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EGM Presents: The Best of E3 2014

Posted on June 17, 2014 AT 02:51pm

E3. The Pixel Party. The Digital Dance. The Big E. Every year, for four straight days, we’re bombarded by trailers, screenshots, and demos of tomorrow’s biggest games. But, of course, as with every bombastic battle royale, a winner must emerge from the annual gaming fracas in downtown Los Angeles. Below, you’ll find our awards for best in genre, as well as our editors’ best in show and dark-horse picks.

Keep in mind, however, that we flexed some restrictions about what could make the cut. Sure, plenty of games came out of E3 looking good. But looks aren’t enough when it comes to earning EGM’s coveted Best of E3 awards. The Crew decided that in order to qualify in any category, developers had to offer us more than a quaint little sojourn to Trailerton Abbey. To ensure our impressions and opinions offered the most value to you, intrepid readers, we only counted games demoed to us live or played by our own callus-covered hands. We did, however, relax this rule when it came to our picks for the games we’re most anticipating personally. We are but human—and even we can be swept up in the hype of a well-produced promotional video.

And, in case you missed anything during the show, head over to our E3 2014 hub page, where you’ll find a wide variety of news, videos, and hands-on previews.

Alien: Isolation
Had you told me a year ago that I’d be nominating a game based on the Alien franchise as my pick for best game of E3 2014, I’d probably have called you a liar. We all know how that idea went the last time, and before that, the only attempts worthy of anyone’s time were those of the 2D side-scrolling variety. (Sorry, Jaguar fans, but you know it’s true.) Alien: Isolation, however, gives me hope. It keeps the formula simple—take one protagonist, put them in a compromised space facility, and throw in one and only one Alien—and builds a sense of true, legitimate horror and tension around that setup. No one can be blamed for being suspicious about hype over a not-yet-released Alien game, but it truly feels like Isolation’s developer The Creative Assembly may have finally figured out the secret to breaking the curse that’s hung over the property for years. Look, all the good we’ve seen so far could still come crashing down into a fiery mess of broken promises and wasted potential, but as of this moment, Alien: Isolation is legitimately one of my most anticipated games of 2014—and one of the most captivating experiences from this year’s E3.
Underappreciated Pick of the Show: Guilty Gear Xrd Sign
On the very last day of E3 2014, I saw a game that completely blew my mind—something that I swore could not, and should not, exist. That may seem like hyperbole, but when I finally saw Guilty Gear Xrd Sign live and in person, it literally took minutes before I could stop looking at the screen and say anything to series creator Daisuke Ishiwatari. As someone who grew up loving 2D sprites, I’ve never seen a game that presents 3D character models that look like they’re hand-drawn artwork as convincingly as Guilty Gear Xrd Signdoes. I’ve been waiting for a game to have visuals like these since polygons were first introduced in gaming—and now that I’ve seen what can be done, I get giddy thinking about what the future will hold.
Most Anticipated Game of the Show: Rise of the Tomb Raider
I came out of 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot extremely frustrated. In so many ways, I loved what Crystal Dynamics had done with the project—and yet, at the same time, I felt like they’d really squandered the amazing potential they’d set up by advancing Lara’s character progression far too quickly. And then, the E3 2014 trailer for Rise of the Tomb Raider hit, and I saw hints that we might actually be seeing the mental and emotional fallout from what this new Lara went through in her first adventure. I’m fascinated by the idea of seeing a troubled and somewhat mentally screwed-up Lara. To me, it isn’t taking a strong female gaming icon and making her weak—it’s about making her human, and her journey believable. I’m not yet ready to have faith that the team won’t disappoint me when all is said and done, but I am willing to admit that, if done properly, Rise could end up justifying some of those elements of the previous game that I took issue with.

Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
While some of my fellow EGMers might accuse me of being a Metal Gear fanboy, I fully admit that I didn’t go into E3 2014 expecting to give this nomination to The Phantom Pain. Ground Zeroes was a grave disappointment that, if anything, soured my interest in the second half of Metal Gear Solid V. But then, something special happened at the show. Instead of highlighting a nonsensical trailer or more enigmatic comments from director Hideo Kojima, Konami put the focus squarely where it matters: the gameplay. What unfolded behind closed doors was an impressive hands-off demo that came across as an intriguing mix of Snake Eater and Peace Walker, with none of the disjointed disappointment of MGS4 to be found. The best Metal Gear entries have been all about the narrative and the gameplay, and The Phantom Pain’s outstanding showing has me convinced we’ll be getting the best of both worlds.
Underappreciated Pick of the Show: Valiant Hearts: The Great War
We can all agree this industry doesn’t lack for war games. But what about games that truly focus on the human tragedy of a senseless conflict like the First World War? This puzzle-adventure title from Ubisoft Montpellier won’t have any heroes or villains—just a stark look at the horrors of human conflict, hauntingly rendered by the UbiArt Framework engine. Oh, and even though I’m a staunch Cat Person for life, I can’t help but melt at the sight of Valiant Hearts’ poor li’l mutt medic, who promises to play a central role in this heartrending tale.
Most Anticipated Game of the Show: The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
Sunday night’s explosive Game of Thrones season finale has me yearning for more intrigue, betrayal, and beheadings. And just like how I follow Australian rules football during the spring and summer to satiate my appetite for hard-hitting sports during the NFL offseason, I’ve found a suitable substitute for George R. R. Martin’s clashes of kings and storms of swords. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt promises to offer all of that, along with a gorgeous, sprawling open world that feels like far more than a random collection of forests and bogs. Plus, Geralt of Rivia’s gruff, growling nature reminds me a bit of David Hayter’s work as Solid Snake, so even if Kiefer Sutherland puts me to sleep in The Phantom Pain, I’ll at least have one raspy-voiced action hero to appreciate come 2015.

Batman: Arkham Knight
Surprise, surprise. I picked a Batman game as my Game of the Show. This time, however, Rocksteady’s at the helm once again, and they’ve renewed my faith in the series after it was shaken to its very foundation by WB Montreal’s Origins last fall. Rocksteady wowed me in March when they showed off the new Batmobile, but at E3, I got to actually go hands-on with it. Driving around in Batman’s most iconic vehicle felt every bit as good as I’d hoped. In pursuit mode, the world blurred around me as I hit insane speeds and could turn on a dime. Switching to battle mode was easy as pressing a single button, and I went from racing in a straight line to strafing around enemy drone tanks or firing rubber bullets at exposed foot soldiers. The best part, though, may be the fact that the Batmobile was only about 30 to 40 percent of the demo, while the rest revolved around using a bevy of new moves like the Fear Takedown to bring the pain to some petty criminals who’d taken over the ACE Chemicals factory.
Underappreciated Pick of the Show: Ori and the Blind Forest
Not only was the game gorgeous and the story heartbreaking, but my five minutes of hands-on time after the demo gave me the feeling that this was also a very tight-handling Metroidvania title. Of course, in that short amount of time, I couldn’t even scratch the surface of the dying forest around me, but when you take in the story and the art style, I can’t help but think this has the potential to be my favorite downloadable title since Dust: An Elysian Tail.
Most Anticipated Game of the Show: Assassin’s Creed Unity
In an unusual turn of events, we actually had very little information about this year’s Assassin’s Creed installment going into the show. This made the big reveal all the more powerful, though, as I took away two critical elements from the Unity demo. First, four-player co-op side missions are sprinkled throughout the campaign, finally allowing you and your friends to create your own authentic brotherhood. The second? New protagonist Arno Dorian looks to take advantage of all the new-gen power, and he comes across as the most acrobatic Assassin yet. He moved fluidly across rooftops and down the side of buildings—no set paths, just the world around him. Arno did everything he could to show why we won’t have to worry about new-gen haystacks ever again.

