The Electronic Entertainment Expo is one of my favorite times of the year, ranking up there with Christmas and Halloween. Every summer for the past several years, I have either directly or indirectly watched alongside countless others as the biggest names and brands in the video game industry have spent the better part of a week in the LA Convention Center butting heads over our collective wallet. You never know quite what you’re going to get with any given press conference: Either a megaton announcement, an embarrassing publicity stunt, or even a hilarious mistake that everyone will laugh about for the next month or two. Here's a brief rundown of my impression following this year's E3. I won’t go into excruciating detail here; there are plenty of games that simply aren’t my thing and I’ll likely gloss over them.
This year represents the first real year of gaming in the new generation. Gone are the squabbles of platform or the arguments over hardware specs. The focus this time was on what people really wanted to see: VIDEO GAMES. In a surprising twist, the mainstays like Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft, and EA were joined by newcomer Bethesda and returning veteran Square Enix. This year also started introducing VR, showing actual models and platforms instead of the pie in the sky demo kits that have floated in the periphery of the industry in the past two years.
Bethesda lead the pack, premiering the return of one of gaming’s most important titles: DOOM. Since Doom 3’s mixed response several years ago, development on a new DOOM was a rocky road to say the least—recent leaks have confirmed that a whole game concept was developed and scrapped in favor of the game that Bethesda revealed this year at E3. The cruel irony is that last year’s Wolfenstein: The New Order promised access to a DOOM beta with its purchase, and it is from the success and quality of that game that I now have faith in DOOM. Bethesda also showed more of their upcoming Fallout 4, set to release later this year. I have no strong feelings towards that game myself, but it’s definitely an important milestone (Apply this sentence to most Rockstar games as well if you wish).
Microsoft took the next morning by a storm and showed the crowds a heaping helping of first party titles and exclusives. Recore instantly won me over with its charming main character and its interesting mechanic of swapping the orb into different robot bodies. Halo made me nostalgic of my days playing the original on the family PC, Rise of the Tomb Raider looked much more fun and much less creepy, and the Xbox 1’s backwards compatibility and new controller left me quietly contemplating picking up the console after its upcoming price drop. The titles are starting to pile up on that one, but I have never owned an Xbox and I am oddly fond of my unintentional Playstation completionism—I own every platform other than the recent Playstation TV, from that dull gray PS1 to my oft-neglected Vita (RIP).
Electronic Arts came in next, and nestled between its mountains of dull droning I was able to glean a few nuggets of interest. After each segment, the stream would throw up a little banner in the corner proudly proclaiming "XX MINUTES UNTIL STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT," which was annoying at first, then amusing, and eventually annoying again as the times promised were not met by a long shot. Mirror’s Edge Catalyst has me intrigued, and I have fond memories of playing the original a few years ago. With an open city and an explicit removal of the ability to fire guns, the game is shaping up to be a really fun cyberpunk parkour experience. After what felt like half an hour of FIFA, Madden, and NHL, we were granted a very promising glimpse of Star Wars Battlefront. Seeing the classic Star Wars blasters and equipment lovingly rendered in high definition was really nice, and though I never got into Dice’s Battlefield series, this would be the game that would entice me to try that template of game.
Ubisoft kept up their streak of being the most embarrassing of the conferences, between awkward paid cosplayers, fake musical numbers, actual musical numbers, and Aisha Tyler being given yet another really horrible script. Only one game shown here really caught my interest: For Honor, which appears to be some kind of weird Bushido Blade/Chivalry/Dynasty Warriors hybrid involving knights, Vikings, and samurai engaging in brutal, tactical one-on-one swordfights. Almost as compelling as the game was its presenter, a gruff and boisterous man with a cane and a beard who loudly promoted his game with what I believe might have been an actual, legitimate guffaw. If you can pull off that persona, more power to you.
Sony closed out the second day with a conference that will live in infamy. Starting strong with the return of the loudly demanded and rabidly anticipated The Last Guardian, Sony proceeded to go down the List of Impossible Games: Shenmue 3, and a Final Fantasy VII remake. With the rebirth of Final Fantasy Versus XIII as Final Fantasy XV in recent years, it seems that most of the long-running jokes of the game development scene are finally paying off. (Half-Life 3 when?) Other than those three bombshells, Sony had little in the way of first party titles—as a foil to Microsoft, Sony focused on third party support rather than in-house development. They closed their show with a demo of Uncharted 4, just like last year, and just like last year we were treated to a glaring bug. Instead of falling through the world, this time the demo refused to accept inputs once the opening cutscene ended.
Nintendo uploaded its Nintendo Digital Event, which I have little to say about. Star Fox looks great, and I will pick up the Smash DLC as soon as possible. After five years of waiting, the Metroid franchise finally returned…with a spin-off multiplayer game with seemingly no connection to any of the other games besides the title. Disappointment does not even begin to describe that, especially when this is the first hint we’ve had of the series since the release of Other M, which is another beast entirely.
Square Enix returned to E3, having been absent for a while. Their conference was the opposite of Ubisoft’s—no outlandish gimmicks, just a series of straight-faced Japanese men in suits talking at a podium. They appear to be in the middle of a return to form, announcing a couple of new entries in the Final Fantasy franchise as well as an extremely early look at a sequel to Nier being made by some of the names behind 2013’s Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. They also showed off an intriguing new Tomb Raider mobile game in the style of Hitman Go, which I will probably take a look at when it comes out. Deus Ex: Mankind Divided promoted its new marketing slogan, “Mechanical Apartheid,” which is beyond the scope of both this piece and my mental stamina.
There were many more things to see and talk about at E3, but as someone who has never attended in person, I have almost no insight toward the show floor. I also didn’t watch the PC gaming conference, as I don’t have a gaming PC and there’s no way that Half-Life 3 would show up anyway. This year's show was a great look into the next twelve to seventy-two months of gaming. There were some great high points, tempered slightly by a handful of embarrassing or even boring moments.
In other words, it was E3.
Now I look forward to the rest of the year, getting ready for Gamescom and Tokyo Game Show to shed some light on a handful of games that didn’t make it to E3, as well as preparing my wallet for the nearly half a dozen games coming this fall and winter. This looks like a good year to play games.