Well, that’s more hyperbole than anything, but I have to be honest: I’m starting to sympathize with anyone who thinks E3 is stupid or pointless. Or the conferences, at least; I don’t know about you, but I feel like a lot of these conferences would be a lot better if they were half as long at a bare minimum. That way, there’s no need to pad out the run time. They can keep their focus. They can use their time judiciously. Maybe not waste time at a video game convention by bringing an aged soccer player in for a minutes-long interview.
But let’s not worry about what’s already passed (or will probably happen again next year). Let’s dip our feet into this great big vat of video games.
Okay, before I go any further, there’s something I have to ask: is anybody getting some serious déjà vu with this year’s expo?
Just look at what Microsoft showed off this year. It’s Halo 5 again! It’s Tomb Raider again! It’s Forza again -- complete with them bringing a new car onto the stage (again)! It’s a procession of indie games via montage again, any one of which deserved more screen time (I know they showed more Cuphead, but they need EVEN MORE OF IT)! Like, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have much loyalty towards Microsoft right now because I’m a non-Xbone owner -- an Xboner, if you will -- but if the goal of E3 is to impress people with something new and exciting…well, others might be excited, but I’m not.
To be fair, they announced that new IP ReCore, and that looks like it has some juice. I wish there was actually some gameplay to go by instead of a CG trailer, but at least there’s the implication that something new is coming. Similarly, there’s a new Rare game coming, Sea of Thieves! And it looks…all right, I guess. I wasn’t won over by it exactly, but it’s something? Like Microsoft is loosening the chains on Rare so that they can momentarily step out of the dungeon? In the wake of Yooka-Laylee’s success and the riveting announcement of Rare Replay -- a compilation of all the hits -- it seems like one of the most famous names in gaming history is still rattling the bars of their cage. For some reason.
Weirdly, the most interesting things to come from Microsoft this year were things indirectly related to games. For starters, there's going to be backwards compatibility now, which is cool for the Xbox loyalists -- and let’s get into debates on the possibility (if not requirement) that both the Xbone and the PS4 having backwards compatibility from the get-go. And then there was the new “Elite Controller” with customizable parts -- which is apparently going to cost a cool $150, so it’s like buying 2½ pads for your friends and one particularly dexterous baby.
The big draw, if you ask me, is the HoloLens technology they showed off. Using a set of glasses to bring a game world to the real world? Sounds pretty cool. Plenty of fun possibilities with that (and I assume it’ll take about -29 days for people to find out how to repurpose it for porn). There’s still a lot to be proven in terms of viability and usability, and the actual execution -- remember when it seemed like the Kinect would revolutionize motion-controlled gaming? -- but hey, it’s still an exciting prospect. If the world would be denied hoverboards again and again, then this augmented reality will have to do. For now.
There’s a part of me that would have preferred even more focus on that, because the alternative is more Gears of War. So for starters, there’s going to be a remaster of the first game -- and only the first game, apparently -- so that Xbone owners will get to relive the meaty magic. To be fair, the new game’s supposed to have more content, so that’s…exciting? And if that doesn’t sate the fans, then there’s at least the reveal of Gears 4, which has…uh…the same “move fast while the world falls apart around you” set piece that’s a part of every other game demo recently, Rise of the Tomb Raider well among them. But at least it has a lady gunman voiced by Laura Bailey, so, uh, progress?
I don’t know, man. Like, maybe I’m just burnt out on all this faux-epic, faux-cinematic action. We live in a world where Platinum Games exists, and deliver some of the best spectacle the medium’s ever seen. So why is it that so many developers in so many conferences can’t even come close to offering up something substantial in their previews, at the very least? Why am I being bored by demos (and I use that term loosely) that feature alien warfare, energy swords, avalanches, improbable mountain climbing techniques, mutant insect werewolves, and lightning-filled tornadoes? And then Fable Legends makes a point of saying that it’s not about adventures and discovery and whimsy, but killing the hell out of both looting intruders and the wildlife that would impede them?
