Wednesday, June 18, 2014

E3 2014 Impressions

Well, E3 2014 is in the books. What was the overall impression from the show?: Meh. It's not that it was a bad E3, there just wasn't anything Earth-shattering to come out of it.

Usually you expect a ton of news and at least one mind-blowing revelation to come out of the expo, and that just didn't happen this year for a couple of reasons. First of all, it seemed like a lot of companies decided to try and get out ahead of the show proper and they made their biggest announcements a week or two before the show started. The reason for this is obvious, typically there is so much news coming down the pipe that it's easy for a lot of things to get lost in the shuffle, and then no one hears about them. Secondly, the biggest complaint/running joke that arose from this year's convention was about how it seemed like the vast majority of games being shown aren't due until at least 2015, if not beyond that.

This chart disproves that sentiment, but that doesn't change how the show felt.
Either way, the show's over. And that means it's time that I give you my impressions of it. Since the press conferences themselves weren't that interesting, I'm just going to share my thoughts on a few topics and then I'll talk about some of the games that caught my eye, and I will accompany them with their respective trailers. So, without further ado:

Biggest Disappointment

I suppose I should just get this one out of the way up front, there was no Fallout 4 announcement. Not only was this disappointing for me as a fan who is dying to play a new Fallout game, but I honestly feel like Bethesda really dropped the ball on this one. Because there really wasn't anything that stole the show this year, Fallout 4 could have been it. Hell, it would have been it. There is so much anticipation for this game that all they would've had to do was show a teaser trailer at one of the press conferences and then do a short gameplay demo during the show. They wouldn't even have had to make it public; just allow some media guys to play it or watch someone play it so they could write up a preview or two and, BAM, game of show. Oh well, I guess Wasteland 2 will just have to tide me over for now, but that a subject for another blog.

Coolest Trailer/Most Interesting Games

In no particular order, here are some of the things I feel like you should see that came out of the show. Some of these game I doubt I'd ever be interested in playing, they just had some very creative trailers, and the rest are games that I can't wait to get my hands on!


The next game from Playdead, the creators of the critically acclaimed Limbo, Inside looks just as dark and brooding as the game that put them on the map. Watching the trailer you definitely get the sense that these games came from the same minds, but there's enough about Inside's visual style alone to set it apart.

Limbo had a monochromatic color scheme and the game was all silhouettes. Inside makes use of color, but it's all very desaturated, lending it a very ominous tone, similar to what worked so well for Limbo. It also seems to emphasize depth in a way that Limbo didn't. The way that a number of shots in the above trailer use negative space to create a sense of scale in the environment is truly striking.

Dead Island 2

I don't have any particular interest in playing the Dead Island games; the first one seemed like it had some cool ideas, but was very messily put together. However, this was, without a doubt, one of the funnest trailers to come out of the show. I legitimately found myself smiling and chuckling over how ridiculous this trailer is. If the final game can hit this tone and tighten up the gameplay and hammer out the glitches, than Dead Island 2 may be worth a look once it's released.

I can only imagine that the name on the gilded dog tag is "Douche"

Tom Clancy's The Division

The Division is a third-person shooter set in a post-apocalyptic New York City following a mysterious viral outbreak that wiped out most of the city's population. Not the most original concept to be sure, and the game itself may wind up being another run-of-the-mill cover shooter, but the trailer that Ubisoft put together for this year's show was certainly one of the most artfully done. It's difficult to describe, but it's message is conveyed clearly; give it a watch and just enjoy the show.

Even if the game ends up being forgettable, at least it has one of the coolest in-game maps I've seen.

Alien: Isolation

I love the Alien movies! They are some of my favorite films of all time. That being said, I've never been a big fan of any games based on them. Most of them have been first-person shooters, and even the decent ones just didn't seem interesting to me. And, following the tragically bad Aliens: Colonial Marines, this game needs to be good in order to save face for the property as a whole. 

At the very least the team at Creative Assembly is trying something different. Rather than make another rote, mindless shooter starring space marines, Alien: Isolation is trying to play up the horror and slasher flick tone that the Original Alien film nailed so well. You won't be mowing down hordes of Xenomorphs with plasma rifles; there's only one in the whole game, and you stand no chance of fighting it. Instead you must hide and use a combination of wits and patients to throw the predatory beast off of your trail.

