E3 2014 in Review

The spectacle that has been bursting with gaming news all week is finally at an end. It’s almost impossible to stay on top of all the announcements as the days goes by, but in the end, one can at least gain a sense of what truly ruled the show, and what fell by the wayside. This article is split into two parts. One is to scold or praise the five companies that had a press conference of sorts. Second is a countdown of the ten games that either stole the show, deserve attention, or just simply look superb at their current stage of development.  Indie games that shined brighter than multi-million dollar budget blockbusters proved that truly anyone and anything can be a star if the game simply looks good. People ask for new IP’s but continually beg for sequels as well. In this industry of trying to please people who can’t even fathom their own true desires of what they want as gamers, allow me to try to shine a spotlight on my own confusing wants as a gamer, and what particularly excited me during this once-a-year celebration!

Conference 1: Microsoft

Grade: 8/10

The conference I wanted to dislike, but couldn’t. Microsoft has never seemed to be truly about the games at E3, based on their previous conferences, but this time they sat us down, shut us up, and spoon-fed us trailer after trailer. Opening with Call of Duty was predictable, yet still quite an exciting introduction. I was actually mildly interested in this year’s Call of Duty because it takes place in South Korea, which is my home country, and one I rarely see used in a video game setting. It’s a shame the city was all…on fire and stuff.

The most surprising game to me was Sunset Overdrive which managed to look entirely fun to play. I don’t see much depth to it, but in terms of turning a game on just to fool around in, Sunset Overdrive’s crazy shooter antics, sense of humor, and bright art style is sure to please. Ori managed to capture the charm and thoughtfulness of a true artistic indie title, and was one of the best atmospheric indie games showcased. Microsoft had a bad publicity year with the indie scene so this is doing the right thing, and putting that “rude” image behind them.

As I don’t plan on buying an Xbox One, I gauged each reveal as “how jealous will I be that I can’t play this game?” Until close to the very end, none of these games truly made me envious until Scalebound came on. This game is developed by one of my favorite developers, Platinum Games. The minds behind some of the craziest action games of the last generation including Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Typically, their games grace all consoles, but this time Microsoft somehow managed to limit this game’s release to only the Xbox One. Scalebound looks to be an epic adventure game with monsters, on monsters, on bigger monsters. Dragons, hydras, and every other beast that delights the inner fantasy fan in me had me drooling at the reveal trailer. This still shows a very irritating habit that Microsoft has that I feel like doesn’t help the game industry. They don’t invest much in making their own exclusive games, and only throw money around to limit the release of a game to their consoles. In the end, they are only taking away something from gamers, instead of adding something of their own. This isn’t always the case, but Microsoft has a nasty track record of doing this.

So in the end, for us gamers, the conference was stellar. A massive amount of amazing games revealed in rapid succession made this conference one of the best ones I’ve seen. However, for Microsoft themselves, the conference can’t be considered as strong because most of the games they showed could also be played on a competitor’s console. There was A LOT that made gamers excited to be gamers. But not as much to exemplify why Microsoft is better than any other company.

Conference 2: EA

Grade: 4/10

EA’s conference is one I’m always weary of because I know they will eventually have to talk about sports. It’s required. They develop pretty much every sports game in existence. But they also have studios that I really LOVE. EA brought me Dragon Age, Mass Effect, Dead Space, Burnout, etc. As such, I always felt the good outweighed the bad. Only this year, the good…felt like the bad. One of the most exciting prospects of this entire E3 was the possibility of a Mass Effect 4 reveal. Mass Effect is my favorite sci-fi game and they’ve teased little bits of development leading up to E3. So how in the world did the first reveal of Mass Effect 4 come off as so boring? EA decided to take a no-nonsense, no-filter approach to their reveals this year. One that, while I respect, could not find as a decent way to reveal anything at all. They started each game with a documentary that would highlight parts of the development. It was insightful, sure, but when it came time to reveal the game, it just felt like a powerpoint presentation that ended with a video slide.

