Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Steve's E3 Wrapper Upper! 2014

So another E3 barrage of press conferences has come and gone, and what kind of self-respecting Video Game journalist-ish type of person would I be if I didn't chime in? 

The Rundown: 

- Microsoft - 

The Good: Phil Spencer came right out of the gate and showed us that Microsoft is an entirely new beast this year. Humbled, less arrogant, and focused on what made their consoles great once; the hardcore community. While there weren't really any out and out bombshells, there was an emphasis on games, no kinect bullshit anywhere to be seen, and a ton of content. I still can't decide if I love or loathe Sunset Overdrive though... The Master Chief collection was nice, and their renewed focus on Halo kind of pleases me for sure. I wasn't too gone on their exclusive lineup, and even big guns like "Rise of Tomb Raider" kinda fell a little flat for some reason (the trailer certainly had none of the impact that the reboot had a few years ago), still, Microsoft stacked the deck with games, and that is certainly to be applauded! Also; holy crap! The Division, Assassin's Creed: Unity and The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt look fantastic! 

The Bad: I've never really been a fan of Crackdown's brand of insanity, and I despise Phantom Dust, so both surprises were kinda lost on me really. From a bombshell perspective, there was really nothing. zip. I'd have preferred a look at Killer Instinct's additional content (maybe show us a few new fighters?) and some more of Fable: Legends rather than this super early CG rendered trailer for Scale-whatever the heck that Platinum Games thing was called... 

The Ugly: Good Lord! Call of Duty is just this lumbering undead monster at this point. Somebody please just sever the head or destroy the brain at this point. PLEASE! That gameplay looked about as blandly designed and soulless as it gets. If someone showed me that stacked next to Call of Duty 2, or the first Modern Warfare and told me it was CoD, I'd call them a pack of liars. 

Takeaway: After a few disasters over the last few years, Microsoft seems to be back on track, and this year's renewed focus on hardcore gaming is certainly a good sign. This year's MS presser was an honest and heartfelt apology to those of us who felt cast off and abandoned during the Mattrick years. That said, Microsoft HAS to do something with their internal studios, the internal lineup is looking more grim than my bank account three days before payday. 


- EA Games -

The Good: EA is another company that's really struggled in the face of public perception for the last few years, and they've also taken a page from the "2013 Sony book" and dumped bravado in favor of catering to "we the gamer". There weren't a lot of surprises, and the really big one was nuked by internet leaks about two weeks ago (Battlefield: Hardline still looks great tho!). This is definitely more evolution than revolution though. 

The Bad: Not a lot really shown. Remember the last few years, when EA just LOADED their press events with gameplay? Not here, bucko! There were a lot of talking heads and progress reports with very little substance. I think it's great that they showed off Star Wars: Battlefront, but we still know next to nothing about it! Likewise the next Mass Effect, and whatever other IP Bioware Edmonton is working on. Dragon Age: Inquisition is looking pretty stunning though. 

The Ugly: Truthfully, nothing really jumps out at me. Even The Sims 4, in spite of it not appealing to me in the slightest, looks rather novel and pretty clever. If I had to narrow things down, I'd say it was the "work in progress/behind the scenes" videos. If you're gonna show something like a next gen Mass Effect, we would much rather a teaser and a title. Granted it worked well for Star Wars:Battlefront, but that's a unique circumstance.  

Takeaway: EA's overall showing was short on surprise, and rather short on games to be honest, and the studio really doesn't seem to have a clear guidance on what it's trying to accomplish these days. I honestly think that the absence of John Riccotello has hurt the company from a leadership perspective. Still, there's definitely some strong output coming, but there's a lot of vapor here as well. Worth mention: Battlefield: Hardline shows some distinctly clever thinking on how to deal with franchise fatigue, and Activision could learn a thing or two. 


- Ubisoft -

The Good: Sweet God, where to begin? Everything coming out of this freaking studio looks like creativity, ingenuity, technical prowess, and concentrated fun all boiled into a stew and served piping hot. Ubisoft also knows how to cut together some fantastic trailers. Hell, even their damn fitness game looks like fun (and typically I avoid those like the bane of human existence that they are!). Aisha Tyler remains a smart, funny host who genuinely seems to be having a hoot and a half at these things, and my God! Those games! Farcry 4! Assassin's Creed: Unity! The Division! The Crew! Valiant Hearts! and of course, the newly announced (and seemingly newly minted) Rainbow Six: Siege all look like total firecrackers! Great show Ubi! 

