It’s happened again, the big corporate circle jerk that is E3, and all consumers can do is hope a bit of errant spunk flies from the circle and pleases them with a bit of salty distraction from the inexorable journey to the grave.
Maybe it’s just that I’ve turned incredibly cynical over the years of exposure to the games industry’s shit but I find it very difficult to be in any way excited for E3 since almost everything shown is either years off, hyped to the balls and could never live up to it or will look considerably more shit that in the carefully choreographed “gameplay trailer”. And even as the first conference started I felt myself thinking “Oh why did I say I’d do this.” A feeling that is never a positive thing, nor one that abated throughout the whole ordeal.
Nevertheless, here I am on the other side of the conferences feeling a mix of relief and mild disappointment that I wasn’t proven wrong in my thoughts. So for what it’s worth, here is my round up of the E3 conferences and my thoughts on the shit that it’s spawned (that may have given the game away…)
One phrase perfectly captures EA’s performance at E3 this year, that phrase would be “Bullshit”. While some of the less cynical amongst you may tell me that good games were announced, I disagree. Nothing was announced that had either hadn’t been announced or needed to be. Actually I tell a lie, there was one game. A little indie game called Fe, or as I first thought, the chemical symbol for Iron. Turns out it has nothing to do with the metal and is instead an attempt to make the most artsy indie of the artsy indie darlings by combining the protagonist with a big head from almost all good indie games, but let’s say Limbo for the sake of argument. The cell shaded, semi-low poly environments indicative of a game with big ambitions but without the budget to completely realise the developer’s “vision”. And the big, dark scary world used to put the protagonist through a loss of innocence story.
That said I’m not entirely down on the game, it’s a beautiful looking thing, despite the art style being completely overdone, and it seems to fill the niche for 3D platformers that the industry seems to be either ignoring or failing to do at the moment, with the exception of Grow Home by Ubisoft, a game which was released quietly in the middle of last year and one which we shall see brought up again in this event.
So with the only thing I can honestly say I’m excited for from the EA conference, let’s get back to sarcasm and snarkiness with the inevitable announcement of Titanfall 2. An experience which seems on the surface about as appealing to me as a sandwich full of cold sick as I can’t stand 90% of multiplayer games, and this time PS4 players can experience the same dread since EA have courteously decided to inflict it on them as well. There is, however, a silver lining to this. Titanfall now has a single player campaign! Now this may be down to the fact that the only thing that passes as plot in the last game was drowned out by 12 year olds telling me they did unsavoury things to my relatives. I will state though that the plot to the story appears to be just as generic as and other FPS plot and alarm bells went off when the campaign trailer stated that the protagonists orders were to “protect the pilot” amongst other things, meaning we may have an AI controlled fuckwit following us around the entire game, getting shot and dying because they can’t reasonably put a bit of wall between themselves and the hurty metal things that keep being fired into their genitals. Frankly I don’t hold out much hope for the campaign, as it will be either COD levels of boring or just the normal matches but with bots and text dumps in between missions for plot.
Following this show of mediocrity, EA then did the same thing they did last year and completely failed to realise that gamers don’t care about real world sports anywhere as much as they think we do. Sure some of us will play FIFA or Madden (myself NOT included) but it seems to me that the majority of people who play such games will play only those games and nothing else, owning a console exclusively to play the latest year’s version of the same game but with an updated roster, for which the only reason it is charged as a full price game each year rather than a patch to the previous game to update the roster is to make more money. To this end, EA decided that the best thing to show hardcore gamers and journalists was over half a conference dedicated to such games and trying to sell us the idea that playing real world sports as E-Sports was something actually worth giving a shit about instead of doing either of the following. Watching actual people play the game in real life. Or watching people play games that bear no resemblance to the real world, such as Rocket League or LOL in a competitive environment.
So after showing us the barely changed updates to such games, EA then announced an RPG style make a player mode, where you build said player up from the little teams into a world renowned player. Possibly the most interesting thing they’ve done with the concept in years if WWE hadn’t already done the same in WWE K16. Following this was a rather baffling repeat of last year’s Pele stunt, this time involving Theo Walcott and, somewhat bizarrely, Jose Mourinho, where they asked him if his son was a gamer and if he used his dad’s credit card to buy micro transactions in so many words. Mercifully though, this section was much shorter than the Pele segment from last year. The purpose of the latter’s appearance was to show of how they’ve made the managers in this year’s update more realistic with reactions and such. All of which grabbed me as well a double amputee in another postcode.