Well, let’s not worry about ruminations on the games industry or existential crises for now. It’s time to move on to…
So the company voted as the Worst Company in America two years in a row is allowed to have a press conference. This can only go well.
Mirror’s Edge 2 -- or Catalyst, I suppose -- is on the way. That’s pretty cool; based on what’s been described, it sounds like it’s in danger of becoming a Ubisoft-style open-world chore simulator. But I’ll go ahead and assume the best of them, because -- hey, it’s Mirror’s Edge. It’s something that’s rare, and appreciable. And there was…Garden Warfare 2? I mean, I’ve never tried out its predecessor, but it looks interesting. And…uh…well, I guess that’s it.
I would count Mass Effect: Andromeda as something good -- and in all fairness it might as well be -- but for starters, they didn’t show off anything substantial. As usual, it’s a CG trailer that might as well be taking place in an alternate dimension; if it’s not pure gameplay, then it might as well not count. (Then again, Microsoft’s conference had gameplay -- albeit scripted set pieces -- and that was rote on average. So who knows?) And the CG trailer didn’t even last for that long, to the point where I almost wished for another art slideshow like last year. And then I remember just how much EA/Bioware dropped the ball with Dragon Age: Inquisition, and suddenly I can’t help but worry for what should be the surest thing in the universe.
I just have to take a moment to talk about Unravel. Yeah, I’m glad it’s not another shooter, and it does look pretty good, but I just LOVE how it got hyped up as something we’d never seen before…and the moment it was revealed, it was all too easy to draw comparisons to Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Yoshi’s Woolly World, Pikmin 3, and Little Big Planet fused into one. Let that be a lesson for you, kids: never hype up your creation as 100% original or mind-blowing. It’ll never work out.
After that, it was pretty much just EA doing EA things. Their conference had another round of time-sucking sports segments, which makes me wonder: why would they show that at E3? I’m not saying that there’s not an audience for sports games, but if they’re that dedicated to see the minute changes, then surely they have outlets of their own, yes? Why piss away time with more sports, to the point of having Pele on the stage…and not talk about video games?
Also, I’m gonna go ahead and be that guy and say that I don’t see the appeal of Star Wars: Battlefront. Like, I don’t know much about it, but -- is it supposed to be a Battlefield clone? Or a skin of it? Are people seriously getting excited about a slightly-different shooter, simply because you can maybe earn the right to play as Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader? Also, how is that in any way revolutionary when the tacked-on multiplayer of Batman: Arkham Origins did precisely the same thing with Batman and his pals?
Guys, I need you to help me understand here -- because otherwise, it’s as if EA had a pretty boring showing this year. Maybe this is karmic retribution for them, seeing as how they shut down so many companies (Maxis was a recent one, and some theorize that Visceral’s up next). It’s like they’re running out of potential games to show off, so they hyper-compensate with content stretched out to create the illusion of quantity and quality. Need for Speed is coming back? Okay, I guess. And what else? Uh…mobile games? Other sports games? The other sports games?
I’ll give EA this much: at least they didn’t show three arguably-indistinguishable shooters almost back-to-back.
U! Bi! U! Bi! U-BI-SOFT!!
Oh. Oh. Ohhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.
You know, I’ve made the joke before that Squeenix thinks it exists inside a vacuum -- that it’s the only company that thinks it’s “innovating”, and on top of that is completely deaf to the legitimate criticisms voiced every .58 seconds. Whether it’s from a story or industry shenanigans, if there’s one pet peeve I have (that ties into a lot of other pet peeves I have), it’s a sheer lack of self-awareness.
Ubisoft has to know. Every last person there has to have known that they were pushing three separate-yet-similar games all at once. Three games tied to the Tom Clancy name. Three games with the world in a state of disarray -- one from terrorism, one from drug cartels, and one from that trusted standby, the apocalypse-by-barely-explained virus. Three games feature squad-based gunplay, all of which had its players (on-stage or not) communicate in almost the exact same way. Ubisoft wouldn’t know innovation if the Blue Angels skywrote it across the Northern Hemisphere.
