Last week saw the announcement of many exciting new video game titles and development company initiatives at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California from competitors Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft. This year was a busy E3 and I have a lot of opinions to share about some of what I feel to be the best and the worst of this year’s conference.
CEO Phil Spencer took to the stage and voiced Microsoft’s dedication to gaming on the Xbox One before unveiling a number of upcoming titles both exclusive and non-exclusive to the Xbox One. After watching Microsoft’s conference in it’s entirety, I couldn’t help but sense a lack of ambition on their part, based on most of the exclusive games they plan to release; some of them being party games and new instalments of mediocre titles. But something that interested me, among a few other things, was their planned ID@Xbox initiative, which will give indie developed access to Xbox One dev kits and hardware. This will inevitably lead to a flooding of indie games on the system, which is what happened with the PlayStation 4 from the beginning. It is exciting, but ultimately, I believe it will take a lot of impressive indie titles to one-up the momentum Sony have gathered by beating Microsoft to the post in the first place. But maybe if the Xbox One has a good few indie titles attached to it in the coming months, which I think looks likely by what I’ve seen so far, they could be able to more effectively challenge Sony to the number one spot in the eighth generation. Though Spencer emphasized his belief that Microsoft is the best place to play video games, the figures sales figures don’t lie, and the company still have some ground to make up for, but the ID@Xbox would seem to at least be step in the right direction.
The first game to be unveiled at the conference was:
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
The next instalment of the best-selling franchise in gaming history, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare will deliver on what fans of the series know and love, but in a world set in the distant future. At first glace, the gameplay seems almost identical to any other Call of Duty game (and it probably will be for the most part), but with some difference in conceptual design from the rest of the series; though not very different from many other games with futuristic settings. Looking at the demo, I noticed that the drop ships that soldiers were being deployed from looked more or less identical to the pelican drop ships from the Halo series.
On top of that, nothing else seemed to stand out from a conceptual point of view; not even the settings, which looked very similar to the likes of Crysis and Killzone, featuring a largely ruined city with military robots. Also, the only element that stood out to me in terms of gameplay was that grenades have several different functions, with payers being able to use them to home in on targets among other things. I thought that mechanic was fairly interesting, but for the most part, it just looked like any other game in the series. However, one element of the game that was revealed to me in the trailer was how the main character gets his arm blown off and has replaced with a robotic one. My hope is that the main character having a robotic arm somehow mixes up gameplay in some way, shape or form, and delivers a few new and exciting changes to the Call of Duty formula. But I think that if not, then the unique grenade mechanic may be the game’s only redeeming value, unless the inclusion of Kevin Spacey and a few decent plot twists can make for a good story.
Forza Horizon 2
Forza Horizon 2 was subsequently revealed after Advanced Warfare, but didn’t impress me in the least bit. I see no difference or anything to suggest that it will stand out from Forza 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 etc. It never bodes well when you wouldn’t be able to spot the differences between each game in a series. The way I see it, if Forza 5 couldn’t lead to the Xbox One having higher sales figures or artistic merit attached to it than the PlayStation 4, I see no reason why Forza Horizon 2 should have any greater effect than the last game. Once more, the visuals seemed about as technically advanced as the last game, which only confounded my scepticism.
Things got a little more interesting when Evolve was unveiled afterwards. Evolve is to be a multiplayer game, which will involve four human players of four different classes hunting down an alien monster, which is controlled by an additional fifth player. My concerns about this game is that whilst it seems like a fairly unique idea in scope, it’s fairly similar to Brink; a game which commercially, critically and justifiably flopped back in 2011. But I believe Evolve will be at least superior to Brink, provided if it learns from the flaws in gameplay of the latter, by having players spend more time shooting rather than running, as opposed to it being the other way round. Brink used a gameplay formula, which the developers called S.M.A.R.T., standing for Smooth Movement Across Random Terrain. The ironic thing was that developing a first person shooter with as little emphasis on shooting as possible wasn’t particularly smart. Hopefully, Evolve will be much more immersing than that.
Assassin’s Creed Unity
Assassin’s Creed Unity was among the subsequent games on the list. Set in the cusp of the French Revolution, it features gameplay similar to that of Assassin’s Creed Brotherhood, whilst also introducing multiplayer to the franchise for the first time. To me, it sounds like a fairy positive change from the norm, but unless the changes deviate enough away from Assassin’s Creed III, which to my annoyance had more of a Red Dead Redemption feel to it, then I see no reason why this game would fair any better. Admittedly, I haven’t played Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, but from my point of view at least, the third instalment is easily the franchise’s lowest point, and I believe Ubisoft should distance themselves from that particular gameplay formula as far away as possible.
