Of the over 15 I've slogged through, this year's E3 Expo was, hands down, the best video game conference I've attended. The new consoles will give us hyper-realistic games. For drama, Sony at their press event outright insulted Microsoft. Most importantly, there were plenty of new games, and they looked better than the many banal franchise games on the show floor. To call these the most promising games of E3 isn't to say they're the best games of E3. To be the best, the games will have to be played and finished and considered. But these offerings were fine appetizers for the meals to come.
Titanfall (Electronic Arts/Respawn)
Created by the smart, former makers of Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2, Titanfall is, one the surface, a game where giant robotic mechs battle each other to the finish. But judging from the size of its world, it's much more than that. Yes, Titanfall is to be played online only, something that's normally a major drawback. But when the lead artist showed me the fascinating way that Titanfall will weave what may well be a varied narrative into this multiplayer world, I was sold — at least for now.
Bungie made Halo for Microsoft, which was instrumental in selling the Xbox. Now part of Activision, Bungie's invested many millions in making Destiny, a futuristic game that features a strikingly well-thought-out sci-fi mythology. You can unlock its mysteries as a single player, but you'll be enticed to join multiplayer events, too. In Destiny, mankind's Golden Age has ended. It will be up to you to deal with the many dangers that may wipe out humanity completely. Sure, it's a trope, but the twists and turns here may make it different and convincing.
Tearaway (Sony/Media Molecule)
The people who invented the delightfully feature-filled LittleBigPlanet have designed what amounts to a children's pop-up book come to life in a game. Add augmented reality to put yourself in this fantasy world as you interact with some delightful kooky paper characters, and you have what should be a worthy hit on the PlayStation Vita.
Lego: Marvel Super Heroes (WBIE/TT Games)
Ever since Lego Star Wars, I've had a soft spot for the Lego video games. But this is a big one. In this action-filled open world, you'll deal with more than 200 Marvel heroes and villains, all made of Lego bricks. The festivities commence when the Silver Surfer is taken down as he hangs ten in a game that inserts you into New York City — along with Thor's world of Asgard.
Murdered: Soul Suspect (Square Enix/Airtight Games)
Murdered: Soul Suspect could be one eerie, goose-bump-raising mystery. In Salem, Massachusetts, a strange, hooded man murders a detective with multiple gunshots. As the detective's ghost, you're haunted: Why would someone kill me? you ask. As you endeavor to uncover the reason for your violent demise, you encounter various creepy apparitions. Some will attack you. Some will help you. The question is, will you know the difference between the two?
Dying Light (WBIE/Techland)
I was really quite skeptical of Dying Light because there are far too many zombie games available already — and judging from what was shown at E3, there are more to come. But the varieties of zombies here add a sort of intriguing artificial intelligence that not only keeps you on your toes, it keeps you interested. Watch out for the nightfall — that's when the zombies become smarter. And scarily faster.
Watch Dogs (UbiSoft)
This unusual offering may be well-suited to a paranoid, real-life time in which governments and organized crime may be watching ... well, everyone. Here, in this open world rife with information warfare, you can hack into all manner of electronic devices, almost as if you can read people's minds. This alternate reality set in Chicago feels a bit too close for comfort, but that's what makes the stealth-filled gameplay compelling — the current fear of big data.
Saints Row IV (Deep Silver/Volition)
This rude, crude game of satire is truly for adults only. Here, the White House is like a corrupt frat house, and the president is the swaggering superhero who tries to save the world from an alien invasion. But it's the humor that could make Saints Row IV a winner. During 20 minutes of gameplay, I chuckled at least four or five times. It may be vulgar, but if all games could elicit such real emotion — humor, sadness and the gray areas in between — I daresay they'd get a lot more respect.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (Konami/Kojima Productions)
Kiefer Sutherland adds his estimable acting ability to the mythos of Snake (here, known as Big Boss). With Sutherland on board, Hideo Kojima, one of Japan's greatest game celebrities, offers up a tale of mercenaries and vengeance that takes place primarily in 1984. Some say Kojima can be long-winded and needs an editor. Others say his work is the height of deep, video game narrative. Whatever the case, it's worked out well: this is the 10th game in the series. And David Bowie fans will delight in this fact: Big Boss' mercenary group is called Diamond Dogs.
Harold Goldberg contributes to The New York Times. His book about games is All Your Base Are Belong to Us (How 50 Years of Videogames Conquered Pop Culture).