E3 is now going full-steam in its second day, and as usual, the hardware manufacturers and big publishers prefaced the show on Monday and early Tuesday with their own presentations. Showcasing their latest titles, release dates, and new announcements, they’re what gamers most look forward to… and dread.
As I brought up earlier this week, this is a particularly important E3 for both Microsoft and Nintendo. With Sony leading this generation, its competitors need to pull out all the stops and show that they offer games and value that are unique to their platforms. Let’s see how they did:
For Microsoft — and this had to be true for Sony and Nintendo as well — 2014 is all about the games. However, what I saw were a good number of multi-platform titles that have some exclusive platform content. For some context, I include PC in the platform definition, so when I see something that’s on a console and PC, it’s no longer an exclusive.
I’ve never been a fan of the same title being on different systems with each having different content. It immediately makes me feel ripped-off, like I’m not getting the complete package. That being said, however, at least the Xbox One has those multi-platform games, unlike the Wii U.
Forza Motorsport 5 made an appearance, as one of Microsoft’s big announcements was the fact that you could download the Nurburgring DLC for free. As someone who doesn’t yet own an Xbox One, I found this odd in that I was more surprised that the track wasn’t already in the game! It’s in Forza Motorsport 4 and the Gran Turismo titles, so why not, right?
Forza 5 had a bit of a rocky start with gamers due to content and potential paywall issues, but it’s one of the few games I’m interested in on the console since the series is one of my favorites (I gave Forza 4 an A back in January). It didn’t seem like the audience knew how to react to this news. Free is great, but it does raise immediate questions about what $60 should be getting you in the first place.
Forza Horizon 2 looked fantastic, though. I have the original Xbox 360 version, and it’s high in my queue, so I’m looking forward to finally playing it soon. The driving game genre is one that has gotten a bit stale for me, but knowing that Horizon was among my friends’ favorite driving games this generation does bode well.
Moon Studios’ Ori and the Blind Forest is another Xbox One exclusive, and it’s just amazing! This is precisely the kind of game I want to see more of on their console, so Microsoft, I beg you: more games like this, please.
Insomniac’s Sunset Overdrive was impressive as well, and I like the whole tongue-in-cheek, self-aware approach. I don’t care for the enemy designs, but maybe they’ll grow on me over time.
Playdead’s Inside, from the makers of the most excellent game Limbo, left me scratching my head, but I trust that they’ll deliver in the end.
Platinum Games had a video for the Xbox One exclusive Scalebound, but it was hard to tell what it was about, or to gauge its gameplay. The overall design didn’t have a distinctly unique look like most other Platinum titles, either. They did solid work on the Xbox 360, though, so I’m hopeful about its future.
I was initially really bummed out by Microsoft’s presentation, but as things progressed on and I thought back on it, I realized an important fact: there’s a lot there that will please traditional Xbox fans: Halo, Crackdown, Dead Rising, Fable, Destiny, etc. To be fair, that’s pretty much been Nintendo’s approach for generations: please the franchise fans.
I missed EA’s press conference, but I checked out highlights afterwards. It looks like there were some big announcements: a new Mass Effect, another Dragon Age, a conceptual demo for fan-favorite Mirror’s Edge 2, the new Battlefield, the usual sports iterations, and a cool teaser for Star Wars: Battlefront.
The only game out of that list that interests me is Mirror’s Edge 2. For some reason, most EA franchises simply aren’t my cup of tea, even though I’m well aware that many of them are highly regarded.
I thought Ubisoft‘s conference was pretty good. Aisha Tyler did a great job emceeing as usual; it’s strikingly effective when you have someone doing their thing who is comfortable in front of large crowds. Apart from some of the casual titles that didn’t interest me in the slightest — like Just Dance and Shape Up — they had some cool games on display.
One that really stood out for me was the UbiArt Framework game Valiant Hearts: The Great War. I’d forgotten about this one, and was pleasantly surprised to learn that it comes out in two weeks on June 25th! I do hope it’s good. There’s something about the art style that felt a bit low-grade Adobe Flash to me at times, especially compared to the other gorgeous UbiArt games like Rayman Legends and Child of Light.
Assassin’s Creed: Unity looked terrific, although the combat was really slow and weird. The lighting and world detail, however, are just stunning. It was a beautiful game to look at, and like other entries in the series, will surely be a huge hit for Ubisoft.
The racing game The Crew also looked interesting, with its seamless coast-to-coast theme. The trailer for it was also nice, with its time-lapse compression of a 2-hour journey across the US, set to a nice, mellow soundtrack. I’ll take that any day over the stuttery dubstep tripe found in most E3 trailers.
Far Cry 4‘s intro looked totally deranged! With voiceover work from Troy Baker — well-known for his roles as the Joker in Batman: Arkham Origins and Delsin in Infamous: Second Son — it made quite an impression, and got me interested in the series in general, which I have never played.
Tom Clancy’s The Division also had some neat ideas going on, but the multiplayer demo they showed seemed overly scripted and not very realistic. The trailer shown at Sony’s press conference later that day helped flesh things out, and got me more excited about the game than I was here.
