E3 is that special time that comes but once a year, a time where adults can be kids again and revel in explosion-laden trailers introduced by confused-looking corporate executives in suits. While I’m usually excited for this time of year, I honestly wasn’t feeling it too much this time. Maybe I was burned out or lost the sense of wonder after watching press conferences for about five straight years. I haven’t really written about it too much on here, but the state of video games has been turning me lukewarm about them at best, and that’s before you even add business practices and fan communities into the picture.
Regardless of my personal feelings about E3, I gathered up an expert panel from Deadshirt and Twitter to discuss this year’s press conference showings. How did the 2014 Electronics Entertainment Expo stack up against years past? You’re about to find out with the help of fellow Deadshirter Yen Nguyen (@yenissober), and game industry insiders extraordinaire Matthew Bremner (@Matthew_Bremner) and Robyn (@Twyst).
First up we have Microsoft’s press conference. They have a lot of lost ground to make up for after an absolutely disastrous event last year in which they spent most of their show discussing how you can watch TV through the Xbox One.
Matt: Really, really smart of them to go 100% games after last year’s debacle with the 2000 ways you could watch Netflix or ESPN.
Robyn: And not to fall into the hole of avatars and crap no one cares about.
Yen: Sony took last year’s Microsoft conference structure oops.
Kyle: Yeah, it was like they swapped ideas.
Robyn: Sunset Overdrive looks awesome with a fucking terrible trailer!
Kyle: I liked the idea of that trailer, but the main guy was like Sonic the Hedgehog in man form.
Yen: The trailer seemed all right other than that, yes.
Robyn: You can make your own character, and all they showed was one obnoxious dude.
Matt: Sunset Overdrive looks like the most fun I won’t have this generation. Other than the smile from the fact that an energy drink turned people into monsters, the trailer just looked like Tony Hawk with guns to me.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Matt: The way that 343 treats the Halo fans makes me wish I was a good Halo player. They just repeatedly give people what they want and it makes me jealous. If Square did what 343 does, they’d rule the goddamn world.
Robyn: Yeah, I am also not a Halo player, but I totally respect what they are doing with the franchise. Each of the games and their multiplayer modes in the original engine is really fantastic.
Kyle: I’m not a Halo fan anymore either, but they’re really doing a good job with this stuff, like fixing the issues people had with Halo 2‘s original lack of an actual ending, and porting the multiplayers instead of remaking them in the new engine.
Matt: Maintain the players that built you, hook in new ones.
Yen: But they left out Reach and ODST, right?
Matt: Yeah, Master Chief games only.
Forza Horizon 2
Kyle: I’ve never been a fan of super realistic racing games. So I guess it looks pretty? I mean I guess Horizon is the less realistic Forza, so there’s that.
Yen: Yeah, it certainly looks pretty.
Matt: I respect the work that goes into them, I just don’t really ever want to actually play them.
Yen: Where does Burnout fit on that spectrum? Because that’s the only car game I’ve loved and that’s like kinda very not real, right?
Kyle: The least real.
Robyn: What about Phantom Dust! Only on Xbone!
Yen: Which one was Phantom Dust? Was that the two people with glowing power energy auras?
Kyle: The one that all ten people that bought the original lost their minds over.
Matt: That stopped before there was event combat.
Robyn: I have never heard of this game before, if it was previously a game.
Kyle: Neither had I. Not sure why they picked this up of all things.
Robyn: So many slo-mo classical music trailers.
Yen: Maybe all the people who make video game trailers only watch Zack Snyder movies.
Robyn: I bought my first MS product for Fable, but I do not care about this game after Fable 3. I feel like they should have dropped the Fable name and just made this something new.
Yen: It’s my fault that I just don’t like fantasy at all, so I’m really bad at remembering details of such stuff.
Robyn: Fable is one of the most generic settings, to be fair.
Matt: I just don’t trust the brand anymore. All the games promise the moon and deliver Eastern Europe.
Kyle: Well, [original Fable game designer Peter] Molyneux isn’t even there to make promises anymore.
Matt: I have no idea at all whether or not Moly being gone is awesome or terrible.
Robyn: With 2, it was interesting what you could do — get married, have kids, etc. — but I don’t see any of that in this. It’s all combat, so they took out the only thing that I liked.
Kyle: It’s just a brand they don’t want to give up on for some reason, despite their clear lack of enthusiasm for it.
Matt: I get that it’s hard to establish a brand, but it really felt like the crowd left the Fable party with 3. No one talks about that series anymore. You hear more people asking for sequels to random SNES games than you do people clamoring for another Fable.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
Kyle: I thought this sequel was almost certainly axed. Good to see that it wasn’t.
Robyn: Yeah, a lot of people really liked the last game. I didn’t like the original trailer, but I have been meaning to check it out.
Kyle: If any reboot deserved a sequel it was Tomb Raider.
Matt: I like the idea of Lara becoming Lara organically.
Robyn: I see that they are giving her a character arc which is pretty admirable.
Matt: The idea that Lara’s story is about how she deals with a traumatic event and how it becomes a part of her. It’s way better than the rest of the faceless dudes who just kill people and then make quips about it.
Assassin’s Creed Unity
Robyn: The trailer looked fantastic, and I was excited about multiplayer, but then they said there weren’t any playable ladies and made up stupid excuses about it, and I was angry. The truth of the matter is, when you plan a game, it isn’t additional work to make a pillar of the game. That is something you get done.
Yen: The most famous assassination of the French Revolution was carried out by a woman.
Kyle: I bet they saw how poorly Remember Me did and then they took at as some kind of meaningless metric.
Robyn: Which is ridiculous. There are plenty of dude games that fail, that doesn’t mean no more dudes in games.
Yen: Given that the character models are so weighed down with heavy materials and stuff, like even the lazy solution of putting a woman’s head on the base body probably would’ve looked fine with some tweaks.
Robyn: And they have had women in their games before, so they have a library of animations!
Matt: For me, it just isn’t okay to say that we aren’t willing to do X amount of work to include a very large portion of the gaming community.
Yen: I expect more public backpedaling in the next few days.
Matt: It’s a really ugly, unnecessary stain on what should have been the high point of the franchise.
Robyn: I like the different characters within the classes, and playing as the monster looks badass.
Matt: Agreed. It just seems like a fresh enough take on the genre to be really fun and interesting.
Kyle: It looks like it will be a really fun game to play with friends.
Matt: Yeah, even online, this type of co-op seems like it will lead to a lot of intense fun. The claustrophobic, dark setting seems set up for some really awesome jump scares and laughs.
Yen: OK, yeah this looks like crazy nonstop multiplayer fun!
Kyle: Probably one of the more entertaining-looking games they showed.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Kyle: Finally, we’ve got The Witcher 3, a game that I am so incredibly excited for! I really, really loved those games!
Matt: I’ve never played a Witcher game, despite owning the first two in their super duper iterations.
Robyn: I’ve never played them either. I heard they were great, this looks like more of the same but more polished, and in this case more of the same isn’t bad.
Kyle: It’s open world now, so that’s a big change.
Matt: Your being a fan of the series and still being really excited for this one speaks loudly for it, I’d say.
That’s our E3 Microsoft commentary – check back later today for our panel’s thoughts on Sony and Nintendo’s offerings!