THE E3 CONFERENCE WRAP-UP: PART 1 – THE TWO ‘SOFTS AND EA!

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logo-e3E3 2014 is finally upon us. The event affectionately referred to as “Gamer Christmas” is in full swing, and it’s brought with it a handful of new games and big surprises across all platforms. Did you miss the conferences from the “Big 5”? Don’t fret, because I’ve got you covered. Below is a general summary of all five of the big conferences, as well as a letter grade for those of you that like to keep score.

Last year, the next generation of consoles was upon us, and with it came plenty of head-butting and low-blows between Sony and Microsoft. Sony dropped some bombs and left Microsoft reeling. This year, the second round of the fight for dominance in the new generation of consoles was the big talking point heading in. And all three contenders (yes, all THREE contenders) held nothing back. This year was much more focused on games than in the past few years, and needless to say, it’s a pretty good time to be a gamer.

Well, unless you own a Vita…

MICROSOFT: RETURNING FAVORITES AND FOCUS ON GAMES

Microsoft had the benefit of being the only main contender with only one platform to focus on. And now that they’ve removed some of their more iffy policies and dropped the Kinect, the Xbox One was ready to come into it’s own. Phil Spencer took the stage and made it apparent right away that today was about games. In fact, it was ONLY about games. That’s right: Microsoft ONLY showed games this year!

At least, a lot of trailers for games. It is E3 after all.

Microsoft kicked things off with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, getting it out of the way immediately. In fact, this was the only time we saw Call of Duty during the conferences, and honestly: it looked pretty good. Sledgehammer is definitely looking to make this their own game and not just fall back on the franchise and it’s predictability. Not much was talked about, but the futuristic elements added a certain layer of newness that the COD games desperately needed. Something tells me if this was presented as a new IP instead of another Call of Duty, people would have been far more interested in it.

Forza was up next, with new content for Forza 5 and some details on Forza Horizon 2. Nothing much to note here. But the camera angles were nice. If you’re really into fancy cinematic camera work on computer generated tires.

A short trailer for 2K Games and Turtle Rock Studios’ upcoming Monster vs. Man multiplayer shooter Evolve was shown off, and started the trend of exclusive DLC for different consoles. Xbox One owners get their hands on a Beta and some timed exclusive DLC first. Nothing much else was said about the game, but it’s unique take on multiplayer makes it worth keeping an eye on as it approaches it’s October release.

Next up was the first showing of the next Assassin’s Creed, subtitled Unity. The gameplay shown was traditional Assassin’s Creed fair, but with a surprise added multiplayer/co-op focus. Up to four assassin’s can go through the game’s missions at once. This AC seemed to have a much more action oriented feel to it’s combat, with a lot more slashing and stabbing and a bit less stealth shown off. The French Revolution environments were mostly typical of the series, but the added focus on NPC action made the world feel much more alive than previous Assassin’s Creed games. This was one of the things I wanted to see from the new generation of consoles: more focus on living, breathing worlds. This looks like a good first step.

Bioware dropped a new extended trailer for Dragon Age: Inquisition. Beautiful visuals, but nothing was shown on gameplay. Once again, timed exclusive DLC is shown for Xbox One owners. We knew Dragon Age would be talked about later on during the EA event, so it was only a small mention before moving on.

Microsoft’s show was stolen by the next game: Sunset Overdrive. Not only did we get a humorous, satirical trailer poking fun at tropes in the game industry, but we got to see the game in action. It’s a frantic, colorful, ridiculous action-shooter focused on grinding on rails, leaping on exploding boxes, and mowing down hoards of monsters. It looks like it’s focus on fun instead of seriousness is going to pay off big and make it a must-own for Xbox One owners. The reception was very good, with most people on social media instantly won over by the demo.

Capcom dropped a new Dead Rising 3 DLC mocking themselves a bit and giving some of their other franchises some love in the form of silly costumes and moves. Even more surprising, it was released right then and there, available now for download on Xbox One. It was nice to see Capcom not take itself so seriously and take a few jabs at it’s silly naming tactics. They also have Power Stone references in there, so that’s a nice bonus. Now can we please get an HD re-release of Power Stone? Or a sequel?

