BEST OF E3 2014
Best Surprise Game – Phantom Dust (Xbox One)
Like all trade Shows, E3 is built on the unexpected. Sure, we tuned in to see the latest info on upcoming games, but what keeps us coming back year after year is the prospect of witnessing the next big thing. There were a lot of great announcements this year – the return of Grim Fandango and Rainbow Six: Siege, or Nintendo’s foray into Skylanders-style money printing.
But those all fell within expected parameters. Nobody, and we mean nobody, saw Phantom Dust coming. As the brainchild of Panzer Dragoon creator Yukio Futatsugi, the original Phantom Dust certainly had an impressive pedigree, not that it did it much good. Though the game’s unique story and card-based action gameplay made it a critical darling, it didn’t exactly light the world on fire financially.
It’s encouraging to see reboots for obscure titles like this, because it shows publishers are thinking “this game under-performed, but it was great and deserves another shot” rather than “this game made us money once and will probably do that again.”
Best Racing Game – Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox One)
Don’t let the larger world size, arcade-like handling and new “Bucket List” gameplay fool you. Forza Horizon 2, the latest in the Forza series, is very much a Forza game – both visually and mechanically. The dynamic weather, engaging challenge-based progression system and massive region only strengthen the superb foundation lovingly crafted by Turn 10 Studios.
It’s the racing game to beat all racing games, attacking its once weakest links by improving on the finest of details, expanding on its most beloved concepts and boasting something that many racing games lose in the process to perfection: fun. With online “Car Meets” that blend bragging and friendship seamlessly, and a launch that promises no micro-transactions, Forza Horizon 2 easily raced into our favorites list.
Best Game Remake – Master Chief Collection (Xbox One)
News about the Master Chief Collection leaked out weeks before the show, but the rumor had it pegged at just the singleplayer campaigns. Thankfully, the final product was revealed to be one of the best next-gen values to date. For the price of one, you’ll get Halo 1 Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary (for the first time), Halo 3, and Halo 4.
This compilation includes all campaign and multiplayer modes, with re-mastered graphics of the original Xbox games. We loved Halo 2’s online play a decade ago, and we can’t wait to get back on there and relive old memories in a new way. The redone graphics look far better than anything the original Xbox could’ve hoped to pump out, and Bungie’s vision for the main game will be better realized than ever before. Getting four full games and the Halo show in the collection makes it an unbeatable value for money.
Best Shooter – Evolve (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC)
Turtle Rock Studios shrugs off the FPS conventions that have become a mainstay in the genre. No more soldier vs. soldier, no more modern combat, and no more heavily-scripted set piece moments. Evolve dares to be different with its 4 vs. 1 Co-Op/ Multiplayer driven gameplay, and it succeeds.
Whether facing the beast as one of four hunters, or chasing down prey as the monster, Evolve consistently surprises with its open maps and gorgeous visuals. In a genre where everything must stay the same, Evolve evolves (pun intended) the genre to brand new heights.
Best Mobile Game – World of Tanks Blitz (iPad)
When it comes to MMOGs and massively social online gaming, PC continues to reign supreme when it comes to dominant platforms. But like most genres, there has been a concerted effort to make the jump to mobile and tablet devices, though only a handful of titles have truly embraced the concept to the degree that we’ve seen with World of Tanks Blitz.
In many ways, Blitz is what you get when you take the mentality and resources of building a triple-A title, but remain conscious of what the experience needs to truly excel on a given device.
We’ve watched Blitz grow from a more basic prototype into one of the best games we’ve ever had the pleasure to experience on a tablet. Hats off to Wargaming for making World of Tanks Blitz one of the truly standout titles at E3 2014, regardless of platform.
Best RPG – The Witcher 3 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC)
Supposedly 20% larger than Bethesda’s Skyrim in scope, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt might be the title we point at to signify the official arrival of the new generation of gaming. Its detail is exquisite; its depth is undeniable. The latest iteration of Poland’s number one export looks to take a darker turn than its predecessors, and all indications are that this is as correct of a choice as one could hope for.
From the looks of things, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt might be used as the clearest example of why delays are generally a good thing.