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First ladies: Female protagonists kick E3 butt (pictures)

This year's E3 conference showed off the next generation of kick-butt video-game lady-heroes (and reintroduced some old favourites).

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Michelle Starr

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1 of 16 Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

Horizon: Zero Dawn

Killzone developer Guerrilla Games came out of nowhere with this magnificent new IP. Set in the far future, in a time when machines have evolved into monsters, it stars a badass red-headed hunter with a pretty sick hairdo, hunting down giant robo-dinos with her trusty bow and blade.

Trailer

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2 of 16 Crystal Dynamics

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Xbox-exclusive Rise of the Tomb Raider picks up following the events of 2013's Tomb Raider. Lara travels to Siberia to uncover the secrets hidden within the ancient city of Kitezh and must survive the harsh conditions to grow into the legendary adventurer. Also: dirt.

Trailer

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3 of 16 Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

Tacoma

Tacoma looks like Gone Home developer Fullbright has expanded a little on the gameplay seen in its first title, bringing first-person exploration to a creepy abandoned space station. You play as Amy Ferrier, exploring the station, talking to its AI, trying to get answers to find out where everyone went -- and why they disappeared. Also, it looks as though she communicates using sign language. I'm definitely interested to know more about that.

Trailer

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4 of 16 Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

Mirror's Edge Catalyst

Faith Connors is back! Mirror's Edge Catalyst is a prequel to 2008's Mirror's Edge, delving into Faith's origins. It also looks amazeballs, ditching levels and going full sandbox, letting you run around the City and pick and choose which missions you wish to take. Hardcore parkour!

Trailer

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5 of 16 Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

ReCore

Someone says Keiji Inafune -- the creator of Onimusha and co-creator of Mega Man -- is working in collaboration with the team that created Metroid Prime, and we're going to sit up and pay attention. ReCore takes place in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, populated by robots, and you play one of the last humans. Information is scarce, but it looks as though you might be able to "upgrade" your robotic companion by placing its core in the empty bodies of defeated hostile robots.

Trailer

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6 of 16 Tale of Tales

Sunset

Sunset is one of Tale of Tales' beautifully crafted contemplative exploration experiences. You play as Angela Burne, a housekeeper in the 1970s in a city torn apart by military coup. Every sunset, Angela returns to one house -- the house of a leader in an underground resistance -- and what happens next is up to you. Will you leave notes? Will you help? Will you turn him in?

Trailer

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7 of 16 Ivy Games

Gravity Ghost

Indie title Gravity Ghost is designed to be a gentle, relaxing experience. It's kind of like Mario Galaxy in that you drift from planet to planet as a colourful "little princess." There are no fail states -- you simply explore, figuring out what each planet does and solving it before moving on to the next.

Trailer

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8 of 16 Tiger & Squid

Beyond Eyes

Beyond Eyes just looks so gorgeous. You play as Rae, a little blind girl, embarking on a journey to find a lost kitty. It's painted in a beautiful watercolour style, and the world unfolds as Rae explores -- environments blooming as Rae steps into them, and using sound to help navigate and overcome the big wide world.

Trailer

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9 of 16 Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

Hellblade

We suspect Senua -- the woad-daubed heroine of Hellblade, from the studio behind Heavenly Sword and DmC: Devil May Cry -- is destined to become a cosplay favourite. The game is based on Celtic legend, but the journey is a psychological one as Senua, left shattered after a Viking invasion, falls deeper into the hallucinatory personal hell of her own psychosis.

Trailer

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10 of 16 Media Molecule

Tearaway: Unfolded

Tearaway: Unfolded is an expanded retelling of Media Molecule's 2013 PlayStation Vita title, and it looks every bit as adorable. It has a new, red-headed paper heroine exploring the 3D platform environment, crafted entirely out of digital paper, to deliver a very important message to you, the player.

Trailer

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11 of 16 Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

Fallout 4

In post-apocalyptic action RPG shooter Fallout 4 -- in which you play a nuclear survivor waking up alone, 200 years after taking shelter -- developer Bethesda has introduced a new character creation mode. It's similar to the Sims in that you can adjust pretty much any aspect of your character's face. Of course, you can play as either a man or a woman, with each fully voice acted.

Trailer

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12 of 16 Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

Assassin's Creed Syndicate

It seems Ubisoft has learned a thing or two from the furore over "women are too hard to animate," introducing playable female character Evie Frye in Assassin's Creed Syndicate, set in the Industrial Revolution in London in 1868. She's only playable for about 25 percent of the game's story missions -- it'd be much better if you could choose who to play -- but it's a start, at least.

Trailer

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13 of 16 Screenshot by Michelle Starr/CNET

Dishonored 2

Assassin Corvo Attano makes a return as a playable character in stealth action adventure sequel Dishonored 2, set 15 years after 2012's Dishonored -- but he's not the only option. Princess Emily Kaldwin is also making a return, and players can either choose Corvo or Kaldwin as their character... based on the trailer, it looks like she is a bundle of assassin awesome.

Trailer

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14 of 16 Lionhead Studios

Fable Legends

Fable has always been great at letting you choose and modify your character, but multiplayer Fable Legends -- for up to four players online -- looks set to take a different path. Characters are pre-built, and you can choose from a selection of five male characters and five female (so far). As always, though, your actions in the game determine what you become -- a shining hero or a morally ambiguous rogue.

Trailer

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15 of 16 BioWare

Mass Effect Andromeda

Of course a female character is available to play in Mass Effect Andromeda. It's BioWare. It's how BioWare rolls. We don't know much about the game yet -- it takes place long after and far away from the events of Mass Effect, in the Andromeda galaxy, with a new team of adventurers. The pulp sci-fi-inspired art is looking great already.

Trailer

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16 of 16 Activision

Call of Duty: Black Ops III

If you're going to be running around in a virtual environment shooting stuff, why not play as a woman? Activision seems to have caught onto the notion and in Call of Duty: Black Ops III, your lead for the narrative can be a woman -- the first game in the franchise to do so.

Like Mass Effect, they both have the same script -- a purposeful manoeuvre. At the game's reveal event in April this year, campaign director Jason Blundell said, "The guy's not being more butch or macho, or the female's not going the other way, right? It's about what’s kind of going on, the relationships. Because the emotions, the dynamics between characters is kind of gender neutral, and that's how we approached it."

Trailer

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