Best of E3
We made it. E3 2014 is over, and we survived the onslaught of Mario and Nathan Drake and Master Chief, pushing our way past the console exclusives to find the best PC games hidden within the massive LA convention center. Surprisingly, the search wasn't too hard. We saw and played more amazing PC games than we expected, from promising indies to big-budget stunners. It wasn't easy to narrow down our best-in-show, but here it is: our list of the 10 best PC games of E3 2014.
10 - Far Cry 4
What we saw of Far Cry 4 at E3 mostly painted it as a setting-swap of Far Cry 3 with some features added, but that’s, well, completely welcome. Especially with co-op being one of those new additions, which Sam and Evan liked a lot. Riding an elephant untactically into an outpost while spamming a light machinegun from atop it was the dumbest fun we had at E3. We’re still a little surprised it’s coming this year, and considering Ubisoft’s penchant for delays it might be one of the likeliest things to get bumped into 2015.
9 - No Man's Sky
Hello Games’ Sean Murray calls No Man’s Sky a “Han Solo simulator.” You start on a planet at the edge of a procedually generated universe with an abundance of options available to you. The only real goal is to go out and explore. You can hunt, you can fight, you can start selling and smuggling goods. Our time with the game made us want to fly from planet to planet, ducking and weaving between Brontosaurus legs. It’s a game with a lot of promise and potential, and that alone is worth celebrating.
8 - Hunt: Horrors of the Gilded Age
One of the great surprises of the show this year, Hunt seems cobbled together from some of our favorite games. It had possessed, farm-equipment-throwing backwoods villagers like Resident Evil 4. It has four-player co-op like Left 4 Dead. It has randomized level and enemy placement generation like Diablo. And it’s, unbelievably, going to be free, despite looking absolutely gorgeous on CryEngine. Read Evan and Sam get enthusiastic about the swampy, gothic demo they saw at E3.
7 - Dragon Age Inquisition
A real highlight moment of E3 came during the Inquisition demo, when the four party members teamed up to take down a gigantic Ferelden Frostback dragon. The party focused on individual limbs until the thing was limping, before closing in on its weak point. It was like a Dark Souls boss battle. The whole encounter was emblematic of Dragon Age’s next phase: cinematic presentation that outstrips anything from previous BioWare games, but with a return to the fiercely strategic nature of Origins.
6 - Assassin's Creed: Unity
Unity’s demo showed how Ubisoft are stepping up open world design when it comes to ideas like moving seamlessly through interiors, or needing to use skill to perform higher-level platform moves. The crowd sizes are huge, the lighting effects are really impressive—we thought Assassin’s would struggle without ship combat to fall back on, but it’s looking like that won’t be the case. Some questions remain about the integration of the game’s co-op, however, and how that will affect mission structure.
5 - Evolve
Turtle Rock’s 4v1, sci-fi FPS on CryEngine remains the best-looking PC game we’ve seen all year. We love the way Evolve’s muzzle flashes, fire, particle effects, and flashlights light up the jungle and swampy environments we’ve seen so far: this is absolutely a game that will take every hardware resource you give it. More importantly, though, we love the focus on cooperative pursuit, tracking, and communication in Evolve. Unlike Left 4 Dead, there’s plenty of asymmetry between the game’s four Hunters, and playing your role well is central to the hunt.
It was upsetting to hear at E3 that some portion of Evolve’s DLC will have timed exclusivity on Xbox One, but we still expect to be playing a ton of this come October.
4 - Batman: Arkham Knight
Hands-on with the Batmobile tells us that Rocksteady is on the right track with its trilogy-closing open world game. Rather than messing with the Arkham series’ existing ideas, the studio has instead used the Batmobile to enhance combat and the manipulation of puzzles in the environment. We haven’t even seen the game’s giant Gotham City in action yet and we’re seriously impressed.
3 - The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Best we can tell, The Witcher 3 is retaining everything that made the second game great—challenging and strategic combat, morally ambiguous choices, interesting quests—and expanding those into a sickeningly lush, lovingly lit open world. CD Projekt Red may be making the prettiest game on PC right now, and they say it's going to be even prettier by launch. Pretty amazing, considering Witcher 3 will be 35 times the size of its predecessor. The scope of the game sounds too ambitious to be true, but if the entire experience lives up to the quality of what we saw at E3, this one will be a shoo-in for future Best RPGs of All Time lists.
2 - Oculus Rift DK2
The first model of the Oculus Rift proved that affordable consumer VR was possible. DK2 proves that it can be good. It’s high-res enough to be fun to play, and Oculus has improved the tech enough to stamp out a lot of the motion sickness issues. The technology will continue to improve, but it’s good enough to sell already—now the Oculus Rift just needs games. The three Oculus demos we tried (Superhot, Lucky’s Tale, and Alien Isolation) showed that the company is working hard to partner with game makers to bring their games to the Rift. Superhot was badass. Lucky’s Tale was charming. Alien Isolation was freaky. All three were fun. Oculus is also hiring like mad to expand its own software development. We’re optimistic that the consumer release, whenever it happens, will be backed up by games that make the Rift worth owning.
WINNER - Rainbow Six Siege
Whoa! The biggest surprise of E3 completely delivered, so much so that Evan went back to play Siege a second time after playing it on Monday night. Ubisoft’s formula for rebooting Rainbow as a multiplayer-focused competitive shooter (that’ll still feature a campaign and co-op) is bulletproof: five-on-five, no respawns, a short round timer, asymmetrical gameplay, and surprisingly fun fortification mechanics. Siege’s high-fidelity destruction system, the game’s technological centerpiece, created truly tense ambushes and blind-fire through its suburban house map.
Making it moddable, of course, will go a long way toward extending Siege’s longevity, but otherwise this has all the bones of a terrific PC game: fidelity, systems-driven strategy and tactical depth in equal amount, replayability, and a wonderfully competitive, refreshingly low-frills approach to multiplayer FPS.