Sunday, July 1, 2012

E3 2012 Highlights

I hope my body can take it.

E3 2012 has been the year where everyone saves their big guns for next time. Little to nothing was surprising or mind-blowing. But there was genuine and honest effort, even if it was only a little. And I’m here to discuss the big 3 companies, and the games that stood out. Let’s jump right into it.


Wii U, now with....details?
First, Nintendo. They finally gave a few more details on the Wii U. It’s still a very interesting system, but I still don’t think we know enough about it. I wanted to see more games showing new ideas for the Gamepad controller, but we really just got Zombie U and Arkham City. To my surprise, Nintendo’s lineup of games focused heavily on third party support, mostly from Ubisoft and EA.

They even got Mass Effect 3 on the Wii U, though no sign of one and two so no character importing. That does beg the question “Will it have the newly released Extended Cut ending DLC?” That leads to the next question “Will the Wii U have DLC, updates and patches for games, similar to 360 games?” Because the current Wii has a pretty bad patch system, so far only for Skyward Sword (from what I can tell). You basically have to realize there’s a problem with the game, go to the shop channel, find it, forcefully download it (for free) and then go to that channel, then use it to fix your game. For those who don’t know, the 360 just automatically pops the update up and all you have to do is hit accept and it does the rest. I hope that’s how Nintendo decides to handle it.

The thing about the Wii U that caught my eye most was Miiverse, the whole idea of connecting players together, talking to each other, how individual levels can have a discussion board on them, and all that. However, it begs the question “That looks fascinating, but how does it work when you actually play it?” You know, looks good in theory but what about reality? For example, you can talk with players using the stylus to write and draw messages. My question is “What’s stopping some idiot from drawing a penis and ruining a kid’s childhood?” It’s little details like that that makes me wonder how much freedom there really is and at the same time how they can protect their innocent casual family base from the immaturity of the internet.

Another surprise is a large absence of…well, games made by Nintendo themselves. They really had nothing. Their usual pile of Mario games, most notably Luigi’s Mansion 3DS, and Pikmin 3. That’s all we got. No Metroid, no Donkey Kong, no Star Fox, no Kirby, no Fire Emblem… just a void. They didn’t even have a re-release of a Zelda game we’ve played a million times. They have Pokemon Conquest, but nothing on Pokemon Black 2 and White 2. Just Pikmin 3 and loads of generic indistinguishable Mario.

On the bright side, as I’ve mentioned, my bet is that they’re saving it up for next year. I want to believe that, but there’s this jaded, pessimistic, nagging sensation in my brain that’s telling me Nintendo isn’t going to do anything genuinely interesting or creative. They make risks with hardware, but no longer in software. For example, Majora’s Mask and Metroid Prime were gigantic risks with incredible payoffs, different routes than the norm for their series. And MM had reused character models and animations, less dungeons, a bigger focus on story, and a save system that was highly user-unfriendly. But aren’t we glad they took that risk and we have it? Nintendo doesn’t make games like they used to, always playing it safe or just a remake.

Speaking of games, they announced a few games for the 3DS and gave the handheld some screentime but nothing remarkable. I immediately wonder if they have any plans for the 3DS at all. They were surprisingly quiet.

Look at the....difference?

And then, after E3 has settled down (yeah, journalistic timeliness of a Slowpoke on my part), Nintendo started announcing the big stuff.  Rumors were true, the 3DS XL is real. The Wii U will not charge for online services, unlike greedy Microsoft who holds position. Pokemon Black 2 and White 2 coming THIS OCTOBER! Really?! They didn’t think any of this was important enough for E3? Or perhaps they didn’t think E3 was good enough for them? Because I would’ve milked the Pokemon cow as hard as I can at the one event everyone’s following. I don’t understand – don’t even have a clue –why they don’t think this was something they should’ve mentioned at E3. 

Anyway, the 3DS XL will cost $200 and be about the same size as the original DS XL. It has a longer battery life and various minor tweaks. So I’m totally sold on this longer battery life thing, right? Eh….well, it only increases the battery life on minimum settings by about an hour and a half tops. And even if they increased it by five hours, without a strong library of good, original, exclusive games there is still no reason to buy a 3DS. The 3DS XL will not improve overall 3DS sales. I feel Nintendo’s handheld efforts need to be redirected at software rather than hardware.

The Wii U may give Nintendo the upper hand this E3, but the early bird doesn’t always catch the worm. We have no idea how they’ll stack up to the PS4 or the Nextbox. Actually, with the Wii U’s launch coming this holiday season, we barely have an idea of how it will work by itself. But it has a head start and that will definitely accomplish something. It’s just a matter of how much.