Dance Central: Spotlight was quickly mentioned, and then we moved on to Fable Legends and Project Spark. The former showing some gameplay of a sort of top-down multiplayer RTS-style getting a beta sometime this year. Project Spark showed off some of it’s colorful art, quirky characters, and focus on customization of levels, with a surprise appearance by Conker from Conker’s Bad Fur Day at the end, announcing his inclusion in Project Spark.

A beautiful game from an unknown studio called Ori And The Blind Forest was shown. A lovely looking 2D platform-adventure game. Possibly an Xbox One exclusive at this time. Not much has been mentioned about the game’s release as of yet, but people looking for more beautiful 2D games won’t be disappointed.

Microsoft’s obligatory Halo announcement was a bit different than expected. Instead of talking about Halo 5, they announced a collection of all four numbered Halo games coming to Xbox One. This will include an Anniversary edition remastering of Halo 2, as well as every single multiplayer map released for the franchise, all running in 1080p, 60FPS, and on dedicated servers. Also yes: there will be new achievements! This will drop for 60 dollars on November 11th. They then mentioned that yes, Halo 5 is coming: Holiday 2014.

Phil Spencer returned with one of this soon-to-be-joked-about wardrobe changes. He was wearing a Limbo shirt. And sure enough, the follow-up to the indie darling made a surprise and sudden appearance. A gameplay teaser was shown for Playdead’s new game, Inside, and it looked great. A dark sidescroller with eerie visuals and a narrative focus. It looks like a worthy follow-up to Limbo. Little is known about it’s release other than that it will be first on Xbox. Does that mean a console-exclusive immediately or will it get a PC release at the same time?

The indie train kept coming as they showed off a 10-game indie sizzle reel. You can watch the trailer here for a look at all the indies coming to Xbox One in the coming years. Some great titles there.

A world premiere trailer for the follow-up to the Tomb Raider reboot appeared next. No gameplay or release window, but the game will be titled Rise Of The Tomb Raider. Yes, that’s an incredibly stupid name. Odds are this will be across multiple platforms. This was followed by some gameplay from The Witcher 3, showing off a little combat and hyping up the beautiful visuals.

We then got a series of new game announcements. The first being a surprising reboot to cult-classic Xbox game Phantom Dust. Following this, Hideki Kamiya, head of the popular Platinum Games, came to the stage with a trailer for their new Xbox One-exclusive title Scalebound. Little is know other than it having dragons and a snarky kid with a sword. It looked pretty cool, but we currently know nothing about it’s gameplay. And rounding out the Xbox exclusives, another favorite returned: Crackdown! Crackdown 3 was teased with a crazy over-the-top action-packed trailer showing off the series’ trademark zany mayhem.

This series of new titles teased ended the Microsoft showing with a bang. Overall, an alright presentation, but the lack of gameplay footage made people a bit worried. Either way, the Xbox One has some games coming out to look forward to.

GRADE: B-

EA: RISE OF THE CONCEPTUAL PROTOTYPES!

Conceptual Prototype For Exciting New Upcoming EA Coverage Screenshot!

I’m going to be blunt right away: EA’s presentation was a disaster. Not that they didn’t have their share of surprises, it was just poorly presented, with a number of their more interesting games showing not only no gameplay, but not even trailers! They decided instead to show a lot of footage of developers in their studios, and more than one game was shown only as conceptual prototypes or concept art. Most of the titles they announced didn’t seem like they were even remotely close to being ready to be shown, meaning we probably won’t get many of them for a long while.

EA went through their usual sports releases, announcing an overhaul on the defensive side of Madden football, and the use of the Frostbite Engine in the new PGA Tour game. This promises to make the next-gen versions of their annual sports franchises worth it for the fans who are waiting for a true advancement on these titles.

The big announcements, at least the big conceptual prototypes, were for games such as Dice’s new Star Wars: Battlefront. The next Mass Effect as well as a new IP from Bioware (which we know exactly nothing about), and a new multiple-vehicle extreme sports driving game from Burnout developers Critieron. We saw nothing of these games other than really early drawings and computer models. The same goes for Mirror’s Edge 2, which was also given the conceptual prototype treatment, with no finished gameplay or footage shown at all. It was disappointing not to see any sign of these games being playable or ready to be shown.