The portfolio itself is impressive and despite the lackluster announcements, the game’s themselves should still be fantastic. They just failed to generate ANY hype at their conference. Criterion, the creators of the wickedly awesome racing game Burnout, are toiling away at some racing game that has almost every form of extreme vehicle ever. Mirror’s Edge 2 definitely looks like their prettiest game, and was the highlight of their conference. Battlefield tried something new this year, and went for a smaller-scale cops and robbers type of game. I can’t deny that it looks and plays well, but the elephant in the room is that it feels like a step-down from Battlefield 4 last year. Easily the funniest part of the conference was when they decided to use the Battlefield engine in the next PGA Tour golf game and they showed off “extreme courses” that have cruise liners colliding with the golf course in an unnecessarily catastrophic display of destruction.

It was one of the most boring conferences I’ve seen at E3, and that was even without the sports. I was very disappointed. Even I couldn’t feel any excitement for Mass Effect 4. It didn’t even feel like it was announced.

Conference 3: Ubisoft

Grade: 7/10

Ubisoft’s last two E3’s were amazing, and they instantly garnered a reputation of always closing out the conference with a bang. While still delivering on the expectation of showing off a brand new game at the very last minute, it wasn’t quite as grand as the last two years, and left a bit of an anticlima to the whole shebang. Also, they probably had the least amount of actual games amongst all of the conferences. In my opinion, that doesn’t matter as long as you have a few that demand attention, and Ubisoft definitely did, which saved their conference. Opening with Far Cry 4 was the best thing they could’ve done. It introduced the game’s villain in one of the most memorable and intense E3 reveals I’ve ever seen. Far Cry has gone from a lackluster niche shooter to my personal favorite first person shooter on the market. The game looks astoundingly beautiful, and the characters seem as unique as ever.

The Crew is a wildly ambitious racing game that opens the ENTIRE united states as your driving playground. A fact that they proved first-hand on stage, and something that I truly didn’t believe they could do. Finally, Assassin’s Creed: Unity showed that four assassin’s are better than one by introducing co-op for the first time. It made the game look absurdly easy, and that’s been one of my biggest complaints of the series in general, but hopefully it’ll find a way to challenge not only one assassin, but all four.

 

Conference 4: Sony

Grade: 6/10

All eyes were on Sony this year to see if they could knock it out of the park like they did last year. Sony has been known for developing more exclusive games than you could even keep up with during the later years of the PS3 life cycle. The way things started, it looked like the show was in the bag. While the opening wasn’t the strongest, they didn’t waste anytime to get into their gut-punch announcements. The surprise announcement of Little Big Planet 3 brought me back to my happy platforming roots, followed by my most anticipated reveal of Bloodborne, the next spiritual successor in the Souls series. It was appropriately haunting, gothic, and dark. Then they rolled into their own demo of Far Cry 4 which showed the game in free-roaming action, and again, the game looked incredible. Then they said that even if you don’t own the game, you can play co-op through the main story with a friend who does from your own console. It’s something I personally haven’t seen done before, and it only works on Playstation consoles. I’m sure there’s a limit, but the act itself is still applaudable.

Then…things got bad. Like worse than EA, bad. They brought out the new president of whatchamacallitsony who replaced the beloved Jack Tretton, who’s graced the stages of E3 conferences for years. He paled in comparison. He didn’t hold a candle to Jack Tretton. While Jack Tretton got the entire stage to yell with thunderous applause last year, this new guy managed to almost put all of us to sleep. When boring things come up in a conference, every fan just watches the clock to depressingly watch how much time is being wasted. Chances for jaw-dropping reveals slowly ebbed away as the boring talk about sales statistics ate up precious time. Then they talked about a comic book/tv show partnership called Powers. Honestly, Powers didn’t even deserve mention on the stage, let alone eating MORE TIME THAN ANY OTHER DEMONSTRATION OF EVERY SINGLE PRESS CONFERENCE IN THE HISTORY OF E3.

“Youtube. Really?”

