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E3 2015: 10 Things That Wowed Us

From Oculus Rift upgrades to ‘Star Wars Battlefront’ updates, these sneek peeks had us in full-on gamer mode

Halo 5; Doom

Over 52,000 video game developers, publishers, analysts, press, and – for the first time – consumers flocked to the Los Angeles Convention Center for the Electronic Entertainment Expo — better known as E3. Even Kanye West, hiding in a black hoodie, navigated the crowded halls to get hands-on with some of the exclusive new games on the list below. With the gaming industry poised to rake in a record $91.95 billion globally this year (according to the research firm Newzoo), there's a lot at stake across the growing mobile, PC, console, and virtual/augmented-reality landscapes. Here are 10 things that stood out from this year's convention.

Rock Band

Welcome Back, ‘Rock Band’ and ‘Guitar Hero’

After a five-year hiatus, music games are taking the stage again. Activision's Guitar Hero Live features a completely redesigned controller that makes it easier to jump into the game and replicates a live-action, real HD video gig, complete with contemptuous band mates; it also offers a classic MTV-style music video channel called Guitar Hero TV, or GHTV, that includes a constantly updated collection of music to play along with. Harmonix' Rock Band 4 sticks with the traditional cartoonish graphics but upgrades its full-band hardware, including a completely re-designed microphone, drums, and a new guitar that’s been crafted for the game’s Freestyle Guitar Solo — a new feature allows you to create your own licks. Both games are backwards-compatible with music you purchased previously, and new digital songs will be released regularly post-launch. Living room rock gods, it's time for your encore.


The Return of ‘Doom’

It's been awhile since id Software delivered a new game, and even longer since a new Doom has hit store shelves. That wait is almost over, thanks to this latest iteration of the bestselling franchise, which pits heavily armed marines against deadly demons from hell on the planet Mars. In the single-player campaign, you're the lone protector of Union Aerospace Corporation's massive Martian research facilities — thankfully, you're also armed to the hilt with the latest futuristic technology and BFGs to combat the nonstop barrage of hideous creatures. Multiplayer arena-style combat is also making a comeback with both classic and brand new game modes filled with power-ups, including the ability to play as a demon. Adding to the already strong replay value is the Doom SnapMap game editor, which allows anyone to create, play, and share custom maps, modes, and gameplay with the world. Get moving, Marines!

Fallout 4

‘Fallout 4’: The Largest Game Ever Made?

This post-apocalyptic role-playing game franchise takes things to the next level with this open world Wasteland. It's up to you to create your character and develop your own playing style as you navigate locales like the ruins of Boston and the seared forests of the Commonwealth, interacting with various characters and factions. You can do everything from embarking on quests to building and managing your own settlement; a new targeting system makes choosing attacks intuitive and the resulting carnage spectacular. There's also a deep crafting system that allows players to make everything from custom weapons, armor, chemicals, and food. And A Boy and His Dog fanatics, take note: You now have a virtual canine as a companion throughout the adventure.


Oculus Rift Gets Even Touchier

Facebook's $2 billion investment in Oculus VR has opened a lot of doors for the game company, which has committed $10 million to funding independent studios interested in developing virtual-reality content for the Oculus Rift. The consumer edition of the item made its debut at E3, featuring a lightweight headset that's completely adjustable and built-in headphones that slide out easily, in case you'd rather wear your own surround sound headset. The dual OLED displays bring HD gaming worlds like Insomniac Games' arctic-set action adventure Edge of Nowhere, the beautiful role-playing game Chronos, and the vibrant platform antics of Lucky's Tale to life with a visceral "you are there" presence. But the coolest aspect is Oculus Touch, which was featured in a Toy Box demo where your hands appear in VR and can do everything from hand a fellow player blocks to shooting targets with an assortment of guns.

