Game Informer's Best Of E3 2014 Awards
E3 2014 might have lacked the exciting hardware debuts and surprise game reveals of the past few years, but there was no shortage of amazing games playable on the show floor. Titles like Batman: Arkham Knight and Assassin’s Creed Unity finally demonstrated what the new-gen systems are capable of, while games like Destiny and Evolve provided more tantalizing glimpses into the future of multiplayer gaming. Here are our E3 2014 Best in Show Awards.
BATMAN: ARKHAM KNIGHT
Rocksteady’s final entry in the Arkham series is built from the ground up for new-gen consoles, and it shows. Our hands-on demo wowed us with crisp visuals, a massive open world, and seamless gameplay integration of the Batmobile that makes driving the super-powered vehicle as fun as we dreamed it would be. Mix in the smooth, combo-centric combat that has come to define the brawler genre in recent years, and it’s no surprise that the Caped Crusader won our Best Action award for the second year in a row.
For many gamers, Tim Schafer’s comical LucasArts titles epitomize the adventure game genre. Even though Grim Fandago wasn’t on the show floor, the mere announcement of an HD update to the 1998 classic for the PlayStation 4 and Vita was enough to get fans cheering. Here’s hoping the new deal between Disney and Double Fine leads to some of Schafer’s other humorous hits getting another shot in the spotlight.
MORTAL KOMBAT X
Mortal Kombat has been a staple of the fighting genre since the early ‘90s, and the newly revealed tenth installment proves there’s still plenty of excitement for the franchise’s gruesome fatalities. The game features new bone-crunching X-Ray moves, ridiculous match-ending kills, and more original characters than any other roster in the series, ensuring Mortal Kombat X provides plenty of new blood to spray all over your opponents.
Bungie’s new sci-fi shooter series may not be what gamers expect from a traditional MMO, but fans who were lucky enough to participate in this past weekend’s closed Alpha understand our enthusiasm. Destiny seamlessly blends the single-player and multiplayer experience, allowing you to team up with friends or other random players while you level up, collect loot, and explore the ambitious galaxy Bungie is creating. Whether you’re tackling public events, handcrafted story missions, or competitive Crucible matches, Destiny is shaping up to be a worthy follow-up to the Halo series.
Balanced teams are so overrated. While most competitive shooters try to keep things fair by giving everyone access to the same items and abilities, Turtle Rock Studios is taking a decidedly different approach. Each playable character in Evolve features unique weapons and abilities, and the four-versus-one format demands completely different play styles and tactics from its participants. Despite all of the unknown variables at play, matches somehow still feel balanced – a testament to Turtle Rock’s expertise at crafting unique and engaging multiplayer experiences.
FANTASIA: MUSIC EVOLVED
After dropping Kinect from its new Xbox One bundle, Microsoft all but shunned the once-lauded peripheral at this year’s E3. That said, Harmonix and Disney’s Fantasia remains one of the best (and only) examples of how much potential the motion-tracking camera has. The creative music game allows players to act as a conductor of myriad classic and modern-day songs in an aural and visual experience unlike anything else in gaming.
ORI AND THE BLIND FOREST
The platformer is one of the oldest and most prolific video game genres, yet we’ve never seen one quite like this stylish indie title. Described by Moon Studio’s David Clark as “a Metroid-vania with a heart,” Ori And The Blind Forest features tight and challenging platforming, a vibrant art style, and remarkably fluid animation. The promising downloadable game launches on Xbox One and PC later this year, making it an indie exclusive that Microsoft can be proud of (and Sony can be jealous of).
FORZA HORIZON 2
Forza faced some stiff competition from other racing games like DriveClub and The Crew this year, but still managed to come in at the front of the pack. Playground Games is taking the open-world series from Colorado to southern Europe, offering players three times the amount of land to race across. The new dynamic weather accentuates the beautiful locales, and with over 700 race events, 200 cars, and no more microtransactions, Forza Horizon 2 looks to give racing fans the complete package right out of the gate.
THE WITCHER 3: WILD HUNT
The Witcher series still might not get as much attention as other fantasy RPGs like The Elder Scrolls or Dragon Age, but CD Projekt Red is doing everything in its power to change that. Our E3 demo proved that the studio’s efforts are paying off; Wild Hunt gives players a massive open world to explore, meaningful story choices that affect Geralt and the lives of those around him, and a deep and engaging combat system that remains at the top of its game. With a February 24 release date, RPG fans may not have to wait long for their first game-of-the-year contender in 2015.
If you’re one of the countless gamers suffering from shooter fatigue, Evolve might just be the remedy you’re looking for. The new-gen shooter trades in the modern-day warzones and humdrum arsenals that players are used to for lush sci-fi environments and asymmetrical matches that play out like epic boss battles against human opponents. Whether you prefer teaming up with a squad of friends or going solo, Evolve’s multiplayer has a role for you – along with a host of playable characters that feature their own unique play styles and abilities.
FIFA may still be the crown jewel of the EA Sports catalog, but no sports game took a bigger leap forward this year than Madden. EA Tiburon hired a cinematographer from NFL Films to rebuild the presentation with new camera angles that do a better job of capturing the nuances of an NFL broadcast. On the gridiron, revamped defensive controls and new throwing trajectories go a long way toward removing some legacy issues that have plagued the game for a while.
