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Intro (hey that's this section)
I had thought about just doing a lot of commentary on the press conferences, but truthfully…what can I say that hasn't already been said? The press conferences (or digital...video conference thing if you're Nintendo) kind of set the stage. So I'll just do a walkthrough of my E3 experience and make notes along way. If it's in bold, then that's the main point.
The thing with E3 is that, in many cases, you don't really need to play the game to know how it will play. A FPS is going to play like a FPS, so just watch others play and enjoy the atmosphere. An HD remake of something like Zelda or Final Fantasy - well I've already played those games so I know exactly how they play. To me, I like to play to either have some fun or to get a handle on what they're going for (such as Beyond Two Souls, which is just like Heavy Rain but more action-oriented, more on the later) In a few other cases, I just don't care. Racing games. You race cars. Great, I don't need to demo that to know you race cars. They sure look pretty, though.
You can click the E3 pictures to see 'em bigger.
I should have taken a pad and pen. Want to know what? Because cell reception is so damn bad in and around E3 that even outside, even before you're indoors between actual physical walls, you can't get data. It's nearly impossible. Are you on Verizon? You're fucked. ATT? You're really fucked? Sprint? Wait, who's on sprint? Either way, it's frustrating, especially when you're there and have to check in with the office and do businessy stuff too.
Anyways, First up:
I always love to see who's paying out the big bucks for the massive banners. Sony seems to be there every year, I think, for some reason or another. The biggest were Sony for the PS4 and EA, and some of the others included Mad Max, Batman and Elder Scrolls. Here's a look at South Hall (left) and West Hall (right).
Namco/Bandai had their booth outside this year, for some reason. Those little cars in the left pic are from them. Pac Man was also wandering around there. I felt bad for whoever was inside that costume in the sun.
Inside, though, I was a bit disappointing. Other than a few photo opps with a Plants vs. Zombie Zombie, and a really impressive mech, there wasn't a ton going on this year. No big live music, no fancy art...nothing.
West Hall had nothing, by the way. Even the hallways between the Main Halls were kind of lacking in art/statue stuffs.
I looked at that sign and thought to myself "Who in their right mind would pay friggin 12 dollars for three tacos?"
Answer: the line of about 20 or so people waiting.
Yes, there's BBQ, there's Mexican, their subs and burgers and greasy whathaveyou. Some are large stands, some are food trucks. All are overpriced. I've never bought food, coffee or even a soda at E3 because if you're charging me twice as much as the deli down the street, then why bother? Convenience? It's not convenient on my wallet, I can tell you that much.
Yet, worse of all this is that the food is just not all that good. It's been sitting, rarely fresh, and there's no point in paying over 15 bucks for something you would pay seven for anywhere else. Hell, as I write this I just finished eating a good-size gyro and a side of hummus with fresh pita bread from the place across the street from my apartment. Cost? Eight bucks and it's friggin the best gyro I've had in LA (and I've had a lot of gyros).
I see these people here as just trying to prey on unsuspecting out-of-towners. "Oh, it's LA" they might think. "It'll be more expensive." Wrong.
I know these people have to pay for the area and manpower to get set up, but overpriced is still overpriced, and mediocre food is still mediocre food. This is the LA Kogi or fancy Grilled Cheese trucks we're talking about here, it's just mediocre junk.Anyways, enough of that rant, let's get inside these Halls and talk vidyagames...
As usual with the South Hall, EA is right front in center. You can't miss them, just follow the "wubwubwubwubwub" of the dub step and look for the excessive smoke from the smoke machines. EA's booth is always loud and obnoxious. Fitting.
There was little here to catch my interest, to be honest. A lot of sports, a lot of Battlefield. A little Racing…but that's about it. I just don't like their booth and was turned off by it. When you step in to a booth, you can of wanted to be "invited" but this is like stepping in to a nightclub and it's just annoying. As a result, I just looked around a little and left.
Here we have the multiplayer area for Battlefield and a quick snap of the large sports section at EA.
EA is a lot of flash but itltle substance. They're big, though, but going by their booth and show, I never really got that impression. It's like the rich kid at your high school that has the nicest car, but having that nice car doesn't make up for his lack of personality.
I whizzed by Ubisoft's booth, we'll save that for a little later, and went right to Square-Enix. For the first time in years, the booth was packed. There was a sense of excitement. There was actually interesting things to see and play and view. I remember my first E3 a few years back and the biggest thing in Square Enix's booth were the action figures. Seriously, they had nothing. This year, it was the usual set up: central "theater" for people to watch videos and games along the side along with a couple of private theaters. Yet, this time there were actual games people cared about. Sure, I liked Sleeping Dogs as much as the next guy, but last year's E3 it wasn't a name to get people excited. It was one of those games that kind of snuck up on everyone with its quality.
