After three long hours of arguments, counter-arguments, and at least one bloody brawl, GamesBeat settled on the best games made with Unreal Engine at E3.
The annual Electronic Entertainment Expo is where publishers and developers of all sizes come to Los Angeles to make exciting announcements about their upcoming games. And for the second year in a row, we partnered with Unreal Engine creator Epic Games for our Unreal E3 Awards by GamesBeat. Though we made some changes to last year’s criteria, the 10 categories for the 2016 awards are a better representation of the diversity of Unreal projects at the biggest industry trade show in North America.
The addition of a second category just for virtual reality reflects the rapidly growing list of developers using this new technology. But a few of the more straightforward awards were still difficult to figure out. Someday, we’ll be telling our grandkids about the vicious battle for “Best New IP”. (Just ask GamesBeat lead writer Dean Takahashi, who fought valiantly for the open-world zombie game Days Gone in multiple categories.)
Here’s our list. The winning teams will receive a Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 graphics card.
Eye Candy: The best-looking game overall
The underwater exploration game snagged a few Unreal awards at E3 2015, but it also has dramatically improved since then. Unlike the solitary gameplay in Journey, which Abzû creator Matt Nava also worked on, Abzû’s gorgeous rendition of the sea teems with life. The developer is Giant Squid, and the publisher is 505 Games. Abzû debuts on August 2 for the PlayStation 4 and Windows.
Other nominees: LawBreakers, Batman Arkham VR, Paragon, Injustice 2, Obduction
Killer App Killer: Compelling and/or intuitive gameplay
Absolver is an online action game with an innovative approach to melee combat. After choosing a fighting style, you can customize your combos with a wide assortment of punches, kicks, and stances through its innovative Combat Deck system. The developer is Sloclap, and the publisher is Devolver Digital. It has as 2017 release date for PC, and the team plans to bring it to console as well.
Other nominees: Days Gone, Sea of Thieves, LawBreakers, VR Sports Challenge.
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: Most addictive game
LawBreakers is a fast-paced shooter with a cool anti-gravity hook. If you want to survive, you have to learn how to fight in zero-G as opponents attack you from different angles. We can’t wait to play more. The developer is Boss Key Productions, and the publisher is Nexon. It comes out later this year on Windows.
Other nominees: Sea of Thieves, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night
Shut Up and Take My Money! Again: Best established IP
Winner: Gears of War 4
Gears of War 4 kicks off a new story and set of characters in Microsoft’s multimillion selling franchise. This makes it perfect for people who never played the other games, and older fans will appreciate the return of familiar faces. The developer is The Coalition and the publisher is Microsoft. It comes out on Xbox One and Windows on October 11.
Other nominees: Tekken 7
The Hype is Real: Best new IP
Winner: We Happy Few
We Happy Few had an impressive showing at Microsoft’s E3 press briefing. It’s a first-person survival game where you seek to escape an alternate-history England where the Allies lost World War II. Everyone in the country must take a drug called Joy, and if they don’t (like the character you play), bad things happen. Compulsion Games is self-publishing We Happy Few. It hits Xbox One, Windows, Linux, and the Mac OS later this year.
Other nominees: Sea of Thieves, Days Gone, LawBreakers, Abzû, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, Paragon, Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom
Watercooler Moment: The game with the most buzz
Winner: Sea of Thieves
Sea of Thieves wowed us with its emergent swashbuckling gameplay. One memorable moment during our demo (as seen during Microsoft’s E3 press briefing) was when our ship started sinking after taking too much damage from a battle. The water moved in fast as we repaired the ship in vain. We had to accept that our prized vessel was gone. Rare is the developer, and Microsoft is the publisher. Sea of Thieves debuts for Xbox One and Windows in 2017.
Other nominees: Days Gone, Batman Arkham VR, LawBreakers, We Happy Few
The Great Escape: Most immersive VR game
Statik excels at hand presence in VR with the PlayStation 4’s Dualshock controller. When you look down, you get the sense that you really are sitting in a lab and that someone is forcing you to solve the puzzles before you can get your hands back. The developer is Tarsier Studios, and this game is for PlayStation VR. Tarsier hasn’t disclosed a release date yet.
Other nominees: Here They Lie, Psychonauts in the Rhombus of Ruin, VR Funhouse, Batman Arkham VR, Raw Data, Farpoint, Everest, Dragon Front
VR Voodoo: Technical Achievement
Winner: Raw Data
Raw Data is a first-person shooter in VR, and you can fight different robots alongside a friend in cooperative multiplayer. It’s filled with fantastic details, like the trails bullets leave behind when you use your slo-mo ability. Raw Data is being developed by Survios for the HTC Vive. Early access on Steam is coming soon.
Other nominees: VR Funhouse
Hardware Mover: Awesome games that’ll sell hardware
Winner: Raw Data (for Oculus Rift and HTC Vive)
Raw Data is also incredibly fun to play. You defend your core from waves of robots by teleporting to different points in the base and using a wide variety of weapons and powers. Unlike other VR shooters, this one doesn’t feel like it’s just a gimmick. Raw Data is from Survios for the HTC Vive. Early access on Steam is coming soon.
Other nominees: Gears of War 4 (Xbox One), Days Gone (PlayStation 4)
Unreal Underdog: Developers who push the limits
Shortly after the release of Journey, some of Thatgamecompany’s employees left to start new businesses, including art director Matt Nava. Nava founded Giant Squid to create Abzû, which has been in the works for more than three years. With a small team of 10, Giant Squid has managed to make one of the prettiest games about ocean exploration. 505 Games will publish Abzû on August 2 for PlayStation 4 and Windows.
Other nominees: Shiness: The Lightning Kingdom (Enigami), Absolver (Sloclap), Friday the 13th: The Game (Gun Media), We Happy Few (Compulsion Games)