Tag Archives: E3 Conference Review

E3 2009 Conference Review

Hard to believe that it’s been the best part of a year since Final Fantasy XIII went multiplatform and Nintendo stunned the world by reaching new levels of mediocrity, but E3 has been restored to its former glory and with it came three conferences from the console manufacturers infused with announcements and yes, bitter tears. Same format as 2007 and 2008, in chronological order:

The first was Microsoft, which started us off with a strong showing. We knew some of what was going to be there, but there were no complete leaks like last year’s NXE unveiling, and most of what we knew was in name only. It’s fairly normal at this point to go into E3 without much knowledge of what we’ll be playing on our 360s at the end of the year, and we can now see a strong line-up taking shape: Halo 3: ODST, Left 4 Dead 2, Crackdown 2, Forza 3, and the re-emergence of a fantastic-looking Splinter Cell: Conviction, which has got me all hot and bothered for the series again. Modern Warfare 2’s footage wasn’t as mind-blowing as COD4’s from two years ago, but my preorder’s in.

The headlines will undoubtedly be grabbed by two unveilings, though. The first is Metal Gear Solid: Rising, which is a huge PR coup for Microsoft but isn’t a mainline Metal Gear and so isn’t quite the shock of last year’s FFXIII reveal; still, I like MGS4’s Raiden, so colour me interested. Secondly, we’ve got Project Natal, which I don’t expect to work nearly as well as the video suggested, but if it does it’s certainly an incredible technical achievement. Expect much talk about that over the coming months.

Plus Microsoft got the fucking Beatles to show up. God knows how much that cost…

Criticisms? As a closet fan of the Halo novels I’d like to have seen more than a teaser of Halo: Reach, but I understand that ODST is the one that they want you to care about for now. But mainly, where was Rare? The token Killer Instinct and Blast Corps rumours of course didn’t come true, but no new Perfect Dark? Not even another Viva Piñata? Hello?

But that aside, Microsoft did what it had to do with aplomb. The 360 has a great selection of games for this year and we now know that stuff like Alan Wake is finally coming in 2010, and MS is even showing signs of making a serious attempt at coming out from the bald space marine niche where it’s been happy to exist. This one gets a solid A.

Nintendo had simultaneously the most and the least to prove going into E3, sitting comfortably at the top of the sales charts but also leaving much of its traditional audience – or at least the ones who can’t convince themselves that Smash Bros is a good game – underwhelmed, exemplified by last year’s showing.

Super Mario Galaxy 2, Team Ninja’s Metroid, and Golden Sun DS. That pretty much summed up what we got that I’m interested in, and I really am gagging for a go on Metroid. It’s better than last year’s and the first two are undoubtedly AAA titles, although it still had a depressing emphasis on games that our demographic probably doesn’t care about. No great DSiWare content? No Virtual Console for DSi? Nothing entirely new for the hardcore audience? Instead, we get something to monitor your pulse and more Wii Fit.

I can’t in good conscience slate a conference that unveiled both a proper new Mario and Metroid, so I’m going to give this one a B-.

Sony‘s was a show of two halves for me. It started off with Uncharted 2, which looks spectacular, and if it’s nearly as good as the first game – there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be – it’ll be a certain purchase. MAG didn’t demonstrate particularly well because it’s a bit slow and complicated for this context, and I’m not convinced that the headset-free PSN is the best place for such a co-op game, but I love my multiplayer shooters and I’m intrigued.

It’s good to see renewed support for the PSP, even if I won’t be buying a PSP Go, and maybe this commitment from Sony coupled with reduced development costs will see a renaissance in the system. I hope so, because I’m a fan.

Final Fantasy XIV was a surprise, to say the least, but I’d love to hear the difference in cheers between when it was announced and when everyone saw the little ‘Online’ under the title. Not the megaton announcement that XIII was last year, and the slight disappointment was compounded by what came next. The tech demo for the Wii Remote waggle wand lost some of its impact coming after Microsoft’s controller-free controls and a further demonstration of Wii Motion Plus and just went on for far too long, particularly when there wasn’t actually a game to come with it. The same goes for ModNation Racers, which wasn’t even that impressive and seemed to last for an eternity – I wanted to kill myself when he promised to create a track “in less than five minutes”. I was reminded of the endless demonstration of Gran Turismo HD from the infamous E3 2005 showing.

It ended very strongly with Gran Turismo 5, which I don’t really care about as I’m not exactly a fan of realistic racers, and the holy duo of The Last Guardian and God of War III. It goes without saying that both of those are must-haves, and I’m just disappointed that it looks like we’ll have to wait until 2010 for both of them.

Much like the Microsoft one it showed a host of great games, and it only really suffered from the slack middle section. That doesn’t stop it getting an A as well, though.

Overall, then, a far better show than last year’s, and fans of all platforms will have come away with something worthwhile even if this year’s show has pretty much confirmed motion controls as the way of the future. And hey, no sales graphs either. Gaming needs to make a song and dance about itself like this once in a while, so let’s enjoy the rest of the show.