But you know what really gets to me? It’s how games like The Division creates this heavy, serious context -- a world wracked by disaster, with the mission statement being the salvation of the survivors -- and then that completely gets thrown out because it’s time for some vidyagaems. I don’t want to fucking hear about soldiers, or even the players behind them, getting hyped about grabbing loot. If you’re going to be about the end of the world, be about the end of the world. Turn that context into your game’s greatest strength. Don’t treat it like window dressing so you can make your multimillion-dollar business venture as shallow as a dried-out sink, you dumbasses.
…It’ll probably sell four million copies. History repeats itself.
I don’t think I need to say much about the new Assassin’s Creed game, and I doubt there’s anyone reading this that wants a play-by-play of the standard awkward moments (or the entertainment dragged on-stage). So in Ubisoft’s defense, they brought something new to the table with For Honor. Sword-on-sword action has promise, especially if the game delivers on a more thoughtful take on combat. I’m concerned about how well it could work (if the right stick is used for fighting, what does that mean for the camera?), but hopefully we’ll get a substantial game out of it. Once upon a time, Watch Dogs made a lot of promises it couldn’t deliver on. Let’s pray lightning doesn’t strike twice.
Also, new South Park game. In a perfect world, that would be enough to absolve all sins.
You know what I like about The Last Guardian trailer? Besides the fact that it exists? Nobody talks.
I don’t just mean “nobody tries to hype it up on-stage”, though that helps. What I like is that the game speaks for itself, and conveys so much without the use of words -- well, any intelligible words, but the point still stands. I haven’t even played the game, and yet the animations already give me a good indication of what sort of person the boy is, what sort of creature the griffin-dog-vulture thing is, and their relationship to one another. It’s a strong showing for a game that, almost inevitably, will be amazing.
I’m not so star-struck as to say that Sony won E3 just because it had The Last Guardian. That said, Sony DID more or less “win” because it brought a good collection of games to the show. Media Molecule’s new game looks pretty cool. They showed of more of No Man’s Sky, which is always appreciable. Firewatch seems super-interesting (which is a game people already knew about, so I’ve got egg on my face). And Horizon: Zero Dawn also impresses me…though it’s pretty serendipitous (or unfortunate) that two of the three consoles unveiled games that feature a young woman in a post-apocalyptic world fighting off robo-animals. It’s not a one-to-one comparison, but man. It sure sounds like some collusion, doesn’t it?
Oh, right, Street Fighter V. Birdie’s back for real? Man, I don’t even care if he’s put on weight. If he’s the game’s dedicated grappler (he probably won’t be, but for now he is), then I’m all over him -- in an entirely non-sexual way.
As for the rest? Eh. Uncharted 4 is a thing that’s on the way, I guess! So is CoDBLops 3, as sure as the sunrise every morning! Destiny is getting another thing, which will hopefully make it less of a bad thing! Obviously, those games all have their audiences, but they’re increasingly not for me. And besides, they’re still at risk of being plagued by -- or continuing to be plagued by, in Destiny’s case -- the eighth-gen curse, wherein games become disappointing installments following “the same, but less” mantra…either that, or they’re just an all-around mess. Never forget that this was the console generation that couldn’t even get Tetris right.
Meanwhile, Shenmue 3 is coming. I’m not even going to pretend like I know anything about that series, but for those that are happy to have it back? Good on you, and I hope your expectations are met. Now, there’s been some debate about whether or not Sony should have funded the project entirely instead of tossing it over to an (already funded) Kickstarter campaign; I’m leaning toward the “Sony should’ve funded it” camp, especially since they’re helping out anyway…buuuuuuuuuuuut I can see why they’d go Kickstarter for a game that likely had no chance otherwise. Besides, if the budget’s kept on a tight leash, maybe that’ll prevent some of the AAA bloat.
NIN!! TEN!! DO-DO-DO!!
