The Rocket Chainsaw team spent today watching the annual E3 Press conferences. We were invited to sit in the audience for Microsoft, Electronic Arts and Sony. Please read on below for a recap of all that happened and our thoughts from the show!
Xbox Press Conference
By Anthony Capone
Microsoft seemingly had the most to prove this year, after is less-than perfect debut of the Xbox One last year. With new head Phil Spencer, the company has adopted a similar approach to Sony – targeting their console squarely at gamers. This theme rang true, with Phil promising a solid 90 minutes of nothing but games. And he delivered.
Phil was quick to point out that the Xbox team has been evolving based on feedback from their audience, and that changes will keep coming. As is almost tradition, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare started the show with a sold new foundation for the series. Despite being burned out from previous Call of Duty games, I was surprised by how good the visuals were and the new direction the game is taking.
Forza Horizon 2 was discussed next, with the return of the Forza 5 engine and drivatars. The game runs at full 1080p with weather and day and night cycles. Fans of the previous Forza Horizon are in for a treat when the game releases September 20.
Next we were treated to a short Evolve video and a 4-player co-op run of Assassin’s Creed Unity. While it visually looked like a next-gen game, the gameplay is what fans are used to, albeit in a new setting, the French Revolution. Following on, the Dragon Age Inquisition trailer was pleasing, and Sunset Overdrive looks like something fresh for Xbox gamers. The game features an 8-player ‘Chaos’ mode and will arrive on shelves September 28.
Next, the audience was shown a cheeky trailer for new Dead Rising 3 DLC, available to download right now, which introduces classic franchise characters and co-op challenges. Kinect fans were given a small nod with a October 21 release date for Fantasia and Dance Central Spotlight, a digital-only title releasing in September.
Fable Legends co-op mode was given a brief outing, and a multiplayer beta scheduled for the end of the year. Some of the player-made creations from Project Spark were displayed, as well as news that Conker will be a playable character. Moon Studios debuted Ori and the Blind Forest, looking much like Limbo and seeing a young boy escaping machines and zombie-like characters.
The conference then turned to Halo, with a brief look at a computer-animated scene from Halo 5: Guardians. A new Spartan is looking for Master Chief, who is off on a philosophical journey about life. We are informed that Chief is key to civilization, and more information will be revealed closer to Halo 5‘s release next year. In the meantime, however, we shall receive The Master Chief Collection, featuring Halo: Combat Evolved through Halo 4 in 1080p and 60 frames per second. Halo 2 will receive the full remake treatment, while multiplayer gameplay remain untouched. 6 multiplayer maps will be remastered for the Xbox One release, and a new digital live action series, Halo: Nightfall will also be included. While this Halo release was fantastic, we were hoping for a little more detail on Halo 5. Nevertheless, news that a Halo 5 Multiplayer Beta will be included in the Collection and run during December was a great sweetener.
Next, Microsoft featured games coming in 2015 and beyond. We viewed a stunning new demo for The Division, with visuals just as jaw-dropping as last year’s reveal. A new demo for The Witcher 3 also left us eagerly anticipating next year’s releases. A raft on new indie games will also come to Xbox under the ID@Xbox banner, including a new title from Playdead Studios, and we will see Killer Instinct Season Two.
The remainder of the conference hosted computer-animated trailers for several games; the continuation of the Tomb Raider reboot, The Rise of the Tomb Raider; a new Phantom Dust; a Xbox exclusive title from Platinum called Scalebound, which sees a unnamed hero fighting dragons; and finally, Crackdown is also returning.
Seeing a host of future titles purely as CGI trailers was interesting to say the least, especially given the potential caliber of said titles. The lack of any genuine surprises slightly diminished the impact of the conference, but overall, Microsoft showed a very solid slate of titles. Just like the PlayStation 4, the Xbox One is now living up to the standard you would expect from a next-gen gaming system.
Sony Press Conference
By Jeremy Jastrzab
Despite the improved showing from Microsoft, and in spite of the safe showings from EA and Ubisoft, Sony still had the driver’s seat to further extend their (anecdotal) lead in the current generation race. While there probably wasn’t as much a need to grovel to the consumers at Microsoft and EA had been at pains to do – by the end of E3’s ‘Day 0’, the theme of “we are listening to you, please love us” had very clearly emerged. And while Sony often flirted with this path, they also had the luxury of being able to get in a few pot shots along the way.