Sony’s conference was a mix of the best and the worst. No Man’s Sky easily stole the limelight as one of the coolest indie titles in development, but even that couldn’t take the sour taste out of our mouth from how long the comic book segment lasted. Then they ended with an unsurprising reveal of Uncharted 4. The game looks phenomenal, yes, and I’ll gladly buy it, but for the sake of the conference, it was easily the most predictable reveal. The worst part was that this was another year that one of my most anticipated games, The Last Guardian, failed to make any appearance whatsoever. I’ll never give up on that game, but eventually the time will come when the rest of the world does. A great portion of Sony’s first party studios are still mysteriously absent, and without them, Sony no longer has the huge horizon of exclusives like they normally do. I’m sure it’s there. It just hasn’t been revealed yet, and that definitely hurt them a lot.

Conference 5: Nintendo

Grade: 7/10

Nintendo didn’t have a conference. Rather than the dramatic fanfare and the flashing lights of stage presence, Nintendo opted, yet again, for a Nintendo Direct which is basically a video of producers and developers talking to the camera. It was quirky as all Nintendo things are. This was the only conference I didn’t get to see first hand, so I only watched the videos they revealed.

Nintendo hasn’t changed, and that’s a good and bad thing. Their new games, like Yoshi’s Wooly World, was absurdly cute. As was the new Kirby game featuring a claymation Kirby. The charm and colorful aesthetics that Nintendo is known and adored for still features heavily in their new games. But unfortunately, that also means that there aren’t really any games like Bloodborne, Witcher, Far Cry 4, and other triple A titles on the console. To game with Nintendo is to game on some faraway island that does things their own way and ignores the things happening across the way. Nintendo is adamant about that. Fortunately, games like X still appeal to the hardcore, despite looking a generation behind in graphics.

The Direct was short and concise, dropping little trailers for games like the Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire remakes and showing a steady burst of cute Nintendo titles that purists should find entertaining. The most beautiful thing of the whole Direct was the look at the new Zelda game, but alas, there is still no Pokemon Snap 2.

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Top 10 Games of E3

And now we reach the final part where I’ll share the ten games that had me geeking out the most this E3. Generally the game has to be playable so that I can see the game in action, but sometimes a trailer is all it takes. I love Uncharted 4 and all, but that trailer was far too short, and that’s all we saw of it, so that is why it didn’t make the list against games that may not be AS good, but showed a lot more promise during E3.

10. Dragon Age: Inquisition

Dragon Age, like it’s sister series Mass Effect, is an RPG universe created by Bioware that focuses on interacting with incredibly well made characters in a story-driven fantasy world. Dialogue in an RPG just doesn’t get any better than in a Bioware RPG. They know how to make characters charming, interesting, and can even make me feel sympathetic towards them. I’m looking at you Thane Krios. The next Dragon Age already excited me simply because I’m eager to meet these new characters and see just how grounded into the world they really are.

Dragon Age: Inquisition seems to have learned from Dragon Age 2’s mistakes, which was to not employ a brainless action-combat system in a game that got it’s founding off of more tactical ways of fighting. On top of this, the world is being invaded by a rather grim and gruesome looking force of evil that appeals to the dark fantasy fan in me. I’m not as excited as I thought I would be, but even at a more moderated level, this game is still one I’m dying to get my hands on.

 

9. Evolve

Evolve has a unique multiplayer focus that pits 4 players versus a monster. Oh, and also one “fifth” player can play as the monster. Oh, and that monster starts off as a meager little creature, but slowly evolves during the fight. What this means, essentially, is that this is a game where the action goes from hunting down a poor little creature, to that very same creature turning into a karma-approved terror that rages across the battlefield. It’s a thoughtful premise that looks even better in action. It helps that the monsters look like an utter delight to play as.

They confirmed that there will be 3 beasts to play as, two of which have been revealed so far. I love the design of both of them, and if my guess is right, the third one will have an elemental affinity because the other two have abilities that deal with fire and lightning. The other worry I had was that playing as the humans wouldn’t be near as fun, but apparently it seems just as fun to fight AGAINST that thing as it is playing it.

8. Assassin’s Creed Unity

We’re going back to Europe, but I’ll be the first to say this is NOT where I wanted to go. Despite, the disappointing notion that the game still isn’t branching out to more exotic locales such as the Orient or Russia, France does look gorgeous. Just when I think I’m tired of Assassin’s Creed, they manage to snag my interest time after time. The detail in this game is staggering. The amount of people in the city streets have increased alarmingly and it feels much more like a hustling bustling playground than any other.