Things got even more interesting to me as Dragon Age: Inquisition was next up. Although I’ve never been a huge fan of the Dragon Age series, what caught my eye about the third game was that the combat system seemed to be a lot better than that of the first and second games. Dragon Age Origins and Dragon Age II followed a gameplay formula that I have detested ever since I tried it out for the first time, and that I have personally criticised many times before; the mixing of real-time combat with turn-based combat. I find that mixing both doesn’t improve on either, and I firmly believe that it needs to be put to bed, because it doesn’t work at al on any level. Dragon Age Inquisition, however, seemed to have the combat style lean more towards real-time combat, which to me, is perfectly acceptable. After all, my favourite game of all time followed the same formula. But here’s hoping that the third game makes for a much more exciting experience than it’s predecessors at least. As far as the whole medieval fantasy genre is concerned, I think Oblivion tops them all. I say Oblivion only because Skyrim is more heavily based on Norse mythology. But I digress. Dragon Age: Inquisition at least looks like it would make for a game than the first two Dragon Age, and with the right amount of effort having been put into it, it probably will.
In my opinion, this game was the highlight of Microsoft’s press conference. Developed by Insomniac Games, creators of Ratchet & Clank, Sunset Overdrive follows a very similar formula to its PlayStation-exclusive counterpart, involving third person shooting and rail-grinding mechanics, but also including deeper emphasis on customisation and player individuality. After I saw this game for the first time, it made me wonder why a game like this wasn’t released as a launch title for the system, because I think something like this would have most definitely helped to boost sales a lot more than the likes of Ryse: Son of Rome or Dead Rising 3. The PlayStation 4 had a few more outlandish titles attached to it in it’s early stages, such as Knack, Resogun, Contrast and Don’t Starve, offering players more variety from the get-go and attracting a greater variety of players, in turn. I think because of the overwhelming amount of uniqueness seemingly attached to Sunset Overdrive, it could potentially make for something particularly special on the Xbox One, and emphasizes that whilst Microsoft are a fair bit behind Sony, they’re by no means a lost relic. What I also like about Sunset Overdrive already is that it does have that Insomniac Games comedic wit about it, which has come with games such as Ratchet & Clank and Spyro the Dragon before it. It’s good to know that whilst they toy with new ideas, they plan on keeping old traditions too.
Dance Central Spotlight
For me, this was the point in the conference where I felt most alienated as a gamer. The announcement of Dance Central Spotlight quickly made me lose interest for a short time, and my initial interest wouldn’t be rekindled until about fifteen minutes later. As a game, which features the execution of dance moves and mainstream music as mandatory, it doesn’t appeal to me in the slightest. The thought of me having to listen to the likes of Usher, Lady Gaga and Katy Perry whilst playing a video game immediately put me off. It’s at times like these that I curse the Parappa the Rapper franchise for pioneering the concept of rhythm games, as I’ve never played one and thought it was good.
My frustrations were added to somewhat when Fable Legends was revealed next. An exclusively multiplayer game, Fable Legends deviates away from the open-world formula of previous titles in the series and presents players with what is essentially a dungeon crawler, involving players picking either side of good or evil, like in previous games in the series. Although the game’s visuals seem fairly interesting, I feel quite indifferent to the combat system, as it reminds me very much of Dark Souls II, and the voice acting seems pretty amateurish, which would suggest to me that the story will suffer too; despite it’s small element of humour. It has seemed to me that ever since Fable III, the entire franchise has suffered, as 2012’s Fable: The Journey didn’t fair very well either, and in all honesty, I don’t understand how this latest instalment will fair any better.
Developed by Team Dakota, Project Spark is a game that will involve players being able to make their own games, films or other experiences. Now to me, the idea of a game involving players making their own gaming experiences sound extremely good on paper, but upon further inspection after the Microsoft conference, there doesn’t seem to be enough variety available for me, in particular, to go about doing that. If I wanted to make my own game within a game, I’d expect variety in customisation be through the roof. I would want the facility to pick my own genres, scenery, visual style, etc. And looking at it, I think Project Spark wouldn’t have the level of freedom that I would have expected to have at my disposal. I remember I had the same problem with a similar game I bought for the PC when I was a kid called Create Your Own Video Game. Whilst I don’t think Project Spark will be as bad by any means, the amount of limitations I encountered were staggering to say the very least, and I remain sceptical of the idea unless a game comes along that would afford me the level of freedom I’d look for in a game like that.
Ori & The Blind Forest
Ori & the Blind Forest is a 2D side scroller extremely reminiscent of Child of Light in terms of artistic direction, but as opposed to the turn-based combat of Child of Light, Ori & the Blind Forest takes players down the real-time combat route, which whilst not necessarily a bad thing, does make me already think that it won’t be as good a game as Child of Light. Regardless, the conceptual design of the game is just as breathtaking and unique, and I believe it would indeed be a very effective game to have as a launch title in Japan, as it would seem to provide a gaming experience that the Japanese are extremely lukewarm to; one with an immense level of imagination and wonder about it. Over the years, I have found that Japan is a country that has particularly rich cultural tastes and standards, and I think a game like Ori & the Blind Forest would suit Japanese gamers down to the ground.
