by Matthew Thompson
Over the course of the next week or two, I plan to hone in on some of the games that really wowed me coming out of E3. But first I want to give some quick impressions of the various conferences that kicked off 2015’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. Here are some thoughts on the first three:
Things actually got going on Sunday night this year when I found myself trying to pull off watching the NBA Finals, a pair of anticipated HBO season finales and make time for the first conference of the week from Bethesda. I wasn’t really hyped for this at all. The big attraction was obviously Fallout 4 which isn’t exactly my thing, but I found myself pleasantly surprised by what the publisher had on offer. Doom looked like great bloody fun. I won’t lie, I like some over-the-top violence sometimes and the new Doom delivers that and then some. And since this is… you know… Doom, it fits. Rarely do FPS titles really catch my eye, but Doom did this week. The tease of the BFG at the end was expected yet still fun.
The original Dishonored remains in my backlog, but I dug the trailer for the sequel and I appreciate the option to play as one of two characters with unique abilities. While I likely won’t find myself playing Fallout 4 with the rest of you this Fall, I still found myself impressed with the game’s extended showing. There are a lot of neat features being added and the new app even looked like a good time. Plus in a world of teases of teasers for trailers for games that come out four years later, the fact that Fallout 4 had so much to show and finds its release date right around the corner was a refreshing change.
Overall, Bethesda’s opening presser acted as a nice appetizer for the days to follow.
Since they absolutely faceplanted back in 2013, I think Microsoft has done a good job of pacing their conferences. Simply showing game after game is a great way to help get gamers back on your side. That was true again this year and I found plenty to like during their presentation. The best new announcement for me goes to ReCore. I enjoyed the look and ideas presented in the trailer which shows a girl working with some robot companions (including the cute robot doggie pictured above). I only wish we got more than a CG video. Pre-rendered trailers can be good marketing tools, but if they aren’t accompanied by some actual gameplay they leave a lot of questions as well as me expecting that ReCore is still a long ways off (though they are saying Spring 2016). Hopefully we get to see more soon.
The Gears 4 demo looked early, but it is a game I certainly look forward to playing. Microsoft trotted out some snazzy-looking indie titles as well. Cuphead was a favorite last year and it still looks as brilliant as ever with its old-timey cartoon visuals and 2D shooter gameplay. Ashen also found its way onto my radar because of the world depicted in the trailer, one filled with rock buffalo and sky whales (I love a good sky whale… I mean who doesn’t?). And the unique artstyle with those striking blank faces didn’t hurt either.
Going into the conference, the two things I was most curious about were seeing what Rare and my girl Lara were up to. I can’t say Sea of Thieves, Rare’s new online pirate game, is even remotely in my wheelhouse, but I will definitely be snagging Rare Replay. Thirty classic Rare titles, many of which I never got the chance to play, for $30? An incredible value. I’m in. And what of Miss Croft? Well, the demo for Rise of the Tomb Raider they showed at the conference was a bit dull to be honest, but the trailer that followed was more what I was looking for. I found myself surprisingly excited by the prospect of underwater swimming and the collection of locations featured in the short montage fell in line with the kind of places I like to see Lara exploring.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the conference came in the announcement of 360 backwards compatibility coming to the Xbox One. My 360 died for the second time in 2013 and with the new consoles right around the corner I never invested in another one. Now I will be able to play some of the titles I never got to finish.
Those were the highlights of the conference for me, but there was certainly a lot more there. Overall, it was a solid showing for Microsoft, but I think seeing one of the three games they said wouldn’t be appearing until Gamescom, Scalebound in particular, would have really helped bolster this presser a bit in my eyes.
The EA conference was all about seeing Mirror’s Edge with its fancy new subtitle Catalyst and I certainly liked what I saw. My anticipation of seeing this new title had me replaying the original over the weekend, so to hear there will be no loading and no guns this go around (both problematic before) was certainly a plus. I welcome them taking a better stab at the narrative too and the streamlined combat looks like step in the right direction. The game is playable at the event, so I am hoping to see a demo at some point to get a better idea of how the level design in the new open-world will work out as well as the kind of missions we can expect in this new structure. So far, so good though.
There was one really pleasant surprise from EA this year and that was Unravel. It looked like a lot of those charming cinematic 2D platformers you see released on digital services these days, but the clever way they used the character’s trailing yarn along with the physics and environmental puzzles made it seem like a meatier gameplay experience than many similar games. It gets bonus points for being very atypical for EA. Publishers branching out to try to support new things is always a plus.
Otherwise EA didn’t have a lot to offer me, but your mileage may have varied especially for those into EA’s too big space properties.
I will be back with thoughts on Ubisoft, Sony and Nintendo either tonight or tomorrow with more thoughts on E3 coming within the next week. Thanks for reading!