Wednesday, June 6, 2012

E3 Conference Wrap-Up

So, the E3 presentations have come and gone, and I think we can all agree it was a pretty damn mediocre show. Not good, not bad, just plain mediocre. No-one really blew us away, in fact some managed to fail to even keep us content. It was easily one of the most disappointing E3's ever. For my live thoughts of what happened during the conferences (except EA's which I accidentaly slept through :3 ) check out this post.

Here is how I would rank the conferences:

Ubisoft > Sony >> Nintendo >> Microsoft >>> EA

I can't believe Ubisoft managed to not only beat the Big 3, but almost destroy them. Nintendo in particular was just a huge disappointment. They didn't show anything exciting that we didn't already know, and focused on the casual shovelware they said they were going to focus less on. To be honest, I think if they hadn't said they'd show Pikmin 3, and finished with it rather than opened with it, people might have been a bit more forgiving. But alas, they didn't have any huge surprises for us.

But anyways, after thinking through it a bit, I decided to write a little bit on what I thought were the five best and worst parts of the main conferences.

The Best

5. Pikmin 3

A new Pikmin game is something Nintendo fans have been awaiting for ages. They've known one was coming, but not until recently was it revealed we were actually going to get info about it. And not only was it info, but it was the opening to Nintendo's conference. Seeing these detailed, colourful worlds rendered in full HD was really a sight to see, the water effects in particular were outstanding. Unfortunately we didn't see all too much of it, so we're not sure just how much it'll use the new controller or the console's other functions. And also the fact Nintendo's conference just went downhill from there, but that's another story.

4. Beyond: 2 Souls

I was a big fan of Heavy Rain. It definitely had its flaws, some pretty huge plot holes being one. But nonetheless I was excited for David Cage's new project. When it was finally revealed, I was excited. It was so lifelike, and is obviously going to be another interactive cinematic experience like Heavy Rain. For me, that's a good thing, but for probably quite a few, you probably groaned. I loved the way Cage blurred the line between cinema and game in Heavy Rain, and I loved how we could change the flow of the scenes, even if minimally. It was just great to see the consequences of our actions, and it created a really gripping experience. Beyond seems to be heading in a similar direction, though it could potentially be a bit more action focused. This is most certainly a game I'm excited for.

3. The return of survival horror

I love me some horror. Video games are the perfect medium for creating scary experiences, but in recent days there hasn't been many notable examples of this. Most survival horror games nowadays are just shooters and action games in disguise, failing to really create any sort of experience. But ZombiU and The Last of Us really stood out as having the potential to be great horror games. ZombiU requires you to be constantly on your toes, making use of all the utilites the GamePad gives you in order to survive, and a single bite from a zombie will turn you. You then are given control of a new character who has to kill your past character's zombified seld in order to get your stuff back. It sounds like an interesting feature, but not sure if it will work or not. If you have unlimited lives, there's no real sense of urgency, though the first few times you see your zombified self could add to the horror. Time will tell.

The Last of Us also seems to give you a vulnerable main character, making your injuries actually matter. Injured legs will make it harder for you to move, for example, and it takes time and resources to properly heal your wounds. The enemies seem to be just as much a threat as you are, meaning you'll have to really think things through, and work together with your AI partners in order to survive. While we've only seen human enemies so far, I'm interested to see what else the game can bring.

It's good to see the survival horror genre getting the love it deserves.

2. Assassin's Creed 3

I used to be a huge Assassin's Creed fan. I played the first two and loved them. I pre-ordered the Animus Edition of Revelations ready for when I finished Brotherhood, but... I played Brotherhood, and I was... bored. The franchise that had changed so much between the first two installments, and created a really fun experience that twisted history had failed to improve on anything. The plot was boring and lifeless, the gameplay was almost the same, and multiplayer was pretty cool, but seemed to take the focus off the singleplayer which is what we were playing the series for. I still haven't even started Revelations due to the fact I don't think it'll compare to anything I have at the moment, but not in a good way. I don't want to have played the same game three times in a row.

