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Let’s ignore Sonic’s checkered past for one day – he’s 25 today!

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It’s Sonic’s 25th Anniversary today and Amazon is the winner so far for unexpected tributes. The homepage features the video above wherein Sonic runs past his numerous, sometimes questionable milestones without flashing a hint of embarrassment at pretty much everything past 1999. They even picked Palmtree Panic from Sonic CD for the music instead of the typical Green Hill Zone tune! Good on ya Amazon, now go buy some Sonic stuff and help me make a few pennies.

In related celebratory Sonic news, the indie game music label Materia Collective is releasing a huge remix album at some point today. It sounds classy as hell from this preview track, I’m looking forward to hearing the rest. And poking around Bandcamp yesterday I came upon this totally outstanding rearranged album from 2012, Mindwipe Goes Sonic. Damn it’s good!

If you haven’t seen it elsewhere there’s also a Sonic Humble Bundle going on but they’ve broken it up so every tier has at least one of the games you’d really want in a Sonic collection. That t-shirt in the $35 tier is preeeeetty tempting though.

Happy B-Day Sonic! Here’s to a comeback title I can finally get into.

E3 by Me3: Sony

That’s E3 by Me, Me, Me because all I’m doing is writing how I feel about the show. I’m not giving each company a “report card” and I’m not declaring that anybody “won E3”

Sony’s showing was downright spartan and I’m not talking about the emotionally unstable father figure that opened the show in the God of War demo. It all took place on a single theater stage with a single screen at center. No 180-degree, sweeping projected animations, no secret entrances from the middle of the stage, no elaborate synchronized light displays. The biggest to-do about Sony’s show was that the music in many demos and transitions was played by a live orchestra conducted by Bear McCreary. The whole thing felt very scaled back in presentation but it wound up a tie with Microsoft for the number of games I wish I could play right now.

Before anyone set foot on stage, however, the show launched with a demo of God of War. I looked around as the father and son duo attempted to hunt a deer while fighting lava trolls but I couldn’t find a way to care less. The ‘Dad Card’ has been played in so many games over the years and I was never a fan of Kratos so it’ll take more than a brief demo to sway me.

In short order, SIE Chairman, Shawn Layden introduced an entirely new game from Bend Studio, Days Gone. The game actually opened and closed the conference with two separate demos and showed a world overrun by “freakers” (don’t call ‘em zombies!) where bounty hunter and former biker, Deacon St. John attempts to make a living. It almost looks to be an action puzzle game where you manipulate the environment to bottleneck and whittle down World War Z-sized hordes of zombies. The undulating floods of zom– Freakers not only looked impressive, their speed and swarming behavior puts enough of a wrinkle on the good ol’ zombie trope to get me excited.

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The Last Guardian finally has a release date and that is literally the only other thing I needed to know about that game. I’m sold, Day One, all the way! Next up was a new demo of Horizon: Zero Dawn that introduced us to NPC townsfolk, wild animal taming and an explosive boss battle that destroyed an unfortunate village. The game continues to expand in scope each time we see it and it’s only ratcheting up my anticipation. Then we saw some actual gameplay of Detroit, the new game from David Cage that looks to tell a handful of android sob stories that’d make Philip K. Dick proud. The demo did a fantastic job of showing how one scenario could play out numerous different ways. I just hope the actual game is as swift and doesn’t require complete new playthroughs to see some alternative situations.

Next was the inevitable PlayStation VR segment that revealed Resident Evil 7 to the world as one of the first big name games to be playable in VR and on a TV. The rest of the showcase featured mostly VR “experiences” that I have no interest in with Farpoint being the potential exception. Not that it’s an exclusive but the Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare demo was the first extended footage I’d seen and, wow, was it impressive! This may be the first entry I play since Call of Duty 2.

At this point Shawn Layden returned to the stage accompanied by the bounding shadow of none other than Crash Bandicoot. The licensing with Activision must be a nightmare to have teased this reveal for so long but finally we’ll get… oh, it’s just remastered versions of Crash 1, 2 and 3. He’s also appearing in the new Skylanders but whatever. I seem to be on the verge of playing the original game at a moment’s notice anyways so this will only make it easier to jump into.

