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Friday, July 1, 2016

E3 2016 - The Good, The Bad, and the Downright Awful

       E3 has come and gone once again, and the impressions are still very much fresh in many of our memories. As usual, there were some fantastic press conferences and some not so fantastic ones. Although, this year the difference between the best and the worst was a lot more significant than usual...

Much like a good majority of the gaming community I am not the biggest fan of EA although, I absolutely adore BioWare. That being said, I have always been able to look past my preference to make objective criticisms. So understand that this is coming from a complete level of professionalism when I say this: they had one of the worst press conferences I have ever seen. Not the worst but one of the worst.

For one thing EA puts a lot of heavy focus on sports games. I know there's an audience for that and I'm not part of it. I'm not saying it's bad just because they show sports games but what I am saying is the way they go about it is just awful. There is no presentation whatsoever. This year they came across very lazy and like they didn't even want to be there. It was like a business meeting that they just wanted to get over and done with. They even took the early slot on Sunday. I was glad to finally see some Mass Effect Andromeda footage but then sorely disappointed when it turned out to be a bunch of behind the scenes footage and maybe like 2 or 3 clips from the actual game. I honestly feel like if that's all they were going to show they should have held off and just waited until they had more. Literally the best thing about their press conference was the Battlefield 1 footage and then the 64 player Battlefield 1 match after the fact.

There are a lot of highlights from that moment including Wiz Khalifa destroying the other team and Snoop Dogg Just casually smoking a blunt in the middle of the game. That entire section was far more entertaining than any press conference EA has ever held.

Bethesda had a pretty decent showing this year. Not as good as last year with the surprise Fallout 4 announcement but still pretty decent. They definitely brought the house down with the announcement of Quake Champions. That made a lot of people happy. Skyrim Remastered is a juicy bit of news for some people. I honestly feel like they put too much focus on Fallout 4 DLC and, well, some of it looked good, some of it looked not so good and I think the fans were hoping for something a bit more substantial. It was nice to see that Fallout Shelter is coming to PC though for those that don't play mobile games.

Also, Bethesda announced that there is no more level cap for The Elder Scrolls Online which could be good or bad depending on where you stand with MMOs. The announcement of the Prey sequel was also a huge bit of news for some people. The thing that stood out the most to me was that we finally got to see some gameplay for Dishonored 2 and man, does it look good.

Overall I would say Bethesda did exactly what you would expect out of a company for an E3 press conference. They didn't do a bad job but they also didn't go above and beyond. It was a slightly above-average press conference that had a lot of great announcements and a few not-so-great ones but overall very satisfying.

Microsoft had probably one of the better press conferences they've had in awhile. The announcement that pretty much every Xbox game is going to work on Windows 10 was definitely the high point but also kind of bittersweet because it means that most people are now going to fall under the mindset of "if that's the case why don't I just get a PC?" There will always be those less financially fortunate, however, or just people that prefer console who will opt for the Xbox One version anyways.

Another highlight I noticed was the launch of a website where you can create your own custom Xbox controller and have it mailed to you. I thought that was pretty neat.

Some of the definite highlights from the press conference would obviously be the exclusives like Gears of War 4 and Halo Wars 2 but if I'm being honest the things that caught my eye the most where the gameplay for Scalebound and We Happy Few. The addition of Final Fantasy XV in  Microsoft's press conference was a surprise seeing how Square Enix usually shows up during the Sony conference. However, they had another trick up their sleeve for that...

Microsoft also announced the Xbox One slim and then almost immediately made it redundant at the end of their press conference by announcing the Xbox One Scorpio. A more advanced version of the Xbox One capable of 4K with better parts. Microsoft is still being hush-hush on the specifics of the hardware but they had no problem repeating "6 teraflops" over and over again. Although impressive when compared to the 1.32 teraflops currently in the system, 6 teraflops is ultimately useless information without knowing the rest of the hardware specifications. It was just big fancy words to appease the feeble-minded. A marketing tactic.

All of that aside Microsoft had a pretty solid press conference and almost the best press conference this year. Almost.

If EA wasn't trying hard enough then Ubisoft had the opposite problem. One thing Ubisoft has always been good at is a cringe-worthy press conference where they try too hard to be funny and entertain the viewers. I understand that E3 is supposed to be entertaining but you can entertain the masses by showing off the games, not Musical dance numbers and trying too hard to be edgy. Literally the best thing about Ubisoft's press conference was the moment with Matt Parker and Trey Stone talking about South Park: The Fractured But Whole. The swearing isn't a problem as far as I'm concerned because censorship is currently outdated and most cable channels let you say the s-word uncensored now so it's honestly just part of everyday conversation these days. No one really cares anymore. The problem isn't that they swear too much, no, the problem is that everything they do comes across scripted and like a bad play. I do love Aisha Tyler but E3 is not a cartoon musical comedy.

That being said some of the games that Ubisoft showed off did look interesting. I am excited for Watch_Dogs 2 even though it looks like more of the same. That actually seems to be Ubisoft's theme this year; "More of the same". Wildlands looks like The Division in the jungle for example.

