The Electronic Entertainment Expo 2012 ended four days ago, and now that I’ve sifted through all of the press conferences, individual game interviews, podcasts, and first impressions, I feel that now is a proper time to do a post-mortem on this year’s E3.
Or lack thereof. Leading up to E3, there was definitely some talk as to whether Microsoft or Sony was going to reveal some shiny new console to the public. Although there have been rumors of the Orbis and Durango, and even some developers getting dev kits for these new consoles, nothing was shown at E3 this year. This may seem like a weird move since many people attribute the one year jump that Microsoft had on Sony as the reason why they have a larger player base, but I think that there are multiple reasons why neither of them wanted to show off their new tech this year.
By moving to a console they could risk fracturing their fan base. For example, if the Durango (Microsoft’s internal codename for their next console) has specs that are lacking compared to the Orbis, then upgrading the console would be a perfect time to do this. While you could argue that the gamer would want to keep all of the legacy content they have – such as games, DLC, XBLA/PSN games – there is no guarantee yet that this content will be backwards compatible with the new hardware. Given the fact that the Xbox 360 only plays certain Xbox games, and that PS3s can’t play PS2 games, the hope for backwards compatibility is dim.
Secondly, if it ain’t broke, why fix it? The simple fact is that if Xbox 360s and PS3s are still selling, then neither company has any reason to force a switch until all sales have been milked from the community. The only reason they are coming out with new consoles is to incentivize gamers to switch their console which, as previously mentioned above, could be a risky move given a loss might occur if the new console is disappointing next to the other.
The third point is that maybe they both hope to profit from the lackluster Wii U. I’ll be talking about this more soon, but the gist of it is that no one knew what to expect from the Wii U. On one side it could’ve been an amazing revelation in technology that would change how we played games, but on the other hand, it could have been another gimmick that Nintendo uses to sell consoles. We know now that the latter seems to be truer than the former, but Sony and Microsoft would have been hard pressed to try and base their decision on speculation. If either company had showed off their new console and the Wii U had been a smash hit with great games to back it up, then the possibility that the Orbis or Durango could have been buried under the hype for the Wii U might have been reality. It comes down to the fact that both Microsoft and Sony were probably in the same boat as the rest of us: nobody knew what the fuck the Wii U was going to be and if it had a great game line up.
Which leads us nicely into my next topic in the console section which is the Wii U. Coming into E3 this year, it was clear that Nintendo had the most to win or lose. Coming out of E3 this year, it was clear that Nintendo lost, and they lost hard. The problem was that Nintendo had to do two things this year: prove that the 3DS was a worthwhile purchase by bringing out some awesome games, and also prove that the Wii U isn’t just a gimmick but rather a viable next-gen platform. Nintendo did neither of these things and for that reason they are – at least in my mind – the losers of this year’s E3. Just look at what Nintendo rested their faith on for the Wii U’s launch next year. They had Nintendo Land, a game that simply reworked last year’s tech demos into a mini-game collection; New Super Mario Brothers U, which will probably be well-produced but I’ll be damned before I buy the same game a fourth time; and Batman: Arkham City, a game that came out last year on the platforms that you already own.
That’s not to say that everything Nintendo was bad. According to people who liked the previous Pikmin games – I’ve personally never touched them – the new Pikmin looks fun, although they haven’t changed much from the Gamecube games, and the new Wii U gamepad barely changes anything. Also, Zombie U looks good, but I’m not sure how that will turn out since the only zombie games that I like are the Left 4 Dead games.
My final note about Nintendo is that I have no clue what they are thinking with the new controllers. I understand what they are trying to do by implementing a touch screen, and I applaud them for doing something different. I also understand keeping the original Wii controllers; we know how to use them and we already own them. But what I don’t get is why even bother with the Pro controller if the whole point of the new system is the new gamepad? Again, I appreciate the fact that they went out of their way to accommodate us “hardcore” folks, but it’s a bit like expecting someone to ride a unicycle to work when they have a car next to it in the garage. Sure you can go out and learn to unicycle, but why the hell wouldn’t you use the car you already own? By offering the Pro controller, Nintendo is completely undermining one of the key features of the new console.
