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E3 2016 Round-up

All the highlights of E3 in one rockin' place

As E3 week draws to a close it's traditional for games journalists to write a piece rounding up the biggest talking points of the games industry's biggest event of the year and what they mean for the next 12 to 18 months for gamers. With that in mind here's 1200 words about ducks.

Only kidding. E3 was far too interesting this year not to talk about it. Let's start with Microsoft.

Microsoft's E3

For Microsoft E3 was all about announcing new hardware and trying to present Xbox as an ecosystem rather than a box of electronics that sits under your TV. To a certain extent they were successful. They opened with a new smaller Xbox One which is definitely a welcome announcement given how huge an unwieldy the original Xbox One actually is. The new Xbox One S is around 40 percent smaller and doesn't require the bulky power brick that has been so familiar to Xbox gamers since the Xbox 360 launched way back in 2005. Support for 4K video including a shiny new 4K UHD Blu-ray drive and HDR support for video and games are also welcome additions to a console which was struggling to keep pace with the PS4 in terms of hardware power and features.

Then Microsoft went on to show off a slew of Xbox One exclusives from Gears of War 4 and Forza Horizon 3 to Scalebound and new pirate MMO Sea of Theives all of which would also be released for Windows 10 PC and would offer Xbox One gamers and PC gamers the chance to play together online through the new Xbox Play Anywhere initiative. This also means that any title featured in this year's press conference that is purchased digitally on the Xbox store would net the buyer a PC copy and and Xbox One copy. On top of this it offers cross- compatible cloud saving funtionality meaning that you can stop playing on Xbox One and pick up exactly where you left off on your PC through the magic of Xbox Live. This gave the impression of a a fully connected gaming ecosystem between the PC and Xbox One through Xbox Live.

Microsoft rounded out their show with the final pillar of this new Xbox ecosystem Project Scorpio – a powerful new home console capable to playing games in 4K resolutions and supporting Microsoft's VR device of choice the Oculus Rift. Project Scorpio will be fully compatible with all existing Xbox One accessories and games and Microsoft promised that, although the Scorpio will launch in Christmas 2017 all games released going forward will support Xbox One and Project Scorpio. "No-one gets left behind," was the refrain as Xbox boss Phil Spence closed out the show.

It's a curious development that could very well spell the end of the console generation as we know it. It could also kill the Xbox One dead as folks wait to see what Project Scorpio will be capable of when it releases in 2017.

Microsoft's most exciting game reveal was that of indie title We Happy Few from Compulsion Games. It looks like a frightening mix of Vaudeville and Orwell combined into a first-person adventure.

Sony

While Microsoft was all about hardware Sony focused very much on the games that they have on the way for the PS4 and Playstation VR which launches in mid-October.

They opened with something Playstation fans have been craving since the PS4 was announced and that is a proper God of War sequel. God of War 4 has snow, dragons and Kratos's son in it as well as Stargate SG-1 actor Christopher Judge lending his booming voice to Kratos this time around.

More interesting was the announcement of the latest project from Syphon Filter developers Bend. Days Gone looks to be a blend of Sons of Anarchy and The Last of Us as the game follows a bike gang leader turned bounty hunter as he makes his way through a post-apocalyptic American wilderness. The sheer volume of zombies shown off in the gameplay demo alone makes this game look exciting as it pushes the futility of a post-apocalyptic existence even further than any other game has before.

Metal Gear Solid creator and the closest thing video games has to an auteur Hideo Kojima appeared briefly to unveil his first game free from the shackles of Konami called Death Stranding. All that was shown off was a cinematic trailer that was typically cryptic for Kojima and showed off a little too much of digitally rendered buttocks of the game's star Norman Reedus for my liking. Still it looks like it will probably be a special title to look forward to.

None of these games had release dates though and unlikely to appear any time before the end of 2017/beginning of 2018.

Horizon: Zero Dawn shows serious promise. While the game has slipped into a release in January 2017 it looks very exciting. Set in a far flung future where robotic animals and dinosaurs roam the Earth and humanity has returned to a more primitive way of life, fending off the more dangerous robots with slings, arrows and spears. It looks huge and very vibrant and has a nice blend of fantasy and science fiction that reminds very much of Ninja Theory's Enslaved: Journey to the West. Watch out for it when it arrives in January.

Resident Evil makes what looks like a triumphant return in January too with Resident Evil 7: biohazard. It's making the jump to a first-person perspective too and offering the chance to play the game using the Playstation VR headset adding an extra later of atmospherics for those curious about VR.

Nintendo

While Sony and Microsoft were busy showing off snippets of lots of different things Nintendo focused on one thing – The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

Since this game was unveiled at the Video Game Awards at the end of 2014 it has been almost all that Nintendo fans have been talking about. It's a massive free-roaming environment more akin to games like Fallout and the Elder Scrolls series. It's also beautifully rendered with a watercolour style of artwork that feels so perfectly Zelda it's untrue.

Nintendo were so excited to finally be showing off The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild that they devoted almost a whole day of livestreams to showing off just one massive area of the whole game map.

It also looks like it was well worth the effort as a newly published chart of the most-talked-about E3 games on Twitter was topped by the new Zelda game with 573,000 mentions over the second-place title Battlefield 1 which clocked in with just 200,000 mentions.

Honourable Mentions

Elsewhere the most exciting announcements came from Bethesda and Ubisoft. Bethesda announced a PS4 and Xbox One remaster of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim which looks absolutely sumptuous and they finally unveiled the new Prey game which Arkane Studios Austin have been working on for the last couple of years. It shows a great amount of potential.

Ubisoft had a few intriging highlights to their press conference. The best of these was Matt Stone and Trey Parker taking to the stage to talk about South Park: The Fractured But Whole. The new game looks like it will take on the comic superhero world the way The Stick of Truth eviscerated the fantasy genre – cleverly, funnily and with one hell of a potty mouth. It's coming this December and it will be hoot when it arrives.

The other was their new extreme sports MMO Steep which is set in a massive region of the Alps across Austria, France, Italy and Switzerland. It will offer extreme sports fans the chance to paraglide, wingsuit base jump, ski and snowboard with friends across some of the most gorgeous terrain in Europe when it releases at Christmas time.

That's it for the E3 coverage this year out. Next up in the gaming summer is Gamescom, Europe's big trade show which sets up camp in Cologne in August.

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