Until next year…

E3 2008 Conference Review

Same format as last year, but with added bitter fanboy tears. In chronological order:

  • Microsoft – I wasn’t blown away, to be honest. Seeing live gameplay of Resident Evil 5 was initially my highlight, in the same way that the Call of Duty 4 was a gem in a pile of (mostly) shit last year. Gears 2 and Fable II both look good and are certain purchases that it’s nice to have dates for, but things like avatars do nothing for me and the occasional cool feature and probable gem do not a great conference make. No Alan Wake (the new Duke Nukem Forever?), no big new IP announcements, a new interface that I’m not convinced about. Just the warm feeling from the fact that there was no motion controller announcement… yet.
    But then Square dropped the bomb. As last words go, FFXIII on 360 put most of Steve Jobs’ infamous “and one more thing” reveals to shame. Not even a rumbling of this news before the show, which is remarkable in itself, and it dealt a big blow to Sony early on. With the possible exception of Gran Turismo, this has been Sony’s trump card since FFVII in 1997, and it was the one third-party PS3 exclusive that I thought untouchable. Make no mistake; that announcement was huge.
    It doesn’t change the fact that the rest of it was relatively lacklustre, but it feels like it was all a ruse to lead up to that. For the biggest E3 megaton – something that I thought was becoming a lost art – since “five hundred and ninety-nine US dollars”, this one gets a…
  • Nintendo – If you ever need reason why so many hardcore gamers seem to have abandoned Nintendo to focus on the fight for second place, this is why. Last year’s Wii Fit reveal was a disappointment and in that respect this at least had something that vaguely interests me in Animal Crossing, but it’s still basically the same thing as Nintendo brought out on N64, GameCube, and DS. It might have more online functions, but all I’m going to be thinking about is how much better it could be done on Live and PSN.
    Add another mini-game compilation, another peripheral, and, in Wii Music, one of the most pathetic ideas I’ve ever seen (I can’t help but think of the musical chairs game in The Simpsons when Bart was put into the remedial class). Someone summed it up for me on a forum post when they said: “At least now that Nintendo has show that it hates hardcore gamers we won’t have to pretend to like the Wii any more.”
    Thanks for the good times back in the day, Nintendo, but I’ll take an insular industry that makes games that I enjoy over this popular tripe.
  • Sony – Sony really didn’t deviate too much from what was largely a successful formula last year. The embarrassing Home jokes were gone, and no baffling cameo from Chewbacca, and we just got games. It deserves credit for making the most entertaining Powerpoint presentation in history. LittleBigPlanet can make anything interesting.
    On the games front, Resistance 2 looked good but early, and while stuff like God of War III and MAG sound promising, didn’t Sony learn anything about showing CG trailers a couple of years ago? When your big reveals are CG and your lead game is one that pretty much everyone who cares enough to watch a conference has finished at least once since it came out a month ago, it doesn’t make it look like there’s a lot of content.

This E3 will go down in history for the Final Fantasy XIII announcement, which put the Microsoft conference ahead on entertainment value alone. Other than that, very disappointing in my opinion. No big new game announcements (so far), no proper price drops or anything, and the bitter taste in my mouth that the mainstream press is going to be fawning over Nintendo finding a way to charge you to play air guitar.

E3 Conference Review

Microsoft – Only showing games to be released this year was an interesting gimmick, but ultimately I felt that it was a mistake. It did a great job of showing off the 2007 release list for the 360 which is, in my opinion, by far the best of the three consoles, only to leave 2008 and beyond as something of a vacuum that left the door open for the other two to take the plaudits. The likes of MGS4 aren’t coming out this year but they still carry a lot of weight as franchises.

And why did Microsoft choose to show only their 2007 titles and then show Resi 5 anyway? Why not just show other future titles and plug the strength of the 2007 lineup? They could easily have had their cake and eaten it.

The show itself fairly poor until it was saved by some excellent gameplay footage of big games like Call of Duty 4 (plus online beta!) and Assassin’s Creed. I’m still as hot for Halo 3 as I ever was after that trailer, as well, although it was admittedly not a brilliant trailer. It’s just that they played it safe, had their aforementioned high points, a couple of low points (the Madden thing was…ugh), and came out just affirming what we already knew: that the Xbox 360 has a strong 2007 lineup. They need a huge X07 or TGS now.

Overall: C+

Nintendo – I don’t doubt that every mainstream outlet on the planet is writing glowing features on Wii Fit as we speak and it’s going to make ridiculous amounts of money, but that show was a lesson in how to alienate your hardcore fans. I’m admittedly a lapsed Nintendo fan and a Mario game doesn’t do it for me like it used to (I’ll still buy Mario Galaxy and Metroid Prime 3 for sure, though), but nothing there did it for me. What was there except Wii Fitness and half a dozen new Wii peripherals? Vision Training? Not even any big DS announcements!

Mario Kart? It looks the same as Double Dash and they already did it online on the DS. No Animal Crossing. Little new on Smash Bros except a release date met with dead silence. The focus on Wii Fit meant that it ended up coming off like an infomercial for a step machine like you get on Five US when CSI isn’t on, and just affirmed for me that Nintendo and the Wii is no longer going with what I, as a gamer, want.

Overall: D

Sony – Mainly given the advantage of following Nintendo’s show and having only to be better than last year, Sony only really had to show some games that weren’t coming out this year in order to ‘win’, and they did. It started badly with some cringe-worthy Home skits and a painful appearance by Chewbacca, as well as so many plugs that it felt like I was watching Casino Royale again (“Spider-Man 2, now available on Blu-ray Disc, DVD, and UMD from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment”; “connect your PSP to your Sony Bravia flatscreen TV”; “Home on my Sony-Ericsson mobile phone”), but then it was uphill.

The new PSP is a good improvement even if it didn’t have internal memory (I’ll buy one when it gets hacked), Echochrome looks cool, and MGS4, Uncharted, and Killzone all look superb. For the first time since E3 2005 I’m seriously considering when I plan to buy a PS3 and which game is going to do it.

Overall: B+

Overall, though, I think we can all agree that the new E3 is a disappointment for those of us who like to sit back and enjoy the show. Bring back the old one, I say!