This year, I stopped in and went to watch Final Fantasy X HD playing on a nice TV. Videos don't really do it justice…they really, really did a hell of a job upgrading the thing. There's better textures, better models, it seemed to run at a higher FPS. It's just a damn good looking game. I didn't need to play it, though. It's still just FFX so if you like that, then you'll obviously like this even more. Same with the Kingdom Hearts HD upgrade. Looks great, but I know how it plays.
Left we have a look at the rather crowded Square Enix booth, which was great to see. Right is the kiosks for Lightening Returns, which I played later in Sony's booth.
Ah, but right next to that was Lightening Returns. Maybe it was just the drastic improvement of Final Fantasy X that was fresh in my mind, but I honestly throughout it looked average visually. Textures were a mess, color palette drab, but at least the animation was smooth. This one I played and it left me kind of apathetic. Not something I disliked, but not something I'm rushing out to get in to either.
Here's a trick, by the way. Don't go to the publisher's booth to play a game like that, because that's where everyone assumes they need to go to play a game like that. I wouldn't play Lightening Returns until the next day at Sony's booth where it had two completely unused kiosks ready. How does it play? Boring. Sorry, it's boring. If you like Final Fantasy XIII, the battle system is just a version of that, but it seems less dynamic. I have to assume because it's only one character now so there's a lot of sitting around and waiting for your meter to fill up, which you waste by blocking meaning you have no more attack points to actually attack, so it just drags out.
They had a couple of theaters on the side for Thief and for Murdered: Soul Suspect. It's always hard to know what's in these things. Some are just videos, some are thankfully live demos. In the case of Thief, I can't say. I love that series, so as a fan I kind of wanted to see that. Soul Suspect, though, was a question mark. What was it? How did it look? Play? I'd only seen a video trailer up to that point.
Welcome to my first "line" decision. Yep, that's what E3 is mostly about. Lines and lines and lines of people. And waiting and waiting. You can't wait in line for everything, so you have to be selective. Thief is, well…its Thief. I had to choose that over Murdered.
I got in to the theater and watched someone play Thief. Nice. But nothing amazing, to be honest. Thief, back in the day, was THE stealth franchise, but stealth games have well exceeded it now and it looks like, though they have a lot of great callbacks and old school ideas, it's very much a more modernized style of "stealth." But I like that, to be honest. As long as it keeps the "approach in any way you want" aspect, then I'm good if it's taking elements from other stealth games. I just want a good Thief game, I'm not asking it to re-invent the wheel here.
Left were "hype guys" for a live playing of Final Fantasy XIV and right is a quick shot of the rather small Thief theater exterior.
And if you're wondering about Kingdom Hearts III and Final Fantasy XV, what you saw at the Sony conference was what was playing in the booth. No kiosks or theaters for those.
Other notes on this booth: I stopped by later and there was a live show with Kitase, Nomura and Toriyama. I don't speak Japanese, though, and real-life doesn't have subtitles. But the Japaense people around me seemed to laugh, so I just fake-laughed with them. Here's a couple of photos on that.
Left is a wide shot of the booth, Kitase and Toriyama on the left. Right is a shot of one of the LCD panels with Nomura (who was right after, I caught them during the segment change). Not seen: me trying to blend in with a lot of Japanese people who could understand what was being said.
It was great to see a sense of enthusiasm here, but I'm not holding my breath. Square Enix had some great games, but the best ones weren't made by them. As for Final Fantasy XV and Kingdom Hearts 3, I've been burnt by this company for far too long to get really hyped.
Batman Something Something Arkham Something:
From Square's booth, I headed by the Batman: Arkham Origins booth. Oh, there were other games there too, but Batman was the front-and-center one that took up all of Warner's booth. Guess what? Line. I think it was just a small theater, so I don't think you could even play the thing. Maybe you could, but then I started thinking: I've seen the game, it plays just like the other Arkham games which means I'll probably buy it. It looks and plays exactly like you think it will, there's no mystery here.
Batman and Green Lantern, these weren't as cool as the ones in the SquareEnix booth, though.
After a really strong Arkham City booth a few years back, I was a bit bored with this one. It just felt repurposed. If you haven't seen a video of the gameplay, though, you can probably find it on the net. It's the same thing that was shown here, but I know enough about this franchise to know what to expect.
