Top 10 Military- and War-Themed Games of E3, 2013
At this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo Microsoft and Sony each brought out their big guns—and while each company had previously unveiled its new console system, this was very much the coming out party. Microsoft offered a look at its Xbox One video game system, which will debut this fall for $499, while Sony presented the PlayStation 4, which will also arrive for the holidays for $399.
While the battle lines between the two heavy hitters are drawn, the war games of E3 will make it all worthwhile. And the good news is that except for a few exclusive titles for each respective system, there are plenty of games for the current generation Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and even the PC.
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Here is a recap of the 10 best war games and military simulations (in no particular) of E3 2013:
Total War: Rome II (PC; Sega)
Rome wasn’t built in a day and this game—which is the successor to 2004′s Rome: Total War—is one that appears to have been worth the wait. It is set in the era of the Roman Republic as it transformed into the Roman Empire. Instead of merely leading the civilization through its rise to power and conquest, the game has increased the role of diplomacy. More importantly, it has completely revamped the political power, in which different factions vie for control. The player will choose one of these factions and must contend as much with rivals inside the Republic as with those rival external powers that make for potentially juicy conquests.
The game will offer three cultural groups that are all playable and include Greco-Roman, Barbarian and Eastern. From these, players can choose such powers as Rome, Carthage, Macedon, Egypt, Parthia and even the Suebi. It is always fun to build Rome’s empire with these other powers—or you can help take it down before it even gets started.
The game offers new battle modes including combined land and sea engagements, and with 183 regions in Rome II this one won’t be playable in a day or even a week. The empire building will begin in September!
Company of Heroes 2 (PC; Sega)
This time the World War II real-time tactical game takes the action to the Russian Front. The game, which is set to launch later this month, will focus on a full campaign on the Eastern Front from Operation Barbarossa to the Battle of Berlin.
With the new Essence 3.0 engine to provide more lifelike graphics the game looks absolutely stunning, and manages to add new elements including the elements themselves! Weather, which of course played an important role in the actual war, will be a factor. Soldiers can die of frostbite; snow can slow the advance of enemy tanks. The “company business” will be begin on June 25.
World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition (Xbox 360; Wargaming.net)
The free-to-play World of Tanks has successfully managed to blitzkrieg across the PC, becoming a cult favorite for military buffs, and now the action is shifting gears and heading to Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console. This proves that Microsoft will continue to support its current generation video game console, even with the new Xbox One on deck.
The game will put players in command of WWII–period armor, as well as some tanks from just before and after the conflict. These will range from fast moving scouts to large-caliber, indirect-fire artillery. The game, which is now in beta, includes America and German tanks, but by launch British tanks will be available while a “Russian Invasion” will be made available as an expansion. The tanks will be ready to roll out later this year.
Battlefield 4 (PS 3/PS4/Xbox 360/ Xbox One/PC; Electronic Arts)
While Battlefield 3 was quite a departure from Battlefield 2—it changed the squad mechanics, dropped the commander option and offered up a new graphics engine—Battlefield 4 is a much smaller leap forward but still quite an impressive one. This includes bigger maps, where large as well as small buildings can be destroyed.
The game picks up where the previous game concluded and includes three playable factions including the United States, China and Russia. The single player campaign is set six years after the previous game, while multiplayer will once again be a major part of the game. The aforementioned “Commander Mode” is back, and this will provide an RTS-like tactical map and the ability to give orders to the other players. It will feature the same four classes—assault, engineer, support and recon—that were in BF3, so in many ways this is the best of BF2 and BF3 rolled into one epic-looking game that we can’t wait to play.
Call of Duty: Ghosts (PS3/PS4/Xbox 360/Xbox One/Wii U/PC; Activision)
If there is one game that can give Battlefield 4 a run for its money this fall in the military first-person-shooter genre it is going to be Activision’s Call of Duty: Ghosts. As with BF4 this one moves the storyline forward, but in Ghosts players are in a world where the United States is no longer a superpower. This leaves the elite band of soldiers—who are the “Ghosts”—feeling not too good about it, and they’re looking to turn things around.
