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forza horizon 3

Microsoft gave the world its first look at Forza Horizon 3 at their E3 2016 media briefing. The Forza franchise is one of the pillars of the Xbox games lineup so it is almost a given that there will be a Forza game every holiday. 2016 will be no exception thanks for a release date of September 27.

Forza Horizon 2 took place in the Mediterranean.  You were driving on cobblestone roads and taking shortcuts through vineyards. The third entry in the series takes place in Australia, which is home to some of the most diverse landscapes you can imagine. There are lush forests, highways that overlook the see, and vast deserts. The idea of off-roading through the Australian Outback has me very excited for this game.

One important feature that Microsoft revealed regarding this game is that it will be a part of the Xbox Play Anywhere Initiative. This means that purchasing a copy of this game for the Xbox One will include a free copy of the game for windows 10. Furthermore, players will be able to play multiplayer games across all of those platforms together seamlessly. They performed a demonstration at the event where four players were racing to the beach. One player was on the newly announced Xbox One S, another was on an Xbox One, a third was on a PC rig, while a fourth was on high end windows 10 PC with a fancy steering wheel set up. All four players participated together in the same race without any hangups.

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Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared on Pixelkin.org. Be sure to check them out when you get a chance!

Microsoft made a number of significant announcements about Xbox and Windows 10 exclusive games during their E3 media briefing, but the last game they showed was Halo Wars 2. They did so using an amazing cinematic trailer that helped to frame the conflict in the game and give us a taste for the main villain. Take a look at the video above to see what I mean.

Halo Wars 2 has quietly been one of the more interesting titles in the roster of upcoming Xbox One games. This is a sequel to a Halo Wars, a real time strategy game that sold *alright* and was generally well reviewed. It was by no means a pillar of the gaming universe.

The announcement was a surprise last year at Gamescom 2015, but this year we were fortunate enough to get even more great news about the game. 343 Studios has launched an open beta starting today and lasting until June 20th. That is a full week for Xbox One players to get their hands on the game and make a decision about whether or not it is for them.

You’ll have to make your decision quickly though, because the release date isn’t as far away as one would have thought. It is launching on February 21, 2017.

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Minecraft

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Pixelkin.org. Be sure to check them out when you get a chance!

Mojang and Microsoft made some significant Minecraft announcements during their E3 2016 Press Briefing. Minecraft has already sold over 100 million copies, but neither company is ready to rest on their laurels. Massive updates are coming to all versions of the game to increase the number of ways people can play together, and number of people they can play with.

They opened the Minecraft segment with a demo that showcased  cross-device play between iOS, Android, Samsung Gear VR, and Windows 10 devices. This is being made possible through what they are calling the “Friendly Update” for the Minecraft Windows 10 Edition and the Minecraft: Pocket Edition.

They also announced that they would be launching the Minecraft Realms services that will allow Windows PC and Mobile players to create and host their own multiplayer worlds that they can play in with their friends 24/7 even if they are offline. A one month demo of Minecraft Realms is available to people with Xbox Live accounts starting today.

They also announced that they will be bringing more add-ons and texture packs to allow players to more fully customize their worlds. Even more announcements and surprises are in store for us at Minecon in September.

Keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for more information as it is released!

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Skyrim Special Edition screen grab

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released five years ago. It was one of the most highly regarded games of the last generation, and fans have been asking Bethesda to update the game and remaster it for the new generations of consoles since the PS4 and Xbox One were released. These requests were originally denied, but it looks like even Bethesda can’t turn away droves of fans who want to buy their game a second time. And thus Skyrim Special Edition is born.

Bethesda announced the game last night as part of their E3 2016 press briefing. They also announced that it is being improved in two main ways: Significant graphical enhancements and Mod Support.

The graphical enhancements are plain to see in the below video. The first game looked stunning when it was released, but the updated version looks miles away better.

The mod support is  really a no-brainer. It is wildly successful on PC and has been received well on Fallout 4. This gives console players a chance to expand their game by dipping into the well of community created content. 

Skyrim: Special Edition will release on Xbox One, PS4, and PC on October 28th, 2016.

 

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Star Wars Logo

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Pixelkin.org as part of their E3 2016 Coverage! Give them a look when you get a chance. They cover family games just like we do.

A few years ago Electronic Arts signed a deal with Disney giving them exclusive rights to produce and publish Star Wars games for ten years. They are a prolific publisher so it was plain to anyone paying close attention that a wave of games would be coming quickly following the announcement. That oncoming wave has officially crested and anyone watching today’s EA Play should be running for cover.

EA has contracted with a number of different developers to produce a wide slate of games across a variety of genres and platforms. Take a look below for the projects in progress.

Amy Hennig/Visceral

When Amy Hennig left Naughty Dog we knew it had to mean big things. She is the woman responsible for the Uncharted series and is a master at developing interesting characters and telling stories through action games.

