0pti Rants and Raves About E3

While I will be doing a rave and a rant on stream after E3 is over, for now, enjoy some bite sized reactions to E3’s press conferences!

-EA-

Well! Just when I thought EA couldn’t become any duller they not only managed to show us next to nothing in terms of interesting games, they flat out failed to acknowledge their failures as a company during the press conference as well.

Starting off with some teasers is a nice touch but once we got into the nitty gritty of EA’s conference, leading off with “Battlefield V” and a showing of some of the new features. Boasting about superlatives such as making the “biggest” experience yet and getting a(n undeserved) cheer for stating that there will not be loot boxes or micro-transactions. A thing that apparently is the new minimal ethical standard for consumerism in gaming. All before announcing that there will be a battle royale mode for BF V in what I am sure is only the first of many to come for the rest of E3 *spins finger*

Of course the next iteration of Fifa and Madden were announced which, and please read this without the dry sarcasm of the previous paragraph, is sure to delight sports gamers all over. Both games having been the de facto way to play both real world sports in a virtual setting for years, there’s something to be said for consistency when taking time to talk about them at E3 year after year.

We also got a look at some nice “EA Originals”, which are essentially EA’s indie games branch of developers. Unravel Two looks like a delightful co-op platformer that seeks to continue the adorable adventure of an anthropomorphic yarn sprite from the first Unravel. Best of all, it’s already available for purchase! Even more promising, and probably the most compelling part of EA’s conference by far, is Jo-Mei Game’s Sea of Solitude which was sold as a story of loneliness and isolation in a world enveloped by the ocean itself. With stunning visuals and an art style comparable, but still unique to Journey or Rime, this potentially heart-wrenching adventure game is one I am more than excited for.

If there was any one moment that was utterly baffling, it was the announcement of a brand new mobile game! That’s right! A mobile game. At E3. Yay? To make this announcement go from flaccid to cringe worthy, EA had two professional mobile game players (yes that’s a thing, we all have our tastes, don’t shame) come out and play a quick match. Meanwhile, two shout casters attempted to liven up the crowd that was slowly dying as EA attempted to fill their Mortal Kombat-esque soul well with the dying interest of gaming journalists in the crowd being forced to watch this farce. And then came the big reveal, this… is a Command and Conquer game. That’s right folks, feast your eyes on Command and Conquer: Rivals. I don’t think I have ever been more stupefied in my life.

But let’s get to the big name in all this, Anthem. The co-op, open world, persistent online, 3rd person shooter. Boy what a mouth full of genres. Last year’s showing of Anthem at E3 had some jaw dropping scenes of exo-skeleton clad pilots flying through a massive, cyclopean landscape and blowing away hordes of enemies with flashy shoulder mounted artillery barrages. However, this year, the hype was not the same because, well, we’re no closer to understanding what Anthem will be like.

Rather than showing off enough game play to satiate everyone’s palate, EA decided to do a Q&A on stage with some of the developers who were asked generic questions and gave generic answers that could have been applied to literally any video game ever developed. After a clear attempt to run down the clock on their empty press conference, we finally got to see some footage of Anthem! And it looks!!! Boring? The minimal amount of footage we were shown not only looked doctored but the game play looks like any run of the mill 3rd person shooter involving guns, big explosions, and “class specific abilities” just at a much. slower. pace than all the high flying trailers would have you believe. Also, they got yet another clap for not having loot boxes saying “You see an item, you can buy it.”

To wrap everything up, The CEO of EA, Andrew Wilson, had the gall to come out on stage and give a profound pro-consumerist monologue on EA being about player choice. The man whose company made this statement about Star Wars Battlefront 2, a game that was literally designed to take agency away from the player to promote a glorified gambling scheme.

Final Verdict: EA’s press conference had all the strength and impact of someone using a balloon to make wet farting sounds. While EA is “trying” in some areas, it still needs to come out and acknowledge its failings and anti-consumer practices and give us some show of faith that EA is going to turn over a new leaf. That’s three years now EA has glazed right over the negative press they’ve received without giving us some sense that there will be changes.

