Friday, June 15, 2012

E3 2012

For those of you who don't know, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, better known as E3, is one of the biggest weeks each year for gamers. Fans can count on a steady dose of trailers, release dates, gameplay demos, and roundtable discussions; essentially, everything a hardcore gamer craves. Companies use this opportunity to showcase many of their titles for the upcoming year. In the eyes of fanboys everywhere, E3 can make or break a game. A game that makes a terrible first impression may never see the light of day.

Over the years, E3 has had its ups and downs; however, I can't help but feel E3 2012 was one of the lowest points in recent memory. Whether fair or not, everyone looks to the "Big 3" to set the tone each year: Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony. This year, all three dropped the ball.

Microsoft led things off, but unfortunately, critics and fans alike came away mostly displeased. Halo 4 kicked off the conference and Gears of War: Judgment made a brief appearance. The new Xbox SmartGlass received most of the attention. The service allows users to stream content from tablets and smart phones to the Xbox 360. While this is handy, it certainly isn't new and most of the streamable content is from one of the services already available on the 360 as an app such as Netflix or HuluPlus. Frankly, I've grown increasingly irritated with gimmicks such as Kinect, Wii, and Playstation Move. It's probably an apples to oranges comparison, but I wonder if SmartGlass will follow the same path: great in theory, poor in execution and utility?

Sony held their conference on day 2 and we have another mixed bag. The Playstation 3 content looked incredible, Vita was nowhere to be found, and a new game (technology?) known as WonderBook received more time and attention than almost anything else at Sony's conference. The Last of Us, a new game from Naughty Dog, creators of Uncharted, was easily the highlight. The game looks incredible and features what is sure to be an intricate story set in a post-apocalyptic world. Beyond: Two Souls is the new game from Quantic Dream, the folks behind Heavy Rain (my review here) and it features Ellen Page in the lead role. While Sony delivered on games (at least for PS3 owners), sandwiched in between Beyond: Two Souls and God of War: Ascension was the WonderBook. I absolutely love Harry Potter and think this is a great technology for children; however, this lengthy demonstration had absolutely no place being at a press conference intended for hardcore gamers.

Nintendo wrapped things up by further detailing their next-generation console known as the Wii U (seriously, why won't they change that name?!). Many expected Nintendo to overshadow the other companies as they don't have any new hardware they're ready to showcase; however, in Nintendo's 2nd chance (Wii U debuted at E3 2011) to sell gamers on the Wii U, they failed yet again. To start, certain mainstream outlets aren't even sure if this is a new console or just a new accessory for the original Wii (seriously, a CNN article that has since been edited, originally stated the Wii U was a new controller for Wii). NintendoLand, a new title that is almost certain to be a pack-in, features a variety of *sigh* mini-games to showcase the features of the Wii U. Many of the games focus on the asymmetric gameplay element that allows players on the television screen to do something entirely different than players on the Wii U screen. Pikmin 3 started off the press conference and while it looks great, I doubt it will be the 'killer app' Wii U so desperately needs. The best Wii U games featured at E3 both came from Ubisoft in the form of Rayman Legends and ZombiU.

Speaking of Ubisoft, many gamers feel they had the most successful press conference and they stole the show with a new game known as Watch Dogs. This game looks truly unique and I find myself describing it as a blend of The Matrix and Grand Theft Auto. My explanations won't even do it justice. You'd be much better off to watch the video below.

While there are certainly some amazing games on the horizon, Assassin's Creed 3, Splinter Cell Blacklist, and The Last of Us, I can't help but feel all 3 companies had things on cruise control this year. Watch Dogs looks phenomenal; however, the game was running on a high-end PC and Ubisoft has been slightly evasive as to which consoles the game will make an appearance. This has led many to believe we've actually been given a glimpse at Playstation 4 and Xbox 720 launch titles.

In a subsequent blog post, I hope to outline a few reasons as to why this year's E3 was rather lackluster. In short, Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony lacked a true surprise that appeals to gamers. Watch Dogs may turn out to be a phenomenal game, but part of the reason it looks so great is because it was something we hadn't seen before. It wowed us. Unfortunately, E3 2012 did very little to wow video game fans as a whole.

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