The video games industry's premier expo, E3, is looming on the horizon like a thunderhead. With new gen consoles having been in the market for the last two years, gaming audiences are champing at the collective bit; the last two expos saw the new machines and their expanding line-ups revealed respectively. The likes of Crackdown, Tom Clancy's: The Division, Final Fantasy XV and Star Wars: Battlefront have all been announced and we've seen trailers for them, though we have yet to get our paws on their controls. We want this to change this year.
But it's not all about the games. Oculus has announced its consumer Oculus Rift virtual reality gaming headset is set for release in 2016, so some games that feel less like tech demos and, you know, more actual games, are likely to appear, alongside the hardware itself. The same could be said of Project Morpheus, the VR headset for the PS4, and since news has emerged that Sony has just set up a studio in the UK dedicated to creating games for it, you'd expect a few more titles in the pipeline. Microsoft HoloLens is also a pretty tasty prospect and we'd love to see some new titles and applications for it. As for Nintendo... well, any news at all about the teased Nintendo NX console would be gratifying at this stage.
Here are just some of the things we'd like to see, and expect to see, at E3 next month.
We expect Project Morpheus to take centre stage at Sony's keynote. The PS4 VR headset has been doing the rounds over the last year at the usual venues such as Gamescom and TGS, and it even pitched up at EVE: Online Fanfest with a demo for EVE: Valkyrie. This year Sony showed off a demo for The London Heist at its HQ in the Big Smoke and it's also opened a studio in the UK to develop games solely for Project Morpheus.
Perhaps the biggest clue came from President of Sony Worldwide Studios, Shuhei Yoshida who told Gamespot: “Many studios of ours are working on actual games. We haven’t talked about these games yet. We are waiting for the right time. Starting probably at E3, we will start to show the actual games.”
As far as non VR-games go, Sony has some ground to make up since the cancellation of Kojima's Silent Hills title. We know that Uncharted 4 is still in the pipeline, as is Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain (although that's not an exclusive). Guerrilla Games has said its working on a new IP that isn't KillZone too. What we'd like to see are some new IPs alongside the return of some old faces - maybe Kratos or Ratchet & Clank. Oh, if Sony could let us know what's going on with The Last Guardian and Agent, that'd be just grand, too. It's not like we haven't been waiting for over six years for them or anything...
What we will see: Games for Project Morpheus, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Uncharted 4: A Thief's End
What we want to see: Whatever Guerrilla Games is working on that isn't a new KillZone game, a new God Of War game, Gran Turismo 7, Agent (ha! Like that'll happen!) and (PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE) The Last Guardian.
Perhaps to make up for Sony stealing a lot of its thunder in 2013, Microsoft came up out of the corner swinging last year with one of the strongest Xbox keynotes we'd seen for ages. Alongside third-party publisher titles - Call Of Duty, Tomb Raider and Assassin's Creed among them - Microsoft showed off a plethora of exclusives, some of which saw release last year and others we're still waiting for - Crackdown, Scalebound and Halo 5: Guardians among them.
It's a pretty safe bet that gameplay footage and possibly hands-on with Halo 5's single player campaign will be in the offing and we also know that the last gen's Gears Of War games are being remastered for the Xbox One. What we don't know is whether or not Microsoft will be announcing more exclusive titles this year, or if they'll simply expand on what was revealed in 2015. We're hoping for the latter rather the former, naturally.
And then, of course, there's HoloLens. It may be too early to ask for proper games and a concrete release date for it though.
What we will see: Halo 5: Guardians, Gears Of War: Remastered and a shed load of third-party published games.
What we want to see: Games for the HoloLens, a *new* Gears Of War game, some gameplay footage of the new Crackdown and a lot of new IPs and surprises
Out of all the big three platform holders, Nintendo is the one we're most worried about. With The Legend Of Zelda for the Wii U pushed back and no major announcements for any new games, we really don't know what to expect from Nintendo this year. This could be because it's got a tonne of new titles that it's successfully kept under wraps, or it could be that the Japanese giant hasn't really got much to show.
We know Zelda won't be at E3, but Nintendo has hinted it does have some new Wii U games to show off, as it told IGN back in March: "The new launch timing [for The Legend Of Zelda] has not yet been determined. Because we’d like to focus on developing the game, we aren’t planning on showing it at this year’s E3, where we will be highlighting games launching in 2015."
Of course, there's time for Nintendo to allay our fears over its recently-announced move into the mobile space. We shudder to think what Mario's classic second Gameboy adventure would have been like had it been called Super Mario Land 2: Six Golden In-App Purchases... There's also the next-gen Nintendo NX console that the company has been teasing, though every mention of it so far seems to have been an attempt by Nintendo to ease future-gazing investors' fears rather than us having a chance of seeing it in the flesh any time soon.
So cross your fingers for old 'Ninty. We have.
What we will see: Your guess is as good as ours.
What we want to see: Anything at this stage. New hardware. New mobile games. Just give us something, Nintendo.
If there's one publisher you can count on to announce something new, it's Ubisoft. During the last few E3 conferences, Ubisoft has rolled out not only new instalments in established franchises at quite a regular pace - Assassin's Creed, Far Cry and er... some dancing game or other - it's also been producing new IPs like Watch Dogs, The Crew and The Division.
