Monday, 9 June 2014

Xbox E3 2014: Initial Thoughts

Okay, so it's E3 time again, let's dive right into it with MICROSOFT'S XBOX.

It seems that this year Microsoft focused really on games, they've got their console, they've got it all ready, all games, no kinect nonsense, just a focus on (primarily) third party developers bringing their stuff to the Xbox One. In many ways this seems to be the most succinct conference. No handhelds, no new tech, nothing but games - and it's nice to see something like that. I don't have an Xbox One, can they convince me to get one?

Starts out with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, yeah, that's fine and good and all. But once again just very generic, I really think at this point Call of Duty needs a break. It's an obvious statement but even if Advanced Warfare turns out to be as awesome and groundbreakings as the original Modern Warfare was, I can't see myself buying it because it looks the same as Ghosts, Black Ops 2, Modern Warfare 3, it's just so generic feeling and I think the slowly dropping sales figures are pointing to franchise fatigue too. I'm not a CoD hater or anything, I like the series, but I don't want to see it become Guitar Hero, annual releases creating fatigue and eventual abandonment by the IP holders Activision.

On the other hand, Sunset Overdrive looks freakin' awesome. Lots and lots fun, really crazy stuff, a lot of bat-shit fun. And it's colourful, I love that, I love that it's bright and colourful and doesn't rely on a dark grim story to hide the fact that the gameplay sucks. In fact, here's an awesome game that doesn't seem to stick to any conventions whatsoever. It's just a lot of fun, with crazy shit going on. I'm excited, and it's an Xbox exclusive, so that's certainly a notch towards me wanting my first Xbox.

Dragon Age: Inquisition was up next, not much seen here really just a fairly generic fantasy trailer but it does look very beautiful. I'm sure more will be see at EA's conference later.

There's new DLC for Dead Rising that mocks the living hell out of Capcom. It looks hilarious using Capcom's huge amount of IPs to their advantage in this downloadable content release. Interesting of note, there's a great deal of awesome Mega Man music being used here for nostalgia sakes, except... where was anything else to do with Mega Man. No costumes for him, no cool weapons or something. I can't tell if this was intentional to parody their whole Dead Rising, Super, Hyper Turbo Ex Alpha theme, the fact that Capcom continually claims to love Megaman but does everything to avoid him at all costs. Hmmmm....

The next game on stage was Fable Legends, honestly, it doesn't look half bad. I'd be willing to buy it... if it were a new IP. The fact that this has the Fable label to leaves me very nervous, they've just gotten worse and worse throughout the years. Even one of the actors from my show Cody Griffis was in one of their commercials for their Fable Kinect game. Let's see how this one pans out before I invest any money in it.

Project Spark on the other hand, looks incredible as ever. I wanted this game last year, I want this game this year. This is one game that really does influence me to get an Xbox One. The Conker thing was nice, but no new game? That's not very nice of them, feels like a bit of a slap in the face. Well, Conker never felt  right to me on Xbox anyway, Xbox has always had the more dark-gritty games, so them having Conker just felt in the background. The original Rare game on Nintendo 64 was great because he fit in with all the cute cuddly Nintendo characters, but had this hilarious foul mouthed and aggressive edge, which made it a fun parody of characters like Kirby, Yoshi and even Mario.

Now the HALO stuff:

The Halo 5 trailer looked good but otherwise generic unfortunately. Didn't see any gameplay, which seemed to be a recurring thing, even Project Spark showed off only CG trailer, which as we know from last year, gameplay DOES exist... interesting. Anyway, they also showed of the Halo Master Chief Collection, which is another notch on the the "buy Xbox" belt for me. I always wanted to get into Halo but couldn't because I never played the original and just had no reason to. But four games in one, with a fifth coming, I'm down for that. Especially the original Halo 2 multiplayer which from what I hear was amazing. When I get some more money together this collection could be part of what seals a deal for an Xbox One purchase for me. 

That being said there was no price drop announced, and I'd really need that to justify an Xbox for me. I think at least $299 or $350 with Kinect for me. What astounds me the most is that we've actually reached a time where the original Xbox is now nostalgic. Where "with the flick of a button" as they say, you can switch to the original graphics of Halo 2. I mean, I get Playstation nostalgia, they've had three consoles now and the original had some of the best exclusives in gaming history. But when did Xbox nostalgia happen? Am I really getting that old that ten years can't be nostalgic to me anymore? I WANT TO PLAY THE ZX SPECTRUM AGAIN!!!

Finally, they also showed off a little from Halo: Nightfall, a digital series, which I'm looking forward to as a fellow Digital series producer. It's being done by Ridley Scott, which is excellent but is this the series that was being produced by Steven Spielberg they announced last year, I can't tell. When they say Digital Series to they mean like My Life as a Video Game style or House of Cards style, because it could be either. It wasn't very clear, especially as Microsoft loves to namedrop and we heard nothing about Spielberg in this.

Overall I'll say this, Phil Spencer seems way more genuine than his predecessors when talking on stage. Less jargon, less bullcrap.

Inside was a new indie game that look fascinating. I really like the look of it. Made by the people who made Limbo, it should be a hell of a lot of fun and a beautifully made game.

And here we go The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt  - right into it, no bullshit. We're here to show this and they do. This looks excellent, I'm actually very excited about this. It looks beautiful it looks huge and it looks polished within an inch of it's life. Now I've not played the original or The Witcher 2, which was the more popular one - kinda like Street Fighter II. I'm curious readers, can I play 2 without playing one, or will I be able to play 3 without playing 2. I've played BioWare games backwards and just couldn't do it. I went from Mass Effect, the original, to Knights of the Old Republic and it drove me insane, the lack of voiced hero, the slow gameplay it just felt sloooow. I hope that doesn't happen with Witcher 3, that it's so good it outclasses it's predecessors to the point that they become unplayable.

Towards the end we got a big indie reel, which didn't show off much but we did get The Division, which as last year looks great, once again they didn't show off much more than they did last year, in fact we got more last year because we got a CG intro. Looks great, looks fun, but I'm holding my breath after the whole Watch_Dogs, delay, "not console graphics", Wii U delayed for months extra, more gun-centric additions, too GTA-like fiascos that dimmed the hype of that game.

Platinum Games announced their new next gen game Scalebound, which while just a CG trailer like a lot here, looked awesome. Big beasts with original designs on a Monster Hunter-esque scale except with a modern day hero who (for some reason wearing Beat by Dre) and this dude, in addition to listening to some shitty dubstep, can adapt to a monster and take on their scales as armour, which looks AWESOME. Their games have always been these fast-paced crazy games from Metal Gear Rising to Bayonetta to Wonderful 101. It's fast paced awesome action. This looks no different, I'm looking forward to seeing gameplay.

The final thing I cared about was Crackdown, which supposedly is a returning IP... but I don't remember it personally. To me it looks like a Metropolitan Borderlands, that same cool art style and that same crazy action and fun.

So overall that was the Xbox Press Conference. It was fun, better than they've had in years honestly. They focused on third party games this time around and hopefully it should pay off. A lot of it felt like exclusives and I'll be able to tell more tomorrow when I hit the show floor if these can pay off. There didn't appear to be anything spectacular, like mind-blowing shit your pants jump up and down. But there were a lot of new IPs, which is a VERY good thing, if they can continue this momentum to the show floor this will be a great E3 for Microsoft.