Yet another game that features 2D side scrolling elements, Inside was made very much in the spirit of the hit indie game Limbo, but in my opinion, it looks a lot more sinister and darker than the former; and possibly more suggestive, like there could be much more artistic value, or even social commentary attached to it. It was the game, which helped to introduce the announcement of the ID@Xbox initiative at the conference, and a look at many indie games planned for release on the Xbox One, which all seemed very interesting, in my opinion.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
The next game unveiled at the Microsoft conference was one of the biggest highlights of E3 2014. Rise of the Tomb Raider will pick up where the Tomb Raider revamp of last year left off, portraying Lara Croft scarred by the memories of her last expedition, who must once again use her exemplary survival skills to ultimately accept and embrace her fate as the tomb raider. From what I played of the revamp of Tomb Raider, I was particularly impressed. The gameplay deviated away from previous games in the series dramatically, and I think that all made for a much superior game to any of the others. So my hope is that the gameplay formula is kept intact, but with the in-game world being on a much bigger scale; a lot like how Rocksteady Studios made the jump from Batman: Arkham Asylum to Batman: Arkham City. Also, since both series’ play out somewhat similarly to one another, I see no reason why the developers wouldn’t do that, and no reason why that wouldn’t work.
The Witcher III: Wild Hunt
The Witcher series is admittedly a gaming saga that I haven’t indulged in. The first game was fairly obscure, and I never got around to playing the second game at all. But the third game, whether it may be very similar to the first two, to me gave off a very strong Skyrim vibe, which got me particularly excited about it initially. It seems to have a huge open world with presumably a lot to do. My biggest reservation about it, however, would be the combat system, which to me gave off more of a Dragon Age: Origins vibe, so I think that if it does indeed play like Dragon Age, it would probably discourage me from playing it at all. The conceptual style of the game also seems wonderful. The demo depicted the main character hunting a gryphon, which was very well designed. And if that’s presumably the tip of the iceberg, people can only wonder what else the developers have in store for players.
Until it was announced, I hadn’t even heard of the first Phantom Dust game. So I looked at gameplay footage of the original Xbox exclusive, and was less than impressed. To me, it seemed like a watered down version of Devil May Cry, Onimusha, God of War or most other hack and slash series that were prominent at the time in terms of both gameplay and visuals. Of course, as it was only a cutscene that was shown at the conference, I can’t make a proper assessment of the game itself, but I think that if it plays out similarly like it’s predecessor, I may personally end up seeing it as a watered down version of Darksiders instead; perhaps not in terms of visuals, but possibly in terms of gameplay. But unfortunately, until I see gameplay footage, I will remain sat on the fence about Phantom Dust.
The last game to be shown at the Microsoft conference was a new Crackdown game; much to my indifference. I’ve never been a fan of the Crackdown series at all. The visuals were mediocre at best, and I can best describe the gameplay as bland, uneventful and extremely repetitious. Therefore, for the next game in the franchise to warrant any positive thoughts from myself, I believe there would have to be some serious changes made to the gameplay formula in order to make it all seem like a much more inferior and washed up version of Just Cause.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Another plan that Microsoft announced was to re-release and re-master Halo 1, 2, 3 and 4 on Xbox One. Halo fans will be extremely excited, as there have been new multiplayer maps added, and the widely popular multiplayer formula of Halo 2, which helped to popularise the concept of online multiplayer first person shooters, will be re-released intact. To me, and many others, that would make me excited to own an Xbox One, and I think it’s about time something that exciting was unveiled for the system. There has been Titanfall this year, which has sold pretty well since, but at least I’d have a single player mode to concentrate on as opposed to it being an exclusively online game.
Probably the main reservations I had with the Microsoft conference was that a lot of the primary titles that were unveiled are also going to be ported to the PlayStation 4, such as Rise of the Tomb Raider and Assassin’s Creed: Unity, and so far, I think the announcements that would most persuade me to align with the Xbox One now would be the Halo Collection and the flooding of indie games. But again, how many of those indie titles are exclusive to the system, or only being released first on it, remains to be seen. Overall, I think Microsoft had a fairly successful E3 this year; unanimously better than the conference they had last year when the Xbox One was unveiled, along with their controversial initial policies regarding the console. A lot of their exclusive games look pretty interesting, and it would look to be that they will be firmly on the right track to increasing sales figures and consumer confidence in the console in the coming months.
In the absence of company CEO Satoru Iwata, who was recovering from illness, other Nintendo personnel such as Nintendo of America president Reggie Fils-Aime and Kirby creator Masahiro Sakurai, were on hand to deliver to the world the latest future plans the company have to impact the world of gaming, and ultimately increase the appeal of both the Wii U and the 3DS.