Actual gameplay displayed separately
Sony probably showed hardcore gamers the most love. They really liked montages of new games they’re gonna have. I know that doesn’t sound like much but Microsoft didn’t do that. Sony showed everything. God of War, Assassin’s Creed, Farcry 3, Beyond, Last of Us and the blatant Smash Bros. ripoff Playstation All-Stars. They said they would make it about the games, and they did, very much so.

Because of this, there’s not as much to talk about with Sony as Nintendo. Since they only did games and almost nothing else, their performance depended on the game. For example, the trailers for Watch Dogs and Last of Us are awesome by trailers alone. For Playstation All-Stars they brought in the Power Rangers unmorphed to play a match.
I guess the dude on the far right will be the token 6th Ranger
However, the worst crime against their viewers was the 20 minute demonstration of the Wonderbook, Sony’s next big idea for an ignored, failed peripheral. The Wonderbook uses the PS Eye and their previous ignored failed peripheral, the PS Move, to play games on a book device in front of you while the TV shows what’s popping out of the book.

Their big game is the Book of Spells, which lets you cast magic from the Harry Potter universe. They highlighted that the game was written by J.K Rowling herself. There’s a short story for each spell, cautionary tales about what happened to past Hogwarts students who cast the spells incorrectly. Yeah, that’s pretty cool. Of course, if the Wonderbook doesn’t work then none of it matters. Well guess what? In the live demonstration the Wonderbook didn’t work. Thank you for this pointless waste of time and your own money, now go away.

Doesn't this look fun, kids? Lean forward and hope it recognizes what you're doing.
Speaking of wastes of time and money, I didn’t hear a peep out of them concerning any plans for the PS Vita. They could’ve at least spent their 20 Wonderbook minutes reminding people their brand new system exists. Oh they said its name a few times, like “cross gameplay between PS3 and Vita” or “Coming to the PS3 and the Vita” or Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation coming exclusively to the Vita. But they never actually focused on making the Vita desirable. Never said where they were going with it. Say what you will, but neglecting such a young and new system at E3 is not a good sign. It’s way too early to call the Vita dead, but if you don’t feed it, it will starve. And if both the Vita and the 3DS go down, we are using GBAs, DSes, and PSPs for the rest of existence. Oh and mobile devices. But they don’t have Pokemon and Kingdom Hearts.

I loved the PS2, but in the current console generation I have been very anti-Sony. I haven’t spared a dime or any serious consideration for owning a PS3, the PSP, or the Vita.

But you know what? Handhelds and peripherals aside, Sony showed a really strong hand this year for the PS3. Lots of good-looking exclusive games. And for multiplatform games, they gave Assassin’s Creed 3 its moment, unlike Microsoft. I just might get a PS3 for the list of exclusives they’ve built up over this generation. I stand by my decision to buy the 360 over the PS3 in 2007, but that was then. Microsoft has changed.


Oh yeah, I must remember to keep smiling. People like smiles, yes? Or was it games? Did we bring games? No? Well at least we know how to smile.
This year at E3, Microsoft made that change very clear. My reaction in one word: disillusioned.

Microsoft just fell flat on their faces. I feel like they didn’t get anything right. Well, I admit Halo 4 looked good. And they wisely continued staying out of the handheld market as it blows up, taking Sony and Nintendo’s money with it. But overall, Microsoft did more casual pandering in one conference than Nintendo’s done in the past two E3’s combined. It was so bad that they were already talking about EA Sports three segments in.

All they really cared about was tricking more people into buying the Kinect. And while I haven’t bought a Kinect, I have looked into it. I’ve played the Best Buy display demos, looked at reviews by critics ranging from the harshest haters to lenient hardcore Xbox fans. All of them are saying “do not want.”

Actually, last year they also had a casual pandering undesired focus on the Kinect that didn’t work at all. The worst part of it is that last year they were still introducing new games with potential like Star Wars Kinect, but not this year. Oh, this year they know the Kinect is a failure. And they haven’t got a thing for it. With Star Wars Kinect they could have said they’ve got a big title coming and milk that one game as much as they could. But they don’t have anything marketable or substantial this time. Nothing. Oh wait. I take it back. They have Wreckateer, Fable the Journey, and Dragon Ball Z Kinect. And I only mention Wreckateer because they thought it was amazing.

As for Fable, I ask you to look at Fable 2 and 3. You don’t even need to look at Fable Heroes. If Fable sucks big time when it’s a normal Fable game, there is no reason to buy their Kinect spinoff.