Sid Meier’s Civilization: Beyond Earth
In the hallowed halls of strategy games, Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri holds a special place. It’s been 15 years since the game took the universe by storm, and finally, it seems time to once again launch into the great unknown, with a stellar (pun intended) follow-up to Civilization V. If you finished Civ V with a science emphasis, you were treated to a space launch, which is where Beyond Earthpicks up. Once in space, players will choose from three affinities—Harmony, Supremacy, and Purity—and will build their societies based on these. Then it’s off to colonize alien worlds, looking for artifacts and new life forms while developing cities for the future of the human race. Besides the obvious technological advances (we’re in space now), there’s the addition of an “Orbital Layer,” which allows players a chance to launch satellites for a variety of offensive and defensive purposes. Best of all, there’s no historical pull to color your choices. The future awaits and will come our way this fall.
Underappreciated Pick of the Show: Bayonetta 2
I’m honestly surprised that no one’s talking about Bayonetta 2. The first installment—which Nintendo has announced will be included with the sequel—was a blast of an action game, featuring a wild character with guns in her boots and a suit made out of her own hair. It was even a hit when reviewed by the media, which is astounding for a niche action title. Are the people ignoring Bayonetta 2the same ones complaining that the Wii U doesn’t have any good games outside of Nintendo’s core properties? If so, they need to take a gander at this killer-looking sequel. The games even includes some Nintendo-specific costumes for those who want to see what Link would look like if portrayed by a sexy witch. The important part, though, is that the fast, amazing action from the original game has been pushed even further, and this one looks like it may well be Platinum Games’ finest.
Most Anticipated Game of the Show: Batman: Arkham Knight
Something about the Batman Arkham series makes me feel like a little kid discovering comics for the first time. It’s easy to imagine yourself investigating crimes, beating down bad guys, and solving the Riddler’s most nefarious puzzles. But as fantastic as all that is, something was missing. Something with four tires and countermeasures. The addition of the Batmobile in Arkham Knight is more than just a novelty. Thanks to a handy remote control, Batman’s car becomes a second character, one he can use to solve puzzles or back him up in a fight. Gotham is exponentially larger this time around, with wider streets to accommodate Batman’s cool ride. There’s even a battle mode that shows off the Batmobile’s maneuverability against armored foes, which adds a nice variety to the combat. Rocksteady Studios looks to make the final installment of its trilogy the best one yet, and as far as I’m concerned, next year can’t get here fast enough.

Far Cry 4
One of my biggest problems with Ubisoft’s franchise-heavy approach to games as of late is that it feels like it can take several installments (or, in the case of Splinter Cell, a hefty delay) before valid criticisms are properly addressed. Far Cry 4 looks like it’s bucking that trend in a big way by fixing all the minor quibbles most folks had with Far Cry 3—and it’s throwing in a ton of new features that fill me with childish glee, too. Non-white protagonist? Tools for crazy vertical navigation that you’ll get before the end of the game? Memorable antagonist who (hopefully) won’t die at the halfway mark? Ability to ride an elephant into battle like some deranged cross between Hannibal and John Rambo? That’s a fat big checkmark next to all of those. Throw in an open-world setting that’s refreshingly different from the deluge of jungles and destroyed cityscapes, and I’m totally hooked.
Underappreciated Pick of the Show: Halo: The Master Chief Collection
I understand why Halo: The Master Chief Collection hasn’t been getting oodles of buzz coming out of E3: None of the games are technically new, and thanks to that nifty “rumor” last month, we all pretty much knew it was coming. But I think the MCCis still a remarkable example of how to do fan service right. The ability to mix and match levels from any campaign, all of the original multiplayer maps playable in their original engines, and a lot of brand-new extras? That’s just crazy. I’d say it’s the smartest thing Microsoft has done on the Xbox One yet.
Most Anticipated Game of the Show: Mirror’s Edge 2
We saw almost nothing meaningful of Mirror’s Edge 2 during EA’s press conference, and the few details we did get were equal parts heartening and concerning. Do I want more parkour lines in every stage? You bet your sweet ass I do. Do I want better combat options? Not really, because the first game was almost the most fun when it focused on evasion and rapid traversal. I can’t say I have the most faith in EA and DICE to not mess up a great thing the second time around, but I’m still anticipating a chance to get back into Faith’s shoes more than just about anything else.