Super Smash Bros for 3DS & Wii U
Over the last few months, I have seen and listened to Masahiro Sakurai go into extensive detail about the next Super Smash Bros game to be released on both the 3DS and Wii U consoles. Details about which new and recurring characters will feature in the game and what stages and items will be added to it. But the latest detail, and most exciting in my opinion, is the gameplay option of having Miis as playable characters, which can be customized to utilize different fighting styles from one another to suit the needs of the individual player. So it would seem to me that the latest Super smash Bros game would have a bit more of a SoulCalibur IV feel to it, which would be particularly appealing to me, as SoulCalibur IV is my favourite fighting game of all time. There are also new gameplay modes planned for inclusion to the Super Smash Bros formula, which will at least keep the franchise fresh. But the next unveiling regarding not only Super Smash Bros, but Nintendo in general, would turn out to be one of the biggest highlights of Nintendo’s E3 this year.
Adhering to the legacy of Gunpei Yokoi’s early successes at Nintendo with lines of popular toys, Nintendo revealed the Amiibo toy line, which to me looks extremely exhilarating. The Amiibos are Nintendo take on both Skylanders and Disney Infinity; toys of long-running Nintendo characters such as Mario, Link and Samus Aran, which can be placed on the Wii U game pad, or a separate add-on for the 3DS, in order to integrate them into certain games. Games that have been revealed to support Amiibo technology in future are Mario Kart 8, Mario Party 10, Yoshi’s Woolly World, and of course Super Smash Bros among others. The way I see it, this idea can only go one of two ways; it can be a saving grace for Nintendo in the future, or it could turn out to be as big a commercial flop as the Wii U itself. I worry that because Nintendo have been well and truly beaten to the post of releasing this kind of technology by Activision and Disney, the appeal may not be as high as the former two examples. Bu on the other hand, the fact that the Amiibos will be made to be compatible with multiple games may make them seem like a better alternative to the others. Of course, Skylanders and Disney Infinity will inevitably be a lot more costly to consumers, as a plethora of new figures are released with each new instalment in the series, but at least those two ideas have proven to be popular with gamers already. It all ultimately depends whether Nintendo can one-up the concept pioneered by Skylanders or not; but for now at least, I think the only definitive thing I can say is that time will tell. The Amiibos sound fairly cool at the moment, but like Project Morpheus for the PlayStation 4, I don’t think I can say any more until more details have been unearthed regarding them.
Made in the spirit and in a similar artistic design as the Wii game Kirby’s Epic Yarn, Yoshi’s Woolly World sees the return of the Yoshi’s Island series on a Nintendo home console after a sixteen-year absence; and given that it seems to look and play out better than Yoshi’s Story, at least, I’d say it could turn out to be a very triumphant return. Once more, there is apparently a greater emphasis being out on exploration in Yoshi’s Woolly World than in previous games in the series, which to me sounds like ot would be a massive improvement to the series overall. I think if it does indeed play out like Kirby’s Epic Yarn, but on a much larger scale, it could potentially make for a 2D side scrolling experience like no other.
To me, this game is a perfect example of Nintendo’s long-running philosophy concerning lateral thinking with withered technology. Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker features the building on of the Toad gameplay sequences found in Super Mario 3D World, whereby the player must guide Toad through intricate obstacle courses with hidden secret paths all over the place to find treasure. Initially, The fact that Toad is set to feature in his own video game made me think it was a wonder that Nintendo hadn’t tried it before in the 29 years the character has been around, but he actually had. He was the main protagonist of the game Wario’s Woods; a puzzle game for the NES, which received mostly mixed reviews at the time of its release. But Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker looks like a very fun and very different game to what Nintendo release on a regular basis, and how they seemed to have handled the boss fights in the game look particularly intriguing.
Legend of Zelda
As eagerly anticipated by Nintendo fans everywhere, the Japanese game giants also announced a new Legend of Zelda title to be released on the Wii U in the near future. Not much is known about it as of yet, other than it will contain a huge open world, which is something that the developers believe that the series has been lacking in recent times, and what they believe to be the solution to re-popularising the franchise to it’s formerly huge extent. As Ocarina of Time is my favourite ever game, this to me, was probably the biggest highlight of E3 for me. The thought of having a new and potentially much bigger game than Ocarina of Time got me asking myself many different questions. What are Nintendo going to do with all that open space and gaming memory? What kind of old and new gameplay elements can players expect to see in it? Could this possibly be the answer that Nintendo have been looking for to redeem themselves after the initial failings of the Wii U? One other interesting thing that fans have been keen to point out about the first teaser trailer is that it bears a striking resemblance to the works of the likes of Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata from the Studio Ghibli film company of Japan. But the impression I got from these fans was that it sounded more like a complaint than a compliment. But the thought that influences from a source like that could possibly be a bad thing, to me, sounds ludicrous. Studio Ghibli have distributed some of my favourite films of all time, such as Grave of the Fireflies and Spirited Away, and the prospect of a Zelda game drawing artistic inspiration from Hayao Miyazaki just makes me that evermore excited for where this next instalment of the franchise could possibly go from an artistic point of view. Also, I think that anyone who was quick to point this out should also realize that Studio Ghibli films have furthermore had a major influence on the Legend of Zelda saga in the past. For example, Ocarina of Time, like many Ghibli films, such as Only Yesterday, Whisper of the Heart and Kiki’s Delivery Service, can firmly be described as a coming-of-age story, as Link must travel between the times when he is both a child and an adult to defeat Ganon and save Hyrule.