Almost all of the rest of their announcements werereminders that projects still existed more than anything . More specifically Mass Effect: Andromeda with a gender swapped default Sheppard, their 3 Star Wars titles, one being a mobile cash grab and another being years old leaving the final one, Battlefront only reminding us that DLC for the new films will soon be out.
As we reach the climax of EA’s show, we are shown the trailer to Battlefront 1 that we’ve already seen and told that we can tune in after the conference for an hour of various celebrities playing the game, including Jamie Foxx, Zac Effron (whose name will forever look like a typo) and Snoop Dogg, the latter of whom was shown smoking a joint whilst playing, and by playing I mean running into a wall. They did however give us a new trailer which had at least 10 seconds of actual gameplay in it and unfortunately it seems all the ideas that it’d do things differently to the brown FPS’s of late would appear to be mistaken, showing the same war glorifying, brown dull gameplay as always but in a different setting.
Weirdly EA seem to have done the impossible by simultaneously producing a show that was padded to the balls and too short. Clocking in at a pitiful 1hour and two minutes, they even admitted that they didn’t have an hour’s worth of things to show us so it makes me thing what was the fucking point of having a conference slot when you could barely fill any of it. So in summary, EA can suck a fat one for this utter shambles.
Now then I will admit to not having watched all of this conference, mostly due to being asleep and watching a highlights video from a YouTube commentator I usually watch. But I will say that I came away with more notes than from the EA conference and most of them weren’t me shitting all over them, meaning that they must have done something right despite not having any new IP to show us.
We will start by talking about the nostalgia dollar that Bethesda have capitalised on once already this year with DOOM, a frankly superb FPS that takes it back to the roots and is bags of fun. This time however, it’s Quake that’s getting the modernising treatment with “Quake Champions, a series that started the arena shooter genre with quick deathmatches and fast paced, competitive fun. Given a lick of modern graphical paint, this would seem to be an easy sell to the people who crave a bit of Quake but every time they go back to it they see the crow’s feet which remind us that the years haven’t been all that kind to it. That would be the case but the way it’s being sold implies that there’s more of a hero/character focus, no doubt influenced by the success of games such as Overwatch, and a levelling system where you level specific characters which I’m not sure suits the game they’re trying to sell.
The Elder Scrolls took a big part of the Bethesda conference this year, being one of its biggest series it does make sense and this year has good cause for mentioning it with a re-master of the fifth game in the series; Skyrim. The re-master is coming to PC, the Xbone and the PS4. Although bringing it to the former seems somewhat redundant thanks to the modding scene, which Bethesda has suggested will be largely un-affected by the release, and in an even better move for the PC crowd, Bethesda announced that the re-master will be available for free to anyone who owns either the legendary edition or the base game with the expansions. This is possibly one of the best moves they could have made since asking the PC users to pay again when the base game works perfectly fine on their rig seems an exercise in idiocy, whereas the console crowd seem to throw away their old consoles when a new one comes out so a version on these consoles seems like a justifiable reason to charge for it.
Also announced from TES series was their CCG, Elder Scrolls Legends. While I appreciate new CCGs to play and will keep an eye on this, I’m slightly annoyed that we were only shown the intro cinematic which tells us the root of sod all about the game and it’s mechanics. A final Elder Scrolls announcement was an expansion for TES Online called Dark Brotherhood. An announcement that seems to me to do nothing more than reminding me that the game existed. An existence that confused me in the first place since the series itself never seemed to suit the MMO theme and fell somewhat flat after launch.
Another venerable series for Bethesda is the Fallout series, the most recent entry in particular capturing the attention of many people, despite (or in some cases because of) the lack of proper RPG elements in the game and the dialogue options being very simplified. To that end, the final round of DLC was announced for the game, with the contraptions pack, which seems to add things to make a Rube Goldberg machine for some reason along with tools to build your own vault and conduct your own experiments on its inhabitants. The latter of these features intrigues me since it seems to be a more fleshed out version of Fallout Shelter, the mobile money sink that launched last year and served as an advert for the full game. This in turn seems to make the upcoming content patch and PC release for said money sink slightly redundant, but the stylised graphics of Shelter may see it sell on the platform regardless.