EA has confirmed that her game is currently planned for release in 2018 and will feature a new adventure, a new story, and new characters. When you consider the depth and breadth of the Star Wars universe this could be just about anything and I am super excited to see it.

The speculation machine is already working overtime I am sure. Here’s hoping that the Visceral PR team is ready for the scrutiny that Star Wars fans are used to applying every word in every press release.

Respawn

They hadn’t even finished work on TitanFall 2 when a press release went out stating that they would be making a third person action game set in the Star Wars universe. Today we got confirmation that their new game will take place in a whole new timeline.

I’m not sure why they chose the word “timeline,” but that could have been awkward word choice, or it could carry huge implications about the game and where/when it takes place.

DICE/Motive

Star Wars Battlefront has been insanely popular. It sold a reported 14 million copies over the last holiday season in spite of some average to middling review scores based on its content. The reality is that a casual shooter targeted at Star Wars is almost guaranteed to be a success.

EA confirmed that a followup to the wildly successful game will launch in 2017 and will include much requested new content. The only two pieces of content that I have seen regularly requested are a single player campaign and content regarding the new movies. If they put that into a new game alongside the standard iterative upgrades that normally follow sequels? I think we’ll have an even bigger success story on our hands.

Capital Games

They have been toiling away at their small studio working on the mobile game Star Wars – Galaxy of Heroes. They were shown off on stage as part of EA’s suite of upcoming Star Wars games so it appears that work will continue on the title into the future.

BioWare

BioWare has been working on The Old Republic for a few years now and shows no signs of slowing down. The MMORPG was a mild success when it involved a monthly fee, but once it went free to play it began to grow. There have been several expansions to the game so far, so it stands to reason there will be more. This is especially true when you consider the exploding popularity of Star Wars in general.

We still don’t have details for all of the games, and likely won’t for a few years, but it is very exciting to see this much energy being pushed into the franchise. Star Wars fans have had a rough time of things in the past. Its good to see they are having their day again.

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Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on Pixelkin.org as part of their E3 Coverage. They are another site that reviews games for families much like us. Check them out when you get a chance!

Electronic Arts held their E3 Play press event on June 12th, 2016. They brought a new trailer for Madden NFL 17 as well as information regarding significant updates to the game’s Franchise Mode.

The most significant update comes in the form of the “Play the Moments” feature. This works by giving players in Franchise mode the chance to take the helm at critical moments throughout the game, while simulating the rest. Focusing on critical red zone drives, key third down stops on defense, and late game scoring opportunities will keep the games moving and will let players complete a season over the course of a weekend.

Madden17PlaytheMoment

The updates aren’t all on the field though. There are improvements between games as well. Players will be able to use Franchise gameplanning to help tailor their strategy to help take advantage of their teams’ strengths or their opponents’ weaknesses. This influences practices in between, and play selection during, each game.

The Big Decisions system also allows players to take on the role of a General Manager for their favorite team and decide when to bring players back from injury, signing free agents, and even negotiating contracts with players. This is an unprecedented level of control for players and, if implemented correctly, might even give some insight into the decisions some of our favorite teams have made over the years.

These sure are big updates, but don’t just take my word for it. Take a look at this video from Mike and Mike (of ESPN Radio fame) where they lay it all out on the table.

The bottom line? Madden NFL 17 looks stunning and includes some highly sought after feature updates. This is going to be a great year to be a Madden fan!

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FIFA 2017 Alex HUNTER

Electronic Arts held their EA Play event today as part of the E3 2016 event in LA. They made a series of announcements regarding games like Titanfall 2,  Battlefield I, and Mass Effect. They also made an announcement regarding a significant addition to FIFA 2017.

FIFA is one of the most successful video games in the world; fueled by the massive popularity of football worldwide. The series began back in 1993 on the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis and has grown by orders of magnitude since then. The newest game looks better than ever, but includes new features that just might make it bigger than ever.

Some of the technical updates are as follows:

Set Piece Rewrite – “New penalties, free kicks, corners, and throw-ins bring creativity and variety in every dead ball situation.”

Physical Play Overhaul – “U.S. Patent-Pending Pushback Technology changes the way players physically interact in every situation and introduces a new shielding system that gives fans more control when in possession or battling to win the ball.”

Active Intelligence System – “A brand new intelligence system gives players the ability to better define and classify space to make smarter decisions off the ball. Players will utilize several New Run Types like fake, direct, and stunted runs to stay even more active off the ball.”

New Attacking Techniques – “New options in attack give fans more ways to create chances and finish in front of goal. Send teammates in with a Threaded Through Pass and put exciting goals away with a Driven Finish or Downward Header.”