Star Wars Battle Front

The Force Awakens with ‘Star Wars Battlefront’

Developer DICE, best known for its massive multiplayer Battlefield franchise, has been handed the Star Wars license and asked to realize the dream of every kid who ever played with Kenner action figures. Star Wars Battlefront offers all of the planets, vehicles, spaceships, and characters from George Lucas' original trilogy (Episodes IV-VI) while allowing up to 40 players customize the combat any way they want. There's dogfighting in space between X-Wings and TIE Fighters, ground-based campaigns on the snowy Hoth involving Imperial Walkers, and lush forest altercations on Endor. All this, plus a virtual playground filled with detailed recreations from the films and the chance to unlock heroes like Luke Skywalker and villains like Darth Vader as you lead your troops into battle. The Force is very strong with this one.


Microsoft’s HoloLens Makes a Case for Augmented Reality

Everywhere you turned at E3 this year there was a virtual reality game or a new VR headset — but analysts at Digi-Capital believe augmented reality (AR) will grow into a $120 billion business by 2020. That's good news for Microsoft's HoloLens, an AR headset that was shown behind closed doors; once you've played something like the H.L. version of Minecraft HoloLens game — complete with multiplayer and voice commands, as well as touch — you understand how this could completely change the gameplaying dynamic for a number of titles. There was also the prototype demo Project X, which makes getting a workout fun by having laser-blasting robots fly into the room around you with lasers blasting. Take that, Kinect!

Halo 5: Guardians


The Guts ‘n’ Glory That Is ‘Halo 5: Guardians’

With Bungie clearly having a good time with its new Destiny title, 343 Industries has kept its popular name-brand shooter franchise moving forward with a live-action online series, an upcoming Steven Spielberg-produced TV show — and, of course, new games. Halo 5 delivers a next-gen gameplaying experience designed from the ground up, delivering the goods across single-player, four-player co-op and multiplayer campaigns (up to 24 players!); the frenetic new Warzone experience also adds computer-controlled bots to the action-packed battles. The story throws even more at players with two alien enemy races — the Covenant and the Prometheans — that come in a variety of heavily-armed shapes and sizes. Halo has never looked better.

Need For Speed

New ‘Need for Speed’ Is Less Needy, More Speedy

EA hit the brakes last year on its racing franchise — but with Swedish studio Ghost Games now firmly in the driver's seat, Need for Speed has undergone a reboot. Welcome to the speed-demon underground, where all of the action takes place between dusk and dawn, and the streets are deserted except for cops looking for heavy-footed gearheads in the massive open world city of Ventura Bay. Ultimately, there are five key areas to excel in — Speed, Style, Crew, Build, and Outlaw — but how you achieve success and in what order is completely up to you. The game offers the deepest customization tools in the franchise in 10 years, allowing players to fine-tune the ultimate street racer and then take it out for offline or online competitions. (Yes, there will be drifting contests!) All this, plus you'll have plenty of opportunity to take on the fuzz and escape without a ticket. Our engines are sufficiently revved.

Horizon Don

Post-Apocalypse Now: ‘Horizon Zero Dawn’

After spending years developing its violent, futuristic first-person shooter franchise Killzone, Guerrilla Games is now offering players something completely different. Set 1,000 years after the apocalypse, Horizon Zero Dawn drops players into a world reclaimed by nature and humans live in primitive tribes. Being armed with spears and arrows makes taking on the robotic dinosaurs even more challenging, of course, and surviving battles against gigantic monstrosities like the Thundermaul requires a lot of strategy, time, and running around. Luckily, the game's female protagonist Alloy can steal technology from enemies and use it against them, in addition using in-game currency (collected by taking down these mechanized beasties) to trade for items. With its crumbling cities and gorgeous landscapes, this is the type of game you can find yourself lost in for hours.

The Last Guardian

The Kinder, Gentler Gameplay of ‘The Last Guardian’

Amidst all of the first-person shooters and explosive games that packed the E3 floors, it was the re-emergence of The Last Guardian that offered the convention's most refreshingly quiet yet still captivating experience. The puzzle-based adventure gameplay involving a young boy and his giant beast, Trico, harkens back to earlier Japan Studio titles like Ico and Shadow of Colossus, allowing players to control the boy and his not-always-obedient new best friend as they navigate through ancient ruins. Originally shown at E3 in 2009, this version is much more fluid play and features far better visuals; it's a hidden console gem that stands out from anything else currently on the market.