Let's see, from here I think I stopped by Capcom's booth. Dead Rising was their big game there, set up to look like an abandoned building with some zombie-actors behind chain link fences (which I forgot to take a picture of, sorry). Not bad, but the game was elsewhere in a theater, so you wouldn't even play it and, honestly, I felt like the trailer showed me all I needed to see. I checked out a few other games, Ducktales getting some nice real estate, but overall they were pretty underwhelming.
Capcom's booth felt a little sparce, but it wasn't for lack of games, I don't think. I think it was that the other hal had the Big 3 and Square Enix and Ubisoft in this hall had big splashes.
They did have some nifty old-school arcade cabinets, though. In fact, Capcom seemed to try really hard to put in a sense of appreciation of nostalgia. Maybe trying a little too hard? Or maybe they just didn't have enough to really fill up the floorspace. While it was nice to see, the lack of a good core set of titles for the next gen, or even the current gen, or even handhelds, was noticeable.
Right we have one of the old arcade cabinets, on the right the Ducktales Reboot, and boy did that song get old fast.
Ducktales seemed to be the most popular game at the booth, but I can't figure out if that's good or bad. It's awesome, I like it a lot, but that was really it. Sure, there was Ace Attorney and Lost Planet and Dead Rising 3, but there was a complete lack of a "wow" going in here. You kind of just passed through Capcom's booth, you really didn't stay because all around you, like right next door at Konami, there were better things in your view.
I felt that Capcom was really trying to stay relevant, but they came to the party full of people with only a half-case of beer they drank on the way there.
Now I took a turn, went back up and checked out Sega's booth. Yeah, kind of the same, but I took a moment to play the Mickey Mouse Castle of Illusion Remake. Looks and sounds great, controls are a little "slippery" but overall, it seemed like a solid game - but it wasn't as precise and solid with the controls like the Ducktales upgrade. Both look like cartoons and had great art styles, though.
Sega had little to offer, but Sonic is always there whether you like it or not.
As for that new Sonic game, which I played at Nintendo's booth later on, it's...fine. Honeslty, it's not something I feel I could sit and play on extended periods, but I think it would be fun. I just also think it would make for an awesome mobile game. Oh and Rome II and Company of Heroes, I don't think anybody was there looking at those.
Caste of Illusion was in at least four or five booths this year.
I will say, though, that the lackluster showing from Sega is expected, so I wasn't all that dissapointed like I was in Capcom's booth. In both cases, though...
I know Sega has a lost a ton of talent over the years, and they are a shell of their former selves, but I really wanted out of this booth about as fast as I entered it.
Now it's on to Ubisoft. Now here, I need to bring up a concept called booth design. I think I could see what Ubisoft was going for, but it just wasn't work. It was a cluster-f of people aimless running in to each other because in the center of what should have been a large open area was a large circular stage (where they had guests, Todd McFarlane was there on this day doing autographs). The booth was large and around the edges were "hubs" where you could play games or go in to a theater. All that leads to a large area…but lots of lines. Everywhere running into each other.
They had some damn good games, Assassins Creed IV and a racing game, The Crew, being a couple that you could play. But what did I say earlier? These are demos, you aren't going to get deep in to them and a racing demo is just you driving a car. Not a big "whoopee" from me. Assassins Creed IV is just Assassins Creed. I know how those games play and what to expect.
The theaters were Watch_Dogs, The Division and South Park The Stick of Truth. I couldn't spend all day waiting in line, so I chose one for now and I might come back for The Division later on (I've seen plenty of Watch_Dogs by now). I went with South Park.
A lot to see, just kind of hard to see it. This looks like a mess because it was.
After about 30 minutes of waiting in that dang South Park line, we got in and...
You know, let me say something first, I apologize for all the digressions as I'm only going by my notes, but: Press. Come on. Everyone with a side-article and blog gets priority? Not just local US press, but we're talking about press throughout the world. Seriously, you can hear languages from every corner of the earth at E3. Press people get priority on these things, and rightfully so. They're the ones that you have to get in there to see your product to help get the word out on your game. But when you have a line of 50 people, a group of press near the entrance to the theater of about 20 and your theater only holds about 10…then you have serious planning problems. The press get in there first, doesn't matter how many are there they aren't going to wait, so that line of 50 stretches and stretches and now you have the answer as to why a booth can just turn in to a cluster-f.
