Some thoughts on this year’s E3 so far.

As everyone pretty much knows E3 is underway. By now you probably know about most of the huge announcements already. But I thought I’d formulate a few thoughts on what I’ve seen through streaming the event so far. Monday kicked things off with Microsoft, who had a much better showing than last year. They needed it too. Since last E3, we’ve seen them back pedal from restrictive DRM, and recently even downplay Kinect. This was even more apparent during the conference where we didn’t see any Kinect news.

Which came off as a real back pedal because they had recently announced Kinect-less SKUs for Xbox One. Kinect was supposed to be more integral to the Xbox One design than even Nintendo’s gamepad for the Wii-U.  Despite this, they had a number of announcements that seem to have excited people. In my opinion, the biggest thing from their conference to keep an eye on is Sunset Overdrive. This game looks pretty cool. If you watch the presentation, it seems to be a hybrid of a Tony Hawk Pro Skater game, and a horde game in the vein of Dead Rising. It’s exactly the sort of thing Microsoft needs to do more of. Microsoft is also rebooting Phantom Dust, which was a sleeper hit on the original Xbox. Unfortunately, like most of the conference it was just a FMV trailer. So there was no real info on how it will play. That was probably the most disappointing thing about conferences in general. A lot of them focused on FMV trailers. Another FMV trailer was for Evolve. A game that looks like a four player predator hunter. Scalebound is an upcoming title from Platinum Games. All we know about it based on the trailer, is that it involves dragons. We also found out about Crackdown 3 which I hope will be less Crackdown 2, and more Crackdown 1.

There was also a trailer for Project Spark. The title promises to let XB1, and PC users create entirely new games with it. Unfortunately it didn’t go into any details. Will it let you create your own code or models or assets for your game? Or are you forced into using predetermined content, and building a game around it? The worst thing about the trailer was the fact that Conker, from Conker’s Bad Fur Day showed up at the end to say “Almost 10 years without a new game. Guess we’ll have to make our own!” I’m not the biggest CBFD fan, but it came off rather bad. It felt almost like a slap seeing it.  It wasn’t intended to be that as the creators took to NeoGAF to apologize, but it is something they probably should have thought about before putting it in.

Halo 5 news came out too. There will be a beta in December. The beta is multiplayer so I think it is mainly going to focus on competitive modes. Mainly because that has been what Halo’s multiplayer has always been about. But I could be wrong. They mentioned that this game is going to have a lot more back story on Master Chief.  They also have a collection bundle with all of the mainline Halo games coming out, along with the multiplayer content. I’m sure it will do well, though it really seems suited to those who haven’t already played any of them. On the other hand, it will probably also be a boon to those who have an XB1, and rarely go back to their 360.

Activision showed off Call Of Duty at the conference, and I wasn’t really left impressed. It didn’t look bad. But it didn’t really look impressive either. It’s Call Of Duty. If you happen to be a big fan of the series you’re probably picking it up anyway. I just came away feeling this looks like a going through the motions entry. Ubisoft showed off some Assassin’s Creed news, the biggest being that the next game will be 4 player Cooperative. This is another series that a lot of people have said could use some shaking up. 4 player mode is something few games are doing anymore. So it is a welcome addition to the series.

Ubisoft also had some gameplay footage of The Division. It looks really nice, but there wasn’t enough footage to go into any kind of variety. It’s looking like a flashy cover shooter. It is nice that again, it’s a cooperative game.

Ubisoft’s own conference was pretty standard fare. Aisha Tyler came back again. She was pretty funny, entertainingly delivering segues, and talking about her role in Watch Dogs. Just Dance 2015 was announced, but the bigger news was their Just Dance Now smart phone app. It turns smart phones into a Just Dance controller with other devices, allowing a lot more than four people to play the game. It was honestly pretty interesting. This is coming from someone who doesn’t dance, or play many dance games outside of the odd party or get together. It really does open the floodgates for the franchise, and will probably do pretty well considering how well the console games seem to sell.

They showed off a Kinect game for Xbox One called Shape up. It looked like a competitive take on Wii Fit, and Guitar Hero. It puts people head to head in push up contests, and other exercises, but tries to make them fun with window dressing. Where as Wii Fit is sort of going for a simulation game this goes more into arcade territory.  I’m not really sure how I feel about it personally. I’m certainly not the target market for it. But at least it looks like it’s trying something different from other exercise games.

