LOS ANGELES — Somehow another year has flown by and the Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, has once again descended upon Los Angeles.
This annual technological fete allows gamers to glimpse into the future and see what digital wonders we'll be playing tomorrow, next month and even next year.
As usual, the Monday before the show was packed with news conferences at the Galen Center on the University of Southern California campus. Microsoft, Sony, Electronic Arts and Ubisoft all wheeled out their big guns, and even though there is no new hardware making waves this year, there are plenty of great games on which to focus.
Microsoft started off strong by announcing not one but two new Halo games. To hold fans over until the 2015 release of "Halo 5: Guardians," Microsoft will release "Halo: The Master Chief Collection."
As far as compilations go, "The Master Chief Collection" is the king. This Xbox One wonder includes, all in one package, "Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary," "Halo 2 Anniversary," "Halo 3" and "Halo 4."
You can play through the story modes of all four games in one continuous sequence, making for the most epic shooter in history. Or, if multiplayer is more your style, there are more than 100 maps from which to choose.
In addition to a ridiculous variety of gamplay options, everyone who buys "The Master Chief Collection" will receive a pass for the "Halo 5" beta.
While the "Halo" news stole the Microsoft briefing, there were a few other standout games, including "Sunset Overdrive," an over-the-top action game from the makers of "Ratchet and Clank" that looks hilarious.
Also announced were "Forza Horizon 2," an Xbox One follow-up to the outstanding 360 racing game; "Rise of the Tomb Raider," which brings Lara Croft back to new-gen systems; and "Crackdown," which sees the return of the original designers to usher the franchise onto the Xbox One.
Electronic Arts had a few surprises in store, the biggest of which had to be "Mass Effect 4." With a fresh main character and updated visuals, "ME4" finally will continue one of the most popular role-playing series ever.
Unfortunately, a lot of EA's games had undetermined release dates, with "Mirror's Edge 2," and "Star Wars: Battlefront" joining "Mass Effect 4" in this regard.
Of course, there were a few EA games that do have release windows, including "Dragon's Age: Inquisition," coming this fall, and the next "PGA" game — this time without a Tiger Woods endorsement — coming in spring 2015.
On to Ubisoft, there were actually very few surprises. We did get a better look at "Assassin's Creed Unity," coming this fall for new-gen systems.
Set during the French Revolution, "Unity" features the series' first, four-player co-op in story mode. I must say free-running through late 18th century Paris looks amazing.
We also were treated to more information on "Far Cry 4" (fall 2014) and "Tom Clancy's The Division" (2015). Both look spectacular, but the insane stunts in "Far Cry" (you get to don a wingsuit!) gives this one a slight advantage — for now.
Finally, Ubisoft premiered multiplayer footage of the first "Rainbow Six" game in nine years. "Rainbow Six: Siege" features five-on-five gameplay of a more strategic nature than your average shooter. If you want some thought with your gunplay, then this one is for you.
Sony finished the day with a couple of huge announcements.
"LittleBigPlanet 3" will debut on the PlayStation 4 this holiday season. Fans of Sackboy will be happy to know he has made some friends. Three new characters — each with different abilities — will help Sackboy get through even the trickiest puzzles.
And as a little bonus, players can try out any of the 8.5 million user created levels for the first two "LittleBigPlanet" games, all with improved visuals, for "LBP3" on PS4.
Also, the much anticipated "Uncharted 4," subtitled "A Thief's End," makes it seem like this could be Nathan Drake's final adventure. If that's the case, he looks to go out in spectacular fashion.
Sony will also be releasing a special-edition, white PS4 bundle with "Destiny" on Sept. 9, for those of you who think that the basic black is just too drab.
And, finally, fans of "Grand Theft Auto" will appreciate this bestseller's fall re-release on PS4, Xbox One and PC. Fortunately, those who have played it on last-gen systems will be able to transfer over their saved games when they tackle it on today's more powerful hardware.