Anyways, we got in and it was a nice live-demo that went for about 10 minutes. I absolutely loved it, and that wait was totally worth it. It plays just like a Japanese RPG - menu based with cutscenes. A perfect format for South Park because it really gets that humor out there. There's a lot of banter during the gameplay, the graphics look just like the TV show and there's a ton of options and customizations for your character.
You play as "New Kid" and in this demo, New Kid is fighting for the side of Eric Cartman for the "humans" against Stan and Kyle who are the "elves." Setting: South Park elementary. Powers: fart control and fire extinguishers. Weapons: wood swords and vibrators. Lots of cursing: every word in the book in this ten minutes. And nothing is "bleeped." You can choose when to fight and who to fight, as well as who to save (sometimes people fighting on your side are getting beat up and you can help them) and when done, you're taken to a classic JRPG side-view, menu-based battle screen. These battles are just as hilarious and funny and strange as the rest of the game…in other words this is a game where you probably want to fight even though you don't have to.
You can manipulate the environment in various ways, such as blowing up debris or shrinking down to a smaller size to get in to the air vents (thanks to the Underpants Gnomes, I'm told). At the end, you make a choice on who to fight: be a traitor and take on Eric or take on Stan and Kyle. Just from this demo, I got it. So got it, and I am absolutely on board. Good on ya, Ubisoft, for picking this up.
Ubisoft is a big player, and they have a great sense of quality and variety. The show stealer at the conference might have been The Division, but South Park was just a joy. Watch_Dogs will be the next generation's big IP, I think. Despite a screwy booth, Ubisoft had one of the best show spaces on the floor.
So I was a bit worn down, but I'll mention the Disney booth. Their big one is Disney's Infinity. It was hard to know where you can go in Disney's booth because on top of the games, they also give out free stuff. Lots of free stuff. That you have to wait an hour in line for. I didn't have an hour for a T-shirt and Infinity, thought looked like fun, didn't really get me interested enough to want to see it.
Outisde of that one big game, they didn't really have anything to show. Some kiosks for games from other companies (Mickey and Ducktales) but overall, they felt a no-show. Infinity seems to be their focus and nothing else.
Always a nice booth, but little to play with in it.
They pander, but people don't care because they kind of do it in a classy way. Truth is, their as relevant as the Mad Katz booth this year. Disappointing.
Videogame History Museum:
So that's it for the South Hall on my first go-around. I came back a few times over the course of the days, just to watch and look around. So here's a few rundowns: The video game museum was also there with classic cabinets like Mortal Kombat II, Centipede and, the most popular one of course:
Dat Street Fighter II...is it 1991?
The booth felt a little lacking this year. Last year they had it all really well done, laid out. Felt like its own little world. This one was just laid out there.
It did not lack actor Sean Astin, though. Goonies never say die.
Still, it's always fun to go to this booth. It's nostalgic, the games are free to play and they have every single console lined up for you to either see or to demo. I'm actually surprised this booth doesn't have more security. Maybe they just don't have that kind of budget. Even the DJ wasn't jamming it this time.
Left is a shot of the arcade cabinets, not nearly as well organized this year, and right is my traditional photo of the Virtual Boy.
Oh, and this...yeah...how about that T-Shirt?
Not as good a showing this year, but always a highlight for me.
Konami was looking good with Lords of Shadow 2, their latest Castlevania game, and Metal Gear stuff everywhere. Metal Gear Solid V looks mighty gorgeous, and I'm excited for an open world Metal Gear game that involves horsies. I rode lots of horsies in Red Dead Redemption and still think back fondly to it. Konami's booth mainly had a "gothic" area with a ton of kiosks. I loved the first game, so I waited in line to check out this one. It just felt more polished, sharper, but I don't know how much of this "brooding" I was going to be able to take.
There was a nice Metal Gear presence as well outside of the fifth installment with the collections, but only in video format, I'm afraid. Still, at least their booth had a little bit of style even if they didn't have a huge ton to actually show and they moved people along nicely to the demo area.
If it weren't for Kojima, would Konami even still be around?
Turtle Beach Headphones Booth Thing
Damn...that's a big booth for just headphones.
I was spent, and keep in mind all this over the course of a couple days and repeated returns to this hall. If there's anything I can single out about this Hall, it just showed that everyone else was over in that other Hall and for good reason.
Hell of a South Park live demo.
Seeing the top brass at Square Enix live and in person.
Square Enix's booth.
Running into Adam Sessler.
That line for free T-Shirts at Disney's booth. Come on.
The Ducktales Song was everywhere.
Staring at Activision's booth and waiting for something to happen.
Disney's booth had lines everywhere...but just for T-shirts.