Ubisoft gave us more trailers for Assassin’s Creed, Far Cry, Valiant Hearts, and The Division as well as The Crew. The Crew sounds like it could be a pretty cool racer in that it’s supposed to let players drive from one side of the USA to the other. But they didn’t go into a lot of specifics. Will it really be the highways, and back roads across the country recreated in game form? If so that is a very intricate, and ambitious project in of itself. Or will it be a small set of races or driving sections connected by FMVs in between? With racers you also can’t feel the controls for yourself in a video so with the footage you’re only left with the look. The game does look good based on what was shown.

Ubisoft did have one big piece of news, and that was the return of Rainbow Six. Rainbow Six: Siege seems to hearken back to the days of Rainbow Six 3. This is huge news because ever since the series departed into linear shooting galleries, nothing has tried replicating the tactical shooter. Rainbow Six was great when it came out, tasking players with planning a course of action to  save hostages from terrorists. I really hope this is a return to form for the series.

EA also had a conference, and there was unfortunately little to get excited about. They showed off this year’s sports games. UFC, NHL 15, and Madden really didn’t look all that different. One can argue how much you can refine a sports title, but the bottom line is why buy a game every year if they are identical? To their credit, they did try to explain how the tackling system in Madden has been revised. Now there will be traditional or risky tackles with one paying off more often.  All of the sports games mentioned newer more dynamic animations. The problem here is it’s all been promised before, and rarely delivered.

Most of EA’s presentation was FMV trailers or video of stuff so early in production there was nothing to show. Battlefront boiled down to news that they had some Star Wars reference material. Mirror’s Edge 2 was announced again, showing off some very early builds of Faith taking out bad guys without using guns. Criterion’s early build was far more impressive. All that is known about it is that it will let you pilot a large number of different kinds of vehicles over various terrains. The game will also only be playable in first person. What they could show looked promising, but it was certainly a very early build of shapes.

The big bomb EA did drop was that the new Battlefield Hardline beta was launching that day for those who had Battlefield 4 on PC or PS4. They showed off some more footage too. It isn’t looking too different from Battlefield 4 visually. But the police, and criminal aspects do look like a new take on Battlefield’s objective gameplay.

Sony’s conference was a mixed bag. We saw some footage for Far Cry 4 which looked really good. This game seems like it’s going to focus more on mountain terrain. It also seems like it’s carrying over a number of things from Far Cry 3. Also it has cooperative play which seems to be a theme with Ubisoft this year. Warner Bros. showed off the new Batman, and Mortal Kombat. Batman Arkham Knight looks like a bigger version of Batman Arkham City. The new convention the trailer showed off is the use of the Batmobile. The Mortal Kombat X trailer showed off two new characters. One is a female reptilian, and the other a duo that may have taken inspiration from SNK’s Chang, and Choi. The trailer looks like an beefed up Mortal Kombat 9 which is a good thing. We also got a trailer for Dead Island 2.

Sony’s own trailers included Uncharted 4, Let it Die (a Suda 51 game), Abzul, Bloodborne, Entwined, Infamous DLC, and Little Big Planet 3. LBP3 was the first video they showed that had some in-depth info on the gameplay. This time around there will be other characters that have different abilities which get players working together. It reminded me a lot of Trine 2 in the way the game focuses on teamwork. The bigger news was that all of the custom content people made in the first two Little Big Planet games will be compatible with the new game.

Sony also made mention that last year’s Last Of Us will be ported to the PlayStation 4, along with Rockstar’s Grand Theft Auto V. In addition to all of this they’re going to be answering Microsoft’s announcement of exclusive shows on Live with their own properties, and content on PlayStation Network. A show based on the Powers comics will be the first major one, and people who pay for plus don’t have to pay extra to see it. Ratchet & Clank will have a new theatrical CGI animated movie. The trailer looked like a typical children’s movie. It didn’t go much into story or plot details though so there wasn’t a lot about it that was very exciting.

Sony also announced that its PlayStation TV hardware would be releasing stateside for $100, and that it would be making bigger pushes into it’s Morpheus, and Camera products. The company strangely glossed over their Vita handheld though, just tossing out a throwaway line about it being able to stream to other products, and 100 games being made for it. But they didn’t really go into any details.

The only other thing they announced that soured me was the news that they would be pushing big into getting more Free To Play games on their platforms. Not many F2P games have been good, even fewer have been great. Many of them can be almost predatory with the way they’ll nickel, and dime players for doing anything.

Sony also mentioned some PC stuff was coming over with exclusivity to the PlayStation 4. Devolver Digital is bringing over a number of indie games they’ve published including BroForce, and a new puzzle game from CroTeam.  Magicka 2 is going to hit the console, and the biggest news being that Grim Fandango will be seeing a rerelease on the system.