Actually, they didn’t show DBZ Kinect. You would think that they would try to hype it as much as possible, but the game is so obviously terrible and phoned in that they dare not even speak its name. As for their trailer mispronouncing “Saiyan” as “Sigh-in” (which is a word that best describes my reaction to the mispronunciation), I seriously think the makers of the trailer need to apologize. Not a single person involved caught it. It’s just embarrassing that they instantly made their entire target audience see them as idiots. That’s like if a Star Wars Kinect trailer pronounced Darth Vader as “Vaugh-durr.”

So this year, with only two games to show and an hour and a half to push the Kinect, they changed their entire approach. Kinect used to be about playing games with your body and no controller. Motion sensing technology. Now what they really showed was voice recognition. But that’s only a fragment of the Kinect. I’m not getting tricked into buying one when they ignore the gameplay problems like this.

They also made a lot of assumptions. They assumed you already own a Kinect, a tablet, and a smartphone. I have none of these, as I’ve spent my money in places I feel are more important. Like Nintendo’s Fortune Street from last year’s E3. Yeah,Rea that was worth 50 bucks. Microsoft pushed the Xbox with Kinect as a gigantic all-purpose multimedia device that synchronizes with your smart devices. 

Really? This was the best movie they could get the rights for? Cuz I liked the first one better.
It was all part of a new app called Xbox Smart Glass. First and foremost, I should tell you what a terrible job they did presenting it. By the time they were done half the people who saw it didn’t know what it was. Some people thought it was an actual glass you attach to your TV. No, it’s an app you can download on your 360. Second, for a shameless response to the Wii U, they barely showed you what playing games with it is like. Third, they didn’t tell you whether or not a Kinect is required for it to work. I still don’t know. Finally, they didn’t tell you when it would be released and how much it would cost. I had to find out half of this stuff myself.

Okay, so what does this app do? Basically, it synchronizes your mobile devices like smartphones and tablets to your 360. They work with each other and respond to each other appropriately. An example is you can play a movie on your iphone and when you walk into your living room and speak a command to the Kinect, the movie instantly starts playing on your TV through the Xbox, picking up at the exact spot you were at on your phone, which is now paused.

Smart Glass does things like that for multimedia stuff through the Xbox. As for games, well….they didn’t really show much. Just Halo Waypoint and drawing plays out for Madden.

I’m skipping over the details on the Smart Glass because I’m already planning something separate for them, but the bottom line is that it’s Microsoft trying to be the Wii U, minus any focus on games. Also, I’m not sure since their presentation was so awful, but I think you require the Kinect for Smart Glass to work. They were too busy assuming the Kinect is already the center of your living room to tell us. Don’t worry, I’ll give all the info you need and rip Smart Glass a new one soon.

Console War Summary
            So who did the best job? Who “won” e3?

Well, let’s take into account what they needed to do. Microsoft needed to abandon Kinect and focus on games, so they’re instantly last. Sony needed a strong lineup of games and to kick the Vita into full drive. They neglected the Vita but were just awesome at the games.

Nintendo had a lot on their hands. They needed to make the Wii U blow the crowd away, give it a strong launch lineup, inject games into the 3DS, and regain the hardcore audience and third-party support. They accomplished all of this (except the 3ds games) by demonstrating the Wii U through hardcore future launch games developed by third party developers. While I would love to declare this as game set match, that sounds better than it is. They didn’t give the 3Ds as much support as it needed. They had high-profile hardcore third party support, but not a lot and most of them were enhanced ports of already existing games like Mass Effect 3 and Arkham City. This problem is compiled further when Nintendo’s own franchises are MIA when they need them most. I’m not sure if they can bring the hardcore gamers back, but I hope they do. If they want them, they’ve got a heck of a start, but we’ll see.  The end result for the Wii U at this E3 is somewhat above average if you’re being generous, which I am.

If I were forced to pick a winner for this year’s E3, I’d say it was Sony, closely followed by Nintendo. Nintendo took on way too much this year, but their effort shined through. Sony did what they were supposed to do excellently, except for the Vita and Wonderbook.

The loser is undeniably Microsoft and their fans, myself included. They didn’t have anything but more Kinect. Microsoft might’ve been able to do a decent job of covering up the fact that the Kinect has diddly squat going for it, but instead of abandoning it they just made things worse by showing you how undesirable it is. 

At least you can make paper for a book out of a log. Yes, the Kinect IS worse than a dying medium.


As for the games, here’s what stood out.

The most interesting thing over in Microsoft’s camp is South Park: The Stick of Truth. Okay, yes it’s not Xbox exclusive and I’m not even a fan of South Park…but their game looks funny and it’s designed to be true to the source material. Also they completely trolled the Smart Glass at Microsoft’s own conference, so they deserve a round of applause.

