The Electronic Entertainment Expo for 2013 may be in the books as “done”, but media sites will be talking about the games and consoles from the show for weeks to come. There were so many amazing games on display and compound that with the new console launches; there is a sense of excitement that honestly, I haven’t seen in quite some time.

With increased hardware comes increased playing power and game developers are doing their best to make the most of it.  Listing out everything I have seen here would likely make the Internet implode, so here’s an abridged list on top titles you’ll want to keep an eye on this year.

Watch_Dogs™ (Ubisoft) – First announced at last year’s E3 show, this game takes an interesting look at the impact of technology on our society. Set in Chicago, you play Aiden Pearce whose shady history has made him obsessed with protecting his family from a corrupt system – by any means necessary.

Able to use the entire technology connected city as his weapon, he’s elected to protect and serve the citizens in his own way. The gameplay dynamics are so deep, you will need to be careful when playing because you will lose track of time. Hack traffic lights to help catch your target, or hack the bank account of someone you’re monitoring to limit their resources.

The massive, open world of Chicago is yours to play with in Watch_Dogs. So tread carefully because while you’re busy hacking someone, there’s a good chance someone is hacking you…

LEGO® Marvel™ Super Heroes (Traveller’s Tales Games) – Who doesn’t want to be a super hero? With LEGO’s Marvel Super Heroes game, now you can. With over 100 characters to choose from (unlockable, of course) you’ll traverse famous Marvel Universe locales such as Stark Tower, the X-Mansion, and of course, Asgard.

Loads of fun for all ages with huge replay value, I can’t wait for this game to release later this year.

Contrast (Compulsion Games) – Set in a mix between the look and feel of the 1920’s and the 1940’s, you play the role of Dawn, the imaginary friend of a young girl, Didi, who is having some “issues” with her parents.  The story plays out through shadows and is visually amazing. Highlighted with a beautiful jazz score, the game does a great job of blending you (literally) into the environment.

Speaking of blending, the key hook for gameplay is the ability to shift into the shadows as the main mechanic to get to those hard-to-reach places. The transition for this is very smooth and it’s a great experience that helps Contrast stand out from other games in the genre.  As a fan of an art nouveau style and a noir feel, I can’t wait for this game to release. Look for it later this year on PlayStation®4, PlayStation®3, Xbox®360 and PC.

NBA LIVE 14 (Electronic Arts) – The NBA LIVE franchise has been missing in action for four years giving it’s competitor NBA 2K a strong foothold in the basketball genre.  But based on what I saw this past week, a change could be in the air.  Honing in on what they are calling bounceTEK, the key focus for this year’s game is ball control. Giving this a test drive on the PS4™, the dev team is completely hitting the mark in making the dribble experience easy to control and a lot of fun.

Gameplay is smooth, fluid and graphically amazing. I’ve always sided more on NBA LIVE when it came to player models and animations and with their new EA SPORTS IGNITE game engine, they are really capitalizing on the power of the next generation of consoles.

Assassin’s Creed® IV Black Flag (Ubisoft) – If you’re an avid reader of my blog (and I know you are), you know Assassin’s Creed is one of my favorite game franchises. Not just because of the gameplay or story, but the Ubisoft team does such a great job looking at the history of characters and locations, I feel like I’m back in school each time I play the game.

This next iteration coming in October is going to be no different. Taking place in the Caribbean at events prior to Assassin’s Creed III, you play as Edward Kenway during the “Golden Age” of pirates including Calico Jack and Blackbeard.

And what is a pirate without a ship to command? Well, not much of a pirate. So the team is going to bless you with the Jackdaw, where you’ll command (and recruit) your crew as well as make upgrades which will be essential for you to traverse the seas from Nassau to the Gulf of Mexico or up to Florida in what they are calling the largest world in any of the Assassin’s Creed games.

Creating a perfect mix of storytelling, naval combat, hand-to-hand combat, exploration, treasure hunting and historic education, Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag is a must have for any gamer.

I will definitely dig deeper into these games as they get closer to their releases. If you can’t feel the electricity of excitement about what’s happening in the gaming industry right now, you may want to check your pulse.  2013 and 2014 are going to be a great joyride for this business, so buckle up!

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