E3 2013 Aftermath

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E3 has been over for two weeks now. Not being there firsthand means not getting direct eyes or hands on with games or having direct conversations with developers and publishers; however, not being there also allows for a greater chance to collect information and consume all of the news and provide a more measured recollection of all that happened.

Of course the big news was Microsoft and Sony providing much greater information on their upcoming consoles. Along with that information came a barrage of new games, both exclusive and multi-platform. Not to be overshadowed (even though they didn’t have a press conference), Nintendo showed off a large selection of games for both the Nintendo Wii U as well as the 3DS. Each console–Wii U, PS4, and One (sic, Xbox One—I don’t like calling it “The One” or Xbone, or Xbox)–provides many similar non-gaming entertainment options, but games are why you read this site, and games are why we write for you. So let’s talk about some games!

Nintendo

I currently don’t own a Wii U. As unique a gaming system as it is, I couldn’t justify buying one at launch. At the time there wasn’t enough content for the console to justify the cost. However seeing what Nintendo brought to E3 this year (granted a fair portion of these games won’t be out until 2014) have piqued my interest enough that I may consider finally taking the plunge. In no particular order here are the titles that have me excited.

Super Mario 3D World: Some would say that Mario has been played out. Maybe that’s because they play every title that Nintendo cranks out with the lovable plumber. Personally I find the whimsy of the character and the world in which his adventures take place, to be a fun reminder of my youth. I know going into any Mario game that I will have fun, and probably swear and show incredible restraint (while not throwing a controller across the room) because even though Mario games tend to be gorgeous eye candy, they can be downright devious in requiring Jedi reflexes in order to complete some areas. I expect this and accept it. Seeing Super Mario 3D World in HD will take my youthful reminiscences to a whole new level.

Pikmin 3: I’ve never played a Pikmin game. But the video and screenshots click for me in that weird way in the back of my brain, in the same way I can’t look away when my kids used to watch The Teletubbies or Boobahs. I know that Pikmin 3 has more going for it than a strange hypnotic trance, but without playing it first hand, that will be the reason I want to have this game.

Bayonetta 2: The original Bayonetta was a game that I both loved and hated. The story made about as much sense as a fly marrying a bumble bee. Letting the narrative take me for a wild ride was enough as long as outrageous encounters helped provide a visual reference to madness. The combat system forced me to pay attention to combo building and blocking attacks properly. It made me appreciate the complexity. As Bayonetta 2 is only on the Wii U, getting a chance to take a second spin through the bizarre world is a strong selling point for the console. What intrigues me the most is the inclusion of Touch mode, which could be taken a pervy direction given Bayonetta’s attire, but seems like it will be implemented mostly for the non-hardcore gamer who can’t help but want to see the story and interactions unfold.

Scribblenauts Unmasked: Scribblenauts is one of those games that is fun to pick up and play in short bursts just to see what the game will allow your imagination to run with. Adding the “entire” library of DC Superheroes brings a new twist that is sure to add even more hours of fun with the refinements that have been added over the last few titles from 5th Cell.

Wonderful 101: Combining so many different powers to create new and unique attacks is enough to interest me. The visuals and story are just icing on the cake.

Microsoft

During the initial reveal, I was pretty skeptical about the vision that Microsoft held for the One. I don’t have cable and while I enjoy professional football, I don’t participate in any fantasy leagues so the media aspect of the One fell short of the few expectations I had about the console. Requiring the Kinect to be connected at all times also sort of creeps me out, but at the same time voice recognition is the one feature I find mostly works with my current 360. At least Microsoft seems to have learned that shipping a mixed spread of console SKUs is not consumer friendly. Having one model that includes the Kinect and a 500 GB hard drive goes a long way to interest me. I still think the Kinect is goofy, but has a lot of potential. Not having a hard drive (I have a 4 GB 360) is incredibly pointless so I’m glad to see Microsoft being sensible about shipping one packaged product.

Now let’s get to the serious stuff which is what so many folks were up in arms about. 24-hour phoning home. Required installs to the hard drive before games would even play. A poorly messaged option for selling games (which basically meant Microsoft didn’t have a good way of educating how the process worked). Games couldn’t be shared without some vague notion of relinquishing a license or requiring the borrower to pay full price for the game. Fans and press alike were aggressively against many of the new policies that Microsoft introduced with the One. So much so that Microsoft, less than a month after the One was revealed, has bowed to consumer pressure and reversed a whole bunch of these new policies.

Used games will continue to thrive with the One now. Disc based games will be shareable. No more “once every 24 hours phone home” to authenticate purchased titles. Games won’t be required to be installed before they can be played, but will need to be in the tray to play. The other reversal that hits home the most with me is the concept that a game library will no longer be available to be shared with immediate family–although again due to poor communication Microsoft never fully explained what that functionality really meant. Microsoft has completely bungled their console reveal so far. Consumer perception goes a long way to generate positive word of mouth and even after these dramatic changes, I can’t help but think that Microsoft is appeasing one set of customers while further alienating another set. At least prior to the reversal there was a universal distaste for what was to come. Which is strange since the product hasn’t even shipped and people didn’t know how exactly the policies would have impacted usage. I can’t help but think that even though some of the initial policies were overkill, they were likely just poorly messaged and probably would not have been as bad as many imagined.

