Wednesday, 18 June 2014

E3 2014

After giving the news some time to sit and digest, I think it's time I shared my thought on this year's E3.

While not quite as underwhelmed this year as I felt with last year's show, I still don't think I saw anything at this show that has me wishing the summer away for new game releases in the fall. There's lots to look forward to, don't get me wrong, but still nothing in this new generation of games to make me go absolutely wild like I remember going in the past.

I'll start with Microsoft. While I found their conference was probably one of the smoothest of the entire show, and their entire show was laser-focused on games, there still wasn't much that surprised me or grabbed my attention. I'm a big fan of the Halo series, and the teaser for 5 looked very cool, but not enough to completely tip the scales in Microsoft's favour just yet. The Master Chief Collection looks cool too, but wasn't a surprise. Definitely solid fan service though. I'm anxious to see the new live action series too.

Aside from Halo, Sunset overdrive seems like it's going to buck the trend a bit. When the trailer started, I'll admit they caught me hook, line, and sinker. As I watched, I thought to myself "Oh great, another gritty army dude shooting his way to victory. Next!" and watching the Sunset Overdive dude kick his way through the door and grind/parkour his way around the warehouse was really fun. I'd love to get a hands-on with the game and see how the motion and fluidity affect the gameplay, but I think it'll be interesting for sure.

Scalebound is another game that caught me by surprise. As the main character faced up to the dragon I thought "lovely, another game where you kill giant dragons... when are we going to get to team up with these things and take on even bigger monsters?" As if reading my mind, that's exactly what happened next, with the trailer revealing that the first dragon is indeed the partner/pet of the Beats-wearing protagonist. It looks like you can teacup with other dragon riders too, making this a gritty version of How to Train Your Dragon. I have high hopes, but will wait for more than a CG trailer.

The final thing that grabbed my attention at the Xbox One show was Crackdown 3. I admit, I skipped Crackdown 2. The first game was fun, and I really loved running and jumping around the city, gaining new powers and making my super cop stronger and stronger as I did, but I didn't want more of the same wight he second instalment. I just went back and played the first one again for a few hours and moved on with my life. Depending on how much they can add with the new hardware, Crackdown 3 could be an amazingly fun, destructive, open-world mayhem simulator that's a blast to play, or it could be a slightly prettier version of the first two games, and something I skip completely.

Moving on to Playstation 4, Sony's press conference was a little too long for my liking, especially airing so late on the east coast, and I felt that they had a lot of great points, but a lull in the middle, some weird missteps in focus, and some technical glitches made it the weakest show from a presentation standpoint. Content-wise, they were on the ball. Games like The Order and Bloodborne make Playstation the place to go if you never want to sleep again. Grim Fandango being remade brings high hopes that we'll see old adventure greats like Full Throttle get the same treatment. Full Throttle alone would make me purchase a PS4, no questions. Someone make that happen.

Since I didn't get a PS3 last gen, the HD remake of The Last of Us and GTA5 are appealing to me, and Rachet & Clank always seemed cool when my brother would play them, but I've never really spent much time on those games personally, so those new/old experiences might be tipping my interest a little bit more toward Sony for this gen. The new Uncharted makes me want to go back and buy a PS3 just to catch up on that series, because I feel like I'm missing out on some great adventures, and the new one, even from a short teaser, looks fantastic. Here's hoping they do an HD remake package of the first games before the next one comes out, as that seems to be the current trend to make up for lack of backwards compatibility.

Destiny was one of the games of the show for me. No matter what console I end up getting, I imagine I'll spend a significant chunk of time getting to know that universe. The white PS4 bundle and exclusive Playstation content are making it appealing to go with Sony, but again, it's not a completely deal breaker for me to miss out on a new gun or something if I went with an Xbox One. This leads in to my next topic, cross platform stuff.

When I compare the list of exclusives that interest me, Sony comes out on top, but only slightly, and partially thanks to not owning a PS3 and being able to experience games I missed last generation. Most of the games I'm really interested in for next gen are cross platform. Evolve, Assassin's Creed: Unity, Far Cry 4, The Division, Rainbow 6, Mortal Kombat X, Arkham Knight and, as mentioned above, Destiny, are going to be available no matter if I chose super gaming box 1 or super gaming box 2. There are other games I can add to that list, but those are just a few off the top of my head, and as they get closer to release and the REAL builds start to come out, my interest in some of those titles might increase, or as it is with a lot of games that have promising early showings at E3, they could end up as shitty games with awesome trailers.