Now here we go. Here's the biggie. The masses of humanity convened in one single Hall and boy did it show (and smell...what is that?).
Now you'd think your first instincts is to go right to the new consoles, right? Well, I didn't feel like doing that. Maybe it was that deafening EA booth that I had to re-walk by to leave the South Hall, but I wanted something a little calmer. Easier. Nicer. Well, that's what Nintendo is all about.
I've always loved Nintendo's booths. Even when they don't have a ton of games, like this year, they're always very "happy" and "fun" and there's great lighting and design.
Their booth wasn't very crowded, probably because you have new consoles on the other side of the Hall and they simply didn't have a lot to show, it's always lively. Games played: Mario Kart 8…it's Mario Kart. Luigi and Mario games…they're sidescrollers. Pikmin…it's Pikmin. Donkey Kong…it's Donkey Kong. I mean, I can't really say much more than that, demoing them is kind of pointless. If you've played past versions of these games, then you know what these new ones are like. They did look very pretty, though, and Mario Kart 8 has a great sense of speed with it that I haven't really seen in a Mario Kart game.
Also...dude is creepy.
Yeah, their booth kind of went like that. There really wasn't that one huge title that everyone was crowding around. But they have other things to offer. Lots of photo-ops with mascots walking around and photo booths, they had a woman there dressed as Bayonetta (new haircut and all) and the booth girls are always pretty and happy to see you (they must get paid well).
Speaking of Bayonetta, that's one pretty looking game, folks. It looked to be running at 60fps and there was a ton happening on screen. Zelda Wind Waker HD also looked very nice and they had it running next to the old Gamecube version. I didn't need to replay Wind Waker, but I sure enjoyed looking it. Great lighting, sharper detail, it was gorgeous and one I'd probably pick up because I loved the original so much.
Left is the game of the booth. Everybody loves Mario Kart. Right is the Bayonetta model who I couldn't tell whether or not she liked being there.
My biggest complaint: I couldn't find Monolith Software's "X" game anywhere. I went back to this booth a few times over the course of a couple days. Maybe it was a theater in the back I didn't see or they just decided not to have it on the floor, but it was absent from my journey there.
I didn't have a problem finding the Luigi side-scrolling game and Super Mario 3D World. Both are fun. No frills, to be honest, but fun. If you like Nintendo platformers, then you're probably going to buy these games. The jury is still out on the new Sonic game, which also had a nice little area for it, and I was becoming increasingly jealous of all the Nintendo girls wearing Luigi hats. I wanted a Luigi hat, but it turns out you have to wait in line to play some 3DS games (the 3DS surprisingly small in force here) and they'd spin a big counter and one of the prizes, if it landed where you were sitting, was a Luigi hat.
I would have stood in line for a guaranteed Luigi hat, but I wasn't standing in line (admittingly a short one but still) just for the one out of six chance at winning one..
I love how Nintendo tries to incorporate the attendee involvement, here are two examples of the photo-op areas with big statues and models, Kong on the left, Mario on the right along with the Kiosk for Super Mario 3D World, there was also a Pikman and Mario Kart sets too
Kind of anemic, but it wasn't for lack of games to play, just lack of that one big title to really bring it all home. Mario Kart 8 is great, but they needed something big and it just wasn't there. Still, a fun and gorgeous booth all the same. Easy to get right in and play something, I just wish there was more something out there.
Alright. here we go. First, their booth isn't so much "new" as much as it is re-purposing their past booths to look "newish." But the way it was laid out was fantastic. Tons of kiosks, a good chunk of them The Last of Us by the way, and a cool little "mini-theater" set up where they took the old PSMove demo rooms which used to have couches and a big TV and turned them all in to small theaters. Here we had a couple for indie games (which were playable), Killzone 4, Watch_Dogs, Quantic Dream, Infamous Second Son and Assassins Creed IV. Now I couldn't stand in line for all of these, I don't have enough time, even though I think they did a great job getting people in and out.
Want to know why? Because the press is elsewhere. That's smart planning, somebody call Ubisoft PR.
A couple shots of kiosk rows. Sony's booth may not have had a lot of personality, but it was well-laid-out. Knack is on the left, The Last of Us is on the right.
After about 10 minutes in line, I stepped in to the Infamous Second Son theater for a live demo. I like the Infamous games. I don't think they're particularly polished titles, but they're fun. This one looks like that quite a bit: fun, but rough around the edges. I would say they'd tighten it up a bit, it feels very "loose" the way everything moves and animates, but I haven't really seen that in the past games. Still, it looks very fluid, very fast-paced and a lot of fun.