-Microsoft-

Microsoft has had a rough time this console generation. A lack of unique intellectual properties and a focus on the Xbox being an “entertainment” console rather than a gaming console has left it lagging behind in terms of sales. And each year since its release, their E3 press conference has left crowds wanting. However, this year they certainly came out of the gate swinging with an impressive line up for 50 games and some great news for the future of the Xbox. For the sake of brevity I’ll only tackle a few personal highlights here but if you want the full list of announcement check out Kotaku’s article that comes complete with trailer footage of each listed game.

Putting their best foot forward, Microsoft opened with a trailer for Halo Infinity, the next game in the Halo series. The trailer itself was uneventful but a shot of the Master Chief standing with his helmet at his side is all Halo fans need to get excited for the next entry in the series. With a new engine behind the game and a potential PC release Microsoft showed up front that they came ready to set the bar early on.

Gears 5 was announced as well, and in a rather… odd fashion. As the Gears cog symbol emerged onto the screen, the crowd cheered and suddenly, a cutsey Funko pop Marcus Fenix bursts through the wall to reveal Gears Pop. Yup. A Funko Pop style Gears of War game. On mobile to boot! More interestingly, Gears is going to be getting an X-Com style turn-based strategy game  that has some promise to it. But then the full on reveal trailer hit opening with some familiar, and not so familiar faces, mourning over an unknown body. This time around players will be taking control over Kate from Gears 4 who is plagued by prophetic visions that lead into the games events. It’s not the first time we’re getting a Gears game without a Fenix as a lead character but if Gears of War 4 was any indication of the storytelling and gameplay  we’re going to get, Gears 5 is sure to excel.

Some quick notes of excitement on some multiplatform announcements. The new Metro: Exodus is still looking properly depressing and grim. Kingdom Hearts 3 has a motha flippin Frozen world in it! Cuphead is getting an expansion next year with a new playable character, Ms. Chalice, and a whole new island to rage over. The world of Life is Strange is expanding with Captain Spirit, another choice based adventure game from the folks at Dontnod that I’m sure will make me cry grown man tears. The Division 2 and Fallout 76 got a little screen time but we’re going to have to wait til their respective conferences for more on that.

We also finally got an answer to all our questions of Bandai Namco’s cryptic “Shadows Die Twice” trailer from last year, which turns out to be the tagline for a game called Sekiro. The trailer had that tried and true Soulsbourne combat but also looks to be focusing a good deal on high flying movement options to add a level of verticality to the game play as well. And in grand fashion, just as Phil Spencer, the Head of Xbox in Microsoft’s gaming sector, is about to end the show, all the lights cut out and the stage electronics begin to glitch and turn into a code that announced the trailer for the ever awaited Cyberpunk 2077 from CD Projekt Red. Cyberpunk looks like a wild departure from their previous work on the Witcher series but the intent shown from the trailer certainly looks promising.

But the question is, did Microsoft do anything to help combat the lackluster experience of being an Xbox owner this year? Well, yes and no. They did announce that Microsoft will be acquiring four new studios, Playground Games (Forza), Ninja Theory (DmC, Hellblade), Undead Labs (State of Decay), and Compulsion Games (We Happy Few) as well as announcing a new studio started entirely by Microsoft called The Initiative headed by the former head of Crystal Dynamics (Tomb Raider). While I’m hopeful that having more studios will help bolster the Xbox’s lineup, we still have yet to see how these developers are going to be directed under Microsoft’s umbrella or if they will even be enough to help breathe life into Xbox’s sales. I have my doubts given the stellar line up of games Sony and Nintendo have been churning out and continue to announce. If anything, it will at least help bolster the community on Xbox with some good faith.

Final Verdict: Microsoft killed it this year. They showed up. Showed games with just enough content to peak my curiosity but not enough to dwell too long. They gave just enough info to succinctly discuss Xbox’s direction and the last little tease of Phil Spencer mentioning their hardware department is hard at work means we might be on the verge of a new console generation in the coming years. I don’t think this will bring Xbox back to the pole position for the rest of the generation, but it was nice to see them finally addressing so many Xbox’s issues.

