is the next game from Gone Home developers Fullbright—and it's sort of like Gone Home in space. Personally I'm pretty excited to see Fullbright take its story-oriented design to a sci-fi environment.
Assassin's Creed: Syndicate
Another year, another Assassin’s Creed—this one based in Victorian England. But you already knew that, since Ubisoft revealed the game with a 10 minute long gameplay trailer months ago. The only new tidbit shown at E3 was yet another prerendered trailer. Hopefully Syndicate isn’t a broken mess like Assassin’s Creed: Unity was.
Loops! Leaps! Another TrackMania! I honestly didn't even know Ubisoft was still supporting the TrackMania team—I thought TrackMania 2's slow, painful death (not to mention ShootMania) had killed off that franchise.
But apparently not. Soon we'll have TrackMania Turbo, and it's looking like just as crazy a racing game as ever. Combine TrackMania's insane levels with the current game-streaming culture, and maybe this will be the point where TrackMania finally catches on.
An apparently Gone Home-esque game that casts you in shoes of a fire lookout in the 1989 Wyoming forest, guided only by a female friend chatting with you over a walkie talkie, the latest Firewatch trailer—at Sony’s E3 event—was, like so many other E3 announcements, light on new information. The new reveal did hint at mysteries revolving around missing hikers and the ransacking of your fire tower, however.
As with No Man’s Sky, Firewatch feels like it sorely needs a release date announced, if only because I’m so keen to try it out.
Batman: Arkham Knight
Batman: Arkham Knight releases next week, but in video game parlance that means there's still time for one more trailer.
All we learned though is that the PS4 is getting an exclusive set of missions—no news on whether those will come over to the PC later as DLC. We'll have more opinions about Arkham Knight as soon as reviews roll around.
We don’t know much about Shenmue III beyond the fact that, well, it’s happening. Series mastermind Yu Suzuki appeared onstage during Sony’s event to launch a $2 million Kickstarter campaign for the game, and 18 hours later, it’s already sitting pretty at $2.6 million. Looks like series fans will finally get some closure—and yes, it’s coming to PC, too.