Tag Archives: E3

A Gimmicky Peripheral I Can Get Behind

Motion gaming has been and gone, I hope, and it seems like the fad to see us into the next generation has been chosen, and it’s secondary touchscreen inputs. E3 2012 had its fair share of horrors, but I don’t think this is one of them and, oddly, I think Microsoft has the best implementation. The Wii U led the way and the PS3 will shortly gain the ability to use the Vita as a PS3 controller, while Microsoft unveiled a software solution in SmartGlass.


Some of what SmartGlass will do will depend on what the companion apps support, but assuming it has some kind of 3D capability, it has all the upsides of the other platform holders’ efforts and none of the downsides.

First of all, it works on devices that I and many others already have. I wouldn’t have put it past Microsoft to limit it to Windows Phone or Windows 8 tablets, but putting it on iOS and Android was a masterstroke, meaning pretty much anyone with a penchant for tech already has a piece of SmartGlass-enabled hardware. The Wii U obviously requires a whole new console and the PS3 puts the functionality on an expensive handheld with a questionable future. An iPad or other tablet has a higher cost of entry, true, but they have applications far beyond games and people already own them in huge numbers. I had SmartGlass in the room three years ago without even knowing about it.

The second point applies mainly to Nintendo’s way of doing things. The Wii U GamePad has an increasingly long list of caveats – not least its negative effects on game performance – and isn’t even that technically advanced. It still uses a resistive touch screen, for instance, which was ancient tech when it appeared on the DS back in 2004, while even the cheapest Android tablet will have a multitouch display.

SmartGlass, on the other hand, suffers from none of these. We don’t yet know to what extent it’ll be able to leverage the graphical grunt of its host hardware, but the GPUs in decent tablets aren’t inconsiderable, and if SmartGlass is allowed to use them we could have similar full-fat second-screen functionality to the Wii U. It doesn’t have to be limited to glorified menus, without throttling the main hardware like driving a second screen on Nintendo’s machine seems to do. And my iPad will do this with a ten-hour or more battery life, versus the 3-5 that Nintendo’s official figures present.

Most of all, though, my enthusiasm for the idea of personal gaming screens like this is because it’s another example of how far ahead of its time a certain system was. Never forget.

E3 2012 Conference Review

If last year felt like games were running on fumes, desperate for a bit of fresh blood, it didn’t take much to predict what we were going to be seeing this year. Although I don’t think anyone anticipated it being this bad.

For reference, you can find my last few E3 conference reviews here.



It seems like the days of actually using these shows to announce things and get people excited about your platform are long gone, at least if you’re Microsoft. Where were the big, surprising reveals that get people talking, that get them excited for the coming year? There weren’t any. The handful of games that actually impressed were ones we’d seen before and were mostly venerable franchises being supplanted by their “cinematic action game” successors in which you hammer a button and cool stuff happens. Or, if you’re Black Ops II, you do the last game again with Human Revolution’s piss filter on it, which tells you that it’s the future.

But at least you can search Bing and browse Internet Explorer in Spanish now, so that’s something.

In fairness, Halo 4 looked nice, SmartGlass is a very good idea, and Matt Stone and Trey Parker had a good line. And I’m interested in LocoCycle based on that teaser, simply because it’s from Twisted Pixel. That’s it. Thank God they were smart enough to make SmartGlass cross-platform so that I don’t need a Windows Phone to use it, as otherwise it would have been dead on arrival and the sole highlight of the conference would have been two guys who didn’t really want to be there taking the piss out of it.

I’m writing this on Monday evening and crossing everything that Sony and Nintendo bring out the big guns to definitively show up that nonsense as the shite it was.

I didn’t hallucinate that they brought out Usher, did I?



(Full disclosure: I didn’t stay up until 4am to watch this and so my opinions are based on retroactively reading live blogs and watching videos.)

Like last year, I thought Microsoft had left the door open for Sony to steal the limelight, and once again, Sony resolutely failed to do so. Arguably even more so.

