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Our favorite bits of originality at E3 2016

Ingenuity is the lifeblood that keeps gaming healthy. We've come to expect certain frameworks - running and jumping, shooting everything that moves, devoting hundreds of hours to turn-based battles. But if it weren't for some original ideas peppered throughout the mix, all those hot new games would feel as stale as mummified bread. E3 is traditionally the grand premiere and proving ground for the biggest upcoming titles, and while you expect to see anticipated sequels and familiar franchises, it's always nice to see truly inventive concepts popping up - even if they're something as granular as a single item or power-up.     

I know, I know - E3 2016 proper doesn't start until next week, when all manner of exciting press conferences and illuminating hands-on demos will be filling up your feed. But this year's E3 seems to be going down a bit differently: plenty of developers and publishers have jumped the gun and started teasing their games before their grand debuts, or had the goods unintentionally leak ahead of time. We've got a pretty good idea of the E3 2016 games we can expect to see, and already, there's a lot to like when it comes to unique takes on in-game armor and weaponry. 

Aiden Pearce, the bland, unrelatable hacker who starred in the first Watch Dogs, will not be missed. That includes his signature melee weapon, the Tactical Baton, which had all the finesse and excitement of whacking somebody in the shin. But Marcus, the new protagonist in Watch Dogs 2 and a member of the San Francisco hacker collective Deadsec, knocks out his enemies with something much snazzier: a billiard ball affixed to a bungee cord, which could definitely dole out some serious concussions. I'm a total sucker for quirky, impractical armements like Ness' yo-yo or the deadly kendama from Samurai Warriors, so Marcus' melee weapon is right up my alley. Oh, and if you prefer firearms, he also likes to 3D print his own guns, which has to be a first for a video game hero. 

The intrepid teens of the Persona series may differ from game to game, but their snazzy sense of style is a delightful constant. Persona 4's crew set a standard for trendy eyewear with their chic glasses, but Persona 5 ups the ante with full-on domino masks that give everyone the air of a Japanese Zorro. Their designs are all primo, including a skull, fox, cat, and bird that may hint at their wearer's inner selves - but the introduction of masks also plays a dual part in Persona 5's story. The cast's alter egos are known as Phantom Thieves, and their masks give them a cat burglar-esque disguise, but they also serve a thematic purpose, as the gang endeavors to break through the masks and fronts that the general populace hides behind. That's the kind of nifty, symbolic fashion I can get behind! 

You don't see dirigibles too often, whether in games or real life - but the way Battlefield 1 looks to utilize them is absolutely inspired. In BF1's World War 1 setting, circa 1914, the concept of a zeppelin must've been mind-blowingly intimidating to soldiers on the ground: a giant, floating behemoth that dwarfs any individual and seems absolutely invincible. Whether BF1 uses its teased zeppelin scene as a single-player story beat or a multiplayer vehicle of mass destruction, the way it portrays an airship as an unstoppable, almost otherwordly monster that strikes fear in any troop's heart is brilliant.  

The cinematic trailer for Injustice 2 revealed a new twist to go along with the hero-on-hero violence and environmental attacks introduced in the first game: every character gets their own suit of power armor (perhaps in place of the distinct traits from Gods Among Us) that enhances their fighting prowess. That alone wouldn't be so original, but Netherrealm Studios' Tyler Lansdown explains that this is part of the new Gear System, which "uses RPG-like mechanics to reward you with loot drops every time you play". The last time a fighting game dabbled with character customization was the flawed Gem System in Capcom's Street Fighter X Tekken, and that ended badly - but the idea of shaping your favorite character to perfectly match your playstyle with unique equipment deserves to be done right. It'll be interesting to see how Injustice 2 tackles this appealing-in-theory, tricky-in-practice concept, hopefully steering clear of SFXT's dreadful microtransactions. 

We currently know just about nothing regarding the first project from Kojima Productions - but when Hideo Kojima is at the helm, one distinctive character design is all it takes to drum up a hail storm of hype. A big part of that excitement comes from how stinkin' cool the character - recently revealed to be named Ludens - looks, with his excessively ornate spacesuit modeled after ancient armors and a skull mask underneath the helmet that ostensibly serves no practical purpose besides looking sweet. If it really is Norman Reedus wearing all that heavy-looking gear, that only heightens the appeal of this uniquely bizarre look. 

Abilities and items that grant temporary invulnerability are nothing new for video games, and Adam Jensen's Titan Shield augmentation does what you'd expect: it's a bulletproof exoskeleton that surrounds your body for a few precious seconds, allowing Jensen to wade through incoming fire unharmed. But the visual effect of the Titan Shield creeping up around Jensen's body and creating a jet black, angular shell is stunning to behold. It's a bit like a metallic, polygonal version of Mystique's transformations from the X-Men films, and it's worth taking cover with your Titan Shield on just to get a third-person view of Jensen's impervious carapace as it shimmers and prickles with shard-like spikes when hit.   

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