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10 Best Things We Saw at E3 2016

From a slew of big-name sequels to a galaxy of ‘Star Wars’ games, our takeaway from the Mecca of interactive entertainment

Gears of War 4 Taking Cover Gun Best E3

This year saw the annual video game show known as E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) morph into a hybrid experience that attracted 50,000 video game publishers, developers, analysts, and journalists inside the halls of the Los Angeles Convention Center — with an additional 20,000 fans outside at LA Live — from June 14th -16th. Thanks to YouTube and Twitch, over 42 million folks watched livestreamed E3 video content from the show, and social media quickly connected gamers around the world with the big press conferences from Sony, Microsoft, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and Bethesda Softworks throughout the week.

Despite the influx of free-to-play games, the rise of independent games, and the overcrowded mobile market (which sees over 500 games released a day), PC and console games still rule E3. Here's 10 things we learned about some of the biggest games that were shown at the Mecca of interactive entertainment.

'Zelda' Remains a Legend Best e3

‘Zelda’ Remains a Legend

While the Wii U is in a distant third place in a video game landscape dominated by Sony, the company showed it still has legions of loyal fans. Many of the Nintendo faithful stood in line for over five hours to play 30 minutes of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, which introduces a whole new open world gameplay experience that lets players, as Link, craft their own weapons for combat and cook their own food to replenish health as they explore. The new Wii U and NX game won't ship until some time next year, but the version on display in a mammoth, theme park-like Nintendo booth looked unlike any previous installment.

Doom 3 Best e3

Everything Old Is New Again

Bethesda Softworks shipped its re-imagining of id Software's demons-from Mars shooter Doom earlier this month to rave reviews, and now the company's bringing back the original eSport with Quake Champions. The arena-based shooter ushered in an age of professional video gaming, which — pre-Internet and pre-livestreaming — focused on bring-your-own PC competitions inside large hotel ballrooms. Now id is using its latest game engine technology to upgrade that fast-paced, first-person shooter combat for today's global audience, introducing brand new warriors of varying play styles. Over a billion people are familiar with eSports today, according to research firm Newzoo, and Bethesda hopes to tap into that excitement with its own program aimed at gamers of all skill levels.

Sony VR E3 BEst

LOS ANGELES, CA - JUNE 15: Attendees participate in VR virtual reality during E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo 2016 at Los Angeles Convention Center on June 14, 2016 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Daniel Boczarski/WireImage)

Daniel Boczarski/Getty

Virtual Reality Comes of Age

Previous E3 shows focused on indie studios developing games for new virtual reality platforms such as HTC Vive and Oculus Rift — but Sony's launch of PlayStation VR has changed the game. In addition to a slew of exclusive titles such as the multiplayer Mech shooter RIGS, the adventure game Golem, and the music actioner Rez Infinite, the company is getting support from big publishers such as Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment (Batman: Arkham VR), Electronic Arts (Star Wars Battlefront: X-Wing), Square Enix (Final Fantasy XV), and Capcom (Resident Evil 7: Biohazard VR).

Ubisoft is bringing Red Storm Entertainment's Star Trek: Bridge Crew, which lets four players beam up for multiplayer space exploration and combat aboard the U.S.S. Aegis, across all VR platforms. Bethesda Softworks is bringing its massive postapocalyptic open-world game Fallout 4 to HTC Vive in early 2017 and is developing Doom for VR. While cool new indie games such as Insomniac Games' hidden world, spell-casting multiplayer The Unspoken and Twisted Pixels' spooky, black-and-white adventure Wilson's Heart still make up the bulk of the offerings, big companies betting on VR at this early stage is one way to avoid it going the way of 3D TVs.

'Call of Duty' Blasts Off Into Space With Kit Harington Best E3

‘Call of Duty’ Blasts Off Into Space With Kit Harington

Developer Infinity Ward is taking Call of Duty into the far reaches of space for the first time. While Call of Duty: Ghosts had a level set inside and outside of an orbiting space station, Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare is taking a page out of Star Wars with epic space battles involving ship-to-ship dogfights and attacks on massive starships. There's also anti-gravity firefights outside of spacecraft, courtesy of a jetpack and grappling hook to navigate space. And the boots-on-the-ground experience is still a key focus of the action, although that ground will now go beyond Earth as distant planets are explored. Game of Thrones hero Kit Harington plays the antagonist in the new game's campaign, which posits a future in which the Settlement Defense Front has infiltrated space to harvest and control all resources.

Battlefield e3 best saw

Rapper Snoop Dog, center left, plays the Battlefield 1 video game during an Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) event ahead of the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Sunday, June 12, 2016. E3, a trade show for computer and video games, draws professionals to experience the future of interactive entertainment as well as to see new technologies and never-before-seen products. Photographer: Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Patrick T. Fallon/Bloomberg/Getty Images

‘Battlefield’ Travels Back To World War I

After launching as a World War II game (in the wake of Electronic Arts' Medal of Honor and Activision's Call of Duty) and then taking the fight to modern warfare, developer DICE is traveling back in time to the First World War with Battlefield 1. By jumping into a time period not yet explored by the shooter genre, everything feels fresh; dogfighting in biplanes is a much more visceral experience because you're not flying at supersonic speeds, and the early lumbering tanks of this era don't have the same feel of even World War II vehicles. By returning to its roots of historical multiplayer combat on land, air, and sea, the studio latest opens up a whole new gameplay experience, filled with new challenges. And it's the exact opposite of other upcoming shooters such as Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and EA's own Titanfall 2.