Last year it brought Rainbow Six back to its gritty roots with Siege and even offered a hands-on with it. A hands-on with the new AC and The Division wouldn't go amiss. Rumour has it that Ubisoft may have some brand new, non-franchised titles to announce at this year's presentation. We have to confess, we have high hopes for Ubi's keynote - even if a lot of their games are starting to feel a little like they're sticking to a familiar template.
What we will see: The London-based Assassin's Creed: Syndicate, Tom Clancy's: The Division, Rainbow Six: Siege.
What we want to see: Watch Dogs 2, a new Splinter Cell, a new Rayman and possibly a brand new IP.
EA feels like it's in a holding pattern ahead of E3 2015, mainly because we know (or suspect we know) exactly what it's going to roll out at its keynote. We know there's going to be a new FIFA this year (along with a new NHL and a new Madden), Need For Speed: World and a new Need For Speed reboot that's been announced. There's also a little game called Star Wars: Battlefront that DICE are working on alongside a new Mirror's Edge - which we'd like to hope has moved past the trailer phase of its existence.
BioWare, for its part, has been teasing us with tidbits about a forthcoming Mass Effect game, so we'd like to see that take shape at E3 - even if all they have is a teaser, it would at least confirm the game exists. Other than that, there's not really much we're holding hope for. A cross-platform TitanFall maybe? A new Battlefield? How about a brand new IP? We're not holding our breath.
What we will see: FIFA 16, Need For Speed, Star Wars Battlefront.
What we want to see: Mirror's Edge 2, a new Mass Effect and a new IP, please!
This year will see Bethesda's first ever E3 keynote and we have to admit that we're pretty excited for it. Not just because it's likely the developer will have more than a couple of big announcements to make - because if it doesn't, why bother doing a keynote? - and because last year's Bethesda booth was something of a disappointment - apart from The Evil Within (which didn't exactly blow anyone's socks off) the main IP on display on was BattleCry, a tepid free-to-play shooter.
We already know that the new Doom will make an appearance and there are rumours circulating that a sequel to Dishonored may be in the works. News that Prey 2 will be revived in some shape or form would be good too. But let's be honest here, there's really only one title we want to see unveiled at Bethesda's keynote: Fallout 4. Are you listening, Bethesda? Are you listening? A return to the wasteland (this time expected to focus on the US city of Boston) in the year that Mad Max: Fury Road hits cinemas would seem like the stars have truly aligned.
What we will see: Doom and possibly BattleCry
What we'd like to see: Fallout 4, Prey 2 and Dishonored 2
Square Enix has announced a keynote that'll take place two days after Bethesda's. But unlike the Maryland-based developer/publisher, the Japanese publishing behemoth has been pretty forthcoming about what we can expect. Rise of the Tomb Raider, Just Cause 3 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts III have already been announced and are bound to make an appearance.
Square Enix has also announced that its keynote will be showing titles that will see release "in 2015 and beyond”, so it's possible we'll see some titles that haven't been shown off yet.
What we will see: Final Fantasy XV, Just Cause 3, Kingdom Hearts 3, Tomb Raider, Deus Ex: Mankind Divided.
What we'd like to see: A new Hitman game and a follow up to Sleeping Dogs.
We hate to say that Activision is getting predictable but... well, the only new major IP that this gaming behemoth has unveiled in the last few years is Destiny. The plan for Bungie's FPS MMO over the next few years seems to be expansion packs dropped at a regular pace, so we don't expect to see much more in the way of new content for Destiny other than that.
We expect to see a Call Of Duty: Black Ops III. We expect to see a new Skylanders. Other than that we know there's a new Guitar Hero in the pipeline, but that's about it from Activision.
Blizzard on the other hand has become positively prolific in the last couple of years. Once, the Irvine developer's income was based around three major franchises - World Of Warcraft, Diablo and Starcraft. In the last couple of years, it's added the virtual trading card game Hearthstone to its catalogue and its MOBA, Heroes Of The Storm, launches next month. Aside from that, its MOBA/FPS hybrid, Overwatch, is in the pipeline and we'd love to get our hands on it. This may be expecting a lot, since Blizzard usually shows off its new wares at BlizzCon, but an announcement that Overwatch could be coming to consoles would be music to our ears.
What we will see: More Destiny, Call Of Duty: Black Ops III, Skylanders, Guitar Hero.
What we want to see: Overwatch and a brand new IP, please!
Virtual and augmented reality will probably be one of the expo's bigger trends - we expect to see the Rift and Morpheus on the shop floor and at least some announcements from Microsoft about the gaming applications it's brewing for HoloLens. As far as gaming titles from other publishers are concerned, 2K are likely to have both its NBA and WWE titles at E3 in some shape or form. Gearbox is rumoured to be working on a new game - could be Borderlands 3 - and a new triple A title is in the works - which could be a new BioShock, a new Mafia or even another sequel to XCOM.
Warner Bros will likely have Batman: Arkham Knight - hopefully offering a hands-on - and possibly Lego Dimensions to show off, and since Mad Max: Fury Road is out and doing well at the box office, it would make sense to give punters a go on the new Mad Max game. We don't expect any news on Half Life 3 - we've given up at this stage - but we wouldn't mind seeing something else from Valve. Portal 3, maybe?
Aside from that, we expect bad packed lunches, sore feet and lengthy lines at the coffee bar. Those things never change...