It’s hard to believe how many fantastic surprises were unveiled this year at E3! Unfortunately though, I mean that in the sense that there were virtually no surprises at all, and it’s difficult to understand how the once great show has fallen so far, so fast. The major conferences were mostly filled with games we’d already seen, or worse still, packed with dry information about uninteresting multimedia and connectivity options. No one cares that you can search Bing on your 360 using Kinect, Microsoft!
There were a few gems in there, though, most notably a surprisingly strong showing from Ubisoft and…err..probably some other good moments. But they were few and far between, and I don’t want to spoil the rest of this article up front, so without further ado, let’s get on with the Phasemonkey E3 wrap-up!
Andy: Watch Dogs
Admittedly, this category could’ve pretty much been titled “only surprise,” but Ubisoft’s stunning open-world-cyberpunk-ish-action-adventure-thing would’ve stood out even had it had some competition. It’ll be interesting to see how much of their obviously great ambition makes it into the final game, but for now consider me hyped.
Mike: Last of Us
This game took me by be surprise, mainly because I’m out of touch and hadn’t heard of it. Graphically it looks awesome, and although the gameplay is nothing hugely exciting, it seems solid enough. There were some scripted interactions with the AI that looked cool, like coming out of cover when you’re out of ammo.
Andy: No new consoles, goddammit!
Come on guys, get your fingers out! I got my XBox 360 for my 20th birthday, and I’m now 150 or thereabouts. The current console generation has passed being long in the tooth and moved into the realms of being utterly toothless. Sod your augmented reality games, sod your social media integration and sod your damn waggle controls. Let’s see some new hardware.
Why has Microsoft spent time developing this? To its credit, SmartGlass appears to do a couple of interesting things, like flicking a movie from your TV to your tablet. Using my phone to browse left and right, though? Funny, I hadn’t really struggled with a controller for that one. Why exactly would I browse the internet on my TV, using my tablet as a controller, when I just could browse the internet on my tablet? Or better yet, my PC? To top it off, I have absolutely no interest in reading stats and details about a program while it’s on. To quote John from the IT crowd: “I can’t read while I’m also trying to see things.”
…though it greatly pains me to say that. It’s safe to say that I am not the world’s biggest fan of the
cheese eating surrender monkeys French team, but they stole the show at E3 this year. Despite some spectacularly awkard moments from the two presenters, Ubisoft’s focus on games over gimmicks (well, mostly) put them streets ahead of the competition. Closing up their conference with the aforementioned Watch Dogs didn’t hurt either.
Don’t get me wrong, Ubisoft’s conference was more entertaining, and better for gamers. But I couldn’t watch about half of it, because the presenters made my brain hurt. Who talks that way? There was plenty in Sony’s conference I didn’t care about, but there was some interesting stuff too. They’re pushing cross-platform compatibility between the Vita and PS3, which I’m a huge fan of. It’s like Microsoft SmartGlass, but with more gaming, and less dry stats while trying to watch a movie.
So boring that people applauded (possibly out of embarrassment) when Internet Explorer for the XBox 360 was mentioned. Enough said.
When the conference was about games, I didn’t really see anything to pique my interest. I did, however, enjoy the Modestep (that’s the band, the genre is Dubstep) during the Forza video.
Most notable absence:
Andy: Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance
Or, more importantly, Hideo Kojima. The cheeky chappy has been a regular fixture at E3, winning Phasemonkey predecessor Neotaku’s coveted “King of the Trolls” award in 2010 for announcing that Metal Gear was coming to 360, only to reveal moments later that the new game would be starring the series’ very own Wesley Crusher, Raiden. Two years on and that game, now titled Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, must be pretty advanced – so where was it at this year’s E3? And more importantly, where was Hideo Kojima’s boyish, trolling face?
I suppose Valve could argue that they develop mainly for the PC, and this was a couple of days spent talking about consoles, but that’s a pretty thin argument. Valve are a huge company, and they’re clearly working on at least a half a dozen major titles at the moment, so where’s the info? Part of drumming up support for a game is getting the hype going early, and they’re not really doing that. At this point, any information on Half-life 3, or Episode 3, seems increasingly unlikely.
Stupidest new buzzword:
What Nintendo is saying here is that people playing with the added touchscreen (and weight) of the WiiU controller, might have different, or additional objectives in multiplayer games. First of all, this is nothing new; it’s not really any different from one player driving a warthog in Halo, and another using the mounted gun. What difference does it make if the driver’s using a touchpad? Except that the controls will be worse. My main concern is that with some of the “ideas” they’ve come up with, one player basically gets relegated to a crappier version of the game. Like Mario, 4 players all playing co-op, and one guy placing blocks? Dibs not me. Even if they come up with widely varying tasks, how is this any different from gamers using regular controllers doing different tasks? This new buzzword doesn’t add anything for me.
Why the heck wasn’t this in any of the main conferences?:
Pretty obvious choice for me here really! Dishonored is one of the most promising titles on the slate for this year, and Arkane were on-site to show the game, so why didn’t Microsoft or Sony bring them in to add some punch – and a much needed new IP – to their conferences? Just Dance 4 was shown twice, for goodness’ sake!
Andy: Reggie Fils-Aime saying “Yes, my body was ready.”
It was tough to decide between putting this as the funniest moment or the most awkward, but ultimately I was laughing with Reggie rather than at him. That a 51 year old COO has an understanding of the internet memes surrounding him is surprising. That he was willing to mock himself is commendable. Bravo, Reggie.
We don’t care about AR, but there was a lot of it on show. For me, Wonderbook was the only one that actually looked pretty good. When AR is done properly, it does have a little something to add. This game has a well thought out target audience too; not hardcore gamers, but families who want to have fun with their kids. Getting JK Rowling and the Harry Potter brand on board is a big step, if your kids are into HP, why wouldn’t you want to play with this virtual book? I also get the impression that the experience will be massively varied from story to story, depending on the particular team behind each one. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take a proper game over this any day, but this has its place if you’re into something a little more casual.
While this year’s E3 was arguably slightly better than last year’s blandfest, the show has a long way to go if it wants to regain even a shred of its former glory. Let’s all cross our fingers and wish really, really hard for some surprises next year. That said, I’m pretty sure that “people applauding Internet Explorer” is one of the signs of the apocalypse, so maybe next year’s E3 will be interrupted by fire from the skyor the reappearance of the elder gods.
Now that would be a surprise.