A Disappointing E3

Normally, I’m awash with excitement when E3 time rolls around.  New games, and new consoles last time, have me brimming with joy and leave me on edge until the next holiday season so I can pick up the fantastic games that were on show.  For various reasons, some beyond the control of the presenters, I didn’t really have that this year – and E3 was a bit of a damp squib.

E3 sets the tone for gaming over the next year, sort of like a State of the Gaming Industry event, and as I’ve still to step into the next generation of consoles, I hoped that I’d find some sort of direction as to which I should pick up.

I watched Microsoft’s conference on Monday afternoon and was underwhelmed.  Their first-party exclusives have never really appealed to me all that much, as I’m indifferent to likes of Halo, Gears of War and Fable, and E3 didn’t change that.  The Master Chief collection of all previous major Halo releases on Xbox One was perhaps the biggest first-party announcement that Microsoft made at E3, so that passed me by completely.  The third-party games on show also failed to delight me, with Evolve being perhaps the most interesting of the ones shown and Sunset Overdrive the most fun.  With a complete disregard for anything but games, Microsoft may have given owners of the Xbox One what they wanted, but as someone who still needs some persuasion to by Microsoft’s new console there was nothing that made me think any more of it.

I then watched EA’s Press Conference, and came away with a feeling of frustration more than anything else.  The next Mass Effect game is what I’ve long since set as the game that I’ll need a next-gen console for, and when Bioware came on stage and the traditional Mass Effect soundtrack favourites began to play I was ready for the announcement.  For a minute the traditional E3 excitement gripped me.  But that excitement quickly dissipated when all we were shown was some concept art of new planets and environments, and the announcement that the game would be handled by Bioware’s Montreal studio whilst their more established development team in Edmonton would work on new IP.  I’m still excited for the new Mass Effect game, and indeed for the new Bioware game, but E3 did absolutely nothing for me – apart from build up my hopes and dash them just as quickly.

EA had little else to show off that piqued my interest.  The new PGA Tour golf game, without Tiger Woods for the first time as they ended their contract over his personal scandals last year, did something new by introducing dynamic enviroments – with the impressive example of a battleship crashing onto the course whilst you are playing.  FIFA 15 was shown, along with the minor updates and new innovations that will make the game slightly different enough to make it worthy of buying.  EA’s centrepiece was unveiling Battlefield: Hardline, the first in the series to step away from military settings, with a demoed encounter between cops and criminals making a getaway from a heist.  It was a fresh take on the traditional formula, but the gameplay looked almost identical, save for different vehicles, and isn’t a game that I’d particularly want to buy.

Sony’s E3 conferences are normally the best, in my opinion, but their scheduling this year put their conference on in the late afternoon in Los Angeles, which meant it began at 1:30 am here in the UK.  I opted against staying up for it, and after seeing the outcome in the morning I’m glad I did.  The main story from Sony’s E3 was the announcement of Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, which looked as graphically fantastic as you would expect as well as teasing the end of protagonist Nathan Drake’s adventures, which would make for an interesting game.  LittleBigPlanet 3 was also unveiled, which was a welcome sight as the premise behind the game is unique in video games and the previous games were top-notch in their delivery and character.  It might also be an unlikely system seller, as many younger gamers or those who got their PS3s along with an earlier LBP game make the shift to the PlayStation 4.

Sony crucially had the upper hand on third-party announcements, which is why I think they won E3.  Grand Theft Auto V coming to next-gen consoles and PC was somewhat a no-brainer, but the fact that Sony was chosen to break the news considering Rockstar’s previous dealings with Microsoft (making GTA IV DLC timed exclusives) is significant.  Having Bungie’s Destiny shown, as well as announcing both Destiny’s alpha and Battlefield: Hardline’s Beta will be PS4 exclusives also makes Sony’s console appear to be favoured amongst developers, at least at EA.

Finally, even though Sony are winning the console war by all accounts at the moment, they announced new features for their platform to make it even better.  A dedicated YouTube app was announced, with the ability to upload straight from the PS4’s built-in DVR which will definitely help appease the section of console owners that were peeved by Sony’s sluggishness in removing HDCP controls to allow for external game recording.  PlayStation Now, the innovative game-streaming service, was also dated for a beta at the end of July for PS4 users, with one at a later date for those with PS3s and Vitas.

The final main player at E3 was Nintendo, who are in rapid danger of falling into irrelevancy.  They brought out their major franchises at least, with the proper unveiling of a new generation of Pokemon games for the 3DS as well as a look at The Legend of Zelda for Wii U proving popular.  Aside from those two, though, there is little in the way of games that will attract people to Nintendo’s consoles, and it seems as though this year might be just as tough for them as they compete with the more powerful boxes of Microsoft and Sony.

With no real anticipation for any of the games shown at E3, it’s got to go down as one of the more disappointing events in memory for me.  I was hoping to have an idea as to which console I’d want to get, maybe around Christmas-time, but with no games really being must-buys on next-gen consoles for the foreseeable future, it might be next year before I make the move up.

For a full recap of all E3 conferences, announcements and trailers please visit E3recap.com.

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