I actually wanted to post this on bitparade first, but its not letting me do it (something to do with the URL being too long), will let Mark know when I see him online/if I see him online and see about getting it posted. Maybe this year I manage to psot one for each day of the big conferences, including one tomorrow for todays Nintendo and individual game conferences (FORZA 4!)
So thats Day One of E3 2011 over and done with, I sat through the Microsoft, EA and Ubisoft conferences whilst they were broadcast live, then this morning I watched the Sony conference as I wasn’t staying up any later than I already had, I’m getting too old for that!
Microsoft have had the weakest E3 from what we’ve seen so far, they didn’t have any new hardware to show off, so their show became about the games and services they will be bringing to their XBox 360 over the next 18 months and really, it was all a little flat. For non-Kinect loving gamers there was very little to get excited about, Gears 3 looked like a safe bet, Ghost Recon Future Soldier looked good, Forza 4 was always a must have for me personally, Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary wasn’t really a surprise and didn’t look as well developed as I would have hoped, Tomb Raider looks pretty good although I think somebody was playing with Keeley Hawes’ naughty parts whilst she was recording for the role of Lara, Modern Warfare 3 is Modern Warfare 3 and there were some continuity errors (in my opinion) in the Halo 4 reveal.
Interesting implementations to the 360’s dashboard include YouTube, Bing search and live TV, although it remains to be seen how usable these are. They’ve already missed the boat somewhat by having a very limited Last.FM, Twitter and Facebook service available (all of which should be accessible through your guide button, in-game, in my opinion), and I can see the YouTube functionality being the same sort of deal as the services already offered, Bing only appears to work with Kinect and there’s no further details on the live TV stuff although Sky was mentioned in passing and I imagine that UK XBox 360 customers will have to have a Sky subscription to take advantage of that particular service from Microsoft much as you already do to watch sports on your XBox 360 despite the US having free access to ESPN.
The rest of the show was all about Kinect, and whilst there were some interesting things, such as the ability to scan yourself in and make your Avatar a true representation of the real you, and what appeared to be finger gesture recognition, it all looked rather gimmicky and tacked on whilst the games themselves looked like Eyetoy products with better graphcis, really wasn’t impressed. I have no issue with Microsoft pushing Kinect, nor with people buying it, there’s a few games on it and coming out for it that I’d buy because my daughter would enjoy them, but to turn up at E3 and show off so much stuff thats not for the kind of people who pay attention to the conference is really kind of suicidal on Microsofts part.
Next up was EA, and they really did get the ball running with a number of great looking games, almost all of which were known about. The additions to this years FIFA looked incredibly promising, with Social Networking options across all formats and versions of the game plus a bunch of engine additions that add depth and realism to match engines that could really make FIFA even more enjoyable to play. Mass Effect 3 looked as amazing as you’d expect considering the other two games in the series, the one everyone was waiting for, Battlefield 3, looked great graphically (they were running the PC version and deliberately showed someone using a mouse and keyboard playing the game to point that out) but I felt underwhelmed by the choice of level they chose to demonstrate the game. There’s no denying it showed the sheer size of the maps that will be offered up and it got to show off some great particle effects as the player controlled a tank, but other than that there was nothing to really wow the audience although that didn’t stop the customary whooping and hollering. The biggest surprise from EA was to unveil that Insomniac Games are working on a multiplatform title for them, and in my opinion, it looks like it could be quite good. It’s called Overstrike, and from what I can gather, its a arcadey squad-based shooter, probably with a large focus on co-op. EA’s conference was probably the best overall for the opening day, but it all felt a little safe really.
Ubisoft however was all over the place, I’m really not sure what impression I got from “Mr. Caffeine” the over excitable host of the French publishers show, but he did his job well and there was some games that I am looking forward to playing, most notably Rayman Origins which looks absolutely delightful and is something that has kind of been missing from this generation for those that have ignored Nintendo’s output for the “core” market. A game based on the TinTin license was announced, and during the build up to showing the game Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson spoke about the product, whilst they were doing so there was alot of concept art shown and I was getting excited at the idea of something that looked a little like the cartoons I watched as a kid, possibly 2D like Rayman Origins and even had it suggested to me that something like the original Prince of Persia games could suit the feel of TinTin perfectly, what we got however was 3D/2.5D visuals and whilst it looked good enough, I felt underwhelmed by the final appearance of the product and felt Ubisoft had missed a trick by taking this route for the game. We saw more of Ghost Recon, and whilst it looked good, I was hoping we’d get a new Rainbow Six. A new Brothers In Arms was confirmed, although its nothing like the series used to be and felt a little like Inglorious Basterds meets Team Fortress 2. Far Cry 3 looked absolutely stunning, its now back in the jungle and there was some absolutely amazing water effects going on, most notably when the lead character walks through a waterfall and through the mist being thrown up by the water he spots a guard. Uising the mist as cover he manages to take the guard out without being detected, I really enjoyed that bit and hope to see the environment being used even more throughout the game. Trackmania 2 made a small appearance and I can’t wait to play that as I do love Tracmania. Then we were shown two “casual” games in the shape of a new Raving Rabbids title which uses Kinect and Just Dance 3, again not my kind of thing, but at least Ubisoft managed to limit themselves to only brief showings of these titles.
