E3 2014: XBA's Game of the Show Awards
Written Sunday, June 15, 2014 By Richard WalkerView author's profile
E3 seemed like a slightly more relaxed affair for us this year. Appointments by and large ran smoothly and without a hitch, and we were afforded greater access then ever before to all of the biggest titles. As Xbox One and PS4 gear up for great things, it feels like we've turned a corner, but almost everyone was in agreement: this year's E3 was certainly a lot quieter, even if attendance figures were apparently up.
With next-gen/current-gen being brought to the fore in a big way, we got to see an array of incredible eye candy. Some of it takes in vast, sprawling worlds filled with rich stories, while other visual marvels create unparalleled atmosphere and immersion. Of course, there's more to gaming on the latest platforms than simply delivering shinier graphics, and the E3 showfloor was brimming with titles just begging to be played and savoured.
With such a high standard this year, it's been an incredibly tall order weeding out the very best of the best from the show, but we think we've managed it. Naturally, if you feel like we've got it all wrong, then that's what the comments are for. Sound off and put us to rights! For now though, here are our E3 2014 Game of the Show picks. The cream of the E3 crop, if you will.
Best Press Conference of the Show
While there's no disputing that EA's paltry showing was irrevocably damaged by the leaking of Battlefield Hardline, Microsoft and Sony's E3 pressers were a fairly mixed bag. Microsoft delivered on its promise of focussing on games, while Sony peaked and troughed with a patchy keynote. Meanwhile, Ubisoft came out and did what it's been doing every year for a good while now. That is wheeling out strong showings for its existing franchises, while delivering a sprinkling of fresh titles and the now commonplace big surprise at the end. Assassin's Creed: Unity, Far Cry 4 and The Crew all dazzled, while Shape Up brought a sense of fun to proceedings, and Rainbow Six: Siege hit like a bolt from the blue. Even the obligatory Just Dance bit couldn't dampen what was an exuberant and entertaining press conference.
Winner – Ubisoft
Best Stand of the Show
In previous years, 2K's booth has been impressive, but dwarfed by the big boys with their cacophonous eardrum puncturing noise and ten million 10,000” cinema screens blasting their games directly into your retinas. For E3 2014, 2K upped the ante, planting a 30-odd foot statue of Evolve's Goliath right at the front door and a model of the moon in its Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel section. 2K also had the comfiest reclining leather seats in its beautifully air conditioned main theatre, while its outer walls were emblazoned with NBA 2K15 and WWE 2K15 imagery, as well as red LEDs that took your corneas off. 2K truly made its presence known at E3 this year.
Winner – 2K Games
Best Looker of the Show
As Xbox One, PS4 and high-end PC visuals took centre stage for E3 2014, this category was wide open. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is looking truly astonishing, especially considering the purported size of its open-world and Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age impressed with its atmospheric and macabre Louisiana swamp environment. Metal Gear V, Forza Horizon 2, DriveClub, The Order 1886, Mortal Kombat X and more also impressed, but there was one game that really stood out.
Rocksteady has outdone itself with Batman: Arkham Knight. Our demo showed a game that's poised to deliver big on what's gone before on previous consoles, with the definitive vision of the Bat on Xbox One and PS4. Gotham has never been realised in such rich detail. And oh boy, that Batmobile design! Arkham Knight looks genuinely outstanding.
Winner – Batman: Arkham Knight
Again, this was a tough one to call, primarily because few of E3 2014's games managed to disappoint. Yet, having gone in with high expectations for Battlefield Hardline, we found the game's premiere showing somewhat lacking. Visceral and DICE's cops and robbers concept is great, and there's certainly a great deal of potential in Battlefield Hardline, but the only thing being shown was the game's beta. When E3 is typically a place for exclusive content, bringing something that almost anyone can currently play to the show is hardly going to inspire much in the way of excitement. Couple that with the game leaking ahead of time, and EA was running on empty with Battlefield Hardline. Here's hoping for a far stronger presence for the game during Gamescom.
Winner – Battlefield Hardline
Surprise of the Show
E3 2014 as a whole was a show rather light on surprises, so literally anything even slightly unexpected was welcome. PS4 exclusive Bloodborne had already been leaked as Project Beast, so what would have been a big surprise was less so, while Battlefield Hardline leaking hurt EA, as we've already mentioned twice. Enter Ubisoft for another year then, revealing something that was genuinely unexpected. We had our money on Ubi closing out its E3 presser with Beyond Good & Evil 2 or Rainbow Six: Patriots, but we had no inclination whatsoever that Siege was a thing. Initially looking a lot like a pumped up Counter-Strike, Rainbow Six: Siege puts destruction and tactics front and centre, while returning to the series' roots. It was a refreshing and wholly unexpected comeback for the franchise, and we couldn't be happier or more excited.