To conclude, the next-gen consoles that we were all ready for this E3 never actually bothered to show up. While there are rumors about the Orbis and the Durango – and Microsoft and Sony would have to be nuts not to making something new – they never made their grand appearance. As for the Wii U, there really is nothing next gen about it: it’s more of a catch up game at this point for Nintendo.
I could probably sit here and complain about the big three (Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft) all day, but I’d rather move on to something that I’m impressed by and excited for: the new IP that came from E3. More and more as we move forward in gaming, the biggest games are ones that are birthed out of well-worn series. Looking at all of the games coming out soon, it’s disheartening to see the increasing numbers on the end of the game titles – even if they’re not there. This is just a quick sampling:
And those are just the big ones. Far Cry 3, Crysis 3, Need for Speed: Most Wanted: all of these are games that were created to please fans of series, and effectively stifle any new innovation. This year at E3 though, gamers were treated to something fresh and exciting.
There were a few main games (non-indie) that were presented this year at E3 that made me excited for the next year in gaming. The first comes from Uncharted developer Naughty Dog, and is called The Last of Us. This game looks simply amazing and makes me extremely glad that I own a PS3. Everything from the beautiful graphics and art design to the intimate story that they are promising makes me want to play this game right now. Even though the apocalypse treads familiar ground for video games, The Last of Us looks like it’s bringing it to a whole new level. Listening to the Giant Bomb interview, the way that every action is juxtaposed against its consequence sounds great. Also, they are promising that there will be slow moments in the game that will give a contrast to the games high tension encounters that many games – most recently in my mind Max Payne 3 – have lost. What truly excites though is the allowance to play how you want. Hearing the developers talk, it sounds as though a non-lethal playthrough is possible which is great, although we’ll have to see when it comes out.
Another new IP that really excited me was Watch Dogs (or Watch_Dogs, I really don’t know). The mechanic of sleuthing around bringing up information on the fly about the people around you to find your target is neat, but the concept of killing your targets without gun play (i.e. the traffic lights from the stage demo) seemed like one of the greatest things to me. Of course, they then proceeded to make it into a third-person cover-based shooter which in turn made me not want to play that game at all. If that game remains light on the shooting (or at least make it avoidable), then I think that will be a really fun concept to play with, but if they don’t, then I feel that a lot of the individuality of that game will be lost.
Shootmania is another new IP that I’m really excited for. As a huge fan of Trackmania 2 and old school shooters like Unreal Tournament and Quake 3, this game looks like it’ll fill that slot nicely. The only thing that sucked about it was that it got screwed out of a proper on-stage presence with that god awful “tournament” that may or may not have been recorded a few days before E3 even started. Either way, I’m signed up for the beta and ready to get my shoot on.
Rounding up Sony’s exclusive new IPs is Beyond: Two Souls. The game comes from Heavy Rain veterans Quantic Dream who are a bunch of French dudes that want to make a film, but also a video game so they ended up with this. Not that there’s anything wrong with the game. I personally never played a lot of Heavy Rain but from what I played it was fun, and I watched R3b3link’s entire guide, so there’s that. The graphics on the game are unrivaled and I personally believe the shaders and motion capture put last year’s L.A. Noire to shame.
Worth a short mention here is the new South Park game South Park: The Stick of Truth. Even though past South Park games have been a bucket of ass, this one looks as though they’ve nailed down the aesthetic and actually made a game that mirrors the comedy of the show and couples it with fun gameplay. Also, Trey’s dig at Smart Glass at the beginning of their little introduction deserves credit.
The final big new IP is Zombie U, which is a new zombie game for the Wii U. I don’t know a lot about the game but some of the things that I’ve heard make it sound as though they are putting some cool little twists into the game. For instance, when you die in the game, you start over with a different character and the previous character that you died with becomes a zombie this time round. You can then kill that zombie for the chance to get all of the loot that you lost on your previous go. Think of it in terms of the similar Demons Souls/Dark Souls mechanic except with zombies. Also, having the inventory screen on the small screen while the game is still running seems like a cool idea, although one of the big things that the Wii U has going for it is transferring the game onto the small screen if someone wants to use the big screen, which negates the inventory and the ability to scan things with the gamepad/tablet controller.