If the guys and gals at CA can pull this off without the game devolving into frustrating trial-and-error gameplay, we may have one of the best Alien games headed our way this October.

I'd say it's time to shit. I mean hide! Time to hide.

The new Mass Effect game

Ok, I need to talk about this one simply because I'm such a huge fan of the series. At E3 Bioware and EA put out the above video that they called a teaser trailer, but it was really more of developer diary. It's mostly a video of some of the guys at Bioware talking about their ideas for the next Mass Effect. They do show a few images, but they made sure to label them as "conceptual prototypes", meaning that a lot of what they showed may change significantly in the final version, or it may not be in there at all.

I wasn't really surprised by this, I know the next ME is a ways off. What did surprise me, however, is the fact there was no announcement of some sort of "Mass Effect Trilogy: Ultimate Edition" that'll be coming to the new consoles and PC with all of the DLC included and updated graphics. It seems like a foregone conclusion that they would make that, and I am just surprised that they didn't announce it; especially when you consider how bare-bones EA's press conference lineup was.

Dragon Age: Inquisition

Speaking of Bioware, Dragon Age: Inquisition looks fantastic! This is my most anticipated game of the year and, after finally getting to see a real gameplay demonstration, I have to say that the game seems to be coming together nicely. You can check out some of the gameplay below:

Hopefully DA:I will live up to expectations and be the Dragon Age game that fans of the series want it to be. Speaking for myself, October 7th can't come soon enough.

Well that's not a good sign...

Mortal Kombat X

The action in this trailer is nothing short of bad ass! Personally I could do without the dumb rap song that in no way, shape, or form fits the game but hey, marketing. Either way, I am pumped to see what NetherRelam Studios has in store for the next iteration of this legendary fighting game franchise. And, thankfully, we got to see some real gameplay of it at the show, check it out below:

 I think this would hurt so bad, your brain wouldn't even let you feel it.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

After playing last year's excellent reboot of the classic Tomb Raider franchise, I've been very curious to see what Crystal Dynamics has planned for the indomitable Lara Croft next. Well, this year's E3 marked the announcement of the upcoming sequel, Rise of the Tomb Raider. A lot of people have been pooh-poohing the name, but whatever; if the game can meet the high bar set by the original, than they could call it Rise of the Fart Raider for all I care.

There wasn't any gameplay shown, but I was still excited to hear the official word that the game is in development.

Far Cry 4

Ok, as long as I'm making a list that includes amazing trailer, this one had to make the cut. The Far Cry games have really hit their stride over the last couple of games, with Far Cry 3 receiving much critical and fan acclaim for it's open world and engaging gameplay. FC3 also introduced a captivating villain in Vaas. Unfortunately, most people agree that his potential was squandered early in the game.

Hopefully that won't be the case this time around with FC4's new villain, Pagan Min. The above trailer makes for one hell of an introduction to this psychopath and leaves you curious about not only the player's relationship with him, but also how far he will go and what his motives are. If the game can hold to it's current release date, we'll be discovering the answers to these question this November.

Honorable Mention

Just to wrap this up before I find myself talking about every trailer that debuted at the show, I should go ahead and list a few final trailers that caught my attention, click on the names to see their videos:

The Order: 1886 (Stylish 3rd-person shooter with an interesting setting.)

White Night (Creepy-looking horror game with striking visual style.)

Mario Maker (Looks super cool. if Nintendo can flesh it out and give creators the tools they'd want, it'll be spectacular.)

Destiny (The latest from Bungie, the team responsible for the Halo franchise. Looks really great so far, hopefully it can live up to its creator's legacy.)

Final Thoughts

So, maybe E3 2014 wasn't a mind-blowing event. We still got to see some fantastic looking games coming from talented people, ranging from small indie dev teams to massive AAA-title making factories.

If anything, this year's show proves that the video game industry is alive and well and will be pumping out cool stuff for years to come, and I couldn't be happier to be along for the ride.

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