-Bethesda-

Last year we all had a good laugh at Bethesda porting Skyirm to the Switch with a deluge of memes about the next port for Skyrim (which we all knew was going to be a TI-83 Texas Instrument graphing calculator). And while they did announce some great games and expansions to their current long running games, it was a pretty standard press conference as far as Bethesda goes. But this year, oh this year, Bethesda stole the whole damn show and we’re not even half way done yet.

The show started with Pete Hines, Bethesda’s VP, addressing the elephant in the room of the Rage 2 leak let out by Walmart Canada several weeks ago by admonishing the company in a straight forward fashion. After a rather awkward musical number by Andrew W.K we got to see some stellar alpha footage of Rage 2 that looked like it had all the over the top, explosive gunplay we’ve come to expect from Bethesda shooters at this point. I was particularly wowed at a moment where an imploding gravity grenade threw enemies into the sky and the player threw a boomerang on a timed explosion into the mix creating a sense of complexity to kills that reminds one of Bulletstorm. It’s certainly looking to succeed its predecessor in every way as an apocalyptic action shooter with personality.

As if that wasn’t enough in the shooter department, we were were treated to teasers for follow ups to Bethesda’s two big shooter series. DOOM Eternal is continuing off of their hit DOOM reboot from 2016. While we only got a reveal, the devs are promising more of the same as they work to find more ways to slay new demons they’re adding to a series so fucking metal Ozzy Osbourne wouldn’t bite its head off out of respect. Wolfenstein is also getting an interesting twist to the series with the announcement of a co-op shooter featuring the twin daughters of B.J Blazkowicz. While we didn’t get gameplay, a continuation of each of these series is more than welcome.

With some rather tepid reactions to a new Elder Scrolls mobile game, Blades, and the port of Elder Scrolls: Legends and Fallout Shelter to the remaining current gen consoles, Bethesda had a few *erhrm* bombshells to drop. The first of which was all the info to dispel or confirm the rumors around Fallout 76. It is going to be one of the biggest worlds Bethesda has ever made, sporting an area four times larger than Fallout 4 and everything within the game is going to be up to you to mold. You are the deciding factor in how factions thrive or die. You decide where you want to build settlements. You decide how to shape the world and you can play the entire experience online with friends, strangers, or completely by yourself (which is what I will certainly be doing!) For a bit of perspective, they showed controllable nuclear sites on the game world map that you can control and use to wipe out other areas of the map and change the very makeup of the game world itself. This level of control is something only Bethesda could deliver and I am deeply looking forward to the follow up of one of my all time favorite games.

But if that wasn’t enough, they had one more parting gift. With a musical roll and a scene of a camera view sweeping over a mountain valley, the title Elder Scrolls 6 came into view and the crowd (and myself) lost it. Todd Howard was quick to point out that it will be some time before we see it but still. It’s hard to top The Elder Scrolls a series that has always pushed world building boundaries like no other series and is beloved by millions.

Final Verdict: Unless Sony has somehow wrestled Silent Hill away from Konami’s cold, icey IP killing grasp and is making Silent Hills, Bethesda won’t be topped going forward. There were a lot of bells and whistles to the show but with follow ups to almost every single IP and the announcement of an entirely new IP, Starfield, Bethesda had one of the hypest E3 conferences I’ve seen this generation.

-Square Enix-

Gather round weebs and otakus! SQUEE-nix is here! With a rather odd presentation of interesting new games, reused trailers, and some missing holes where some hype should be.

Leaving out the more traditional route of addressing potential shareholder concerns, this year Square Enix gave us a thirty minute showing of different games their developers are working on. The show opened with a showcase of the expanded stealth mechanics of Shadow of the Tomb Raider that reminded me a bit of Metal Gear Solid 3 what with all the slinking around the jungle canopy and floor while using clever tricks to outwit and take down enemy soldiers. With new movement options that are sure to open up the overall world design, Shadow looks like a promising move forward for the series.