First of all, I suspect that Sony has given up on the Vita. Its sales have been poor and there’s been a negative buzz around it, but at the time of writing, with an hour-long Nintendo show dedicated to 3DS software coming up tomorrow, all that was given to the Vita in two hours of Sony setting out its stall for 2012/2013 was a brief mention of exclusive versions of Call of Duty and Assassin’s Creed. We’ve been here before with the PSP and it didn’t work, and that was several years after release when the hype had dried up and nobody cared any more. To let the Vita get to this point is bad, but to do it within six months of launch is shocking, and if I’d dropped £230 or more on this thing I’d be fucking angry at this non-showing.

The PS3 fared better, but like the situation with the 360, it’s clear that the big guns are tied up on bigger and better things. God of War: Ascension? I don’t care. Like Gears of War: Judgment, it’s a B-team project based on a franchise that has run its course, and that demo could have been any of them. The best and worst thing about any David Cage game is that it’s a David Cage game, and I can’t stand Ellen Page so Beyond is immediately on the back foot for me. Wonderbook is interesting and ambitious but is doomed to be another failed initiative like Move. If I want to read a book I’ll, you know, read a book.

The Last of Us was the best of the show by far, showing Sony’s reliance on Naughty Dog to consistently pump out the kind of experiences that this generation promised. You’d think it would be working on it’s big PS4 title, having wrapped up Uncharted so nicely – and it probably is, in reality – but this shows that there’s at least one new big hitter left in this generation. Two if The Last Guardian ever makes it out, but every missed trade show makes me less convinced that it will.

The Microsoft and Sony conferences were closer than some would like to admit, with one undeniably impressive game each and not a whole lot else, and certainly no major announcements. Sony’s was better because we saw more new games, but it goes without saying that next year is a big one for both of them. Their current consoles look like they’ll be on life support by then.



The expectations on Nintendo’s shoulders were perhaps unfairly high given the failure of the first two conferences to show us anything worthwhile, but even with a new console to show off and such a low bar, Nintendo failed to jump it.

I’m frankly shocked at how bad it was. They actually got Ubisoft, which had knocked it out of the park yesterday with some brilliant-looking games, to give a demo of Batman: Arkham City. That game will be a year old by the time the Wii U launches, and it’s not like it was brimming with new features and content to get us coming back to it. Gimmicky touch controls that people have complained about for as long as iOS has been hosting games are now a fixture of Nintendo (Wii U), Microsoft (SmartGlass) and Sony (Vita) games. Enjoy.

Pikmin 3 was the highlight and then it was downhill from there. No Zelda or Metroid whatsoever. Two indistinguishable Mario games. Dance and fitness games. No price or firm release date for the Wii U, with the only notable announcement on that front being that it supports two controllers – a downgrade from pretty much every system since the N64. Oh, and it halves the frame rate if you run two of them. Have fun.

My Twitter feed was full of people hoping, praying for one ‘megaton’ before the end. An HD Zelda would have done it, at least giving us something to cling on to. Some were even talking about GTA V, notable for its absence at the other two conferences, making a surprise appearance. Nope. It was a collection of mini-games, wrapped around some social features like a Mii-filled PlayStation Home. It worked for the Wii when it was breaking sales records, so here, with no competition in the next-gen console market, is Nintendo sticking to what it now does best.

At least E3 2003 had Pac-Man VS.


Worst E3 ever? It’s up there. After all that build-up, the potential for a showing from certainly one, possibly three new consoles, the best showing of the whole thing was Ubisoft. Who saw that coming?

Losing My Religion

Even beyond the mediocre showings from the platform holders, this year’s E3 was bad. It’s the first time in many years that I’ve come away from the show without a single new game added to my wish list for the year, and although my preorder list for the rest of 2011 is impressive, they’re all in the September-November window and are never going to command my full attention with that much competition. We’re now more or less halfway through the year and I’ve bought one new retail game.

Without a gaming PC to take advantage of the resurgence there I’m in a console generation that feels like it’s running on fumes when the last one was producing some of its best stuff, and we’re firmly in the transitional period between the introduction of new hardware, which seems to be getting a tepid reaction so far, and unwanted attempts to keep the older systems on life support. Announcements that would have had me dancing in the streets a few years ago now barely register, and a big number on the gaming folder in my RSS reader will have me reaching for the ‘mark all as read’ button rather than settling down to pore over what’s new.

