Games' cream of the crop

Skull & bones.
Skull & bones.PHOTO: UBISOFT

There were plenty of great games on display at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2017 in Los Angeles last week. Having seen many trailers, queued for hours and tried many demos, Trevor Tan lists his seven best games of the expo - in random order.

1 SKULL & BONES

Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One (Release date: 2018)

I know I might be seen as being biased here as Skull & Bones is made in Singapore by Ubisoft Singapore. However, having played a demo of the game, I can assure you that its selection here has nothing to do with national pride.

This online pirate ship combat game requires you to understand the timing of raising sails and catching the wind to manoeuvre your vessel while trying to attack merchant and enemy ships to get your hands on their gold.

As a multiplayer game, it requires a lot of teamwork for your team to win. You need to coordinate attacks, or risk being isolated from your pirate mates and becoming an easy picking.

I was left really impressed after trying out the game demo. The graphics looked fantastic with realistic water effects and beautiful island greenery. The gameplay is intuitive. Controls might be simple, but the execution requires plenty of tactical decisions.

This is one game to look out for next year.


PHOTO: MARVEL GAMES

2 MARVEL’S SPIDER-MAN

Platform: PS4 (Release date: 2018)

Ask people about the one game that caught their eye at E3 2017, and it is a good bet that their reply will be Marvel’s Spider-Man.

This is despite no one from the media having had a chance to play a demo game. Shown during the finale of the PlayStation media showcase, this Spider-Man is unlike any Marvel games in the past. It looks similar to the Batman Arkham action adventure series.

Spider-Man here is the mature crime fighter that has been protecting New York City. He can use his web-sling abilities to perform parkour stunts and take out enemies. He can also use the environment or objects to his advantage, whether traversing the landscape or fighting his enemies.

It looks like there will be plenty of quick-time events to handle, and players have to react to on-screen prompts by pressing buttons.

At the end of the trailer, Miles Morales, the next Spider-Man, made an appearance. And, according to reports, Morales will not be just a cameo. If the trailer is as good as the game itself, this is a contender for the best 2018 game.


PHOTO: MICROSOFT STUDIOS

3 FORZA MOTORSPORT 7

Platform: Xbox One (Release date: Oct 3)

Forza Motorsport (FM) used to be Xbox’s answer to the PlayStation Gran Turismo realistic driving simulator. But now, FM is a standard that other racing games are aspiring to be.

The new FM7 will come with 700 cars that include the newly launched 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS. There are more than 200 different configurations and up to 30 locations for you to race in.

There is also a fully dynamic weather system that can change during a race.

Playing the demo game, I drove the new Porsche 911 GT2 RS through a desert track with the sun setting and was left mesmerised by the amazing graphics and lighting effects. There were times I wanted to stop the car to enjoy the spectacular environment.

The artificial intelligence of my virtual opponents seemed to be better than in the game’s predecessors. They seemed to know when to block my overtaking moves and defended the racing line as we entered the corners.

This is one racing game that all petrol-heads should play.

4 CALL OF DUTY: WWII

Platform: PC, PS4, Xbox One (Release date: Nov 3)

The first-person shooter Call Of Duty franchise is finally back to its World War II (WWII) roots. You play a young American soldier, Private Daniels, from Texas, who is a citizen soldier thrust into the frontline of Europe in WWII from D-Day beach landings in Normandy to the Battle of the Bulge.

I was hoping to get a hands-on with the single-player campaign for old times’ sake. But only the multiplayer mode was available.

Still, I got to experience the WWII game world using my favourite WWII rifle, the M1 Garand. It’s great to have you back, buddy.

There were three multiplayer modes played during the demo, and the stand-out has to be the War mode. There are four stages – capturing a Nazi building, repairing a bridge, capturing an ammo depot and escorting a tank to destroy the Nazi anti-aircraft guns.

Each stage has a four-minute timer. If time runs out before a stage is completed, the attackers lose and the defenders win. It is a nice departure from the usual death match.

5 DETROIT: BECOME HUMAN

Platform: PS4 (Release date: To be confirmed)

Detroit: Become Human is a third-person action adventure game that is set in a futuristic version of the titular city.

Androids are used to do menial tasks such as housekeeping. But soon, these machines start to question why they should work like slaves, so they begin to rebel.

You will play one of three androids – Kara, Connor and Marcus – with three different perspectives within the same narrative.

During the E3 demo, I played Connor, a police negotiator who is trying to pacify an android that has taken a child hostage. The graphics are superb with nice textures and realistic facial animations.

The graphics were so good I took my time to look for clues in the incident area to increase the chance of pacifying the android. The clues helped me reconstruct the events leading to the hostage crisis. When I finally confront the android, I had conversation options to choose to dictate the outcome.

The interactive gameplay, intriguing storyline and moral choices make Detroit: Become Human a game to watch.

6 NI NO KUNI II: REVENANT KINGDOM

Platform: PC and PS4 (Release date: Nov 10)

The original Ni No Kuni: Wrath Of The White Witch brought the stunning anime world of Studio Ghibli, which created classic anime such as Spirited Away, into a role-playing game.

But it does not matter if you haven’t played the original, as the sequel Ni No Kuni II: Revenant Kingdom has a new cast. You play as Evan, the new king of Ding Dong Dell, who must prove that he is fit to rule.

The new game might not have got the same involvement from Studio Ghibli as the original had. But when I played a short demo of Ni No Kuni II, I was happy that the game world looked just like a film by the studio.

During the demo, I got to fight a bull-like creature as a trial of courage. Luckily, I had companions to help me in battle. The game’s Pikmin-inspired Higgledies did not do much damage, but healed and aided me in getting power-ups to fight the enemy.

Even in the demo’s long battle sequence, the anime characters and the environment never failed to charm.


PHOTO: UBISOFT

7 MARIO + RABBIDS KINGDOM BATTLE

Platform: Switch (Release date: Aug 29)

You would think that when Nintendo and Ubisoft decided to work together and combine Mario Brothers with Raving Rabbids, we would be getting a party or no-brainer arcade game. But, no. Instead, we get an X-com-style, turn- based tactical game.

You get hilarious hybrid characters like Rabbid Mario, Rabbid Peach and even Rabbid Kong. But there’s also the original cast of Mario, Luigi, Yoshi and Princess Peach of the Mario Brothers world.

In the game’s plot, the Rabbids lost their minds (do they have one in the first place?) and invaded the Mushroom Kingdom. Mario must team up with good Rabbids (those that are dressed like Mario or Luigi) to fend off the bad Rabbids.

Despite all the goofy appearances, Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a deep tactical game. You control three characters at a time and engage in turn-based tactical battle against enemies.

This might just be another reason to get the Nintendo Switch console.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 21, 2017, with the headline 'Games' cream of the crop'. Print Edition | Subscribe