Other familiar franchises included Just Cause 4 which got an extended trailer from Microsoft’s conference yesterday and some more news on just how much more bananas the gameplay is going to be with more tethering options for the iconic grappling hook gun from the previous titles. Meanwhile, Final Fantasy XIV is going to be getting a Monster Hunter crossover event later this year! (Hey, how bout World getting a Final Fantasy crossover huh? Show some love our way?”)

Of all the announcements, only two of them were new. Babylon’s Fall had a brief trailer showing still shots the gave blurbs about the history of a new fantasy world before breaking into a scene of a knight and monster clashing that looked straight up like Dark Souls and Final Fantasy had a love child. With no gameplay to go no, the only speculation as to what kind of game it is going to be comes from its developer, Platinum Games(Bayonetta, Nier: Automata). So it’s a safe bet to say it’s going to be an action game.

The Quiet Man is probably the newest IP I’m most interested in. The trailer opened with some live actions shots of a cityscape before focusing on what was clearly the protagonist of the story clad in a generic black hoodie complete with edgey leather jacket and sporting an emo swoosh haircut from the mid 00’s. He walks into an alley way where three thugs who were dressed too well and acted to awkwardly to be thugs harassed protagonist #1 before the protag gestures to his ear. As the scene turns over to CGI, the sound cuts out completely as they make their approach and it becomes clear that the protagonist is deaf. The following scuffle is nothing but a dull tinnitus with minor thumps that crescendo with each blow dealt to the thugs. While we have no further information, the idea of a game that is silent or mostly silent is definitely an intriguing and daring concept.

Final Verdict: It was a pretty mediocre conference with little to go off of for the new IPs, minor additions to existing ones, and the replaying of the Kingdom Hearts 3 and Just Cause 4 trailers. And with the noticeable absence of any Final Fantasy VII Remake news, it felt a bit dull overall but it being relegated to a 30 minute presentation meant it didn’t overstay its welcome.

-Ubisoft-

Well, well, well! Yew-bee-sopht once again enters the E3 fray in grand fashion with a dance number to announce the newest Just Dance 2019 before getting into the real big stuff we’ve all been waiting for.

In a show of confidence, the conference lead off with some more news about Beyond Good and Evil 2 with a trailer that had one hell of a twist ending for fans of the first game. After which, some more info was released about the open world nature of the game that will span entire planetary systems complete with a co-op element. Personally, I’m a bit worried that the game is going to fall under the “Ubi-fication” of Ubisoft’s obsessive need to homogenize their game design principles but only time will tell on that. I certainly have high hopes coupled with equally deep worries.

Some smaller titles were highlighted such as Trials Rising, which just seems to be just more, ya know, Trials. Nothing wrong with that either as Trials has always been a fun, whacky series to spend a few hours cackling away at the physics of failing. The first bit of DLC was also announced for Mario + Rabbids: Donkey Kong Adventure with a brief musical performance composed and conducted by the legendary Grant Kirkhope. It promises more of the fun, lighthearted combat of the base game with a Donkey Kong style aesthetic. For Honor is going to receive new content in the way of a new faction straight from China and a new “Siege” mode featuring a 4v4 attack and defend mode. In a weird turn of events, Elijah Wood took the stage to talk about Transference, a VR game (with friggin FMV in it!) about using technology to dive in the psyche of a “corrupted mind”. The trailer makes it look like another walking simulator with scares but certainly plays upon some unique themes.

If there was one thing to take notice of in terms of Public Relations successes, The Division 2 got a bit more gameplay featured and also boasted a new endgame that actually looks to expand the longevity of the game for its opening year. Any followers of the first Division will remember how the game lacked post game content despite all of the additional content over time. However, this time around they’re adding new end game class building and an 8-player raid mode. It sounds like they’ve been listening and The Division 2 is going to be what the first set out to be.

To book end the conference with another blockbuster, Ute-Beat announced, of course, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Admittedly, as a critic of the series, it’s looking to take some of the RPG elements that Origins had and expand upon them which I’m actually interested in. Branching dialogue choices have been added and a choice between a male and female character. It’s certainly visually appealing and the combat is as flashy and rhythmic as ever. It certainly looks like the lackluster quality of AC games of the past is no longer a worry.

