E3 2014 excites with unveiling of upcoming game releases

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      Gamers have reason to be excited about the goings-on at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. The annual gathering of video-game developers and publishers took place in Los Angeles from June 10 to 12, and there are soon going to be some amazing things to play on the slick new consoles that Microsoft and Sony dropped last fall.

      Games that get players together cooperatively are becoming increasingly popular. Assassin’s Creed: Unity (Ubisoft), which is set during the French Revolution, allows four assassins to work together, and Insomniac Games revealed the eight-player “Chaos Squad” mode of its Xbox One “awesomepocalypse” shooter, Sunset Overdrive.

      Two titles, Evolve (2K) and Xbox One exclusive Fable Legends, were designed for five players, with four teaming up against one who has chosen to become the monster. And Far Cry 4 (Ubisoft), which features actor Troy Baker in the role of the extraordinary antagonist Pagan Min, introduces drop-in, open-world co-op, so players can call for help from anyone playing online.

      Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved (Harmonix) delivers on the promise of being able to conduct your way through music and is a good reason to keep that Kinect attached to your Xbox One. And anyone missing a new Halo or Mass Effect will be more than satisfied with Destiny (Activision), which is the new science-fiction franchise from Halo creator Bungie. It’s a vast and varied shooter with role-playing elements, providing a single-player campaign and exploration, cooperative opportunities, and both co-op and competitive multiplayer.

      As for another megafranchise of note, if Modern Warfare took Activision’s Call of Duty in a new direction, Advanced Warfare (Sledgehammer) looks to do the same thing by moving into the future, where soldiers are equipped with jet packs and grenades that can be configured with the push of a button.

      Mike Laidlaw, creative director for Dragon Age: Inquisition (Electronic Arts), said that the new game from Edmonton’s BioWare opens up the world of Thedas, and he drew on a Star Wars analogy to explain it: “What would it be like if you didn’t join the Jedi Order, but started it?”

      If there was anything at E3 that caused frustration, it was the glimpses of gaming experiences that won’t be coming until next year, such as the aforementioned Halo 5: Guardians (Microsoft) and Batman: Arkham Knight (Warner Bros.), which just days before E3 was delayed until 2015. A spokesperson from Rocksteady Studios told the Georgia Straight that the extra time to polish the game, in which players get to drive the Batmobile, is necessary to deliver the quality fans expect.

      The Order: 1886, a PlayStation 4 exclusive, will be available in February 2015, but Naughty Dog’s Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End will be closer to year’s end. Splatoon (Nintendo) for the Wii U is a lovely action shooter in which players, as squid creatures that can take humanoid form, control territory by marking it with ink they shoot. But it won’t arrive until next year, which is also when Nintendo is promising the first truly open-world Zelda game.

      Until then, Nintendo’s got Super Smash Bros. for 3DS and Wii U, and the launch of its line of Amiibo toys, which can be connected to a Wii U system by placing them on the GamePad tablet controller.

      Also stunning were the games created by independent developers and on display at E3, including Below and Lovers in a Dangerous Space­time, both from Toronto studios, and Ori and the Blind Forest. Those three are all coming to Xbox One. Meanwhile, the PS4 gets Entwined (available now), Abzu, and the stunning No Man’s Sky, which is entirely procedurally generated and the developers claim will be infinite.