The final piece of DLC for F4 announced was Nuka World, a rather mysterious trailer tells us almost nothing other than a vague release date and that it’s set in a small amusement park. Could this be like New Vegas but worked into the base game as DLC rather than stand alone? We will only find out when the time comes.
The final piece of Fallout news brings us top the topic of VR. With VR versions of both Fallout 4 and DOOM announced, my question with the latter would be if VR would be beneficial to the game at all since the character’s movement speed is faster than an Olympic sprinter, would such speed be a detriment to VR, giving users motion sickness? Of course it is something we can only speculate upon since VR is still young and not many comparable games have been released for either major system to gauge with.
Speaking of DOOM, some DLC and improvements were mentioned at the conference, including additional features to the snapmap mode, meaning map creators have more freedom and tools to use. Hopefully this means there will be more freedom to create maps that spawn 100 of something and you have to massacre them all, a feature sadly lacking at present and one suspects that’s due to the limited capabilities of the console versions. The other major snapmap change is that you will be able to make single player maps, meaning I can play them without 3 other yahoos around and will create much more re-playability for the game. All good news however must come with some bittersweet, and this for me is that the DLC is seemingly only adding features to the multiplayer, meaning I wouldn’t get any benefit from it and it will create an uneven online community of haves and have nots, a direction I feel goes about as well as a car full of puppies into a lake.
Anybody remember Dishonored? A fun stealth/stabbing game let down slightly by its moral choice system. Well now a sequel has been announced, and you’d be forgiven for thinking there was less stealth if you’d only watched the pre-rendered trailer, because that’s what I certainly thought until a more gameplay heavy trailer was shown and frankly the game looks superb. With more powers to play with than last time, including a spectacular looking time travel mechanic that is harder to explain than I first thought. You seem to travel into the future, or the past, or an alternate dimension, or a pocket dimension where the enemy that might have seen you before isn’t there at all and you can see the normal timeline through a… thing on your gauntlet which can also be used to kill said enemies. Now the question remains about this is what they will do to balance it, because it seems to be a completely game breaking mechanic on its own. That aside this game is one of the few I’m left actually looking forward to and I’m hoping for good things.
The final game shown to us, and by that I mean a pre-rendered trailer which shows us precisely fuck all about the actual game is the annoyingly titled follow-up to Prey, named Prey. No that wasn’t a mistake, the games industry seems to be getting even quicker with its re-boot of the same name problem they should probably see a doctor about it. This is stated to be a re-imagining of the original game from 10 years ago since its sequel went through the development mangle one too many times and was cancelled. However, from what I can work out, the game seems to by a psychological horror/action with themes of reality manipulation and existentialism regarding our reality. Ergo something I’ll have no qualms with not playing.
And with that, the Bethesda conference is wrapped up, leaving me impressed by a lot of what was on show, although EA’s poor showing may have helped that. We shall move on from what was bizarrely named Day -1, to Day 0 where most of the conferences took place.
Microsoft really seem to have given up on the idea of Xbox exclusive title, a move I both applaud and sneer at because while I’d love a world where exclusives weren’t a thing and we could play any game on any platform, I don’t know if I’d like it if it were done the way Microsoft seem to be doing it. Where it is boldly announced that game X will be released on the Xbone and PC, the reality is that it will be released through the Windows 10 store, filled with restrictive DRM, no mod support and an inability to capture footage using most conventional capture software such as Shadowplay or FRAPS. This environment where Microsoft have a lockdown on everything and peddle their wares on a ridiculous and frankly insulting storefront seems nothing but detrimental to the industry, and you can bet people will go along with it, buying Halo Wars 2 using their store and only proliferating the idea in Microsoft’s heads that they’ve got it right when they so clearly haven’t. The one good thing to come out of this recent push is the announcement that if you buy a game on one platform, you will own it on both, a good move to get people using the storefront, but at the same time they’d have to buy an Xbone to benefit from it, a sacrifice I’m not willing to make.
Continuing the recent themes that the current consoles are already dead in the water, Microsoft have announced two new models of the ‘Bone, the S, a stripped down, smaller version that costs just $300, and a steroid injected version that, while it will still shrivel against a current PC build’s performance, supports 4K and better internals such as the processor. This does however, remind me of the thing Nintendo did with the 3DS, bringing out a new model with better hardware but barely making any exclusives and having the games suffer as a consequence, Hyrule Warriors was an infamous example, running fine on the New 3DS, but running at sub 20 FPS levels on the original as Nintendo didn’t want to cut apart their audience as some didn’t want to shell out already for a new console.