For me, and, after talking with my brother a bit on the subject, some other people as well, waiting seems like the best option at this point. That's sad to say a year after these new consoles were launched. I'm certainly not tempted to get both Xbox One and PS4. Maybe, just maybe, if Destiny is amazing, I'll consider grabbing the white PS4 bundle in the fall, but otherwise the only game that was making me itch for a fall purchase (Arkham Knight) has been pushed back to 2015. With all of these cross-platform games, I'm waiting to see what friends are doing too, because with so many multiplayer and coop games, I'd like to be able to play with people I know. Until then, I'll stick with my Wii U and my largely unused Xbox 360 and play the waiting game.

Speaking of Wii U, let's segue in to Nintendo's conference presence. I can't say their presentation because they did a digital event again this year, but that was only part of their overall approach to E3. The live streamed stuff the ENTIRE TIME! While it was impossible to keep up with it and watch it all, I really loved the approach they used and enjoyed tuning in when I could to see what the heck was happening at any given point on the show floor. It's the next best thing to being there, I think.

I enjoyed their Digital Event, and thought the Robot Chicken introductions, the epic battle between Reggie and Iwata, and other little odd bits were vastly different from the super serious "we're so powerful" feel that often comes through in competitors shows. Nintendo's whole thing felt fun. We saw Smash Bros, which got pushed back for 3DS and got a more solid "holiday season" release window for Wii U. I honestly don't mind the push for 3DS as long as it's a solid experience. As much as I would have loved to chill out at the cottage after a day of swimming and stuff and enjoy some Smash on the go with my brother and cousins, I wouldn't want that experience to be buggy.

The holiday 2014 release for Smash Wii U makes sense, and I would assume they are going full steam to make sure they hit that. With the announcement of Amiibo, Nintendo's answer to Skylanders and Infinity, they need to get both the figures and the game (which will be the first one to utilize the figures) out and in the hands of parents looking to grab stocking stuffers. I've posted about Nintendo doing something cool with NFC and figures before, so I'm very excited to see some really cool Nintendo figurines. I'm not entirely sure if I'll want to use them in Smash Bros, but I'll get the figures for display purposed if nothing else. They look really great.

For the rest of Nintendo's show, games like Yoshi's Wooly World and Captain Toad's Adventures look like cute, classic Nintendo fun, and from what I've heard about both, I'm very excited. Bayonetta looks very cool, and I'm happy to see Nintendo loan out character costumes. This is a tactic I think could work really well for other third party games, and I hope we'll see more things like this and Hyrule Warriors in the future. Games like Devil's Third and Splatoon seemingly came out of nowhere, and I'm looking forward to both, although cautiously, especially for Devil's Third. More games for the Wii U are a good thing though.

Of course, the big highlight, and the game of the show for me, was Zelda Wii U. Without an official name, details on gameplay, or a release window of any sort, Nintendo built up and got me so excited for this new Zelda that nothing else really mattered. Starting by talking about open worlds and exploration, trial and error, and the excitement of being able to chose a path and see where it takes you was such a great way to build up the game. Zelda has always been about this. The first Zelda allowed players to go in any direction and discover things. Often times you'd run in to a monster you couldn't defeat yet, forcing you to run away (or die) and come back when you had better gear, but as consoles continued to grow, technology limited the scope of the worlds and made them surprisingly more linear, instead of more open. Recent games like A Link Between Worlds brought Zelda flack to its roots, both by using the same over world as Link to the Past, but also by letting people chose the order they explored the dungeons in. I think that was a small taste of what this game is going to offer, and I can't wait to see more. Nintendo, for me, won the show based on that promise alone. It wasn't a perfect show for them. Code Name Steam wasn't the game I wanted them to focus on for 90 freaking minutes as a new 3DS game. I wanted Mario Galaxy 3D, or something of that AAA calibre. Splatoon finished their show on a weird note, but people are saying good things. I think voice chat could make or break that game online, and with Nintendo's hesitation to allow voice of any kind except with trusted friends, I can't see cooperative multiplayer being engaging when it's all silent. There are also not a ton of games to look forward to in 2014. Smash excluded, it's pretty bare. Mario Kart 8 and other backlogged games will keep me going for a while, but my fall could be pretty boring if Smash gets pushed back or I don't buckle and buy a new console.

So there you have it. My thoughts on this years E3. What did you think? I know my brother and the rest of the guys over at BFGC did Podcasts and thought on all of the press conferences. You can find and subscribe to their podcast here

Follow them on Twitter too @the_bfgc and for the hell of it, check out their Youtube Channel.

That's it folks! Until next time, follow me on Facebook at my Joystick Monkey page and on twitter @markcarabin