Homefront: The Revolution
Homefront: The Revolution has two things going for it. For one, it’s set in Philadelphia. Now, perhaps I’m a bit biased, being from there and all, but are we not a little tired of the usual go-to haunts (New York, L.A.) for shooters set in the U.S. ? Plus, it seems like Crytek actually did some research and realized the City of Brotherly Love is not populated primarily by pasty-faced Caucasians. More important than my urban preferences, however, are the clear signs that Crytek understands what constitutes guerrilla warfare—something the original developers failed to deliver with 2011’s Homefront. The demo played live for me during E3 showed equal measures of detection avoidance, evasion, observation, planning, unconventional tactics, and firefights that called for quick, in-and-out encounters as opposed to mass murder. Buy enough time to accomplish your goal, then get out. Sounds like a more stimulating gameplay rhythm to me than either of the extremes.
Underappreciated Pick of the Show: Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
I know what you’re thinking: But, Chris, Call of Duty is Call of Duty—how can anything belonging to such an insanely popular shooter series be “underappreciated”? Well, it’s just that—people seem so fatigued by last year’s middling Ghosts and almost equally exhausted by the prospect of this requisite annual release that Advanced Warfareis being received openly, but with accompanying yawns. And while I’m not holding my breath with expectations of being blown away, I guess my great love for industrial-looking mecs, power armor, exoskeletal suits, and the several minutes’ worth of gameplay footage shown during Microsoft’s press briefing has left me irrationally hopeful about Sledgehammer’s attempt at reinvigorating the blockbuster franchise.
Most Anticipated Game of the Show: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
While it’s certainly easy to get excited about a new Uncharted, I think what propels Uncharted 4 to Most Anticipated status, for me, are the implications behind its subtitle and the overall tone of the teaser trailer. My heart of hearts tells me this is Drake’s last hurrah, and I’m OK with that. There’s something very, very appealing about that sense of finality. The idea of Uncharted, as a series, ending on a narrative note as opposed to one determined by waning sales or something else is just about the most respect sendoff I can imagine for fans and Naughty Dog alike.

Far Cry 4
Few games at E3 2014 excited us, as a collective, as much as Far Cry 4. The fourth mainline entry in Ubisoft’s standout shooter franchise fixes the issues many of us had with its predecessor by featuring a protagonist we can all rally behind in Ajay Ghale, as well as giving us a villain in Pagan Min who’s 10 times as charismatic (and 20 times as crazy) as Far Cry 3’s Vaas. All this comes while the team at Ubisoft Montreal improves on the player agency that thrills us so much, exponentially increasing the amount of choices we have to tackle any given situation. Throw in some stunning new-gen visuals to top it all off, and it’s with great pleasure that we declare Far Cry 4 as EGM’s E3 2014 Game of the Show.

Best Action/Adventure

Batman: Arkham Knight
Runners-Up: The Order: 1886, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, Assassin’s Creed Unity, Dead Island 2
Best Sports

NHL 15
Runners-Up: The Golf Club, WWE 2K15, NBA 2K14
Best RPG

Dragon Age: Inquisition
Runners-Up: The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Freedom Wars, Tales of Xillia 2
Best Racing

Forza Horizon 2
Runners-Up: Driveclub, The Crew, Project Cars
Best Shooter

Far Cry 4
Runners-Up: Evolve, Rainbow Six: Siege, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Homefront: The Revolution, Splatoon
Best Fighter

Super Smash Bros.
Runners-Up: Mortal Kombat X, Persona 4 Arena Ultimax, Guilty Gear Xrd Sign
Best Xbox One Exclusive

Sunset Overdrive
Runners-Up: Halo: The Master Chief Collection, D4, Project Spark, Fable Legends
Best PS4 Exclusive

Runners-Up: LittleBigPlanet 3, Driveclub, The Order: 1886
Best PC Exclusive

Civilization: Beyond Earth
Runners-Up: H1Z1, The Sims 4, Grey Goo, World of Warships
Best Wii U Exclusive

Super Smash Bros.
Runners Up: Mario Maker, Bayonetta 2, Splatoon
Best Handheld Exclusive

Tales of Hearts R
Runners Up: Super Smash Bros., Freedom Wars, Codename S.T.E.A.M., Harvest Moon: The Lost Valley, Dangan Ronpa 2: Goodbye Despair
Best Indie

Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture
Runners Up: Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, Apotheon, Fenix Rage, Rollers of the Realm

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