E3 2015: The Recap

Although E3’s primary purpose is to manufacture hype for games we might not see for years, I can’t avoid it’s gravitational pull. It’s just so damn fun to watch the vids and imagine how fun these games will be. Let’s sort out the shiniest treasures of the lot, shall we?

First, some quick thoughts on the conferences.

Sony

I abstained from the Sony conference, seeing as how I don’t have a PS4 or an abundance of free time. Some of the choice morsels found their way into my life nonetheless, prompting me to go back and skim a bit (that gravitational pull!).

I find it odd that many outlets are declaring Sony the E3 “winner”, with some of the primary supporting arguments being a remake of FFVII and the announcement of a crowd-sourced Shenmue 3. I guess I don’t understand why Sony is getting props for giving Shenmue the most tepid of support. A bit of stage time during their conference, but no funding? Call me old fashioned, but if Sony really believed in Shenmue 3, wouldn’t they, I don’t know, pay for it themselves? The whole scenario is a bit queer, is all, and also kinda alarming. This is a trend we don’t want to see, friends.

Picks for my dollar: Uncharted 4 looks really fun. The series has never grabbed me somehow, my love for Indiana Jones aside, but maybe this time it will stick. No Man’s Sky continues to impress. Easily one of the most ambitious games being made. Horizon Zero Dawn looks pretty inspired, with a world and art style reminiscent of the 360’s woefully underplayed Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (a game I loved). No real idea what Horizon Zero Dawn is about yet, or why the name is so clunky, but it looks cool.

Microsoft

Halo Guardians looks interesting and the Royal Rumble styled Warzone seems appropriately chaotic, but on the whole Guardians doesn’t turn my head like its siblings of yesteryear. Not sure if MCC ruined me or if I’ve just moved on from the Halo ‘verse. So too, Gears. Another remake/remastered edition. I just don’t see the appeal of repurchasing a game I’ve played years ago, but maybe it’s just me? Seems like a lazy substitute for creating new IP. The announced Gears of Four did look pretty, but similar to Halo, I guess I’m largely over the franchise.

Backward Compatibility is nice, I guess, but seeing as it’s primary value case is freeing up a bit of space in my entertainment cabinet, I personally don’t see it as a huge win. Putting EA on the stage felt like a huge waste of time. So, too, having Bethesda essentially recap what we saw in their conference. Mod support in Fallout 4 is huge, especially if PS4 doesn’t get it, but I need more details before deciding to buy it for the Xbox instead of PC.

Of the new IP, ReCore pushed all my buttons. CGI trailer, sure, but the art style was great, the post apocalyptic world looks interesting, and the follower/companion mechanic seems fun. Ion looks atmospherically creepy, definitely some System Shock vibes. Sea of Thieves looked fun and colorful, but not sure if I’ll ever play it.

ReCoreHololens looks fantastically futuristic but I’m not yet sold on the gaming application. It’s still early days, but without strong developer support and more specifically a killer app (and for me, Minecraft is not a killer app), I’m afraid it will go down like Kinect: a cool bit of tech better employed in other, non-game related ways.

Third Parties

I also watched Bethesda’s (my personal pick for best conference, btw) and Ubisoft’s conferences, and skimmed EA’s. Tasty bites: Dishonored 2, Fallout 4, For Honor, The Division, Rainbow Six Siege, Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and Star Wars Battlefront.

Top 5 Games of E3 2015

Here are my top 5 games, in reserve order:

5) The Division

The demo’s staging was painfully scripted but the game itself still looks tight. Teams can choose to assist each other against NPC foes or instead take each other out. The endgame, wherein all teams wait for extract, looks pretty intense; everyone is eyeing each other, thinking about odds, and waiting for the bullets to fly. Kinda cool that you can go rogue and turn on your own team, taking all the loot for yourself, but that also seems like pissing in your own pool. Not the best way to engender a good community. I didn’t see any of the RPG elements promised last year. Also still unsure what the meta-game is: are we simply scrounging for better equipment? Hope there’s some story meat on these bones.

4) No Man’s Sky

Probably the only game so far that I would buy a PS4 to play (and with PC support, that’s not necessary). Love that the transition from space to planet happens without loading screens, that you actually pilot through atmosphere. Tooling around the galaxy in your own personal starship, and you can get out and explore? And engage in aggressive negotiations with indigenous species? Looking more and more like it fulfills the promises Destiny made.

3) For Honor

This one came out of left field. Knights vs Samurai vs Vikings sounds like something my son would cook up, but the gameplay looks to match the fun premise. Massed melee combat is reminiscent of Dynasty Warriors, with the added wrinkle of 4-on-4 team battles. Taking out AI soldiers looks fairly ho-hum, but the gameplay slows down when players encounter one another. Sword fights are this interesting rock, paper, scissors exercise of positioning one’s sword through use of the stick while watching cues from the other guy. It looks incredibly tense. There hasn’t been a good multiplayer melee combat game since Rune (15 years ago? WTF, I hate you, Time).

2) Fallout 4

Where to start? Character creation looks simple and streamlined, but more powerful and varied than previous iterations. Vertical movement plays a part this time, in the form of gunships and jetpacks(!). Most impressive of all, the crafting system is DEEP and applies to more than just weapons & armor this time around. You can tear down structures and rebuild them into your own settlement, complete with settlers, traders, and automated defenses, adding a bit of a Minecraft / tower defense vibe to the game.

I could say more, but I’ll just leave this here.

1) Star Wars Battlefront

As a lifelong Star Wars fan, this game makes me feel things.

Battlefront I just can’t get over how good this game looks. The graphics are great, sure, but it is the Star Warsness I’m talking about. Everything looks perfectly like it should. Even the explosions look like practical effects from the films. And the sound design is even better. The roar of TIE fighters, the sound of lasers, the music: those are the easy, obvious things. It’s all the little touches that really seals the deal: the klaxon as the Rebel’s Hoth base comes under attack; the gurgle of electronics inside the TIE fighter, barely heard over the screaming engines; the distinct explosion as an AT-ST is destroyed.

There are reasons for reservations, though. No Space Combat, for one. EA’s history of DLC abuse. The dumbing down for the masses: can’t control the AT-AT’s movements; the Y-Wings that bomb said AT-AT are AI controlled; when a Snow Speeder harpoons an AT-AT, some sort of mini-game kicks in to determine success, rather than the player’s skill in circling the walker.

Concerns aside, I feel the hype flowing through me. And that is why Battlefront is my #1 game of E3 2015.

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