Ahhh E3, or to those not in the know, the Electronic Entertainment Expo is my favorite time of year. E3 is the place for all the video game companies to show the new stuff they’ve all been working on throughout the year. Whether for the console, handheld or PC/Mac there is something for everyone, but mostly for me. While it’s all about the games, the best part are Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo’s press conferences. These press events showcase the flagship titles that are supposed to get me excited for their console. Needless to say, each one tries to one-up each other for my attention.
Microsoft typically has a good event, but this year there was very little to get excited about. Sure they showed Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3 and Halo 4, but the vast majority of the event consisted of Kinect and the games designed for it. Even more disappointing were the amount of games they showed that were geared for kids and families. More importantly, many developers integrated Kinect features into their games. This included voice control for Mass Effect 3 and motion control in Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Future Soldier. All of these gimmicks are cool, but do they really enhance the gameplay? Maybe.
One of the things I’ve noticed over the past couple of years using Nintendo’s Wii, motion control makes gaming less comfortable. It might be fun and interesting for a couple of hours, but after awhile, it’s gets tiring and it ceases to be fun and more work. A lot of the gameplay on stage at Microsoft’s event involved exaggerated movements and quite a lot more movement than I really want to invest in a game. That may make me lazy, but it’s a game, and when I play a game I don’t want to have to sweat.
A lot of Kinect features can be turned off, but the way Microsoft was pushing them didn’t make me want to play the game. I didn’t get a sense of how the game played because their focus was on controllerless gameplay. This is all in an effort to mimic the success of Nintendo. Honestly, regardless of Nintendo’s success with the Wii, I much rather lie in bed, relax, and enjoy a cool game using a traditional controller.
Next up Sony took the stage. They had three big things to talk about. First, they needed to attack, and rightfully so, the PlayStation Network outage. This was probably the single largest disaster in Sony’s history, causing the company and developers who rely on the service millions of dollars. Not to mention the millions of PlayStation Network subscribers whose personal and credit card information were stolen by hackers. How they were going to address it was hotly contested. Should their apology be heartfelt and somber or should it be heartfelt with a bit of levity. From my perspective, I don’t think I needed an apology, they made it right with their Welcome Back program, but what they offered at the show was both serious and light hearted.
After the awkwardness of addressing the loss of trust from their consumers, they went right into another outstanding demonstration of Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception. This is the series that sold the PlayStation 3 to me. Anytime Uncharted is on screen, my attention is wrapped up in the smooth, intense action and snarky attitude of Nathan Drake. I know I’m not the only one who feels this way from the reception of the crowd in the Staples Center.
Finally, the Vita. There had been a lot of press for Sony’s next big handheld and I have been eagerly waiting patiently for it. Haha. This is the successor to the PSP, a handheld that floundered because of the lack of controls required for many of the games to play well on it. But Sony, in all their wisdom decided to add another analog control stick on the Vita’s right side. If it wasn’t enough that Sony unveiled this great new handheld, they also showed a great demo of a little game called Uncharted: Golden Abyss.
YES! An Uncharted game on the Vita! I was aware that this would happen, but I don’t remember seeing any video from it. The game looked amazing, on par with maybe the first Uncharted. The movement of the character was there, the surroundings were there and so was the action. I was concerned when I heard it wasn’t being developed by Naughty Dog, but rather Sony Bend. This developer has pretty much only worked on Syphon Filter titles for the PlayStation 2 and the PSP and what they did was kinda remarkable. Then they showed the gesture gameplay.
You know, gesture gameplay is great, but they almost took it to the extreme here and I hope it ultimately doesn’t ruin the game. I do not want to tap the screen for combat. Developers might think this is something gamers want, and while it may add something different, it isn’t necessary, and gamers will somehow be able cope without smearing their greasy, sweaty gaming hands all over the screen. Any time you take hands of the controls you lose efficiency. In gaming efficiency is so important because your reaction time is so deeply affected. When it comes to combat in a game like Uncharted, or any game for that matter, reaction time is king.
Both companies, Sony and Microsoft did a good job at showing their wares, but then Nintendo took their turn and they brought the house down. They had such an incredible showing last year when they announced and showed, for the first time, the Nintendo 3DS as well as all their beloved franchises coming to the Wii. This year, the anticipation was on Nintendo’s newest console set to release sometime next year, but first they talked a lot about what games were going to be coming out for the Nintendo 3DS.
They hit it hard giving me tastes of The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Mario Kart, Luigi’s Mansion 2, Super Mario, and Star Fox 64 3D. Each of these announcements and subsequent videos whipped me into a frenzy. Especially when Mario Kart came on screen I kinda freaked my freak a little bit. Then they showed Luigi’s Mansion 2. Luigi’s Mansion was a fun, charming and whimsical game for the Gamecube and there hasn’t been word of it since. Now to see it come to the Nintendo 3DS has me so excited.
The biggest part of the show had to be when they started talking about the Wii U. This is the new console that addresses many of the criticisms the Wii has had over the years. It has everything that gamers want and a little more. They really focused on the new controller which will sport a very nice 6.2 inch screen that will take the game from the television to the controller. The whole thing is quite remarkable, powerful and once again changes gaming.
What is so great about Nintendo is they change gaming. When I look back at what Sony and Microsoft did during their show, they focused on motion with PlayStation Move and Kinect. Motion gaming is something Nintendo has had for the last 5 years, and now, once Sony and Microsoft are finally hitting their stride, Nintendo comes in and adds something new. The applications for this new controller is limitless and transferring the game from the television onto the screen of your controller if you don’t have a television immediately available is extremely useful. But that isn’t the only thing the screen will be used for. Developers could do anything with it and Nintendo showed some interesting applications to give us an idea of what it could be used for.
With everything Nintendo showed in their event, they totally won. They had the games, they had new hardware, they had the franchises. Just like last year, they completely wowed me in every respect and I am extremely excited for the coming year. Even though Microsoft did have some big games, like Gears of War 3 and especially the hotly anticipated new Halo trilogy, from my perspective, their focus on Kinect did not interest me in the slightest. Sony had a better show than Microsoft. They had one of my favorite games, Uncharted and they showed the Vita with one of my favorite games, Uncharted. With the one game and a great piece of hardware, Sony didn’t and couldn’t really compete with Nintendo’s antics. I guess the question is, will everything live up to my expectations? Only time will tell.