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At E3, major players tip conservative but hopeful future for games

Sony's exclusives

Sony seemed to show off exclusive after exclusive during its own pre-E3 press conference, from returning classics like Grim Fandango to a new expansion for Infamous: Second Son titled Infamous: First Light.

We tested thermite rifles in Ready at Dawn's The Order: 1886 - which is a unique weapon that fires clouds of combustible thermite and then ignites them with flares, raining molten metal down on foes.

Like other PS4 games, The Order looks beautiful, and if the rest of its weapons are as interesting as the thermite rifle, it might be something special.

The Order 1886

The Order has some surprisingly futuristic weapons

Sony also showed off a new downloadable co-op multiplayer mode for Killzone Shadowfall called Intercept. Following the industry's trend toward co-op multiplayer, Killzone's Intercept mode pits four players against waves of enemies, but the twist is that each player's specialization - assault, medic, support, and marksman - plays radically differently, and if one player falls chances are all four will before long. It makes for some tense gunplay.

Meanwhile, like Ubisoft's The Crew, Sony's Driveclub is a new entry into the racing genre. But it seems to lack a truly unique twist like The Crew's coast-to-coast map. Its painstaking attention to detail and neat social features might help make up for that, but the future of gaming is about more than better graphics, right?

Maybe not in Driveclub's case, nor in Bloodborne's. A spiritual successor to Demon's Souls and Dark souls, the public didn't see any actual gameplay when Sony announced From Software's Bloodborne during its press conference. But behind closed doors E3 attendees saw an achingly familiar, but infinitely prettier, game.

Bloodborne

Is Bloodborne just next-gen Dark Souls? Pretty much

Bloodborne appears to play exactly like the existing Souls games, but with better graphics, more enemies, better animations, and cooler weapons, like a transforming scythe blade and a steampunk shotgun. Doubtless that will be enough for Souls fans to get invested, but it remains to be seen how the PS4 exclusive really takes advantage of the console's power.

All the rest

One of the most impressive games shown off elsewhere at E3 was Konami's Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. TPP takes places after the events in March's MGS V: Ground Zeroes, and it features a Snake/Big Boss who uses modern technology to full advantage.

As the first open-world game in MGS history, The Phantom Pain sees players staking out their targets, watching enemy movements and planning elaborate operations, sometimes waiting in-game days for the exact right moment to strike. But while all this was impressive, the game can't take full advantage of the new consoles' power thanks to Konami's decision to release it on PS3 and Xbox 360 as well.

Destiny

Bungie's Destiny still has a lot to prove

Bungie and Activision's Destiny doesn't have that problem, but it has others. This is the first new Bungie franchise since Halo, and fans have high expectations. But the reaction to the gameplay at E3, not to mention the special PS4-only public alpha gameplay, has been mixed.

The game looks pretty, and its MMO elements are sound, but it lacks the visceral feedback of Halo - and its multiplayer feels like it's in slow motion for players coming off a Titanfall high. Peter Dinklage's phoned-in performance doesn't help either.

Activision's other major game this year was Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, which finally propels the CoD series past the merely near future. During a private demo at E3 Activision showed off some of the game's futuristic weapons and abilities, including laser guns and double jumps. But at its core Advanced Warfare is still Call of Duty, and players' enjoyment of it will hinge on their love (or lack thereof) for the series.

Turtle Rock and 2K's Evolve made a better showing. This co-op shooter (think the PS4 and Xbox One have enough of those?) pits four players, again each playing as a different, indispensable class, against large monsters like the newly-revealed Kraken/Cthulhu - also controlled by a player.

This type of asymmetric multiplayer is nothing new, but when you add it to the chaotic and fun formula that Turtle Rock developed in its Left 4 Dead series you get something compelling.

Deep Silver's Dead Island 2 was barely present at all, with the publisher showing E3 attendees a flashy trailer and, backstage, a gameplay demo that was presented as being purely conceptual, and not necessarily representative of how the game will end up. It looked infinitely better than the first two Dead Island games, but without any real gameplay, what's the point?

Batman Arkham Knight

Arkham Knight looks like a solid sequel

Thankfully WB Games' two heavy-hitters, Batman: Arkham Knight and Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor, left a very good taste.

Arkham Knight caps Rocksteady's trilogy with a new villain and the addition of a transforming, tank-like Batmobile, though any specific advantages conferred by Microsoft's and Sony's latest hardware (if any) are unclear.

Shadow of Mordor is a different story entirely: its unique Nemesis system makes the game's open-world battlefields come to life in more ways than one. Enemies who defeat you will level up and gain rank in the Orc armies, and you can exert influence over them to pit them against one another. You have to see it to fully understand, and it's unlike anything seen before - though like other impressive new games, it's also coming to 360 and PS3.

What we need is a crystal ball

Trying to predict the future of gaming based on the titles seen over a single week is like attempting to read it in tea leaves.

Does it lie in solid, powered-up sequels with no mindblowing innovations, like Far Cry 4 and Batman: Arkham Origins?

Or do unique new games like Rainbow Six: Siege, Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor and Sunset Overdrive paint a better picture of what gamers can expect over the next several years - even when they're also present on last-gen's consoles?

Hopefully it's the latter, though those powered-up and dependable sequels are welcome as well. The bottom line is gamers have a lot to look forward to.

Now let's start speculating about E3 2015 already.