Then there were rumours of Assassin's Creed 3, which would be the conclusion of the series. I thought, oh ok, it'll be the big end to the series, let's look into it. The setting seemed interesting, it's not one that's been touched by games, and the possibility for an interesting conspiracy plot was there, plus it would force a change in gameplay. I was interested, but figured it'd be more of the same just with a new coat of paint, rushed out to meet their yearly quota. Then I heard it had been in the works for three years. Now, ignoring the fact it meant Brotherhood and Revelations were just rushed out for a quick buck, it meant they were treating the final installment in the series seriously. This was the sequel to Assassin's Creed 2 we'd been waiting for.

And the gameplay shown did not disappoint. I really hate the word badass and think it's totally overused, but it's the only word apt to describe Connor. With a more cold personality a la Altair in AC1, Connor lept through trees (really fluidly might I add, it looked really well done) and took down whole platoons (I think that's the word to use, not a war expert) of soldiers, using their own weapons against them before planting a tomahawk in their leaders. At times it seemed he could even be overpowered with no one standing a chance against him, so we'll have to see. Also worth noting was that it showed a Templar leader on the Americans' side as well, which should quell some fears about the British being evil with 'merica being "**** YEAH WE'RE AWESOME!" heroes of the day.

One thing I'm not so sure about is the naval battles. Not that they don't look good. The fact they've not only designed a huge, historically accurate landmass but an ocean as well is impressive, and it was beautiful to look at, and seemed solid in gameplay as well. It's just... it didn't really seem to fit. When I think about playing as an assassin I think of stealth, free running, a few sword fights here and there, not so much sailing around on the high seas in what looked like a better Pirates of the Carribean game than any official PotC game. Still, the game looks great and I'm looking forward to it.

1. Watch Dogs

This was my favourite game of E3, and a lot of other people seem to be hyped for it too! The story trailer they introduced it with didn't have me that excited. It was a typical world ruled by technology, personal lives being monitored sort of deal. But, and this is what is so great about video games, when they showed us how this concept translated to the gameplay, I was blown away. The concept of being able to exploit the technology that keeps the world linked was really unique, and shows that even if games base themselves on an already done concept, they can still create a unique experience in the way that the player can, well, play. There appears to be so many ways you can approach the missions, meaning there isn't a reliance on guns and fighting, you can use your wits to find a way to eliminate as many enemies as possible before the fight begins.

Graphically, the game looks stunning. There's a huge draw distance, showing lots of detail over a long distance, and the characters are almost totally photorealistic. There's so much attention to detail in the world, and it's great. And then on top of all this, the end of the demo seemed to hint at multiplayer! The camera zoomed out from the protagonist, and zoomed in on another character who seemed to have an online handle floating by them, who then got assigned a mission to protect the protagonist. If this is truly a hint at co-op, we could have an amazing game on our hands.

Honourable mentions to the almost ridiculous number of games PS Plus will be giving people, and the fact Sony gave a free year of it to everyone at their conference in a very Oprah-esque moment, Scribblenauts Unlimited and Lego City Undercover. SU looks like it could be absolutely brilliant and as innovative as the first two, but I'll just reserve judgement. Lego City really does look like a Lego GTA, which can only be a good thing. Halo 4 would probably get a mention for most people, but I'm not an FPS person.

The Worst

5. Playstation All-Stars

I want to like PS All Stars, I really do, but it just doesn't grab me. Sony's characters just aren't iconic or interesting enough to pull it off. It's basically going to be a bunch of people with guns and swords, and I don't see how there can be much variation between them. Seeing Nathan Drake and Kratos fight isn't anywhere near as exciting as seeing Mario and Pikachu fight. I gues they're going to grab heaps of third party characters, which seems like a bit of a cop out, but if it makes the roster interesting I don't really mind. I'd personally love to see a Heavy Rain character, regardless of how little sense it will make.

