The gaming community is a vocal one; we love nothing more than kicking up a storm of fiery melodrama surrounding the industry’s latest stumbles. E3 is open season for this addictive blood sport; it hoists creative license under a giant microscope for the world to see where all the little cracks become more apparent than ever. It’s little wonder AAA producers shovel horrendous amounts of currency upon their brief stage spotlights; a ferocious gaming public demands nothing less than perfection every year. Alas, nothing is perfect. And you can bet that, every year, the gaming community will have pitchforks at the ready to desecrate more than one game to oblivion.
With E3 2015 at an end, it’s that time of year again. This year, the titular show hosted more press conferences than ever before. Lucky for us, that means there’s more to complain about than ever. Because pessimism is just as fun as optimism, join us as we yap about the very worst games to hit the stage this year.
EA never seems to learn from their mistakes, and after the Microsoft ‘SPORTS!’ disaster it’s not unfair to expect some note-taking. Instead EA showed a crowd full of people who couldn’t care less about the NFL or FIFA almost an hour of sports games. Once Pele came onto the stage for an overly long interview, I forgot it was a video game event. Then they moved on to the real star of the show, a 20 minute gameplay demo of… Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2. Great, thanks EA, I’ll be taking my complimentary cyanide capsule now. Dead Space got taken to the buckshot farm for this?
All of this was tantalizingly building up to why we were there, the gameplay reveal of Star Wars: Battlefront. While many seemed to be overjoyed at the footage, I just found myself annoyed. EA had stated that Battlefront would not just be a re-purposed Battlefield, but only seconds into the footage a number of reused character animations and poorly hidden weapon re-skins wiped away my hope. The alien races look like they are people in fancy dress, Luke’s model makes no sense in the timeline (I’m a stickler, sue me) and the on Rails ATAT just seemed lazy. I didn’t expect much and I was still let down. With all of the cuts to the core game, such as space battles and the prequel era, this could have been so more. As it stands, they proved it to be Star Wars: Battlefield. Also EA, inviting students along and regurgitating slogans on how you are committed to making games great doesn’t make your company any less awful. No one’s falling for it.
Ubisoft almost makes an new art form in embarrassing themselves. Every year they get worse, and 2015 was, simply put, a joke. Yet again, Aisha Tyler was hired to host the event. She is awful. No one laughed when she made a joke, she kept trying to force in long-dead memes into the show and started the event by pretty much saying that people who called out AC: Unity for being the broken mess it was are all closeted serial killers. Nice. Ubisoft has decided that the consumer isn’t allowed to complain about busted products; all hail our mighty overlord. To make matters worse on her first appearance she made a joke about ‘girlwood’. No one laughed. The next year she came back with a T-shirt that said ‘#girlwood’. No one laughed. This year she walked on stage with a solid gold necklace that read, you guessed it, ‘girlwood’. Aisha is a tragedy.
But enough about her and more about games, right? To sum up my feelings, the Division’s graphical quality is dropping so fast it will soon be available for an etch-a-sketch, Rainbow Six: Siege has no extended lifespan past a few hours and the biggest insult was that Ubisoft decided to dedicate an uncomfortably long time to a mobile game about minions. I really shouldn’t have to say more. Except that Aisha is awful – did I mention that?
Ubisoft had a pretty decent conference, aside from Jason Derulo. But what really struck me was the absence of any titles that will use the gorgeous UbiArt framework, arguably the studio’s best feature. I was hoping for, at a minimum, one sequel to the great cartoon games that Ubisoft have released recently, but they weren’t going to give me that much satisfaction. There was no word whatsoever about a third entry in the Rayman reboot series, Child of Light 2, or Valiant Hearts 2. All we got was guns, guns, guns. Disappointing.
I really like the look of the Doom reboot’s gameplay, but the art design is boring. Way too much overt sci-fi; it needs more polished wood stocks on guns and better-looking environments. The sound design really needs some work, the Pulse Rifle sounds like a chipmunk farting and more importantly, where is the metal? Keep grimy industrial soundtracks to Quake; Doom needs eye bursting, eardrum splitting riffs with a side order of skin-blistering solos.
The PC showing was for the most part very well done, but boy was it awkward. Never bring a CEO of AMD on to talk about games; it just doesn’t work. It’s like watching your dad try to skateboard while choking to death on a pair on Converse wrapped in a beanie.
