E3 Conferences Impressions

This year’s E3 conferences were quite different than past years, despite being good, there wasn’t one who stood out as remarkable or unforgettable. Without many surprising moments that would make the audience go crazy, most of them felt lukewarm, as if companies were keeping their cards close to their chests, or didn’t really have many novelties to show.

Here I’ll talk about them from worst to best, in my opinion, and some things I noticed about how companies are changing some aspects of how they approach their conferences:

EA

As last year, EA came up with the worst presentation, even though it certainly has improved. Many strange and cringy moments happened, mainly because it feels that the company is striving to look cool, trying to talk with the millennial generation without completely understanding it.

Youtubers that had problems with teleprompters,  feet out of place in a presentation willing to appeal not only to customers but also to stakeholders. Sports games would have overly long presentations at times, and yes, it is an integral part of the company strategy and finance, however, a leaner, more dynamic segment would work better for them. Jokes, long introductions, a trailer focusing on eSports also didn’t help the presentation, making it feel longer than it really was.

Battlefront 2’s multiplayer demonstration felt out of place, especially after EA’s focus on the singleplayer campaign ever since its announcement. Revealing that it won’t have a season pass is nice, and the multiplayer does look interesting, but showing just a little bit of the story would feel like a reward after the unimpressive Battlefront.

A way out

Although there were some problems, not all was lost. Need for Speed Payback looked amazing, with a truly great demo, showing a little bit of its mechanics, characters, mission structure, appearing to be a better game than we expected. And the best moment was A Way Out, part of the EA Originals program, a game that shows real innovation, with an unusual and unique gameplay mechanic. Becoming one of the best games to show at the event, with an effective trailer, and a very enthusiastic developer.

Sony

I might be too harsh on them, but after last year’s stellar presentation, this year’s just felt underwhelming. A repetition of the games seen last year, many still remaining without any release dates, a lack of new and exciting titles, and a feeling that something was missing, marked the presentation. By the way, I’m not considering the sound issues, these things happen.

Starting with Naughty Dog and Guerrilla was a smart move, but an Uncharted stand alone game and Horizon DLC doesn’t really hype up the audience. Destiny and Call of Duty being part of it isn’t a surprise, after all, both are expected to be the biggest sellers of the year, but none had an exciting showing.

The same can be said of Monster Hunter World and Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, that looks very strange, with last-gen graphics, especially when compared with Street Fighter V and the superb Injustice 2. I have to say that I was surprised that they mentioned VR, with a good number of games, although they still feel more like tech demos than full-fledged games. Please, let’s stop releasing Skyrim on every platform, compared to more modern titles, it doesn’t look great, neither graphically, nor mechanically.

The one surprise of the presentation was the remake of Shadow of the Colossus, that looks incredible, but this one is on me, I can’t muster any excitement over a remake or remaster anymore. Detroit: Become Human is on the verge of saturation for me, it feels like I’ve seen this games more times than I needed too, and the lack of a release date doesn’t feel like a sign we’ll see it soon, probably next year.

God of War had a new trailer that highlighted the story and the relationship with Kratos and his son, what seems to be the part that the developers are giving the most attention to. The trailer itself was good, the story indeed looks intriguing, but the way it was cut was a little strange, I preferred last year’s gameplay chunk.

Days Gone

The best parts for me were the first gameplay reveal of Insomniac’s Spider-Man, and Days Gone, that after last year’s lukewarm presentation, they came out with an unexpected demo. Days Gone with a stunning demo finally gave us more on the background of the game, that may be very promising. God of War will be huge, but the prospect of a The Last of Us with an open world is something to look for. What looked like another zombie game that solely focused on action, now appears to one with a soul, highlighting human relationships, instead of waves of enemies. A game that I couldn’t care less about, became one I’ll keep my eye on, although Bend still hasn’t released anything that impressive.

Spider-Man is a beautiful title that based on the pedigree of the studio behind and what we saw, won’t disappoint. The combat is fluid, the world and the animations are beautiful, and the action set-piece was entertaining, reminding an Uncharted with a superhero as the main character. The high number of QTE’s can be troubling, but we’ll only find out next year, earlier than expected.