Here's the thing, though: what I saw couldn't be done on current systems? I know it's a first-gen title, and that's probably unfair to straight-up compare, but other than the amazing lighting, I didn't see a lot that I haven't seen before. Animations still looked a little wonky and the gameplay didn't seem all that drastic. I like they made the lead a minority, though (Native American) even though he kind of seems like a snarky douche. Kind of like the new Dante in the new Devil May Cry. We'll see how long my patience lasts.
After, I thought again for a moment to step in to the Killzone line, but I kind of wanted to move on. So I went to the kiosks, because those lines were there too. I checked out Lightening Returns (impressions in the SE section above), Tales of Xilia, which is just another Tales game (no offense), Deadpool, which I didn't play but they certainly capture the humor, Knack, which I did play and it feels like a less-frantic Ratchet and Clank to me (which is fine) and then decided to get in to the line for Beyond Two Souls.
A couple of Kiosks, the only for these games I saw in all of E3 which kind of suprised me. Tales of Xilia is the latest in the franchise, and Deadpool...well it's Deadpool. What more do you need?
Beyond Two Souls is a bit of a mystery. I'm not sure what it's trying to be, but basically take Heavy Rain and add more action scenes. No, not more "action" in gameplay, you're still doing "push button here" and so on with the on-screen prompts, but more action scenes in cinemas. Whether or not that's your thing, I can't say, but I do have a problem: I never once felt in danger. Maybe it's the detachment of the gameplay, or maybe the Heavy Rain style just isn't a good fit, but I never felt in danger because I felt like it'll just carry on without me no matter what I did. I saw more people just get bored and move on than actually die in the game.
Now that being said, I did like Heavy Rain. I liked it because I felt that type of game, more of an adventure/mystery story, worked well with it. Here, though, it's not that. It's something else and I'm not sure if it's going to really work in the end project. It did have some great graphics, fantastic animation and solid voice acting, though, so if it's presentation you're looking for, it might be just for you.
Here's a couple of snaps from the second floor Playstation Lounge overlooking the Sony booth. They also hand out free backpacks and water in the lounge, for you first-timers out there.
Above this section is the "Playstation Lounge." Yeah, a little "secret area" but it's not exclusive, you just have to find it. Sony has a second story that's open to the public where you can just kind of chill for a bit on some big couches and play games - couches and a more relaxed area something missing from E3 as a whole. Seriously, why do we all have to stand? At least put some chairs around those big lines. Here is where I played a lot of the indie titles which Sony has done a great job promoting. I'll run through them quickly:
Octodad is a game that I can't quite describe, all I know is that I felt weird playing it, but after I was done playing it I wanted to play it more. Rain is as indie of a game as you can get, but it's very much a problem-solving adventure type of title if you can get past the rather pretentious writing. Something that wasn't "indie" was Ducktales. It's a damn good lookin game, and the thing looks and sounds just like the show. I like the added story elements a lot. Contrast was a hard game to get in to on just a demo, but I really, really liked what I saw.
There were two others I played, along with a bit of Tekken, but I can't remember their names and they didn't leave me with a lot of impression. One was a puzzle game about splicing DNA I think, and the other a FPS but I'm bored with FPS these days. Have been for the past few years. Unless it's something like a Bioshock or, to a degree, Thief, then I'm not really in to it. I spent a good 30 minutes in the lounge and wanted to move on.
Sony felt classy. Sophisitacted. Focused. A stark contrast to their past few years at E3 where they lacked identity and smarts.
It occurred to me after I left E3 entirely that I forgot to play Transistor. Sony had a lot of really cool little games all over the place so it was hard to keep track of them all. I suppose when your "big" PS4 titles are still just video demos, you kind of flood the place with the smaller stuff and third-parties. Maybe the booth was a little too big for its own good. I know I overlooked a lot there, but I also played a lot there too.
Sony's booth was overall nice, covered a lot from Vita (Walking Dead was a big presence) to Playstation 3 (again, lots of Last of Us and a nice chunk of Gran Turismo 6 car-kiosks) and just enough Playstation 4 to wet your appetite. I loved their video walls too. It was no Activision video-wall, which I waited forever to do something and it showed nothing, but it was all together a nice booth. You felt satisfied. You felt like this is a company that knows what it's doing and where it's going. Plus, Sony really waked out the mascots. A lot of 'em, including the Journey character that would jump and leap around between the kiosks and photobomb other mascots getting their picture taken with attendees.
In other words, there was a lot of fun going on here.
