It’s been a pretty action-packed week this year at E3. We’ve had more previews of upcoming games than you can shake a Wii Remote at (even if Nintendo forgot to mention half of them in their multiple press conferences), and more news (and interviews) than you can probably cope with. But enough talk about Nintendo for just a moment– this round table is all about poking our noses into Microsoft and Sony’s press conferences and seeing what The Competition are plotting behind the big N’s back. Did they impress and tempt us to the dark side? Or did they just reinforce what we knew all along?– That Nintendo is very much about kickin’ ass and takin’ names (and makin’ games, of course). Read on and find out!
I have to admit that the Keynotes from all three console manufactures was a little underwhelming this year. In-terms of actual games Microsoft opened and closed their conference with two FPS experiences, Black Op’s II and Halo 4. Whilst the latter certainly looks pretty, it remains to be seen whether or not 343 can pull off yet another win for Microsoft and their flagship series. The only game I was really interested in out of the whole conference was the Forza Horizon that was announced. The trade off between arcade controls and simulation car detail seems like a good one from where I am, and I look forward to seeing how the game comes along.
Microsoft’s main aim for their showcase this year was to show off Smart Glass. What this basically allows you to do, is control certain aspects of your XBOX 360 experience via third party devices, using an app that connects your smartphone/device to the 360. Whilst the functionality of this may seem a little similar to Wii U’s Gamepad, the reality will likely be very different. For starters ou have to have both your phone/ iPad close to hand and your 360 controller. I really do not understand who would find it easier to put down their controller, pick up their phone, make a play, put the phone back down, and then pick up the controller to resume playing. It sounds terrible over thought and will likely be the least immersive way to enjoy a game. But hey-ho this is Microsoft and they want 360 at the centre of your living room (like Nintendo) so this is their answer to the Gamepad. Beyond this we had an Angry Birds rip off, more third party and Kinect stuff, and oh yea, Usher made an appearance too. I was genuinely bemused when Usher took the stage, and it seemed like an ill advised way to pad out the show and offer a little sparkle that was sorely lacking from the business side of the presentation.
Sony fared marginally better, but only just. The reveal of Quantic Dreams new project was a nice surprise, and set the stage for what should have been game after game for both PS3 and Vita. This of course did not quite pan out. For some reason Sony, pretty much neglected Vita entirely, and it must be said that I pity anyone who owns Sony’s latest handheld. There was barely a push for the system at all, and with such a weak showing it is hard to see how Vita will make any ground on the rampant 3DS within the coming year.
Sony then spent over a quarter of their show talking about the mind-numbingly boring Wonderbook. Yes, yes, I know I’m not the target audience, and yes, I understand that Sony have to show their wears for the next year and how they can prise away our hard earned money. But they spent way to long on this presentation and the press conference went from full of life and expectation to a flat-line within twenty minutes.
Leave it to Sony’s third party studios to save the day and in the shape of Santa Monica and Naughty Dog, Sony have two of the most technically capable developers in gaming today. The Last of Us finally had some gameplay shown, and it looked incredible, whilst God of War Ascension looked like a quality (if formulaic) entry into the series. Sony, who are suffering their worst stock value price since the 1980s, are understandably looking for more ways to spread their Playstation brand across different mediums. Playstation Mobile, will bring “certified” experiences to android devices (prominently with HTC) and will be an interesting way of generating money. It would something akin to Nintendo putting some of their IP’s and ideas onto mobile platforms, as was discussed within the industry as a way to turn around Nintendo’s ailing stock prices last year.
Overall I was not exactly deflated by Microsoft and Sony’s keynotes, as I expected Microsoft to focus on media, and Sony to focus on games, which was largely true for the two companies. However there was just not enough of the unknown. We pretty much knew of every game save for one or two titles from each conference, and in my view it was a missed opportunity to show what was in store (in terms of games) over the next year and beyond. Especially if, as rumored, next years event will be the unveiling of their next gen consoles.
