You may remember some of my past efforts to highlight my meager collection of press materials from E3. There was this series of videos I recorded where I pointed a camera at piles of press kits, discs and swag and I’ve featured some individual items on the site before. But now it’s time to get serious.
As a test and a first offering I recorded the contents of Kalisto’s E3 2000 press discs not too long ago. Using Xsplit I laid out multiple scenes to offer an all-inclusive look at the screenshots, info, concept art, packshots and trailers contained on the discs, AND the disc images are on archive.org if anyone should need them. Why Kalisto? It was the first pair of discs I grabbed.
I hope to do some more soon, especially the discs with unreleased games on them. Those are always fun to dive into. But beyond the personal enjoyment it’s just another effort in preserving what I can of this industry’s practices and history. I hope you like it!
This isn’t merely the opposite of yesterday’s “oh yeah” list. These aren’t games I hate or have lost faith in. No Man’s Sky and The Last Guardian are still must-plays for me but this is the year that my pessimism for these long-promised games equaled or surmounted my excitement. For the rest, these are just things from E3 that gave me pause or raised a concerned eyebrow.
Again, organized alphabetically by PlayStation 4 and Xbox One console exclusives and then by multiplatform
Dreams (PlayStation 4 from Media Molecule)
The presentation was gorgeous and delightful but as soon as I started thinking about it as a retail product my brain melted. I get the 3D sculpting with the controller and its motion sensors but how can you animate and script intricate vignettes while feeling like an ethereal dream? And is the experience only in watching others creations or can you build playable games? I’m impressed but skeptical of how well it will work and if a large enough audience will support it.
The Last Guardian (PlayStation 4 from Sony)
Don’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of Team ICO and Fumito Ueda; there was even a time when I wrote fan fiction for ICO. So what’s more surprising than finally seeing The Last Guardian in action on PlayStation 4 is thinking that maybe it’s too little, too late. Granted, the scene that was on display was reportedly from early in the game but the animation, puzzle design and slow pace only felt nostalgic, not exciting and fresh. Another incomprehensible boy, another companion whose inevitable death will hang over your head for the entire game, another lifeless, Escher-esque castle.
By the time The Last Guardian is out it will have been 15 years since the original ICO and after the demo I’m a little worried that all we’re getting is a mashup of it and Shadow of the Colossus. I’ll still buy it on day one and probably put all these concerns behind me once I’m playing it. But right here and now I’m wondering if it could ever live up to the years of hopes and expectations.
No Man’s Sky (PlayStation 4 and PC from Hello Games)
Similar to the predicament with The Last Guardian, No Man’s Sky has touted and promised and tweaked our excitement for so long now that I can’t help but worry. The most dismaying moment was during the E3 demo where Hello Games’ Sean Murray comes upon a growing battle between starships. He says this is the boundary of the two factions and that the player can choose to engage (at which point he takes a few shots at a ship) or not, and he zooms off to a random point in the game’s infinite space.
What’s troublesome is that there’s no context given for the warring factions, hell, there’s barely even sound effects. It’s simply a bunch of 3D models moving around one another and it’s seemingly up to my imagination to explain why I care. At one time randomly generated content promised that you could play a game forever with personally unique experiences. Nowadays it just feels like a lot of lifeless repetition. With an infinite universe of lifeless repetition randomly spewn out it’s no wonder the shiny mystery of No Man’s Sky is starting to fade.
Again, that’s how I feel right now with loads of questions yet to be answered about the game. And even with those concerns I’ll be right there on launch day, ready to be wowed, hoping to have my fears put to rest.
Crackdown (Xbox One from Microsoft Games Studios)
Yeah yeah, it’ll get its big reveal at Gamescom but I was nonetheless bummed to hear it wasn’t going to be at E3. That’s all, no huge concerns over game design or nostalgia on this one… yet.
Sea of Thieves (Xbox One from Rare)
For me, this game looks like nothing. A pirate themed MMO with PVP, no thank you. But beyond my own personal baggage it’s just another in the long history of post-Nintendo Rare games that doesn’t feel like a Rare game. Great looking water though, I’ll give ‘em that.
HD Remake/Collections (Every damn platform)
Yes, I have been excited about some HD remake/collections in the past, usually for very old games or unexpected comebacks. Where it gets bad is when you spend more time at your press conference talking about Dishonored: Definitive Edition than the sequel to it you just announced. Or when you charge the same for the singular Gears of War remake as you do for the 4-in-1 Master Chief Collection. Or when a good portion of your first-party lineup includes a remake of God of War 3, a collection of Uncharted titles, and a standalone offering of Last of Us DLC. It wouldn’t be nearly as painful to see these collections and remakes if there were more new and original titles alongside them. The only thing more painful to see on a release calendar is…
Indie overload (Mostly Xbox One but also PlayStation 4)
At Microsoft’s press conference they detailed four indie games and had their creators come out on stage to demo them. That’s awesome to see these small teams and their games on the bright, world stage of E3! But on the same day Microsoft posted over 30 trailers for indie games to their YouTube channel of wildly different quality. With new releases unceremoniously pushed to the store every week and no more free demos, how do you keep track of what’s good? How do you find anything in one, three or five years when the store is swollen with releases? Sadly, Phil Spencer’s answer is simply that “the good games sell well and the bad games don’t”.