Then we had these guys....
After stumbling over themselves repeatedly, and getting pretty much slapped around by the press, Microsoft still put up a decent show in their booth. While the layout left a lot to be desired, which consisted of only a few kiosks overall, a much more cramped style than Nintendo or Sony's and four stages that took up most of the real estate. The first "stage" was a car for Forza with a lot of kiosks to play it. Like I've said, I don't care about racing games. They all look nice and you drive cars in all of them. That's it.
As good as Forza is, I felt it had way too much real estate for just a racing game and a pretty cramped booth from Microsoft.
The second was about the Kinect. People were on stage and showing heartrates and smiling and so on. I don't know who really cares about all that, but Microsoft sure does. Boy, was that front and center and reminded of that Vita Sensor for the Wii that never emerged...this will go nowhere. Next to that was the best part of the booth: a stage with live interviews and demos for Project Spark. That was fun, and really gave you some good ideas on how making a game can just as much be a game itself. I really dug that, though I didn't get much a chance to play it.
The final stage area was for Ryse. Like all the others, except for that Kinect one, it had playable kiosks. But not a big line. Memories of the PSVita booth from a few years back, or maybe it was last year, flashed in my head: lots of Vitas, nobody in it. Ryse kind of felt like that. Just lukewarm. I don't know what the center stage thing was for, it just had a sword and shield. Maybe the person that's supposed to be there was on break, at least the Forza section had a car in it.
This is center stage in the booth? Heart rate manager 2013?
I moved around a bit to check out some of the other games, and no Halo Spartan Ipad thingy wasn't one of them. Killer Instinct had a few kiosks, and always had a crowd. Fighting games tend to always do that, even Street Fighter II in the Videogame History Museum, but it looks every bit as fast and frantic as you'd expect it to. I only say about three characters in it, but that's early development for you.
On a side note, I don't care all that much about Killer Instinct. I feel like that's a dead franchise they're really shoving down our throats, but in Microsoft's mind, they're probably thinking they need more exclusives in terms of fighting seeing as Nintendo has Smash Bros and Sony has Wannabe Smash Bros All Star whatevers.
The Project Spark demo stage, just across the cramed 360 kiosks, was the most interesting thing happening in the booth...but not enough people were really watching. I worry about that, I love innovation, but this doesn't fall in line with what Microsoft does or what Xbox gamers are known for. On the right is a kiosk for Ryse, AKA "push button to win."
Lococycle...I don't know. I couldn't figure it out. I mean, I could, but it felt pretty repetive to me. Still, just a demo, but not a game I would pay a ton of money for. They also had a little cramped section in the corner full of kiosks of 3rd party games, lots of them 360 titles, but I had already seen or played most of them in Sony's booth next door, so I didn't need to jump in there. A lot of sports, I might add. Lot of sports. Come to think of it, Sony didn't have any sports form EA that I saw. Strange.
A funny moment, or sad depending on who you ask, I walked by a single little kiosk where a Microsoft person was showing a football game. Only it wasn't a football "game" it was a football game from television. Real life. Not a game at all. He was showcasing the live-feed updates, then it occurred to me that this console is just not made for me. There literally was nothing in this booth I felt interested in and when your biggest presence is people getting on stage to check their heart rates, you have serious, serious problems.
Wow, that's a lotta green. This booth makes me feel like eating some Lucky Charms while drinking some beer and eat potatoes. Left is a wide shot of the booth, with most of the stage areas, and Right is a Killer Instinct kiosk area.
But I like Green. It's one of my favorite colors, especially when it's bright and only slightly annoying. Microsoft's booth certainly "popped" even if it didn't have a lot to pop with. And apparently people like the past Xboxs enough to not notice the issues. I think there's a strange "in betweener" gamer out there that nobody talks about: hardcore enough to buy AAA titles day one and preorder left and right, pay online and spend hours just getting a weapon customized just right, but casual and ignorant when it comes to what's actually happening in the industry. They just say "oh, it's another Xbox so it'll be good" and not really think twice about it. They're also very defensive, but that's just brand loyalty and it has been around since the 16-bit days.
I wouldn't call all this a trainwreck for Microsoft, but their first step in to this next gen has been one that completely tripped through the door. Just ask Sony, they did the same thing last gen, so I wouldn't write them off just yet, but their lack of good-graces with gamers might end up their downfall. Also, in reflection now, I realize that I didn't play a single game in their booth. Not a single one. I watched a lot, looked at a lot, but didn't have that urge or desire or even a sense of wonder. Just mild interest at best, and apathy and boredom at worst.
