An Era is Winding Down: An E3 2012 Overview

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Going into this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, the biggest question looming over my head was whether or not we will be seeing the dawn of a new generation of consoles. After trudging through five press conferences, the answer I received could be summed up with an ambiguous “…eh, not yet, but we’re getting there.” Truthfully, I am totally cool with that. I know I can hold off a few years before I invest in a whole new line of hardware.

So with that, developers continue trekking on. Which franchises are looking to cap off properly? What other franchises are being squeezed for every last drop of profit publishers can make off of them? Who actually had something new to show us? Why will we at Toy-TMA declare E3 2012 Week to be henceforth known as T-M-AC3 Week? That’s what I’m here for, to answer all these questions and more. So lets roll.

Assassins-Creed-3
If Conner here is any representation of Assassin’s Creed 3 at this year’s E3, than the Red Coats here are every other game. No competition.

 

To my surprise, probably the best of the E3 Conferences this year was not any of the Big 3, but Ubisoft. Maybe it was more because their conference was the shortest with the best pacing, and they had a great speaker, but truthfully, their games were thoroughly impressive. Of course there is the obvious, Assassin’s Creed 3, which has been turning heads since its announcement a few months back. Even I, who only played AC2 and am not exactly the biggest fan of the series as a whole, am very impressed with the direction Ubisoft has taken with the latest installment. While the American Revolution setting was enough to get my attention, after seeing plenty of gameplay footage of the forest traversal, the shifting seasons, and now…high seas combat on your own pirate ship? Sold!

But in all seriousness, Ubisoft had plenty of other titles, and not only that, but ones that surprised us. Ironically enough, they were the company that took the initiative to jumpstart the intro to Nintendo’s upcoming console, the Wii U. We all remember how happy I was for Rayman Origins last year, right? Well, creator Mike Ancel came back this year to show us the sequel Rayman Legends, whose demo on the Wii U was just about the closest things I got to squealing out in excitement this year. Both that, and Zombie U, which is already slated to be a Wii U launch title, displayed some excellent uses for the systems game pad.

Ubisoft would then go on to finish off their conference the right way, with never seen in-game footage of a bright, unique, intelligent new IP called Watch Dogs, in which a modern day hacker uses the power of wireless integration to infiltrate and manipulate all electronic devices throughout the city in his mission too…he’s some kind of spy or detective or something… it’s a bit confusing and I don’t get it all yet. But I like it.

E3 2012 Watch Dogs
Screenshots do not do this game justice. You have to see the premise for yourself.

 

So then we got EA, who opened up with Dead Space 3, which granted, did look pretty cool, and then… proceeded to bore me with sports game after sports game, pausing momentarily to mention their DLC for Battlefield 3. The whole time, all I could think about was when would Insomniac show up to uncover more info on Overstrike, that new IP they teased last E3 that really caught my attention, but then it never happened.

With that, lets proceed to Sony. Probably the biggest game everyone was anticipating from them was God of War Ascension, and like clockwork, Sony opened with an in-gmae demo right off the bat. While the introduction of multiplayer is definitely a unique spin on the series that I appreciate, the campaign just looks more the same.

God of War Ascension
Kratos: “Doth anyone else feelith déjà vu at this time? I could swore by Athena I hath slain this beast a hundred times over.”

 

What especially depressed me about it was how I was lead to believe Ascension was going to take place before he slew his family, so we would get at chance to play as Kratos when he was younger and not quite as vengeful. But no, it’s actually “immediately after” he slays his family, which technically puts it close to the same time frame of an already existing GoW spinoff, Chains of Olympus, and he’s still his typical angry self. That’s a bit depressing.

Personal irks aside, Sony did a pretty decent job of keeping their conference focused on their games, and exclusive ones at that. While, I’m starting to warm up a bit more to Naughtydog’s new title, The Last of Us, the real eye grabber for me personally was Play Station All Stars Battle Royale. Anyone whose known me long enough could tell you that one of my game related fantasies for the longest time has been an All Star fighting game, featuring Sony’s licenced characters, that would look and play like Super Smash Bros. Currently, the roster is up to eight: Kratos, Sweet Tooth, Parappa the Rappa, Fat Princess, Raidec, Sly Cooper, and the two newest characters introduced at E3, Nathan Drake (no surprise there) and Big Daddy (nice to know a few 3rd parties might show up). The roster will continue to grow as updates trickle in until the game is finished. Until then, I’m keeping my eye on you, PSASBR. You have a chance to make one of my gaming dreams come true. Please don’t let me down.