Bethesda

It started in a great way, with developers and their kids talking about what they did for a living and their excitement over games, something that was quite strange, as Bethesda’s game tend to be very violent, but it was fresh, funny and why not, cute. Then a video presentation started with great animation, showing the lineup of Bethesda, it was short, straight to the point, and very pleasant. However, the more I think about it, the less I like it.

Everything that was anticipated was there, Skyrim is coming out again, now in VR, Doom too, Elder Scrolls online, Legends were part of the presentation, but nothing that stood out. Quake legends appealed to the eSports side of the game. Dishonored DLC looked great, like every Dishonored trailer, with a very cool twist on the story, that may have some serious repercussion in the future of the franchise.

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The 2 surprises that ended up not surprising anybody, were the highlights. The Evil Within 2 had a very curious trailer that focused on the struggles of the leading character, the impact of his past on his life, and apparently, on his mind. With a beautiful soundtrack and a striking visual style, it showed great promise.

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus came with a long trailer that never ceased to amaze. The graphics are mesmerizing, the story fascinating. It’s nice to see that MachineGames appears to have improved on every area. The New Order was a great game, but The New Colossus may take the franchise a step further, with crazy characters, charismatic villains, and visceral action.

Microsoft

Unlike Bethesda, the more I think about Microsoft’s conference, the more I like it. When it ended I was completely deflated, mainly due to the lack of a massive AAA announcement of an exclusive for their new console, but pondering on what was presented, there were some very interesting games. Cuphead finally got a release date and a feature long awaited, OG Xbox backwards compatibility was announced.

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It started with the reveal of the Xbox One X, formerly known as Project Scorpio, that looks very slick in spite of being a lot more powerful than the original Xbox One, actually, it is smaller than the S model. The price is way too high, eliminating any chance to compete with the PS4 Pro, that may have fewer teraflops, but has better exclusives, let’s face it. Especially if multiplatform games don’t run that better on the X.

They promised to show more than 40 games, 22 exclusives, however many were timed exclusives, and others didn’t really impress the audience. Like The Newton Project and Lucky’s Tale, that felt generic and uninteresting. What was curious about the conference was that there were a significant number of good games, with a little bit for everybody, and that’s why I liked it.

First-party titles looked great, but nothing close to the size of a Halo or Gears. State of Decay 2 looks like an AAA title now, with many possibilities, although I would prefer a gameplay demo instead of the trailer shown, it felt a little long. Forza 7 is more beautiful than ever, it just didn’t make a lot of noise because everyone knew it would come out.

We saw Crackdown 3 after years of silence, bringing Terry Crews to the trailer, and the game, the letdown was that we didn’t see much of the title. Sea of Thieves had a much better showing than last year, with a mission that displayed the new features of the game, a little bit of the team aspect, finally revealing more about what it is all about.

Phil Spencer’s trip to Japan really worked out well for the company, a section was devoted to Japanese titles, with Dragon Ball Fighter Z standing out in a completely unexpected way.

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But the highlights for me were clearly The Last Night, an indie game that combines a beautiful world that resembles Blade Runner, using a pixel art aesthetic, attracting a lot of attention for its beauty and mysterious world. Assassin’s Creed Origins brought the franchise back to E3 after a year off, and it looked like that decision paid off, new features were shown, combat has changed, Egypt looks impressive, leaving some hope that the franchise might have a bright future ahead.

A Life is Strange prequel was revealed, and that was the moment in which I really got excited, in spite of the fact that Chloe’s voice actress has changed, it was nice to see the franchise being recognized on a big stage. And to finish things off, Anthem, the new Bioware IP had their gameplay reveal, and it looked amazing, maybe too beautiful at times. But the changes of gameplay that happened seamlessly were impressive, the world hypnotizing, it looked like a Destiny with a more fleshed out world and story.

Nintendo

I was baffled with how much I enjoyed Nintendo’s conference, given that I’m not somebody who really cares about their games or even consoles. The last one I had was a Super Nintendo, and for the first time since the SNES, I’m thinking about buying a console from them.

Their spotlight was short, effective, showed new games, and had a different feeling than the other companies had. The beginning was a little strange with a trailer focusing on the Switch, followed by Reggie Fils-Aime reflected on game and life, something that was funny, quickly proceeding to the games.

