Tag Archive: E3 2015

Ubisoft is well-known for claiming history is its playground, particularly when it comes to the Assassin’s Creed franchise. But For Honor looks to compete with the Assassins and Templars in the Ubisoft catalog in regards to giving players an entertaining experience steeped in historical context. Unlike the Assassin’s Creed series, however, For Honor doesn’t seem to take itself nearly as seriously.

Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t to say the snippet of gameplay we tried out didn’t come across as tight or extremely fun. But with For Honor stressing real-life competition more than an ageless war, the more easily digestible of the experiences by far seems to be For Honor.

When I began playing, I was immediately tossed into a tutorial that taught me the game’s basic controls and allowed me to get used to the tight, third-person camera. By pointing the right stick in one of three directions, my character would block correspondingly that way. I would also attack from the same direction that I was blocking in. If my opponent was not blocking in the direction I was attacking, unsurprisingly, a hit would occur. There were light and heavy attacks, guard breaks, special abilities, and I even stumbled onto a parry system.

Once I sufficiently learned the basics, I was tossed into a four-versus-four multiplayer mode called Dominion. Ubisoft’s take on Domination, Dominion has three distinct outposts around a given map. If one of the teams sufficiently clears out an area around one of these strategic hot spots, they can capture it for their team to receive points, but can also lose points if the other team takes it back. By killing enemies, you also earn points. Once a certain amount of points is earned, the enemy team can no longer respawn. When they all lose their last lives, the match is over and the other team wins.

Here’s where things take an interesting turn. Not only are you playing against four human-controlled opponents, but in a similar fashion to a MOBA, waves of mindless minions will spawn and head to the middle of the field. They become easy fodder for your blade to slow the enemies’ capturing of the field’s midpoint, and to add to the meter that unlocks your special abilities.

The real star of the demo, though, happened when we locked into combat with another human player. With everyone playing as the Knight class, one of three factions the game features (Viking and Samurai are the others), many of us were relatively evenly matched. An almost-epic game of rock-paper-scissors ensued as we guessed and anticipated our enemy’s moves and closed in for punishing damage, constantly changing our guard before finishing the other off with a flourish and a decapitation.

One-on-one bouts were epic prize fights with armor clanking and swords clanging. But if multiple players ganged up on one person, it was almost always lights out. The individual would be have to wait a few seconds to respawn, forfeiting the section of the field they were fighting for. Consequently, a strategic retreat, which goes against the very nature of most multiplayer players, is an extremely viable option here. Recognizing when to wait for reinforcements or falling back temporarily is key to winning the day, so the gameplay provides a fresh approach to a pretty classic multiplayer mode. 

Admittedly, we have yet to see much of For Honor. Its single player campaign, the other two factions of multiplayer, its customization options (both aesthetics and combat-related), how many maps it’ll ship with, and any modes beyond Dominion all remain unknown. But this brief first taste of For Honor was succeeded in scratching a multiplayer itch I didn’t even know I had.

For Honor is coming to Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC in 2016.

The Just Cause series is known for its over-the-top, insane action sequences that see protagonist Rico Rodriguez wreak havoc across lands plagued by despotic regimes. Rocket launchers, C4, machine guns and other weapons are often perfectly suitable means for Rico to go about his business causing mayhem, but in Just Cause 3 his classic grappling hook might trump them all.

In Just Cause 2, Rico could tether two objects together and cause them to snap into one another, like explosive barrels to soldiers, to help Rico achieve his objectives, especially if running low on traditional ammo. Just Cause 3 has enhanced Rico’s grappling hook to a degree that explosive barrels and soldiers is thinking far too small.

While I played the game, I discovered two new attributes to the grappling hook. First, Rico can fire up to three grappling hooks at one time., allowing him to manipulate larger objects in the environment. Second, the grappling hooks start off with slack, but you can control the tension with the right stick of your controller. Thus, you can properly place your hooks before trying to take down a large object, or set traps in areas where you know enemies might soon arrive.

At first, I used these mechanics to take down statues of Medici’s dictator, General Di Ravello. Statues are just one of many destructible objects in the environment, and they must be destroyed to free Medici from Di Ravello’s rule. I fired my three hooks at Ravello’s face, which was as large as Rico’s torso, and connected them to the ground below. As I cranked up the wires, the full body statue began to crack around its kneecaps. Then it started to twist and turn. Finally, when the crack expanded, the statue broke off its base and smashed onto the ground with a gloriously satisfying crash.

Soon after, I moved onto propaganda towers, then to large projectors playing Ravello’s greatest hits in piazzas. But my crowning achievement came with a large, round oil container and a police station at the bottom of a hill.