Finally, Andrew House took the stage to introduce the return of Hideo Kojima after his falling out with Konami. He raced down the fancy projected pathway to tease us with a glimpse of his new title: Death Stranding. It stars a naked Norman Reedus who laments the death of an infant that’s attached to him by a metallic umbilical cord. Handprints patter across his body as the camera reveals he’s on a beach surrounded by dead marine life. Five mysterious figures float in the sky above him. Welcome back Kojima, no one does batshit crazy quite like you! Whatever it is and whenever it is, I’m there!

E3 by Me3: Microsoft

That’s E3 by Me, Me, Me because all I’m doing is writing how I feel about the show. I’m not giving each company a “report card” and I’m not declaring that anybody “won E3”

Microsoft’s show made owning an Xbox One for the past three years feel like a huge mistake. Coming off of the beloved 360 they stumbled their way around an always-on future that they ultimately redacted and they’re just now back on point. On top of previously announced games (that still aren’t out) they had quite a few titles at this year’s E3 conference that I labeled in my notes as ‘YESYESYES’.

The show opened with this year’s worst kept secret, the Xbox One S. While the reduced size is immensely tempting, I’d be a fool to buy one having played so few games on the current Xbox One and with Scorpio looming on the horizon. I think I’ll just invest in one of the customizable controllers instead. Like this one.

I was surprised to find Forza Horizon 3 winning me over with each passing minute of its demo. For whatever reason, Horizon 1 and 2 never grabbed me despite my love of arcade racing action and the very comparable Test Drive Unlimited series. But the combination of Australia, Lamborghinis, off-road trophy trucks and more of those race-a-flying-thing events added up to a YES in my book.

Now we skip over more stuff like Recore, The Division and Battlefield 1 to the next big innovation: background music. The crowd’s roar at this upcoming “feature” was amazing. For a company that defined custom soundtracks it’s really sad that they’ve taken this long to work it into the console. Xbox Live’s other new features, however, are totally not my thing. Arenas, Clubs and “looking for group” sound really useful for people who play multiplayer with lots of different friends. But I’m the single player, loner type who isn’t even interested in talking to Cortana who’s also coming in a Dashboard update.

The Minecraft news was astounding and awesome even though I don’t play much anymore. Honest, congrats to them! Inside, whatever that actually is, continued to look fascinating (and will be the next thing I play on Xbox) in just a couple of weeks. Next up was Chris Charla with the ID@Xbox montage. This was one of the only times at E3 that I raised my hands and whooped and it was at the sight of FAR. One of my top twenty from the IGF this year, the game had gone silent and I was starting to worry. Seeing it couched next to Slime Rancher, Bloodstained and Below was a happy surprise. It was also nice to see them focus on fewer titles than in previous indie reels, though most of them I wasn’t interested in.

The one indie game they spent a chunk of time with was We Happy Few. It’s like Fahrenheit 451 fell into BioShock and dragged itself through a pool of smarmy 1960’s UK sarcasm on the way in. I get the narrative “walking simulator” vibe from it as there wasn’t a whole lot of interaction but I’m into whatever it is. In exact opposition was the ludicrous fight scene between Street Fighter’s Akuma and Tekken’s Heihachi in the reveal of Tekken 7. I’m not liable to ever buy it but I’m happy to see Tekken is still kicking around.

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Now we enter the zombie block, the most overwrought modern day game design trope that I somehow never tire of. Frank West’s return in Dead Rising 4 has reignited my interest in the series after skipping the last several entries but I’m really most excited for State of Decay 2. Not much was shown but the core looks to be intact and can only be expanded upon which is plenty enough for me.

I went into Rare’s Sea of Thieves demo ready to write it off as something I never want to engage with. As soon as it reminded me of ArcheAge, though, I started to change my tune. The teamwork involved to man a pirate ship looked cool and had potential to be hilarious with friends. I really liked the scrambling to get the ship ready when the players spotted a distant enemy. The ship-on-ship battles also looked fun and frantic and I love being able to patch up holes to keep the ship from sinking. As long as there’s exploring and looting as well I could maybe get real deep into this!

I’ve been out of the Xbox ecosystem for over a year but Microsoft’s showing this time around won me over in a lot of ways. It’s not going to be my main console anytime soon but there are now as many exclusives coming to Xbox One as PlayStation 4 that I want to play and that’s a very welcomed E3 surprise.