Most people were waiting for the big showing of the new Assassins Creed, which to be honest, looked as good as Assassins Creed always does when you watch someone else play it, but I always feel dissapointed when I actually get to have a go so I’m not really interested in that, however, I wouldn’t mind seeing a full release of the Another World inspired version of Assassins Creed they used to introduce the game, that looked pretty damn cool in my opinion, as did most of the other “Retro” versions of the games Ubisoft announced.
Last, but not least (that award goes to Microsofts conference), was Sony, showing at 1am GMT. After brief introductions to the PlayStation brand and Sony’s vision, a playthrough of a pre-Alpha build of Killzone 3. Now I’ve not played a Killzone game since the first one, not having a PS3, but Killzone 3 looks like it could be pretty entertaining as far as modern console first-person shooters go. Obviously we’re well aware the colour pallette is very, very grey, thats something thats really not worth complaining about (although that won’t stop some people), but the lighting was rather impressive and it looked and felt alot less scripted than the Modern Warfare 3 playthrough and more exciting than the Battlefield 3 playthrough, if anything Sony chose the right stuff to show off as explosions and gun fire were going off left right and centre with plenty of events happening both in the foreground and in the distance of the players view. Sony’s focus for PS3 gaming appears to be to push 3D gaming, first party titles like Killzone 3 and Motorstorm Apocalypse have been developed for 3D TV’s whilst Gran Turismo 5 will have a 3D patch applied to it, third party titles will also receive the 3D treatment. Obviously, the 3D stuff is entirely optional, but I’m still not sold on the concept of 3D in general and can’t really see how it can add to a gameplay experience, but its another thing that Sony can stick on the box to their products as a selling point and it’ll bring some customers in who are interested in the technology I suppose. Two new collections will be available on PS3 in September and playable in 3D, these collections are Team Ico Collection (ICO and Shadow of the Colossus) and God of War Origins (both the PSP God of War titles).
PS3 will be getting exclusive content for a number of games, including the third Saints Row game, Bioshock Infinite will include the original game on the disc, an exclusive Star Trek game is in development to tie in with JJ Abrams second movie release. Now, I must say, it took a while to find the conference being shown in one piece, so things are a little muddled up. Being removed from the PlayStation console brand for so long (aside from my PSP) has meant I’ve missed out on the love that Uncharted has received. But watching the footage of Uncharted 3 I really can appreciate why people like it, it looks like everything that the software on the original PlayStation, and to some extent the PS2, was building up towards, in that it seems to have all the best elements of games such as Tomb Raider, Metal Gear Solid and Syphon Filter. Rest assured that when I do eventually get around to owning Sony’s current home console, I’ll be playing these games. In fact, the footage shown, of Drake escaping from a ship of some description (I assume its a Tanker, they’re always Tankers) reminds me of the original E3 trailer for Metal Gear Solid 2 when it showed Snake escaping from the Tanker (a part that wasn’t including in the final cut of the game). As for Resistance 3, I’m not sure how much its needed, there seems to be an air of indifference to the series in general and it feels like Sony’s focus is divided between that and Killzone even though they’re by seperate developers.
An interesting development is a PlayStation branded 3D TV, available for $499, that enables you to play multiplayer split-screen without actually splitting the display, instead it uses the 3D technology to broadcast two images, one for each player. Dust: 514 sounds interesting, its a tie-in to EVE Online, but I’m not entirely sure what it is. Gameplay footage shows it to be an FPS, but its links to EVE could suggest something a little deeper than that.
The thing we’ve all be waiting to see properly though is Sony’s new handheld, the NGP or as its been renamed Vita, we know what the hardware has and it looks bloody promising, and indeed exciting for someone such as myself who happens to be a big fan of the current PSP. Interestingly, the Vita has something that the PS3 doesn’t currently have, and that is party chat that can be used in or out of a game. Seeing the thing running Uncharted Golden Abyss is truly impressive and by giving the player the option of using standard controls or using the combination of the dual touch pads and sixaxis system everyone can play the game in whichever way they choose. One game on Vita that looks really interesting is Ruin, a dungeon crawler/Dungeon Keeper-clone type affair that challenges you to build and defend a dungeon against a multiplayer opponent or attack one created by someone else. Ruin can be played on the Vita or even on PS3 using cloud gaming and saving. Other Vita games shown were Mod Nation Racers and LittleBigPlanet, Wipeout 2048. LittleBigPlanet is the star of the show really, it looks as charming as ever, and now even more inventive than the previous versions, I’ll definetly be interested to see what its community can get out of it! Vita will launch this Autumn, the wi-fi only model will retail for 249Euros whilst the 3G & Wi-Fi will retail for 299Euros.
Preceding all of this, Jack Tretton launched a lengthy apology aimed at everybody from editors of websites through retaillers, developers and publishers, to the consumers. It was a nice touch, but I think with the Welcome Back pack and everything thats happened since the PlayStation Network was hacked, Sony have apologised enough, but thats my opinion, obviously some will never forgive or forget.