Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Thoughts on the E3 Conferences

I know it's kind of late, but I had a lot to say. Also, I couldn't bring myself to wake up for the Nintendo Direct so I needed to catch up. Anyway, read away! Hope you're comfy...

Microsoft: Honestly, Microsoft's press conference wasn't quite as bad as I thought it'd be. It wasn't that good, but it wasn't bad either. They played it pretty safe for the most part. They started with maybe their safest Non-FPS moneymaker in Metal Gear Solid V. Now in case my name didn't give it away, I'm a pretty big fan of the MGS series. I'm not very impressed with this however, everything new about it seems like a pathetic attempt to be a Rockstar game. I honestly don't see why people are so excited about that If I want a Rockstar game, I'll play one, or at least Sleeping Dogs. Not to mention how dull and uninspired the bosses seem. I expect better, Kojima. For shame!

They also showed off many other multi-console titles that really shouldn't sway you any way at all. For example, Assassin's Creed IV. Honestly, it looks decent, it basically looks like that sailing mini-game from Assassin's Creed III but with fancier hats and rapiers. They also showed off a trailer for everyone's favorite new IP, Watch Dogs, which really didn't tell us much of anything. Pretty much the same can be said about their "super exclusive" Quantum Break. Yeah, it looked kinda cool, nothing really happened but we saw a cut-scene version of the in-game time-freezing mechanic we all knew about anyway, doesn't really do much for or to the determent of the game, just an unnecessary reminder that it exists. They did show a pretty cool looking game titled, for now at least, Project Spark. It's a game where you can manipulate the world around you, events in it, establish cities, use powers, and the works with the help of the Kinect and Smartglass. I don't like using that many gimmicks to use another gimmick, but it looked pretty cool. The question remains as to far far it'll go, and while it looks fun, the gameplay seems solid but nothing special, it's hard to tell if once the novelty wears off, it'll still be an enjoyable experience. Oh yeah, and Forza 5. Yaaaaaaaaaaay.

There is one game that really caught my attention though. That game is Killer Instinct. it's not exactly what I'd hope for out of a KI game, it's a bit on the Super Street Fighter IV-clone side for my taste, but it still looks really fun, and it's nice to see the name in the public light again. BUT THEN THEY HAD TO FUCK IT ALL UP!! Download-only Xbox One exclusive, that sucks for me because I don't want one, but ok fine. You can't play the system unless it's online anyway so no one with the console is really unable to obtain it. But it gets worse. When you get the game, you only have ONE CHARACTER AVAILABLE. Jago is available from the get-go, but then you have to buy everyone else! You have to buy Saberwulf, Glacius, Fulgore, Riptor, Orchid, TJ Combo, etc. WHY?! Why is this a thought that would pass through a functioning human being's mind? Yet alone actually going through with it. Not only are you killing one of the most unheralded great franchises in gaming, you're doing it by thrusting yet another horrible business practice down our throats.

Now that that's over, they did show a cool feature or two. I really like the twitch.tv app. You can live stream your games easily and instantly through your Xbox One without needing any special capturing tools or anything of the sort. I've honestly wanted to do that kind of thing for a while now, but unfortunately I'll have to settle for ustream, cuz I'm still not getting this thing. But it is a cool add-on for anyone who does, and it's probably the first thing they've done that actually caters to gamers.

All in all, one big shitty thing, one big cool thing, and a bunch of meh. It won't make any haters love it, and it won't make any loyalists (which is what I thing you'd have to be) hate it. They didn't address any of the lingering questions, or even acknowledge all the crazy things they've already announced, which is probably smart on their part since they themselves have confirmed a lot of it, and they need all the good will they can get. All this for $499.

Electronic Arts: Another subpar showing. Obviously more strictly games though. The new Plants vs. Zombies looks meh, nothing new in games as far as gameplay, you just happen to be plants and zombies. Battlefield 4 is Battlefield, it's pretty much what you expect, nothing special whether you care for it or not. You shouldn't be impressed or deterred by it. The EA Sports games look nice, but it's EA Sports. Again, nothing really new. They look graphically better of course, and NBA Live 14 is back and sounds promising, but so did the last few and they were so bad that they gave up on them for a few years. Its Xbox exclusivity might move units for the one or two basketball fans that don't love the 2K series, but I don't see it lasting long. The rest look good like one would expect, but how many people go to or watch E3 for sports games? There's also Need for Speed Rivals, which looks like Hot Pursuit re-titled. Way to innovate, EA. If 2011 was the E3 of big, dumb shooters, this year's is the E3 of cars. Peggle 2 was announced, so, cool I guess?