It’s what I have come to think of as Indie Cannon Fodder. Exposure of any kind is great for a small team and their game but it feels unfair and disingenuous to me. They work hard, sometimes for years, to bring their game to a release and it’s shot aimlessly like a single bullet in a firestorm. The chances of anyone seeing it after the first week where it might be featured on the storefront is slim. This behavior marginalizes independent games at the same time that it brings them to market. It’s dysfunctional and complicated and maybe it’s not a big deal to developers. I don’t really have a solution, just observations, but it’s definitely something I kept dwelling on looking over E3 press materials.
If all this makes me sound like a crazy old man, check out yesterday’s post about all the things at E3 I liked
I went into E3 this year not expecting much. The things I’ve been drawn to aren’t the kinds of games that get much attention on fancy stages or in the deluge of coverage from major sites. Sadly, there were less of those games that grabbed me than any year before. But that’s not something to dwell on today. Nope, this post is all about the stuff that got me hype, made me nod approvingly, smirk with satisfaction or tap my toe frantically with anticipation.
Alphabetical by PlayStation 4, Xbox One and 3DS console exclusives and then by multiplatform
ABZU (PlayStation 4 from Giant Squid)
Several former thatgamecompany employees formed Giant Squid and it shows in PlayStation 4 exclusive, ABZU. It’s Journey, but underwater. At least, that’s what everyone keeps saying. I love underwater exploration and despite my interpretation of the ending, I loved Journey as an experience. So I’m sold on this one from what I’ve seen.
Firewatch (PlayStation 4 and PC from Campo Santo)
You can joke about not knowing what Firewatch is but from what I’ve seen already, I’m in. I love the remote setting and the almost mundane feel of the tension I’ve seen so far. It’s not end-of-the-world sci-fi and it isn’t over the top, torture porn, crazy mountain man horror. It’s a mystery and if the game in hand feels like the trailers then it’s just the right mix of exploration, introspection and danger for me.
Horizon: Zero Dawn (PlayStation 4 from Guerilla Games)
I think just about everyone will list this one as a surprise. Gone is the passe gameplay of the Killzone series, replaced by a gorgeous, post-post-apocalyptic world where tribal humans inhabit a world of robotic animals. Hunting, crafting and survival ensue as you, no doubt, will come to unravel what happened to our world. It’s one of my favorite settings and the twist with the robot animals is all the more enticing. The only thing I don’t like is the title. It’s supremely forgettable and any 3 random words would fit just as poorly. Vanished: Tomorrow’s Ascent. Primal: Evolution Imperative. Robots: And Arrows, wait, that legitimately explains something about the game.
NieR New Project (PlayStation 4 from Square Enix)
Against all odds, I am a fan of a modern JRPG. NieR was just weird enough to offset the melodramatic babblings of its horrible anime characters to keep me playing. It’s also set in a distant future, long after our modern civilization is nothing but ruins. I told you, I like that stuff. NieR New Project sounds like it’ll be more of the same with a combat system beefed up by Platinum Games’ expertise. So far it’s just a bunch of concept art with Japanese names attached to it but I am simply happy and totally surprised to see it coming back.
Rise of the Tomb Raider (Xbox One from Crystal Dynamics)
The murderous avalanche chase scene from the E3 demo wasn’t all that exciting but the promise of more actual tombs to explore was. Also, yay Jonah! Unfortunately, Tomb Raider comes out on the same day as Fallout 4 which means I’m not going to be playing it any time in 2015, maybe not even 2016.
Tacoma (Xbox One and PC from Fullbright)
I liked Gone Home. It had atmosphere and for the first hour I was certain things were going to kill or chase me even though I knew they weren’t. It was palpable. The only thing that could’ve made it better is if it were set in an even more mysterious space station so Tacoma is hitting all the right buttons and I’m very much looking forward to it.
Gotcha Racing (Nintendo 3DS from Natsume)
There’s just something that seems pleasant and fun about this little top-down racing game. The way the action expands across both screens looks neat and car upgrades are doled out via gashapon capsules. It’s no colossal mega-hit but I’m into it.
