Let’s Talk About: E3 2017

Covering E3 from the outside looking in is… weird, and it only seems to get moreso with each passing year. On the positive end, information is more accessible to more people than it’s ever been, and it’s really no coincidence that the year they sold tickets to the public was also full of conferences propping up “influencers”, a term that is so transparent that I’m always left wondering why more people aren’t bothered by it.

The open secret of E3, of course, is that it’s really not that important in the grand scheme of things, and hasn’t been in a very long time. Console makers and publishers have so many avenues to getting out their messaging now that we’ve reached a point where E3 is really a multi-day formality, an event that’s important because we decide it is. It’s the destination for all of your big announcements because we can’t remember a time when it wasn’t.  It’s also the go-to place for the year’s saddest covers of classic songs.

This is probably starting off more cynical than I’d like. This handy Bingo card that I used during the press conferences will not help sway you from that impression.

DCKh9Z3UAAAbFI7

I did win though, so that’s something.

The point is that I do recognize how myself and others tend to be when recapping the events of the Electronic Triple, “grading” each presentation as if there were a giant golden internet cup to be awarded the company with the coolest trailers. There are no shortage of people doing that and I would certainly like to encourage a different direction. Truth of the matter is, there were a lot of things shown at E3 this year that I just don’t care about, and I’m here to tell you that is 100% okay.

Helping me convey this message for the remainder of this post will be my giant rabbid friend. I’ve named him Waffles.

Jasper

“THANK YOU, GREAT TO BE HERE, GAMES YOU DON’T LIKE ARE ALLOWED TO EXIST”

Fittingly, EA started things off with the most EA presentation possible; a generic, high-budget conference that made zero bones about being anything but cold marketing to be injected straight into your veins. It was also where the influencer… well, influence was at its most naked, quite literally making a crowd of young content creators into corporate mouthpieces. Perhaps this is a little too much of High School Anarchist Damien talking here, but I do feel like this is something we’re going to look back on years later as the origins of something much more problematic, when these same Youtubers realize that companies are not their friends and have a very obvious interest in using them to control the messaging. The whole thing felt rather gross, to be honest, and while I understand that most of these kids have little interest in being anything beyond entertainers, this does have pretty obvious ethical implications, or, at least, it should. Youtubers seem to exist outside of the rules when it comes to things like this.

Absent of that, it was the standard “guns and cars” presentation we’ve come to expect. EA is not a company of surprises, and admittedly, they have no reason to change that. Need for Speed has gone even further in the direction of a Fast and Furious sequel, providing more scripted set-pieces to play around in. Most interesting to me was just how much Burnout DNA seemed to exist in the demo, the main character literally doing takedowns as if he were driving through Paradise City.

The highlight was a game that I’ll ironically probably never get around to playing, but one that I absolutely support in spirit. From the same devs that brought us the underrated Brothers comes A Way Out, a co-op only adventure game that uses split screen to tell its story from simultaneous perspectives.

The biggest takeway was the absolute lack of skate4, a game that has become so heavily demanded as to have ascended to meme. Unfortunately, they had to spend half of the conference on Sports and Star Wars instead.

Jasper

“STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT IS A VERY POPULAR GAME AND A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE EXCITED TO PLAY THE SEQUEL”

You’re right, sorry.

After that were Microsoft, who had the unenviable task of selling a new Xbox to people that weren’t crazy about their last one. To their credit, they kept the chatter to an absolute minimum, trying their damnedest to respond to the critique that they simply don’t have the games to compete. The good news is that they touted over 40 titles, many of which were exclusives. The bad news – their definition of exclusive was tenuous at best, most of the them being on a timed delay or also coming to the PC.

We saw more of Anthem, which had been announced previously at the EA booth, though presenting a space game with the Bioware name is tricky right now no matter how you slice it. Ubi also plugged up the leaks by finally just announcing Assassin’s Creed: Origins, then later announcing the $800 (!) special edition full of… stuff you’d get in a convention swag bag.

assassins_creed_origins_800_edition

For the serious collector… of marketing material

It’s really easy to be dismissive of a new Assassin’s Creed game, even with the somewhat repaired good-will brought by Syndicate. The series is at a point where you could always have another Unity or another Black Flag on your hands, and it often feels like a roll of the dice as to which you’ll get. In fairness, there seemed to be a lot of refinement to the formula, which should excite that fanbase. I’m just left wondering how they’re going to explain why all of the pyramids are surrounded by bales of hay.

Code Vein helped me hit the Dark Souls space on my bingo card, though it’s being published by Namco Bandai, so I guess they’re allowed. Since From Software was completely absent from the show (more on that later), it may be a good holdover until the real article decides to return.

