Best of E3 2017 awards

E3 2017 has come and gone, and we got to see some amazing games over the last week. Here are seven games we think out shined everything else at this year's show, listed in no particular order—except for one, which we've crowned the very best of E3 2017. You can also read our more broad look at the highs and lows of E3 here.

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus

Read our hands-on impressions here.

Worst case, Wolf 2 will be more of the same—more over-the-top violence, more alternate-reality post-WWII weirdness, more competent gunplay against patrolling Nazi thugs and machinery. That would be enough. But from the 15 minutes I played at E3, The New Colossus comes off as more confident than ever in its mixture of absurdity, relatable sci-fi, and gore. (You can see that same confidence in this developer video when Machinegames' Jerk Gustafsson, reclined deep in a leather chair, asks "I mean, who doesn't want to kill Nazis?")

The confidence to put a character like BJ Blazkowicz in a wheelchair during Wolf 2's opening level is admirable—it signals that Machinegames is going to take some risks and hopefully not simply go through the motions of making an FPS punctuated by turret sections and QTEs as it continues BJ's story. If it stays silly and smart, Wolfenstein 2 should solidify its position as our favorite singleplayer FPS of the era that isn't based in an open world. —Evan Lahti 

Destiny 2

Watch it played in 4K, 60 fps, and played with a mouse and keyboard here.

Read the comments on any of our Destiny 2 coverage, of which I admit we’ve done quite a bit, and you’ll still find plenty of skepticism. Which is perfectly healthy, but having played the game for the second time on PC at E3 this week, I do think that once players get their own hands on the game, some of those doubts are going to burn off like the morning mist on Mercury. 

Two things are remarkable about the PC version at this point: 1) How seamlessly the ‘feel’ of Bungie’s combat has been translated to mouse and keyboard controls. To take a specific example, PC lead developer David Shaw told me that the new submachine gun class of weapons had much more stability, because they found correcting the bucking recoil with a mouse wasn’t fun. Hearing that Bungie is taking such a granular approach to balance on each platform is reassuring, especially because 2) the PC version is so comfortably ahead in terms of performance. I’m not one for bashing other platforms, having spent much of my career working elsewhere, but this one’s inarguable. The uncapped framerate, 4K textures, and a host of other tweakable options (yes, including an FOV slider eventually), are going to mean that visually the definitive version of Destiny 2 will be on PC. 

But don’t take my word for it. Hop into the open beta in August and see for yourself. Lest you think that this is a complete hagiography, I do have outstanding concerns—about whether the new weapon loadout distribution will be more fun, and about whether Bungie can ever deliver enough stuff to do to slake the fans’ thirst—but as a longterm addict of the series, I couldn’t be more excited to see those answered come October. —Tim Clark

XCOM 2: War of the Chosen

Check out all the expansion's details here.

War of the Chosen seems to be making XCOM 2 a container for our favorite games. The first expansion is going to make our favorite strategy game of 2016 a little more like Darkest Dungeon (by adding negative quirks, like phobia of specific aliens, to your soldiers), more like Fire Emblem (your soldiers can form bonds, which might let them fire simultaneously on a target, among other benefits), and more like Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (voiced, elite enemies that you build a history with across many encounters). 

These systems should revive XCOM 2's replay value, but it also seems like they'll combine to strengthen its storytelling. I love the idea of resistance factions (each of them offering a unique super soldier) other than XCOM populating the globe, and from what I can hear in that trailer, two new characters are voiced by Star Trek: The Next Generation's Marina Sirtis and Michael Dorn. I'm least sold on The Lost, a new not-zombies-but-they're-totally-zombies enemy type that fights against aliens and your soldiers indiscriminately, but they at least round out the story of what happened to whole areas of the Earth when the Elders invaded. 

Finally, it's good to see that the basics of XCOM are getting some attention, too: as Tom writes in his exclusive interview, "In War of the Chosen soldiers become tired if you use them in multiple successive missions. You can send a tired soldier into battle, but there's a chance they will earn quirky traits. The system is designed to add more character-forming foibles to your squads, and to encourage you to diversify by benching tired soldiers to develop others." Promising stuff. —Evan Lahti 

Far Cry 5

Read our hands-on impressions here.

All these open world Ubisoft games, repetitive as they’ve been, are building towards something great. Far Cry 5 is the first of any of them where I feel like the combat sandbox has enough toys in it to make for some truly off-the-wall, creative solutions. ‘Solutions’ is a weird stand-in for murder, but in a 15-minute demo I played through several times, nothing happened the same way twice and every method—big guns, stealth, or a combination of the two—felt equally viable and entertaining. The the new ‘For Hire’ system, you’ll have a bunch of buddies at your disposal, each with their unique set of skills. By pointing at a location, I can call down bombs from my buddy Nick, or sniper support from Grace. Boomer is the best friend so far, a dog that rips out throats and likes to cuddle. It’s a deliberate move away from encouraging perfectly stealthy play into unpredictable, small scale combat encounters. Ubisoft is really embracing chaos this time around. Oh, and there’s an authentic fly-fishing minigame if you need some time away from gunfire and explosions to reflect. —James Davenport

Tunic

Watch its reveal trailer here.