Enough soapboxing, lets talk about some Xbox One games, shall we?

Below: One of the few indie titles to make an appearance during Microsoft’s press conference and developed by Capy games, this retro looking rogue-like has so much going for it with such a sparse look that I can’t help but replay the reveal trailer over and over again. Seeing how tiny the game is even on my laptop, I also have a feeling that I’m going to need to get new glasses if I ever have any hope of being able to see the game from my couch on my HDTV.

Titanfall: Who doesn’t like the idea of battling in a giant Mech? From previous efforts on Modern Warfare, Respawn Entertainment has an established development team that knows how to make a fun first-person shooter experience. Add the mix of perpetual online battle in a futuristic warzone where foot soldiers are just as worthy as mechs and you have a game that looks like it could very well dethrone Call of Duty, Battlefield or whatever the biggest online shooter happens to be when Titanfall launches. The only problem I have with the game is the fact that it is online only. I don’t mind a multiplayer game, I just hope there is some story worthy of the time that will end up being spent playing with a bunch of random gamers.

Project Spark: The idea of user created content took off with LittleBigPlanet on PS3, so it’s no surprise to see Microsoft invest in a similar user-generated platform. What’s interesting is the potential use of Smartglass in being able to generate the content. One potential shortcoming with Project Spark is the same problem I have with LittleBigPlanet: making content–good content that is–is hard and even though the engine looks like it will be easy to use, I bet that most gamers will dabble here and there, but mostly wait for other users to create the good stuff. Let’s just hope that the developers of Project Spark spend as much time as Media Molecule does highlighting the best new stuff.

Sony

I will admit that I was a bit caught up in the hype storm during the Sony E3 press conference. While I’m not particularly crazy about the design, I am excited by the prospect of the PS4 being $100 cheaper than Xbox One from the start. Sure $60 will still need to be ponied up to use the new camera, but that still leaves $40 on the outset to go toward a game or renew PS+ subscription, which Jack Tretton very casually pronounced would be required in order to play games online. I can accept that. PS+ has value besides simply being the gatekeeper for letting me play online. An ever growing library of titles in addition to being able to play online is a much easier to pill to swallow than having to pay for a Gold subscription.

Learning that other services won’t be gated by the PS+ subscription is also a welcome return. I’m excited for the new DualShock 4 controller as well (not just the Share button or the Touch Pad) because after switching back and forth between games on PC (using a 360 controller) and PS3, I do find that some of the subtle differences with the 360 controller do feel more natural. Having an updated design for the controller will be nice.

I won’t hide the fact that I align my gaming tendencies to the PlayStation brand. The reason for that though is the sheer fact that Sony openly encourages smaller teams to produce some of the most unique experiences. Even though the Sony press conference didn’t show off nearly as many new (or unannounced titles as compared to Microsoft) I have to say that the showcase of titles shown on the floor of Sony’s booth made up for the omission. I can’t wait for the big titles like Killzone: Shadow Fall or Infamous: Second Son, but the smaller titles below stand out more as ones I can’t wait to play.

Outlast: I hate to love horror games. I watched the trailer for this in a fully lit office, with co-workers chatting noisily around me and yet the tension and fear was so compelling I couldn’t help but watch it over and over again. Something about conspiracy cover-ups draw me in like nothing else, and the level of detail and realism sure is impressive. I can honestly say that when Outlast ships I know full well that I will likely not be able to leave the basement where I play games without keeping all of the lights on.

Transistor: Bastion is one of my favorite 360 “exclusives” that I played once it was no longer an exclusive. The attention to detail, interesting narration, enchanting music and challenging but fun gameplay hooked me from the start and made me want to restart the minute I finished. Transistor promises many of the same stunning visuals and mysterious storyline that Bastion enamored me with.  Adding new music by Darren Korb and voice work by Logan Cunningham only puts Transistor higher on my PS4 must-buy list.

Mercenary Kings: Wizorb is a favorite here at VGBlogger and seeing Tribute Games return with a mashup of Contra and Metal Slug with four-player online play scratches the nostalgia itch like no other.

Destiny: OK, so Destiny isn’t a small indie game, but man does it look like fun. Mixing smart AI that only Bungie can seem to master with a loot filled co-op shooter reminiscent of Borderlands is sure to make this game top the charts for both Sony and Microsoft. The fact that I include it with Sony and not Microsoft is simply due to the fact that Bungie closed out the Sony conference with its first gameplay demo and announced that the PlayStation versions will feature exclusive content, helping to cement the idea that Destiny is aligned to PS4 in the same way that many see Call of Duty as an Xbox-first title.

About the Author

Tim has been playing video games for more than 20 years. He manages to find time to game in between raising three kids and working as a network administrator. Follow Tim on Twitter @freemantim.