There seems to be a lot of jubilation about this year’s E3 Conference amongst the gaming press. You can count me unimpressed with the 2011 offering. Having watched the three main press conferences (Microsoft, followed by Sony and then Nintendo) I am comfortable in saying that I am displeased with each company as this year’s conference focused on one word: gimmick. Whether it be Microsoft’s Kinect, Nintendo’s horrifically-titled Wii U, or Sony’s plethora of uselessness (Move/3D/Vita-backside-touchpad), one could see how much the core gamer has been pushed to the side for a wider audience. This is all despite the fact that each of the Big 3 claim they are targeting the diehards, which is really a total lie if you look at each of the press conferences. Sony did the best job at targeting the cadre, but their games seemed so unappealing to me, overall, that their message fell flat.
So, without further ado, here is my summation of how much this year’s E3 fucking sucked.
I really, really wanted to believe that Project Cafe was going to be the system that brought me back to the Big N, my first love. The conference started decently enough with Miyamoto harkening back o’er 25 years of Zelda bliss. It was a nice start. Skyward Sword was discussed, which I am warming up to more and more after seeing the screens and playthroughs. It was nice to see that all the Nintendo systems will receive some form of Zelda re-release starting with Link’s Awakening for the DSi/3DS Virtual Console. After this decent start Nintendo moved into their upcoming 3DS lineup. Almost as if Nintendo were saying “Fuck the Wii” (which we’ve all been saying for years now), the focus lay on their portable. The Super Mario 3DS game looked wonderful, a true Mario game if I ever saw one. Kid Icarus was better-looking than what I had seen previously over the last year. Oh, and another Mario Kart, which, if you’ve played one, you’ve played them all.
Not a terrible conference so far just leading up to the Project Cafe announcement. Funny enough, though, as I am watching Reggie Fils-Aime talktalktalktalktalk, I didn’t even realize that he had segued into Cafe’s unveiling, calling it Wii U (hopefully Steve Oedekerk was involved in the naming process). I thought maybe this was some sort of Wii development network that was supposed to focus on new indie games or something, kind of like the Rock Band Network. Then I realized, “wait a fucking minute, is that the console’s name?” I was surprised, though I really shouldn’t have been. It made perfect business sense to throw the Wii name in there somewhere in an effort to get Ma and Pa Every-Gamer to buy it. The “controller” was unveiled, which I admit, has potential. For the longest time through the unveiling, though, I had no idea that the Wii U was anything but the controller. They never really focused on the console itself, which, looking at it, you can see why. Talk about your Plain Janes.
At this point I’m not hating the Wii U. “Yeah, this could be interesting. Let’s see how they appeal to me, a core gamer, though.” Queue the montage.
Let’s see, that looks like New Super Mario Bros. Wii–nothing new here. Then your dad walks in. Fuck you, kid. I’m watching baseball. WHT (white?) is playing BLE (blue?).
OK Dad, you can watch your White/Blue baseball game. I can play…ON MY CONTROLLER! Not so bad, right? A neat little trick Nintendo threw our way. Still, at this point, waiting to see how a core gamer (me) will be attended to. So naturally Nintendo shows us…drawing! Yes, you too can now DRAW on your Wii U controller pad. After you’ve drawn it…PUT IT UP ON YOUR TV, MOTHER_FUCK! YOU JUST FUCKING DID THAT! Still watching this montage, I truly see how the core gamer is being catered to when a demo of two people playing Othello is shown. I see, you want me to pay $400 to play a board game that I already own. Deal.
Next: Oh boy, motion control! It has worked so good in the past, changing the way I yakyakyakyakyak… Wii U Sports (that’s right, I just anticipated that title) is shown where, as a pitcher, you control the exact placement of the pitch, moving the catcher’s glove. Pitching and catching…this seems about right. Next, your two-seam fastball that you so precisely targeted over the inside of the plate is fucking waylaid into the outfield by the stupid, fucking Mii (yes, still using Miis) at the plate. You then magically transform into the outfielder who is trying to catch the ball. Uh-oh, that stupid, fucking Mii just plowed a screamer in my direction. I better erratically move this tablet controller until the ball lines up perfectly with this circle to catch it. SUCCESS!