What we did finally get to see in action was Dragon Age: Inquisition. Finally showing off a short bit of the battle system, which promises some larger scale dragon fights with a focus on switching between party members. It looked fluid and functional, if not a bit more on the action side than before.

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We saw a more in-depth look at The Sims 4, with a heavy focus on the emotions of the Sims, as well as the ability to upload and then download full player-created Sims into your world, with all their personality traits in tact. It didn’t look like too much new for the franchise, but fans will be happy to know it’ll be dropping on September 2nd.

EAs presentation ended with a lengthy showcase of Battlefield: Hardline. You shoot stuff. You blow things up. You run around ruined buildings. It was visually nice, but didn’t look like anything new. The focus on “bank heists” as underplayed due to those heists mostly just being blowing up an entire city. The presentation ended with the beta announcement: it launched right then! Anyone with Battlefield 4 could access the beta on a first-come-first-serve basis, with the full game launching in October.

EA set a new low for E3. It was weird actually WANTING pre-rendered cutscene trailers, since at least that’s finished content. The consistent reliance on “conceptual prototypes” became a social media joke and the entire presentation somehow managed to make several big announcement incredibly underwhelming. This was more of an advertisement for E3 2015 than anything. A complete disaster.

GRADE: F

UBISOFT: STILL THE BEST AT TRAILERS, AT LEAST…

Things started off immediately with a cinematic from Far Cry 4 showcasing the game’s controversial antagonist. I was rather impressed by how interesting the character was, and wanted to see the game in action, but we got no gameplay. Well, at least we can put to rest our concerns about the character?

If there is one thing that can be said for Ubisoft, it’s that they know their way around cinematic trailers. As usual, they had some of the most mind blowing trailers for otherwise incredibly bland looking games. Assassin’s Creed: Unity and The Division both had awesome lengthy trailers with cool music and beautiful visuals. The games themselves were less than impressive. Looking more like business as usual for the game industry than anything worth talking about.

A short look at Valiant Hearts was the most interesting thing Ubisoft showed, but that game drops in a couple weeks, so it wasn’t really a focus point. What was a focus point was Ubisoft’s obligatory “surprise” reveal at the end: the return of Rainbow Six! That’s right, Ubisoft closed with Rainbow Six: Siege, a reboot of sorts for the franchise.

The gameplay (which was more than likely heavily scripted and fluffed up) was presented with awkward pre-recorded multiplayer voice chat, but showed highly destructible environments, the ability to protect hostages, and a lot of focus on strategic multiplayer planning. While impressive, I have to be a little skeptical at how much of this will actually be pulled off in the main game.

Ubisoft shows their next Just Dance game, as well as an extended look at a new fitness game called “Shape Up”. Neither was particularly notable and took up way more time than they should have. There was also a sorta-gameplay demo reel of open world multiplayer racerThe Crew, which looked impressive. The continued push of being able to drive from “coast to coast” without a single loading screen still sounds like silly rhetoric, but we’ll be able to know for ourselves when the beta opens on July 23rd, with the game hitting shelves in November for PS4, Xbox One, and PC.

And that’s it. No, really. That’s all Ubisoft had to offer. It was pretty underwhelming, but at least there was a bit more gameplay at this showing. The Crew looks interesting, Rainbow Six: Siege could be great if it lives up to it’s big talk. I’m still not sold on The Division though, with it’s gameplay looking very typical of cover-based shooters, with very little to impress or keep it separated from the rest of it’s genre mates.

This year’s Ubisoft show was a bit less awkward than usual, but it was still filled with immature jokes, attempts at seeming hip and edgy, and tons of bad gamer stereotypes, for that, and the lack of interesting games, Ubisoft gets a pretty low grade too.

GRADE: D

I know what you’re thinking: was E3 this mediocre? It wasn’t doing much to impress… yet. But we still have Sony and Nintendo to go! Those will be covered later today on a separate article.

Spoiler: Things got better. A lot better.

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