E3 is, without a doubt, one of my favourite times of the year. I love seeing all the new trailers, listening to enthusiastic devs chatting excitedly about their new projects, and the never-ending news cycle of announcements.
Most of all, though, I love the Press Conferences - those indulgent, corporate pantomimes full of flashy lights and dubstep, where middle-aged businessmen do their best to convince us that they're just as excited for the latest entry in an annual franchise as they were last year.
If we're being honest, they're really just 1-2 hour live informercials, full of wild promises and capitalistic jargon. And yet, once the lights go down and that first developer logo flashes on the screen, admit it, you're hooked. Because, after all, what it's really about, behind all the dramatic bollocks, is the games.
Before they start, pundits and viewers alike make predictions and proclamations about what will be shown and by who, but every year there are always a handful of announcements and appearances that catch us off guard; that surprise and excite us in equal measure, and that become the talking points with our friends for days.
Here's my pick of the biggest surprises to come out of this year's E3 press conferences:
1. Halo: Master Chief Collection
Yeah yeah, I know, "it's not PlayStation." Who cares? This is my list, I'll do what I want.
For a few months now it has been rumoured that a Halo 2 HD remaster was in the works, and in the last two weeks it was leaked that a Halo Collection for Xbox One might become a reality. When it was announced at Microsoft's conference, however, I don't think anyone had any idea just how truly comprehensive the collection would be.
Bundling every main Halo game in the franchise to date, the Master Chief collection presents all four games in their entirety! That's right. Full campaigns, full multiplayer suites with dedicated servers, all DLC content, a host of new features and additional content - even Forge mode for the much-loved Halo 2 - and all presented in stunning 1080p at 60fps.
This was easily the biggest news out of Microsoft's E3 showing, and a great reason to consider buying an Xbox One.
2. Far Cry 4 Co-op Reveal
Far Cry 3 was one of the best-received shooters in recent years, so it wasn't the least bit surprising when Ubisoft announced a sequel, Far Cry 4, last month. Many expected Ubi to show it at E3, and when their press conference started, the french publisher did just that. The 5 minute clip showed the opening moments of the campaign, and introduced us to the game's main antagonist, Pagan Min (played by the incomparable Troy Baker). The trailer was interesting, and certainly looked very pretty, but I needed something more to hook me, and so that segment left me largely unsatisfied.
And then it was Sony's turn...
At the Sony conference, Ubisoft debuted actual gameplay for their upcoming open-world shooter, and it looked gorgeous. But that's not even the best part! As the mission progressed, the player we'd all been watching was seamlessly joined by a friend, and all of a sudden the single-player campaign was now co-op!
The pièce de résistance was the announcement that, on PlayStation 4, friends would be able to join you in your campaign at anytime, without needing to own a copy of the game themselves! 'Nuff said, really.
3. Rainbow Six Siege debut
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six is a gem of a franchise that has been with us since the late 90s. The strategic shooter series was last seen in 2008 in the form of Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, but in November 2011, Ubisoft decided to preempt a leak by announcing Rainbow Six: Patriots, debuting preliminary gameplay footage which had a number of fans very excited.
Following the announcement, however, Patriots suffered a number of development setbacks, and soon faded into development hell. Rumours of the games demise circulated, and in December 2013 they were all but confirmed when Ubisoft finally spoke about the game, revealing that Patriots "had to be remade," and that it might not even be called 'Patriots' anymore.
As I sat down to watch Ubisoft's press conference, I was mostly occupied by thoughts of Assassin's Creed: Unity, maybe a new Rayman game, and a desire to see something, anything, about the rumoured Assassin's Creed: Comet, so when Ubi president Yves Guillemot came on stage to show "one more game," a Rainbow Six game was the furthest thing from my mind.
The footage displayed was pre-alpha, and most likely tightly scripted, but Rainbow Six Siege has quickly leapt to the top of my list of most-anticipated games, evoking a more hardcore version of Counter-Strike's Hostage Rescue mode that really appeals to me.
For the record, following the announcement, Ubisoft officially confirmed that Patriots has been cancelled.
4. PSN game 'Entwined' announced, then released!
E3, in many ways, is like a strip-tease. There's a lot of looking, a lot of desiring, but not a whole lot of touching. Many of the awesome games on display won't be on shelves until 2015, so this next one was something I don't think anyone saw coming.
During their presentation, Sony announced a new digital title called Entwined - "a beautiful, addictive and abstract action/arcade game about two souls who are in love but that can’t be together. These souls are represented by a bird and a fish, which you must learn to control simultaneously. Over the course of nine lifetimes you will help these two characters come together with the eventual goal of uniting them for eternity."