E3 by Me3: Ubisoft

That’s E3 by Me, Me, Me because all I’m doing is writing how I feel about the show. I’m not giving each company a “report card” and I’m not declaring that anybody “won E3”

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I came into Ubisoft’s show about 15 minutes late as we raced home from work and started making dinner. It wasn’t hard to tune out most of the show though and focus on these delicious Huevos Rancheros Quesadillas we cooked. We were finally ready to eat at the tail end of the show which was where all the “Shawn” stuff was hiding anyways.

With the addition of building-scaling parkour in Watch_Dogs 2 Ubisoft is finally making the cyber Assassin’s Creed I’ve always wanted. Even still, there were way too many hackable scissor lifts in the demo that reminded me of Aiden’s fear of climbing in the original. So long, streetwalker. I love a game that lets you do things stupid-loud or ultra-stealth so the emphasis they put on multiple play styles is very much appreciated. Generally just looking forward to ghosting my way around The City this November.

Then they closed with President Yves Guillemot revealing a totally new IP, Steep. To me it feels like the spiritual sequel to SSX 3, my favorite entry in the series. It’s more realistic but not as dire as the 2012 reboot and like SSX 3, it simply plops you down on a big open mountain world to have fun. The combination of snowboards, skis, wingsuits and parachutes adds plenty of variety and the multiplayer interactivity is right at my comfort level. Other players inhabit your game world but you aren’t directly competing against them. The demo reminded me of how much I miss a good Xtreme sports title and how rare they’ve been outside of Trials clones these past several years.

Rewinding to the beginning of the show, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands was the only other game that got me excited. It’s Grand Theft Auto Online with a mission structure, I can’t not love this! The environments looked detailed and sprawling and the movement from stealthy infiltration to wild car/bike/train/helicopter chase scene catered to both sides of my lizard brain.

I was pretty flat on most everything in between these fantastic bookends. The South Park segment was a waste of my time, the competitive VR title, Eagle Flight, and VR Star Trek were of no interest and The Division update was a snooze. I could take or leave For Honor, it’s got some cool style to its combat  but I probably won’t be paying full price to check it out. The mashup of Trials and Far Cry Blood Dragon was hilariously 80’s infused and tugged at my nostalgia (both for 80’s toys and Trials gameplay). I almost bought it after the show… but didn’t. Even the sequel to Grow Home, a game I really enjoyed, didn’t excite me. By the end of Grow Home I was more than happy to be done with it and now Grow Up looks to simply make the same gameplay loop a lot longer. Thanks little BUD, but no thanks.

Like EA and Bethesda before them, I’m just happy I found a few things at Ubisoft’s show that I’m into to confirm I still have a pulse.

E3 by Me3: Bethesda

That’s E3 by Me, Me, Me because all I’m doing is writing how I feel about the show. I’m not giving each company a “report card” and I’m not declaring that anybody “won E3”

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Even more so than EA, Bethesda made a handful of comments that felt downright honest about their commitment to fans. At one point they even threw up a 3×3 grid of their teams from around the world applauding their players. Man, press conferences aren’t really for the press nor are they conferences anymore. With that in mind it’s hard to picture there not being an E3; it’s quickly evolving into fan appreciation livestreams. For what it’s worth I believed them even more than EA while at the same time not really caring much about what they’ve got coming.

Fallout 4 continues to become Minecraft with new DLC adding logic systems, conveyor belts and practically the entire experience of Fallout Shelter with user created Vaults. It even does the cutaway, side view as your “test subjects” go about their underground lives. I really should finish the base game, maybe I’d be more hyped up for this stuff beyond just how expansive Fallout 4 is becoming.

Speaking of expansive, Dishonored 2 sure has a lot of ways to kill dudes: Mid-air grapple kills. Voodoo doll multi-kills where linked enemies share the horrible death inflicted on a single target. Long distance vertical kills. Multiple ways to stab people in the neck. Black magic, smoke monster face stabs. The game is lavishly detailed and the world is so enticing to explore but all the animations felt ultra janky. All those cool kills looked disjointed and lacked impact. For a “AAA” title that’s five months away I expected it to be much more polished. Meanwhile, that new Prey seemed trippy with its Groundhog Day premise that led into a reality twisting escape from an alien vessel.

Beyond these couple of “high points” the show just wasn’t winning me over. Quake: don’t care. Stuff in VR: don’t care. Elder Scrolls Online: don’t care. Elder Scrolls card game: really, really don’t care. Skyrim Remastered: don’t care. DOOM DLC: don’t care… but I will grab that “freeware” version of DOOM to see how poorly it runs on my laptop (and how much better it performs on PS4).