Wii and U Kinecting to Vita: An E3 2011 Overview

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Last week, this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo came and went, and with it launched an arsenal of gaming news and previews to show us just how busy our holiday season will be this year (very VERY busy). There is a lot to talk about, so that’s why I’m here to sort through it all; to let everyone know what’s hot, what’s not, and why the confirmation of new hardware may have left us even more confused than before.

Sony

Due to recent misfortunate events, CEO Jack Trenton was obliged to do some damage control at the beginning of their conference. After assuring us of the PSN’s resurrection and despite the fiscal damage the company has suffered that the PS3 is still keeping strong, we were given quick reminders of just how awesome things are to come. Uncharted 3, check. Resistance 3, check. Twisted Metal, check. Ico Collecition, check and mate. [Not to mention Infamous 2 literally releasing the same week as the con. More on that game another time.] AWe’ve known about all of these for some time, but probably their biggest surprise for me, game wise, was this:

Don't be so sly, Cooper. I'd recognize your shadow anywhere.

For those of us who played through the Sly Collection, we were treated with a little teaser, but this is the first time it’s been official: Sly 4 Thieves in Time is on the way, and while Sucker Punch no longer has the reigns (given to Sanzaru Games) it looks to be shaping up pretty well. There were, however, a few other surprises. For the online crowd, Warhawk is getting a successor called Starhawk, which has found a unique way to blend Action with RTS elements and make it visceral and fun. Another collection called God of War Origins is an HD/3D remastered version of the two PSP games, Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta, which I guess is nice for guys like me who never bought the PSP.

Into the second third, it felt like Déjà vu as Sony continued to demonstrate the new uses of the PSMove (which I still haven’t bought). To be fair, the games they showcased this year were slightly more effective than last year (though I’m kind of confused what happened to Sorcery, the one use of Move they showed last year that intrigued me.) Medievil Moves, despite the disappointment that it wasn’t a revival of the classic Medievil franchise from the PS1, did demonstrate some impressive use of weapons. NBA 2K12 for the Move was Kobe Bryant approved. Even Bioshock Infinate (which is just awe inspiring in its own right) is getting the optional Move treatment, which is impressive when you consider creator Ken Levine openly opposed the idea of the peripheral when he first learned of it but has now openly admitted to embracing it. But enough of the Move. Let’s get to the main event.

It wins in the name category. PSV. Clean.

The whole final third of Sony’s conference was focused purely on the new peripheral, the Playstation Vita. So far, we got close to all the information on the system I was expecting when they first announced it. It has a decent name that’s easy to pronounce and we also got a price: $250 for the WiFi only version and $300 for the 3G powered by At&t. I was expecting the worse, but the lower price puts it at the same cost as the 3DS. So far the the games they displayed look great, the big one being Uncharted Golden Abyss, which, all kidding aside, looks just as good as its console counterparts. Capcom introduced a brand new crossover fighter, Street Fighter vs. Tekken, in which Infamous’ Cole McGrath makes a guest appearance. Easily the most “shocking” (sorry, I couldn’t resist) development of the game. Another impressive feature comes from a new Action RPG called Ruin, which showed off the ability to transfer games from PSVita to your PS3 and play the games on your big screen in full HD.

Call me cautiously optimistic on this one. If Sony can launch with a decent library, they just may be able to hold their own in the handheld market for once. (It will also help if they get rid of that annoying as hell kid).

Microsoft

Much like Sony (minus the PSN Outage damage control), Microsoft opened right up with showing their biggest hardcore titles first. Now as much as I want to avoid flashing my obvious Sony>Microsoft bias, I can’t help but point out Microsoft chose two 3rd party games to open their conference (CoD Modern Warfare 3 and the new Tomb Raider reboot) while Sony opened with exclusives (Uncharted and Resistance). The games indeed looked great, but I’m just saying, those will be on the PS3 as well. Perhaps a further look into Gears of War 3 with Cliffy B. and guest appearance Ice T declaring he’s bringing Body Count back together to do a song exclusively for the game should more than make up for that.

And yet again, we revert the focus to motion controls.

Congrats. You have officially replaced Guitar Hero as the "Greatest Party game Eva."

Since the Kinect launch, Dance Central has become its biggest hit, so naturally a sequel is already underway. The Disneyland exploration game and Tim Shaffer’s Once Upon A Monster looked… cute. I’m absolutely certain they will sell great to the casual and family audience. What impressed me was Fable the Journey and its use of improvised spell casting. Mass Effect 3’s use of voice command to lead your squadron I’ll also give kudos too. I wish I could say I was more excited for the Star Wars Kinect but the force is not with me on that one (I honestly think the Move would have been much more fit for a Star Wars game [Pranger’s Note: Agreed]).

And that was pretty much it. I guess you could count the Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary, but that’s a remake of a game we’ve played a dozen times. In the wake of their competitor’s new hardware, the 360 needs something that will pop and keep their audience’s attention.

