Once upon a time, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, aka E3, was a digital mecca to which gamers would flock to find out which titles they'd be playing two, three, sometimes even four years from now -- a tantalizing, infuriating preview of some far-off Christmas. Over the course of the last few years, the very nature of E3 has shifted, boasting an improved focus on immediacy, and offering gamers the same exciting reveals with only a fraction of the painful waiting.
This year, a vast majority of the show's most exciting -- and often surprising -- games are less than a year from release. With so much to look forward to over the next several months and every title vying to become the best game of the year, we thought we'd round up the biggest and best announcements from this year's E3 so you can start saving up. You're going to want all of them:
Gears of War 4 (Xbox One)
While the latest Gears of War gameplay looks very, well, Gears of War-y, that's hardly a bad thing for a time-honored franchise. The first entry designed for the Xbox One, Gears of War 4 is taking advantage of every ounce of technological horsepower. Giant storms and destructible environments, improved combat and co-op, fully fleshed characters, and a story that moves the universe forward -- yeah, we're in. The latest release chainsaws its way onto store shelves on October 11th, 2016.
Skyrim: Special Edition (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
Arguably one of the greatest RPGs of all time, Bethesda's Skyrim is receiving a complete overhaul for current consoles. The transformation looks gorgeous, complete with all-new lighting, shaders, and rendering effects to make this last-gen title look truly next-gen. It's also the closest we'll get to a new Elder Scrolls game for a long damn time, we're told. If you didn't play it the first time, or you're pining to slay some dragons with unprecedented realism, Skyrim: Special Edition releases on October 28th, 2016.
Dishonored 2 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
After its official announcement and cool-as-hell trailer at least year's E3, Arkane finally showed off gameplay for its highly anticipated Dishonored sequel. The distinctive, painterly art style gets a massive upgrade while the assassin abilities are now more complex and varied than ever. Gamers can choose to play as the assassin Corvo or the now-adult princess Emily, each sporting a set of unique, upgradable powers. Brimming with the series' inherent sense of exploration and experimentation, this looks to be the ultimate fulfillment of Dishonored’s epic potential. Releasing November 11th, 2016.
Watch Dogs 2 (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
Watch Dogs 2 somehow wins the award for both "Most Improved Gameplay" and "The Sequel That Nobody Asked For." After the lackluster first outing, it was clear that Watch Dogs was a good idea in search of a great execution. With Watch Dogs 2, Ubisoft has re-approached the franchise entirely. With a vibrant, brighter world, a more dynamic, energized protagonist, better driving and action mechanics, new drone tools, and infinitely more ways to hack the city around you, Watch Dogs 2 looks like the game we've been waiting (read: praying) for. We'll find out for sure when it releases on November 15th, 2016.
Dead Rising 4 (Xbox One)
The Dead Rising series is about killing tons of zombies in exceedingly violent and hilarious ways, often while wearing some ridiculous costume. Dead Rising 4 doubles down on that tradition. While not wildly different, this latest sequel finds Frank ripping apart the undead while wearing high-tech power armor. In a mall. During Christmas. Sign us up. The game drops December 6th, 2016, in time to paint the holidays red and green and red.
South Park: The Fractured But Whole (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
It's hard to articulate just how perfectly South Park's most recent video game, The Stick of Truth, captured the look and spirit of the TV series. In the sequel, instead of aping fantasy tropes, the series takes aim at the superhero genre. Picking up right where the last game left off, you return as Douchebag, now with a whole new set of superhero classes, weapons, and armor for your LARPing adventure. With a bigger, more explorable world and a massively re-tooled combat system, South Park looks to improve upon itself in every way. The game arrives December 6th, 2016.
Fallout 4 DLC: Nuka-World (Xbox One, PS4, PC)
Bethesda announced a handful of updates to Fallout 4 over the coming months, and the most intriguing was Nuka-World. Set in a post-nuclear amusement park, this final DLC release treats Raiders as a new faction in the game, giving players the ability to lead and assemble a badass gang of their own. There's no firm release date for Nuka-World, but we expect this one sometime in 2016.