Planned for an extraordinarily long time now, gamers were given a glimpse at what the next game in the Bayonetta series would both look and play out like. On top of that, it was revealed that the second game, exclusive to the Wii U, will also include the first game along with, for those who never got the opportunity to play it at the time of its release in 2010. The good thing about making the Bayonetta series exclusive to the Wii U would be that it would help to deviate away from the misconception that people have about Nintendo being exclusively for children, as it features a lot of violence and sex appeal. But what Nintendo have to be sure of first is that the second plays out much better than the first, as the first game in the series didn’t sell overly well, providing garnishing many positive reviews. Also, I think another major improvement that should be made is to the voice acting, as I can personally only describe the voice acting in the first game as embarrassing at best. Sega seem to make a habit of having bad voice acting in many of the games they publish; The House of The Dead, Vanquish and even one of my favourite games, Madworld, to name but a few.
Whilst this game may sound awesome at first glance, to me, this was definitely one of the lowest points of the entire 2014 E3 conference. Hyrule Warriors will combine the world of the Legend of Zelda with the gameplay of the Dynasty Warriors franchise, and make for what would in my opinion seem to be a repetitious mess of a game. Even when the developers formally unveiled the game, they openly admitted that they were nervous about the entire project when they first started out developing it, which doesn’t bode well at all. Because I think if gamers are honest with themselves and each other, it is a massive risk. Though I don’t play Dynasty Warriors very often, I have played a good few games just like it, such as N3; quickly growing bored of them after playing for any extended amount of time. As a result, it makes me sceptical about developers releasing a game that essentially plays out no differently than Dynasty Warriors or N3, only with some Zelda slapped all over it.
Kirby & the Rainbow Curse
As a long-time Nintendo enthusiast, I don’t believe I’ve given the Kirby franchise nowhere near as much attention as it is most probably due. Admittedly, the only game in the series I’ve played to any significant extent is Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the Wii. But regardless, I have seen many of the outlandish and even creepy conceptual ideas that the series has presented to gamers over the years, and I’m hoping that the Rainbow Curse can follow-up some of the wonderfully freaky moments that came with games such as Kirby’s Canvas Curse for the DS; which this game was developed very much in the spirit of, featuring almost identical gameplay elements.
Xenoblade Chronicles X
This was another game at this year’s E3 that I unfortunately remain sceptical of. Xenoblade Chronicles X at first glance would seem to play out very similarly to the first instalment on the Wii, only featuring a huge open world, which upon first impressions, would seem to me to be the game’s only redeeming value. I don’t like the look of the combat at all. Again, much like what I hope Dragon Age Inquisition won’t involve, it seems to incorporate the formula of combining turn-based combat with real-time combat, which I personally don’t approve of at all.
Mario Maker looks like a fairly interesting concept, as it is a game, which gives players the facility to create their own Super Mario 2D side scrolling courses and possibly share them over the Internet. Having said that, however, I question how long the appeal of a game like that will last, as it’s simply a modification on a long-existing invention. By that token, I also think that it is only exclusively open to fans of the Mario series, and that maybe Nintendo could be going back on themselves to a certain extent.
A while ago, rumours circulated regarding Nintendo developing a game in answer to the likes of Battlefield and Call of Duty, given shamefully immense popularity of the army-based first person shooting genre. After seeing gameplay footage of Splatoon for the first time, I couldn’t help but wonder whether this was it. My reaction to it was that it could make for something much more fun and appealing, at least. Splatoon is a game whereby colour-coded players must shoot ink corresponding with their own colour all across each battle arena. In the end, the player who has covered the majority of the stage with their designated ink colour wins. I think that although it will do little to persuade fans of Battlefield or Call of Duty to play this game rather than what they’re most familiar with, I think it could potentially make for a franchise for the future. It’s something that is much different from the norm, and at the same time, open to a very wide audience, despite it’s childish look.