Also in hardware was the reveal of custom controllers, a thing that’s been available for years through third parties but Microsoft only just realised might be a thing they could do. Depending on the price this could be a very good sell, as a lover of the Xbone controller myself, using it for and PC games I would play with a controller, I wouldn’t mind a more personalised one on my house, but you can bet Microsoft want to charge the equivalent of your first born for the privilege. UPDATE: as I’m writing this, the price for one of their custom controllers is $80, or £57, so contrary to my expectations, at only £10-20 up from the price of a normal wireless controller it’s something I’m seriously considering.
Games-wise, Microsoft had quite a few things to show off, for better or for worse, beginning with Gears of War 4, adding to the somewhat lacklustre gameplay last year is some more lacklustre campaign gameplay with terrible sounding weapons. Brown, dull, dirty environments that should’ve stayed in the previous shooter generation. And most stupidly of all, at the end of the gameplay trailer there is an obvious audio cut to censor profanity in the cutscene being shown. And if there was anything you should’ve shown at E3, it shouldn’t have been a bit with a “fuck” in it.
Speaking of not giving a fuck, The Division, or as I have come to know it “Bullet Sponges: the game” has reminded us of its existence with some upcoming DLC but before I could yawn myself into a coma, we were informed that it’s going to be an Xbox timed exclusive, meaning for a whole month no less! Xbone players can shoot Kevlar bandana wearing urchins in the head with slightly newer reasons to do so, all the while I’ll be playing something that’s actually entertaining.
Other IP that’s being given another run through the mangle include, Forza Horizon 3 which is another Forza game, and there’s nothing else to be said about it. Halo Wars 2, the second RTS in a franchise that’s ridden the mediocrity train for its entire lifespan and still attracted a ravenous horde of fans. The Gwent card game, a full version of the card game popularised in a side quest in The Witcher 3, although I wonder what CD Projekt Red can add to make the game worth buying when you can just play the game already. Dead Rising 4, and one wonders how it finds the effort to actually rise anymore since it and its concept has been done more than a gigolo at a hen due, a statement I also reserve for State of Decay 2 because we honestly have enough zombies in pop culture now, please stop.
Tekken 7 was also shown to us, with a trailer that heavily blurs the line between pre-rendered and gameplay but looks spectacular, and as a bonus positive, it’s coming to the PC for the first time ever, meaning I can play it and I’ll be really excited to see how it plays, providing they don’t fuck up the port like so many developers of late.
The final (appropriately) and possibly most tortuously prolonged of the stretched out series gang with an announcement was Final Fantasy, with FF 15. The gameplay trailer adds to the demo seen a month or two ago, this time seeing the protagonist fighting a very large monster. A feature that always goes one of two ways in games, feeling like the size is utterly meaningless, or that the massive monster really is huge and lumbering, with your attacks barely scratching it and you have to spend half an hour just to take the thing down with what might as well be a twig. Happily, FF 15 falls into the latter category with the monster’s sweeping arms cutting down swathes of supporting NPC’s and our protagonist barely being able to escape it’s blows. This, combined with the recent demo makes this the most interesting a Final Fantasy game has looked in years, give it to me now.
After what seems like an age, we’re on to the new IP that Microsoft showed us, beginning with something that fails to do the thing FF 15 managed, Scalebound. A gameplay trailer showed a rather similar scenario, with the protagonists fighting a large monster, except the only reason this one seemed to take ages to take down was the ineptitude of the people playing, failing to fire at the most obvious weak spots and not powering up their characters until the very end. The monster’s attacks also felt like they were doing nothing, with the protagonists easily dodging attacks that were telegraphed enough to change postcode before they were pulled off.
Sea of thieves showed us how annoying 4 people playing the game were, frankly I would’ve been more interested in the premise (a co-op pirate ship game) if they had gotten rid of the face cams of 4 annoyingly loud people distracting from the game. A fun idea lies at the core of this game, but it relies on selling many copies so friends own it, and teams working together well.