There were some actually exciting, or at least intriguing announcements. Including the presumed Star Wars: Battlefront game, which while that's nice, the team behind it is responsible for all of two kind of shitty medal of Honor games, doesn't exactly inspire confidence if you ask me, though I do hope it's good. The Titanfall footage wasn't impressive to me, looks like it plays just like Battlefield, except there are mechs in it. Unfortunately, there was Dragon Age news. The new game entitled Dragon Age: Inquisitor, has been delayed to the fall of next year. That kind of sucks for those of us that wanted to play it, but at the same time, as a HUGE BioWare fan, it's nice to see them being given extra time to work on a game after Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 3 were rushed out with the results of a blah game and a horrible ending respectively. At least we know Morrigan's back. I am cautiously optimistic about this game, emphasis on cautiously. EA did end rather impressively, with a beautiful and high- acrobatic action trailer for Mirror's Edge 2, the sequel to the cult hit Mirror's Edge, a game that garnered praise for its uniqueness and amazing ideas, though it wasn't quite polished enough to be a classic. Perhaps this will be the marriage of innovation and quality the first one strived to be, but I wouldn't hold my breath.

Ubisoft: This conference definitely started out, well, different. Don't ask me why, but they kicked it off with Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains fame riffing out some "Man in the Box" for the crowd. What could possibly be momentous enough to bring in a big name like that? Well, Rocksmith of course. Yeah, I forgot that existed too. They do know peripheral-centered rhythm games kind of died with Guitar Hero, right? Not that anyone played the first Rocksmith anyway. What an astonishingly underwhelming way to start. It's a cool idea, but it's amazing they didn't realize how little people care for it. Shortly after, they revealed The Crew, another "slick" racing game that doesn't seem to have much of anything unique about it, though the beginning of the trailer does suggest the ability to build your vehicle from the ground up, but I may just be too analytical for my own good. We saw Splinter Cell: Blacklist, which all we learned is that Sam Fisher is in it, which we were all on the edge of our seats over. It'll probably be good, but not new enough of an experience to excite me, or warrant the price in my opinion.

Other games they show include Rayman Legends which is basically a re-skinned Origins, cool? I mean it looks fun, and it is interesting to set the levels in mythological environments, but gameplay-wise, I see no difference between this and Rayman Origins. There was also an interesting=looking free-to-play MMO entitled The Mighty Quest for Epic Loot. It definitely has a visual charm to it and a sense of humor, but the gameplay is fairly typical of a tower defense game, which is an under-hyped genre, but doesn't make the game sound really exciting either. The new Just Dance is Just Dance, the end. South Park: The Stick of Truth  got a mildly amusing trailer, but the fart weapon seems a bit childish for what's supposed to be a labor of love for Matt Stone and Trey Parker, though I do still see a lot of potential for the game. More Assassin's Creed IV stuff, cool, we already saw this. The big finally was I Am Legend: The Game, I mean Tom Clancy's The Division. Its trailer is probably the most droning thing I've ever seen at E3, and its gameplay was almost equally as dull. And it's an RPG? Really? Since when do RPGs revolve around shooting things in the face with an over-the-shoulder camera? But yeah, an underwhelming end to a conference filled with quantity over quality.

Sony: Hours upon hours of blah, and finally we get something good. This wasn't the best conference ever, but it's arguably the most exciting. They started by quickly running through a bunch of PS Vita titles like the God of War and Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD collections, The Walking Dead, Batman: Arkham Origins, Killzone: Mercenary, and more. They also announced exclusive skins for Arkham Origins and a Grand Theft Auto V bundle, which is kinda cool as exclusives, but definitely nowhere near system-sellers. They also showed off Rain, which wasn't very informative, but also showed an awkward but inspired game called Beyond: Two Souls. The puppeteer is an indie-looking, didn't hear anything about if it is, that looks really unique and interesting.But luckily they didn't drone a whole lot on those two systems before moving on to the PS4.