And here is where Nintendo always shines, their games don’t really have a story, but they have a trademark style. Starting with Xenoblade Chronicles 2, a huge RPG that is exclusive to the console, looking massive, diverse and beautiful. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle looks like XCOM for kids, with a stunning art style, and a gameplay that genuinely looks fun.

New games of Kirby, Yoshi were shown, with different mechanics that work around the genre they’re in. They talked more about Breath of the Wild’s DLC, shedding some light on what could be expected from now on. Two projects stole the show, a Pokémon RPG is coming to Switch, and we expect for it to be a massive game, and Metroid Prime 4, that appears to be at the very beginning of its development cycle.

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The grand finale was the bizarre Super Mario Odyssey, and how crazy is that game. Taking the approach of bigger worlds, we managed to see the game running for the first time, and it reminds 64 and Sunshine, with open landscapes, a looser experience. And the hat, that we finally understand why was highlighted, allowing you to possess the body of any character in the world, creating endless possibilities for puzzles, representing something new to the genre. As I said, it was short, there weren’t dozens of games, but the ones that were shown were meaningful projects, in an E3 that felt lukewarm.

Ubisoft

I might be biased as I tend to enjoy their conferences, and the company as a whole, they make mistakes but they look honest, and I feel that this year they showed that. What an improvement when compared to last year, instead of overly long demonstrations, we saw a much better-structured show, if it was sports, it would’ve gotten the most improved player award.

Just Dance didn’t have a long dance routine that would bore everybody, it was short and swift. The way it started was brilliant, bringing Shigeru Miyamoto to the stage to talk about Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle, and to see the emotion and the passion of the developers was truly remarkable. Although the Rabbids can be very annoying at times, the presence of Mario balances that, in a game that looks delightful to play.

Assassin’s Creed Origins had a smaller presence, after appearing with an extended gameplay on Microsoft’s stage. Here was the strangest moment, when we were shown someone playing on a screen announcing a gameplay that would air after the conference, it just didn’t make any sense.

The Crew 2 was impressive, with many different styles of racing, planes, boats, cars, a beautiful world, and an Inception style effect. It feels like a much-improved title, looking like another case of Assassin’s Creed and Watch Dogs 2 syndrome.

Some moments didn’t land, South Park appeared again, an Elijah Wood project didn’t have a lot of details revealed, Steep has DLC, and a toys-to-life game was announced, long after the genre died.

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A new game based on pirate life, Skull & Bones, surprised the audience, looking like the Black Flag spin-off we were all waiting for. Naval battles with a multiplayer focus, in a beautiful world, and the possibility of creating a pirate squad, that’s not bad. Far Cry 5 continues to look like a significant improvement over Far Cry 4, that felt tired. More options to use NPC’s as part of the missions, hiring friends to help you, a world that responds to your actions, it appears to be a real sequel.

To end things off, they brought Beyond Good & Evil 2 back from the dead. With a new look, characters, feel, working as a prequel to Jade’s adventure. To see Michel Ansel tearing up on stage was truly special, it was nice to see that in such a rich industry you can see love for what they do. Whether we’ll actually play it we’re not sure, but it was great to see such a beloved franchise making a comeback, let’s hope that for good now.

A few things that caught my attention:

  • Every company is crazy to get their share of eSports.
  • Long gameplay demos became more scarce, it feels that companies are preferring gameplay trailers.
  • Microsoft didn’t talk about new features and Game Pass.
  • Companies are looking to make open worlds more responsive, reacting to your actions, like in GTA V.
  • Some are taking the Nintendo approach, making the conferences shorter, usually lasting less than one hour, with minimal presence from executives, like Bethesda and Sony did.
  • Speaking of Sony, it was strange to see that Hidden Agenda, the new Supermassive project, was part of the pre-show, especially when their VR projects, that looked much worse, took the main stage. And it is intriguing to see the downfall of Gran Turismo, that was too a part of the pre-show. We’re talking about the highest-selling franchise Sony has, and it is astonishing that it wasn’t part of the main show.

 

PSX Showcase highlights

This is a completely subjective text, after all, these are my personal highlights. But we can say that even though it had its lows, this year’s PSX Showcase was a very good presentation with some amazing surprises, and leaks that were confirmed. Let’s begin:

What a way to open

A very nice mysterious demo, at first it looked like Uncharted, then a new IP, and then I was sure it was Tomb Raider. The Lost Legacy, Uncharted’s single player DLC looked amazing, and felt different enough from the A Thief’s End. With Chloe as the protagonist, something nobody expected, and Nadine back, it feels a lot stealthier and with a different combat. And Naughty Dog didn’t stop there.