We were lucky that the three of us were able to get into the conference this year – as only one got in last year – and Sony always do well with their pre-conference hospitality. The gaming media love nothing more than being fed fast food and booze before 1.5 hour powerpoint presentation, and the spoils were just as good as they had been in previous years. Mind you, it might also explain some of the crowd reactions during the show but that’s another article. It was almost a relief to get some time to relax in the Californian afternoon sun, particularly after the 5am dash to get to Microsoft earlier in the day.
Another theme of the conferences so far has been to do away with the extensive talking heads and let the games do the talking – something that Microsoft did really well. Sony started off with this part really well. Conspicuously absent from earlier in the day, Destiny finally made its appearance, along with an announcement of a new white PS4 bundle, exclusive content and first access to alpha AND beta runs for PS4 owners. We concluded that exclusive content and early/first access were shaping up to be the big battleground for the upcoming generation. Next – The Order: 1886 – which aside from being primarily CG showed an interesting side to the game that had you battling a werewolf mano-e-mano, leaving the possibilities for variants on standard gunplay. This demo ran much better than previously reported versions.
Following this was one of the more intriguing titles of the conference – Entwined. Exuding a magnificent and distinctive style, players take control of what looked like an origami crane and fish – each which represent lovers that are unable to come together in their life times (each level was a life time). However, when they did come together, the created a dragon that would allow them to ‘forge their own path. Created by the graduates of fresh university programs focusing on game development, this unique take on dual-stick gameplay was available at the commencement of the conference (in the US at least).
DLC for inFamous: Second Son was up next, which was stand alone, though we don’t know much about it other than you’ll play as Fetch and the story will be told from the perspective of her being tortured. In a rather abrupt transition, the next moment we looked up and saw four individuals on stage, which got on the biggest cheers of the night for announcing LittleBigPlanet3. Aside from the introduction of three new co-op characters to play along with Sackboy – each with distinct abilities to help you get through levels – the best thing about the game was that the presenters actually played it on stage, which was refreshing and fun. Also, it was announced that all previously made levels from LBP and LBP2 would be available (on day 1!) with LBP3, with enhanced visuals.
Then came a CG trailer for Bloodborne, from the twisted mind of Hidetaka Miyamoto, which is apparently the next test-the-limits-of-your-skills-and-patience experience by From Software. Apart from a masked character scything up some walking corpses, and a very large enemy sneaking up behind the character at the end, not much can be really made from it, other than the fact that it will be really gory. After this came another peek at Far Cry 4, which opened with a scene from an exceedingly stunning mountainous vista, followed by a complete balls-to-the-wall sequence that had the player wing-suit gliding behind an enemy encampment, stealth killing some enemies, stealing a car to then hijack a truck off the road, crashing said truck off a cliff face and wing suit gliding out, then boarding a gyrocopter piloted by a player who had just joined via co-op and raiding a fortress, then blowing up everything in sight and watching some scared elephants rampage through an finish the job. Oh, and apparently co-op buddies will not need their own copy of the game for the PS3 or PS4.
A slew of announcements followed, some good and some maybe not as exciting. In the former category, the biggest reaction was saved for the announcement of the remake of Grim Fandango, while Dead Island 2 had a good tongue-in-cheek trailer. The indie demo reel containing: Broforce, Titan Souls, Not a Hero…, Hotline Miami 2 and The Talos Principle received a great reaction. The last of this slew had a somewhat stage shy creator for No Man’s Sky coming on and endearing the audience with his unique product.
The not so good included an announcement that Diablo III would be receiving DLC that contained an exclusive dungeon with The Last of Us enemies, a reinforcement of the Last of Us coat-of-paint on the PS4 and the rather ambiguous look at the new Suda 51 game – Let It Die. It had the penchant ultra-violence of the eclectic man, but not much else for us to know what the heck it was supposed to be. While it was worth talking about, the elements such as PlayStation TV and PlayStation Now were talked about but not in too much detail, and the slightly over run presentation on an otherwise fascinating series produced by Sony – Powers. Most disappointingly, the PS Vita continues to be neglected – with a cursory mention of three (arguably) inconsequential titles that are coming (Tales of Hearts R, Child of Light, Minecraft), and speculation that most of the 100 games in development for it are PS4 ports.