To pry myself away from my own nostalgia, I would be amiss not to mention Heavy Rain developer Quantic Dream’s new title, Beyond 2 souls. Next to Watch Dogs, this story driven action thriller staring Ellen Page (the real one, not her look alike from The Last of Us, which is kind of confusing) was probably the biggest surprise this year.

E3 2012 Beyond
“I’m the **** damn Page! …With psychic powers!”

I am a bit disappointed neither Insomniac nor Sucker Punch showed up to let us know what they are working on, not to mention Team Ico’s The Last Guardian seems to have all but dropped off the face of the earth. In addition, while Sony’s President, Jack Trenton, is quite endearing for the most part, I still find his praise for the PS Move painfully hard to swallow. Two years, and I still have yet to find anything worthwhile to purchase it myself, and now they introduced this new facet to it called The Wonderbook which, okay, so it’s new Harry Potter game got J.K. Rowling’s approval, but I just don’t see it having any lasting appeal. Combine that with the lackluster sales of the PS Vita (which actually does have a decent library of launch games, but just wasn’t marketed properly), and Sony is still fighting an upward battle. Hopefully the promise of even more hardcore titles for Sony’s handheld, like a whole new Assassins Creed game featuring the first female assassin, can help bring things up to speed.

ACIII Liberations
If this doesn’t sell some Vita’s, I don’t know what will.

 

Moving on to Microsoft. What is just about the most famous name of this generation has now been passed down to a whole new developer. 343 Studios has taken the reigns of Microsoft’s flagship series with Halo 4, which is already set in stone to be the start of a whole new trilogy (so at least they’re humble). I will admit their gameplay footage looks, from an aesthetic standpoint, as pretty and arty as I’ve ever seen a Halo game. From a technical standpoint however, much like my problems with GoW Ascension, it seems like more of the same.

Halo 4
Master Chief: “Now that you mention it, Kratos, yeah I… kinda am. I’ve never met these Prometheans in my life, but their shields and laser swords bear a striking resemblance to those of the Covenant.”

 

Besides Halo, the only Non-Kinect exclusives Microsoft had to show were the same two exclusives they show every year. Gears of War Judgement is an origin story about Baird which, correct me if I’m wrong, but between the leader Marcus Phoenix, Dom the reserved one, and Cole Train who was the badass, wasn’t Baird like the least interesting member of the Delta Team? And then we got the newest Forza, yippee. Meanwhile you got new Kinect is coming with new titles like Fable Journey and the new Marvel heroes game, which granted, do always look like a ton of fun from a distance, but I always find myself worried about how they will actually play.

Microsoft’s conference was the longest of them all, and yet almost half of it was padded with musical numbers by Usher, and then going on never ending tangents on all you will be able to do with their new technology, the Smart Glass.

E3 2012 Smart Glass
“Did we mention it can read minds?”

 

Truth be told, the Smart Glass is actually a very impressive piece of technology. Bassically it’s this new wireless system that connects your Xbox to all your other mobile devices like your Ipad or your smart phone. With it, you can play movies that can be passed from your mobiles to your TV, as well as beam you special features related to your current viewing. In the case of Game, your mobile will be able to act as another controller/interface. For instance, if your playing Madden, you can now use your I-pad or phone to draw out your own plays. It’s definitely neat. While I’ll go on record saying the Xbox 360 is the only console of the current generation I do not currently own, one thing I will always give Microsoft credit for, it’s having built an impressive and inviting online interface, and their means to expand their offerings through new devices like Smart Glass is far ahead of it’s competition. Now, if only they had an exclusive or two that I was dying to play, they’d have me.

All right Nintendo, your turn. The one company that actually has a new console on the horizon, and for what it’s worth, they had an excellent opening game at their conference. Pikman 3 looks amazing on the Nintendo Wii U, and a ton of fun to boot (this is coming from a guy who didn’t even play the first two). At this point, I couldn’t wait to see what other games they had in store.

The next thing they showed were not one but two Side scrolling Mario games. New Super Mario Brothers U for the Wii U, and New Super Mario Brothers 2 for the 3DS. I do agree that having an authentic Mario game is essential for each new Nintendo console, but honestly, I would much rather have seen a new 3D Mario title, even if it was just a 3rd Galaxy game, something big enough to show off their new technology. As for these 2D Mario games, I’m sorry, but not only does Rayman Legends blow them out of the park, but just like GoW Asension and Halo 4, they look like more of the same.