What a great time to be alive

The moment I got goosebumps, it was the perfect way to finish the show, an incredible and impactful reveal. Joel and Ellie are back with a hauntingly beautiful song telling the story behind the trailer. 5 years after the events of the first game, Ellie seems tougher, grittier and hardened by life, in a quest for revenge, that may take her to extremely dark places. And interesting, but sad theories emerge with a possible death of Joel, whose face we don’t see here. Too bad we are 2 or 3 years away from this.

When’s Marvel

A leak that we were thrilled to see confirmed, Marvel vs Capcom is back and looking better than ever.With a bigger focus on the story mode can make it very different and exciting, and no exclusivity, well, I think they learned their lesson with Street Fighter V.

Nobody asked for it, but…

I know that a whole lot of jokes ad awesome memes appeared after this reveal, and people seem to hate the first Knack. But for some reason I enjoyed the trailer, and who knows we may see a AC 1 to AC 2 evolution.

How I missed you

I just can’t wait to see you back again,Crash. It looks great, and from what the developers are saying, some welcome updates are coming, with improved controls and a promise to bring the game back without destroying its history.

A nice mystery

Revealed a few years ago, What Remains of Edith Finch, looks like one of those titles with an enigmatic story, an obscure atmosphere. From the same studio of the great Unfinished Swan, it tells the story of a family plagued by tragedy, possibly being on of the surprises of 2017. And a welcome addition to PS4’s catalogue, as we don’t have that many quality exclusive indies as we did in the PS3.

Throwback Saturday

The series that made me buy a PSone, I’ll always remember of being amazed by the graphics, the gameplay. It’s nice to see Sony bringing one of its oldest franchises back to life, with not only one but 3 titles to fulfill our nostalgia.

Got the funky flow

For some strange reason I never played PaRappa The Rapper. And it’s a great chance for those who always loved the game and others like me, who always had the curiosity but never had the chance, to give it a try.

Why would you buy the PS4 Pro?

In the afternoon of September 7th, in Playstation Theater in NY, the PS4 Pro, formerly known as PS4 Neo, was announced in an event that had the complex task of revealing a product that has suffered a severe backlash from the community, whilst at the same time creating expectation and a desire in customers to buy it.

Sony decided to take a different approach than of their main competitor, Microsoft, instead of announcing during E3, they went for a more low-key presentation, with a somber environment, without any orchestra, theater or an impressive spectacle, where Mark Cerny and Andrew House, some of Sony’s main executives, took the burden of presenting to the world the future of Playstation, but at the end of the Playstation Meeting, one question remained, why would you buy the PS4 Pro?

But how about the PS4 Pro?

It all started with the “announcement” of the PS4 Slim, that leaked weeks prior to the presentation, and from that moment on the PS4 Pro was the main focus, with rumours being confirmed, with the console running 4k, HDR, that later was revealed to come to every PS4 ever sold (a hit in the Xbox One S), but also something that indirectly makes the Pro a little redundant, the ability to bring higher graphical fidelity even in HDTV screens, and a better performance and integration with PS VR.

However, after the presentation, instead of feeling excited about the possibility of selling my PS4 to upgrade to the Pro, I felt underwhelmed about that prospect, and happy and satisfied with my current machine, and from what it seems, the feeling around the internet echoes mine, without any major hype surrounding the announcement, or any fuss as what happened with Scorpio on E3, to sum it up, a lukewarm reception, the worst kind possible for a new hardware.

What went wrong

Their major mistake comes from the fact that the presentation failed to really demonstrate what would be the driving force behind the new console, failing to deliver the message to the consumer, with the console looking like a gimmick, running games with a higher resolution, better definition and nothing else, with the decision of the streaming feeling like a poor judgement, that would only run at 1080p not showing the true potential of 4k gaming, with the choice of posting it on-demand looking more suitable for the situation.

