The Electronic Entertainment Expo, or E3, wrapped up last weekend past weekend but after a week of press conferences, live streams and announcements that usually feels like Christmas for videogames, I couldn’t help but feel a little let down.
Let’s get one thing straight, this wasn’t “worst E3 evar”, not by a long shot but it did seem to suffer from a distinct lack of imagination.
Nintendo had an absolutely fantastic E3, easily “winning E3”, hands down. Super Mario Odyssey looks fantastic and the bizarre mix of the usual Mushroom Kingdom inhabitants, Ubisoft’s Raving Rabbids (in Mario cosplay) and X-Com flavoured action strategy, seemed to delight all who encountered Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. The announcement of new Metroid Prime (even if it was just a logo) also had Nintendo fans frothing at the mouth, but for Xbox and PS4 owners, the game announcement seemed like more of the same.
More of the same?
Most of the biggest games were evolutions, refinements and sequels to games that we’ve already played. Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus showed a fun, alternate history trailer with Nazi;s in 1950’s America and based upon it’s predecessor’s will probably be an enjoyable shooter. Shadow of War looks like more Lord Of the Rings themed action now with Australian accented Orcs for some reason. A year off seems to have done the Assassin’s Creed franchise a world of good with Assassin’s Creed Origins but it’s still a relatively well known quantity (murder templars… in Egypt… quietly!).
Meanwhile Star Wars Battlefront 2 looks like it’s added everything fans missed in the first game, including a single player campaign, however I doubt anyone was clamouring to play battle droids vs Clone Troopers on Theed as EA showed in their demo.
Elsewhere we got two pirate themed multiplayer games; Skull and Bones, aka the pirate bits from Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag and Sea of Thieves or “four go mucking about in boat”, making its third appearance at E3.
Here we go again
The new God Of War made its second appearance at E3 and while it continues to look gorgeous, it’s pretty much guaranteed that all you’ll do in these beautiful environments is murder mythical creatures this time while babysitting Kratos’ son.
I’m sure that most, if not all, of these games (and Call of Duty World War II) will be great, but they are just bigger and hopefully better versions of what we already have.
It may be unfair to a great game, but nothing seemed so symptomatic of a lack of innovation as Sony’s announcement of a remake of Shadow of the Colossus, a game that’s already seen a HD remaster on the PS3.
Save us Spider-man!
When it came to the few “new” AAA games, Sony’s Spider-man for PS4 looked impressive but seemed to rely far too much on Quick Time Events to maintain its cinematic action. Spider-man 2 on the original Xbox and PS2, provided the most enjoyable translations of Spider-man in videogames, enabling players to joyously web-swing smoothly around New York, catapulting to dizzying heights. It’s a feeling subsequent games have struggled to capture, and any feeling of freedom and control is stripped away the moment an QTE appears on screen. The demo also didn’t show what happens if you miss any of the QTE’s? Is it game over? Do you just repeat the previous section because I know nothing makes me feel like more of a superhero than tedious repeated button matching!
On the other side of the aisle, Microsoft’s Crackdown 3, as well as being yet another sequel, also had to fight the impression of being a slight downgrade. During previous E3’s showings the game had boasted impressive environmental destruction, but most of that was gone along with Microsoft’s initial requirements for the Xbox One to always be connected to the internet. Adding Terry Crews to the trailer only reminded me that that Saints Row IV did open city super-heroics far better than the admittedly great original crackdown and with far more flair and panache.
I like the pretty lights…
The Last Night looked visually inventive but sounded a little like an old school adventure game with just some innovative paint applied.
Perhaps this year’s offerings was constrained by the weird hardware iterations that the big 2 are trying out this generation. Games for both the newly announced Xbox One X and PS4 Pro must also run on their less powerful predecessors, making it cost prohibitive for game developers to use the capabilities of the more powerful hardware for anything other than visual upgrades.
Even VR, the latest fad to grip video games, didn’t provide that many surprises this year. Considering Sony’s previous abandonment of the PS Move and Vita, their continued support for PSVR could be considered a surprise, I suppose. The biggest VR games announced all seemed to be rehashes of existing games; Doom VFR & Skyrim VR, with Bethesda following these with Fallout 4 VR on PC as well.
These may well provide the longer form VR experiences that HMD owners, buried under a deluge of quick games and shooting galleries may have been craving for, but they’re hardly new or original.
Despite the label of “most powerful games console in the world” (right now), and rumours that it would support VR, the Xbox One X launched without any VR capabilities. Phil Spencer, head of Xbox, even took time on numerous outlets to state that Microsoft’s VR support was, for now, confined to Windows PCs.
Won’t get fooled again
Something that should have had me quivering in excitement was the trailer for Beyond God and Evil 2 but as someone who played, completed, and enjoyed the original game, I was excited about a sequel the first time it was announced almost a decade ago. This trailer had a pig-man at the start but I assume that’s not Pey’j and little else seemed to have anything to do with the old game. What was with all the swearing? It looked pretty but so what? Cinematic trailers do absolutely nothing for me, the video game equivalent of “fake news”, I want to see how the game plays, not “looks”. Any remaining glimmer of excitement was quickly extinguished by the news that the demo that Ubisoft were showing behind closed doors was at “day zero of development.” What happened to the old sequel announced back in 2008? The Trailer from 2015. I won’t be burned again thank you very much, I’ll wait until I see a release date and a couple of reviews before getting my hopes up again.
The only thing that seemed new and mildly exciting this E3 was Anthem from Bioware but even this just looked like a version of Destiny that fulfilled some of Destiny’s unfulfilled launch promise. The demo seemed to go out of its way to show the player character interacting with the denizens of its sanctuary city, and seamlessly transitioning to its open world but only time will tell if this is more than Destiny with slightly more story.
So that’s it for this year. Where were the really innovative games, the promises of mind-blowing experiences? Hopefully they are still out there and being kept under wraps for now. There’s a lot to be said for Bethesda’s strategy of announcing games within months of their releases, as they did with Fallout 4 at E3 2015.
In the meantime I have a steam library backlog to dig through and Titanfall 2 to keep me going.
If you think there’s anything I missed out on let us know in the comments, on Facebook or tweet me @mcnastyprime