While there was a vague hope that Terry Crews would be at E3 to say something about Overwatch and his role as upcoming-for-the-last-forty-years character Doomfist, what we got was what I can only hope is an actual FMV sequence in Crackdown 3, where he’ll be voicing the main character named Who Cares Where Are the Agility Orbs. Crackdown has been one of the most glaring victims of Microsoft’s poor launch strategy, to the point that development has to have been a special sort of nightmare. The game is showing its age too, looking out of place on a show that was all about the 4K experience. I hope it’s good, since I don’t think the series could survive a second middling title.

Outside of that, I’m excited to finally see what Tacoma is, and I’m actually hype for a Dragonball Z fighting game in 2017.

Then there’s the new Life is Strange. I get why people are excited, but it’s not for me. Waffles, take it away.

Jasper

“LIFE IS STRANGE WAS GAME OF THE YEAR 2015 I LEARNED THAT A VIDEO GAME COULD MAKE ME CRY”

A vast majority of the exclusives were ID@Xbox Games, though you’d be hard pressed to call any of them system movers. The Artful Escape looks stupid in a good way, Ashen has potential, and Cuphead finally got a release date (Sept of this year.) I was initially impressed by the visuals of The Last Night, though enough has emerged about the developer behind that game that I can confidently say he won’t be getting my money. Outside of that, it was a lot of stuff that looked to exist to simply pad the numbers. Everything, of course, can still be played on PC, which continues to make the Xbox One a hard sell. A new Xbox One would be like something that you’d have to pretty much push out of the door at a heavy loss in hopes of anyone grabbing one.

DCSLAhpUAAEy_yU

Oh.

While those are great talking points for a slide show, the practical result of those features could amount to absolutely nothing. “Power” as a driving force for success in the console space has been a long-standing myth for pretty much as long as video games have existed, one that has managed to persist in spite of the fact that every generation’s “winner” was never the technological leader. Don’t get me wrong, 4K looks great. I say this as someone that’s been inside of a Best Buy and seen it for myself, but there was no way to convey that via a livestream. One could (and perhaps should) point to 4K maybe being something that is being artificially rushed by the tech world before most of us are ready, but even if it wasn’t, the bottom line for most consumers will come down to the games, and Microsoft is still struggling in that area. If PC was a less viable platform, especially to the crowd that care the most about resolutions and frame rates, we’d have more of a fight on our hands, but as it stands now, they still have a long road ahead.

The $499 price tag seemed to offend a lot of people, but knowing what has to be inside of that thing to actually deliver on what its promising, they’re selling these consoles at a big loss.

Speaking of big loss, how about Bethesda, am I right?

Jasper

“THAT WOLFENSTEIN TRAILER WAS THE SHIT”

Okay, I’ll grant you that, but there wasn’t much else to comment on. The Evil Within 2 exists, because I assume the first one sold well enough. I was also reminded that Quake Champions is still on the way. Beyond that… hey, we made a pretty popular game called Skyrim, maybe you’ve heard of it? Paid mods? Is this thing on?

Bethesda probably doesn’t need to have an E3 conference every year, and that’s okay. In years where it’s warranted, I’d say go for it, but if I were to be that guy and hand out my Professional Journalist Opinion Grades, then Bethsoft would be staying after school to do some make-up work. Their output does little to excite at the moment, and that’s why I’m kind of hoping they end up as the ones to grab IO. They need something to diversify their catalog beyond first-person gun games, and more Skyrim ain’t the answer.

I think it’s safe to say that Ubisoft surprised everyone with their conference, though it was more for the tone than perhaps anything they showed. When you have Miyamoto on stage posing with a freaking gun, it’s hard not to smile a little.

The most amazing part of the Ubisoft presentation was how they managed to once again portray themselves as the plucky underdogs scraping by in this corporate minefield as they proceeded to show games with $1820 worth of special editions.

I’m willing to recognize a little bitterness I may have for Ubi at the moment, mostly because they’ve been using the Rocksmith team to get that goddamn South Park game out the door for three years now. I also can’t help but raise an eyebrow at Skull & Bones, a game that is pretty blatantly the ship combat parts just ripped out of Assassin’s Creed. Far Cry 5 was the most notable, though if you’re looking for hot takes on that one, I can point you in the direction of literally every other person writing about video games right now. As expected, Just Dance made an appearance, this time with a panda dabbing around a bunch of Mortal Kombat cosplayers. What managed to shock me even more than that was the announcement that Just Dance 2018 would be coming out for the Wii.

Yes. The Nintendo Wii. The first one.