Microsoft’s conference started off with exactly what I was waiting to see: Halo 4. That reminds me, after this I have to go watch all the new footage again with my headphones on, again, and the volume maxed out, again. I have been a big Halo fan for nearly a decade, so please excuse my enthusiasm for the competition. Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Forza Horizon, Tomb Raider, and Resident Evil 6 were all impressive. Unfortunately, our old pal Rare, was nowhere to be found. I was hoping for a new Banjo-Kazooie but maybe they are waiting for Xbox 720/Xbox Next/Durango/Xbox 8.
SmartGlass was cool but give me a Wii U GamePad any day. I did not watch all of Sony’s conference but from what I gathered, The Last of Us seemed like the best thing there. Both Sony and Microsoft have Counter Strike: Global Offensive headed their way, which is a very good thing. Maybe Valve will partner with Nintendo in the future. Ultimately, no conference had me waving my hands around, and as far as competition goes, the Nintendo brand will rise above once again when Wii U launches this holiday season.
For the past couple of years, I’ve always found Microsoft’s press conference to be a bit… well, piecemeal. There’s no overarching structure, no one, unifying speaker tying everything together; there’s just game after game after game after game being shown with no real sense of expectation or suspense, and this year was no different. Sure there was a new Halo 4 demo and Fable: The Journey footage, but they were both announced last year. Even the new games– Ascend New Gods, LocoCycle, Matter and Wreckateer– weren’t hugely exciting, and Microsoft didn’t really make a big deal about them either (although perhaps that’s for the best, because as far as I could tell, Wreckateer was just Angry Birds with castles instead of pigs). At least they didn’t repeat the same “fist-bump” debacle of last year.
In fact, the only thing that really made my heart beat even a little bit faster in Microsoft’s presser was the new Tomb Raider demo (and maybe a little bit of Resident Evil 6– but I’ll probably end up getting both of those on PlayStation 3 anyway). I’m really intrigued by how Crystal Dynamics are rebooting Lara Croft’s story, even though I haven’t really played any of the previous Tomb Raider games apart from tiny bit of the first game on PlayStation.
The Xbox Smart Glass technology looks cool too, but as someone who doesn’t own a smartphone or tablet (I know, how backward!) and therefore can imagine a world without such devices, it still doesn’t give me a good enough reason to buy an Xbox 360. And to be honest, I can only concentrate on so many things at one time. I’ve tried playing a game while watching a movie and it doesn’t work. I end up concentrating on the game or whatever I’m doing on my 3DS much more than what’s happening on my TV screen, and I end up missing half of what I’m supposed to be watching. So no thanks, SmartGlass. You’re not for me.
Sony, on the other hand, were far more impressive, although probably just as safe and conservative in their approach overall. Quantic Dream’s Beyond: Two Souls immediately piqued my interest, but as our fine E3 reps pointed out in their V-Blog the other day, it didn’t really show off Ellen Page’s acting capabilities at all. More credit should have been given to the police officer she was supposedly meant to be talking to. The game looks stunning, there’s no doubt about that, but perhaps not the best teaser after you’ve just hyped how great your actors are?
I also can’t quite believe that they’ve made PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale (still the most ridiculous name for a fighting game ever) with no real way of telling who’s winning! That’s just silly! All –Stars also seems to be stepping on Super Smash Bros.’ toes a little with the whole Crossplay idea, but we all know Sakurai will one-up them when the time comes. I wasn’t sold on the whole Wonderbook idea either– that was easily the worst gaff of E3 this year– God of War: Ascension is just more God of War, but I’m a little bit more interested in The Last of Us now that we’ve seen some actual gameplay footage, even if it does look like it’s shaping up to be exactly like Enslaved: Odyssey to the West with added guns and zombies.
The most interesting thing to come of E3 for me, though, wasn’t anything Nintendo, Sony or Microsoft had up their sleeves. No, no, that honour goes to Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs. While it looks like Wii U will miss out on this incredibly exciting-looking game (which is a shame, because think how great the controls would be on the Game Pad), being able to control an entire city and use that as your weapon is such a great concept. What’s more, much like The Last of Us, it’s also grounded in something real– the North-East Blackout of 2003– but twisted to give it that special video game touch. I can’t wait to hear more about it.
So there’s our judgement of Nintendo’s E3 competition. What about yours? Did you watch Sony and Microsoft’s press conferences? What did you think? Let us know in the comments below!