Gamer’s Delight: A report from the video game conference E3
Once a year the E3 conference graces gamers with a look into the future of our favorite hobby. What games are coming down the pike in the next year or two? What new gadgets will we have to play with? What gigantic multinational corporation will reign supreme over the other gigantic multinational corporations? Read and find out.
The Xbox One came out swinging with tons of game announcements. This whole conference was them trying to erase past mistakes. Gone were the mentions of the Xbox One being a television and entertainment machine. Gone were the mentions of the Kinect (mostly). Instead it was all games and plenty of them. Here is what they laid down at our feet in hopes the gaming Gods forgive them for past grievances.
This is their big holiday 2014 title. It’s bold. It’s colorful. Heck, it’s not even a first person shooter. In other words, it’s very un-Xbox. Developed by Insomniac Games, makers of “Ratchet” and “Clank,” “Sunset Overdrive” is a blisteringly fun third person sandbox action title. To these eyes it looks a whole lot like “Infamous: Second Son,” with plenty of more color and personality.
‘Halo: Master Chief Collection’
This is their other big holiday 2014 title. They wisely knew that “Sunset Overdrive” might not catch on with Xbox gamers, so they brought out the big gun. This remastered collection contains each and every main “Halo” title, along with all of the DLC content. Four AAA titles for sixty bucks is a pretty great deal but it doesn’t lessen the sting of “Halo 5″ being pushed back to God knows when.
The “Crackdown” series is aptly named because these games are absolutely addictive. From the outside it looks just like your average open world third person murder simulator, however “Crackdown” is really about exploration. All over the city, in every nook and cranny, lurks these orbs. Each orb you collect makes you the tiniest bit more powerful. Once you collect a bunch of orbs you basically become Superman. It’s probably the best-done slow trickle reward system in all of gaming.
Thoughts: Pretty good Microsoft! It may not change the public’s perception of the Xbox One all by itself, but it definitely is a step in the right direction. However, and I may be alone in this, I for one am kind of bummed they seem to completely be dropping support for the “Kinect.” Not only is it a slight smack in the face of early adopters (cough, cough), but it also drops the ball on what truly could be impressive and game-changing technology if developers gave it the time it needs to shine. Now that the “Kinect” is no longer packed-in with the system, there is no way any developer would waste time on it. Too bad.
The PlayStation 4 is the king of the mountain right now so Sony basically just had to show up and assuage fans that they hadn’t given up to become cilantro farmers and then call it a day. Thankfully, they did a bit more than that. They showed a fair amount of corporate swagger, even throwing a couple of on-stage disses toward Microsoft (shades of Biggie vs. Tupac). They also showed a bunch of games.
This is the big one. The fourth “Uncharted” and first on the PlayStation 4. It will no doubt be great, although the only footage shown was a short cinematic sequence (which seems to be a thing at E3). Of note, sidekick Sully is definitely back as is the series protagonist, Nathan Drake. You’ll be able to search for treasure and shoot hundreds upon hundreds of random soldiers sometime in 2015. My bet is November.
DIY floaty physics are back! Sackboy and his cohorts will, obviously, be coming to PlayStation 4, promising more sidescrolling action and more user-designed levels and games. The new engine allows for all manner of user-generated content, from racing games to puzzle games. I am a huge fan of user-generated content so this is definitely on my radar, despite not being the biggest fan of LBP’s actual gameplay.
‘The Order 1886′
Sony’s big holiday 2014 title is this action/survival horror game that has players traversing a steampunk-infused alternate history and fighting, well, werewolf zombie monsters or something. It’s all a bit fuzzy, which is odd considering it is due on store shelves in mere months. The trailer Sony showed off didn’t even show any gameplay.
‘No Man’s Sky’
Sony couched their words about the exclusivity of this title. It seems the only console it will be coming to is the PS4, but they didn’t rule out the PC so look for it there as well. Regardless, you are going to want to play this one. This is the game we all wanted when we were kids, a universe simulator that lets you hop from planet to planet and explore like a regular Federation captain. Even cooler? You aren’t a musclebound bozo with a big gun.
Thoughts: You can’t really complain. They showed a lot of games. They had a lot of dudes in nice suits passing off PR gobbleygook as actual human speech. It was your typical E3 press conference, in other words. Sony did seem to do a whole lot of pretending that multi-platform games were exclusive to the PS4, with presentations on “Destiny,” “Dead Island 2″ and the next “Tomb Raider” (all of which will show up on Xbox One). Also, they barely mentioned the criminally maligned Vita. Poor little bugger.
To say Nintendo marches to the beat of their own drummer would be a supreme, and mushroom-sized, understatement. This is alienating to some and revelatory to others. They skipped the press conference this year, favoring a slickly produced hour-long television special of sorts that served the same purpose. It was brisk, funny (help from “Robot Chicken”) and didn’t dilly-dally. It was pretty darned refreshing, if you ask me.
‘Zelda Wii U’
Here it is. The one and only “Legend of Zelda,” making fanboys cry since 1986. First of all, check out the trailer (below). It looks like the most beautiful anime ever made, only it’s a video game. Nintendo has always been great about defying expectations with the look of this series, never caving in to the mainstream’s wishes of more brutal and more brown. Also, this iteration is looking to be taking major cues of “Skyrim,” with a completely open world that isn’t puzzle-gated like previous “Zelda” titles. Uh, yeah, I’m gonna be calling in sick to work for a couple of weeks in 2015 when this launches.
Remember earlier when I said I loved user-generated content? That’s probably because as a kid, like most kids, I was obsessed with the idea of making my own “Mario” levels. Jesus, I had notebooks full of them. It looks like I’m gonna have to get those out of storage, because Nintendo used E3 to announce something called “Mario Maker,” a full-fledged level creation system that looks pretty darned cool. It’s amazing it took this long to be real, right? The Wii U’s tablet controller is perfectly suited to make levels on the quick, though. Drag and drop, baby.
‘Super Smash Bros U’
Nintendo is betting heavily on brawler “Super Smash Bros.” to rule the roost this holiday season. After all, four-player local multiplayer is Nintendo’s bread and butter. Look at how well “Mario Kart 8″ has been doing. This looks to be simply a refined take on the usual SSB formula, which is in no way a bad thing. It’s also coming out on the 3DS, on October 4th. Also, Pac-Man was announced as a playable character, which means you could have a match that pits Mario against Sonic against Pac-Man against Mega Man. Again, shades of Biggie vs Tupac.
This is another in the long line of “games only Nintendo would make” category. It’s sort of like a first person shooter, only with paint. Also, instead of being a beefed up soldier, you are a transforming squid. Also, you can spray enough paint on the floor that you can actually swim in it, thus surprising enemies. It’s hard to describe but looks pretty fun and could finally put Nintendo on the “online shooter” map.
Thoughts: This was a real home run for Nintendo. They just kept showing game after game after game. In addition to those covered above, there are upcoming “Wii U Kirby,” “Yoshi” and “Starfox” titles, a fantastic looking installment in the “Xenoblade” series and, of course, another “Mario Party.” The company also revealed a line of interactive action figures, similar to “Skylanders,” that will no doubt make them a billion dollars. They needed to put on a fantastic show and, thankfully for their investors, they did.
Overall thoughts: Quite unusual for E3, there were no bad press conferences. Each of the three did a little something for their respective companies. Nintendo and Microsoft helped erase some public image problems and Sony, well, remained Sony. So, all-in-all, this year’s conference was definitely a win for gamers, although not a particularly huge win for their wallets.
Follow Lawrence Bonk on Twitter @sidescrollers