Winner – Rainbow Six: Siege
Best Action Title of the Show
We were spoilt for choice once again in this particular category, with E3 2014 utterly festooned with stunning action titles. Assassin's Creed: Unity is showing massive early promise, as is Bloodborne, while Lords of the Fallen is a slice of Dark Souls-style action in a more traditional RPG mould, and Metal Gear Solid V simply boggled the mind. But there's just no avoiding how unreservedly brilliant Batman: Arkham Knight is looking. Rocksteady's presentation was an excitable, shouty affair for good reason. The studio has a lot to shout about, with a range of empowering new gameplay features that promise to push the Dark Knight to a whole other level. We could go on and on at length about Batman: Arkham Knight, but we'll save that for our preview. Just know that this is definitely one to watch. But then you probably already knew that.
Winner – Batman: Arkham Knight
Best Racer of the Show
The Crew still looks hugely ambitious, but Forza Horizon 2 is shaping up as the next big step for the series. At long last, weather effects and day/night cycles make the jump to Forza! It's been a long time coming, but with Xbox One well and truly here, the boundaries in Forza Horizon have been brought crashing down. Now its open-world is just that, offering you miles of road to tear around, realised in stunning detail. Want to go off-road? Go ahead. You might break your lovely new Lamborghini Huracán, but at least you're now able to explore Forza Horizon 2's landscape uninhibited. Granted, The Crew offers up almost the entirety of the United States as your playground, but Forza Horizon 2 sees the franchise finally being pushed forward in a meaningful way. Could it be the best Forza yet? We wouldn't rule it out.
Winner – Forza Horizon 2
Best RPG of the Show
A second consecutive E3 Game of the Show win in this very category for The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, CD Projekt RED's open-world RPG continues to dazzle, surpassing our loftiest expectations. Geralt of Rivia is back with a vengeance, looking better than ever. With the game now delayed into February 2015, CDP is polishing everything up to the Nth degree, and it shows in the richness of detail and depth of its game mechanics. Still being shown in hands-off presentations, we're itching to get our mitts on The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. There's less competition in the RPG category this year although Dragon Age: Inquisition came close to bagging a win, as it's looking to be the kind of game that Dragon Age II just wasn't. Even so, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt still emerges victorious, by virtue of its aesthetic values and CD Projekt's attention to detail. We need this in our life, right now.
Winner – The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Shooter of the Show
Competition was fierce for this particular award, what with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare upping its game, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel serving up another slice of manic shoot 'n' loot and Evolve's 4v1 action managing to blow us away once again. But it all came down to one game that lingered long in our memory. Really, we can't stop thinking about it. Not strictly just a shooter, Destiny defies genre pigeonholing. It's so much more. Granted, we left it out of this category last year on the grounds that it was more of an RPG and MMO type of deal, but having actually played the game, we can attest that Destiny does shooting right. Marry that to an enormous sandbox that stretches into outer space with a variety of planets to explore, and a range of RPG elements, as well as a more traditional multiplayer offering, and Destiny is a shooter that might just be all things to all gamers. Any doubts in what Bungie is seeking to achieve have been blown out of an airlock. Mark our words: Destiny is going to be great.
Winner - Destiny
Rest of the Show
We were scared before we'd even entered the darkness of SEGA's Alien: Isolation booth. As fans of the 1979 movie classic, each time we get the chance to play Isolation, there's an air of trepidation. We know that Creative Assembly is making a game that's remaining faithful to the source material and that Colonial Marines was a lesson in how not to do things, but still, we've been burnt too many times before. No such concerns should be levelled at Alien: Isolation. The atmosphere is pitch-perfect, the look and feel of the movie has been brilliantly realised, but it's that damn Xenomorph who's the star of the show. Creating a constant, inescapable air of fear and tension, being relentlessly hunted becomes a nail-biting experience, as hiding in lockers and hoarding resources becomes the only way to stay alive. Never has the beep of your motion tracker been such a terrifying sound, the iconic silhouette of HR Giger's alien lurking in the shadows being the last thing you'll see before it gnaws a hole in your face. Alien: Isolation is the Alien game we've always wanted.
Winner – Alien: Isolation
Best of Show
As ever, our best game of the show was a hotly contested subject. After much dispute and debate, it came down to a handful of titles, but eventually we decided that one game stood out from the rest. Konami and Kojima Productions made waves at E3 with a barnstorming demo, leaving little doubt that Metal Gear Solid is well and truly back with a bang. Ground Zeroes was just a taster for an enormous sandbox roughly 200 times the size, boasting new gameplay additions like the improved, multi-functional cardboard box and the return of Peace Walker's excellent Fulton recovery system. It was the only game in which you could airlift a sheep to your Mother Base, fast forward time while smoking an e-cigar and ride a horse while it casually poops. These reasons alone would be enough to give Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain our E3 Best of Show award, but given the strength of the demo and the masses of potential it displayed, there was only ever going to be one winner. The Phantom Pain looks mind explodingly good. Bring it on!
Winner – Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
That's all she wrote for now then, folks! Gird your loins for our previews from Monday onwards, and if you disagree with our awards, shout about it like a lunatic in the comments. Get all of the latest news, previews, videos, interviews and other gubbins via our E3 2014 hub here.