Gameplay wise, it seems like they're trying to separate it from Smash Bros., but it doesn't really seem to make too much sense. The way I interpret it is that you attack people to build up meter, but you can't actually kill anyone with a non-Super move. And then when you get a Super you're basically guaranteed at least one kill. So it's basically just going to be Super spam all over the place :| Super-only kills is obviously a design choice to separate it from Smash Bros., but it just seems silly. Unless a character has a Super saved up, I'm not threatened by them, their attacks don't have any negative effect on me. They can pound on me all they want, but I won't die. It just seems like the game will be much less exciting because of it. EDIT: So apparently throws and certain moves make you lose metre by making you drop balls of metre (like the way you lose coins in Smash Bros.' coin battle). That has me feeling better about the game as it gives me a reason to worry about the competitors hitting me. The characters still don't interest me that much, so if they add in some really crazy, unique ones then they'll have my purchase) I dunno, I would have preferred gameplay more similar to Smash with Super bars. It would be a shameless copy, but at least it would be fun. You never know, might end up being good.

4. Short trailers

Many companies suffered from this. The new Gears of War was presumably going to be a huge deal at the conference, but instead was restricted to a trailer that if I recall correctly wasn't even a minute long, and showed no gameplay. Then there was the game at Sony's conference I can't even remember the name of, the one by the people who made Toy Soldiers. I don't think anyone knew what to draw from that, it was just a few short burst of gameplay that seemed totally disconneced. But possibly worst of all was Nintendo's sizzle reel. It showed off so many third party games, but they barely featured for more than five seconds. Nintendo had plenty of time to focus on a few, and why the Wii U version would be the definitive version.

All the companies seemed to drop the ball here, and didn't put enough focus on some of the games they had to show. Especially considering the fact they wasted time on 'features' and games no one was really interested in. If they're going to go through the effort of getting trailers prepared, you'd think they'd make sure it actually properly showcases and promotes the games.

3. Potential linearity and scriptedness

I'm mainly thinking of two games under this point- Watch Dogs and The Last of Us. Both look brilliant, but I'm just worried at how much control the player really has. In Watch Dogs, when Aidan hacks the traffic lights and causes the car crash, is that the only option here? I saw a 'Hack Car' option on his list of hacks, could he hack Demarco's car and cause it to drive into the gas station, causing a huge explosion, but sparing the lives of innocents? Could I just run up to the car guns blazing and shoot him? I just really hope you're not forced to hack specific objects to cause specific events to occur, that would ruin it for me.

In regards to The Last of Us, you could see a few examples of the way the AI interacted with each other and the player, like when the player runs out of bullets, and their gun clicks due to being empty. One of the enemies in another room vocally points this out, and comes running out. Then the female partner of the player yells at the enemy to distract them, then chucks something (a brick?) at them, allowing the player to grab the enemy and take him out. Now, assuming this all happened organically, this is amazing. It looked totally natural, and playing a game where everyone behaves realistically would be great. But watching the TLoU gameplay I couldn't help but think "That's probably scripted" throughout most of it. Until we get to see more gameplay of it it's probably hard to judge.

So while these (and other) games looked absolutely amazing, I'm just worried about how much control they actually give the player.

2. Call of Duty

Anyone who knows me is thinking "Of COURSE he put COD here", but then right after that they'll be thinking "Wait, how bad was whatever is in first?" Yes, I hate COD and everything it stands for, but I couldn't honestly say it was worse than what's in the top spot.

But yes, COD was easily a lowlight of Microsoft's conference. The trailer showed nothing new, it was the same old thing we're used to- guns, explosions and set pieces, just with a few things chucked in to take attention off that, like a female president and 'futuristic' technology. For some reason they think they can pass off a heat sensing scope (IRNV I think it is?) as something new because it's blue. Seriously? And they think they can pass off being able to CHANGE LANES IN AN ON RAILS SEGMENT as something innovative and new. SERIOUSLY!? And people are going to lap this up. The setting is not going to change a thing, it's going to be the exact same thing as past installments, just with a different skin. The fact it's going to sell and influence design decisions of other companies really pisses me off. Any other franchise would get slammed if it changed as little as COD, but somehow it gets a free pass. Your existing COD games don't expire, you can keep playing them even when BO2 is out and with a sizeable playerbase too. Don't buy BO2, let it flop (yeah, that'll happen), or sell significantly less so that Activision has to put effort into future installments, and try something new. I assure you, you'll get a better game for it, and it'll give the industry a wake up call- they can't get complacent and rehash the same thing over and over forever, try something new!