Super Mario Wii U
Mario: “Count me in too, Chief. If I hadn’t known better, I’d say this was the same drop off I fell through in the first Special Stage of Super Mario World.” Luigi: “Silly Mario. That drop off was guarded by flying turtles. This one is guarded by flying squirrels. They’re completely different.”

 

Nintendo keep saying how they have so many games coming for the Wii U and 3DS, that they were scheduling multiple conferences in the future, which I really don’t get. They’re at a conference now! Why don’ they just find a way to balance their time and show what they have coming up now? Instead they allocate their time to reminding us how 3rd-Party-Friendly the Wii U is going to be with titles like Arkham City, Mass Effect 3, Darksiders 2, and Assassins Creed 3, half of which everyone has already played.

After last E3, Nintendo left us a lot of questions on what exactly the Wii U was and how it would work. They have given us a much clearer demonstration this year, and I appreciate that. The system is going to come with two touch pad controllers, can read your Wii Motes, an then has this new Pro Controller used for the more streamline gamer experience.

Wii U pro controller
I can work with that.

The system is already slated for launch this holiday, yet Nintendo did not release an official Price or Release date yet. Not knowing the price does concern me a bit. Given the amount of equipment the system is going to come with, the two game pads and now the pro controller, this is sure to jack up the cost. I’d consider myself lucky if ends up under the $300 mark.

And now for a quick run through of a few other big name games this E3

  • Tomb Raider reboot: We saw gameplay footage of this last year, and every time, it gets better. I do sense a bit of Uncharted influence, but seeing as Uncharted was inspired by Tomb Raider in the first place, it all pans out.
  • Devil May Cry reboot: Now that gamers are done crying over Dante’s haircut, this games combat looks incredible. Ninja Theory, the makers of Heavenly Sword and Enslaved, were a perfect match for this series.
  • Resident Evil 6: Looks infinitely better than 5, for sure.
  • Defiance: This MMO launching April next year has a coexisting TV series with storylines that build off each other. That’s…interesting. I mean that with no sarcasm, I’d really like to see how that turns out or if it’s even possible.
  • Call of Duty Black Ops 2: Call of Duty 9. It’s set in the future, that makes it completely different.
  • South Park, The Stick of Truth: The RPG that should have had nine installments by now, but we’re perfectly happy now just to have this one.
South Park Stick of Truth
Why wasn’t this game made a long time ago?

 

I began this article by pondering the current well being of this generation. Judging by what I’ve seen in E3 2012, it is clear that our current consoles are well into their golden years. Besides AC3 and a few surprises like Watch Dogs and Beyond, there weren’t a lot of show stealers. Shooter Franchises like Crisis, Dead Space, Farcry, and Lost Planet all had 3’s at the end of their names, looking to wrap up their worlds with one final horah for their built in fan bases before this cycle ends.

At this point there is very little this generation could do to surprise us, because at this point, we’ve seen everything. Uncharted’s over, Mass Effect’s over. Skyrim is already the biggest open world game one could ask for. Arkham City is the best Batman game one could possibly create. Call of Duty has already perfected online competitive multiplayer. So on and so forth. This isn’t a bad thing, it just means that all the best stuff of this console generation is already out and available to you, and if you are still waiting for that final sequel for a certain franchise of your personal liking, you won’t have to wait much longer.

So what are you waiting for? Whether it be the 3rd installment of a certain franchise, one of the few New IP’s we just witnessed, or the new line of Consoles, there is no wrong answer. Feel free to share with us in the comments below.

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  1. I think E3 was too many game announcements and not enough hardware. Game announcements haven’t been an E3-only thing for years now. Hearing about a new game on TV or through some web site is enough these days. E3 should be where we learn about what the future holds for gaming at large, not just a list of upcoming titles.

    Of all the non-software announcements, the SmartGlass stuff on Xbox looks the coolest. Although I give it a 40% chance at succeeding because the technology alone isn’t enough…developers have to take advantage of it and make stuff for it, and as we’ve seen with the Wii and other gimmick tech, that’s easier said than done. If the only thing that takes advantage of it is Netflix and HBO then it’s worthless.

    But when it comes to games, the new Metal Gear game has my attention…not just because I’m a MG fan but because it looks like a bad ass game. A few of the indie titles look fun and I hope they get some attention and ports to consoles eventually.

    I think the E3 magic is gone after leaking for many years. There are too many other outlets that focus on gaming now that E3 isn’t as valuable as it once was. They need to rethink its purpose and rebuild accordingly……but that being said, I’d still love to go.

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