The oil container, itself was the size of a small building, was propped up off the ground by six key supports. Using a rifle, I carefully blasted out three supports. I then fired the grappling hooks into the container and latched them onto the ground about halfway down the hill. Slowly, I cranked up the tension.

In mere moments, the container broke free of the other three supports and began sliding towards the other end of the hooks. Once it reached a certain point, however, gravity did the rest of the work. While the container began sliding down the hill, Raiders of the Lost Ark-style, toward the police station, I fired several more rounds into its side, setting off a stream of white-hot flame. The container collided with the station wall, exploding in a blast that nearly took up my entire screen and leaving nothing but charred bodies and rubble in its wake. It was beautiful.

This was not an in-game objective. This was the freedom Just Cause 3 and the tools, specifically the new grappling hook, afforded me. I wondered if I could do something, tried it, and it worked out beautifully in my favor. I was limited only by my imagination and desire to cause wanton destruction. And I get the sense that there are a lot more insane explosion opportunities around Medici, waiting for players to discover them. I, for one, cannot wait.

Just Cause 3 will drop this holiday season for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC.

For the first time in Assassin’s Creed history, the heroes of the story will use contemporary firearms when taking the fight to the Templars. Sure, guns have been in Assassin’s Creed for several games, but all those previous weapons were slow-loading, single-shot muskets or flintlocks. Now, six-shot revolvers allow new protagonists Jacob and Evie Frye the chance to remove multiple targets quickly from afar. The closest players have ever gotten to anything like this was when Edward Kenway would carry four single-shot pistols on his person, and that was after fishing and hunting all day in the Caribbean to earn the necessary holster upgrades.

Just because Jacob and Evie can use guns, though, doesn’t mean they should. I found during my demo of Assassin’s Creed Syndicate that while I was often strongly tempted to pull out the revolver, it best to use it only in dire situations. There is nothing stealthy about a gun. Using one to eliminate a target, no matter how high-ranking or difficult they may be, immediately draws the attention of dozens of enemy guards, police or rival gang members and turns a manageable situation into an unmanageable one.

This is why Jacob and Evie remain extremely well-equipped for removing their targets from the field with an up close and personal flair. The first, and likely most obvious, weapon is the legendary hidden blade of the Assassin Order. Stabbing people from haystacks, from behind corners or after leaping from a rooftop are still the best and often stealthiest ways to get a job done. With players once again being able to whistle to draw unsuspecting enemies to a blind corner, leap from moving vehicles such as carriages or drop from a zipline created by the new rope launcher, the hidden blade has never been more effective than in Syndicate.

But that’s far from the only tool you’ll be able to use. It’s easy to conceal the Kukri — a small, sharp, curved blade of Indian origin — within one’s coat pocket; it’s great for giving you a bit more reach when needed and for defending yourself against knife-wielding thugs. Brass knuckles are also a classic choice for when you don’t want to kill your enemy, whether it be for interrogation or to send a special message back to the Templars. Instead, you can put them down for the count more quickly and definitely more brutally, than with your fists. Finally, the Cane Sword may be the most devious trick in the Fryes’ book since its sharpened, curved end can hook into enemies, while the bottom detaches to reveal another lethal blade in its shaft.

So, while the change in times has provided a new context for many of Syndicate’s weapons, stealth is always your best option and sometimes old-school strategies trump new-school technology. After all, what kind of an assassin would you be if everyone heard you coming?

Assassin’s Creed Syndicate is coming out on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC on Oct. 23.

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare was nothing short of a surprise hit. Turning the ever-popular Plants vs Zombies into a third-person shooter was risky at best, and downright insane at worst. But the folks at PopCap take pride in their willingness to push their supremely popular franchise in different directions and see what will take root with their growing fanbase. So, when it came time to decide what to do next, they decided to turn things on their ear again and make the Plants the bad guys.

That’s right, in Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, the Zombies are on the defensive. After the events of the first Garden Warfare, the Zombies have successfully conquered Suburbia, renamed it Zomburbia, and set about making it a perfect little paradise where they can munch on brains all day long. The Plants may be down, but they are far from out, so they’ve enlisted the aid of new allies to take the fight back to the Zombies and reclaim their beloved home soil.

While this may not change much about modes such as Team Vanquish (PvZ’s version of Team Deathmatch), it completely reverses modes like Gardens and Graveyards. With Zombies on the defensive and trying to protect capture points, you’ll need to figure out new strategies with your favorite classes from the last game to be effective as a Plant or a Zombie. Also, because you play this four-player co-op version of Horde mode from the perspective of the Zombies versus AI-controlled Plants, Garden Ops has been renamed Graveyard Ops.

Besides the change in viewpoints, Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 is bigger than its predecessor in every way imaginable. The game will ship with more maps at launch, all of which are brand new. Zomboss has tried his best to mold Suburbia in his own image, changing the entire world’s landscape. In our short time with the game, the we played a multi-tiered level that featured Zomboss Zombie’s making a factory, a clear tactical target for the Plants to attack.

