E3 is coming up in just a few days (June 5-7) and I’m excited for some things, curious about some things, and a little worried about others. Here are my thoughts on the expo.
I’ve owned every current generation console but the PS3 is the only one I subsequently sold. To be fair, when I had it there were few games available. I played Resistance, which was fun but very short (took maybe 5 hours to beat) and had little replay value. I played Folklore, though I use the term “played” loosely because in the two hours I had the disc spinning in my system I think I played for maybe fifteen minutes, and the rest of that time was spent watching cutscenes and scrolling through text. I rented Uncharted which was a lot of fun but wasn’t a good enough reason for me to keep the console.
There are a lot more and a lot better games out now, but nothing I’d be willing to buy the system again for, especially now that I have an Xbox 360. That said, some games come close. What I’m looking for from Sony is a lineup that finally crosses that threshold. The Last Guardian might have been the game to do it, but the likelihood that we’ll see anything from it is pretty low. I don’t want to use the term “vaporware” but things are not looking great for this game. The Last of Us also looks very promising, and I think if any developer is going to bring me back to the Playstation, it’ll likely be Naughty Dog. I’m a sucker for Studio Ghibli, so Ni No Kuni is high on my radar. Then there’s Playstation All-Stars Battle Royale, Sony’s inevitable
ripoff of answer to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros. franchise. I’ll keep my eye on this one, but Sony doesn’t have anything remotely close to the franchise-specific fanbase Nintendo has, and most likely at least one character in this game will have appeared in SSB already (Solid Snake). Besides that, Masahiro Sakurai (the man behind Super Smash) is a gaming genius, and I don’t think Sony will reach the same level of creativity we’ll find in his series.
Overall, I’m mildly interested in what Sony has to offer.
I have some interest in what Microsoft is doing with Halo 4, but beyond that the company will have to pull some surprises to catch my attention. The Fable series never reached its potential with me, and releasing a Kinect-exclusive title is not going to fix that. I’m far more excited to see some third-party games for the Xbox. What I expect to see is two days of people talking about how great the Kinect is and why I should buy one, which in my view is two days of wasted time. Back to Halo 4, Bungie isn’t developing this one, but I like to remain optimistic, so I’ll keep my eye on it. Overall I’m uninterested in what Microsoft has to offer, but factor in third-party games and we have an entirely different story.
Nintendo is probably going to have the most of my attention. They should be announcing final details on the Wii U. Unfortunately, I expect the Wii U to be about the same as the Wii: It’ll be great for a year or maybe two. After that, Nintendo’s competitors will release systems twice as powerful, causing Nintendo to hemorrhage third-party support. The tablet controller will hopefully move the industry away from the motion control pit it has fallen into, but basically we’re replacing one gimmick with another. Sure, some games used the Wii’s motion control the right way, but nearly all were by Nintendo itself, and the mass amount of games left over primarily consisted of shovelware. The Wii U’s tablet controller might do the same, though it seems like the touch screen is being viewed more as an accessory than a tenant (considering it can be entirely disabled while using the tablet screen as the console’s main screen). Something else I’m concerned about is the system’s 1-2 controller limit. Yes, I know you can connect up to 4 Wii Remotes, but what’s the point? It hasn’t worked so far; you can use any controller for Super Smash Bros. Brawl but the game is still nearly unplayable with anything but the Gamecube controller. Using the 3DS as a controller seems feasible, but only if the 1-2 controller limit doesn’t still apply (as in I can use a Wii U tablet, my brother can use a Wii U tablet, and my sister can use a 3DS all at once). I would also like to see DVD support. I feel like I’m really not asking for much here. I know it’s a video game system, but being able to watch movies without switching out my HDMI device would be awesome. I really want to know for sure Nintendo is going to do the right things when it comes to online play. I’m sick of friend codes, and I’m sick of having one profile per system. We were promised these things would be fixed with the 3DS. They were not. I still need friend codes, I still can’t talk to people I’m playing with despite the system having a microphone built into it, and there are only a handful of games that can even be played online. I don’t play online often, but it would be nice if I didn’t have to jump hurdles those times I do.
Nintendo’s game lineup will surely be promising. There’s a new Animal Crossing, which I’m mildly excited for. A new Fire Emblem will definitely have my attention. Rumor has it we’ll hear about a new Pikmin, which I can’t wait for. I’m not expecting any news on new Zelda or Super Smash games, but either would be a very welcome surprise.
Overall, I’m most excited for Nintendo’s conference.