Nintendo’s most interesting game is Arkham City Armored Edition, but I only say that because I haven’t played Arkham City yet, just Asylum. As for original, new games, I’d say Zombie U since it shows off the Wii U’s technology best.

Sony had a strong list of titles, but the one that blew me away was The Last of Us. It takes place in Pittsburgh only a few years after the apocalypse, much like I am Legend, except instead of mutant vampire thing you get Fallout 3’s raider gangs. The Last of Us looks like it uses a genuinely limited ammo system unlike Fallout 3. It also has a grittier, realistic combat with high interaction with surroundings and situations. It’s authentic in terms of things like sound and cover, instead of just generic chest-high walls. I want to play this so badly I was forced to reevaluate my anti-Sony attitude and start rooting for the PS3. Watch the trailer for yourself. 

 As for the third party titles, Assassin’s Creed III seems to be king of the hill. I know gameplay is the most important part of games, but the revolutionary war always fascinates me and the alternate history story they’re going to tell is more than enough to get me hyped.  

Another very strong performance is the new IP, Watch Dogs. In their trailer they showed a unique take on a world full of electronics that I’ve been waiting to see for a long time. You have the ability to hack into people’s phones, listen to their conversations, or disable them outright. You control traffic lights and bridges. You peek into other people’s personal information and all their darkest secrets. It’s really chilling to see it in action, and I can’t wait to see what else they’re gonna do. 

I thought I would be mad at Sony for making Playstation All-Stars a knockoff of Super Smash Brothers, but……well, actually I am. A little. But what really ticked me off was Sonic and All Stars Racing Transformed. It’s basically Mario Kart 7 with Sega characters. I’d be more willing to let it slide if Sega didn’t have a history of trailing Nintendo’s games a year later with Sonic doing the same thing. Sega is becoming to Nintendo what Asylum Studios is to blockbuster movies. Except with worse timing and delays.

And before you tell me, I have indeed read the article where the….SASRT producer says he was shocked when he saw Mario Kart 7 doing what they were already planning on doing. You can tell the differences because Mario glides and goes underwater when Sega flies and uses boats. Okay…..maybe this is just a big coincidence. I’ll give them that. Here’s the problem: it sure doesn’t look that way. Regardless of whether or not what Sega says is true, the majority of people will not know or will not believe that. Sega should’ve called it off when Nintendo unveiled Mario Kart 7. Their game was instantly no longer worth the money required to finish it, if they had already started on it as they claim.

Overall, this E3 was pretty slow and kind of disappointing. Nintendo was supposed to give us the full story on the Wii U but I still feel like we’ve only scratched the surface. Sony was supposed to show a strong final lineup for the PS3 and hypercharge the Vita. With the former they won me over to their side, but they’re showing no remorse on letting the Vita rot. Microsoft was loathsome and shoved the Kinect down our throats. They said they would focus on games, but they left us with only Halo 4 and Gears of War 4, games squeezed out of closed trilogies just because they wanted more money.

It’s pretty clear that this is not the year for any company to show their full hands. Next year, we will hopefully see Sony and Microsoft’s new systems and Nintendo beef up the library of Wii U and 3DS games. Everyone’s eyes are really on 2013. They’re getting ready for war.

             I am, however, forgetting two special companies. Electronic Arts and Ubisoft fancied themselves important enough to have their own dedicated conferences. Well, I won’t linger on them because it's...kinda painful.

One of the first words out of EA’s mouth blatantly and unashamedly confirmed long-held beliefs that they’re an evil money-grabbing, DLC-scamming, scumbag corporation. Apparently, they also have detailed plans on how they’re going to ruin Dead Space 3 beyond salvation, discarding horror for mindless shooter, appealing to a “broader audience,” and how they need to sell five million copies to justify making the game. They also expect Origin will be to Steam what Facebook was to Myspace. I used to think EA was funny. Not it just makes me angry and stick to my stomach.

As for Ubisoft, their hostess kept on commenting on how the games (and other women) made her sexually aroused, so much so that it overshadowed everything they were talking about. I’m not joking, she actually said she was getting “girl-wood” and mentioned it more than once. It’s one of the funniest and most surreal things I’ve ever seen. Ubisoft gets some slack, though, for making Assassin’s Creed 3, Watch Dogs, and a bunch of other good-looking games. They’re still weird, though.
             I dare not say any more. Look up their E3 conference videos yourself if you’re intrigued. 

(Credits/Disclaimer - I do not own any of the pictures or videos used in this post. They are made by other people and brought to you using the power of the internets. I did, however, type words occasionally.)

No comments:

Post a Comment