Checkpoint: E3 2018 Edition

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E3 2018’s press conferences are finally over. I actually liked that the big publishers and platform holders got out of the way of each other and spread out a bit.

It gave me more time to digest it all and meant I was spending less time binging on the barrage of news and announcements that didn’t leak beforehand.

There were many leaks this year including one from Walmart Canada that spoiled so many publisher’s fun. It didn’t spoil my fun though, knowing a game’s existence isn’t the same as seeing the titles in action.

With that in mind, here are some thoughts I had on the press conferences that I watched since Saturday, June 9th.

I graded them with entertainment, news, and games shown in mind. Was it a fun watch? Despite leaks, did they shed light on anything interesting? Did they show games that I wanted to play?

Electronic Arts

Electronic Arts’ press conference was awkward. It was good to see Anthem in action but they took such a long time fluffing it up.

The Battlefield V was a looker but I have very little desire to revisit realistic World War II shooters like Battlefield V or Call of Duty: WW2. Maybe I’ll give it a go when a multiplayer beta hits but as of right now? It’s a non-starter for me.

No one is expecting Electronic Arts to make a real-time strategy game in 2018. So what can EA do? A MOBA? They tried in 2014 with Dawngate. So seeing Command & Conquer Rivals in action makes a lot of sense to me and it was the big surprise coming out of EA’s event. And that’s disappointing.

The reveal of Origin Access Premier and a peculiar interview with Vince Zampella about his team’s upcoming Star Wars game does not make up for the fact that EA’s offerings were poor this year.

D-

Microsoft

Microsoft brought it this year. They’ve been refining their formula for the last couple of E3’s but I felt they nailed it when came to reassuring people that Microsoft is committed to the Xbox brand. I don’t know if announcing sequels to familiar first party properties is enough to sell people on the idea of buying an Xbox One but their future looks brighter with their recent studio acquisitions.

But if you ignore hardware sales angle and focus on reasons to subscribe to Xbox Game Pass, I think Microsoft did a bang up job.

Forza Horizon 4 looks like a spiritual successor to Test Drive Unlimited which is very intriguing. Gears 5 looks to continue the strong start of Gears 4. Crackdown 3 looks like dumb fun. And Ori and the Will of the Wisps is shaping up to be a fantastic sequel to one of my favorite games of the generation.

There will be another Halo game named Halo: Infinite. Not much else to say about that trailer besides that it looks pretty. Gears Tactics (title pending) looks like a match made in heaven; combining Gears of War with XCOM style gameplay sounds phenomenal.

Although they weren’t exclusives, the reveal of Devil May Cry 5, Cyberpunk 2077, The Division 2 and longer looks at titles like Kingdom Hearts III made for a very entertaining showcase.

They showed games and lots of them!

A

Bethesda

Bethesda sold me on RAGE 2 which I didn’t think was possible after the weird reveal. Did we need another post-apocalyptic title? Well, it turns out the answer is “yes” if they’re invoking the frantic pace of Doom (2016).

Teasing the existence of Doom: Eternal was welcomed and so was the reveal that they’re bringing out more Wolfenstein content with Wolfenstein: Young Blood. They also reminded me that I haven’t played Wolfenstein: The New Colossus yet which is shameful of me.

I doubt I’ll pick up Fallout 76 but seeing it in action was interesting. Were they going to ape other survival games? How much “traditional” Fallout are we going to see in this? It’s not going to be just another Fallout game which is intriguing for me but it may not be everyone’s cup of tea.

The super early teasers for Bethesda Game Studio’s upcoming projects: Starfield and The Elder Scrolls VI were a bit awkward. They sound very far off and I’m not sure why they needed to tease both of those titles so early.

C+

Ubisoft

Ubisoft knew how to have fun with their dance number for Just Dance. I thought that was a fun way to acknowledge that game’s existence.

I don’t know what to make of the Beyond Good & Evil 2 trailer. The CG trailer looks like a sales pitch to recruit the community to help generate assets for the game. I want to know how those assets are going to be used and if there’s a worthwhile game in there.