ADR1FT (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from Three One Zero)
This one falls into my newly-coined favorite genre of entertainment: Space Calamity. It’s probably amped up because we’re currently listening to the audiobook of The Martian but even on its own ADR1FT looks terrifying and tense in all the ways that video games usually aren’t. Unfortunately, it’s another September release but if it’s a short enough experience maybe I’ll squeeze it in around the major timesinks of Metal Gear and Fallout 4.
Fallout 4 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from Bethesda)
UGH! Can it just be September already!? As a latecomer to Fallout 3 and New Vegas I’m even more excited to jump into Fallout 4 alongside everyone else. The layers of mechanics revealed at Bethesda’s show hit me with waves of amazement. You get to see the world pre-apocalypse ~WHOOSH~ There’s base building now ~WHOOSH~ The guns and power armor are immensely modable ~WHOOSH~ All the junk in the world can be broken down for parts ~WHOOSH~ The Junk Jet is a gun that uses all that junk as ammo. ~WHOOSH~ September can’t get here soon enough!
Hitman (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from Io-Interactive)
I went into Hitman Absolution ready to love it but with each new chapter I would exclaim with increasing desperation: it’s still not over!? I came out of it washing my hands of the series and initially wrote off this E3 reveal. Thanks to some show-floor impressions, though, I’m back on board. It sounds like Io is trying to get back to the classic Hitman strategy while pushing forward with unique and intelligent new mechanics in an… open world? There’s loads more I need to know first but I’ll once again toss my hat into Hitman’s ring.
Just Cause 3 (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from Avalanche Studios)
I giggled at the original teasers for Just Cause 3 but after the showing at E3 (and the reactions from seeming everyone who saw it) it’s officially my new December video game. It’s like the Mercenaries sequel I always wanted. It’s like a new Red Faction Guerrilla only more destructible. It’s like Just Cause 2 but even crazier. I don’t really need to see or hear any more to know I’m in.
Mass Effect Andromeda (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from BioWare)
Some have scoffed at the Johnny Cash/space cowboy teaser trailer but for me, I’ll take just about anything Mass Effect at this point! Things may change by next E3 but for now it fills my head with dreams of new adventures in a familiar (and not-so-familiar) universe. And hopefully one that isn’t so damn fate-of-the-universe serious so I can have some fun.
Metal Gear Solid V (Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC from Kojima Productions)
The best news I could possibly hear about The Phantom Pain from E3 is that it’s mostly an HD follow-up to Peace Walker. Having just spent 90 hours consumed with that game — and only walking away because I ran out of things to do — it was all I needed to hear. Story be damned. Kiefer Sutherland be damned. I am SO very ready for Kojima’s swan song.
SteamWorld Heist (Just about every platform but 3DS first, from Image & Form)
Finally! I’ve been waiting to find out what SteamWorld Heist is for ages and after E3, I finally know. It’s side-scrolling XCOM. Got it. Yeah, that’s reductive but so are any further details on the game so for now I’ll just say I’m down with it.
I’ll be back soon with my sorta opposite list: Things that make me say ‘oh… umm’.
UPDATE: I found a huge listing of all of the ID@Xbox games if you want to read a little more about some of the indie games. It’s not hard to find the big headlines from Microsoft’s E3 2014 press conference today but a few little coins always sink down into the couch cushions. Here’s what bubbled up from the ensuing press release explosion.
The Xbox 360 didn’t get mentioned out loud at the conference but Microsoft isn’t quite ready to put their past-gen console out to pasture. Coming, presumably through 2015, to the console are:
- Forza Horizon 2
- Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel
- Ori and the Blind Forest
- Project Spark
- Magic 2015 – Duels of the Planeswalkers
D4, the Kinect-centric game from Deadly Premonition creator, SWERY, is now touted as having Kinect and controller support. The four D’s also stand for: Dark Dreams Don’t Die. I’m not sure if I ever heard that last year. D4 is out in 2014.
While Xbox One games like Ori are falling back onto Xbox 360, Microsoft announced that the 360’s free-to-play “online multiplayer action game”, Happy Wars, will make the jump to Xbox One. To be released before the end of 2014, the Xbox One version will include a story-driven campaign mode and support for up to 30 players. I have no idea if those are just the same features from the 360 version.
Somewhere towards the end of the show Microsoft shot off a rapid fire reel of indie games coming by way of their ID@Xbox initiative. The first few listed below are worth pointing out because they appeared on Microsoft’s press site but not in the footage at the show. The rest are coming to other platforms or are already available on PC so I won’t go into detail but here’s a handy list for anyone looking.
- Another World/Out of this World
- There Came an Echo
- Fenix Rage
- Knight Squad
- Plague Inc. Evolved
- White Night
- Hyper Light Drifter
- Lifeless Planet
- Slash Dash
- Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime
- Might No. 9