Apparently, and this was news to me, a huge portion of the Just Dance franchise’s sales are on that particular console, which I assume are then airdropped into the bunkers of those poor souls that locked themselves underground in 2008 for some reason. I’m not making fun (okay, maybe I am), but I’m actually legit fascinated that a franchise is able to sustain itself on the Wii in 2017. This is far more amazing to me than the dabbing panda.

hip-hop-panda

Which was still pretty amazing, to be fair

Mario & Rabbids: Kingdom Battle was a game that we all knew was coming, but what we perhaps weren’t ready for was Mario X-COM, which is the best way to describe what they presented. Most will also remember the crying dev in the first few rows, but I can’t really blame the guy. I’ve been a huge Nintendo critic for years and I’d still turn into a blubbering mess of tears if Miyamoto gave me a shout out. It also helped continue the narrative of Ubisoft being a deeply human organization, in stark contrast to the cold and corporate EA from the previous evening.

Finishing off with Michel Ancel and Beyond Good and Evil 2 was like hitting a “hearts and minds” triple word score, though I’ll be honest in saying that the trailer left me with a lot of reservations about what that game, after all of these years, is actually going to end up being. It’s clear that all of the work we’d seen years back, with Jade running through a city, has been scrapped. In fact, Jade won’t even be in the game at all, as it’s a prequel, apparently existing in a universe that is completely tonally divergent from where the original Beyond Good and Evil took place.

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Remember when Pey’J flipped off that guy and then cursed a lot? Yeah, me neither.

In fairness to Ancel, the guy has a pretty damn good track record, but BG&E worked for a lot of special reasons, none of which were conveyed in that trailer, giving me the distinct impression that what we saw started as an unrelated project that inherited the universe and name when it became a priority to finally get that game finished.

Sony had an odd year, doing very little and seemingly being aware that they could get away with it. Most of their heavy hitters were shown last year, to the point that you could be forgiven in thinking that they just showed the 2016 conference on the screen behind them. They did elaborate with deeper dives on each title, but Spider-Man and arguably God of War were the only ones that benefited. The Detroit trailer was overlong and confirmed that David Cage hasn’t really grown at all as a writer, while Days Gone exposed itself as boilerplate 2017: The Game, looking like every Naughty Dog game ever while amazingly not being developed by them. Skyrim is getting yet another port. Lady buddy movie Uncharted may actually make me care about Uncharted for the first time in a while. Marvel vs Capcom: Infinite looks rough.

As expected, there were no further developments on the FFVII Remake, which is fine since that game isn’t coming out until 2090. There was also, as previously announced, no Death Stranding. I can safely say that even if both of those games had made an appearance, the most intriguing thing Sony had to show was a remake of a PS2 game.

shadow-of-the-colossus-remake-screens-1

Possibly the BEST PS2 game

As someone that’s not so hot on the idea of game remakes as a whole, I’m here to be a massive hypocrite and tell you that I will buy Shadow of the Colossus as many times as they are willing to sell it to me. It is a one-of-a-kind game that absolutely deserves a new audience on a new console, and my only fear is that it will be tinkered with too much. As someone that’s spent a lot of time reading Nomad’s blog , I know that there is SO MUCH they could put back into that game if they had the time and resources, but they’ve since confirmed that the content will be roughly the same as the original. I’m content for them to simply make the game a little prettier and leave it at that. Bluepoint did the remasters for the PS3, so I know it will be in good hands, regardless.

Though Sony didn’t need to do very much, it is pretty clear that they perhaps showed their hand a little too early last year. I’m going to safely assume that most of what they showed will be out before next year’s show, meaning we won’t have another repeat next go-around. Still, it was disappointing to not see much in the way of new things. By that, of course, I mean that I wish they’d shown Bloodborne 2.

Jasper

“BUT YOU GOT VR FISHING AND THAT’S PRETTY MUCH THE SAME THING”

Last, we had Nintendo, which is weird to say because they weren’t actually at the show and just did their own thing, as usual. In what could not have been more than 25 minutes, they announced a bunch of the usual stuff, had wacky cut-ins, hawked more Amiibos and sold me on getting a Switch.

Wait… what?

Look, as we’ve established, I’m the guy with zero Nintendo nostaglia, and as such, someone that’s typically not too wild about most of Nintendo’s output, but Super Mario Odyssey looks so batshit insane that I pretty much have to play it. New Donk City, with deformed Mario hanging around normal humans is one thing, but throwing your hat at things to possess them is a DeviantArt user’s dream come true and a solid hook to get me into a new Mario game. It’s been a long time since I’ve been able to enjoy a proper Mario, and while I’d hoped for some Bayonetta ports to finally sell me on the Switch, this will have to do.

Of course, there is the natural followup question as to what I play on the thing after I beat Mario Odyssey.  For that, I don’t have an answer.

Jasper

“HEY”

I know what I said.

 

@DamienWilkens

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