Destiny was also revealed to be hitting the PS4 first with some exclusive bonuses. The game looks pretty nice, but the biggest game in my opinion hitting the system is No Man’s Sky. This game lets you explore planets, star systems, and get into space battles. It’s different with every play through.

I should also bring up the Metal Gear Solid V trailer. Again, I would have liked to have seen some more game footage, but the montage we saw was pretty cool looking. Although I have to admit I think Konami may have a knife fetish. Every other scene in the montage displayed either a stabbing, or a clean shiny knife in someone’s hand.

Yesterday was Nintendo’s turn at bat, and they really swung for the fences this year. The opening skit from the creators of Robot Chicken was a nice tongue in cheek touch. The fight between Satoru Iwata, and Reggie Fils-Aime was a hilarious, John Woo inspired battle that introduced Super Smash Bros. really well.

The stuff Nintendo did this year was not only an entertaining way of announcing projects, but also gave a behind the scenes look as well. The interviews with developers did a better job of advertising upcoming Nintendo games than some of the other videos shown off this year.  Yoshi, and Kirby games look a lot more interesting as a result.

The Zelda announcements were impressive as well. The new Zelda looks amazing. Fans have wanted an open world sandbox Zelda for a long time. Visually it looks great, and while they didn’t show a lot of it, it was certainly enough to get everyone talking about it. Hyrule Warriors is also coming out, and where before the fear was it would be a re-skinned Dynasty Warriors we see it isn’t. Not completely anyway. The game is going to have enough elements from Zelda to keep it from being just another Dynasty Warriors. That said it’s definitely more Dynasty Warriors, than Zelda. Still, it may very well get Dynasty Warriors fans into Zelda, and vice versa which is what it seems like the developers were shooting for.

Mario Maker was confirmed, and the trailer hinted you can make stages for not only the 1985 Super Mario Bros., but for New Super Mario Bros. Wii-U as well. I don’t know how big this is going to be though.  Mario design is probably a lot more difficult than the average person thinks, and a lot of people may just mess around in it giving us a lot of crummy levels to sift through before getting to really fun or challenging ones.

Captain Toad’s sections in Super Mario 3D World were apparently so popular we’re getting an entire game made out of them. They also teased boss battles in the trailer. I’m not sure how that will work exactly since Captain Toad can pretty much only walk. But we’ll see.

There was also a new Pokémon announced, and while I never got into the series there’s no question it’s a huge franchise. There will be a bunch of new monsters to find obviously. The trailer didn’t really show much else, so we’ll be waiting for more info.

Honestly, the biggest announcement for me was Splatoon. This game looks really cool. It’s not often you see a colorful all ages shooter, and even less often they come out fun or challenging. If you missed it, it’s a game where the object is to control a map by painting it your team’s color. Anywhere your color is, you can turn into a squid, and swim in it. You’ll be able to shoot each other too, as it is a team shooter. They teased some paint themed weapons at the end of the segment too. It looks really interesting, and I certainly want to see some more of it.

The other big news was that Patulena, Pac-Man, and Miis will be playable in the next Super Smash Bros. All of which seem to be really cool. The Mii integration looks like a lot of thought, and balance went into the game with the fists/swords/guns move sets you will be able to choose from.  The game is also going to be the first to work with the new Amibo toys that Nintendo announced. Apparently, the figures work with a bunch of Wii-U games by placing them on the IR sensor on the gamepad. So you can save or load game data onto them that affect the state of your character. This sounds like it is going to go deeper than what Activision’s Skylanders do in that they work with more than one game. The only negative I can see with this, is if the toys become little more than glorified memory cards. Still, if they’re made well,  they have the potential to become a huge hit with kids, and collector’s. So it is a calculated risk on Nintendo’s part.

Another thing that I found exciting, and I’m sure others will too is that Bayonetta 1 is being bundled with Bayonetta 2. That’s going to be especially nice for anyone who never got to play the first game before buying the new one.

Nintendo showed off an X trailer which looked really good. The only complaint I have here is that it wasn’t game footage, just a FMV. Still, we get a glimpse into the story behind the next Xenogears which is pretty good.

If all of that wasn’t enough, after the Direct, word came out about a new Star Fox, a new Giant Robot game, and a Giant Guard game. Finally, there’s Devil’s Third. A traditional action game that looks cool enough to hang with some of the stuff we’ve seen coming out across E3.

E3 isn’t even over yet, and there has been a number of good things showing up.

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