At this point, I’m getting more and more pissed off at what Nintendo is force-fucking us with. THEN the video shows the tablet sitting on the floor, just past the player’s feet (a great place to be for America’s fat and clumsy, just waiting to be trampled). The player, who shows great poise by NOT stepping on the Wii U tablet, is shown with–get this–a Wiimote! The tablet shows a golf ball sitting in a sand trap–a classic fried egg. The player uses her virtual golf club (aka remote control) and swings the ever-living-shit out of it, careening the golf ball onto the green for an easy tap-in. This gimmicky approach to playing video games (term video game used loosely; see: Othello) with graphics that look exactly like the Wii’s is not what I–the core gamer–wants. But don’t worry, I’m instantly relieved to see that the tablet will work with WiiFit.
More bullshit tech demos are shown with the tablet used as a scope of a sniper’s rifle or a repository of shoryuken to fling at trees. The tablet is shown as a video phone (not a bad touch) and internet browser as well as a photo album that can send pics to a TV. Consider me wowed at this point. So many games to play!
Finally I see Link in glorious HD–a view not yet seen by human eyes. Detailed to the max is a cathedral that our favorite elven hero saunters through. “Oh, hey! Link’s inventory is on my controller screen! Neat!” Link then fights a big spider in an oh-so-brief fashion. End of montage. So, the core gamer got the last 15 seconds of the video, showing a Legend of Zelda tech demo of a realistic, adult link. (Does this sound familiar to anyone else?)
Iwata, Reggie and company come back on stage and tell us about all the great games we can expect. Iwata name-drops Super Smash Bros. as a cross-platform title between Wii U and 3DS (only later to be found out that this game isn’t even development). Reggie then shows a second video montage of third party games to expect (despite the fact that not ONE single, solitary first party game was actually announced for the Wii U). The games shown include Assassin’s Creed, Batman: Arkham City, and Ninja Gaiden 3. Me (in the process of moving over funds in my account and writing Nintendo a check dated 2012): OK, to Nintendo, $400 for a console that plays stupid fucking gimmicks like WiiFit and Wii Sports, Othello, AND third party games that I could buy for my 360 or PS3 and still play in HD, only with an actual controller. This all seems to be in order.
The presser ends shortly thereafter. A stupidly-named console is announced that is supposed to bridge the casual and core gamer, but did nothing for me at all except realize I’ll probably never buy the fucking thing–certainly not at launch. Wii U is being sold as a tablet PC/video game system that plays games already available on current-gen systems (minus the Wii, of course), makes video phone calls, and allows low-res/2D gaming on the controller itself. Meanwhile, will they still use friend codes, or even utilize the online market like Xbox and Playstation have been doing for years now? Will they make WiiWare something more than a collection of bullshit mini-games and shovelware? Can I even buy more than one of these controllers to use at a time? We don’t know because they didn’t say. Fuck you, Nintendo.
Sony’s press conference started off with Jack Tretton managing to somehow kiss everyone’s ass while at the same time being a condescending dickhead. After the long, hard suckle at the teet of the developers that lost millions during the outage, Sony moved into their best moment, showing off footage of Uncharted 3. This game looks terrific. Everything else Sony did sucked.
Beyond pushing the 3D thing more, because Sony is convinced it will help sell Bravia TVs, the big reval was the Vita, which is Latin for “stupid name that isn’t quite as stupid as Wii U”. The Vita is a PSP on steroids, not necessarily a bad thing. However, it is packed to the gills with so many gimmicks that I can’t take it seriously. The touch sensor on the back of the Vita is nothing more than a reason for Sony to charge extra. It’s a completely extraneous feature that will offer very little (at best) to games and will certainly pose a problem in most games when trying to hold the device. The Vita does include a multi-touch OLED, which is a nice touch. It also comes in $250 and $300 options, which isn’t too bad. However, I found it odd that they latched on to AT&T as the sole provider of 3G coverage. I also found it odd that they clung to 3G when 4G is starting to spread more and more. I guess 4G gives them a reason to add another $50 for a new SKU.
My biggest problem with the Vita, though, was the games. It had Uncharted, but required use of the six-axis for most of the movements. Nuts to that. Other games featured were Little Big Planet and ModNation Racers. I get the allure of creating everything in a video game yourself, but how many times can Sony get away with making the same fucking game? LBP and ModNation Racers will now be available on three systems and they are basically the same game throughout. The touch control will add to ease of creation for these two titles, but is that really worth buying the system and then the games? I just don’t see the Vita cutting into Nintendo’s handheld domain (the only thing they do well anymore).