FIFA 2017 Alex HUNTER

Take the Journey with Alex Hunter – FIFA 2017

Those are excellent technical updates that fall well in line with previous iterative updates as the franchise has grown in the past. The most significant change, though, is the inclusion of “The Journey.” This is a game mode where players take on the role of Alex Hunter as he is drafted into the Premier league and begins his professional football career. Players will be in command as he plays games, makes plays, and deals with the trials and tribulations of his newfound success, wealth, and fame.

This appears to be a football themed take on the story of Frequency Vibrations in NBA 2016 and I am 100% ok with that. We will find out more details as the game gets closer to launch to keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for more information about FIFA 2017 and the Journey.

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Electronic Arts Logo

Electronic Arts held their EA Play event today as part of the E3 2016 event in LA. They made a number of announcements regarding Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1, and Mass Effect. But, the announcement that will likely have the longest lasting effect was the reveal of the EA Originals program.

EA Originals is a partnership program that seeks to unite EA (and their money) with deserving independent developers. This is being modeled after their work with the Swedish developer Coldwood on Unravel.

FE Image

 

The program is about three things:

  1. Bringing unique and beautiful gaming experiences to the world that might have withered on the vine otherwise.
  2. Supporting smaller developers and helping their games grow. This partnership will persist through development and into marketing and publishing.
  3. Financial support. Games are difficult to make and much more expensive that people expect. EA can help keep studios open and working that might otherwise fail. It is worth noting that EA has made it so that 100% of the profits from these games will be kept by the developers.

This is an exciting program all on its own, but it has already had results which makes it even better. EA announced the first game as part of the EA Originals line is called Fe. Take a look at the trailer and I’ll give you my thoughts below it.

Fe is a game with no words where you play as a tiny bear cub who wakes up in an unknown place. As you play the game you will discover that all living things have a song. Learning about that song will give you the ability to work with that creature. For example, in the trailer there is looks like the cub sings to the bird and then gets granted to ability to fly.  The game itself looks hauntingly beautiful. I think I might grow tired of the color scheme after a while, but seeing as how this is just a trailer we don’t really know if the color scheme will continue.

This is only the beginning of this wild E3 adventure so keep your eyes on Engaged Family Gaming for more information as the week goes on!

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E3 2015 is over and it showcased a LOT of games that parents will be able to enjoy with their kids. But, some of the best games shown were just not appropriate for kids.We call those “grown up games” in our house because they are still games, but they just aren’t quite right for the younger set.

Below are our favorite Grown Up Games from E3 2015.

Fallout 4

This is, for many people, the crown jewel of gaming from this year’s E3. Bethesda is known for creating immersive worlds that give players the freedom to do whatever they want and this will be their first dance with the new generation of hardware.

The game will take place in Boston 100 years after the world is destroyed by nuclear war. You play a man, or woman, who survived the destruction in some sort of cryo-stasis in an underground vault and emerge into a largely desolate world that is teeming with bandits, mutants, and robots.

The game world looks massive from the trailer Bethesda presented us with and I, for one, cannot wait to run around in it!

Dishonored 2

The original Dishonored caught most of the gaming world by surprise in 2012. It was a brilliant game that presented players with a world to explore and tasks to complete in whichever way they chose. Most notably, players were able to sneak through the game non-violently or run roughshod through the Victorian setting laying waste to all who stood in their way.

It was a lot of fun to play and the world building was amazing. The developers put a huge amount of work into every little detail to make sure that the games world was as impressive as the gameplay.

Even better? The sequel features a female protagonist that has a completely different arsenal of weapons and magic talents from Corvo (the main character in the original). Both of these characters are playable in the sequel as well.

Uncharted 4

The Uncharted series has been a wild since it first debuted on the PlayStation 3 early in its life cycle. The story, and the action, have escalated significantly over the years and have made it one of the most love franchises in games today.

Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End is intended to be the last chapter in Nathan Drake’s story and if the gameplay demos they have shown so far are any indication we should be in for a wild ride!

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Guerilla Games is known for their work on the Killzone franchise. They debuted a new game at E3 this year that looks like a huge departure from their previous work.

Killzone has always been a bleak, industrial shooter. Horizon: Zero Dawn, however, is an action based roleplaying game that takes place in a beautiful, mostly-natural environment. The game takes place 1000 years after mankind falls and features humankind living in tribal, hunter/gatherer societies. Players control a young girl named Aloy who ventures out into this world.

We know almost nothing about the story, but the game looks great. I can’t wait to play it.

Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate

OK. Here’s the thing. I had fallen out of love with the Assassin’s Creed series after Unity. It was a lackluster game that was plagues with some bugs that kept the game from resonating with me. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate looks MUCH more interesting and has pulled me right back in after I thought I was done.