They showed off a few media-related things that look good, but they focused more on gaming than Microsoft did, you know, the people that went on about how game-centric they'd be. They showed ANOTHER racing game called DriveClub, which is going to be a racing MMO, which is interesting, but not enthralling either. Not to mention Gran Turismo 6. Yaaaaay, Gran Turismo but kind of better looking i guess. Whoooooo! They moved on to new games in the Killzone and Infamous franchises which look like solid games, but I doubt they'll be more than improved versions of their predecessors. Knack is a cartoony action-looking game with a neat upgrade mechanic and what look to be some huge battles. Sony's certainly showing they have a KNACK for the unexpected, eh?! Whatever, you all suck. The old man from their Playstation 4 unveiling is back and actually has a game. And it looks like a good one. The Dark Sorceror doesn't provide a lot as far as gameplay, though the title does give some ideas. What really sold me was the trailer. A witty green screen parody of movie directing that had me rolling, and I'm not the easiest person to amuse.

Sony also, likely in response to Microsoft's restrictions against Indie developers went Indie crazy about half an hour in, and I loved every fucking second of it! Not only are they cheap games created by promising developers, and heavily supported by a huge company, but they all look amazing. Transistor is a gorgeous cell-shaded game that looks like a Shin Megami Tensei game with the RPG elements replaced by stellar-looking action by Supergiant Games, the creators of the critically-acclaimed Bastion. The Witness looks a lot like a spiritual successor to the Myst series with beautiful Flower/Journey-like graphics. Don't Starve is already out for PC, but it's a critical hit that is getting even more features and levels on the PS4. Mercenary Kings is an awesome hand-drawn 2D side-scrolling action/platformer. Octodad: Deadliest Catch, I don't even know, it's so weird and awesome, I can't help but wanna get my hands on it. Secret Ponchos is an awesomely-named overhead action/shooter/brawler spaghetti western by the just as awesomely-named developer, Switchblade Monkeys. Ray's Dead is an action/puzzle game where you lead a gang of zombies. Outlast is a horror game that looks like a mix of D2 and Fatal Frame. Oddworld: New 'n' Tasty is a fucking Outworld game!! It's a remake of the original that's definitely worth checking out, especially if you never played the original. A charming, humorous and deep experience, and maybe the start of new games from the series if it does well. Finally, Galak-Z is an awesome space shooter reminiscent of Raiden but with more free-reign of your movements and more stylized graphics. I know I went on a lot about these, but they're some amazing looking games that you'll likely never see on the Xbox One. And with Playstation Plus, you can get these all for free within the first year or so of having your system. Only drawback is you have to pay the $5 a month to play online, but everything else minus the free games is available whereas most is limited to Gold members on the Xbox One.

Back to the bigger games. Whereas Microsoft had a lot of demos, Sony showed off a lot of actual gameplay for a lot of the multi-console games. Assassin's Creed IV looks a lot more exciting now that I've seen it in action, though it's still definitely not innovative. There was also an amusing moment where the demo glitch-fested and the Microsoft loyalists were screaming their superiority, though Battlefield 4 did the same to Microsoft. These are incomplete games on uinfinished consoles, calm the balls down! We also got a demo of the show-stealing IP, Watch Dogs. It's a visually stunning game with very interesting mechanics, we have yet to see how well they're implemented, but it promises a great deal or unique and innovative gameplay. We also got a trailer of a new game entitled Mad Max, which while I have no clue why it exists, as a fan of the movies, I'm glad it does. We know little about it, but the fact that it's a thing is badass. Not to mention a preview of Elder Scrolls Online, with an open beta announcement exclusive to PS3. Betas usually aren't big, but this is a huge enough title that it'll likely move quite a few systems. The last thing we saw game-wise on the day was a long gameplay demo of Destiny. I believe it was seven, people joined the game at numerous times, fighting off alien hordes with first-person shooter action, awesome powers, and stunning visuals. It looks a lot like Halo mixed with Borderlands if it was fun. It runs great online, and the animation is some of the smoothest I've ever seen. Though this is all based solely on the PS4 version. I was never interested in Destiny until I saw this demo.