The tone also felt wrong, with the feeling of a shareholder meeting than an announcement of a high-profile product, with a low energy audience, feeling tedious at times, focusing on the technical part, utilizing a lingo that really didn’t mean anything to the average gamer, gameplays that felt unimpressive, somehow the Mass Effect Andromeda gameplay reveal didn’t manage to excite me, with pretty much all of them spotlighting the graphical possibilities but being too short to really create any hope of PS4 Pro being a revolutionary product to the industry.

Even though the company talked about being one community, one game, and that it would be forwards compatible, they didn’t reiterate on it as much as Microsoft did during E3, a major point for gamers, the name also feels strange, with the Pro implying that the OG PS4 could be the one for casual players, something that would feel confusing for consumers that don’t really follow the news, and wouldn’t know the big difference even if they watched it today.

Despite using more than 40 minutes to explain everything, Sony disappointed to do something that Microsoft managed to do in 2 minutes with a simple trailer, successfully present the world what was the power difference between the PS4 and this new product, with PS Meeting presenting the Pro as a minor upgrade that isn’t worth of an investment.

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And the price, that doesn’t represent the major upgrade that was expected, being only $100,00 more expensive than the PS4 Slim, working as a message to the market that if you want a product that is marginally more powerful or better, you can buy the Pro, that doesn’t really have anything different and is not worth the bigger investment of also purchasing a 4k TV, that has yet to reach mass market, and even lacks Blu-ray 4k support.

The general feeling is that the tables have turned, and Sony decided to take Microsoft’s position in the beginning of the “previous” generation, failing to communicate to their consumers what their main product is all about, displaying a strategy that feels lost, talking about the possibility of third-party companies patching their games to run better, a company that doesn’t seem to understand the market and their needs, and after today’s reveal, I can’t find any good reason why anybody would want to buy a PS4 Pro, unless if you don’t have a PS4 and you have or is thinking about buying a 4k TV, feeling like a useless product for a huge part of the market.

 

 

Halo Wars 2 Open Beta Impressions

I’ve never been much of a strategy gamer, with it being one of the genres that I always had interest but the games I’ve tried often felt overwhelming, with Command & Conquer: Red Alert 3 being one of the few that I really spent a lot of time playing, and actually had a great time doing it, in part due to the tongue-in-cheek story and the ease of understanding the systems, and thinking of that I decided to give it a try at Halo Wars 2’s open beta, here are some impressions.

The beta begins with a video tutorial explaining the basics of the game, such as the controls, how to select troops, issue orders, improve your base, allocate points, how the attack system works and how to use the menus, after this you get to play the only mode available, 2v2 team deathmatch, that consists on controlling the map, called Domination, and attacking your enemy bases, you can choose between Captain Cutter or Atriox, with an infantry or a grunt squad as your beginning squad.

The attack scheme works in a very interesting way, using a rock-paper-scissor system, in which the infantry loses to vehicles, vehicles to air and air to infantry, with some units countering others, with more advanced units being unlocked as you improve your base, creating an easy to play and hard to master structure, that makes it more understandable for a novice in the genre.

Speaking of improving the base, it can be upgraded in many ways, such as developing its armory, supply drop, generator, amongst other things, developing the capacity of generating energy, that can also be harvested dominating Forerunner energy sources, better units, weapons, with more unlockables as you increase your tech level.

The gameplay flows very well, with the controls working surprisingly well given the limitations of the controller, as usual the map lightens as your units move, displaying new areas and possibilities, the map has a good size, without making combats seem convoluted, through it you can mine for resources and control energy towers to improve your command center, with empty designated areas where you can build bases, and as combat happens you earn commander points that you can allocate in a perks tree, where you unlock special perks, such as a turret or ODST soldiers drop, MED drones in the battlefield.

Since it’s a beta there were some issues, with problems in match loading, ending unexpectedly, but what caught my eye was how beautiful the game was, from small details such as the wind on the flags, or the way how impressive the shadows look, for example when they leave the base at night, how the headlights light the dark, to the particles that flood the screen when the battle begins.

It may not be my cup of tea, but Halo Wars 2 looks like a worthy addition to the already great Xbox exclusives lineup, especially in a genre that doesn’t receive a lot of titles in the console market, with XCOM 2 as the other release, unfortunately we didn’t get a glimpse on the single player, but from what I saw from the multiplayer, Halo Wars 2 may make the fans of strategy games very happy.