This write up may feel about a week or so late but I assure it’s a deliberate decision. I’ve always felt that games show summaries should always be done a week, maybe even two or three after the event has finished. People are very quick to commit their thoughts to paper (or to hard disk nowadays I suppose) lest they lose them amidst the hustle and bustle of the show itself, but there in lies in the problem. The hype inevitably colours the journalist’s opinions, better to leave it a week or two and let things settle down so we can have a nice calm, considered reflection on E3 2012. So without further ado…OMG!!! SNY AN NINTENDOO SUCKKED! UBISOFT PWWNED ALL LOLLLL!!!But seriously, the general consensus this year seems to be that neither one of ‘the big three’ manufacturers ‘won’ E3 this year, if you go along with the premise of someone winning a press event, but that third party behemoth Ubisoft stole the show with its brilliant press conference and plethora of games on the show floor. I’m an organised kind of person so the easiest way to go about this is to just go over each of the main press conferences (except Activision, I mean who gives a shit about anything they have to say anymore) and then a summary of the event as a whole. Let’s start with Microsoft shall we?
If anyone did lose E3 this year, in my opinion it was Microsoft. Their conference wasn’t terrible or anything, I mean at least there were no fake families and their asshole offspring peddling kinnect and giving each other ‘fist bumps’ this year but it just had almost nothing interesting going on. I will confess that I didn’t watch MS’ conference in its entirety but rather watched the broken up segments posted after the event so do yell at me if I missed anything. We got some gameplay footage of Halo 4 which I must admit, whilst looking very much the same as previous titles, did at least look very pretty and worth a go, as did the reboot of Tomb Raider. Lara Croft this time around is a buxom young girl stranded on an island full of homicidal maniacs and must fight her way off. It makes a nice change from self-entitled shithead kleptomaniac and she seems very much a frightened individual, not knowing entirely what she was doing (until she finds a bow and starts murdering people that is). I just hope they haven’t swapped annoying self-assured smugness for whiny damsel in distress…
Speaking of Bows…where on earth did this sudden inexplicable love of archery spring from in the entertainment business? First We need to talk about Kevin, then Hunger Games, now Lara Croft’s picking one up, heck even Crysis 3 sports a bow for some completely baffling reason!
Anyway…Microsoft’s biggest announcement was the unveiling of their new smart glass technology which if you haven’t heard is basically an app or at least a downloadable service that allows any mobile device to connect to your Xbox 360 to serve as a second screen. Now this draws up a very obvious ‘oh here we go again with Microsoft/Sony robbing Nintendo blind of their ideas’ comparison with the Wii U but really I don’t think they’ll end up occupying the same space. It does smack a little of trying to get a foot in the door with asymmetric gameplay before Nintendo do as they did with motion controls with the original Wii. However, with the lack of hard, tactile controls on the vast majority of tablets/phones, using the second screen in the same way as Wii U will be difficult. Rather, I think it will end up being used a social interface to interact with games communities and browse the web on the console. The most it could really alter gameplay is being used as a map/inventory screen, I mean you’ll have an Xbox controller in your hands too so switching between them is a no no.
Sony arguably had the strongest showing at a major press event at this year’s E3 with an altogether stellar line up of games. They had Playstation all stars battle royale (I say strong because it seems to be pulling in a lot of interest, frankly it’s a shameless rip off of Super Smash Bros.), God of War: Ascension, The Last of Us, a bespoke Vita version of Assassins Creed 3, the list goes on. The actual games were indeed very strong, however, their conference fell a little flat for 2 notable reasons…firstly, there were almost no surprises at all, we’ve known about these games for a good while now and E3 is supposed to be a healthy mix of improved footage that expands on reveals of games from previous years/shows, and brand new surprises that blow our socks off. With the exception of ‘wonderbook,’ there were none of these at Sony’s conference and the less said about that thing the better. The second reason is that the PS Vita actually has some very interesting games coming out for it soon, some of which such as Resistance: Burning Skies have already come out. The problem? Vita was completely absent from the conference, with the exception of the aforementioned Assassins Creed game which was announced by a Ubisoft rep anyway! It’s only been a year since Vita’s full unveiling at E3 2011 and even less time since it launched. Why almost no stage time was devoted to it is beyond me.
