As I write this, E3 2016 is effectively over. I imagine all that’s left is for extended meetings to conclude and the elaborate decorations to be disassembled before the whole of the video game industry heads to dozens (upon dozens) of bars to officially end the event.
Being the lowly peasant that I am, I was unable to attend this or any E3. And being a lowly peasant, I jumped onto the inter-webs to watch the presentations hosted by Electronic Arts, Bethesda, Microsoft, Ubisoft, and Sony (along with Nintendo’s non-presentation two-day event). So I have a few thoughts, at least one of them being the possibility that my gaming tastes no longer sync with the industry.
That’s another article, though. Here are my thoughts on the presentations. The larger article about what games shown at E3 excite me the most will come next Thursday.
It became obvious after the last E3 that Electronic Arts’ portfolio of content just doesn’t appeal to me. The exceptions to that are BioWare’s Dragon Age and Mass Effect, along with the occasional surprise indie game, like last year’s Unravel. So I knew going into this year’s presentation that I shouldn’t expect much. I’d be happy with a grand introduction to Mass Effect: Andromeda and maybe another Unravel-like surprise.
And the result? Glass half full.
EA revealed Fe by indie developer Zoink Games, a more unconventional title where players appear to control a fox-like creature able to interact with other animals in a world overblown by purples and reds. We also learned about EA Originals, designed to help support indie developers, and all profits go back to the developer. It sounds almost like an indie-focused EA Partners.
Meanwhile, that grand debut for Mass Effect: Andromeda was nothing more than a bunch of behind-the-scenes footage spliced with a few bits of gameplay. It’s more than we saw last E3, but not by much.
The rest of the presentation was the expected content that, as I mentioned above, doesn’t do anything for me. It’s easy to be cynical about EA’s continued push into e-sports, and Titanfall 2 unfortunately looks a fair bit too much like recent Call of Duty games. Of course, that’s not entirely the game’s fault since it looked more like CoD following the original Titanfall into the future setting, but still.
There were a few moments during Bethesda’s presentation that I felt some déjà vu. Haven’t we seen a lot of these games before? Well, yes. Bethesda clearly has a bunch of downloadable content in the pipeline for Fallout 4, Fallout Shelter, and the recently released Doom. And then Elder Scrolls Online, which I’m sure they covered last E3, and the updated Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
To be fair, Bethesda did show new games. The started the show with a new Quake game, and they dropped us an Elder Scrolls-themed card game (that ran into a brief technical hiccup) that does absolutely nothing for me.
The only true moment of excitement from me came during their extended overview of Dishonored 2, which impressed me enough that I pre-ordered the collector’s edition immediately when it became available. I own the original Dishonored but never played it, so the combination of stealth and BioShock-ish powers was new and thrilling. What about the sequence when the character jumped between times to navigate the environment and kill enemies? Just awesome.
What did Microsoft show? Uh… the smaller Xbox One. They teased a more powerful Xbox One, also. (Good luck getting me to drop more money on new hardware, Microsoft.) A new Gears of War and Forza Horizon as shown, as well as that weird (yet kind of cool) dragon game. Anything else?
I am sure that they showed more, but I’m drawing a blank. That’s not a great sign. I can’t remember the last time I was impressed by a Microsoft E3 presentation.
Right, they did show Rare’s new pirate game, which did look interesting. The idea of jumping onto a ship with a group of people I know is exciting, but I don’t have (or want) Live Gold anymore. They also promised a number of software updates for Xbox One, including the ability to assemble clubs. The problem isn’t that PlayStation 4 already has a similarly sounding feature, but that I don’t use that feature.
So what did I take from Microsoft’s presentation? Mostly that if my Rock Band song library wasn’t tied to the Xbox platform, I’d have little reason to keep my Xbox One. (Not that I would sell the system. It does, and will, have games I’ll want to buy. Eventually.)
I can only assume that the beginning of Ubisoft’s presentation is what happens when a group plays too much Just Dance. People throw on silly and colorful costumes before dancing to Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now.” The whole thing was silly and mildly crazy, a sort of insanity that immediately vanished with the very next game. But this is from a company that thought it would be a good idea to have a paintball match in the middle of their show… or whatever crazy thing they did several years ago.