Me and my big mouth.

Just when I thought Microsoft was out of ideas… they prove me right. The way I see it there are four kinds of gamers: 1.) Gamers who’ll love Halo forever. 2.) Gamers who can’t stand Halo anymore. 3.) Gamers who love Bungie and think this game will suck because it’s not made by them. 4.) Gamers who hate Bungie and think this game might be an improvement because it’s not made by them.  [Pranger’s Note: 5.) Gamers who couldn’t care less.] If this were five-to-seven years from now, than I can see this teaser being epic beyond belief. Yet regardless of where you fall in the above list, announcing a whole new Halo trilogy not a year after Bungie completed their run of the series with Reach just feels like the most safe, cheap, and uninspired thing they could do.

Nintendo

For the third time in a row, we start with some Déjà vu: Nintendo opens with Zelda. But wait, this isn’t about Skyward Sword, a game that was suppose to release last January, oh no. Nintendo announces in the wake of the series 25th Anniversary that the Zelda orchestra will be performing in concerts across the world. While this is definitely a treat (because as we have discussed on this site before, Zelda music is AWESOME!) I just wish we had a confirmed release date for the game. We’ll just have to settle for “sometime this holiday” for now.

Then it was on to some 3DS news. After the portable’s lackluster launch library, Reggie introduces a whole batch of games that are certain to come by the end of the year, including Star Fox, Mario Kart, the new Super Mario (Tanooki! Yay!), Kid Icarus Uprising (Multiplayer! Yay!), as well as the surprise return of an infamous GameCube launch title that took a whole decade to get a sequel.

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Besides those, as well as confirming that Skyward Sword will in fact be on the Wii, that’s really the only games Nintendo showed this year. By now, we’ve all heard the rumors of Nintendo’s new upcoming console, and even before this convention started we all knew it would be the biggest news of the whole Expo. With that, Nintendo pulled the curtain on the console that made us all question if it was even a console: The Nintendo Wii U.

Cue the hoards of Kung Pow references.

I almost don’t even know where to begin. Yes, it is an actual console, even though Nintendo focused strictly on the controller, which in-and-of-itself is an impressive piece of hardware. Yes, the console is backwards compatible with the Wii and can allow the Wiimote controller to interact with the screen on the new controller. Yes, it is an HD system running on 1080p. Yes, third party developers are already jumping on, bringing hardcore games like Batman Arkham City, Darksiders 2, and Ninja Gaiden 3 to the system. All this is great news.

BUT, there is still far too much left in the dark. Besides the third party support, there were no actual games confirmed for the system yet, with trailers showing only tech demos. (They did slyly throw out the name “Smash Bros,” but they have to show me first. THEN they can have all my money they want.) With controllers this huge and complex, how expensive will they be? For all we know, this system could still be over a year away from launch, but they hardly showed us any new Wii games to keep us busy until then.

Once again, Nintendo has demonstrated yet another piece of tech that could very well change the gaming industry, yet since we’ve had that exact reaction when the Wii was first unveiled and have since seen how that turned out, forgive us for being a little more cautious this time around.

And That’s Not All…

Link, Kratos, and Master Chief can duke it out all they want. Meanwhile, there are so many amazing third party games that it’s hard not to please anyone this year, thanks to stuff like this absolutely gorgeous side-scroller from Ubisoft:

How have I never played this series? I will definitely change that.

  • Elder Scrolls V, Skyrim: An absolute show stealer. Those dragons look outstanding.
  • Assasins Creed Revelations: Honestly do not know how those games get better every year.
  • Star Wars The Old Republic: Still no launch date. Sad day.
  • Batman Arkham City: Get to play as Catwoman? Sweetness!
  • Bioshock Infinite: Sometimes, the best sequels are ones that forget they’re a sequel and do their own thing entirely… like going from the Seaworld to Skyworld.
  • El Shaddai, Ascension of the Metatron: The demo is available online. I command everyone to download it from Xbox Live or PSN IMMEDIATELY!

With the exception of the last one, none of these were real surprises, though they’re all shaping out to be great. But lets go to something that was actually a new development. Insomniac Games, who worked exclusively for Sony for the past 16 years with the distinction of never, ever, EVER making a bad game, announced last year that they would be working on a whole new property with EA Partners to go multiplatform. Even though they already had both Resistance 3 and Ratchet and Clank All 4 One set to release this fall, they somehow made room to announce a third game: A four player co-op super-spy adventure with a great sense of style, personally, humor, unique weapons, and stellar writing the company is known for.

Thanks Insomniac.

And with that, I am officially exhausted. So tell me, what are you all excited for?

Want to talk about games? We got you covered:

Five remakes we should have seen at E3

Ten Games That Changed Everything

Top 10 Things About E3 I’m Sick Of

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