The co-op is the biggest addition to the game, throwing in as many as four players to the single player campaign. Whether this is the only innovation besides the increased graphical fidelity remains to be seen. As I mentioned earlier, the game looks easier than it ever has been, but I’ve read that they are changing the combat to make stealth the best option, leaving combat as a near-suicidal route for the player. It’s a fully next-gen Assassin’s Creed though and that’s reason enough to get excited.

7. Scalebound

All I’ve seen was a CG trailer, but knowing Platinum Games style, I know they’ll deliver on anything zany and epic in any of their trailers. All the trailer promises is epic creatures followed by more epic creatures. I can only imagine what is going to go on in this game. Based on snippets from the trailer and the press release, it seems you can befriend one or possibly more of these creatures. Is this a game where you and a dragon go around felling massive beasts? Does the character form his magical armor from the creatures he slays? There are a lot of unanswered questions, but the main one I always want answered has been, “Does this game look fun?” Hell yes.

6. Mortal Kombat X

Announced shortly before E3 with an incredible trailer, I didn’t even expect Mortal Kombat to be a topic of discussion this week, but I’m so very glad it is. I love Mortal Kombat. The over-the-top goriness as well as the colorful cast of ninjas, creatures, and robots have always been near and dear to my heart. And now it’s returned, primed for the new generation. The game looks bloodier than ever thanks to the increased realism in graphics. Also, full-color X-rays are definitely a thing.

They’ve incorporated the environment effects from their other game, Injustice, into this iteration making the levels much more interactive. This time they are also opting for character variations. Each character will have three “forms” that change their moveset to a rather large degree to make the character have three distinct fighting styles. It’s something I really look forward to seeing because even a mirror match can now look like a completely different fight.

 

5. No Man’s Sky

I love indie games. I will admit that, aside their unique charm, I will always prefer the bigger, and more epic blockbuster games, but that doesn’t stop me from appreciating the independent industry and enjoying the creative takes they have on game design. Indie games are much more artistic, thought-provoking, and interesting than the general video game you see at store shelves. Only one indie game managed to find a place amongst these gigantic titles and that is the ridiculously ambitious No Man’s Sky. I loved Ori, and it just fell short of this list, but this game is quite literally something else. It’s an open-universe exploration game. UNIVERSE. That word.

No Man’s Sky is a procedurally generated game that randomly creates it’s worlds as soon as you start the game. Every player will start on their own planet, and their universe is populated by every other player’s planet, and further planets they find. You have a catalog that keeps track of every planet and species you discover. Their are percentages displayed that shows the planet’s atmosphere composition, and when you’re done exploring a planet, you can hop into a ship and literally fly directly into space and fly to another planet. It’s all completely uninterrupted. Normally games that “create their own world” have very limited variety. You simply change the variables, but it’s not long till people notice the limit. This game however, seems to have some pretty creative variables because there are amazing creatures, fantastic looking vegetation, and evocative atmospheric design. I don’t know the limit of what you can discover, but I know that I’d love to fly around and explore the universe with no limitations any day.

4. Metal Gear Solid V: Phantom Pain

It’s around this spot that the games start to lose a singular way to describe what’s good about them, and it’s easier to say that EVERYTHING looks good. But I’ll try to highlight what makes Metal Gear so great. The biggest thing being thrown around is this rather psychotic, violent, and powerful narrative that the trailers have been teasing. I think this Metal Gear will feature an incredibly psychological and creative story complete with the innovative boss battles Metal Gear is famous for. It’s probably the game with the story I’m most interested in amongst the entire list.

On top of that, you have the fact that it’s also a damn good stealth-action game. It’s not just the story and creative interactions between the characters, it’s also a game that offers a huge take on stealth, and some of the most absurd, yet fun to use tactics such as running around with a box on your head. This game has also upped it’s graphics considerably compared to last games making this game look incredible.