At the conclusion of their segment, PlayStation's Scott Rohde dropped a bombshell: Entwined wasn't targeting a Q1 2015 release window; it wasn't coming out these Holidays; it was releasing, on PlayStation 4, right now, with PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Vita versions to follow shortly.
Now, you might not be interested in Entwined (and that's ok, lots of people don't have souls), but the idea of developers circumventing all the pre-release hype and pre-order bollocks in favour of just releasing their game should have everyone cheering. It's an important step for the industry, and its one I hope other studios emulate.
5. Grim Fandango remastered on PlayStation 4 and PlayStation Vita
Out of all game genres, my favourite has to be the Adventure game. Over the past two decades the genre has transformed dramatically from text-based games like Zork to cinematic blockbusters like Uncharted, but I'll always hold a special place in my heart for Point-and-Clicks.
Back in their day, LucasArts were pioneers of the genre, and were responsible for some of the best point-and-click games of all time; games like The Secret of Monkey Island, Maniac Mansion, and Sam & Max Hit the Road. Out of all of these fantastic games, however, my favourite of the whole bunch was easily Tim Schafer's Grim Fandango.
A black comedy noir heavily influenced by Latin American culture, Grim Fandango is set in the Land of the Dead, where the righteous pass through on their way to the Afterlife, while sinners are forced to take a four-year pilgrimage. You play as Manny Calavera, a travel agent at the Department of Death, on a quest to find the lovely Meche, after she's wrongly sent on the pilgrimage.
It's been over 15 years since its release, so naturally it's not a game anyone expected to hear about at an E3 conference, and that's exactly what Sony were counting on when Adam Boyes took the stage...
The response to the announcement of a Grim Fandango remaster was a huge roar from the crowd; one which was unquestionably drowned out by my own hysterics. I still almost can't believe it.
I'm not the only one surprised by what I saw from the E3 press conferences, so I'll let some of the other staff share their stories...
Nagflar: New Zelda
Ah, E3, the time of the year where we all expect publishers and developers to show us what they've got. As per usual, Nintendo was on the spotlight, but this time around for the wrong reasons: The Wii U has been failing to meet success, and they seem to want to continue supporting it. Naturally, that involves giving people games to play, but with everyone complaining about them being so stuck up their own asses (me being very vocal about it, too), just another entry on one of their 20 year old franchises wasn't going to cut it.
Today, they showed this:
I've been a huge Legend of Zelda fan for a while, having played every console game since the original, and even though I enjoy them immensely, every new entry brings with it repetition and the constant argument about it being the same game over again, which is obviously a huge issue, to the point that the last entry I actually paid for was Ocarina of Time back on the Nintendo 64.
This, however, looks and promises to be different. The open world itself is a very nice addition not really found on previous games, for even though Wind Waker boasted a massive world map, it wasn't exactly the most open-worlded thing out there. Let's add the fact that Nintendo is promising that you'll be able to complete dungeons in whatever order you wish and in different ways, and the formulaic repetitiveness of the franchise is already fading away, making this new title something different on its own right, and not just because it has a slightly different story or villain.
Then there's the artstyle, which looks similar to that of Skyward Sword, which was gorgeous (for even if the Wii's graphical prowess is that of a potato and put to shame by your average Texas Instruments calculator, the game still looked beautiful). The trailer above shows us just how good the world map is apparently going to look, with what appears to be in-game footage, so there's really no excuse to not be hyped for the new Zelda title (unless you're not a fan and/or a Nintendo hater). Now we just play the waiting game, and hope Nintendo delivers.
Larrydavidsavatar: Dead Island 2
I was surprised to see this delightfully goofy trailer for Dead Island 2 come up, mainly because many, myself included, thought that Dead Island spiritual cousin Dying Light had developers Techland busy over at Warner Bros, as well as the fact that I considered 2013's flawed Dead Island: Riptide to be the actual Dead Island 2. But here it is, in the hands of Yager and Deep Silver instead, and harnessing the grunt of PS4 to boot.
A blood and sun-drenched California will be Dead Island's new setting, one that seems quite large in comparison to the previous games.
Hopefully Yager don't leave in quite as many bugs as Techland did with Riptide, because I would genuinely be excited to play a better looking, more expansive, bug-free Dead Island. Zombie Drive-By anyone?
So what about the press conferences this year surprised you? Let us know in the comments below.
For all your E3 news, head on over to our Official News Hub, where we're collecting all the major announcements and trailers coming out of the L.A. Convention Center.