As silly as it sounds when games like Uncharted 3, Skyrim and Dark Souls will soon be upon us, I really feel like I’m falling out of love with gaming. It’s something that’s been an important part of my life for a couple of decades and it just seems to slowly be slipping away with barely a whimper.

Those certain classics might salvage something for this year, but it feels like papering over the cracks. It’s like Transformers 3, ending with something spectacular to make people forget the shitfest they just sat through and leave with a smile on their face.

Is it just me, or is something broken? Maybe I’m just too close to things now and I liked it better when I was on the outside looking in? Maybe everyone’s decided to write this generation off and try harder next time? It certainly feels that way when well over half of my purchases so far in 2011 have been bargain-priced games from the last few years that I missed out on when they came out. I like Civilization V, Undead Nightmare, Heavy Rain and Half-Life 2: Episode Two, but they’re not going to fill up my GOTY list come December and they certainly what I was expecting to be filling my gaming time with at the turn of the year.

I hope I’m just being dramatic, but still, the next generation can’t come soon enough.

E3 2011 Conference Review

Every year, at about this time, the gaming world comes together to show us why it’s going to deserve our money this year, and as happens a couple of times a decade it seems like we’re in a generation running on fumes. Indeed, one of the big three has shown its hand already, and such a bold statement of intent will surely mean appearances for the next Xbox and PlayStation in the next 12 months.

And for reference, here are my reviews of 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. This year I’m adding the stipulation that I won’t factor in multiplatform showings, since as impressive as Modern Warfare 3 and BioShock Infinite looked, that has no bearing on the relative fortunes of the consoles on which they were demonstrated.

So, in chronological order…


Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.

Last year, I wasn’t happy with the first look at real-life Kinect stuff, but I gave it a pass because I was confident that Microsoft knows its market – the people who made the Xbox a success where other ventures had failed. Now, I’m not so sure. How many times during that conference was something that looked interesting unveiled, only for someone to come out and sacrifice their dignity by squatting, hopping, waving and – shudder – fist-bumping in front of thousands of people? Ryse (formerly Codename Kingdoms), which was last year positioned as something new from Crytek for the Xbox core audience has suddenly become an on-rails Kinect game. Fable? An on-rails Kinect game. Ditto Star Wars, Sesame Street… and I have to say I’m nervous after seeing the Master Chief floating through an exploding ship in a fashion not far removed from what a bunch of avatars were doing in Disneyland Adventures not long before.

I’m probably just being paranoid on that one. There’s no way that Microsoft would risk a valuable and popular franchise with that kind of nonsense, is there? Wait… what was that Fable game again?

Back in my territory, Gears 3 looks good, but it’s Gears 3. It’s not going to blow any minds after anyone who’s interested has already played the beta, if not the two previous games, and let’s not forget that this is the second E3 for a game that was originally going to have been long out by now. It’s not new.

So with Halo 4 only present in CG form and a remake of the first Halo hardly likely to win over anyone, I guess it falls to Forza 4, then. In fairness it did look gorgeous, with nary an embarrassing Kinect demo in sight, and after Gran Turismo dropped the ball there’s a big opportunity for Microsoft and Turn 10 to nab that ‘real driving simulator’ label. Not that it matters to me, though. As I’ve said many times in the past, I couldn’t care less about driving simulators and need my virtual driving heavily diluted with arcade action. Bring back Bizarre Creations and Project Gotham, I say.



Sony’s offering was better than Microsoft’s, sure, but that doesn’t mean it’s any easier to sound excited. On the PS3 front, putting aside re-releases and Move games, I make it Uncharted 3, Ruin, Sly Cooper: Thieves In Time and Starhawk. The former and latter are looking excellent and I loved their respective predecessors, but we already knew about them. The others? Meh. I’m sure they’ll be perfectly good but I can take them or leave them.

Coupled with Microsoft’s damp squib, it seriously seems like this generation is running on fumes. Whenever the PS4 and next Xbox turn up, we don’t appear to be in danger of having another PS2, still receiving significant games after the release of its successor.

