E3 2015: Bethesda Kicks It Off with Gameplay Galore, New Tricks for Old Franchises

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Everyone expected that with Bethesda throwing their own pre-E3 media briefing this year, the company would either show a lot of game play or they would have a large lineup to announce. When all was said and done those predictions weren’t too far off the mark with the company announcing a new digital platform, Bethesda.net; two Dishonored games, a sequel and a remaster; a new The Elder Scrolls and a new Fallout game for tablets; and the impending start of the world wide beta of Battlecry; book ending these announcements with substantial looks at the new Doom and Fallout 4.

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Id Software kicked it off with most people’s first look at the new Doom, simply titled Doom. Powered by the new Id Tech 6 Engine, the game looks predictably amazing with very realistic looking lighting showcased by the glowing molten metal that was often featured in the first of two single player levels demoed. Marty Stratton, Executive Producer at Id Software, intro-ed the gameplay showcase saying that the foundation of Doom is combat centered around badass demons, big effen guns, and moving really fast. Those pillars seem well adhered to in the new game, though, to be fair, the demons didn’t seem all that badass when they were being torn apart by the protagonist’s new brutal melee finishers. We’re talking some Mortal Kombat level stuff here, with demons getting swept to the floor with a well placed kick, folded in half and then clubbed to death with their own legs.

Doom looked very fast, but not to the point where it had the “floating camera with a gun attached to it” feel of the original. There’s a bit more weight and body presence here, but the speed at which the player was able to fire a shot into a demon, strafe to the side to avoid an attack, or quickly close the distance to deliver a finisher all really gave it that old Doom feel.

Remember the old mechanic of finding the key card to open the door in the original Doom? That’s back but with a few modern twists. In the demo, a door can only be opened via a biometric panel. One of the corpses that litter the area has access and to find the right hand the playeractivates a holographic reproduction of their last moments from a nearby terminal. We see a demon tear the crew apart and walk away with one of the bodies which allows the player to follow the trail downstairs. Upon finding the right guy’s arm the player tore it off and used it to get the door open. That kind of over the top gore that makes you kinda laugh harkens back to simpler times and somehow feels right for Doom.

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The guns were big, meticulously detailed, and powerful; running the gamut of old favorites: the super shotgun, plasma repeater, chain gun, chainsaw, rocket launcher, etc which were all accessible via a radial menu that when pulled up slowed the action down without pausing the game. There did seem to be some enhancements in the weapons themselves too with some sort of attachments for the weapons giving them different firing properties.

Of course, the newest game in the franchise that coined the term, “Deathmatch,” wouldn’t be complete without mulitplayer and Id did not disappoint with a brief trailer showing off the fast paced, arena style combat the series is known for plus some interesting power-ups, one which turned a player into one of the campaign’s jetpack donning demons.

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So, everything seemed to point to a new Doom that was much like the old Doom but incorporating the advancements in games of the last 20 years. Then Id unveiled Doom SnapMap, a simple, yet powerful new mod tool that’s reminiscent of Disney Infinity’s ToyBox mode except with Doom assets instead of Disney ones at players’ finger tips. Significantly, Doom SnapMap’s mod tools were announced as platform agnostic, so even PS4 and Xbox One players will benefit from having an endless stream of new Doom content. Anyone who’s experienced editing tools in modern console games such as LittleBigPlanet, ModNation Racers, or inFAMOUS 2 should be able to appreciate how big a deal SnapMap could be. It was arguably one of the most exciting reveals of the night.

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The Doom segment was then capped off with a second campaign level, a level set in Hell that ironically liberated the player from the confined corridors one thinks of when thinking of the franchise. Vista’s were vast and the rock formations were massive. Everything looks great.

It would seem that even without “The Two Johns”, Carmack and Romero, Doom is in good hands at Id. The game is slated for Spring 2016 on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

Next came a smattering of what seemed like smaller announcements judging by the time given to each. Bethesda debuted Bethesda.net, a new digital platform that will be at the heart of all Bethesda games promising a seamless experience that integrates the Bethesda website, featuring robust forums, exclusive videos and articles, as well as access to games and new features. It was a bit unclear what exactly all that will mean in practice, but the platform is apparently already in use with The Elder Scrolls Online and will power the sharing part of Doom SnapMap.