Where do I even begin with Nintendo? From start to finish, their entire presentation was wrought with awkward moments and disappointing reveals, starting with Star Fox. Star Fox Zero looks like garbage, as if they wanted players to think they’re still playing Star Fox 64. But the problem is, Star Fox 64 is nearly 20 years old, and the sharp-angled spaceships and hexagonal rings don’t translate well into today’s modern gaming world. The game will also feature forced Gamepad integration that feels awkward and clunky, and there will be no online support.
Moving on to Metroid. What the actual hell was that? Metroid sports, or something? For fans anxiously awaiting the announcement of a new, full-fledged Metroid game, this strange 3DS entry feels confusing and rushed at best.
Lastly, if Yo-Kai Watch is supposed to be this year’s Pokémon substitute, that’s all well and good except for one thing. While it looks to have all the charm and cute, easy to pick up gameplay of a Pokémon game, it’s not Pokémon! Do I get to see Pikachu in Yo-Kai Watch? No. Do I get a new roster of mega-evolvable Pokemon in Yo-Kai Watch? No! I predicted a new Pokémon game this E3, and of all my predictions, that one felt the safest. But no. I don’t get to see Mega Mew this year, and that pisses me right off.
I rather enjoyed the Microsoft press conference. Filled with big system reveals, and some exciting new titles, Xbox owners had a lot to look forward to, even moments after the conference aired. But what made me cringe the most about the media briefing was actually the “demos” of Xbox’s biggest titles set out to release this year. Halo 5 Guardians, Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Gears 4 will undoubtedly be some of the best games releases this holiday, but their presence at the Microsoft press conference were dull and formulaic.
In my overview of the Microsoft press conference, I lamented on the point that the single player demo of Halo 5 out Call of Duty’d Call of Duty. That was thanks to the painfully straight forward demonstration with only slight variations of combat encounters and squad based strategies, none of which was fully representative of a true Halo experience as a sandbox shooter. But in efforts to fill in such gaps, 343 settled for a bookending sizzle reel showcasing a plethora of snippets that looked far more exciting than what was shown in the demo with new enemies, new vehicles, and wide battlefields that Halo is known for.
Rise of the Tomb Raider followed the same format, and was even more linear than Crystal Dynamic’s unveiling of the original reboot in 2011, which was criticized for its own linearity. Here, we saw Lara scaling a frozen mountain until everything predictably went to shit before she executes a series of death defying stunts as a roaring avalanche gives chase. At the end, this demo also closed with another reel giving us a glimpse of Lara actually raiding tombs, not sliding down mountain caves. Again, not representative of the actual game.
This correlation is no mistake. This was an orchestrated, yet unintentionally transparent effort in selling us on a moving target. We hear the term “vertical slices” all the time which is a loose phrase thrown around to identify demonstrations of unfinished games. I would go as far as to say that they’re “wishful performances”, but that’s a conversation for another time. The first half of each demo represents what each studio can build, rehearse, and isolate to show in front of an audience. “Let’s lead the audience down a unidirectional path while scripted events trigger around them”. The sizzle reel at the end of each demo was used to fill in the gaps of everything that was missing from the five or so minute demo. It’s another way of saying, “Here’s all the other cool shit you can do”, while each clip dances around parts of the game that are broken and not ready for show.
The video game industry is one of the few forms of entertainment that tries to incessantly sell the consumer on a product months before it’s ready for market. We see it in pre-order bonuses, we see it on Early Access, and we see it in the millions of dollars of marketing every time we look at a screen of any kind. Part of that marketing strategy is carving out months of development time to crunch and prepare for press events such as E3. Let’s section out a team to lubricate and polish this pre-recorded demo to get it ready for Microsoft’s stage. Let’s draft a script with time sensitive directions that give beat for beat instructions on what is suppose to happen at the press conference. Let’s attend Judge’s Week and show attending journalists that indeed moving this joystick moves that character on screen so it can qualify as a “playable demo” to be a contestant for the E3 awards. While all of these smoke and mirrors are necessary for business as well as development, they are indeed smoke and mirrors. And we should all caution ourselves before making purchasing decisions.
The HoloLens demonstration has been called out by people who had hands-on as misleading. According to Youtuber SuperBunnyHop, the Holographic display is locked to a very small window within the goggles and doesn’t actually cover your vision. Furthermore, he stated that your interaction with Holograms constructed with the technology cannot be interacted with to the levels shown in the preview. However, this may just be due to an early demonstration without the main features, but this type of manipulation has happened with Microsoft quite a few times before.
And there you have it folks, a rapid fire insight into the lows of this years E3. Now it’s up to you to decide if we made some good points or are simply grumbling man children who put way too much time into overpriced toys more than having a social life. Say what you will, but my basement is filled with an ungodly rage. Can’t wait for next year.