But none of this is the big deal of Sony's presser. There was a 20-minute segment where they completely stole the show. it started with a demo/trailer that showed that the core of Final Fantasy Versus XIII was being re-tooled into Final Fantasy XV. Which, without pause, transitioned into a beautiful Kingdom Hearts trailer, doing an amazing job of building up the suspense until... KINGDOM HEARTS 3!!! yep, it finally exists and it's coming to the Playstation 4. Then, they wen't on to beat the shit out of Microsoft. Announcing very specifically, no necessary online connection, no trading or selling restrictions, no necessary codes or installations, and pretty much nothing negative that Microsoft has implemented into their console. jab after jab at Microsoft. They even released a hilarious video during their conference showcasing how to share games on PS4. Which involves handing a game to another individual. It pretty much ended the next-gen war before it began in my opinion. Oh yeah, the price tag? A nice $399.

Nintendo: This morning, Nintendo released a live Nintendo Direct. I planned to watch this live, but yeah, I was up to late watching and talking about Sony, so I opted to miss it. There's not as much to say as it was only about 40 minutes, but they impressed more than I expected. They showed a lot of gameplay for things such as the new Super Mario 3D World which includes a new cat outfit that actually looks a lot more fun than it sounds. Really quick, clawing attacks and the ability to climb up walls as well as up to four-player co-op. The game itself looks really good and blends 2D and 3D seemlessly. There's also a nice-looking new Donkey Kong Country game, and new footage of the Wind Waker remake. As well as Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U with hoverboards, hang-gliding and anit-gravity mechanics that seem to add a lot to an otherwise, while fun, rather stagnant series. Wii Party U (a new Mario Party) and a new Wii Fit U.

The biggest deal, at least to me, is the new Pokemon X and Y information. We have to new Pokemon, a Dragon/Flying Pokemon that looks like an evolution of that bat from The Great Mouse Detective, and an unspectacular moth Pokemon that's probably an evolution of this generation's Caterpie or Weedle. But most importantly, there's a new type. And it's... ugh... Fairy Type. Really? Fairy? Does this series not get enough unfair "childish" tags against it? I'll admit, it seems like a useful type, being strong against Dragon, and weak against Poison, but I really wish it'd been something at least less lame-sounding. Sylveon is a Fairy Type, along with Marill, Clefairy, and Gardevoir so far. Gardevoir is interesting though. I've heard Fairy might also be strong against Dark. if it is, that would cancel out Gardevoir's Dark weakness, and its existing Psychic type would cancel out the Poison weakness. Not to mention having a powerful Psychic type that can now take on Dragon types to boot.There's also a release date, October 12th. I know what I'm doing that day.

Platinum Games had a strong showing for Nintendo as well. Not only did the Bayonetta 2 trailer look really good, but they showed off a new game called The Wonderful 101. yeah, I didn't expect to see any new IPs here, but this one looks really cool. It has gorgeous graphics and a really cool concept of a bunch of sueprheroes forming into colossal and devastating weapons to unleash on foes. They also showed off Sonic: Lost World which looks like what Sonic 3D Blast wanted to be and actually seems pretty fun, being released for 3DS and Wii U. As well as a bunch of snippets of previously shown exclusives and eShop games, along with quite a few indie titles.

But the other big thing to come out of this Nintendo Direct was Super Smash Bros. Unveiled for both the 3DS and Wii U, it looks as gorgeous and fast-paced as you'd expect. They also announced three new characters. Villager from Animal Crossing, the Wii Fit girl that was shown off in her own video shortly after, and MEGA MAN!!! Yes, Mega Man is in Smash Bros. Yep, that's it! It's over! Day one purchase! Day fucking one!! Not everything was subpar to positive though, as Wii Party U and Wii Fit U were delayed, as well as Bayonetta 2 not being released until 2014. Overall though, a lot more creativity than I expected to see.

I have to say, these conferences were more than I expected, which admittedly was nothing at all. Microsoft was stagnant, Nintendo showed promise, and Sony blew it out of the fucking water. I can't wait to see some of the upcoming previews, news, and titles that I've likely missed a lot of while putting this together.

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