This is also the first console edition of Assassin’s Creed to feature a female protagonist which is a pretty big deal considering the mess that was last year’s E3 and the lack of female characters in the largely multiplayer focused Assassin’s Creed: Unity.

DOOM

There really isn’t much to say here. DOOM is one of the biggest franchises in the history of shooters and it is coming back in all of its over-the-top violent glory. This is definitely a game for when the kiddoes are in bed, but it looks like it will be well worth the wait.

I remember talking with my wife about what I expected to see at the Bethesda press event and treating DOOM like an afterthought. I told her that I wasn’t really all that interested, but that I was excited to see what they were doing for the sake of the fans. That lasted about a minute into the trailer before I was excited to buy it and bring it home.

What about you? What game are you looking forward to playing that you just don’t think you can share with the kids?

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e3 2015

The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) for 2015 is officially in the books and is being lauded as one of the best E3’s is recent memory by a healthy majority of the attendees. After spending the weekend looking over my notes and all of the announcements from the show I have to agree with them. This E3 was full of amazing moments, but was not free from concerns. (But, is anything ever free from concerns?)

With all that said, there were peaks and valleys that are worth mentioning because the “good stuff” is so good that it will have a lasting effect on the games industry for years to come!

The Highest of Highs!

Inclusion and Diversity

The video game industry, and especially E3, has long been a boys club. Each press conference has been a crew of (largely white) men lining up to share news about their games with the world. It was rare that you would see a woman who was more than eye candy on the stage. This year changed that in a big way.

At one point during the Ubisoft press event Aisha Tyler was standing on stage with the legendary actress Angela Bassett talking about her role in Rainbow Six Siege. This by itself was awesome enough, but it only got better when they passed the mic to another woman to introduce and narrate the live gameplay demo. It was amazing to watch considering nothing like that had ever happened before. And for it to happen with such a stereo-typical masculine game was jaw dropping. This wasn’t some art house game. This was Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege! That is a very big deal!

Female Protagonists

The harsh reality in video games is that, at least in the past, it was tough to find a strong female protagonist in games. There were some. Don’t get me wrong. But, they were the exception. This year featured a veritable explosion of strong female characters. Even better – they were women designed with an aesthetic that wasn’t built to attract the male gaze. Read: They weren’t distorted Barbie dolls like the characters in Dead or Alive.

Sadly, most of the characters showcased are in games that will surely be rated M like Rise of the Tomb Raider, Fallout 4, and Dishonored 2. There is one ray of light though. Sony showed us a game called Horizon: Zero Dawn that featured a young woman named Aloy. The game has not, so far, shown much in the way of blood or gore so we can hope that it will be fine for older kids to play and/or watch.

The good news here is that when things succeed in mature games there is often a trickle down in the family market. Here’s hoping that happens quickly!

Long Awaited Games

This year was awash with the return of fan favorite titles that have waited for a VERY long time since their last iteration. Shenmue is getting a sequel. The Last Guardian, long thought to be dead in the water, was shown again. Star Fox Zero is FINALLY bringing space combat back to Nintendo’s arsenal. Even Final Fantasy 7 is confirmed to be getting a fully remade version. Bethesda even brought back the venerable DOOM for a coming out party.

This was a week of long lost games coming home and I could not be more excited!

The Unavoidable Lows

People Cheering Horrific Violence

Ok. I want to get this out of the way here. I do NOT believe that violent media causes people to be violent. There have been countless studies proving that there is no causal link between violence in media and violent behavior.

We clear? Good.

The Bethesda Press conference was held on the Sunday night before E3 and it was, admittedly, amazing. They showed off Fallout 4, They released a brand new iOS game called Fallout Shelter (which is amazing). And, they finally showed us Doom 4 after teasing everyone with an ever-so-brief snippet of game footage.

Doom has always been a game built around extremes. It was violent to the extreme when it first came out to the point where there were petitions to ban it. The designers have taken that design aesthetic and carried it into the modern setting and used the power of modern consoles to deliver some seriously over the top violence. The attendees ate it up. There were cheers throughout the presentation and I have to say that it was unsettling.

Don’t get me wrong here. It looked great. It wasn’t good for kids, but it was never intended to be. But, it was just difficult to watch and listen to the cheers from the audience. It felt the same way a few years ago when people stood up and cheered when a man was shot at point blank range with a shot gun at the close of a demo for the Last of Us.

Samus Aran Was, Conspicuously, Absent

In a year where female protagonists seemed to be taking over the show it was odd that Nintendo, once again, made it through another E3 without bringing us another true Metroid game. They did show another game set in the Metroid universe in the form of Metroid Prime: Federation Force and while that was a fine appetizer, it did little to satiate fans that have been hungry for Samus’s return.

I admit that I was disappointed as well, but I have long since accepted that the next true Metroid game will likely be coming out alongside Nintendo’s next console in a few years.

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