The Division 2 and Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey are known quantities. They look like newer and shinier versions of the games you may or may not like. I’m partial to The Division so more of it is okay with me. AC:O looks very pretty. Almost enough to entice me back.

I like seeing games continue receiving support but after Bethesda’s showcase, I was growing tired of seeing games I don’t play being trotted out again. I can’t say I’m particularly fond of seeing repeat appearances for games I like.

C

Square Enix

Speaking of known quantities, here’s Square-Enix showing off Kingdom Hearts III again. Little did we know, there would be three trailers shown across three press conferences. (Microsoft, Square, and Sony). I am not against this game but that’s a lot.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider looks like more of the same and since I haven’t even played Rise of the Tomb Raider yet, I don’t know if I want that. She looked like a ruthless killer though and a far cry from that reluctant heroine from Tomb Raider (2013).

Dragon Quest XI looks very pretty and it would be on my list of games to pre-order but I just started Dragon Quest VIII and barely put a dent in it.

Square Enix showed a lot of known quantities and while some resonated with me, I just didn’t see why they waited until E3 to reveal these.

C-

Sony

I missed the first half hour of Sony’s which meant I missed The Last of Us: Part II. That’s fine because I don’t need to be convinced to buy that game. I was already sold. Just like I was more or less already sold on Spider-man.

Ghosts of Tsushima was the big reveal and I thought Sucker Punch did one hell of a job with that demo. I was impressed with the reveal but I’m curious how it plays.

Death Stranding was weird and I’m sure it will abide with some internal logic that Kojima stitched together. I just hope this game is more than celebrity guest stars doing weird things.

Seeing Resident Evil 2 remake in action was eye opening because of how much effort Capcom is putting into this and seemingly nailing it.

Remedy Games are making another time manipulation third person shooter but this time it stars a red haired woman. I’m in. It reminds me of Quantum Break (which I haven’t played yet) but without all the bad TV science fiction.

In many ways, Sony followed Microsoft’s event but instead of showing new installment to the same old franchises. They showed off more of the same game that we’ve already seen. Death Stranding is just as weird as when we saw it last year. The Last of Us: Part II is still the Last of Us. And Spider-man is still Spider-man. They showed well and I will likely play them all but they’re still known quantities.

B-

Nintendo

Nintendo was the most disappointing only because it looks like their software lineup looks barren compared to last year’s. A new Fire Emblem, Super Mario Party, and another Smash Brothers with every single character should be enough for most folks but they’re not Super Mario Odyssey and Breath of the Wild.

Spending so much time on Smash Bros. Ultimate was exhausting. I can appreciate the changes they made but I don’t play Smash Bros. often enough to even notice. It seems like they were pitching to a very specific demographic of the Smash fanbase and that’s just a very weird thing to do on the “big stage”.

I will likely pick up Super Mario Party just to have a nice party game. And the same with Smash Bros. Ultimate but their lineup so far feels lacking from a first party perspective.

On the plus side, the release of Fortnite on Switch did out Sony for being scum bags on cross play.

C

A Decent E3

It was a decent showing as far as the press conferences are concerned. Lots of promising titles on the horizon and many of them debuting early next year. I doubt I will have time play all of them but this is a good problem to have.

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.

Checkpoint: Winter Update Edition

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I lost an hour, it’s around 0 degrees Celsius and yet it’s still technically winter. And since it’s technically winter, this Battlefield 4 Winter Update is still relevant.

To say this is what Battlefield 4 should have been would be an understatement. They’ve fixed so much with this update. Everything from netcode, map fixes, weapon balance, new game modes and matchmaking tweaks were made in this update alone.

I’m amazed that DICE/DICE LA and/or Electronic Arts continues to update and fix Battlefield 4. They have Battlefield: Hardline coming and yet they’re still giving Battlefield 4 attention I guess it makes sense when they’re planning to issue more content this year. And all of this is a great idea when you consider not many Battlefield fans are keen on Hardline.

I’ve only played the post-Winter Update Battlefield 4 once and I enjoyed it. I still wish the framerate was consistently closer to 60FPS but it didn’t take long for me to forget about the framerate and get down to business. I hope to play more but with my FIFA 15 addiction and Wolfenstein: The New Order, I don’t know if I will.

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