CIVILIZATION: BEYOND EARTH
Beyond Earth takes the finely tuned strategy formula of the Civilization series and introduces myriad improvements befitting of the final frontier. Linear tech paths have been replaced with sprawling webs that offer more progression choices, quests provide players with new rewards and create more personal stories, and aliens replace the war-obsessed barbarians of the series, creating new opportunities for alliances. We can’t wait to see more of what the future holds.
OCULUS RIFT DK2
Our first repeat winner for best tech of E3, Oculus brought along its latest high-resolution VR prototype to the show this year and once again showcased the promise of the fledgling device with new demos. Playing Alien: Isolation with the Rift made one of our editors jump out of his seat. The other two demos, Superhot and Lucky’s Tale, showcased how other game styles translate to the virtual reality space. The future looks undeniably promising.
Many publishers and developers have chosen to usher in the industry’s new consoles with games designed to accommodate the old generation of hardware. Not Turtle Rock Studios, however. The developer is using the extra power of the new-gen systems to endow Evolve’s four-versus-one multiplayer matches with stunning visuals, massive environments, and A.I.-controlled wildlife that factor into the fight. Regardless of whether you play on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, or PC, Evolve looks to inject some new ideas into cooperative and competitive multiplayer.
Code Name S.T.E.A.M.
The newest 3DS title from the makers of Fire Emblem and Advance Wars delivers more of the engaging strategy that fans expect, along with some third-person shooter elements and a healthy dose of tongue-in-cheek humor. Code Name S.T.E.A.M. pits a squad of patriotic humans (founded by Abraham Lincoln, naturally) against H.P. Lovecraft-inspired aliens in a 19th century steampunk version of London. The turn-based battles allow players to take control of their weapon reticles to line up attacks on foes, providing a unique blend of action and strategy.
The Vita’s presence at this year’s E3 was mostly relegated to cross-play titles and indie games, calling into question Sony’s continued commitment to its handheld system. There were still plenty of fun games among those categories to check out on the show floor, however, and Murasaki Baby ended up at the top of our must-play list. Players use the Vita’s touchscreen to help a young girl named Baby traverse stylish, macabre levels and solve simple puzzles. The hand-animated art made Murasaki Baby one of the most striking games at this year’s E3, even if it’s exclusive to Sony’s small screen.
CIVILIZATION: BEYOND EARTH
Firaxis Games is one of the most respected developers in PC gaming, and the Civilization series is the studio’s most beloved franchise. Beyond Earth takes the lauded strategy series out of the Stone Age and into the far reaches of space. The new affinity system allows players to dictate how humanity deals with alien life by offering up unique units and win conditions. The studio’s recent XCOM reboot may have been a hit on consoles, but Beyond Earth looks to ensure that PC remains the premier destination for strategy fans.
Super Smash Bros. might have been Nintendo’s most popular game at the show, but in terms of Wii U exclusives, we can’t help getting excited for Mario Maker. For decades, players have dreamt of making their own Super Mario levels, and finally Nintendo is giving us all the opportunity via an easy-to-use level creator. Not only that, but the game actually puts the Wii U’s touchscreen to good use, allowing you to draw in and erase blocks and obstacles with the stylus in a matter of seconds. Now who is going to censor all the platforms shaped like body parts?
In a year with few surprises and even fewer platform exclusives, Sony pulled off a big reveal that had fans talking for the duration of this year’s E3. From Software’s new action RPG may not have “Souls” in the title, but it follows in the same vein of punishing and rewarding gameplay that the developer is known for. The methodical combat, Victorian gothic environments, and hulking, grotesque beasts all look gorgeous on the PlayStation 4 (despite some framerate hiccups), which is coincidentally the only platform you’ll be able to play it on. Given the increasing popularity of the Dark Souls series, this is a big get for Sony, even if it’s an adventure that goes by a different name.
FORZA HORIZON 2
Forza Horizon 2 wasn’t just the best racing game at the show; the series also continues to be the best use of Microsoft’s lauded cloud service. The Drivatar system uses real player behavior to inform the A.I. racers, and Playground Games is improving the series’ social features with 1,000-member driving clubs and multistage road trips that you can compete in with friends or other players you meet in the world. Tearing through France and Italy in souped-up sports cars is even more fun when you can go off the beaten path.
Turtle Rock Studios’ new multiplayer shooter mixes cooperative and competitive gaming into a fresh experience that continues to live up to the new-gen hype. Unleashing a single overpowered beast onto a quartet of hunters that sport unique yet complementary abilities makes for exciting matches, which was apparent by the endless crowds that gathered around 2K’s booth on the show floor. Our hands-on time with the newly revealed monster and hunters proved that the developer didn’t frontload all of its good ideas into the characters it showed us during our February cover story, and quashed any lingering doubts we had about the title’s variety and replayability. Not only is Evolve our game of the show, it's a serious contender for 2014’s game of the year.
What was your favorite game of the show? Share your picks in the comments section below!