Of course, there are also plenty of indie games with new IPs from the show that I won’t mention because I don’t know any game names, there’s way too many, and half of them are probably just too pretentious to be fun.
Good Old Friends
Ah the sequel. The supposed bane of everyone’s existence yet we all buy them with the regularity of going to the bathroom. I know that I just wrote about the worn-out sequels that are pumped out every year, but sometimes you just can’t help but get excited for some of them. And yes, I’m well aware I’m a damn, dirty hypocrite.
Of course we all know that not all sequels touch our hearts, and that some merely middle around the alright mark while some shouldn’t have been made.
We’ll start off with the shooter of the middling section: Medal of Honor: Warfighter, Dead Space 3, Gears of War: Judgement. All looked like fine shooters; I just don’t care about any of them. Forza Horizon is a racing game from Codemasters, and some other guys. While I think it will be a fine racing game, I’m just not that interested, especially comparing it to the new Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Tomb Raider is another example of a game that looks like it might be interesting, but I just can’t get hyped for it, although I hope it does turn out well and surprises me.
I want to make special note of SimCity because I think that it will be a fun game, and I am legitimately excited for it, but I just don’t know. I haven’t played the previous games and I flip-flop on whether I should play it or not. I guess I’ll have to wait and see.
Finally we arrive at the worst games of E3 (in my personal opinion). These are the games that I think should have died shortly after conception.
Usher and Flo’ Rida
Maybe if it was Dr. Dre…
It’s not a Console, it’s a Media Hub
This isn’t anything new. For years now Microsoft, Sony, and EA have been trying to make us buy into the concept that they are making our games better with new technologies and social integration, and this year was no exception.
We’ll start off with Microsoft. Kinect is becoming more and more involved in games that have nothing to do with Kinect, and personally I find it slightly offensive. They’re trying to sell Kinect to people just so they can distract enemies in the new Splinter Cell with their voice, or make substitutions and plays in the new FIFA or Madden. The Kinect was built to make games, not add in stupid functionality to a game that doesn’t need it. One cool thing to note about the FIFA thing though is that the player got a yellow card for cursing, which is a cool concept.
Microsoft also pulled Nike onto the stage to show off their new Nike+ fitness game, which looks like a fitness game for Kinect. Don’t get me wrong. There was nothing offensively bad about it; it just doesn’t look as innovating as it would have a year or two ago.
Finally, the big tech announcement coming out of Microsoft was the introduction to SmartGlass. SmartGlass is a technology that allows the user to pull up contextual information about whatever they are watching or playing on their tablet or smartphone. The idea seems slightly cribbed from Nintendo, although they have taken it in a different direction. The Game of Thrones map seemed cool, but the fact that developers will have to go out of their way to build that in discourages the whole concept. The one smart thing that Microsoft did was to announce that SmartGlass is coming to Windows 8 and iOS based devices.
Oh and IE9 is coming to the Xbox. I know IE9 isn’t bad, but still.
Sony showed off less gimmicky things than Microsoft, but they also had the worst idea of the show. Wonderbook, anyone? I seriously cannot believe that someone green lit this project. The stage demo was broken, and the need for a special book, Move, and the PSEye just makes this a terrible business proposition for Sony. I don’t even know what kid would want to play this. I’m not that far from my childhood (10 years or so) but I wouldn’t want to use this because I’d probably get bored and go ride bikes after ten minutes.
Then we have EA with Battlefield 3 premium, UFC license, and Origin. Battlefield Premium looks kinda dumb, but if you were going to pick up all the DLC, then it’ll be worth it just to save some cash. As for UFC, I actually don’t care, although Dana White comes off looking like a ponce on this one considering his previous slandering of EA. As for Origin, I can’t remember what they said, which is probably indicative of how much I care.
That's It Folks!
And that’s it. E3 2012 in 3200 words. I know some of you probably don’t agree with me about everything in here, but remember this is just my opinions, not yours or WGGs.
NB: All the information from this article is derived from the actual Press Conferences, the GiantBomb late night podcasts, GiantBomb interviews, Gamespot live demoes and Dan and John’s impressions / late night podcast.