And the final two games of the conference are Recore, the pre-rendered trailer of which debuted last year, and this year we actually saw gameplay. It appears to be a fun 3D platformer with a robot sidekick, although the robot’s baring on the gameplay is unknown so will it be a gameplay gimmick or a fun addition to the concept. We finish on the most interesting game of the conference, if not the whole event: We Happy Few. A game that’s been in development for quite a while and will be launching on Steam early access later this month, the gameplay opening trailer gives off a big Bioshock vibe initially and gradually expands into its own, bringing in themes of thought control, supressing of the major population through drugs and a police state idealised dystopia. Honestly it enthralled me and I cannot wait to get my hands on it, go and watch the trailer and see for yourself.
Oh for the love of fuck it’s back! After the shambles that was last year’s show, the PC Gaming show seems to have only taken some of the lessons from that on board. I’ll start with the positives, they showed much more in terms of gameplay this year, and keeping the talk show parts much shorter.
This is however completely mitigated by several things, the first being starting their stream with a competition winner trying to fill her Steam cart with a much as she can in 3 minutes. A cute idea but one that should’ve been a show floor thing and maybe a YouTube video and certainly not a thing that was commentated over by the most overenthusiastic commentator, filling our ears with the name of every game she added to an obnoxious degree. So it was off to a bad start already, and then the sponsors came out, this being the only show that was sponsored outwardly, both AMD and Razer came out to show off their latest hardware, the former getting a 10 minute talk show slot to themselves and the representative coined the phrase “we have two eyes, why not two GPU’s?” To which I answer, many reasons, money, heat, the fact that our eyes aren’t linked in any way to the quality of a set of pixels on a screen, and what link could be established can be fixed with a pair of spectacles and not another GPU. The final nail in the coffin was the show drastically running over, with all other conferences ending with some time before the next, allowing commentators and journalists to take a break before getting back into it. PC Gamer however have a rule unto themselves, running not just up to, but in to the Ubisoft conference leaving many of us with no break and several journalists at the event having to leave before finishing to get to the next conference, and not only that, continuing to run for a whole half hour over. This is the height of poor etiquette considering that it’s both the 21st year of E3 and PC Gamer’s 2nd, there really is no excuse for this.
So with all of that in mind, and the fact that this was almost objectively the worst conference, which is saying something against EA’s dismal performance. There were some interesting games announced, the two most interesting of which were Dawn of War 3, and a VR game called Giant Cop. The first of these is the third in the series of very successful RTS games and this one makes the Halo Wars reveal look like a load of boring wank, with beautiful graphics and animations it is one to keep an eye on and if the gameplay is solid it may even get me into RTS for a change. Giant Cop conversely, is a game where the player is a giant policeman, so really hitting the nail on the head with the title there, managing crime and helping citizens in a small town. There has been however some bad news with this title as it has been announced as an Oculus exclusive, meaning a game that could take perfect advantage of the Vive’s roomscale technology has been artificially crippled by Facebook and a big sack of money. Please Facebook, stop this bollocks, you’ve already ruined Superhot’s VR which is arguably even better suited to roomscaling than Giant Cop.
Updates to several games were shown, including Killing Floor 2 adding maps and characters, as well as a VR title (Oculus exclusive). Personally, I think the update has come too late and a lot of players have lost interest in the game which is still in early access so maybe this update should’ve arrived sooner. Speaking on that topic, Ark: Survival Evolved has another update, this time greatly expanding the building tools players can use as well as adding new dinosaurs and the integration of what was once a mod to control monsters. This in contrast to the KF2 update adds lots of interesting content and as such, many more things for players to do and more to entice new players in, a much better example of the early access model working as it should, here’s hoping the game goes the full way to a complete release sooner rather than later. The final game getting an update is Arma 3, which to me at least, looks no different to how it did before and frankly, I couldn’t care less about it.
Other games, some less interesting than others include Dropzone, an RTS game that has shot itself in the foot the same way Battleborn did by releasing around the same time as a similar but more fun looking game (DOW3). Vampyr, which looks to be a bastard child of Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines and the Batman Arkham games, with the setting of the former and the combat of the latter. Dual Universe, which is a voxel based building sim based in a small solar system, meaning it’s basically Space Engineers but with more detailed planets. Tyranny, a dungeon crawler that might as well be called “We love Diablo”. And Lawbreakers, an arena shooter that managed to out to Microsoft’s Sea of Thieves presentation for the most annoying voice over in a gameplay trailer.