Sony also decided to market an overly-expensive, yet very small, TV that featured 3D split-screen. They also saw fit to note that the 3D glasses will only cost $70. Seventy fucking clams for 3D glasses. What weird hashish has Sony been intaking these last few years? Why would anyone pay that? And I know some people do, but why? I really need to know.
The PS3 games of focus included the aforementioned Uncharted 3 as well as Resistance 3 which few seemed to care about, Infamous 2 which was due to be released THE NEXT DAY, and Sly Cooper 4, a series I never tried but wouldn’t be opposed to. Then, pimping Move more and more, NBA 2k12 was featured. Kobe Bryant was brought in to play the title for the crowd. I personally thought they should have brought in Shaq, because only he was hacked more than Sony. ZING!
An MMOFPS called Dust 514, set in the Eve Online universe, was promised. An intriguing idea, I immediately harkened back to the hype I had towards DC Universe Online until I realized Sony would be charging a monthly subscription fee. Surely Dust 514 will be no different, and surely you will find me uninterested. Other games I can promise not to give a shit about: Street Fighter X Tekken, Ruin (a “social RPG”–whatever the fuck that is), SSX, and Starhawk.
Microsoft’s conference started off with Modern Warfare 3, an odd choice considering it is multi-platform. A game Activision is whoring out almost as much as Guitar Hero (but not as much as Capcom is with Street Fighter), it seemed an odd choice to me for kicking off on. Needless to say, watching the footage it did look impressive. For all of the copies sold and billions of dollars Call of Duty Modern Warfare have made, it couldn’t do so if it weren’t a great game that created a unique experience. MS then followed up with ANOTHER multi-platformer in Tomb Raider. Looking like a serviceable reboot, Microsoft looked like it was holding a weak hand by boasting games that would be available on the competition as well. More Third Party games to discuss! Peter Moore, that old so-and-so, steps on-stage to discuss EA Sports’ latest offerings and lets us all know that…drumroll…they will work with Kinect. OH BOY!
Speaking of Kinect, enjoy Star Wars and Fable: The Journey. These half-assed, on-rail games allow the freedom of not using a controller while stifling freedom by not allowing freedom of movement within the game environment. Apparently MS was sleeping all these years watching the on-rails copout technique on the Wii (remember Dragon Quest Swords?). Also Kinect-able, to my grave disappointment, is Mass Effect 3. This game, which looks GREAT, is completely diluted by the addition of Kinect features. What will Shepard say next? You decide, and then you speak it? I don’t want to do that. I also don’t want to say, “Garrus, hold!” when I can push a button in silence to do the same thing. Like I said, this game looks amazing and I am really excited for its release. Kinect, though, just adds a level of bullshit to the game that I guarantee I’ll never touch.
Microsoft’s presser landed with a whimper, very little being said that made an impact. Everyone knew already that there was going to be a Halo: Combat Evolved remake, which looked great (and better yet, no mention of anything Kinect with it). Halo 4, the company’s big surprise, was leaked MERE HOURS before the conference, surely to the dismay of the Xbox contingency. Xbox Live TV was announced, as everyone expected. Very anti-climatic was this show, but that isn’t to say their message sucked, necessarily. I am extremely excited about Mass Effect 3, the Halo Anniversary remake, Halo 4 (yes!), and also excited about the XBL TV service having recently cut cable and DirecTV to the curb. Oh, and Minecraft! Microsoft has the most that interests me (and that really matters to me, y’know?). They spent way too much effort on Kinect and common Third Party titles, though, making their conference very lackluster.
I’m pumped for Halo CE and Halo 4 (“John! JOHN! CHIEF!”), Modern Warfare 3 looked good even though not exclusive, Mass Effect 3 looks great, and I’m excited about Xbox TV and Minecraft. Nintendo at least seemed to hit with LoZ: Skyward Sword and Super Mario 3DS, so hey, not a total loss. Sony’s Uncharted 3 looked amazing and Sly 4 has promise. Bioshock Infinite and Skyrim were shown at length, much to my enjoyment. Otherwise, consider me disappointed. Beyond the shit mentioned above, notable absences from E3 include The Last Guardian, Half-Life 3 (or Episode 3), and a new Metroid to take the taste of Other M out of my mouth.