Mario Party 10
An additional game announced by Nintendo was Mario Party 10. Even since the release of the first Mario Party game back in 1998, I’ve never been a huge fan of the party game genre. After all, look at how they’ve contributed to the fall of Rareware; formally one of the best development companies in the industry. I think that for Mario Party to have any significant impact for Nintendo, some very interesting changes to gameplay would have to be made, but in all honesty, I can’t see that happening at all.
Additionally, Nintendo legend Shigeru Miyamoto was also at Nintendo’s E3 booth giving gamers a very early glimpse at a planned Star Fox game for the Wii U. According to Miyamoto, use of the Wii U game pad will be further emphasized than in previous Wii U titles in order to ultimately increased the appeal of the console. Although I am very excited to see the return of the Star Fox franchise to a home Nintendo console, at first glace, it looks like it may simply play out like a flight simulator as opposed to the rail-shooting Star Fox style of play that Nintendo fans fell in love with. But the stage is obviously in it’s very early stages of development, and if anyone can contribute to a Star Fox game being met with critical and commercial success, it’s Shigeru Miyamoto.
In summation, I think Nintendo had a phenomenal E3 on an artistic level. Most of the games they unveiled, including many future indie games planned for release on the Nintendo eShop, look extremely engaging and potent. Whether they will have similar success commercially of course remains to be seen, but I can at least hope that with many of the games that were on show last week, they will indeed have better luck in 2015.
On day 1, Sony CEO Andrew House and staff such as Shuhei Yoshida and Adam Boyes took to the stage and wowed their audience by re-emphasizing Sony’s undying commitment to the gaming industry, the developers and above all, the players. A lot of Sony’s future exclusive titles and initiatives looked absolutely mind-blowing at this year’s E3, and I think it’s safe to agree with most journalists that they won this year’s conference ahead of both Microsoft and Nintendo unanimously.
Sony started right at the deep end, by unveiling new footage and information on Bungie Software’s highly anticipated first person shooter, Destiny. Andrew House announced that not only will PlayStation 4 players be receiving additional content first ahead of those who play on the Xbox One, but that a new white PlayStation 4 will be distributed and sold with the game as a bundle. I have my code to play the alpha version of Destiny, and I will hopefully be giving a full account of my first impressions next weekend. But overall, Destiny looks excellent in concept as well as intense in gameplay. Bungie Software know to develop excellent first person shooters, having developed the original Halo trilogy as well as Halo Reach, and Destiny looks to be no different, in my opinion; I just can’t wait to play the alpha version when I get the chance this week.
The Order: 1886
The first exclusive game presented by Sony was the Order: 1886. Much like Dishonored or BioShock, it presents a world reminiscent to an alternative take on a previous period in human history; in this case, it’s the Industrial Revolution. From what I’d seen of this game previously, it seemed to me like a third person shooter but with much more interesting spin on gameplay than others in the genre. But based on what I’ve seen of the latest showing, it would seem to have more of a survival horror feel to it than I’d previously realized. And my concern is that could in turn effect gameplay, perpetuating the long-running concern that I have over the survival horror genre in general. Based on my first impressions, it would seem to play out a lot like Dead Space, but hopefully, there will much more depth in gameplay than that.
One of the most prominent showings of Sony’s E3 conference for me was the reveal of InFamous: First Light; a stand-alone DLC package for InFamous: Second Son, which will not require players to own the original game to play, but owners of the original game will apparently be granted additional content. The story will tell of one of InFamous: Second Son’s supporting characters, Fetch, and her origins. What I particularly like about it already is that it will seemingly maintain, if not build on; the dark and gritty feel that came with the main game. Another reason why I think this game is sure to work is that the neon power from the original game, received from Fetch, was the best power to have; and thus will optimise the gameplay in InFamous: First Light in turn.
As part of Sony’s currently thriving indie game initiative, Entwined was also announced. Entwined is a game that features gameplay revolving around players having to control two separate characters with both analogue sticks, similar to Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, but with a different goal; to fly both characters through as many sequences of colour-coded obstacles as possible. In terms of concept at least, I’d say it looks fairly interesting, but I think that the gameplay would ultimately become very repetitive very quickly. It reminds me of a Kinect game called Child of Eden, which revolved around a similar premise, but was not very enjoyable. Here’s hoping that his game turns out to be better than that effort, at least.
Little Big Planet 3
Pulling a long awaited rabbit out of their hat, Sony revealed Little Big Planet 3, much to the surprise of gamers everywhere. Little Big Planet 3 will further build on the gameplay formula pioneered by the first two games in the series; but new gameplay features will include three additional characters venturing alongside Sack Boy with their own unique abilities to get around stages created by players. Although I’ve never been a huge fan of Little Big Planet, I believe there looks to be so much depth in gameplay than in either the first or second game, and like Yoshi’s Woolly World, could potentially make for something particularly special in the 2D side-scrolling genre.