And that about wraps up the PC Gaming show, well it did for me as there was half an hour’s worth of content I missed and anything I didn’t mention really wasn’t worth bringing up. If they decide to do this for a 3rd year, they seriously need to get their act together.
We start Ubi’s conference in a completely different way to the previous show with a set of people in varying levels of ridiculous costume dancing along to Don’t Stop Me Now by Queen. All in aid of advertising the new Just Dance game, a rather idiotic spectacle maybe, but there really is no other way to effectively advertise such a game, ergo Ubi have already garnered more points than PC Gamer did in their whole show.
Now all of us who are in any way ingratiated in the games industry know by now that Ubisoft are no longer any sort of innovative pioneers, instead doing the Nintendo business model of optimization and homogenisation. Making a formula that works, polishing it so much it would blind passing children and using it as the framework for every game to be built around. This tactic is very evident in this presentation because a very large proportion of their games just meld together (very literally in the case of a fusion between Trials and the theme of Far Cry: Blood Dragon) into “The Ubisoft Game” and have any sense of independent thought sandblasted away so the only thing that separates them is the setting and vague theme. The two main culprits of the practice this year were Ghost Recall: Wildlands and Watch Dogs 2, with the Division’s DLC (being brought up again) adding a further layer of homogeny on top like a sandwich made of tasteless paste. Ghost Recall, while it looks like a fun to play game, doesn’t even passingly resemble the series whose skin it wears like a trophy, feeling more like a co-op MGS 5 with a god damn fucking radio tower in the bloody trailer. The gameplay trailer continues Ubi’s trend with overly scripted and forced co-op play, the people playing the game make it sound so much like they’re reading a script that even if they’re not I couldn’t tell because it felt so un-natural.
Watch Dogs 2 does the same thing by making the gameplay the same, if not very similar to its predecessor with very minor tweaks to polish and refine it. However effort does seem to have been made to make the plot slightly less half-baked than last time, although that isn’t a feat that is in any way difficult since the entire plot of the last game could be summed up by with one sentence. “Hacker justifies his crimes by using the death of his niece.”
Now for the genuinely interesting things that Ubi brought to the table, starting with a sequel to a game I really rather enjoyed, Grow Home. In fact I did a gameplay video of this game on my YouTube channel that you can watch here:
The sequel is called Grow Up and uses the core concept of the first game, adding more ways to traverse the map such as kites and bouncing on mushrooms. Also the goal of the game has been made much greater than the last game, instead of having to make your way back to a spaceship, this time you mission is to reach the moon. I would say though, that the game may suffer from having no sort of graphical upgrade, but that said, the style it is using may not necessarily benefit from such a thing. Set for an August release, this is a game I am genuinely excited for.
Still in sequel territory, after a completely misdirecting opening “trailer” the sequel to South Park: the Stick of Truth, named The Fractured but Whole, was fleshed out more from its reveal last year. This time showing gameplay from the introduction and improved combat systems, a feature that many players didn’t like about the last game. The title was given more explanation in the trailer, meaning it makes more sense than just being a rather crude pun as the protagonists set out to make a series of superhero films and become “fractured” by a disagreement and split into two groups. With a release date of December 6th, I may give this one a go and I certainly recommend fans of the show check it out as it again perfectly captures the tone the audience expects from anything South Park offers.
VR, for better or worse, is a thing you can’t get away from this year, and Ubi had something in both categories this year, with Star Trek Bridge Command looking like one of the best VR experiences you could possibly have and could frankly be a system seller because lets’ be honest, who hasn’t dreamed of being on the bridge of the Enterprise, commanding you crew or flying the ship? Because I sure as shit have and continue to do so. The flipside is occupied by Eagle Flight, a dull as dishwater capture the flag shooter where both teams are eagles and you attack with “sonic blasts”. Here is a perfect example of a game that has no need to be in VR and is so just for a gimmick, and also, sonic blasts? You said we were eagles, not fucking Pokémon! Last time I looked eagles could fire blasts of air from their beaks so hard that they’d kill another eagle, maybe they got halfway through designing the game and realised that once one team has the “flag” then there’s no way to get it off them, in any case it’s ridiculous.
