E3 2013: Press Conference Roundup
In most years the E3 press conferences don't have much to show us. This was not one of those years.
So the full day of E3's press conferences are over and done with, and while there have been a few disappointments here and there, more than a couple bombshells have been dropped. There've been more than a couple shifts in public opinion, a couple of big announcements, and one or two new reveals. It's been a long day. Still, I'm pretty happy with what's been shown, and this is what I think of it.
First press conference of the day was Microsoft. They've been under a lot of flak lately with all the talk of the DRM present on the Xbox One, and how it negatively affects the gamer's general experience. Personally, it's soured my opinion of the console, but the chances of me picking up are pretty low anyway (I've been happy with Sony's offerings on the Playstation 3). Regardless, they didn't go into this - it was all about the games today. My favourite? Dark Souls II. Anyway, there were a lot of Xbox One game presentations, showing gameplay from titles like Ryse: Son of Rome, Project Spark, and Dead Rising 3. That last one was a particular surprise for me, not as I had completely forgotten about the series for a while now. It's not to say that I wouldn't be looking forward to it - though considering that Dead Rising 2 has come out on PC and PS3, I'll be waiting until this one does too. I'm always up for smashing up a few thousand zombies.
A couple interesting titles stood out (like Project Spark, a game about creating and customizing your own game, like Microsoft's own Little Big Planet 2), but I heard a few comments from people about how there were just a large glut of shooters. This isn't really unusual for a Microsoft press conference - shooters have always been a staple on the console. There were certainly a few differently-genred titles in the mix there, but hopefully there'll be more in the future to whet the appetite of gamers who don't want to shoot things. That shadow of DRM isn't going to go away any time soon though, especially with the way Sony's conference went...
Electronic Arts' conference came next. After buying an overpriced Korean beef burrito outside the conference (I wasn't too happy with this - I didn't have much cash on me) we headed inside to sit down. EA's conference had a few surprises, starting with Garden Warfare: I had seen banners for this in the convention center, but didn't really think a Plants vs. Zombies-themed third- person cooperative shooter. It was...something else. But it looked fun! Something different than the typical men-with-guns, in any case.
Big mentions of EA's titles were interspersed here and there, like Battlefield 4, Dragon Age, and even a quick teaser of Star Wars Battlefront. While there was little information about the latter two, Battlefield 4 looked gorgeous, with impressive graphics and a scenario where a team was trying to take out an entire skyscraper, using tactics like artillery strikes and collapsing an entire street to take out opponents.
Then there was a whole lot of talk about their sports titles; nothing about NHL, so I tuned out for these. If you like basketball, football (American), and football (European), however, then you've definitely got something to look forward to. The show showed Mirror's Edge 2 as well, another surprise. The lack of a sequel has kept me from playing Mirror's Edge to its finish, but with this announcement, perhaps I should actually see where the story goes. It was surprising not to see a Mass Effect-inspired game anywhere, considering EA is not the type to let a profitable series go away. And finally, showcasing a game that was also teased at the Microsoft conference, Titanfall is important to mention: a first-person multiplayer shooter that allows you to climb into large mechs (the eponymous Titans) in the middle of combat and fluidly continue shooting became one of the more talked-about titles at the show, and for pretty good reason. Even I'm tempted to play it, and it's really not my kind of game; the fluidity of being picked up and tossed into a cockpit, or pulling the eject lever to get shot out skyward from a Titan that's about to explode...it's too much for me to pass up.
Ubisoft wasn't quite as memorable as the rest, but it had its gems. Oddly, I noticed that the publisher didn't mention any of their more casual titles (things like Petz), which is something they tended to bring up every year as some of their most popular series. Not complaining. Watch Dogs (or Watch_Dogs, if you care about that sort of thing) was shown again, but without gameplay (spoiler: gameplay was shown in the Sony conference). Splinter Cell, a staple of Ubisoft, was shown in a very rapid-shot trailer, showing Sam and his new gang of Fourth Eschelon cruising around the world to take out the Black List, a group that would do the USA harm. Black Flag, the next Assassin's Creed game, was shown as well, with some excellent cutscenes, but not a lot more. And the show finished with a fairly elaborate trailer for a third-person shooter that took place after an apocalypse ravaged the world. An online multiplayer RPG about working with a group of people to complete missions, it looked pretty cool to me, with some neat interface decisions and choices in how you interact with the world. It's something I'll be looking for in the future.
No Beyond Good & Evil 2, and that makes me sad.
Now, I wasn't present for the Sony conference, but the guy from our site wasn't too happy with waiting in the LA sun for over an hour to get inside. Luckily, the events at the Sony conference quickly got rid of any disgruntled feeling that may have risen during this period. Very, very quickly.
Okay, so it started off pretty standard - some vignettes, sales numbers, and trailers of Playstation 3 games. Nothing we hadn't seen before, though there was a trailer for Beyond: Two Souls that looked...strange. It looked like a completely different game from the one that we had seen the trailer for - some third-person shooter now instead of a Heavy Rain-like title? I'm not quite sure. Sony also announced a large number of independent titles for release - games like Octodad, Don't Starve, and Outlast, titles that normally would just be on Steam. It's always good to see big companies reach out to smaller publishers, and it looks like Sony is really trying to make an effort this console cycle. At the very least, they're trying to look like they're making a commitment, but right now that's good enough.
Anyway, after a few things like that, a quick discussion about Vita titles (again, nothing particularly new or noteworthy), and then the show really started.
First came Sony essentially slapping Microsoft in the face in a display that many gamer journalists will remember for a while - after Microsoft's talk of DRM and restrictions on selling and trading games, Sony came and flat-out told everybody that not only will trading and selling games have no restrictions for Playstation 4 users, but there will be absolutely no always-on DRM. This set the audience into a wild applause - and I am told there were even some people standing while they clapped.
Despite this, Sony came out really weakly on exclusives this year. There were a few highlights, like a Kingdom Hearts 3 announcement and the changing of Final Fantasy XIII Versus to Final Fantasy XV, but otherwise nothing really stands out - and even then, I don't remember seeing those two titles being marked as exclusive, but there's a good chance the feed I was watching just missed it. There were also a few technical problems - both Destiny and Assassin's Creed: Black Flag had severe technical issues, in Black Flag's case forcing the system to shut down entirely. A little worrying. More Watch Dogs gameplay was shown, driving and casual hacking that makes it look like you'll be able to bend parts of the technological city in which you reside to your will in order to take down your enemies.
Oh. And the Playstation 4 is coming out 'this holiday' for $399. For those keeping track at home, that is a full 100 dollars less than the Xbox One, and I'm certain it was planned to be that way. Judging by the things I've heard and read since then, this price point has been one of the biggest deciding factors for people to choose what console they want this generation, and something tells me that Microsoft is really, and I mean really, not happy about it.
It wasn't all sunshine, however - while it wasn't explicitly stated, it looks like Playstation 4 owners are going to need to purchase Playstation Plus if they want to play online. While getting Plus does offer a bunch of free games, it also is a new expense that is going to anger more than a couple people. I, for example, play online games maybe once every two or three months - I don't really want to spend fifty bucks a year to do this. I'm also not too pleased that Sony tried to hide this fact behind vague words and general statements. It might end up biting them in the butt later, but with the glowing reception that this day got for them, it's not likely to be for a little while.
So there you have it. One day, four press conferences. A few lackluster moments, but otherwise a pretty decent showing that should make people really excited to be a gamer (though this sentiment seems to rise every year). As for me, I've got three days of walking, interviewing, and game demoing to prepare for, so I believe this is a good time to call it a night.