It’s cute, yes, with flat, matte surfaces that look as if they were produced by wire cut through polymer clay, solid but soft and dyed with gentle, absorbent colors. But at the end of the new Tunic trailer—it was formerly known as Secret Legend—the bouncy Zelda-like jaunt screeches into frantic survival as a two-story rock monster heaves its massive sword at our adorable fox protagonist. The collaboration between sweetness and survival works really well here: I was rooting for our little fox friend harder than I rooted for any other character at E3. But we don’t get to see how the fight plays out. Tunic’s trailer was short, and we certainly know less about it than we do other games from this year’s E3, but I want to play it just as much as any of them. —Tyler Wilde 

Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord

Read our hands-on impressions here.

This is the first time we’ve been able to go hands-on with Mount & Blade 2: Bannerlord since it was announced nearly five years ago. It’s been a long time coming, but Mount & Blade 2 is well worth the wait. The changes to the already stellar combat are small, but boy do they add significant depth to a game that already had the best sword combat since Jedi Academy. Shields, like weapons, now have directional blocking, meaning you won’t be able to hide behind one for very long unless you master how to read enemy attacks.

But it’s Bannerlord’s visual and audio upgrades that really make it feel like a whole new game. Large fights feel properly epic thanks in part to a much greater variety of animations and some fancy effects. Seeing a cavalry unit charge over a dune, kicking up clouds of sand in their wake is a thrilling sight to behold. Moreover, combat feels more fluid as chain attacks string blows together in a dance that looks a lot less stiff than it did in Warband.

Overall, our first taste of Bannerlord is very promising. Though we only got to play with the combat, there’s still the overarching simulation of traveling the world, interacting with lords, and investing yourself in the politics of each kingdom. It’s a much bigger aspect of the game that, for now, remains largely unknown. But if it’s shaping up as well as the combat is, Bannerlord will be one hell of an RPG. —Steven Messner 

Winner, Best of E3 2017 — Hunt: Showdown

Check out our full thoughts on why it was our favorite game at E3 here.

Hunt: Showdown is like Van Helsing meets Cthulu. What I love most about it is how it manages to balance both of its PvP and PvE inspirations almost perfectly. Whereas most survival games include elements of both, they always end up trivializing one to focus on the other. But with Hunt, I’m not sure what’s worse: the skittering spider demons and shrieking zombies or the other players lurking in the shadows. Both present an equally unsettling threat—the idea that the all-encompassing darkness blanketing the map can hide either. You can strike a match to see out what’s there, but you’ll expose yourself in turn. Because death in Hunt: Showdown permanently erases some of your progress, you better be sure you can kill whatever is waiting for you before you pull out that match.

Easily the best thing I saw at E3, Hunt: Showdown is DayZ, Monster Hunter, Resident Evil, and Stalker. It’s the rare game that borrows so many ideas from so many genres that it ends up feeling completely unlike anything else. —Steven Messner

Hunt sees today's trends in the survival-shooter genre, pilfers exactly only what it needs from them, and uses it to build a compelling and original new form. Yes, it's a permadeath, cooperative/competitive FPS with a dose of randomization, in that the boss monster everyone's looking for spawns in a hidden location. But Hunt's commitment to atmosphere gives it a sense of authenticity and horrific realness I can only describe as Stalker's mysterious brutality wedded to Arma's technical fidelity.

Crytek's E3 demo was an undoctored glimpse at what the Frankfurt studio has been cooking up for the past couple years. Lurking ankle-deep in bogs, two ghillie-suited players watched a wooden shack perched in the swamp. Gunshots rang out, each trigger pull illuminating the shack in pure white that bleeds into the night around it. One player asks if they should engage. No, the other replies—there's nothing to be gained from it. This isn't DayZ: you don't earn loot from your competitors. Better to stay hidden, look for clues, or tail the enemy team and hope that they'll lead you to the monster's location. —Evan Lahti

It’s been a long time since we’ve played a game we could point to as a reason for building a new PC. Hunt: Showdown looks that good, which isn’t too much a surprise considering it’s coming out of Crytek. It does darkness like no other game we’ve seen, using subtle, realistic lighting to make night truly dark. Without much in the way of UI, a campfire and a few rays of moonlight through the trees might be all you have to navigate. Suddenly, silhouettes become the only way you can spot enemies and a quick muzzle flash in the distance—blink and you’ll miss it—becomes the only way to know if anyone is left alive, unless you kill them yourself. 

Graphics, bold ideas, and realistic horror weren’t what sold me first though. It was one of the opening statements from Crytek’s Chris Auty that sold me on their vision.“We want to take you to the shittest parts of the world.” We’re packing our bags already, Chris. —James Davenport