The game also offers new classes, including some inspired by the time-traveling aspects of the mobile Plants vs Zombies 2. Plants from the future have come back to quell the threat of Zombie-piloted mech suits, and Zombie pirate captains enter the fray as surprisingly effective snipers. A Zombie superhero specializes in melee and shooting laser beams from his eyes.

So, if you were a fan of the first Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare, its sequel looks ready to deliver a deeper, over-the-top experience in the same vein that has made Plants vs Zombies such a huge hit.

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 will launch in the spring of 2016 for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC.

When I play Madden, I dominate in the trenches. My defense makes sacks on every other play, and it’s not unheard of for my offense to rush for 2,500 yards and 40 TDs.

My aerial attack is another story, though. I’m lucky to throw for 2,000 yards and have a 1:1 TD/INT ratio. I’m more likely to hit the lottery than to have one of my DBs intercept a pass. It’s been this way for years,  whether I’m playing Madden 95 or Madden NFL 15.

This year, however, Madden is looking to make things easier for players like me to take advantage of superstar wide receivers and ball-hawking cornerbacks with new playmaker options. As soon as the quarterback lets go of the ball, there are more nuances than ever to how much touch or zip you can put behind the ball. Whereas in previous years, you’d either fire a bullet pass or lob a lame duck, depending on how you held the button, an in-between pass offers a chance to hit smaller windows of opportunity, as Andrew Luck or Peyton Manning do every Sunday.

Once the ball is in the air, the possibilities get really exciting. Your receivers can catch the ball differently, depending on how it’s thrown and their own attributes. A receiver like Calvin Johnson can leap up for a ball at its zenith; take a chance, turn and run before the ball reaches its target location; or use his tremendous size to jockey positions with a corner to make a sure-handed grab, all depending on which second button you press after your quarterback lets go of the ball.

Similarly, though, defensive backs offer comparable options. Shutdown corners like Richard Sherman can now more aggressively jam receivers off the line, much the same way a defensive player could try to jump the snap in last year’s game. DBs can also choose to jump routes, or leap for a ball with hopes of coming down with a momentum-swinging interception.

Admittedly, I needed some time to become comfortable with making an extra button press while the ball was in the air. After just a few blunders, I made my first interception on a flat route, and a spectacular catch in the back of the endzone on a jump ball. If I’m able to pull this off consistently, get a better feel for when to make each particular move, and learn what I can do with each receiver, this feature can be a game-changer for guys like me. I’ll need more than the one Madden NFL 16 game than I got to play in my demo, though, and a couple of possible flash-in-the-pan plays to see if Playmaker is all it’s being made out to be.

Madden NFL 16 will launch on Xbox One, Playstation 4, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 on August 25.

If you’re a hockey fanatic like I am, you don’t need someone, especially a video game, explaining to you why a slapper from the point on the power play is a great idea if you’ve got bodies in front of the net looking for a deflection. If you’re not a hockey connoisseur, however, even that sentence probably has you scratching your head.

Well, the guys behind the NHL franchise get that not everyone is as obsessed with power play percentages and puck luck as I am. To be honest, I wasn’t always this way. Video games such as NHL 94 sparked my passion for — and understanding of — my most beloved sport.

Wanting to get back to that pedigree, NHL 16’s biggest innovation this year isn’t about tweaked physics or mascots in the stands (although those are there). It’s about finding ways to help newcomers develop an understanding for the sport we love, much the way the games of yesteryear did for a 9-year-old kid who didn’t understand quite how big it was when the Rangers won the Stanley Cup in 1994.

A new option in NHL 16 allows gamers to turn on a special HUD that appears beneath each player you’re controlling and certain spots on the ice. This HUD will tell you when you should pass and who the pass will go to, and where you should skate to if you don’t have the puck. Most impressively, the HUD will draw a line from your stick to the net if you’re in a shooting situation to let you know your odds on whether the shot will result in a goal or a save, or miss the net altogether. And it all happens seamlessly in real time.

This display system is a vital new tool in NHL 16’s attempts to teach players how best to play their game, as well as how to play hockey. The hope is that you’ll learn the highest percentage chances for scoring in key situations, where to skate to successfully kill off penalties, and how to most efficiently play the game. Then, newcomers will have a better grasp of both hockey and the video game, and perhaps learn to love it. Who knows, we veterans might even learn a thing or two.

Even though I’ve been playing NHL for years, I was impressed with how well the new HUD assist blended into the gameplay. I never felt like the directions were a distraction for me as an experienced player. I was even happy they were there because I was more sure of myself when taking certain shots, and I started correcting some bad habits I’d fallen into through the years.