I missed and was eating dinner throughout most of Sony‘s presentation, but got online just in time to catch Batman: Arkham Knight. That game, man. It’s the kind of event that people call out sick for on release day. It just looks amazing. PS4 owners will get exclusive Scarecrow missions, which I know will be super-cool, but again, it just rubs me the wrong way that exclusive content is even a thing. But, I digress.
Anyway, one of the better things from their presentation was the twin-stick title Entwined, which is available now for PS4. It hearkens back to the creative freedom of Thatgamecompany’s early PS3 game Flower, and I like that this generation has showcased smaller indie titles just as much as the blockbusters. I think every system needs a healthy serving of both, and for every Edge of Tomorrow, there needs to be a Short Term 12.
Similarly, No Man’s Sky is looking phenomenal, and I can’t wait to play it.
The thing I was looking forward to the most was a bit of a disappointment for me: Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. Last year, we saw a map. This year, we saw Nate standing up and walking into a forest. It was stunning and detailed, of course, but I didn’t think it was enough.
I was really hoping for at least a glimpse of some gameplay and new features, but no such luck. It had a more serious tone — like that of Uncharted 3 — so I hope the energy and humor of the first two games are not lost here. I really don’t want this to be “The Last of Uncharted.”
LittleBigPlanet 3 looked like… LittleBigPlanet. It’s very pretty and vibrant, and there were some nice new features and characters with different abilities, but those controls. One of the players on stage was having the hardest time doing simple wall-jumps, so tight control seems to remain as elusive as it’s ever been.
A little side-rant here, but was it just me, or was there practically nothing shown for the Vita? No love, I swear. Nothing on The Last Guardian either. Originally announced for a 2011 PS3 release, its delays have earned it the dubious distinction of becoming the Duke Nukem Forever of this generation, right up there with Half-Life 3.
There’s a lot for Sony fans to be happy about, though, including Infamous: First Light, Metal Gear Solid V, The Order: 1886, Driveclub, Ratchet & Clank, Grim Fandango, and Bloodborne. Overall, I think Sony had the strongest lineup. They’re not necessarily all the kinds of games I myself enjoy playing, but it’s hard to deny that this is certainly the most robust and plentiful lineup of any of the current consoles.
This really was Nintendo’s E3 to lose. It’s not like the industry had high hopes to begin with, but you can’t let Nintendo fans down, especially those who have been raked over the coals for the past year and a half with the Wii U. My expectations were high, so how do I think they did?
Well, it was about what I expected, which is both good and bad. Good in that it was much better than last year’s flop of a press conference, but bad in that it just wasn’t enough.
There was a lot of talk about Super Smash Bros. 4, but it was The Legend of Zelda for the Wii U that surprised everyone. Even if you were expecting it, the way it looked was astonishing. When Eiji Aonuma snapped his fingers and revealed the new Hyrule overworld, my jaw hit the floor.
It was also nice to hear him talk about ideas introduced in A Link Between Worlds on the 3DS carrying over to the console version. It shows that they acknowledge and understand that Zelda has run its course in terms of structure, and that it needs to change in ways that will keep it interesting and relevant.
Reggie showed off Nintendo’s “Amiibo” 3DS/Wii U NFC figures, similar to those seen in the Skylanders and Disney Infinity franchises. They look nice, and I’m sure they’ll make tons of money, but this seems like a bad place for Nintendo to be putting their efforts, especially with all the trouble the Wii U’s experienced. I’m not the target market, though, so what do I know?
Yoshi’s Wooly World looks great. I haven’t cared for any of the Yoshi games since the Super Nintendo classic Yoshi’s Island, so I hope it’s a worthy follow-up. From what they showed, it has some inventive and creative ideas.
It wasn’t Super Mario Galaxy 3 like I had hoped, and it wasn’t even New Super Mario Bros. U 2. Instead, one of their Mario games was Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker. It looks fun, and I liked those levels in Super Mario 3D World, but it can’t help but feel like a stopgap until a real Mario title appears.
The other one — Mario Maker — lets you create your own Super Mario Bros. stages in the classic or New style. I’m not really into “creator” games like I was back in the day, but I think it will be lots of fun playing the creations that come out of the Miiverse.
One title that has generated some decent buzz is Splatoon, a 4 vs. 4 multiplayer arena game. It has some terrific design that feels unique in a world still dominated by Call of Duty and other violent shooters. In that sense, Splatoon‘s a breath of fresh air. The only thing I don’t like about it is the character designs. They’re painfully generic by Nintendo standards, so I hope they work those out a little more prior to release. Anyone else sensing an Amiibo tie-in opportunity?
On the 3DS, Fantasy Life, Professor Layton vs. Phoenix Wright, Pokemon Omega Ruby & Alpha Sapphire, Theatrhythm Final Fantasy: Curtain Call, Persona Q: Shadow of the Labyrinth, and others have been making the rounds. As I mentioned earlier this week, things seem surprisingly light on the 3DS front after a couple very prolific years, so that platform’s future worries me a bit.
Overall, nothing besides The Legend of Zelda blew me away, and even as the great Shigeru Miyamoto teased Star Fox at the end of the presentation, I was left wanting more. Their lineup is solid, but with very little coming out in 2014, the patience of Wii U owners — including myself — will be tested once again.
But hey, props to them for even mentioning the amazing Mother 3.