This week’s E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) saw the major game studios and console builders unveil their upcoming titles. None of the presentations were subtle, to put it mildly: Mainstream developers seem more determined than ever to pour years of work and tens of millions of dollars into games in which things explode, explode, and, just for variety, explode some more.
If you squinted against the glare of all those pyrotechnics, however, you could see a few games attempting innovative stuff—whether merging genres (such as Destiny, which combines traditional single-player sci-fi with elements of MMOs) or giving players the opportunity to build a world rather than simply play through it (Mario Maker). Here’s some of the more interesting games on display at E3:
A few years ago, indie developer PlayDead released Limbo, a spooky game in which the player’s character—a little boy rendered in silhouette—attempted to make his way through a black-and-white world filled with traps and deadly creatures. Now PlayDead is back with Inside for Xbox One, which seems very similar in its gameplay and aesthetics. (Release date is sometime in 2015.) As the video (above) suggests, it could offer a quirky, atmospheric alternative to the standard-issue blow-‘em-ups on the market.
It seems as if three-quarters of the games displayed at E3 allowed the player to move at will through a massive open world. The Division, about a group of soldiers picking their way through a post-apocalyptic New York City, is such a game; its publisher, Ubisoft, hopes that the next-gen “Snowdrop” engine powering its mechanics will allow it to stand out from other open-world titles such as Grand Theft Auto. The game’s E3 presentation showcased its fancy graphics and multiplayer capability, but plot details remain tightly under wraps; release date is now 2015.
Bungie, creator of the ultra-popular Halo series, is getting back into biggest-budget game franchises with Destiny, a sci-fi epic that takes place seven centuries in the future. Destiny, like Halo, pits well-armed human players against a variety of militarized alien races, although this latest game rocks massively-multiplayer characteristics in a way that Halo, with its focus on arena battles and single-player campaigns, never did. Scheduled for release later in 2014, Bungie and publisher Activision need this game to be a massive hit in order to justify the enormous budget, rumored at around $500 million.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Speaking of Halo, Microsoft desperately needs its biggest gaming franchise to deliver yet another blockbuster performance when Halo 5: Guardians rolls out sometime in 2015. In the interim, the company (along with 343 Industries, the developer established by Microsoft Studios to run everything Halo-related) is hoping to tide players over with a box set of all the previous Halo games updated for the Xbox One’s superior graphics.
Unlike most other games, in which your character is expected to near-effortlessly mow down wave after wave of enemies, Alien: Isolation leaves you weak and virtually defenseless on a space station, hunted by the titular xenomorph from Ridley Scott’s classic Alien. It’s a flip on the cliché of the overpowered video-game protagonist, but will players embrace it? That question will be answered when the game is released in October.
Anyone who ever wanted to build his or her own Super Mario Bros game now has the chance, with this upcoming game for Nintendo’s Wii U that includes a full level-editing toolbox. Set for release sometime in 2015.
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Images: PlayDead, Ubisoft, Bungie, Microsoft/343, The Creative Assembly