Impressions of E3 2016 Press Conferences

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Electronic Arts

TitanFall 2 and Battlefield 1 were the big tentpole titles that bookended Electronic Art’s press conference. Between the two EA shooters and Activision’s Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare, I am throwing my hat in the TitanFall 2 camp. The multiplayer looks looks like a hell of a time and the promise of free modes and maps seals the deal.

Battlefield 1 looks like a technical masterpiece but it didn’t register an excitement on my end. It looked like Battlefield + WW1 which was exactly what I expected and that’s why it was so disappointing to me. The shift to a more mobile and able player makes the grounded approach to Battlefield 1 look static to me. I guess what I wanted was a sequel Battlefield 2142 with mechs, wall running, jetpacks and other ridiculous possibilities and not the dirty grit of World War I.

They showed off Mass Effect: Andromeda but it’s so tough to muster any excitement for a game that we’ve seen so little of. I need to see a Bethesda style 20 minute blowout session of the game.

B-

Bethesda

Quake is back in hero shooter form and since I have no reverence for that series whatsoever, I came away indifferent. I’m more interested in the fact that Bethesda are doing their very best to revitalize id Software’s franchises. They teased a new Wolfenstein which is by far the most exciting reveal of the conference.

The highlight of the show was Dishonored 2 receiving same gameplay showcase that Fallout 4 received last year. It’s a great looking game and the fact that I haven’t played the first Dishonored is a crime. I’m going to pre-order it but I have no idea if I’m going to keep that pre-order or just wait for a Black Friday discount. It does look very impressive though.

If there’s one thing that Bethesda nailed for the past two years is the pace of the press conferences. Even when they’re talking about a game that I have no interest in, they make it entertaining and brisk.

B+

Microsoft

Microsoft’s entire press conference lineup leaked and I still came away entertained and informed.

That Xbox One S is beautiful. I don’t see myself picking one up but I am glad it exists. I just wish it didn’t start at $399 CAD because that’s the exact same price as the original which isn’t the case in the U.S where it starts $50 lower than the old Xbox One.

The two standout games for me — and not in a positive way — were ReCore and Scalebound. ReCore looked a little rough from a tech perspective and Scalebound just looks boring.

On the flip side, Gears of War 4 and We Happy Few impressed. I’m ready for a new Gears of War 4 and it’s good to see a disconcerting dystopian adventure game featuring clowns.

Project Scorpio’s confirmation for 2017 and its promise of 4K gaming and VR in a console was the showstopper and makes me wonder what Sony are going to do with their Neo. This upcoming Xbox will be more powerful than Sony’s Neo so how will they pitch it. They had the tech advantage with PlayStation 4 and if the rumored specs target are true, then Project Scorpio will have that talking point.

A-

Ubisoft

Ghost Recon: Wildlands? South Park? For Honor? None of those resonated — especially with their canned demos filled with unrealistic banter. The South Park demonstration went for far too long. Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Watch_Dogs 2 are Ubisoft open world games and For Honor doesn’t look like my cup of tea. There was even an entire Assassin’s Creed movie segment that I took a washroom break for because the entire conference up to that point was plodding along at a snail’s pace.

The highlight of the show for me were Aisha Tyler, the enthusiasm of LeVar Burton for Star Trek VR and the reveal of Grow Up. But outside of those handful of moments, the Ubisoft press conference was disappointing.

D+

Sony

Sony enjoys announcements and so do I which is why I was a fan of their press conference. They didn’t showcase as much PlayStation VR as I thought but that was perfectly fine by me. There’s a new God of War which appears to be a reboot of the franchise. Resident Evil VII looks interesting by being first person and more intimate. Kojima’s new game was weird and perfectly Kojima.

The most impressive demonstration was Horizon: Zero Dawn. They showed off everything they needed to show without overstaying its welcome. Sony’s Bend new game Days Gone was one of the less impressive titles shown but it was new and needed a person pitching it.

The Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare was okay; I wasn’t sold on it. The Spider-man exclusive by Insomniac Games was a genuine surprise to me. Rumors were pegging Sucker Punch as the developer of the game so seeing Insomniac Games’ logo was quite the swerve. They made Sunset Overdrive so I’m optimistic that they can pull off an open world title but it’s been a LONG time since we’ve seen a decent Spider-man title.

Overall, this was the best conference of E3 2016. It was brisk with plenty of announcements and game demonstrations.

A

 

Your E3 Wishes Granted

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“It’s a hearts and minds game.”

It’s a phrase that I heard uttered after Sony’s E3 2013 press conference and suspect after this year’s E3 conferences from all publishers, we’re going to hear more and more of it.

It began with Bethesda’s late Sunday evening presentation where they showed off lengthy demos of Doom and Fallout 4; Pete Hines kept the pace brisk but slowed it down when it mattered. Todd Howard was brought on stage to speak to those who were forgoing Game of Thrones and other Sunday night programming to watch a streaming presentation. They knew who they were talking to. He dropped F-bombs when appropriate and tried his best to pitch Fallout: Shelter as a mobile game for those who scoff at F2P trappings.

It was an impressive showing for a publisher who never put on a show before. But was that a one off? Of course not.

Monday began with Microsoft and the announcement of Xbox One backwards compatibility. They followed up with Xbox One Elite controller targeted at the hardcore audience with its swappable components. They would mention its exorbitant price tag away from the cameras but the message was clear: “We’re catering to you, the gamer.”

Electronic Arts gave us more Mirror’s Edge and intentionally reminded us that we’re not going to see Faith pick up a firearm in this game. They tried their best to make their sports and other properties appealing but they knew why we’re here and why we would stick around after Pele and the Hoop God made their appearances. It was no coincidence that Star Wars: Battlefront was played on a PlayStation 4. A PC would have brought skepticism about the console version’s quality. They made sure that we saw those PlayStation prompts.

