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E3 2014: GTA 5, Smash Bros, FIFA among highlights of a busy show

E3 2014 was jam-packed with great content, but there were a few moments - GTA 5 on next-gen, Battlefield Hardline's beta - that really stood out. We recap the reveals that got everyone talking.

There was so much going on at E3 2014 that we'll be talking about it for months, but as the dust settles on last week's blow-out it becomes apparent that there are a couple of things that really stood out. Although almost everything the big four brought to show off has proved popular, judging by the trends we've noticed across various sites and social media, the five topics below have been the subject of intense interest online.

GTA 5 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One

It's kind of funny that one of the stand-out moments of this year's E3 was the announcement of a port of a game many of us have already played to death, but you just can't stop the Grand Theft Auto juggernaut.

Fans have been calling for a PC release of GTA 5 since it was first announced, so Rockstar's long-awaited capitulation was a triumph in itself, but it's just how terrific the new version looks that really has us excited; Pat nearly wet himself, I think. What a coup for Sony to host the announce - especially with exclusive PS4 GTA 5 content in the offing.

GTA 5 on PS3 and Xbox 360 already looks great; what Rockstar squeezed out of the ageing consoles is a technical marvel. But with the power of next-gen consoles and PC, the developer is unleashed from the limitations of the older boxes - watch the weather effects, the dynamic real-time light and shadows, the reflections. It's amazing, and despite being technically a port - we guess - I predict it will set the bar for this generation for at least a year.


I know, I know - it's an annual iteration on a series. But the thing about FIFA is that it deserves its spot at the top of the queue. Konami does an excellent job with PES, innovating and pushing its rival to stay competitive, but for sheer quality it can't match EA Sports' flagship series. Americans can keep Madden; it's a great series, but it's not footer, is it?

That EA Canada hasn't chosen to rest on its laurels but keeps pushing the beautiful game so that it is genuinely both more beautiful and interesting to play each year is incredible. We keep expecting it to run out of steam - for the latest FIFA to have an off year, release to middling reviews and for the series to get a swift kick up the jacksie. It never happens. It just keeps getting better. This year we spotted at least ten ways FIFA 15 will be better than ever.

FIFA 14 was the first in the series to be built on the Ignite engine, a new tech created by EA Sports specifically to power next-gen sports games, and it showed. But FIFA 15 is the first to be developed with next-gen firmly in mind, and that shows too. If you can at all avoid it, don't get the PS3 or Xbox 360 version!

Battlefield: Hardline

To be honest, we expected this one to be a bit of a flop - and we're probably just about as happy as EA is to have been wrong. A new Battlefield, so close to the controversially troubled Battlefield 4? A Battlefield developed outside DICE, and by the Dead Space team no less? A Battlefield about cops and robbers? It's a recipe for something less than delicious.

Oh we of little faith. Just look at that Battlefield: Hardline gameplay footage. That's a rotin', tootin' Battlefield game alright, no mistake. Visceral has been beavering away on this for a while (yeah, actually, now that we come to think of it we ought to have been asking questions about what it was up to down there in Redwood City) and it seems to have been worth its while.

EA really pulled a good one on us by opening the beta right in the middle of its E3 2014 show. Everyone rushed off to get involved, filling the Internet with discussion - and now Hardline is a name on everybody's lips, and Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare has fallen right off the radar. Will that hold up come November? Well, probably not, but EA has definitely won the first skirmish.

Next: Super Smash Bros, Microsoft, and the things nobody's talking about.

Super Smash Bros. 3DS and Wii U

It's typical of Nintendo that it managed to draw huge interest to its products despite refusing to attend E3 the way everyone else does it. Rather than take to the stage and speak to press and trade live, Nintendo streamed pre-recorded presentations aimed straight at its users, and later hosted various livestreams at convenient times for local watchers, again providing an intimate-feeling peek at its upcoming slate. Despite a slightly underwhelming line-up, this approach paid-off - big time.

Super Smash Bros. 3DS and Wii U in particular was one of the most talked about topics of the show. Both versions are expected before the end of the year, and as such, changes to the game's systems and to individual roster members are of intense interest to hardcore fans. Palutena was confirmed for Super Smash Bros. during Nintendo's major event, and Pac-Man was introduced at a press round table shortly thereafter.

You'd expect the announcement of a new The Legend of Zelda game for Wii U to dominate Nintendo discussion in the wake of E3 2014, but no, I assure you - this past weekend, Super Smash Bros. has been the name on everybody's (virtual) lips. Nintendo's going to have a good Chrimbo, that's for sure.

Microsoft hits it out of the park

Microsoft really brought it to Los Angeles this year. Lining up game after game and staying away from endless waffle about TV and other extraneous additions (things that might convince the trade the hardware will sell, but do nothing to convince the core), it kept its message tight and had plenty to show.

Halo 5: Guardians, the Master Chief Collection, a new Crackdown and Sunset Overdrive led as exclusives, but strong showings from third parties with Assassin's Creed: Unity, Dragon Age: Inquisition and The Division - among others - cemented the Xbox One as a console with games you want to play.

It's easy to be cynical and say that Microsoft could only improve after its dire 2013 conference, where it was literally jeered and booed by its audience, but the fact is it could have dropped the ball again - and it didn't. All the platform holders are scurrying around hoping that hardware sales are going to improve across the board, and so Sony and Microsoft have laid down their arms and embraced as brothers - Microsoft's public retreat from the arrogance of earlier years is charming and also very clever. But Matt's said this better than I can.

What about everything else?

So those were the voices that were heard most clearly outside Los Angeles this week: but what about the hundreds of other games and products on show? Just as the triple-A industry is becoming more and more hit-focused, so too is consumer awareness. Marketing, hype, PR - whatever you want to call it, it's not quite working for the majority of the industry right now, with "lesser" titles being swallowed up in the noise around a few very heavyweight hitters.

We were surprised to see so little interest in Rise of the Tomb Raider - it has a rubbish title, yes, but the previous game did really well and the new trailer is quite atmospheric. Likewise Rainbow Six: Siege doesn't seem to have captured the imagination. Press are all gooey over this new take on tactical squad competitive multiplayer, but the news seems to have left consumers cold.

Bloodborne, the new PS4 exclusive from the Demon's Souls team, doesn't seem to be pulling the same slavish interest as any of the Souls games inspires - has Sony erred in making a new IP? Speaking of Sony, nobody seems to have anything interesting to say about Uncharted 4: A Thief's End. Surely the property hasn't hit its expiry date?

Let's see if we can get some chatter going about some of the games of E3 2014 that haven't felt the spotlight as strongly as the deserve - No Man's Sky, anyone? If you need a refresher on what happened, you'll find everything you need to know in our E3 2014 coverage and opinion hub.

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