1. Companies losing the focus

Yep, this was the ultimate failure of E3 this year. All the companies seemed to focus on things that people really didn't care about. It was hilarious watching the GameTrailers stream because they had an 'Approval Meter' akin to The Worm during Australian political debates, and during these parts of the conferences, they just dropped. Everyone was guilty of this, but the biggest culprits were Microsoft and Nintendo. Let's break down what the Big 3 in particular did wrong.

Microsoft's conference was dreadful to put it simply. While Nintendo's was bad due to it being disappointing, Microsoft's was bad because they really didn't show anything. They showed Halo early on, which people were excited for, but then the rest of the conference was almost entirely Kinnect and non-gaming features. No one wanted to see a dance performance (Ubisoft even opened with one, ugh. But they had games to make up for it), no one wanted to see a 3D Angry Birds, and NO ONE wanted to see how Kinnect helps athletes, or how you can er... watch TV through your Xbox on your TV. And you can control menus with your voice. Er... cool? And you can use a tablet to get extra info on the shows you're watching! Yeah, you've been able to for ages, it's with a service called 'Google', it's pretty innovative stuff. I don't think Microsoft impressed anyone at all with their conference, they didn't focus on the games.

People were hoping Sony would really plug the Vita at their conference, because at the moment there's really no need to own one. The most they showed of the Vita was a new Assassin's Creed, and that you can play the same games you can on your PS3. But if I have a PS3 already, why would I need a handheld that does the same thing? Sure, it's portable, but is that really worth forking over for a whole new console, and rebuying a game you already own? Thankfully the rest of Sony's conference was relatively decent. Except for one part, and I think you know what I'm talking about. Yep, the Wonderbooks. I'm not sure anyone really gets what the point of this is, despite the fact they spent so much time on them. Essentially they seem like using Augmented Reality to bring books to life or something like that. But they just look like games that force you to put a book in front of the camera, it's hardly encouraging kids to read, they may as well just turn them into games. And then they showcased a Harry Potter book/game thing. And it just looked like a glorified minigame. Why anyone would be interested in it is beyond me. But this was nothing compared to the next conference...

Oh Nintendo... I'm honestly not sure if you seriously thought already released games and a minigame collection would win over the 'core' audience, or if you just didn't have anything to show. You started off so strong with Pikmin 3, but it all went downhill. You decided to focus on a slightly enhanced Batman port which everyone already knows how it plays for longer than necessary. You decided to showcase Wii Fit and a glorified karaoke software, two highly casual games, the likes of which you said you weren't going to focus on. You decided to go over everything mentioned at Nintendo Direct, making hosting that event totally pointless. And then when you had a chance to prove everyone wrong and show something amazing, you show a minigame collection. This would have been ok if you'd briefly shown what it did and moved onto something exciting, but no, you decide to spend half the conference explaining how Pac-Man works. The reason people were so pissed off about Nintendoland wasn't that it looked bad, it doesn't, but rather that you decided to focus TWO CONFERENCES AND A LIVE STREAM TO IT. People didn't want to see it, they wanted to see something surprising that would convince them to buy a Wii U, but you blew it. And then, and the very end, you used the taboo phrase if you're not going to end on an amazing note. You said "But before we go..." (or something to that effect), which got all our hopes up for about a second. We thought, "OH MY GOD THEY'RE GOING TO ANNOUNCE SOMETHING AMAZING!" but you finished the sentence with "let's visit Nintendoland one more time", at which point fans everywhere tried so hard to resist punching their screens. Not a good way to end a conference.

Dishonourable mentions go to the awful attempts at humour in most of the conferences, and the total clashing of personalities of Ubisoft's conference hosts. I love Toby, but he seemed a little out of place, and seemed to be working off a script, which isn't what makes him funny. Him and Taisha (hopefully I spelt that right) just didn't seem to compliment each other.

All in all, E3 this year was actually very disappointing. There wasn't much new stuff revealed, and what was wasn't particularly exciting. Thankfully there's still some good games coming out this year and the next, and there's still plenty of time for things to be revealed.

No comments:

Post a Comment