3. Far Cry 4

What a delight it was to see this game at TWO different press conferences, and both of these demonstrations dropped jaws. Far Cry 1 and 2 weren’t that impressive. They were open world shooters in unique locales, but that was it. They lacked everything else that made games so enjoyable. Far Cry 3 changed that by coming out of nowhere with an incredibly rich cast of characters to finally breathe life into the massive open worlds they were skilled at creating. Far Cry 3 became famous for introducing one of the best villains in video games, and Far Cry 4 looks to repeat that. On top of that, the gameplay variety and sheer amount of things you can do is hitting an almost innumerable amount. Coax elephants into ramming jeeps. Use a flying suit to jump off of Mount Everest. Whatever you want.

This time, the game takes place in one of the most beautiful settings I’ve ever seen in a game. A beautifully rendered breathtaking section of he Himalayas. Exotic mountains coated with fog reign supreme over the subtle curves of the tranquil rice gardens below. It looks drop-dead gorgeous and huge. Sony also dropped a bombshell and said that on Playstation consoles, you can even invite a friend to play the campaign with you online even if they don’t own the game. It’s a game that looks amazing, plays silky smooth, and features some really well-acted characters, particularly for the villain.

 

2. Witcher 3

This RPG is almost too much for me to handle. It’s like Skyrim collided with Game of Thrones to create the perfect RPG, but that’d be an insult to the Witcher series which has been carving it’s own identity in the gaming scene for years now. The Witcher 3 is simply a shit ton more Witcher, and Witcher is a dark, serious fantasy RPG. It’s gameplay has exponentially expanded, going open world for the first time and hoping to keep it’s tight, brilliant narrative within this completely non-linear world. The music is amazing, probably having my favorite score of the games I’ve seen at E3. It all feels so authentic to the type of fantasy it is. You get a feeling the the developers are just trying to make the best fantasy game ever, and no aspect of the game disappoints.

Witcher 3 has several characteristics that heighten the presentation of the game. The combat looks fluid and heavy, as if you feel the impact of each swing and spell. The monster hunting is a big new addition that makes the open world all the more enticing. The monster design, even, looks brilliant. Colorful variations of the typical griffin and such add to this world’s unique fantasy. The writing, dialogue, and character drama are all of the highest caliber. It’s like The Witcher was written by an experienced novelist and not by a bunch of over-excited fantasy fans. This game impressed last year, and it did again this year. It finally releases early next year, and you bet your ass I’ll be at the midnight release.

1. Bloodborne

This is it. The game I wanted announced more than anything. The next game in the Souls series. While it’s finally dropping the Souls moniker to avoid being roped in by all the other games, it still, very clearly, carries the “soul” of a Souls game. Grueling difficulty, desolate worlds, a grim tone, and a pure focus on combat and exploration, the Souls games captivated fans all over with it’s raw, yet addictive gameplay style. What sets Bloodborne apart, will truly dictate if this is another masterpiece like all the others.

The game is bloodier than any other, thus having Blood in the title. It’s world looks even more horrific than the other games which is challenging to do. The Souls series always felt worthy of being called a horror game as well as an action-rpg, but Bloodborne could legitimately call itself a horror game from the terrifying scenes it’s reveal trailer portrayed. It’s set in a hauntingly beautiful gothic-victorian city that has been afflicted with a disease that turns everyone into beasts. The best thing about this game is that the creator of the series is behind the helm. He left Dark Souls 2 to other directors to work on this beauty behind the scenes. He has a unique vision of “horror.” He doesn’t see horror as gross or disturbing. Horror is when something dignified and majestic falls to sorrow, roughly in his own words. The man is a genius in my eyes, and his games are works of art. I am buying a PS4 for this game.

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The new generation finally looks like the place to be! E3 is over, and our appetites are awake with anticipation. All of these games should hopefully launch within the next two years. E3 is like Christmas, but then again, it isn’t because we can’t play any of these wonderful games yet! It’s almost too cruel! Anyways, let me leave you my own special E3 award!

**Best title for a video game/add-on announced at E3**

“Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha”

 

 

 

 

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2 thoughts on “E3 2014 in Review

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