It should be a requirement by law that all E3 conferences must be made with puppets.
As the guy who’s been throwing in #GoodGuyNintendo on a semi-regular basis, you’re probably expecting me to go “Hey, that digital event of theirs wasn’t that bad.” And you’d be right; I don’t think it was the soul-crushing awfulness that some people have declared. In typical E3 fashion, it was a very safe, very stable, largely-predictable showing. It was comparatively mellow. Also, they deserve praise for dialing back on the celebrity cameos and cars. Seriously, every press conference from now on should just be an uploaded video -- and better yet, a video with time stamps so people can skip to the parts they actually care about.
In any case, Nintendo showed off Star Fox Zero -- and it’s hard not to feel a little excited by the prospect of a machine with four separate modes of travel and combat. Xenoblade Chronicles X and Yoshi’s Woolly World both have release dates, even if they’re a ways away, but until then both were shown off extensively. Every time I see Genei Ibun Roku FE, I want to know more about it (and play it, naturally -- though it seriously needs an English title). There was a smattering of cool 3DS games, too -- and yes, I’m counting that new Metroid game as one of them. They even unveiled a new Mario Tennis, and I’m super-down for that.
But don’t call me a fanboy just yet. I understand completely why people are mad at the Big N this year.
Nintendo has an image problem. It’s treated like a joke, others think the company’s full of idiots, and it hasn’t done much to convince anyone that it knows the first thing about marketing (maybe Splatoon and its tidal wave of memes will change that, but we’ll see). The Wii U has BY FAR the best library of games this generation so far, with the reliability to make every new title a sure thing instead of something to worry about and dread. But not enough people know that because the Big N botches it at every turn.
They’re not allowed to rest on their laurels, even with the news of the NX coming next year (and ONLY news, presumably, meaning that they’re still going to have to fill space with the Wii U). They need to convince people that aren’t me, and people that don’t have the console yet, that it’s worth a look. This E3 was a chance to prove their worth and secure continued loyalty…and they blew countless minutes on Super Mario Maker, and YouTube clips of people playing the Mario theme. And they utterly killed the pacing of their show with Animal Crossing, which hearkens back to darker days.
Again, I’m sure Animal Crossing has its fans. I’m sure plenty of people are excited about the new entries in the franchise. Good for them. But E3 is not the place to make those announcements. Save those for Nintendo Directs somewhere down the line. I may groan and sigh at and even try to ignore some of the “epic action” shown off in a lot of the other conferences’ “gameplay” and CG trailers, but at least it’s something. The idea is to excite, and even if certain games are of a high quality, by design they can’t generate as much excitement as others. They just can’t.
I’m not going to play the NINTENDOOMED card here, because in all fairness E3 isn’t going to be their only shot at this; again, they have Nintendo Directs, and can offer up a good share of information and announcements on their terms. And let’s not forget that just days prior, they made everyone do a spit take with the reveal of Roy and Ryu from out of nowhere (if you ignore the files uncovered long beforehand). But Christ, Nintendo. You won E3 last year; how could you not have learned any lessons from that?
Teacup ride confirmed for Kingdom Hearts 3? That’s awesome.
No, I’m not even joking. That really is awesome -- as are all of Sora’s theme park ride attacks. It makes sense; he’s a dumb kind with lots of spirit and practically embodies fun, and his partners in crime are an idiot dog(?) and an easily-incensed duck. Can you think of anything better-suited for him? Well, granted it looks like he’s getting Keyblade gun attacks, but whatever. The gameplay -- combat and exploration -- looks like it’s evolved, so maybe it’ll deliver on that.
I’m praying that the story isn’t a complete mess, naturally; the trailer had a bunch of gibberish I tuned out instantly, and my big take away from it was young Eraqus and young Xehanort(?) playing chess. It’s the setup for some “everything is going just according to keikaku” bullshit that I don’t want to deal with…but on the plus side, Sora, Donald, and Goofy are back together again. THEY SHOULD NEVER, EVER BE APART.
