5. Life is Strange: Before the Storm (PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PC)
I couldn’t play Life is Strange Before the Storm but everything I saw of it tells me that this new developer is building off the success of Dontnod’s first title. Life is Strange was one of the most compelling single player story experiences I’ve had in a video game. The nostalgic coming of age story competently tackled themes like suicide, religion, abuse, bullying and puberty with engaging time traveling gameplay. Before the Storm is a prequel that promises to delve into the life of Chloe, the non-playable character that drove much of the plot of original title. Because Chloe lacks the time bending powers of her childhood friend, Max, the gameplay of Before the Storm lacks that element. That said, the gameplay demo shown at E3 still displays the strong character development of the original. Life is Strange Before the Storm is coming out on August 31st and should be a great stop gap until Dontnod’s unrelated sequel that’s currently early in development.
4. Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle (Nintendo Switch)
Mario + Rabbids was probably the worst kept secret in gaming history. Leaked before even the full Switch debut presentation in January, this was a title many Nintendo fans scoffed at. Leaked as a “role-playing game,” we now know that Mario + Rabbids is more of a turn-based strategy title in the same vein as XCOM or Nintendo’s own Codename S.T.E.A.M. For those unfamiliar with the Rabbids, they were essentially the Minions before there were Minions. Perhaps that comparison is why some groaned at the idea of this game when it first leaked. However, the concept of the Rabbids invading the Mushroom Kingdom works and their wacky interaction with the Mario cast is cute and endearing. The demo at E3 played well and showcased the game’s depth. Characters can hide for cover, warp around the map using pipes, boost each other further on the play field and attack other units from multiple directions. The game comes out very soon on August 29th and could be just the thing strategy fans need to hold them over until the core Fire Emblem title that’s slated to hit the Switch sometime next year.
3. Beyond Good & Evil 2
Beyond Good & Evil 2 has been a long time coming. The original title released way back in 2003 on Xbox, GameCube, PC and PS2 and became a cult classic. Developed by Rayman and Rabbids creator Michel Ancel, it was my one of my favourite games of its generation. Playing like a cross between Zelda and Metal Gear, BG&E was unique and offered an interesting world to explore. Unfortunately it sold extremely poorly, at one point, the PC version was even given away in packs of string cheese. Like other cult hits such as Earthbound, the game continues to grow in popularity as more people discover what they missed out on in 2003. At E3 2008 a CG concept trailer revealed a sequel but Ubisoft went silent for nearly a decade. When BG&E2 resurfaced at E3 this year there was collective jubilation. The game looks different than the 2008 concept, being a prequel instead of a sequel. This new BG&E2 also looks to have a bit of a tonal shift presenting a darker punk aesthetic, complete with a foul-mouthed chimpanzee companion. It doesn’t have a date or even a platform yet but I can’t help but get excited. I just hope and pray that I don’t need to wait another ten years to hear from it again.
2. Detroit: Becoming Human (PlayStation 4)
This PS4 exclusive really surprised me and left a positive impression. The E3 demo has you playing as an android detective/crisis negotiator named Connor. You’re tasked with investigating why a family android went haywire and attacked his owners, and to save the little girl he’s taken hostage on the roof of an apartment. You could just head up on the roof and try to save the girl but your chances are slim. Investigating the scene and asking questions increases your chances of success. However, a higher percentage of success doesn’t mean a guaranteed win. I watched three other attempts to save the little girl before my own. One player shot the hostile android and saved the girl with a 33% chance at success, two others let the android fall off the building with the girl but managed to grab her in time to save her with around 60%. I had a 95% chance at success and completely blew it. Personally, I blame James Comey and Russian interference. Jokes aside, while this may seem unfair I think it demonstrates that Detroit is a game that understands that just checking off a to do list won’t necessarily get you the best ending and that allows for a more honest play experience where players don’t feel like they’re playing it the “wrong way.” However, because I had put in the effort to explore and understand the situation, I got the glimpse of the rogue android’s motive, his fears, the anxieties and prejudices of the humans and the complex sci-fi themes that Detroit is playing with. While nothing I saw in the demo suggested that Detroit will be doing anything novel or new with these cyberpunk themes established by classics like Neuromancer and Ghost in the Shell, it did demonstrate that it’s performing those tropes and addressing those themes competently and compellingly. Set for 2018, this game is definitely one to look out for if you love story driven games and own a PlayStation 4.
1. Super Mario Odyssey (Nintendo Switch)
Mario Odyssey was probably the biggest game of E3 in terms of hype and presence. More than half of Nintendo’s booth was dedicated to the title and the lines to play the next mainline Mario were still 2-3 hours long. It was worth the wait though, as Mario Odyssey promises to be an exciting and fresh entry in Nintendo’s flagship franchise. Odyssey looks colourful, vibrant and noticeably better than games on Nintendo’s previous console. Subtle (and optional) motion controls enhance tasks like throwing Mario’s cap around. Throwing his cap at enemies and objects let’s Mario possess them. In the E3 trailer Nintendo showed Mario possess Goombas, Koopas, frogs, poles, tanks and even a tyrannosaur. The demo in New Donk City allowed players to possess poles to spring up to higher places. Possessing a man playing with an RC car triggered a mini game to collect a moon, this game’s version of stars or shine sprites. The open sandbox style gameplay of titles like Mario 64 returns after fifteen years and Nintendo doesn’t seem to have forgotten how to make those 3D platformers of yore. I also got to play the Sand Kingdom level which had a Mexican inspired town and a neat mechanic that allowed Mario to turn into his 8-bit self and climb up buildings by platforming in 2D around cylindrical towers. Mario can also change his costume depending on what he needs to do and many of these are nods to old school appearances such as USA Mario from NES Open Tournament Golf or Chef Mario from Yoshi’s Cookie. The worlds of Mario Odyssey are also impressive and diverse. The NYC inspired New Donk City with its mayor, Pauline (the same from 1981’s Donkey Kong), is interesting to explore as is the paradoxically frozen yet blisteringly sunny deserts of the Sand Kingdom. The trailer shows a lot more locales such as a Kingdom with sentient fruits and vegetables and dense and dark forests. Much like the Homeric Epic it derives it’s name from, Mario Odyssey’s varied settings demonstrate the global journey Mario must make to save Princess Peach from a forced marriage with Bowser. The game will also release alongside three wedding themed amiibo, a groom Mario and Bowser and a bridal Peach, all three of which look fantastic. The best part is that Super Mario Odyssey is coming somewhat earlier than we expected, dropping on October 27th.