On Tuesday, June 11th, I was making my way across a sea of gamers; E3 had opened at 12pm and by 12:05, the West Hall was already crazy crowded. Then I came upon Capcom’s booth for Dead Rising 3, which was surrounded by a menacing-looking wire fence…turns out this was their way of keeping in the undead (READ: real LA working actors!) One of them, a woman in tattered clothes was sitting on the floor noshing on a severed limb. (I think it was an leg.) The attendees dug it, Instagramming and Vining each moment. The scene often played out along the lines of “Look, this zombie is trying to eat me, but he can’t because of this fence! Ha!” Fun times.
For me, though, the experience was a bit jarring. In The Great Gatsby, Jordan Baker makes the startling observation that large parties are intimate while small ones have no privacy. She’s right. As I stood there with a Cool Haus red velvet ice cream sandwich digesting in my belly, I felt pretty isolated. Alone amidst that sea of fellow nerds.
This was my eighth E3. I remember my first time, just being so overwhelmed by the spectacle of it all. Being a geek, you shouldn’t be surprised that I took plenty of photos with Lara Croft and Street Fighter’s Chun Li.
Today, however, was different because, the week prior, I played through the entire campaign of Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, which might just be one the last great games of the PS3 era. I’ll have my full thoughts on TLoU soon, but it’s rather telling that I couldn’t shake a feeling that experience had left me with as I traversed the Los Angeles Convention Center: I was wandering through a wasteland of America after an infection has led to chaos and finally, deserted highways, buildings. I kept thinking while at E3, someday this will all be gone…
Suffice it to say, I was pretty creeped out.
As I look over my list of of what left an impression on me at this year’s E3, another thought crosses my mind. Is the era of consoles coming to a close? (Why is that much more terrifying to me than an actual apocalypse?) Is everything being sucked up into a future where our entertainment bleeds into another? Is that good, bad or at the very least confusing?
There’s a lot to go over, so as Kirk Head said on one of my favorite episodes of Futurama, “settle in.”
1. Best Xbox One Launch Title: Dead Rising 3
Back when the 360 debuted in 2005, Capcom’s Dead Rising was a fresh take on the sandbox genre even if the execution was less than perfect: awful load times, not enough save points, too many timed missions and so on. For the Xbox One launch, DR3 promises to rectify all that plus add some genuinely interesting enhancements. You’re troublemaker Nick Ramos (looking and acting like a Latino Sons of Anarchy biker), and it’s a decade after the incidents of the first game. Obviously, the graphics look much better this tine, but even better, the lack of load times keeps the play tense and focused. Like in Saints Row you can play the whole thing full on silly (costumes galore, goofy weapons) or play it straight. It’s up to you. As an added bonus you can use your own smart phone to send and receive calls/texts to fictional characters and command the occasional air strike. Runners up: Ryse: Son of Rome, Forza 5: Motorsport.
2. Best PS4 Game of Show: inFAMOUS: Second Son
Like Dead Rising, this is another sandbox-style game; the two previous games in the series were also PlayStation exclusives by developer Sucker Punch. It’s disappointing, though, that the release is set for a Q1 2014. Annoying? Absolutely, but the game looks pretty slick so far with nary any frame rate issues.
New protagonist Delsin Rowe must choose between chaos or order seven years after the original. He has the ability to get all Rogue on other conduits (those who literally have electrical powers in their veins) by stealing theirs. Nice trick. I’m just nervous about him also being a bit teen-angsty, which I hope doesn’t make him the jerk the new Dante was in last year’s DMC. Runner up: Killzone: Shadow Fall.
3. Cosplay Is Alive and Well.
Okay, this dude isn’t really cosplay, but whatever. The bottom of the shirt said “wiid,” as in weed. Pot-smoking Mario. Clearly, a mushroom king.
4. The Walking Dead: 400 Days
Fans of The Walking Dead: The Game should be pleased that while we eagerly await season two, 400 Days will be arriving this fall as DLC to season one for roughly five bucks. You’ll have to at least have downloaded episode one first, but odds are you’ve played all five episodes already.
This one takes place over the same time-frame with five new stories all centered around a roadside diner. The demo I saw was about Vince, another prisoner (season one focused on Lee, a convict who escapes a patrol car when Z-day hits) travelling in a lock-up bus. He’s shackled to two other convicts, which doesn’t bode well once the undead take over. Captivating stuff with great player tailoring, as is the staple for Telltale. The answer to the question you didn’t ask is yes, I will shoot chains, even if it means severing another inmates leg.
5. Best Name Ever: Octodad: Dadliest Catch
The controls are not at all good in any way, but that name is eight arms worth of hilarity.
Runner up name: Galax-Z.
