Another Electronic Entertainment Expo passes all too quickly and while the fanboys still fiercely debate who won the show (the rest of us know it was Sony) it’s time to examine the highs and lows of the press conferences and highlight the best games to look forward to.
The makers of the Xbox 360 kicked things off early on Monday with a showcase of upcoming games opening with an extended demo of Halo 4 and closing with one for Call of Duty – Black Ops 2. The highlight of the show which was officially called Xbox Entertainment Evolved was clearly the demo for the new Tomb Raider which boasted some exciting Uncharted style gameplay with dynamically destructible cover. Although there was no mention of the company’s next console the briefing highlighted plans for upcoming multi-device connectivity software, Xbox SmartGlass, which has so far left gamers somewhat confused as to how it is likely to work with day to day gaming. Despite a decent enough sequence of games shown and a welcome lack of fist-bumping kids it was a slow and rather dull show with no surprises or reveals worth getting excited about. The appearance of Usher on stage to promote Dance Central 3 didn’t help much either.
The PlayStation people had clearly the best showing at this year’s event opening their media briefing with the unveiling of Beyond – Two Souls the next game from Quantic Dream, the makers of Heavy Rain. The game is a story-driven action title about a young woman (played by Ellen Page) with strange powers who can communicate with an invisible entity. As the conference progressed we were treated to demos for God of War – Ascension, Assassin’s Creed III and best of all a seven-minute showing of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us which has proven to be one of the games of the show. Like Microsoft there was no new console on show but Sony did announce a new peripheral called Wonderbook which will work with Move and the PlayStation Eye to create augmented reality experiences and was demonstrated with an all-new Harry Potter game endorsed by J K Rowling herself. It’s an interesting bit of kit but one can’t help but wonder how many people will buy it given who much other hardware you’ll need to make best use of it. Despite the lack of Vita games and a very dull presentation of a new fitness service from Nike the company had the strongest show this year.
All eyes were on the Big N this year as they took to the stage to unveil the first Wii U games and while the presentation started well, with Miyamoto showing off the long-awaited Pikmin 3 the press conference in general was rather underwhelming. The only other major first party titles were New Super Mario Bros. U, another 2D entry in the venerable platform series which was glimpsed during the Nintendo Direct video broadcast before the show, and Nintendo Land, a minigame compilation themed around classic Nintendo franchises that looks set to be the new console’s Wii Sports. There was also Wii Fit U but no-one cares about that. Other titles showcased included Scribblenauts Unlimited which was also confirmed for 3DS, Ubisoft’s London-set Zombi U which has made quite an impression and Batman Arkham City – Armoured Edition. There was no mention of the rumoured Star Fox game Retro Studios are apparently working on and no sign of anything like Metroid or F-Zero. Very little was shown of new 3DS games, the handheld was reserved for a separate, smaller briefing the following day which featured a good demo of Paper Mario – Sticker Star and, of course, another brand new 2D Mario with a strong coin-collecting focus, New Super Mario Bros. 2. Also Fire Emblem Awakening was quietly confirmed for North America afterwards but the showcase involved no new game announcements. The first details for Nintendo’s online plans were unveiled in the form of Miiverse and the company confirmed they will be dropping Friend Codes. It was a slightly limp showing of solid titles but featured no surprises at all, in fact we got the bare minimum of what I was expecting but there’s still time for new titles to be unveiled before the Wii U launches by the end of the year and Pikmin 3 does look excellent.
EA and Ubisoft also held their usual briefings, the former focusing on ten games, all of them sequels in a decent enough showcase. Ubisoft’s show rivaled Sony’s as best of E3 with impressive demos for Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell – Blacklist and Far Cry 3 but saved their best for last with the announcement of Watch Dogs, a new IP set in a world of hacking in which you can remotely access information about NPCs and hack computer systems in real time. After an impressive demo the surprise title quickly became the talk of the show.
So again it was a fairly uninspired E3 with little to trouble the most exciting moments of expos past. Nintendo was particularly disappointing given how easily they could have won the show with an impressive lineup of Wii U games. Still there’s a tantalizing core of good looking titles on the way. Pikmin 3 looks wonderful, as does Paper Mario – Sticker Star and a pair of new Mario platformers is always something to be excited about. I’m very tempted by the Wii U versions of Assassin’s Creed III and Batman Arkham City and Zombi U is very intriguing but this E3 more than ever before has convinced me to go ahead and buy a PS3 and an Xbox 360, not because I want to move away from Nintendo but because there are games I want to experience that I’m missing out on. I’m particularly looking forward to games like Tomb Raider, The Last of Us, Bioshock Infinite (which wasn’t featured this year) and several others besides. Quite when I’ll be able to put up the necessary cash is uncertain but my status as a one-console gamer won’t last too much longer.