The game will include a little less direct confrontation as the Ghosts now find themselves in the role of insurgents. This requires more stealth, and in this way the game builds tension—in bucket loads! Seeing 100 zombies on the screen in games has become passé and the developers of Call of Duty: Ghosts have learned that not seeing enemies can actually be so much worse!
Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain (Sony PlayStation 3/Sony PlayStation 4/Microsoft Xbox 360/Microsoft Xbox One; Konami)
Whether or not you like these sort of stealthy third-person action games you have to give Konami some credit. They continue to take the action in new directions and, while this series has always successfully mixed extended cut-scenes and extended cinematic sequences to build on the story, it remains as captivating to watch as to play. From what Konami showed at E3 this is only going to look/play even better. This title will feature photorealistic visual quality that offers seamless integration of gameplay and cut-scenes.
MGS: The Phantom pain will further introduce a new open-world game design featuring real-time weather, realistic passage of time and a variety of ways to navigate the vast new environments within the game. This time Kiefer Sutherland will provide the voice of “Snake,” the game’s protagonist and seemingly indestructible hero with a bad haircut.
Ryse: Son of Rome (Xbox One; Crytek)
While the Xbox One will cost $100 more than the PlayStation 4 this could be one reason to spend that extra money. This launch title puts players in the Roman Legion in the era of the late Roman Republic, where you take the role of a Roman general named Marius Titus, and you aren’t the sort of general to lead from the hilltop. Instead, you don’t so much as command as take part in the vanguard with your troops.
We don’t know much about the story except we can tell this is far more historically based—no sign of evil gods or other elements that detract from the history. Just good old conquest, Roman style. This third-person hack ‘em up has you issuing orders while also engaging in very close combat. You direct the troops and yet still get down and dirty. Ryse: Son of Rome which features true overkill of action, is one of those games that couldn’t have been possible with the Xbox 360. While no PC version is yet announced we can hope.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag (PS3/PS4/ Xbox 360/ Xbox One/Nintendo Wii U/PC; Ubisoft)
We’ve seen the Assassin’s Creed franchise take players from the Holy Land during the Crusades to the Rennaissance in Italy and even to the American Revolution. Now the franchise is going back in history just a bit to the age of pirates.
This game, which offers a historical setting, will take the approach of past titles whereby the game’s period story is actually the memories of the character’s ancestors, which are somehow stored in the DNA. This time that involves reliving the experiences of Assassin Edward Kenway, a notorious pirate and privateer who seems a bit like Edward Teach. It will build on the naval combat of Assassin’s Creed III and allow players to engage in combat throughout the Caribbean. What we do expect is that this won’t be a “Disney” version of pirates!
Wolfenstein: The New Order (PS3/PS4/ Xbox 360/ Xbox One/Nintendo Wii U/PC; Bethesda)
In many ways this one takes it back to where it all began. The original Wolfenstein 3D—a quasi-sequel to the side-scrolling platform game—practically invented the first-person genre. It is a series that has had some ups and downs, and now the action goes alternate history with the game taking place in a 1960s where the Nazis somehow won World War II.
After everything the protagonist William “B.J.” Blazkowicz did to stop the Nazis it seems like they still won, but that’s too bad for them because he’s back and this time with a vengeance. The game is set in Europe and will focus solely on a single-player experience as Blazkowicz must battle countless baddies, take control of various super weapons and basically offer over-the-top gameplay that might make the Nazis wish they lost the war instead!
The Order (PS4; Sony)
If Ryse: Son of Rome is the reason for wargamers to buy an Xbox One, then The Order could be the reason to go with the PS4 instead. This alternate-history action game—we’re seeing the beginning of a new theme—is set in a Victorian-era London where technology is advancing rapidly in an effort to ensure mankind’s survival.
Players will take the role of a knight of an ancient order and use a variety of “steampunk” era technologies to battle this insidious threat—all while dealing with Victorian social norms. In other words, while we don’t know much about this one, it is nice to see a period action game and The Order is shaping up to be jolly good indeed!
About the Author
Peter Suciu has been collecting militaria and playing military simulations since he was a child. He’s been reviewing computer games for nearly 20 years, and when he’s not waging battle from his desktop he is a business reporter for several magazines and websites. His work has appeared on CNBC.com, Fortune.com and Forbes. He also collects military helmets and runs the MilitarySunHelmets.com website.