Developed by Dark Souls creators, From Software, Bloodborne is a game that was made very much in the spirit of their insanely difficult recent commercial success. Looking much better than Dark Souls II both graphically and conceptually, I think that From Software may finally be developing a game that I will personally take some interest in. My biggest hope, however, is that the game’s difficulty is much more accommodating to a wider audience that it can be adjusted accordingly. Though part of the appeal of Dark Souls and Dark Souls II is that they are much harder than the average game, I don’t think From Software would be doing themselves any favours by continuing to develop hard games for the sake of them being hard.
Following on from the success garnished by Far Cry 3, the fourth game was revealed at Sony’s conference along with further emphasis on gameplay delivery seemingly preferable to that of playing the game on the Xbox One, featuring the unique facility of players being able to invite their PSN friends to play against them, even if they don’t own the game themselves. To me, that is a masterstroke from Sony, as it’s never been tried by anyone else prior, and it’s something else that Nintendo and Microsoft will now have to contemplate on capitalizing on in turn. It also puts further emphasis on Sony’s recently staggering dedication to the players. What excited me most about the gameplay is that it seems to play out a lot like Just Cause 2; involving the destruction and taking over of settlements across a large open world. If the final product does indeed play out like what the initial demo would suggest, I for one, would be very happy.
Dead Island 2
A teaser trailer was also shown for Dead Island 2; part of an initiative being carried about by Sony based on the response from fans that they want to see more zombie-based games on the PlayStation 4, which will also include the re-release of both The Last of Us and Diablo III on the system. There’s not much I can say about Dead Island 2 based on one simple teaser trailer, but already, I’m sceptical of what kind of game it might be; simply more of the same as what the first was, and the inclusion of everything I hated about it, including a lack of legitimate horror and gameplay substance.
On the other hand, something that I wasn’t expecting to be impressed by to any extent, and turned out to be so, was Battlefield Hardline. Unlike any other game in the franchise, Battlefield Hardline will apparently follow a different formula, whereby players can choose to be on the side of justice or injustice battling either criminals or police; essentially a glorified version of cops and robbers. In my opinion, a change in gameplay like that is something that the franchise direly needs for it to have any artistic value attached to it to accompany the overwhelming commercial response the like of Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and Battlefields 3 and 4 have garnished. Here’s hoping that Hardline will make for a very positive change in direction for the popular first person shooting series.
Although the teaser trailer shown at the conference made for a good few laughs, I thought that the game itself looked very generic. Made in the spirit of Diablo or Baldur’s Gate, Magicka 2 is a top-down view RPG involving wasting everything in sight with an array of different mages and magic spells. But what followed would make for something much more interesting to me on a personal level.
Grim Fandango Remake
When it was announced that Tim Schafer’s Grim Fandango would be getting remade on PlayStation 4, I was extremely exhilarated. Grim Fandango is one of my favourite video games of all time, and the thought of it finally being brought to a wider audience than it was when it was released is amazing, in my opinion. My biggest hope for that is that the developers don’t deviate too far from what made the original game so brilliant, and that the initial gameplay is still very much intact; like what Microsoft are planning to do with the re-release of the Halo trilogy.
After that, it was revealed that Sony and Devolver Digital had joined forces to bring an even greater variety of indie games to PlayStation platforms than before; further capitalizing on the success that indie games has brought to Sony since the release of the PlayStation 4. The games revealed included Not a Hero, Hotline Miami 2: Wrong Number, Broforce, Titan Souls and a Portal-like puzzle game entitled The Talos Principle. After this, attention shifted to Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacturer; development companies that I have had issues with in the past.
Let it Die
Let it die is the latest title to be developed by both Suda 51 and Grasshopper Manufacturer; the developers behind such games as Shadows of the Damned, Lollipop Chainsaw and Killer is Dead. After looking at the gameplay of their future effort, I was immediately dismayed, as there seemed to be no real difference in gameplay between that and the three other aforementioned games. The problem I’ve found with them is that whilst they are very unique in conceptual design, they suffer in terms of gameplay, and they’re not as immersing as they could have perhaps been made to be; Killer is Dead in particular, which I reviewed later on in the year. Although let it Die looks just as wonderfully twisted as their three previous games, it doesn’t look any more fun to me.
Abzu (Water: To Know)
Along with a staggering collection of indie planned for release on PlayStation platforms as well as those being developed by Devolver Digital, Abzu was also unveiled to the audience. Like the hit indie game Journey, it will involve a yet to be named character traversing the ocean in presumably the same manner as Journey had the main character traversing through many different kinds of landscapes. Whilst Abzu looks about as artistically compelling as Journey (if not more so), it still begs the question of whether or not it will contain more substance in gameplay than the former. Essentially, playing Journey to me was like playing a film; only substance in story seemed to matter most. I just hope that Abzu turns out to have at least a bit more substance in gameplay.