Final Verdict: Too-Yeet-loft had a pretty solid line up this year that managed to talk about some franchises that laid dormant since last E3. While there’s nothing surprising or overall groundbreaking, it was still a solid show that let people know exactly what they’re getting from Ubisoft this coming year.

-PlayStation-

If there’s anything you can applaud Sony for in their press conferences, it’s intimacy. They manage to create not just a “conference” but a unique marketing experience that’s gripping in its simplicity and is immensely effective.

Sony drove this point home as they introduced Gustavo Santaolalla on stage to play the theme from TLOU to introduce The Last of Us Part II. The somber playing gave way to a cinematic of Ellie dancing with her presumed lover before fading in and out to a scene of her holding some in her lover’s place, a knife in their throat. As Ellie slinked away and into enemy territory we were given hints of all new stealth and chase mechanics that look to make the combat ebb and flow from the first game. TLOU would stick you into combat the moment you alerted someone and stealth was next to impossible to reengage until everyone was already dead. TLOU 2 looks to add evasion tactics to help fix this. I was enthralled watching the trailer as a brutal and long combat sequence played out with more intricacy in combat and environmental interactivity than I’ve ever seen in my gaming career. The animation were not only fluid but all the interactivity as Ellie and her enemies crashed into and how realistically they were affected had me in awe to the point where I almost don’t believe it’s real game footage. If this is at all indicative of the final product and not merely a cinematic, pre-rendered trailer, Naughty Dog is going to set the new standard for animation with The Last of Us Part II.

“Eastern Warriors” seem to be a theme for this year’s E3 as two games set in a feudal Japanese aesthetic were announced. Ghost of Tsushima looks to be a cinematic feast. The opening scene had a samurai warrior travel over a sprawling countryside with grass technology that would make Disney animators weep from its beauty. Upon encountering an enemy group of bandits, the camera transitioned to a closer view as a game of attack and counter attack took place between the player character and the group. This transition and even the combat itself has shades of The Witcher 3 with its sweeping vistas, dense forests, and combat that focused on realism. The scene is one that I cannot only be described as cinematic perfection and has to be seen to be enjoyed. Following that up was a brief trailer for Nioh 2, the Souls-like samurai slasher set in a mythical, medieval Japan. While no game play was given away, the trailer was enough to wet any returning Nioh fan’s appetite while drawing newcomers to ask about the series.

We got another Death Stranding trailer and yeah, I still don’t have a goddamn clue what is going on but I still know I need the game. So there’s that. Honestly I have no idea how to sell this thing man just go watch the trailer. There’s a baby fetus thing, invisible Frieza ghosts, and Norman Reedus doing a Tolkien-esque trek across and unknown land.

The show ended with another extended look at the new Spiderman game from Insomniac games and boy howdy does it look incredible. The trailer had Spiderman chasing Electro through a prison full of Spiderman’s villains, releasing them all to finally take down Spidey at the end of the trailer in front of an off screen, unknown villain. The combat looks fast and rewarding and the webslinging (which devs have always struggled with!) looks fluid.

And while Final Fantasy VII didn’t show up, another equally groundbreaking remaster did, Resident Evil 2. Rather than being a straight up overhaul of the original game, it looks to pay homage to the series as a whole. The over the shoulder camera view of Resident Evil 4 combined with the gritty visuals of Resident Evil 7 in the trailer make for a tense atmosphere. Story elements new and old flashed by to show them staying faithful to the original story while potentially updating the lore. Little is known right now but hopes are high and after so many years of being in the dark, we finally have a release date, January 25th, 2019. Just in time to compete with Kingdom Hearts 3 that had a third friggin trailer during the Sony conference!

Final Verdict: What Sony lacked in terms of showing content or the direction of the system, they make up for in just simply building up and introducing games while giving us enough to get a grasp of the gameplay. Not a bad conference at all. Good job Sony. Good job indeed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s