There will be a plethora of other games announced, demoed, and detailed at E3, so I won’t talk about them all. I’d like to touch on some of my favorites so far, though. Bethesda’s Skyrim will be getting its first big DLC, Dawnguard. I’ve seen the trailer and it looks awesome. Elder Scrolls Online has my interest as well, but if Bethesda really wanted to blow me away they’d give us some info on Fallout 4. Fallout 3 is the reason I bought an Xbox, it’s probably my favorite video game of all time. However, Skyrim just came out last year, so I’m not expecting anything on a new Fallout for a while.
Capcom definitely has my attention with Resident Evil 6. RE4 is another of my all-time favorites, and a predictable and sometimes plain stupid story didn’t hinder RE5 from being ridiculously fun at all. RE6 looks very promising, bringing back zombies (and mass amounts of them) as well as the meeting of Chris Redfield and Leon Kennedy fans have been waiting for for over a decade. Revelations for the 3DS saw a return to form for the series, keeping the over-the-shoulder perspective but bringing back the claustrophobic, atmospheric terror earlier games had. The game also kept many moments of all-out action, bringing the best merger of the series’ two forms yet. Hopefully RE6 will continue this (I can see Leon’s story being fear-oriented and Chris’s leaning closer to action) as both formats work very well for the series.
EA’s Dead Space 3 is a game I’ll keep my eye on. Dead Space is probably the most frightening video game I’ve ever played. The game mastered atmosphere, reminding us that a quiet, echoing knock can be leagues more terrifying than a big squishy baddy running toward you, or that a giant mutated creature can be scary but sometimes you can be more scared by what turns out to be nothing at all. Dead Space 2, while a lot of fun, was an epic failure on that front. The atmosphere and suspense were all but gone, replaced by increasingly tough bad guys running at you from the shadows. It was a bit of a letdown, but the creative enemies and weapons (javelin gun hehehe) and the more character-driven story almost made up for it. Almost. I hope Dead Space 3 can reconcile the two.
Square Enix will hopefully drop some info on Kingdom Hearts. Dream Drop Distance looks fun, and rumors are circulating about a collection which would feature all of the games thus far, all leading up to Kingdom Hearts 3. Besides the numbered titles, the rest of the series seems to have tremendously lost track. Where KH1 and to a lesser extent KH2 were designed to be a seamless blending of the worlds of Final Fantasy and Disney, the handheld entries have turned it into the go-to series for those of us who thought The Matrix needed a little more Winnie the Pooh. The games remain fun, which is arguably the most important thing for a video game, but the story has become convoluted to say the least. I’m hoping for a Kingdom Hearts 3 to get the series back on track.
What I’d like to see less of:
Motion control. When the Wii was announced I saw limitless potential. Maybe 5% of that was ever realized. Sony and Microsoft then took it further, and all three of the companies got it all wrong. Nintendo seemed to be on the right path for a while, but things went south fast, culminating in The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword. MotionPlus was supposed to save motion control, but instead it over-corrected it. When Skyward Sword works, it works beautifully. Unfortunately, this is marred by instances of the Wii Remote being utterly unable to respond to what I’m actually doing. What could have been the best Zelda ever turned into a frustrating, sometimes unworkable monument to the failure of motion-controlled gaming.
I can’t remember how many times I’ve lost a game because I sneezed or a dog walked in front of the motion sensor bar. I have no interest in the Kinect at all, which is good because the room my Xbox 360 is in is both too dark and too small to even use one. Sony’s Move is a cheap Wii-mote ripoff and doesn’t even pretend not to be, and while the consensus is that it functions a little better, it isn’t really useful in any way.
Motion control was meant to bring a layer of depth to video games that hadn’t been achieved yet. Instead it brought a gimmick of epic proportions and legions of useless shovelware. These days, Sony and Microsoft lifting off whatever new “feature” Nintendo comes up with is basically a staple of the gaming industry. I very much hope that with the Wii U, Nintendo gets this controller thing right. When a video game company leads the market with an innovation that is actually useful (see: shoulder buttons, analog control, rumble support) things are better for all of us. The motion-control plague inflicted upon us by the Wii is nigh unforgiveable. Luckily, the touch-screen-as-companion is an innovation already tested and proven true by the DS and 3DS, and again I see that potential I saw when the Wii was first announced (if I can’t play Fallout 4 with the Wii U tablet as my own personal Pip-Boy 3000, what good are either of them?) but only time will tell.
I don’t want to hear about how cool Reggie Fils-Aime is, nor do I want to hear about how cool Kevin Butler is (which is decidedly worse considering he doesn’t even exist). I don’t want to hear about how the Kinect is the future of everything and the best thing ever invented and I should buy one. I certainly don’t ever want to see a 3DS-launch-like sexism parade, and announcing a system without actually revealing anything but the controller is kind of like announcing a new car by showing pictures of its steering wheel. E3 shouldn’t be about a company’s beefed-up accomplishments. It needs to be about video games. The big three console makers should take a page from third party developers and just show us the games.