Battlecry showed up in a brief trailer showcasing a new faction, the Han Republic, inspired by Chinese and Japanese warriors. Battlecry lead game designer Lucas Davis also announced the start of signups for the worldwide beta with priority beta access and an exclusive in game item for those who sign up by June 18th at the Battlecry website.

Co-creative directors Harvey Smith and Raphael Colantonio from Arkane Studios came up next to debut a pre-rendered CG trailer for Dishonored 2 featuring a new selectable female protagonist, Emily Cauldwell, chasing her target through a mechanically powered transforming building interior. Details on the game were sparse, save for a PS4, Xbox One, and PC platform announcement. Also coming to current gen consoles is a remastered Dishonored subtitled the Definitive Edition containing all the orignal’s DLC content as well as new enhanced graphics.

The Elder Scrolls then made a short appearance with a pair of trailers, one showcasing new areas Imperial City, the fallen capital of Tamriel, and Orsinium, the realm of the orcs, coming to The Elder Scrolls Online later this year. The second was for a newly announced free to play strategy card game for PC and iPad called The Elder Scrolls Legends. Nothing was shown of the game itself, but with the existence of Blizzard’s Hearthstone and the vastness of The Elder Scrolls’s lore, it’s not too difficult to imagine what the game might be like at a base level. The Elder Scrolls Legends comes out later this year so we won’t have to imagine for too long.

Finally, the moment everyone was waiting for arrived as Todd Howard, executive producer at Bethesda Softworks, came out to talk extensively about Fallout 4. In true Fallout fashion the new game offers all the go anywhere, do what you want freedom of the previous games, but I was most impressed by how they’ve come up with ways to take that freedom even further. The dynamic game engine Fallout 4 is built upon will allow players to actually build their own settlements in the game simply and intuitively even with just a controller, much like Doom SnapMap.

The system looked incredible deep. At one point, we were shown that player crafted generators can be used to power player crafted spotlights, connected by player crafted power lines. Those spotlights could then be connected to player crafted terminals that could be used to control and tweak the lights.

All of that random stuff that fills Bethesda games of the Skyrim and Fallout type, in Fallout 4 all of it can be scraped, broken down into base resources that can be used in the crafting system, and not only are settlements the only addition that crafting will make possible. The weapons and power armors are modifiable through the same crafting system. Howard mentioned that the game contains over 50 base weapons and 700 different modifications for those weapons while giving the audience of look at what that looked like it a time lapsed video showing guns being basically turned into totally different guns through crafting.

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All of this really opened my eyes. It was crazy cool.

Character customization has been given an overhaul making it appear much easier to achieve a desired appearance with female playable avatars now also supported. Gone is making your character in a menu looking interface with sliders. Instead, it all plays out as a totally natural scene of a husband and wife in front of a mirror. Once done, which ever person you leave the mirror as becomes your playable character. Again, in a totally natural way, an interview with a Vault-Tech employee verifying your information lets you set your name and starting stats. In a first for Fallout, thousands of popular names were recorded so that when it’s appropriate, the name you input is actually spoken in the game.

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I knew that Fallout 4 would be a big game, but what we were shown is even bigger than I could have imagined. It’s difficult to believe that Fallout 4 will be coming out this year on November 10.

I’m not really a Fallout guy so I will direct you to a more detailed account from someone who is, but this showing has really pushed this game up there for me. I’m even considering a Pip-Boy Collector’s Edition which will feature a real, working Pip-Boy provided you have a smartphone and download the second screen companion app.

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All in all, I was pretty impressed with how excited Bethesda was able to get me for their games. I would have loved to hear more about new IP so that was a bit disappointing, but in retrospect, the additions of an amazing crafting system in Fallout 4 and the introduction of Doom SnapMap more than made up for that shortcoming.

Something about old dogs and new tricks, am I right?

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