Thursday, June 9, 2011

E3 Impressions

For those who don’t know, E3 stands for Electronic Entertainment Expo, and for gamers it’s like Xmas.  For people in the industry, it’s also the time of year when you get to see the landscape ahead.  What trends are popping up, what is the competition coming out with, and what new hardware will we be developing on?  This year is no different, and as a gamer, and someone in the industry, I have my fair share of excitement and anxiety!

First off, here’s the games that stood out:

BioShock Infinite:

While not a true sequel, but a spiritual successor, it appears to have the same intelligent combat, a political narrative dealing with Utopian idealism and domestic abuse, and some beautiful level design which incorporates a lot of verticality, something I love to see in level design. Looking forward to this one!

The Darkness II:

I was skeptical about this game. I quite liked the original, but a new studio is developing this one. But I have a few friends working on this title and I trust their talent. And Mike Patton is back doing the voice acting. But once I saw the gameplay, I started to get excited.

Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 3

While it definitely looks cinematic, I’m getting really bored of the army shooter, modern or otherwise. Still, this franchise and its ilk are a license to print money, so I’m sure it’ll be the best selling game of all time, like it’s 2 predecessors were. Interested to see its reviews after the mass exodus from Infinity Ward.

Battlefield 3

While there’s no arguing the graphics are absolutely beautiful, as I said in the previous one, I’m kinda done with the modern war shooters. From an industry standpoint I’m interested to see if EA manages to take the throne of the modern war genre from Call of Duty, as they’ve clearly invested a lot in Battlefield.

Far Cry 3

I enjoyed the other 2, but this one looks like it takes it to true AAA level. As always for this franchise, the graphics look great. The gameplay is hopefully as open as the previous 2. But the narrative looks particularly compelling. I like that they address the “immortal hero” of games that never seems to die. An interesting dynamic. One of the highlights of E3 for me, really looking forward to this one.

Assassin’s Creed: Revelations

I personally find it kind of rediculous that Assassin’s Creed has a trilogy within a trilogy (Ezio’s trilogy within the Assassin’s Creed trilogy), but to be fair the quality has been pretty solid. I had some pretty major complaints about linear level design and instant-fail missions in Brotherhood, but it was still a great game, and progressed the plot quite a bit. Gameplay was shown, and it was quite pretty, but this trailer is too cool not to use as the video. Some interviews hinted at the future of the Assassin’s Creed storyline and I like where it’s going.

Tomb Raider

A true Tomb Raider reboot has been a long time coming. I’ve never cared too much for the franchise, but this looks like it’ll draw me in. A more realistic, vulnerable and maybe naïve Lara Croft, gameplay and cinematics that look to borrow heavily from Uncharted (which is OK since Uncharted borrowed heavily from the Tomb Raiders before it), and an intriguing premise. These are things that make a game I look forward to. A surprise hit for me.

Halo 4

Meh. Even though the franchise was supposedly over, it’s back. Being developed by Microsoft after Bungie bowed out. This on top of a full on remake of Halo 1, it’s a good time to be a Halo fan. Shame I’m not, at all.

Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

I missed out on the previous entries to the franchise, including Oblivion, but I did get into Fallout 3 a fair amount, which was often called Oblivion with guns. The new engine they use here makes for some truly breathtaking expansive environments. I think this will be the game that finally gets me into Elder Scrolls.

Ninja Gaiden 3

During the previous generation of consoles I was on PS2. The Ninja Gaiden franchise did very well for itself but it was Xbox exclusive, so I never really got into it. I tried to later, but the games are known for their “old school NES difficulty”, and frankly I don’t like my games frustrating. I know a few people quite excited for this title though, and it certainly looks to have stayed true to it's gory roots!

Hitman: Absolution

I really respect this franchise for the varied approaches the player can take, and the uncompromising importance of smart gameplay. However, as I said in my previous entry, I don’t enjoy frustrating gameplay experiences personally, and these games are built on them.

Darksiders II

I absolutely loved the original. I love the design of Zelda games, but its focus on the younger audience leaves a lot to be desired for me. Darksiders was like a Zelda game re-skinned for adults, and that was fine by me! You played as War, one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. Looks like in the sequel you’ll be playing one of the other riders, Death. And I hear it takes place simultaneously to the first. I can’t wait for this one.

Prey 2

The original Prey was a game of walking on walls and ceilings, and portals before Portal. You played a Native American abducted by aliens trying to save his girlfriend. In this game you play an intergalactic bounty hunter, taking in targets. The gameplay shown matched the trailer. A lot of people are really excited about it, I’m not sure that I am. I don’t want to chase people for an entire game… During an interview it was said the lead from the first game is still present in some fashion, and the game isn’t “just” chasing. But I still have my doubts, personally.

Uncharted 3: Drake's Deception

Now that I’m making decent money I finally plan on buying a PS3 and getting into the other side of the hardcore gaming market. I’ve missed out on the Uncharted franchise, even though I’ve heard almost nothing but good things. I’ll have to play the first 2 first, but this game will be a must play once I get a PS3. It’s been advertised as amazing in 3D, and that’s how I plan on playing it when the time comes. Naughty Dog does such an amazing job of seamlessly blending cinematics and gameplay.

Batman: Arkham City

Batman: Arkham Asylum was a surprise hit from an unheard of studio, RockSteady, and it ended up winning a ton of Game Of The Year awards, and justly so. I LOVED the first. It’s one of the very few games I went back to play through again. The new one is bigger, it’s now an open world. I am giddy with excitement for this game. I hope they do it in 3D as well, as the GOTY edition for the previous one was great fun in 3D!

