Devolver Digital sees itself as the punk rockstar of video-game publishing. Although it's never officially had a booth at E3, it has done the conference equivalent of sneaking round the back, setting up shop in a parking lot opposite the Los Angeles Convention Center and next to a Hooters. After our day on the actual show floor, the Engadget E3 crew descended on Devolver's lot to check out what the publisher had to offer.
Aaron Souppouris, Senior Editor
Before Shenmue was Shenmue, it was Virtua Fighter RPG. I was 14 at the time, and full of teenage dreams about what an RPG based on Sega's famous 3-D beat-'em-up would look like. Without knowing it, French studio Slocap has built the closest thing to what I dreamed up.
Absolver is a massively multiplayer beat-'em up. You design a character, then spec out its moves (which unlocked through exploration and play) and go fight. Each character has four distinct stances, and each stance has four moves. You can switch between stances mid-combo, and some moves have different effects like breaking guard. On top of this simple-to-understand, difficult-to-master attack system, you'll also have guard, parries and weapons to learn.
You'll be able to play solo, with random, seamless matchmaking on the fly, or team up with friends to run amok in miniature raids and quests. It was seriously impressive.
Jessica Conditt, Senior Editor
Strafe might be my next addiction in quick-round video games. It's a roguelike first-person shooter with graphics that look like a mix of Minecraft and the original Doom, but polished to perfection. The game is simple: You're a scrap collector on the edge of the universe. There are monsters trying to kill you. You have a gun. The mechanics write themselves from there.
Even though its premise is simple, Strafe transcends ordinary territory via its cleanliness. The game is stripped down to the fundamentals of a shooter, with universal ammo dumps, explosive barrels and weapon upgrade machines scattered throughout the levels. It's a roguelike, so once you die, you start all the way back at the beginning, and the levels take roughly 10 minutes each to clear. The blood and guts of all the creatures you kill remain on the ground, walls and ceiling forever in a single play-through, meaning you'll never have to question if you've been through an area before. The monsters, by the way, are incredibly bloody.
'Shadow Warrior 2'
Nathan Ingraham, Senior Editor
I never played the original Shadow Warrior, but its sequel is a somewhat ridiculous but still entertaining throwback first-person shooter. Each level is procedurally generated, which means there's a lot of opportunity for different play-throughs here, and the weapon selection is top-notch. As you're a ninja, your main weapon is a katana -- but you're also equipped with a host of ridiculous guns that almost make it not worth using the sword.
But getting up close and personal makes the game a lot more fun, particularly when the bizarre alien monsters you're fighting fly apart in a gross shower of gibs. There's even a chainsaw, which lets you slice and dice enemies in a fairly disgusting but highly entertaining way. The format of the game may not be unique, but it manages to rise above the standard first-person shooter by not taking itself too seriously and throwing a boatload of fun weapons your way.
'Serious Sam VR'
Timothy J. Seppala, Associate Editor
Serious Sam has always been about two things: circle-strafing and destroying waves of cartoony, over-the-top enemies with equally absurd weapons. Like a gun that fires cannonballs, for example. It's never been a particularly deep series, but it's a solid way to waste a few minutes -- or hours, if you're playing co-op.
So playing Serious Sam VR: The Last Hope in virtual reality was a natural fit at E3. Playing on an HTC Vive (it was also available on Oculus Rift) further simplifies the already pared-down game. There's no circle strafing; instead, I stood static and the waves of flame demons and armless-bipeds with toothy, gaping maws rushed toward my bullets with little regard for their personal safety. I'd be remiss if I didn't tell you that I died a lot. But the upside of this is that after each time, I was able to buy new weapons or refill ammo with money I'd accrued with the business ends of my dual pistols, shotguns and, yes, cannonball launchers. It's dumb fun, and my trigger fingers got sore long before the smile wore off my face.