I am excited for the VR game Eagle Flight. You can definitely tell it was Assassin's Creed inspired. Speaking of Assassin's Creed, probably one of them the down points for me was when they talked about the movie. It is definitely a movie I'm going to see but I'm not exactly looking forward to. Movies based on video games have a solid history of being horrible even though I enjoy some of them; like Resident Evil. But from what I've seen and heard of the Assassin's Creed movie so far, I don't like the direction they're taking with it and this is coming from huge fan of the franchise. But I will save that for another article.

I was also disappointed to find out that For Honor is turning out to just be another Dynasty Warriors clone. The nail in the coffin for the Ubisoft conference in my opinion was when they said they had a new IP and then revealed snowboarding/paragliding game Steep. Technically it is a new IP but, it is far from a new concept. Making a new sports game and calling it a new IP feels lazy.

Now we get to the coup de grâce of E3 2016.

This year PlayStation came out of the gate super strong with a live Orchestra playing what I immediately recognized as God of War music. Then lo and behold a new God of War game gets announced and I'll be damned if it doesn't look like The Witcher. From there it was only uphill for the most part. The VR Kitchen demo was revealed to be a tech demo for Resident Evil VII which is now opting for a more horror setting with first person visuals, limited combat and VR support. Although I did hear that the show floor demo for the VR version of the game was making people sick but come to find out that was mostly due to user error. You cannot use the right stick and your head as a camera at the same time you have to pick one otherwise you will get sick.

We also found out that Crash Bandicoot is getting the Final Fantasy VII treatment, as in it's getting fully remastered from the ground up for PlayStation 4, and not just the first game but all three original Crash Bandicoot games for the PlayStation 1 are coming back. That announcement got some of the best reactions that were immediately stifled by Skylanders, but people are still excited none the less. Days Gone also looks pretty good although I'm getting kind of tired of zombie games if I'm being honest. It looks like it will slate a lot of people's Last of Us thirst until Last of Us 2 is officially announced.

The definite highlight of their press conference was when Hideo Kojima emerged from the Shadows to announce his triumphant return and a new game starring Norman Reedus. Unfortunately it looks like this new game which is going by the title Death Stranding (a reference to when whales beach themselves and die) isn't going to necessarily be a horror game like Silent Hills was although it looks like it will have some horror inspired (or at the very least sci-fi thriller) elements. Kojima said he's shooting for a new genre all together. Regardless of what it turns out to be it looks pretty interesting.

Horizon: Zero Dawn also looks better and better every time I see it. And some of the VR games they showed up looks really cool like Farpoint for example. The addition of a VR mini game in Final Fantasy XV is also a welcome treat. I think one of the huge surprises came when I was watching gameplay of this game in space and I thought to myself "wow this looks pretty cool" and then it turned out to be Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare and I was astounded. It was the first time in probably the history of ever that a Call of Duty game looked even slightly interesting to me.

Possibly one of the best things about the PlayStaion conference was that we finally got a release date for The Last Guardian and it's coming sooner than we could have anticipated; October.

There were so many announcements during the PlayStation press conference I can hardly remember all of them but I know that I was happy with most of them. Sadly, the press conference didn't exactly end on a solid note. I thought it was weird they just opted for gameplay of a game they already announced butt I found out later that rumor has it they planned on announcing the third game in the Red Dead series but unfortunately the gameplay demo they had ready to show off too closely depicted the events of the Orlando shooting and they had to pull it last minute. I imagine we'll hear something during Gamescom or even PlayStation Experience this year.

I would say PlayStation had not only the best press conference this year but one of the best press conferences I've ever seen since I've started watching E3 in 2009. I am primarily a PlayStation fan but this is coming from an unbiased standpoint. Believe it or not I thought PlayStation's last two press conferences were not that great. Definitely not worth a two-hour drive to the nearest movie theater that was airing it. After their fantastic showing in 2013 they got big headed and lazy started making it more about business and numbers. However, this year they took the entire concept of an E3 press conference and turned it on its head. They did exactly what people want out of an E3 press conference. Hardly any talking and just nothing but consistent reveals and gameplay. No fluff just video games. The multi-camera angle concept was pretty cool too. That's a great way to show off everything at once without having to constantly jump cut. I would say if every company started doing their press conferences like this, E3 would become an entirely different thing and it would improve everything tremendously.

It's worth noting that Nintendo did not have a press conference this year, but instead opted for a full-day live stream where they showed off Poke'mon Sun/Moon and The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. Both of which are looking fantastic.

Overall I would say this was a pretty enjoyable E3. E3 2016 will forever be imprinted on my mind as one of the most memorable. The people who usually do okay did pretty well this year with one of them even going above and beyond and the ones that usually suck continue to do so. This is most definitely considered one of the most wallet breaking E3 to date. I am both super excited for and dreading the holiday gaming rush this year.

Here's hoping to even more fantastic E3 and maybe next year the others will take a page from PlayStation's book, but only time can tell. 

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