Regardless, Sony finished with a 3-part knockout blow. Firstly, Grand Theft Auto V was shown for the first time on the next-gen. Secondly, we were treated to the first gameplay footage from Batman: Arkham Knight, which included some spectacular sequences and the announcement of exclusive Scarecrow nightmare challenges (but not before scaring the whole audience with the potential of technical glitches). And the final haymaker came in the form of the first footage of Uncharted 4.
Electronic Arts Conference
By Adam Ghiggino
What was surprising about this year’s press conference for EA was how different it was to previous years’ press conferences. For example, even though it was still being held in the Los Angeles Shrine, the media were directed to the ballroom area rather than the theatre, where everyone gathered around tables for drinks and donuts, almost as if we were attending an awards show.
However, there was a also substantial difference in how EA presented its games this year. There were no celebrity appearances, no plugs for upcoming spinoffs, and titles still in early stages of development were given behind-the-scenes teaser treatments, rather than full blown trailers or exposé.
Before the conference began, Peter Moore took a quick moment to get a selfie with the gathered crowd – a selfie you can see my bearded self in if you look very hard in the centre back!
First up on show was a behind-the-scenes of Star Wars Battlefront, detailing DICE’s visit to the Lucasfilm archives to properly capture and recreate props and scenes from the original movies. Running on Frostbite 3, only a few short clips from the actual game were shown, revealing Hoth and Endor recreations but not fracturing any actual gameplay.
Sci-if was also on the menu for EA’s official, but limited, BTS reveal of the new Mass Effect title, as the emphasised its focus on exploration, taking players to new worlds in new parts of space not yet seen. BioWare’s other original IP was also shown in conceptual form, showing lush landscapes as the team reaffirmed their commitment to storytelling and world building.
Dragon Age: Inquisition had an epic trailer, accompanies by a live cellist – at least, I think that was a (very modern) cello that impressed the audience! Teamwork was the focus of the trailer, as party members worked together to bring down a dragon limb by limb.
The Sims 4 was shown, focusing on the ‘hearts’ of its simulated characters. Although all the footage was cinematically edited, the general idea is that you can assign personality traits to your Sims, which in turn affect how they interact with others and create story lines based on the conflicts they run into. The feature is sure to be welcome to fans of the series, but the sudden ‘death by laughter’ of the trailer’s protagonist veered away from cheesy comedy and more into awkwardly creepy.
Of course, since it’s another year we have another suite of sports titles to expect from EA. Perhaps the standouts from the titles presented were FIFA 15,promising ’emotional intelligence’ from its players and a field which remembers footsteps and reacts to play, and PGA Tour 15, now dropping the ‘Tiger Woods’ from its name but adding a sense of using with the promise of crazy, challenging fantasy levels, one of which involves avoiding crashing battleships on a tropical island. UFC also impressed with its digital inclusion of Bruce Lee, and his meticulously designed boxers. The new MOBA Dawngate also drew cheers from the crowd, with a brief but enthusiastic trailer.
Mirror’s Edge 2 also made an appearance, in an early form with some prototype videos shown. While not a full breakdown of the game, some details did seem to confirm earlier reports (http://www.rocketchainsaw.
Criteria made a quick appearance to show extremely early vision of their latest project, which will allow players to hop between different extreme vehicles like bikes and ATVs, in pursuit of awesome stunts. There wasn’t much here beyond some concept art and untextured models, but the concept is promising.
Finally, the game everyone (Anthony) had been waiting for arrived – Battlefield Hardline. This cops and robbers simulator finally had a chance to demonstrate how the game works and what players can expect – and if the gameplay demo was indeed accurate and not puffed up too much, the answer is complete demolition. Cranes tumble, highways are demolished and the downtown LA location made the action all the more realistic and brutal. A beta begins today, available from the official website, or on PS4 if you have a copy of BF4.