Last year, For Honor (bloody US spelling) showed us a fine example of melee combat being visceral and weighty without feeling clunky and sticky with its multiplayer gameplay trailer and demo. This year however, it seems to have gone slightly awry with the single player gameplay trailer. All the weight of the combat seems to have been taken out and it looks much less satisfying than the hefty clunks your swords and axes gave last year. I will give props to the man presenting again, who like last year, gave a very impassioned and grandiose speech with his silky smooth yet powerful voice and amazing beard. I will still keep an eye on the development of this game but my expectations are sadly lowered with this development.
Fans of the SSX series, like myself, were disappointed a couple of years ago by the fifth instalment of the series, which suffered from Re-boot-of-the-same-name syndrome (which really needs a shorter name.), and a changed control scheme coupled with the removal of several features, notably stalling tricks. Ubisoft have seemingly made these people’s wishes come true by announcing Steep, a quasi-open world mountain sports game where you can ski, snowboard and even wingsuit down a series of large, very detailed mountains. The feature that sold me on this game was the snow itself, seemingly a tangible thing in the game world with stunning deformation from the trails of the players. This coupled with the very realistic physics and wince inducing falls of some of the players during the gameplay trailer made me sweat like a cornered nun with excitement.
And so wraps up the second to last conference, meaning we’re nearly there! And whilst it had its ups and downs, I enjoyed the Ubisoft conference overall because it provided me with some games I’m actually looking forward to and Ayesha Tyler presented the show with passion and injected some much needed fun into proceedings.
We’re finally at the last conference! And boy is it welcome since this year was a slog. I will confess however that I didn’t watch the Sony conference fully since I was asleep at the time, but I will run down the games announced and my thoughts on them.
One of the biggest announcements was God of War, the RBOTSN syndrome strikes again! But this time it’s not a re-boot, just a continuation of the plot in a different time period and I can’t work out which I find more annoying. In any case, Kratos has moved on from killing the Olympian gods and is living with an apparent son in the era of the Norse gods, acting as a mentor to him. I’ll be honest I don’t know if this is a natural maturation of the character or a forced change, either way it’s a situation I don’t know I can contextualise the Kratos from the previous games in. Otherwise the combat looks as fun as ever and the environments are stunning, certainly one to keep an eye on if you’ve played the series.
The Last Guardian, a game that has been in development for 7 years now, finally has a release date! Coming out on October 25th supposedly (although let’s be honest it WILL get delayed again), they seem to have made efforts to improve the visual fidelity because funnily enough, assets from 7 years ago won’t exactly look as good as they once did. We were also treated to some more gameplay to expand on the sequence from last year. But the only thing I can think of when it comes to this game is this, will it be another Duke Nukem Forever, or will it be another Team Fortress 2? Two games that went through development hell and each had opposing fortunes upon release, with the former being panned and acting as a game playing catch-up on the years of game since it started development, and the latter coming out and being heavily praised for being its own thing and re-invigorating its genre.
Horizon: Zero Dawn was given another gameplay trailer, this time less scripted and is possibly the best looking game visually at the event. Its mech animal setting is interesting and one I can’t wait to explore, but I’m left with two thoughts. The gameplay looks very much like Far Cry, with ingredients and crafting to make most of your equipment. We have this already, funnily enough it’s called Far Cry, so what will this game do to distinguish itself. And to that matter, it has been given quite a bit of hype now, and I wonder if the game will be both good and unique enough to live up to said hype.
Does anybody remember Crash Bandicoot? Because I do, and so does Sony, announcing a re-mastering of the first 3 games, a move that most fans of the PS1 era will love, but at the same time, will the mechanics of those old, pre-analogue stick games translate well to the new generation? In any case I do think that this, like the recent re-boot of Ratchet and Clank, will be a system seller, a good fun game that entices gamers onto a platform. This is the type of exclusive I can appreciate as the aim is to make the best game that can be made to show off the platform it’s made for, unlike most current exclusives which seem more like publishers taking games hostage because they paid the developers vast sums of money. Oculus, I’m looking at you.
Oh god another David Cage game! From the mind that would clearly like to make movies but can’t write a coherent plot to save his life comes Detroit: Become Human, or in other words “We Love Blade Runner but Missed the Point”. Cage has actively pointed out the influence of Blade Runner on his latest brain fart, saying that he sees it as that “but where the robots are the good guys”, thus entirely misunderstanding the main plot point in Blade Runner, where neither side are good or bad and questioning how “real” artificial intelligence is. No matter, because while the overall concept is appealing, in the hands of Cage it will be handled as tactfully as a gun massacre by right wing media outlets.