Mafia 3 Best e3

The ‘Mafia’ Franchise Makes an Offer We Can’t Refuse

Mafia 3, the new open-world game from developer Hangar 13, is set in 1968 in a fictionalized version of The Big Easy, and 2K showcased the new game in a life-sized replica of a New Orleans French Quarter locale. While it brings back one of Mafia 2's under bosses, Vito Scaletta, this sequel introduces a brand new story, setting, and protagonist (African-American ex-Vietnam War vet Lincoln Clay). At its basic level, this is a revenge story that involves taking down the Italian mob. But the city is divided into rival turfs, each with its own organized crime contingents, and the era's racial tension plays a part — so there's a lot going on. With this backdrop, and a vibrant virtual city, players are able to do what they want (both on foot and in vehicles) in this game, which offers a branching story and lots of violence. It's a much different take on crime than sister company Rockstar Games' Grand Theft Auto V, which is still going strong thanks to online updates.

Days Gone Video Game e3

Zombies Still Rule

Zombies never seem to die in video games. E3 saw a steady influx of the undead across games such as Capcom's Resident Evil 7: Biohazard and Dead Rising 4, Undead Labs' State of Decay, and Bend Studios' Days Gone. While Capcom is going back to the roots of its bestselling survival horror franchise with this latest installment, which features scares, puzzle-solving, and a new first-person perspective. Days Gone places biker Deacon St. John as a survivor in a world overrun by "freakers" (which look a lot like zombies, but are much faster and smarter) and blends some strategy with lots of shooting and blowing stuff up. It's what you would get if you crossed The Last of Us with Sons of Anarchy. And the over-the-top Dead Rising 4 (which has a cheesy spin-off Crackle movie franchise) brings back protagonist Frank West from the original game as he battles zombies in Willamette, Colorado.

Gran Turismo E3 Best things we saw

Attendees play "Gran Turismo Sport" in Sony Corp. PlayStation 4 gaming car seats during the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California, U.S., on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. E3, a trade show for computer and video games, draws professionals to experience the future of interactive entertainment as well as to see new technologies and never-before-seen products. Photographer: Troy Harvey/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Troy Harvey/Bloomberg/Getty Images

You Can Earn an FIA Racing License in ‘Gran Turismo’

Developer Polyphony Digital has always spent years creating lifelike representations of real tracks and meticulously building accurate race cars. Now all of that work can lead to a physical FIA (Federation Internationale de Automobile) Gran Turismo Digital License for Gran Turismo Sport players in the massive new Sony PS4-exclusive racing game. Creator Kazunori Yamauchi earned his real FIA license — he races cars competitively in his spare time — and Sony gamers will have a chance to get their own by completing all of the game's Campaign modes (with Silver or better results) and the Racing Etiquette mode. So far, 22 countries have agreed to participate in this program (but not the U.S.), and Yamauchi is on a quest to add more nations to this virtual program.

Gears of War 4 Best things e3

Video Game Sequels Aren’t a Bad Thing

While the video game industry does have a Hollywood-like infatuation with sequels, games with numbers next to their title fare much better than most big-budget movie retreads. That's because it often takes many years of development to create the next installment of a game, and in many cases — such as Ubisoft's Assassin's Creed and Square Enix's Final Fantasy franchises — brand new protagonists and settings are introduced.

Per usual, there were a ton of sequels at E3. Some of the coolest games include the Coalition's Gears of War 4, which propels the franchise 25 years into the future and introduces a new band of heroes (including the son of previous Gears protagonists Marcus Fenix, Anya Stroud and J.D. Fenix). Respawn's Titanfall 2 ups the ante for its all-out futuristic warfare with six new Titan classes (mechanized giant suits controlled by human pilots that can jump out and fight on foot, maneuvering with a jet pack for extra boosts). But the game also introduces a campaign story for the first time, in addition to online multiplayer. And Ubisoft's Watch Dogs 2 takes the open world hacking concept to the City by the Bay, with a new protagonist and new technology (including drones) to hack into the open world.

Star Wars Battlefront Bespin E3 Best Saw

Electronic Arts Is Making a Galaxy of ‘Star Wars’ Games

Electronic Arts is making the most of the exorbitant sum it paid Disney/Lucasfilm for the Star Wars license. Developer DICE's multiplayer shooter Star Wars Battlefront managed to sell over 14 million copies, but failed to live up to the promise of a next-gen game. EA has a sequel in development for 2017 and is introducing a new PlayStation VR version this fall. And the publisher, which continues to expand its Star Wars: The Old Republic online game, has a brand new action adventure game set in a galaxy far, far away in development at Visceral Games (makers of the Dead Space franchise). Plus Respawn Entertainment is exploring a different style of gameplay set in a different timeline that EA has yet to explore. So there will be plenty of new games coming out to accompany the annual Star Wars film releases Disney is churning out.