Well E3 is well and truly here, and on the day before the show floor opens up to a hungry press, two of the console companies along with EA and Ubisoft held press conferences to demonstrate their latest and (hopefully) greatest, and of course, to brag about games/consoles sold.
Microsoft Press Conference
First up, bright and early at 9:30 was Microsoft’s presser and their emphasis was as clear as day: lots of Xbox Kinect, much like last year. Aside from a few demos of intriguing, moan and groan filled Tomb Raider, from Crystal Dynamics, an utterly predictable dose of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, a demo of Gears of War 3 with Cliffy B and the ever enthusiastic Ice T and a few somewhat inevitable Halo announcements, the bulk of the show was given over to Kinect.
Core titles such as Mass Effect 3 were shown to utilise voice commands of the Kinect, to select dialogue and instruct your squad, along with Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, which demo’ed an insanely detailed weapon customisation system.
The rest was regrettably, mainly on-rails Kinect games such as Ryse, an action title set during the fall of Rome, Star Wars Kinect, set just after Episode One and Fable: Journey. And of course what would Kinect be without the obligatory sports and kids games stiffly simulated by fake families and children?
Microsoft’s primary offering to the core audience was a remake of the original Halo, a game that “changed the way we play shooters” (I’ll leave it up to you to make your mind up about that) and Halo 4, which is to be made by 34 industries to begin a new trilogy. Commence sighs of indifference.
EA Press Conference
Next up was EA in the Orpheum theatre, which thankfully got to the real meat of matters, and markedly perked up disengaged attendees. We got to see a nice gameplay demo of Mass Effect 3 which exhibited the epic scale of battles they hope to offer as well as the lovely visuals, followed by an announcement of a March 6th 2012 release date.
Insomniac announced a brand new shooter based in the future called Overstrike featuring a charismatic team of four, EA Sports unveiled Football Club, an online service to tie in all EA Soccer games.
Bioware also threw out a new, admittedly epic Star Wars: The Old Republic CG trailer and not one thing more, and when I say ‘new’, I mean some parts of it were new.
But the real showstopper that made a fairly mediocre presser, comparatively awesome, was Battlefield 3, which showed a glimpse of that coveted multiplayer followed by a lengthy gameplay demo of a tank section. The graphics, as expected were pure insanity and the realism and physics really make this game a front runner for shooter of the year. As John Riccitiello said, unlike other conferences, it was just developers talking about their works, (aside from the NFL stars they shoved on stage in defiance of such philosophy) which gave it a relatively dignified edge.
Ubisoft Press Conference
I had low expectations for Ubisoft to say the least, given their embarrassing shenanigans last year with virtual Laser Tag, but they actually made a fairly strong showing.
After the initial talk of their celebration of 25 years, the side-platformer Rayman Origins was shown with some really inventive levels including a Tetris parody of sorts, and then a nice trailer for previously shown Driver: San Francisco.
Then came the best surprise: Far Cry 3. Set on a jungle island, with a crazy man whose mouth needs to be washed out with soap, who tries to execute you. We were treated to a little bit of gameplay with some nice explosions and some good old knifing, which is rare for a first reveal for a game.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier also got a good showing and looks to be a solid co-op shooter.
Skipping Your Shape 2012, Just Dance 3 and a few other obvious previews, let’s move onto the Tin Tin movie tie in game, which featured video interviews with Steven Spielberg and others and looks rather endearing and is sure to bring back childhood memories.
There was a new Raving Rabbids game that utilises Kinect augmented reality with lots of mini-games that looked kind of fun in a goofy way.
Finally the next instalment of Assassin’s Creed was demonstrated, with new features such as flamethrowers, ziplines and explosives. AC: Revelations looks set to be a fitting conclusion to Ezio’s funky-accented adventures.
Quietly forgetting Aaron Priceman “Mr. Caffeine” and some of the most cringy lines so far, Ubisoft kept things moving in the order of day in being better than the last, and doing themselves pretty proud on their 25th anniversary.
Sony Press Conference
Finally, the day gave way to arguably the most anticipated event, simply because it could have gone a lot of different routes. Sony’s extravaganza was, most agree, a pretty impressive showing. The big question was how they were going to address the elephant in the stadium, the PSN outage. Amazingly, Jack Tretton got to the point swiftly and delivered a sincere apology in an astute manner, not only to the consumers, but to the third party developers, who arguably lost a great deal more.
Having cleared that up Sony went onto a great show. Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception looked stunning, in this instance, set on a aging cruise ship, explosions, sinking and upside-down hallway navigating ensued and, as always, it looked bloody fantastic.
A nice surprise, in the form of a brand new Sly Cooper game, arrived; ‘Thieves in Time’ was announced, though there wasn’t much other information.
And, determined to push the 3D experience, with almost the same conviction as Microsoft with the Kinect, the extent to which Sony has accommodated 3D games was spoken about at length before announcing a Playstation Branded TV with glasses included, that can display two different images for co-op and costs $499 — not too shabby.
Resistance 3 also got a great looking demo and trailer and Ken Levine took the stage to announce exclusive content in Bioshock: Infinite for the PS3 (content exclusivity for a number of games incidentally seemed to be another strong theme) and Move support, explaining how he’d come round to the idea, despite his initial reluctance displayed in interviews (I don’t blame you Ken!).
The main event, however, was the now formally named Playstation Vita (formerly known as the Playstation NGP). It was demo’ed with a number of great games including a PS3-worthy Uncharted: Golden Abyss, Modnation Racers and many more, the PS Vita looks great, and appears to intuitively use the touch and tilt controls. The real big news was the price: Just $249 for the Wifi version and $299 for the Wifi/3G model — very competitive in comparison with the Nintendo 3DS.
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