Resident Evil 7 (PS4, Xbox One, PC)
Capcom's been unusually silent on the latest Resident Evil, only promising that the game would shift away from action-heavy zombie-blasting and back to the series' roots in tense survival horror. Shockingly, the sequel is nearly complete and dropping on January 24th, 2017. With a short trailer and a gameplay demo available on PSN, the first-person sequel is tense, atmospheric, and oozing with horror. RE7 will also be fully compatible with PlayStation's virtual-reality console, allowing zombies to literally get up in your face (more on that in a second).
Horizon: Zero Dawn (PS4)
Think Clan of the Cave Bear meets robot dinosaurs. This epic sci-fi action title follows future-cavewoman Aloy as she hunts and battles mechanized wildlife in the post-apocalypse. Boasting gorgeous visuals, explorable landscapes, and combat that combines both low- and high-tech weaponry, Horizon: Zero Dawn was one of the most exciting games of the entire show. It launches for PS4 on February 28th, 2017.
God of War (PS4)
Finally revealed after years of speculation, the latest entry in the God of War franchise finds our Grecian anti-hero Kratos embedded in Norse mythology. With the dramatic switch from Greek titans to Norse gods, the series resets the stage for chapters yet to come. Oddly, the biggest surprise wasn't Kratos' giant Viking beard, but a son he's now sworn to protect. Players will navigate the violent, mythical epic with a child in tow, utilizing him in combat and protecting him at all costs. Looks like God of War is taking a page from The Last of Us by upping the drama as well as the action. No release window was given, but damn does this look good.
While no release window was announced, the fact that the makers of the super-fluid, hyper-fun Sunset Overdrive are making a Spider-Man game is exciting as hell. Boasting an impressive trailer of web-slinging action, we can't wait to arc our way across New York sometime next year.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild (Wii U, Nintendo NX)
After years of teasing a new Zelda game, Nintendo finally revealed the hook for its biggest sequel yet: a sprawling, open world. Zelda by way of Skyrim, Breath of the Wild combines wide-scale, free-form exploration with survival and crafting elements. Hunt for food to restore your health; chop down trees for firewood; clothe yourself properly to survive the heat and cold; pick up the weapons of your opponents when your own inevitably break. Without touching on the story, Nintendo presented a massive scope and offered gamers the change to experience it at their own pace. Venture too far, encounter creatures far too powerful -- there's nothing linear about this latest chapter. We'll find out if it all comes together when the title releases later next year.
And two major console developments:
Sony finally dropped a date and price point for its innovative in-home virtual-reality system. Releasing on October 13th, 2016, PlayStation VR will run gamers $400 for the headset alone. But if you want the camera, Move controllers, and PlayStation Worlds game required to actually use the device, there's a bundle available for $500. VR games will run between $20-$40, give or take, depending on the scale and scope of the title. It's worth noting, however, that while a number of titles this year promise to be VR-compatible with devices like the Vive or the Oculus Rift, it's unclear whether those same games will (eventually) function with PlayStation VR, as well.
Xbox Slim & Xbox Scorpio
Lastly, Microsoft announced two new iterations of the Xbox One. The first, called the Xbox Slim, is a smaller, less weighty version of the behemoth console boasting 4K and HDR support, as well as larger hard-drive options and a slightly redesigned controller. The Slim will release this August, running between $300 (for 500GB) and $400 (for 2TB). Next year, however, Microsoft will release the Xbox Scorpio, a massively improved version of the Xbox One with ridiculous tech under the hood. It'll output everything in 4K, fully support VR (possibly via the HTC Vive), and offer the utterly uncompromised version of any Xbox One game released. Basically, it's a more powerful version of the current Xbox, running the same games at much higher quality. Think of it as a mid-cycle upgrade to PC-level performance. The Scorpio will drop sometime next year.
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