After a lot of back and forths through these big three, there's still some other booths to check out.
Other Booths of the Hall:
Let me first say that I've always loved Atlus. They've been putting out solid games in the US from Japan for decades. Here, though, they really didn't have a lot to show. Other than Shin Megami Tensei IV, everything else was just kind of "there" and making noise. I did play a little of SMT, though, and it's a nicely old-school RPG for the 3DS.
Apparently Dynasty Warriors is still a thing. I got really burnt out on that franchise a while ago, but the more interesting game was the latest Ninja Gaiden. I just love the art style its working in, sort of a cel-shaded/hyper stylized anime which is such a great fit for that franchise. I haven't played a Ninja Gaiden game in a long while, but I'd check this one out. One day. Probably in a bargin bin.
After these two, I felt pretty covered on everything. There were other booths in this hall, but nothing too special to write home about.
In Koei/Tecmo's booth, there might have been few games, but that doesn't mean they weren't fun to play. On the right, they had a crowd of people and were giving away stuff. I don't know what, but everyone was excited for something. I'll have to assume they were giving away puppies.
I don't really go to either of these websites anymore, I usually hang out on Neogaf, go to Gametrailers for videos, listen to Giantbomb and watch Rev3 for The Sess, but they were the typical set up: IGN's booth is pretty much closed-in, Gamespot has theirs more open.
It was weird not seeing G4. Sure, Sessler and others were there, but they always had a precense at E3. An open booth, live shows, live interviews, and always garnered a crowd. I missed that this year. Say what you want about G4 as a network, but when it came to games and game programming, the guys over there working their asses off at least tried and did their best. Still, I couldn't find the Rev3 games area, but I saw Sess earlier so no big deal.
Lots of mascots in Nintendo and Sony's booths, but nobody is more popular than these two together.
I was tired. I don't need to specify which day I was tired on because it could have been any, but once 5:00 rolls around, your brain kind of hits a wall. All the sounds and images begin to blur a bit and become lost in the matrix of your senses. It was time to call it, head home and eat some food so I wouldn't have to stay and eat the overpriced stuff that was there.
Between the big three all being in one hall, you'd think there would have been a ton. But really there wasn't. Just a lot of videos and somewhat-interesting titles. Still, I spent a lot of time there.
Nintendo's welcoming booth design.
Sony's mini-theater set up. Got you in, got you out. Efficient.
The Playstation Lounge and indie games to play. I stayed here for a half-hour at least.
Microsoft's booth. Designed alright, but the stage-setup was weird and putting the kinect from and center was pointless.
Lack of really big titles in Nintendo's booth.
Sony's booth should have had a few more areas just for the indie titles. Those lines were long.
Playing JRPGs on Kiosk demos seems pointless.
Conclusion and Other Notes
I had a few points I wanted to make, again about the press and about women in videogames, but I feel those are best left for their own separate blogs. This is about E3, and what were my final thoughts?
Eh, it was fine. But E3 wears out its welcome after a day.
I mean, we're not going to really know how all this shapes out until this time next year when launches are over, prices are dropped and hype is settled. Sony showed the best, Nintendo seemed a bit oblivious but still put out a good foot forward, Microsoft has a lot of ground to make up (especially is it's true their demos were not playing on actual Xbox One hardware).
Third Party publishers, understandably, had little to really show. Its the end of the gaming generation and most are winding down or preparing for the next. Ubisoft and Square Enix (never thought I'd say that) really showed a solid direction, while Konami and Capcom, old staples of the industry, might be trying to still figure things out.
There was a lot of excitement this year, but I think it's mroe in what was said over what was actually shown on the show floor. Booths varied, but worst still goes to Ubisoft. Not because of content, but design, which is the point. They have some outstanding games, but they make it frustrating to walk in to that booth and just watch someone play, much less get in a line to play yourself.
Oh and Snoop was there apparently, but I missed him, but here's a photo of him.
I never buy a console at launch. I think anyone that does are kind of like those commenters in youtube videos or articles and just say "first!" I like to weight options and see what a console is like six months after launch. The last console I bought on launch was the Dreamcast, and despite what fans might say, that was a mistake. No air was let out of a balloon quicker than when the PS2 was released and the Dreamcast just sat there like an unused IP by Sega itself. So by E3 next year, I'll probably have a better idea. More games out, more announced, more understanding of whatever the hell Microsoft is trying to do and so forth. I'm sure I'll be making another trip, walking a ton again and being exhausted once more.
Note to self: buy new sneakers.