Of course, they followed Just Dance with the awkwardness of Ghost Recon: Wildfire. Or rather, it was the staged dialogue that was awkward. I actually couldn’t determine if the back-and-forth came from the character in the game or the players controlling them. (Turned out it was the latter.) Regardless of which, awkward.
Awkward. That sums up Ubisoft’s presentation. If it wasn’t the jokes in South Park: The Fractured But Whole (the civil war segment was great, but the origin story bit sucked), it was the reveal for Eagle Flight. And maybe I missed it, but did they mention if the Star Trek: Bridge Crew VR game will have online multiplayer? Because otherwise I doubt most people will have four VR headsets (or have access to them).
Similar to EA, Ubisoft generally doesn’t have anything that excites me. Occasionally Assassin’s Creed, but that’s about it. (Watch Dogs 2 might win me over, especially after the original.) So watching Ubisoft’s presentations is usually about seeing what silly thing the company does on stage. Like a choreographed dance to Queen.
Discussion pegs Sony as the winner of the completely legitimate and not at all stupid “E3 Presentation Wars,” but I must be getting cynical since I wasn’t blown away by what I saw. Was it the best presentation? Yeah. Did we see a bunch of cool games? Of course. Did I come away with any strong feelings towards any of those games shown? Nope.
I’m not a God of War fan, but I’ve seen enough that I will probably look into this new installment. It looks less like the typical adolescent murder-thon, and something more… sophisticated? And then we have Detroit: Become Human and Horizon: Zero Dawn look interesting. Let’s not forget Days Gone, which peaked my curiosity by the trailer before dashing my interest with the demonstration. And the teaser for Hideo Kojima’s new game.
What I appreciate most is that I finally feel a genuine excitement for Last Guardian. It was a curiosity at last E3, having been in supposed development hell (if not outright canceled, at least according to many rumors), but this is the first trailer that had me thinking that I’ll want to buy the game.
I gotta say, I’m having a mixed bag feeling about Sony’s VR offering. Resident Evil 7 looks like fun, VR or not (although putting the demo behind PS+ was a dick move), but beyond that it felt like we were tossed a bunch of VR-compatible games without focusing on anything. It reminds me of an infomercial where the guy selling the project keeps adding new crap to entice us. “You’re not impressed by Final Fantasy XV VR (Kotaku wasn’t)? How about Star Wars? Or maybe Resident Evil? Batman?”
I’m okay with the price, although I doubt I’ll be able to grab PlayStation VR anytime soon after release. And despite my reservations about Sony’s lineup (sorry, I’m a cynical bastard), there’s plenty of stuff, and they pulled off a respectable presentation thankfully without too much people robotically reading off the teleprompter.
Instead of the usual presentation, Nintendo opted for only their Treehouse Live events. So for two days, Nintendo employees (along with guests from other companies) played through demonstrations of upcoming games. Sometimes, as with the new Zelda, this worked wonderfully, but then you’d get something like the Pokemon Go segment. That was little more than a small group talking in general terms about the mobile game while only occasionally showing anything from said game.
It doesn’t help that the constant translation going on for Japanese guests slowed the interviews. Despite that, I love that Nintendo brought up members of development staffs instead of having a typical PR mouthpiece blabber on. (“How awesome is your game?” “So awesome.”)
We saw some cool stuff, too. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild looks fantastic, both visually and from a gameplay perspective. Although it had no place between the Zelda trailer and Zelda demo, the upcoming Pokemon Sun/Moon looks fantastic, as does the soon-to-be-released Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. Nintendo even had a few surprises, although nothing as excited as the rumored Mother 3 release. We saw a sequel to the underappreciated puzzler Box Boy and a new action/RPG Ever Oasis. Oh, and the new Rhythm Heaven being released on the second day.
That being said, this wasn’t a real presentation, and that could be felt. We knew most of the games going in, and there was the real sense that Nintendo is holding back for the future NX reveal event. (I do wish we got a better sense of when they’d be happening, but Nintendo themselves probably don’t know just yet.) Cool stuff, but only half of what we traditionally enjoy.