On the subject of movies, Spiderman is suddenly popular again, largely thanks to his recent appearance in Captain America: Civil War. This seems to have been a cue for a rather violent tazing in the Insomniac offices as Sony, who still own the game rights to the franchise, threw some money into making another video game. This time not attached to any canon like the last two, so it could do its own thing, allowing for some interesting plot for a change. But, and it’s a big but, if Sony want to go through with this, they had better release it with proper web swinging mechanics, with momentum playing a central role in the flow of the game. This reminds me of something, oh yeah, Spiderman 2 from 12 years ago, a game that while tied to the Sam Remi film canon, managed to get the web swinging spot on, so much in fact that the non-PC releases are considered not only one of the best games of their era, but one of the best games of all time because the mechanics are just so much satisfying to use and still remain challenging enough that you feel like you’re achieving something through actual skill rather than the odd button press, al la The Amazing Spiderman games. So needless to say that this, as with all Spiderman games has some big shoes to fill, which none have done so far but you never know, this may be the year.
VR again, and this time Sony are determined to bring it to the masses with the much more affordable PlayStation VR. Priced much more reasonably than its PC bound counterparts it aims to be the more budget friendly option to experience VR and is boasting such games as Resident Evil 7 Batman Arkham VR and X-wing Mission, amongst other things. The latter of which is a perfect sell for the concept, although I wonder how well the first two will translate into VR when both involve a lot of physical movement and using a controller with VR seems to be an exercise in motion sickness in games where the character is moving.
Speaking of Star Wars, the Lego Force Awakens game was announced and while I can be confident in saying that it will be fun, a lot of the Lego games play similar to each other, so if it’s an innovative experience you’re looking for, maybe stay away. But if you’re a fan of either franchise involved, as I am, owning a small Lego town, then go for it.
There are two things that are inevitable in this world; death, and a new Call of Duty game each year. This time we have Infinite Warfare, so we can officially say that they’ve written themselves into a corner here, where could they possibly go after infinity? Call of Duty: Infinite and a Bit More Warfare? All we seem to know from this is that there will now be zero gravity fights, which while adding a bit more in terms of dimensions to the combat, just seems like it was pulled out of an arse somewhere and I’ve no idea how well it will mesh into the game. I wouldn’t hold out any hopes for this, even if you are a fan of the white American racism parade the series devolved into after CoD 4. The initial trailer still hold a huge dislike ratio on YouTube so this may be the shot that finally kills this frothing beast of a franchise.
And the final game I will be talking about might as well be called Fuck Konami, as it is the brain child of previous employee Hideo Kojima, renowned director Guillermo Del Toro and staring Norman Reedus, all of whom were previously involved in the Silent Hills project before Kojima’s still ambiguous split with the company over MGS 5 and the subsequent death spiral Konami flung themselves into. This has however given birth (appropriately worded given the trailer) to the very strange looking Death Stranding. The only thing we were shown was a pre-rendered trailer which told us precisely fuck all about the game other than Norman wakes up naked on a beach (nice Reedarse) with oil on his hands and a baby that was seemingly c-sectioned out of him. Clearly the game is in an incredibly early stage of development and the only reason it was here was to announce that it existed, but to most of the gaming community, it served as a huge middle finger to the developer who have given us nothing but justification for the ire and vitriol they receive in the past 12 months, which is completely fine by me.
And that’s your lot, if there are games that I missed it’s probably because I didn’t feel they were worth mentioning, in fact several spring to mind here. Writing this has given me time to think about my overall opinion on this year’s E3, and I still don’t know if I could say I liked it or not. Were there good game announcements? Certainly. Were there shit ones? Definitely. Was it still a masturbatory corporate pile of wank given to us by complete gurgleberks? Oh golly goodness yes. But I’m not entirely dissatisfied with the end results and what they mean for the industry. In other words, I’m still excited to see where the next 12 months take us!
A lifelong gamer, weaned onto it from a young age through the Gameboy and gradually onto other platforms. I am now a mostly PC gamer but my pet franchise remains to be (somewhat appropriately) Pokémon.