Mass Effect 3

I have a few friends at E3 pushing this game, including Reid, so it was great to see it get so much attention. Mass Effect 2 was one of my favorite games of all time. A game that raises the bar of what a game can be. It told a story complex and emotional in a way a movie just can’t accomplish in 2 hours. The fact that I worked at BioWare with the people that made this game for 2 years has no bearing on that statement. One of my favorite games ever. So Mass Effect 3 is something I’m dying for. I knew all of this before the announcement but now I can finally talk about it. Kinect support in Mass Effect 3! This is a common theme in Microsoft’s E3 conference. Kinect is not just for casual gamers, but hardcore too! While I’m not a fan of the idea of responding verbally, then having Shepard paraphrase it in-game, the idea of voice commands for squads instead of having to pause combat is a GREAT idea. The trailer does little in showing off the epic story that will take place in Mass Effect 3 (we finally see Earth in the Mass Effect franchise, but under dire circumstances as the Reapers are finally out of hiding, hell bent on culling intelligent life from the galaxy, for mysterious reasons), but I chose this video to show off voice commands in use. One of the most highly anticipated games for me.

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier

This game was nowhere on my radar. Then they showed a pretty nice CG trailer, but anyone can make a cool CG trailer. But once I saw this gameplay footage of 4-player coop I was sold. This will be a great game to play with friends. Another thing shown off (not in this video but you can find it if you look) is Kinect support for weapon customization. Basically it has a Minority Report type interface for customizing your weapons, which appears to have insane depth. This game is one I’ll be forcing my friends to buy so we can play together. I love me some co-op.

Twisted Metal

This game will get 10/10 from me if on nostalgia alone. From what I’ve seen though, it’ll hold up as a great game for newcomers too. In an era where realism reigns, it’s nice to see some games that aren’t afraid to go over the top. They focused a lot on the single player story mode at E3, which looks interesting, but honestly, no one’s buying this game for the single player… I can’t wait to drive down memory lane with this game, and blow things up!

Saints Row The Third

I played the first Saints Row, and liked it more than GTA3 at the time. The controls were tighter, the action was more satisfying and the customization was great. I missed the second somehow, but the third is looking great. Like I said for Twisted Metal, I love when a game studio isn’t afraid to take it over the top. You can beat someone with a giant purple dildo in this game. So ya, there’s that. It looks fun, and I’ll play it.

Dead Island

This footage isn’t technically from E3, but it’s the best gameplay footage out there. Open world zombie survival game with heavy RPG elements. For those that haven’t seen the cinematic cg trailer, google Dead Island Trailer and prepare to see the game trailer that spread through the gaming community like wildfire. An amazing trailer! Anyway, after seeing gameplay, I’m looking forward to this game, even though first person melee is not something I generally like.

Resident Evil: Operation Raccoon City

Aside from this idiot interviewer, this video gets the game across pretty well. 4 player coop, very arcade like. Looks to be cashing in on Left 4 Dead. Honestly, not too excited for this one. Looks a little too frantic for me. But I’m sure many will quite enjoy it!

Motion Sports Adrenaline

And look at this! A casual game being made for Kinect and PS3 Move. I wonder who’s making this game… And I somehow have the feeling the designer for the Extreme Ski levels is gunna nail it! Just sayin…

Also, I found this to be awesome, and a great deal for 499$!

PS3 3DTV Bundle

Not many people seem to agree with me on this, but I think 3D gaming is the future! I had Nvidia 3D Vision for my pc in Edmonton and used to love playing WoW in 3D. It just drew me into the environments, and brought the level design to life! So I'm happy to see Sony pushing 3D so hard. And the 2 player full screen features is awesome!!

And let’s not forget Nintendo.  Everyone was waiting for their conference because Nintendo had confirmed they’d be unveiling their next console, tentatively called Wii 2.  Nintendo’s conference came, and for the first 80% it was fluff.  A few new games, nothing amazing or even worth putting in this list.  Then they announced the console:

Wii U

Yep. It’s called the Wii-U. Sometimes I feel like Nintendo is trolling the gaming community. Or just seeing what it can get away with. But after the Wii went from being a joke at it's announcement to a revolutionary console that finally brought gaming to the mainstream, I don’t know what to expect. All I know is I was not wowed. One surprise came after this trailer though. Nintendo, while staying loyal to its casual market, is re-dedicating itself to the hardcore market. Many of the games on this list, it was announced, will also be release on Wii-U. Batman, Darksiders 2, Ninja Gaiden, etc. Of course they’ll come out way after their initial releases on other consoles, since the Wii-U doesn’t even have a release date yet. I do like the screen controller idea. It leads to some very interesting design possibilities. Especially in multiplayer. Finally a player can have a secret from other players. In it’s simplest form, imagine a game of poker where other players can’t see your cards! None the less, most people agree Nintendo’s conference was pretty lackluster, even including a new console!

So that was the bulk of E3.  I missed a few things, but got the major stuff.  It was a great E3, and I was really happy with the focus on the hardcore gamer crowd. The past few years have been all about the casual gamer. As someone who works at a studio that makes casual games, I have nothing against them, but it was nice to see my main gaming interests being served at E3 this year. E3 is still going on so I’m sure some cool gameplay footage is coming and some informative interviews, but the bulk of the announcements have been made.  I’m super jealous of my friends there this year.  One of these days I’ll make it down there!

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