Though not a primary focus at E3, there were more mobile games on show than ever before this year. Though mostly tucked away at the back of the giant booths, or hidden away in meeting rooms, there were some genuinely interesting experiences on show. Of course there were also plenty of Puzzles and Dragons knock-offs, each made "unique" by adopting some kind of theme that doesn't feature dragons, as well as a seemingly endless number of endless runner variants. The games that really impressed were those that truly embraced the benefits of phones and tablets; HD screens, simple touch controls, and always-on connectivity, while respecting the time and physical constraints posed by the platform and the way we use these devices.
The Hitman franchise is quietly turning into the darling of mobile games franchises lately. After Hitman Go wowed with its beautiful visuals and elegant game design earlier this year, we now have the promise of more magnificence. Not to be confused with the Hitman: Absolution bonus freebie Hitman: Sniper Challenge, this new game from Square-Enix' Montreal studio is a completely new sniper game designed specifically for phones and tablets.
The best way to describe Hitman: Sniper, which is due out this Fall, is as a "stealth" sniping game. Yes, yes...sniping games are inherently stealth to a degree, but this one blends the requirements of sneaking games with the visceral nature of taking out bad guys through a high-powered scope. As you'd expect, the core of the game is to take out a specific target, but the whole experience is actually a leaderboard-driven shooter. You want to score as many points as possible, and you get these points for taking out guards without anyone else in the environment realizing you're doing it. The environment in Hitman: Sniper is surprisingly interactive, and the more you play, the more you realize that all kinds of clever things are possible. Shoot a guy by the pool so he falls in, take out the guard rail on a balcony so a thug falls to his death, blow up heat lamps as guards walk by. You can even shoot at the balls on a pool table to start a fight between thugs so they take each other out. The more thugs you take down without spooking your mark, the more points you earn.
Sniper games lend themselves exceedingly well to touch interfaces, and Hitman: Sniper is no exception. Though it's a remarkably in-depth game, you only need one hand to play. You look around the environment by simply dragging your finger around, pinch to zoom your scope, tap to shoot, and swipe to reload the rifle.
Monster Hunter Freedom Unite
If you looked closely at Capcom's gigantic booth at E3, tucked away behind banks of Monster Hunter 4 Ultimate units and a huge photo op area where attendees could stand on top of a monster while wielding an improbably gigantic plastic sword, were a handful of iPads quietly playing the rather splendid looking Monster Hunter Freedom Unite. Given what a huge deal it could actually be, you'd think that Capcom would be pushing the game much more aggressively, but it was virtually impossible to find anyone on the show floor that knew anything about it. Originally a PSP title based on Monster Hunter Portable 2nd G in Japan, Freedom Unite will launch for iOS devices "soon." Currently there's no specific detail on what that actually means beyond "sometime later this year." Based on what little Capcom would actually say about the game, it will boast "new" features, including HD graphics, touch screen controls, target camera options and what it's calling "seamless" co-op multiplayer quests. "From devising the strategy to executing the attack, players will need to work together in order to hunt down ferocious beasts and progress through the wide range of quests on offer," Capcom's marketing fluff reads. "Players will be rewarded for their use of deep fighting combat systems, encouraging them to seek out the more experienced hunters and team up in order to learn from their expertise." So...it's Monster Hunter. And it looks great.
World of Tanks Blitz
The big news from E3 about Wargaming's mobile World of Tanks spin-off World of Tanks Blitz is that after an extensive beta testing period it will be available worldwide on iOS (sorry, no Android version yet) on June 26. Unlike its PC big brother, which now boasts a staggering 85 million players across the globe with thousands of commanders playing concurrently on the same servers, the mobile game is a tighter, 7-on-7 PVP experience and has the potential to be an even bigger hit. The game has been reworked completely for a mobile screen, has intuitive touch controls, and has been restructured so that it can be played in short sessions. Like...y'know, in the bathroom. The relatively slow pace of World of Tanks lends itself beautifully to a phone or tablet experience.
Though you sign into World of Tanks Blitz with a Wargaming account, players should note that it is a separate product from the original - so you won't see purchases you've made on PC or Xbox 360 reflected in the iOS game.
The Witcher Adventure Game
Much as games like Ravensword have proven that large, open-world RPGs are possible on tablets, that's not what The Witcher Adventure Game is. Instead, it's a full port of the impressive tabletop board game set for release later this year (it's also coming to PC.) Designed by veteran board game designer Ignacy Trzewiczek, the creator of acclaimed favorites Stronghold, 51st State, and Robinson Crusoe: Adventure on the Cursed Island, the game blends narrative elements from the games and from Andrzej Sapkowski's famous series of novels. These stories are played out through Quest Cards that the players draw before making their way across the board.
If a large and no doubt expensive board game just isn't practical for you, this might be the best way to play. It'll be a fraction of the price, and you'll be able to connect with up to three other players online.
Godfire: Rise of Prometheus
If you've been thinking, "you know what...I really want a game that plays a bit like a cross between God of War and Ryse: Son of Rome, only I want to play it on my tablet," then you're in luck. Because that's pretty much exactly what Godfire: Rise of Prometheus (which releases on June 19) is. As with the games that clearly inspired it, the storyline here is mostly fluff (Greek Gods, immortals, weaponized Godfire thingies, Titans, shouting, battles, blood) but what really counts is the visceral nature of the combat, which is gorgeously presented using every funky lighting trick that the Unreal Engine can throw at it. Ryse: Son of Rome may have gotten a bad rap on Xbox One, but its lock-and-dodge mechanic works remarkably well when it's borrowed for a mobile game. It makes complex boss fights much more palatable in the absence of a real controller.