6. Nintendo Makes Us Excited About Mario & Co. (Again.)
After nearly a year of mostly zip for the Wii U, the big N showed off (all playable!) a new Mario, an HD Zelda remake, Mario Kart 8, Pikmin 3 and a new Donkey Kong Country. I’ve said this for years: all I really ever wanted was the catalog of Nintendo games in glorious HD. Now that I’ve had time with just that I can say I was not disappointed in the least. Super Mario 3D World ain’t 3D with glasses (yay!) and feels like a mishmash of New Super Mario Bros. Wii with a hint of Galaxy. The new catsuit power-up allows players to claw their way to the top of world 1-1, 2-1, etc. Kitty likes.
Windwaker HD is basically a remake with a few tweaks made. So colorful though I l that look forward to playing all over again. Although I hope I can skip the King of Red Lion’s lengthy dialogue. That was one chatty boat.
Speaking of Nintendo…
7. Best Surprise: Wii Trainer Girl Enters The Super Smash Bros. Arena
What started as a typical video for maybe a new Wii Fit became Wii Trainer Girl kicking much butt over Link, Mario, pretty much all of them. Hilarious and strangely arousing? I’ll never admit that. I now have a reason to look forward to Super Smash Bros. Wii U. Oh, and Mega Man is in it too. Woot.
8. Watch Dogs Proves All Us Smart Phone Users Are as Awesome as 007.
I’ve been a fan of Ubisoft ever since Prince of Persia. The humor (dying, “No, no, that’s not right”), the fun wall running: what wasn’t there to love? Well, the combat never really engaged. (Timed button stuff never does.) As successful as their current-gen series Assassin’s Creed has been, once again, the combat has kept me from completing most of them. I am really hoping the third franchise is the charm with their latest, Watch Dogs. The demo was in two parts: first was a mission that included driving, shooting and in the best moment, hacking a suspicious nosy coffee drinker’s cell so as not to let the cops know your whereabouts. The second part revealed the open-worldness.
Ubisoft has been showing this game off since last year’s E3. I’m pretty happy that game releases this October on PS3, 360 and also PS4 and Xbox One.
9. Bungie’s Destiny
A PS4 exclusive from the famed Halo creators. Sony’s event was the debut of actual gameplay footage: verdict? Like cross between Borderlands co-op with Killzone-rich detail and (hopefully) Halo-tight gameplay. The only question the designers seemed cagey about was how the campaign plays for single player. (Hint: there isn’t one.) Not quite a deal-breaker considering the talent involved, but it gives me pause as to how compelling the story will be.
10. Xbox 101 Way Nerdier Than Genius Bar.
By far the most tech-heavy session of the week was the one with Microsoft reps attempting to explain three specific features of the Xbox One in behind-closed-doors meetings. The first had to do with how the processing power of the console relieved of a lot of processing by using the cloud to parcel off the heavy workload. (Is that why the thing has to always be online?)
The second was showing off the new Kinect with a generic shooter. The new Kinect does seem much more responsive as the guy “driving” would move his controller up to bring up an onscreen shield. I didn’t see any noticeable lag. (Great, but I did still think the guy looked noticeably embarrassed with all the wiggles and shakes.) The third was about utilizing your television signal (via an HDMI In) to make Xbox One manage your shows with your gaming. Example: seeing your sports stats while you play Halo 5. Overall: a solid presentation that helped to exemplify the new features of the console; the stuff that’s “under the hood,” as they say. I just hope I never an issue that leads to tech support.
11. Does Bethesda Think Elder Scrolls Online and a Return to Wolfenstein Means We Didn’t Want A Fallout 4 Announcement? Hrmph.
Elder Scrolls foray into the MMORPG world promises 150 hours of playtime. Granted, that’s 50 hours per class for three separate character classes, which involves an awful lot of crafting. Visually, gamers will love the Skyrim look and feel. I’m only saying this once though, why can’t Bethesda put a hint of direction in their character exchanges? I’m not expecting Mass Effect level camera tricks, but I’d like to think I’m not just playing an overgrown PC game. (I know, I know, for shame!)
Now, Wolfenstein: The New Order is much more to my liking. This is shaping up to be what I wanted in this year’s Metro: Last Light – foggy, bloody, totally Eurotrashy and having insanely immersive cracks and crevices.
And yet I would have traded both these games for another trip through The Capital Wasteland. I want my new Pipboy, darnit!
12. Best Teaser: Mirror’s Edge 2
So happy the Battlefield series has done well for DICE studios. I’m not a big shooter guy (did I even mention the new Call of Duty?), but I dug the heck out of the First Person Parkour in Mirror’s Edge. The Swedish developer has been mum about doing a follow-up since the sales we not very high, so I’m glad to see this. They claim it’ll be more action-oriented, and iff that means we stay outside more then awesome. Runners up: Kingdom Hearts 3, Star Wars: Battlefront.
I didn’t have time to go into all the big new installments (Batman: Arkham Origins, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, COD: Ghosts, Halo 5, Metal Gear Solid 5 – hmm, that’s a lot of part fours and fives), but they all looked promising. Time will tell if this really was an E3 for the books. I’d like to hope this isn’t the end of the console era, but who knows. It could be worse, right? The PlayStation Ten could be about to launch when boom – we lose all power la J.J. Abrams’ Revolution. Now THAT would suck.