This year, most people would’ve been fine with NHL just fixing things that were broken or restoring everything that was missing from last year’s game. So it’s great to see EA Canada’s innovations educate and grow not only the company’s fanbase, but the sport’s fanbase as well. 

NHL 16 is coming in September for Xbox One and Playstation 4.

Starbreeze Studios may have had one of the more shocking announcements of E3 2015, and it happened before the show even officially started!

As part of a pre-E3 preview event, the developer behind the Payday series, the Syndicate reboot, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and many other games unveiled their brand new virtual reality headset called StarVR yesterday evening.

Being the resident EGM VR junkie, I was fortunate enough after the announcement to be the first person in the world outside of the studio to actually go hands-on (head-on?) with this new piece of hardware.

The demo we were given was based on Overkill’s The Walking Dead, which was also announced to be the first game for StarVR. It was explicitly stated, however, that the demo we played would not be part of the final game, but instead would convey a feel for the title, while more importantly, showing off what the headset could do.

In the demo, I was a recently infected person who was on his last legs. The pair of people I had been traveling with did not want to leave me behind, or at least not until they could get my car and some supplies from me. So, they strapped me into a wheelchair and gave me a shotgun. As they pushed me through the halls of a hospital, I would have to cover them. It was an absolutely beautiful looking rail-shooter experience, but I felt it was a tad too heavily scripted for my tastes. At the very least, though, it gave me a solid sense of what StarVR was all about as it really let me put the headset through its paces.

Starbreeze global brand director Almir Listo stated beforehand that the StarVR headset provides a 210-degree horizontal field-of-view, which is easily the largest of any VR headset revealed to date when you look at the 120-degrees of Microsoft’s Hololens, the 110-degrees offered with Oculus’s Crescent Bay and Valve’s ReVive, or Morpheus’ 100-degrees. I can confirm that in my experience, StarVR provides more peripheral vision than any headset I’ve tried (just Hololens eludes me at this point), and only when I looked to the extreme right or left could I see the very edges of the displays.

Speaking of display, StarVR touts a 5K resolution due to dual 5.5-inch screens. The picture for The Walking Dead was crisp, clear, and had no framerate drops, but I can’t definitively say it was better or worse than the others without putting them side-by-side. StarVR also features orientation and positional tracking, so every time I moved my head around during the demo, my character in game would do the same.

This was critical because at this moment, StarVR lacks more traditional input devices so at least moving my head around gave me a sense of being in the world until I finally received my shotgun. In regards to controllers, Starbreeze CTO Emmanuel Marquez admitted they were still working on them, and were keeping an eye on what other companies in the VR marketplace, like Valve, do in that regard. It was also mentioned that they would love to be compatible with a wide array of devices, including those of their own design like the prop shotgun I was able to play around with and that was featured in the above video.

The idea that Starbreeze could come out with a special line of prop weapons for shooters like The Walking Dead is intriguing, and it’d be far from the first time we had large plastic guns in our hands to play games with. The prop shotgun, even with some sensors attached to it, felt like a real gun (minus the lack of kickback). Every time I did the pump-action, it responded in game. I could fire blindly behind me as we ran down an alley, or I could look down the sights to make sure I put each and every zombie down with a single shot. I’m just concerned how much it would cost to package extra sensors and a large toy shotgun with every copy of Overkill’s The Walking Dead. And what about other weapons? It was an interesting idea, and having a prop in my hands helped with immersion, but I honestly don’t know if it’s completely sound to think every gamer would collect prop weapons to play VR games with.

In terms of plug-ins, StarVR features a USB 3.0 port and a 3.5mm headphone jack so players can use their own headphones for comfort and ease. Of course, unlike Oculus with their built in headphones, this means that, for the moment, positional audio is not a part of StarVR and was noticeably absent from the demo I played.

A nice surprise from Starbreeze’s headset, though, came in how comfortable it felt on my head. While it’s a bit bulkier and larger than an Oculus Rift in terms of shape and size, it felt about the same in terms of weight and the cushions on the inside really kept it from feeling like it was pressing into my head at all. I actually think it may be my favorite headset so far when it comes to just how it feels on top of my head. It should be mentioned, however, that the headset was tethered to a nearby PC, but I was told wireless functionality is on the docket for future versions of the StarVR.

No potential release date or price point was set for StarVR during the event. Lionel Anton, Starbreeze’s lead VR hardware designer, said that what I got to go hands-on with was “a first prototype”, leading me to believe that, along with everything I saw yesterday, that Starbreeze is still some ways off from being ready to stand toe-to-toe with Oculus or Sony. They certainly seem to be on the right track, though. Expect more info and insights about StarVR this week at E3, where it’ll be fully on display.