The Bad: I love that Ubisoft always gives us a total surprise at the end of the show, and while "Rainbow Six: Siege" certainly didn't disappoint, and certainly seems to be embracing Ubi's pencheant for emergent gameplay, it certainly didn't pack the same whollop as Watch_Dogs or The Division. It also looks damn early, and I have to wonder how much of that gameplay is more "proof of concept" than actual execution. 

The Ugly: I could pick on Rainbow Six: Siege again by citing the incredibly unpolished animation and effects work, but I won't, because clearly it's mighty early. 

Takeaways: Ubisoft continues to rock it like nobody's business. They are really churning out some of THE finest product for next gen consoles, and this year's E3 was all killer, no filler. 


- Sony - 

The Good: Lets get this out of the way first, Sony delivered, ok? They really freaking delivered and then some. The first 40 minutes of this press conference was just mic drop after mic drop. From that opening look at Destiny (Open Alpha THIS WEEKEND on PS4!) to Farcry 4 (co-op with anyone on your friend's list, even if they don'y own the game!) through to the indie spotlight (No Man's Sky!!! GASP) and right into the staggering Uncharted 4 teaser... There was just so much to digest here. Sony managed to not only drop a few bombs of their own (Little Big Planet 3 is coming! And it's this year!) but they managed to take ownership of some pretty big multi-platform stuff as well (The GTA V on PS4 announcement comes to mind). It's an amazing time to be a Playstation gamer. Particularly if you like games!

The Bad: The latter half was a slog, with too much "slide show" and not enough action. Why the hell did you waste time with POWERS when you didn't even have a trailer to show us? Too much time spent on Playstation TV when you have Driveclub launching in October! Where were our gameplay demos? While there was a TON of content to sift through, there was also very little info to show for. That's kinda rotten, even if it is a little gratifying. 

The Ugly: Is Sony death-marching Driveclub into retail or something? A nice 2 minute sizzle reel or something of all the third party stuff you've got coming might have been nice as well... 

Takeaway: There's a LOT of product coming to the PS4, a metric ton, and a lot of it is very good news for Sony owners. Aside: Every time you guys at Sony stop talking about games and start talking about "Entertainment", you fall flat on your faces, pleae STOP! I swear I heard a few lines in there that sounded right out of a classic Microsoft presser... not good... 


- Nintendo - 

The Good: Nintendo brought their usual zaniness to the party this year, they also just happened to bring games. Quite a few! And good ones too! The new Zelda announcement was something desperately needed, and I'm sure fans are pleased to see some new Starfox coming down the pipe. Yoshi's Wooly World looked cute, and Bayonetta 2 and Devil's Third are huge gets for the Wii-U hardcore. I still can't help but feel that Nintendo is pushing their agenda moreso than paying heed to fan desires, and they're still as xenophobic as it comes to dealing with third parties from outside of Japan. Still, I can't see any Wii-U owner being disappointed by this show.

The Bad: Nintendo has long been about innovation and marching to the beat of their own drum, either that or recycling old ideas. And while there was some cool stuff going on, there was some mighty offbeat marching as well, Amiibo just looks horrid, lacking in imagination really, and I'm so freakin' done with hearing about Smash Bros. Sorry, but I've never been, nor ever will be a fan of that particular brand of cash cow... adding Skylander figs to the mix only furthers my distaste. There's also (again) the total black hole of North American development for the system, it makes the whole affair feel niche, and, dare I say, insignificant. Just once I'd love to see the "medium N" deliver something fresh, new, and exciting for all gamers. Something that wasn't yet another Mario game. Disney had the sense to move on from Mickey, I think Nintendo needs to diversify.

The Ugly: Not a lot of love for the 3DS here... hmmmm...

Takeaways: Nintendo, for better or worse, continues to do things their own way. The Wii-U's future shows promise if Nintendo can deliver on what was shown, but this si really the E3 they should have had last year. I think it's almost too late now. Still, if you're one of those people who took the plunge and snagged a Wii-U, congrats, it looks as though your patience will finally be rewarded in 2015!


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