No Man’s Sky
No Man’s Sky, on the other hand, is another indie game that seems to perpetuate the opposite end of the spectrum to Abzu; less emphasis on story, and more on gameplay much to my personal delight. It’s a game, which seems to involve a very unique formula, incorporating both first person open world exploration reminiscent of Skyrim, and flight simulation. But like Journey or Abzu, the scenery and style of the game look simply amazing. I think if this game plays out as well as first impressions would suggest, I think it could be an excellent balance between immersing gameplay and unique artistic direction; something that all game developers (not just indie ones) should aspire to achieve, in my opinion.
Afterwards, Andrew House returned to the stage, followed by CEO of Sony Computer Entertainment America, Shawn Layden, to talk about two new gaming initiatives planned for Sony; Project Morpheus and PlayStation TV. Project Morpheus is a Virtual Reality headset designed for the PlayStation 4, and PlayStation TV is a new non-portable console designed to bring PlayStation Vita games to TV’s everywhere.
Regarding both ideas, however, I remain sat on the fence; particular with the latter. Although project Morpheus was available at the Sony booth at this year’s E3 and fan reception has been initially positive, the concept of VR still a largely unproven idea; especially given Nintendo’s failings with the Virtual Boy back in the 90s. As for PlayStation TV, I don’t understand why players would want to fork out £100 plus for a variant of an existing and largely unsuccessful console. Maybe somewhere along the lines I may be proven wrong about both initiatives, but for now, I remain sceptical of the ideas. However, Layden also officially unveiled PlayStation Now; a cloud-based service allowing people to play selected PlayStation games on selected devices. As I said when it was first revealed in the news some time ago, I think that could at least be a successful idea, provided that Sony choose the right kind of PlayStation classics to release on it, and my opinion on that hasn’t changed in the least bit.
Mortal Kombat X
Next came footage of gameplay from the latest Mortal Kombat, Mortal Kombat X, which I have been excited about since it was circulated all over the Internet some time ago. New elements that were revealed in the trailer at E3, however, was the inclusion of new characters to the franchise, and even more brutal and graphically violent fatalities than ever before; as if the ones in the previous series weren’t brutal enough. It will be interesting if Ed Boon can take the series in a different direction in terms of story in Mortal Kombat X, which I think is likely; especially if more new characters are announced than the two that were shown in the trailer.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Although little gameplay footage was shown in the trailer at Sony’s conference, I have since learned what gameplay elements will be included in the upcoming instalment of Hideo Kojima’s legendary gaming series. The Phantom Pain will apparently involve elements new to the Metal Gear Solid series, including large open-word environments, base-building features, allowing players to build and customize weapons, and the return of enemy soldier and prisoner recruiting facilities. I’ve found in the past that although the Metal Gear Solid series does have much substance in gameplay, they do for the most part play out too much like films; even if the plots of each game are phenomenal. Here’s hoping that with the inclusion of open worlds, there will be at least more emphasis on gameplay put into the official fifth instalment; hopefully more than Ground Zeroes anyway.
Since before the start of this year’s E3 conference, this was the game I was most excited about; and I wasn’t disappointed. Arkham Knight looks to feature more of the same Arkham Asylum and Arkham City, but on an even wider scale than ever before. I was particularly impressed with both how the new Batmobile mechanic seems to play out, with how obstacles, which would normally present problems in driving games (public scenery, etc) can simply be destroyed by driving over them, and the level of depth in story that the game seemingly has with the Scarecrow included as the game’s main antagonist. I said when the game first surfaced about two or three months ago that it will be interesting to see where the Arkham series goes next with the Scarecrow calling the shots, and first impressions would suggest to me that I was right. But even with so many new and exciting titles and future plans Sony have in store, they weren’t finished yet.
Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End
To top off the plethora of excitement Sony had delivered throughout their 2014 E3 conference, they lastly revealed a teaser trailer for Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, which will tell of a possibly refined Nathan Drake searching for pirate treasure. What those details would suggest to me is that gameplay may involve more emphasis on exploration, similar to Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, but if this is truly to be the series’ final instalment, then I believe they need to do what Rocksteady Studios are doing with Arkham Knight and deliver on what fans know and love, and one-up that.
Sony, in my opinion, not only came out on top at this year’s E3, but they completely stole the show. With so much emphasis being put on the importance of developers creativity and immersing gameplay, there seems to be no way for either Nintendo or Microsoft to stop them at this point. My hope for the future is that they will both be able to compete more effectively against each other and their more dominant competitor, but there has been a shift in the balance of power in gaming, and Sony are enjoying every minute of it, and will most probably continue to enjoy even more success in the near future.
So that’s my overview and opinions on this year’s E3 conference. What games are you most looking forward to? Which conference did you enjoy the most? What do you think will be next for the future of gaming? As always, I look forward to reading your opinions and comments, and I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.