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E3 2016: David's Most Anticipated Games

I'm attending E3 this year for the first time in nine years. Nine years away from the jumbo screens, thumping sound systems, elbow-to-elbow crowds pushing their way across the show floor, and most importantly, the delicious opportunity to brag to my friends that I got to play their most anticipated game months ahead of release.

The deck is stacked this year, so I endeavored to narrow down my picks for most anticipated games to four... plus a fifth pick that goes off script a bit. But I'd like to do something different. Generally, "most anticipated games of E3" articles share those picks, then never follow up.

Thus, this is the first in a two-part series. Here, I'll tell you what I'm looking forward to playing. The week after the show, I'll publish a follow-up wherein I compare and contrast my expectations with the reality of what I saw at E3—the goal being to decide if the games I got to try are shaping up the way I expected, and prognosticating how I think they'll fare going forward.

The Legend of Zelda

Full disclosure: The Legend of Zelda for Wii U is my game of show. There. How's that for ethics in game journalism?

The Legend of Zelda series is the alpha and omega of gaming for me. It encompasses everything I love about video games: exploration, action, brainteasers, and storytelling predicated on the trappings of the medium. I've heard the argument that every Zelda since Ocarina of Time has been a carbon copy of that vaunted trendsetter, and I can't disagree. But I'm fine with that. Zelda games tend to come out every three to five years; after that long, I'm ready for Another One of Those.

However, even this Zelda fanboy can admit it's time for change. Many of the elements I've loved since falling head over booted heels for Zelda's golden cartridge have been suffocated by the very formula that made Ocarina of Time such a trailblazer: progression has become more linear, the story bogged down by long-winded dialogue sequence and cutscenes, the items and boss fights rote.

Eiji Aonuma, long-time producer and director of the series, has been vocal about shaking up Zelda U. He even went so far as to admit that 2013's A Link Between Worlds was a trial run to gauge how players would respond to Nintendo snapping the time-tested formula over its knee like a dry twig.

By all accounts, the experiment was a success. And Aonuma has bigger and bolder fluctuations in store for Zelda U, such as a vast open world where you can pick a point on the horizon and just... go.

In other words, Zelda U is shaping up to become a 3D reincarnation of the original Legend of Zelda. Nothing sounds better.

Resident Evil

Capcom confirmed that it has big plans for the Resident Evil series. Those plans include an official remake of Resident Evil 2—a dream come true for people like me who grin and bear the PS original's graphics once every year or so for a replay—and, likely, Resident Evil 7.

Rampant speculation points to RE7 making an appearance at E3. I want nothing more than to see Resident Evil get back on track, but it'll be an uphill battle. Resident Evil 5 was an excellent co-op game, but a poor RE game, and RE6 squandered all the goodwill creator Shinji Mikami banked with 2002's remake of the original and 2005's beloved Resident Evil 4.

Still, course-correcting this series isn't rocket science. For RE7, Capcom need only take a page out of Naughty Dog's playbook for The Last of Us and return to survival horror. I'm not talking static camera angles and tank controls. I happen to love RE games made from that template, but "RE2make" is likely on that path. RE7 should be its own thing: third-person, atmospheric, and with an emphasis on resource management and making decisions under constant pressure.

I'm cautiously optimistic that RE7 will put in an appearance at E3. If so, I'll give it a fair shake. I want it to be great. But make no mistake: it's do-or-die for the Resident Evil IP.

Telltale's Batman

I grew up playing adventure games, but have let the genre's resurgence pass me by aside from a few dalliances. Slap Batman on anything, though, and I'll try it with alacrity.

Telltale's developers from the studio have promised a major shift in technical underpinnings, the biggest since 2012's The Walking Dead—good news for anyone who loves adventure games but feel Telltale's template has grown stagnant. Those changes should facilitate the primary storytelling mechanic Telltale has in mind: the ability to choose whether to handle situations as billionaire Bruce Wayne or his Dark Knight alter ego.

Bruce Wayne is not real. He died with his parents. Batman is his true identity. But as much as I enjoy buckling on my utility belt and roughing up bad guys, Bruce Wayne too often gets glossed over as nothing more than the schmaltzy playboy act that Batman puts on to throw people off his trail.

I've got my gauntleted fingers crossed that Telltale goes all the way with this mechanic. Most adventure games don't encourage replayability, but if every single juncture can be handled as one of the two characters, I'll play through the adventure as many times as it takes to see every permutation of the narrative.

"Look, up in the sky! It's a bird! It's a plane! It's... some dude in a suit chasing Catwoman across rooftops? That's Gotham for ya."

Nioh

An action-RPG inspired by Dark Souls, set in 17th-century Japan, developed by the studio that gave me 2004's Ninja Gaiden reboot on Xbox? I'm in.

Nioh is the one game on my list I know next to nothing about. And that's what I'm digging about it so far: the idea of fusing the relentless first-but-fair challenge of Dark Souls with Ninja Gaiden's fast and fluid movements, playing out on a backdrop of demons and darkness, is all I need to know at this point.

The "SoulsBorne" series means a great deal to me. However, I confess that for me, it's grown stale. Nioh looks to borrow the right elements from Dark Souls—weighty attacks, stamina and health bars that factor into combat decisions, a sense of triumph after conquering worthy challenges—mixed with Team Ninja's pedigree for action games.

Console Upgrades

Of all the selections on my list, this is by far the most important.

There's been a lot of talk since reports of Sony's PlayStation 4 "Neo" upgrade leaked back in April, most of it negative. Developers don't want their already complicated and expensive processes made even more expensive and complicated, and owners of PS4 and/or Xbox One don't want to feel like they'll be left in the cold when newer, better boxes hit the streets.

But I'm cautiously optimistic about refreshed consoles. What's more, I think it's past time for manufacturers to tackle this problem.

The customary five-to-six-year lifecycle isn't dying; it's dead. Last generation's hardware lasted eight years, and was wheezing by year five. Mobile games will never be as appealing to console games for me, but you'd have to be blind, deaf, and dumb not to acknowledge how deeply they've penetrated traditional platforms and publishing models. And the PC, always in a league of its own, has yet to blink in the face of Xbox One or PS4.

Although consoles aren't extinct, they're closer to passé than they've ever been. I don't necessarily want to see Sony, Microsoft, and even Nintendo take a cue from Apple and roll out new boxes every year, but a gaming industry without consoles troubles me even more.

I'm curious to hear what Microsoft and Sony (and Nintendo, a little further down the road) have planned for this cornerstone of our industry. Those plans won't just affect consoles. Whatever they have to say will very likely change the way the industry operates. That's scary, but it's also exciting.

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