Back again reporting on E3, with some pretty exciting stuff to talk about this year. Here’s what I found most noteworthy from the past several days’ events:
Before E3, Metal Gear Solid series director Hideo Kojima unveiled two new entries in the franchise – Ground Zeroes, a game closer to the roots of the series, and the other, The Phantom Pain, running on a new, breathtakingly realistic Fox engine and featuring open-world gameplay. Most curious about the titles are the exclusion of longtime voiceover artist David Hayer, longtime voiceover actor for series protagonist Snake. Kojima has said he wanted Snake to be characterized by his facial expressions this time around, not his voice. Actor Keifer Sutherland of 24 will provide this via motion capture. I’m baffled by the change, and like many, unable to picture someone other than Hayter in the role, but I am curious as to what the results will yield.
The polarizing Xbox One was on display in full force at this year’s E3, with the focus not on Kinect, but games showing off the system’s potential. The system, a multi-media platform aiming to monopolize your entertainment, aims to be more engrained in the home than ever before.
Games on display during the presentation included Sunset Overdrive, a seemingly generic monster shoot-em-up, Battlefield 4, which took several long, awkward moments to load up in 60 fps, and Killer Instinct, a rebirth of the popular Rare fighter which looks surprisingly good. There was also Forza Motorsport 5, a realistic racing sim that monitors your play style via the cloud service, and hopes to deliver “real human behavior” in its AI opponents. I feel two ways about this – while I applaud the more realistic difficulty progression and unending challenge in the game, I’m a little creeped out by the idea of the game constantly learning my behavior and seeking to beat me. Coupled with the always-on status of the system, the Kinect camera built-in, and the system’s ability to monitor your heart rate, overall, I’m less impressed by the system’s features as I am hopelessly paranoid of them.
Then there’s the system pushing its new exclusive TV service, promising interplay between certain games and shows exclusive to the system. Personally, I’d rather my games just be games, not gimmicks. Props, at least, to the system’s impressive ability to record game videos and upload/share them via Upload Studio mid-game, or even live sharing them via Twitch, a cool feature that makes DVRing games a hell of a lot simpler. Xbox One launches in November for a hefty $500 price tag.
Here are also a couple trailers for a new Star Wars Battlefront, Mad Max the Game, and Batman: Arkham Origins:
Not much to say on the first, as it’s little more than a teaser.
For Mad Max, it’s interesting to note how the character’s face is hidden for the duration of the trailer…can we expect the likeness of Tom Hardy, to tie in with the upcoming Fury Road? Perhaps an amalgamation of both Hardy and Mel Gibson’s likenesses? Interesting to think about regardless while we begin the long wait.
Arkham Origins is, and has been, a curious title. Why no Rocksteady behind this one? Why not Mark Hamill returning as the Joker? Why no Paul Dini back as writer? Either way, I’m interested enough to give it a shot.
Unveiling the final Playstation 4 unit, Sony came to E3 with guns loaded in response to Microsoft’s Xbox One. The final price will be $400, $100 less than Microsoft’s console, and will indeed play used games, which Sony played as a big announcement. Check out this amusing game sharing video as well:
I don’t have much to say about the game lineup the company presented, which looks solid enough. I will say that the newly-announced requirement that players pay for a Playstation Plus account just to play multiplayer games online feels counter-productive to what the company accomplished with its free service over the course of the current generation.
For a company that’s still reeling from the lackluster performance of both its Wii U and 3DS, Nintendo’s conference this E3 had a lot riding on it. In the end, the company really failed to convince there was any juice left in the system, again clinging to tired old franchises and leaving the big, bold ideas in the hands of third party developers, which themselves clearly aren’t a priority.
I do admittedly enjoy the Conferences more than Nintendo’s past live events, which after last year felt redundant after President Satoru Iwata’s quirky, charming online presentation.
Some of the titles glimpsed this year were Pokemon X and Y (guess they ran out of colors), Super Mario 3D World (basically the 3DS game, only with 4-player capabilities and a catsuit for Mario…revolutionary developments indeed), and Mario Kart 8 (bringing back the ‘transformed’ dynamic from MK7 on 3DS).
Most noteworthy was the first trailer for the fourth Smash Bros. game, introducing new characters like Villager (your player from Animal Crossing, with a stock of powers from some lesser-known NES titles included in the original game, including Balloon Fight), and Megaman, (using powers from popular bosses of the series). Once the initial hype died down for Wii’s SSB Brawl back in 2008, I felt the game was a bit of a step down from Melee overall, choosing to cater to new gamers over the hardcore. The new Smash looks to be going in a wholly similar route, despite being five years (and counting) removed from its predecessor.
Sega: Sonic Lost World
Hard to say where exactly Sega’s blue hedgehog is in terms of quality. He’s not anywhere near the bottom-barrel bile that was Sonic ‘06, nor is he soaring the heights of his Genesis heyday. While I maintain Sonic 4 is the closest and most enjoyable the blue blur has been in a long time, since then, with games like Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations, there’s a middle-of-the-road Sonic’s been on, a sort of spinning his wheels, with Sega playing it strictly in the safe zone.
Sonic Lost World is the latest from the developer, a game for 3DS and Wii U that sees the hedgehog running along nature/forest settings in the sky, stages which remind me a bit of the canned Sonic X-Treme for Sega Saturn.
The new game introduces a new dynamic for 3D Sonic – using the left stick to walk, and the right stick to run, answering complaints dating back to Sonic Adventure for the character’s tendency to run into walls and/or off bottomless pits in the stage. There’s also a new “parkour” system, which allows Sonic to run up objects, helping players keep from accidentally running into them. Not sure how this will play in the final game. Would anyone really ever use that left stick to walk? It just seems like another unsuccessful attempt at translating the character to 3D and recreating the speed/feel of the Genesis titles. In the end, I would’ve just preferred the company keep on with 2D titles like Sonic 4. Too bad the fanboys killed off any chance of that with petty nitpicking about how the game didn’t completely 100% resemble the old games.
On a brief side note, I’m also quite excited for Sega’s new Castle of Illusion HD and Disney’s Ducktales Remastered, a sign that Disney is really starting to mine some of its more brilliant past titles. Both games seem to really be recreating the spirit of their original in their own unique way. Can’t wait to try both out.
Injustice: Gods Among Us DLC
At last year’s E3 I was skeptical of Injustice, criticizing the costumes and the gameplay’s resemblance to Mortal Kombat. One year later, having owned the game for only a couple weeks, I can say I was dead wrong. I’m loving the hell out of it.
In the weeks since its release, much speculation has gone into further DLC characters for the game, already among them Lobo, Batgirl, and Scorpion. Just this week, General Zod was revealed as the fourth, a predictable choice given Man of Steel’s impending release. His appearance looks a bit…cartoonier than I expected. And far removed from either Michael Shannon or Terrence Stamp’s incarnations. Is this the character’s New 52 look, perhaps?
Still waiting on Martian Manhunter, who was all but confirmed in Scorpion’s announcement video earlier this month and remains conspicuously absent from the roster. Red Hood and Zatanna look like early candidates for future additions as well, but I remain hopeful for some of my favorites, including Hawkman and Plastic Man. And how about alternate costumes for Flash and Green Lantern, adding Wally West, Kyle Rayner, and John Stewart to the mix? Sure, we’re talking about a finished game that’ll never be able to please everyone, but it’s fun to speculate regardless.
Thanks for reading, expect daily posts covering San Diego Comic-Con next month!