You just have to love how this E3 makes it sound like Squeenix suddenly went “Wait -- people actually want RPGs? And we don’t have to arbitrarily assume that no one wants them anymore after we tried to singlehandedly burn the entire genre to the ground? Well, let’s get to it!” So not only did they show of KH3 -- with no release date, natch -- but they also talked up Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness…and that’s gonna be a sight to see after the debacle that was The Last Hope. Given that they wasted no time announcing that the main heroine was the MC’s childhood friend who calls him “onii-chan”, I’m not exactly chomping at the bit here. And then they announce “Project Setsuna” with a new, dedicated JRPG team…with nothing to show but some pictures and pretty music. Baby steps, eh?
In all fairness, I have high hopes for the new NieR as well as the new Deus Ex; both of those games will probably be pretty solid. In the latter’s case, it’s still hard to believe that we live in a world where something with “Square-Enix” on the box isn’t automatically a JRPG, but oh well. Eidos is handling that one, so hopefully the eighth-gen curse won’t befall them as well. And that’s really all I can say about the news this time around. Hitman seems all right, and I’m concerned about Rise of the Tomb Raider -- there are a lot of things that game needs to reconcile, its predecessor’s fabled borderline-torture porn well among them -- but ultimately, all I can do is shrug and nod. And that extends to E3 in general. Sometimes.
Based solely on what was shown off (and how it was shown off, by extension), I wouldn’t blame anyone who saw every last second of those conferences, put together, from start to finish, and suddenly decided to drop video games forever. Ubisoft’s triple-whammy makes a pretty strong argument in and of itself, but it seems like the entire expo is geared in such a way so as to strip away excitement, rather than generate it.
Games have a lot of issues these days, but more and more it’s looking like E3 isn’t the best way to present them -- and anyone who’s watched an episode of MasterChef knows that presentation matters. These press conferences are increasingly overlong, tone-deaf, and unengaging, even if the audience claps and cheers on occasion. When they actually grant us the privilege to see their games, it’s regularly done with CG trailers that might as well tell us nothing -- and when they do switch to gameplay, it’s often the tiresome, well-tread, same old same old we’ve come to expect.
In an age where the internet and the news it feeds on reigns supreme, I have to wonder: do we even need this convention anymore? Not really…but kind of. I mean, E3 is more than just awkward speeches and cringe-filled presentations; it’s also a full-on convention where people gather to play games, see games, surround themselves with games, and suck in the atmosphere of games. On top of that, it’s a time and place where people from all walks of life -- or at least those who have the right to visit -- can celebrate the hobby they love so much. You can’t get the experience of cheering for a big reveal or legendary figure on-stage when everything is done via pre-recorded messages.
I’m hoping that the next E3 -- and every E3 from here on -- manages to bring that spirit back to the proceedings. Nintendo had it right when they threw a verifiable party with its Smash 4 tournament last year; celebrating this medium means more than just trying to garner hype and support. Sometimes, it’s all about bringing on the fun.
And that’ll do it for now. See you guys next --
Wait, what? What is this?
Oh, right. I knew I was forgetting something.
Man, can you believe that they had a conference this year? What a shocker -- but I suppose that showing off Fallout 4 and Doom on their own terms was a high priority. Can’t really blame them; I’ll admit I’m not the biggest Doom fan, seeing as how I’ve played a whopping zero games in the franchise, but Fallout 4? The prospects of that one are seriously --
What? What else is left to talk about? E3’s pretty much over now. It’s not like there were any meteor-sized announcements besides The Last Guardian and Shenmue 3. And even then, those weren’t the earth-shattering announcements the internet makes them out to be; the former just got delayed into near-oblivion, and now we know it’s back on track (probably?). And the latter’s playing the nostalgia card pretty hard, though it hasn’t been proven yet how this new game will accommodate modern-day conventions and standards.
I’m an optimist, but I’m not an idiot -- so let’s all just temper our expectations and think this through before we lose our minds over every little --