In any case Sony had a good conference overall and seemed to be the only one of the big three this year who put games ahead of technology/hardware. If nothing else, I’m now pretty excited about The Last of Us after seeing some incredible gameplay footage. A new IP from quantic dream was also announced; Beyond: Two Souls starring Ellen Page. I’m far less excited about this one though as David Cage has a habit of shooting for ideals that he can’t quite pull off with the same finesse as he thinks he can. Still, at least he has ideals.
Ahhh Ninty, I had such high hopes for you this year. E3 2012 marked the full reveal of the upcoming Wii U and as a result, Nintendo stood to win or lose a great deal in the minds of consumers and shareholders this year. Needless to say I was more than a little excited this year, I’ve googled ‘Wii U news’ in the last few months more times than I care to admit. Alas, like many people, I have to admit that Nintendo let themselves down somewhat with their conference. The thing is, I don’t think this has anything to do with the console itself, far from it, the console itself looks fantastic and has put almost all my fears to rest. No it was the presentation which fell flat. The whole thing was structured badly and there were very few moments that made me or indeed anyone in the audience want to get up and cheer. It began on a high with the long awaited reveal of Pikmin 3 much to everyone’s genuine joy. Amid a sea of violent first person shooters, Pikmin 3 was such a breath of fresh air. However, afterwards the announcements became more drab and ended on Nintendo land, the Wii U’s answer to Wii sports. Now Nintendo land is essentially a mini game collection featuring beloved Nintendo franchises, each one of the 12 will showcase a different aspect of the Wii U’s new gameplay opportunities. There’s the Pacman vs. style ‘Luigi’s Ghost Mansion’ where 4 wiimote wielding players run from an invisible ghost controlled by a 5th player with the Wii U gamepad who can see everyone, a Zelda inspired swords/archery fest, and Donkey Kong’s crash course which I’m not sure how to describe. Nintendo land actually looks like a lot of fun and would make a great pack-in title, it’s just a shame they ended the press conference with it, especially as it wasn’t even a gameplay demo, more of a theatrical spot.
What I will say for Nintendo is that they certainly had the best coverage of any company at E3. Whilst their press conference wasn’t the best, they broadcast a pre-E3 video revealing things about the Wii U, as well as two developer round-table discussions, a separate conference for the 3DS, and tons of coverage of gameplay on the show floor, all accessible in one place. They really got their act together and I for one hope this sets a precedent for future conferences. The games on show have got me excited, not blown away but excited enough to check them out. New Super Mario U looks like a fairly safe but highly polished sidescrolling Mario affair, Aliens: Colonial Marines looks great, as does Pikmin 3, Lego City Stories: Undercover. There were a few older ports coming in the shape of Mass Effect 3, a retooled Batman Arkham City, as well as news that Black Ops 2, a new Battlefield game, Assassins Creed 3, Project Cars, Darksiders 2 would all be coming. The most exciting games oddly happened to be from Ubisoft, more on that now…
Yes yes, we’ve established Ubisoft had the strongest show this year. Why is that? Well in short; they had a ton of great games to show off across every platform. Yeah it seems like an obvious idea but this is what did it for me. Great game after great game with a few surprises thrown in too. Their conference ran very smoothly with Yves Guillemot taking the reins for most of the show along with various other faces from Ubisoft, and even Toby Turner too! The best thing…not a hint of Mr. Caffeine this year. To be honest, I almost missed him. The games they showed off included the absolutely stunning looking Rayman Legends, the pretty intriguing ZombiU, both of which have more than caught my attention and both of which are to be launch games on the Wii U. Assassins Creed 3, whilst not a surprise, is looking like it’s going to reinvent the series in the same way the second game did and again I’m very much looking forward to getting my hands on it. Also showing were Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Farcry 3 both of which look good even if they didn’t grab my attention. The star of the show for many people (though Rayman did it for me it must be said) was new IP Watch Dogs. The game is confirmed for PC, PS3, Xbox 360, and possibly Wii U, though the game looked so incredibly good on the visual side that many people genuinely thought it was almost a pre-announcement of the next generation of consoles. It’s an interesting premise; an open world action game where you play a hacker who can exploit the way in which everyone’s lives are so tightly interconnected and monitored. Something to watch out for in the next coming months.
My final musings now that this year’s E3 has come to a close is that I think we all have a tendency to make E3 all about the press conferences but this year more than any proved that the conferences aren’t everything, in fact they revealed very little compared to what was learned on the show floor talking to developers and getting hands on time with games. Most of what was on offer at this year’s event sound like they’re very much worth picking up but you wouldn’t necessarily think that if you went by the major press conferences alone. Something to think about for next year’s event perhaps.