Ubisoft made us laugh and continued the trend of “one more thing” with the reveal of Ghost Recon: Wildlands at the end. Alicia Tyler continued to win fans over with her enthusiasm and energy. Her debut on Ubisoft’s stage may have been awkward at first but I felt she won everyone over. The annual Ubisoft message isn’t always palpable but she livens it up considerably.

And then there was Sony who transformed themselves into the genie of E3 by granting three wishes. Final Fantasy VII Remake, Shenmue III and The Last Guardian all made appearances on their stage. Not all three were exclusive to them but it was damn obvious that they wanted the PlayStation 4 attached to all of these. There was no lengthy TV show pitch and while it would have been nice to see VR on the big stage, I felt it could have been another Move situation if they demonstrated it on-stage; fine for those who already bought in but a tough sell to those who’re peering from the outside.

Nintendo’s digital event was marred by the fact that it didn’t have much to say this year. Nintendo reminded us that NX is a 2016 thing and we should be content with the likes of another 3D FPS Metroid game on the Nintendo 3DS. They pushed more Amiibos and celebrated Mario but it was evident that Nintendo’s 2015 was considerably weaker.

Square  Enix showed the people what they clamored for with Kingdom Hearts 3 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided footage, they flexed their quality mobile offerings by leveraging a known quantity like Hitman Go and they promised Rise of Tomb Raider would have tombs. They even brought in PlatinumGames to work on a new Nier title while promising JRPG fans that they are committed to JRPGs with the creation of the Tokyo RPG Factory studio.

Square Enix served as a nice summation of everyone else’s E3 presentation. They focused on what worked and showed their audience that they’re understanding what their fans want — or at the very least — starting to listen. Who knows? Maybe we’ll get that Final Fantasy XII HD Remake that I wanted or Half Life 3.

Nearly Everyone Did Well

I have some marks to give out to the E3 press conferences. I’m rating pace, content and the delivery of said content.

  • Bethesda: A-
  • Microsoft: A
  • Electronic Arts: C+
  • Ubisoft: B-
  • Sony: A
  • Nintendo: D+
  • Square Enix: B+

Some personal notables:

  • ReCore and Horizon: Zero Dawn were the two new intellectual properties that immediately grabbed me.
  • A new Nier? Yes, please. The first one was unique but flawed. I’m glad Square Enix are bringing in action experts to help
  • Star Wars: Battlefront surprised me with how well it performed on consoles and if I’m not mistaken, DICE are targeting 60FPS.
  • I hope Tomb Raider Go lives up to Hitman Go’s lofty heights.

Blue & Green Launches

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 980 Ti

There’s a new NVIDIA video card that will cost you at least $649.99 USD which is a lot if you’re not used to the high end video card market. But if you’re in that market, a video card that’s only 3% slower and 35% cheaper than the GeForce GTX Titan X is a hell of a bargain. As always, I recommend AnandTech or The Tech Report’s reviews.

If you’re afraid of reading long articles, the bottom line is this: Unless you’re bound to NVIDIA, the recommended conclusion is to wait to see how AMD’s upcoming Fiji and its High Bandwidth Memory will stack up.

I’ll admit though, NVIDIA’s G-SYNC and its growing crop of monitors is making the green team very enticing

Windows 10 Launches July 29

Windows 10 has an official launch date. The Technical Preview is shaping up nicely and I can see them hit that launch date comfortably. I’ll be there on day one.

If you’re not as gung ho as me, be sure to reserve your upgrade regardless because the free upgrade offer will not last forever.

Broadwell on Desktop Lives

With Windows 10 just around the corner, I realized that my current PC will have gone through 3 operating systems on Intel’s 2009 Core i5 750.

I was already toying with the idea of building a new PC with Intel’s upcoming Skylake architecture but was curious if Broadwell ever made onto the desktop. Yesterday’s searches bore no fruit but today Anandtech posted their early look at some limited Broadwell desktop chips.

Looks like Intel are going to release some niche chips and simply move quickly to Skylake because these aren’t the chips that we’re looking for.

Odds & Ends

  • Thunderbolt 3 could enable a one cable future
  • XCOM 2 was announced for PC – Unsure if it’s PC exclusive or not but I’ll tell you this: I love this short media cycle.
  • Fallout 4 teased for E3 reveal – I said I would be very cautious approaching Bethesda’s next game and unless something convinces me otherwise, I’m waiting for the discounted GOTY version.

Checkpoint: Exploratory Edition

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checkpoint-exploratory-edition

I’ve been spending more time exploring in games as of late; more than these games usually demand from a player. I spent most of that time exploring and soaking in the work of Crystal Dynamics and Irrational Games. Walking around, piecing together clues and deciphering puzzles are just as engaging as the action pieces of those games.

I have yet to complete BioShock: Infinite but I’ve spent enough time in Columbia to know that it is a fascinating world through and through. Unlike Tomb Raider where my fascination was over natural habitats and relics from the past, my intrigue with Columbia comes from cultural and political artifacts. Not since Deus Ex: Human Revolution have I engaged in such exploration.

There are games like Skyrim or Fallout which are filled with relics but I don’t spend nearly the same amount of time in those games. Or if I do, I don’t enjoy it as much. The key difference between Bethesda’s offerings and those from Irrational and Crystal Dynamic is simple. The time between something interesting is minute compared to other games. I don’t spend time wandering aimlessly hoping to run into something meaningful.

Interesting worlds make for fun explorations. Whether it’s somewhere exotic or some interesting time period, games of this nature allow me to absorb these experiences on my own terms. Here’s to hoping 2013 has more of these games in store.

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