But of course, the big deal was the first E3 for what was formerly known as the NGP: PlayStation Vita. Strange name, but it makes a break from the PSP and it’s of secondary importance to what is an impressive piece of hardware. The graphics it’s pushing look superb, and the cloud functionality brings the niche connectivity features between the PS3 and PSP into a realm where they might actually get used, as long as its utility isn’t going to be predicated on buying two versions of the same game.

It’s said, however, that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, and that’s exactly what Sony is doing with the Vita. Even as someone who likes the PSP and still buys games for it, and with the 3DS not so far setting the world alight, it’s an extremely powerful handheld that’s hosting pocket versions of big-console games, and it didn’t work last time. Looking at Uncharted: Golden Abyss, we’ve even got the banner franchise being farmed out to a minor first-party studio. I’d like to be proven wrong, and I’d like to be able to play it for more than three hours without charging, but I’m not expecting either prediction to go my way.

Based purely on the fact that Sony’s conference wasn’t entirely focused on utter shite, it gets bumped up two grades. Then gets one taken away for not featuring The Last Guardian.



If big hopes were on Nintendo with the knowledge that it was to unveil new hardware, they were only enhanced by the other platform holders’ failure. And like many people, I came away disappointed here as well.

First, the other stuff, though. It generally takes a lot for Nintendo to get me excited because I’m a bit bored of another Mario Kart, another 2D Mario, and so on. And don’t get me started on bloody Smash Bros. I’m not yet burned out on Star Fox and I’ll always love Zelda – especially when I’m getting a free one for my under-utilised DSi – so I’ll give them those two.

To be honest, I’m still digesting the Wii U and wondering what to think. I’m generally positive, which may surprise some, even if some subsequent revelations have dampened its gloss somewhat, but we’re going on the press conference, and that was disappointing. I don’t know anyone who didn’t leave with questions, including whether or not it was even a standalone console. It was a failure of communication and, to be honest, the aforementioned disclosures have left me with questions over how much of the omitted information was deliberate. Time will have to tell because it’s certainly not coming this year, but it’ll be nice to have the option of playing Nintendo games alongside half-decent third-party offerings. Until the new Xbox also comes out in late 2012 and restores the console power status quo, of course.

Sadly, the announcement that I’m most looking forward to trading for my hard-earned currency is the Zelda symphony CD. That makes it extremely underwhelming, but that’s one more new announcement that I’m excited about than the other two, so Nintendo comes out on top by default.


This has to be the most disappointing E3 in years. The three conferences were average at absolute best and I struggle to think of one new announcement that interests me. Also, gone seems to be the pleasure in finding obscure new announcements hidden away in the nooks of the gaming news sites, because there aren’t any – maybe we’re finally seeing the impact of every studio that doesn’t make nothing but million-sellers closing down. Running on fumes doesn’t even begin to describe this generation from the looks of things.

Steam and the One-Console Future

One of the most surprising announcements at this E3 came from Valve, with Gabe Newell, who has been somewhat outspoken about the experience of PS3 development, confirming a PS3 version of Portal 2, previously only thought to be coming to the PC, Mac and Xbox 360. That in itself isn’t all that shocking because Valve games have turned up on the system from other developers, but it’s not hyperbole to say that his aside about Steamworks coming to Sony’s console has the potential to really shake up the industry.

Some of this is still speculation because we don’t know exactly which Steamworks features will be on the way. I’d be very surprised if cross-platform multiplayer made it, and Steam Play (buy it on the PC and automatically get the Mac version and vice versa) expanding to the PS3 version would be apocalyptically big, but even if we’re looking at the simpler things like automatic updates, community features and Steam Cloud – we know that last one’s on the way for sure – Valve is going to go a big way towards removing the barriers between gaming across distinct platforms and moving gaming away from independent walled gardens.

Originally Steam Cloud would simply copy your saves and custom settings to the ‘cloud’ so that they’d be synced between your computers, and with the release of the Steam Mac client it was expanded to doing that across operating systems, and we have to assume, given that it has no other purpose, that it’ll do the same with Steamworks PS3 games. We already have retail PC games that integrate Steamworks – big titles like Modern Warfare 2 and Just Cause 2, for example – and it’s entirely possible that future editions will sync your progress across multiple platforms. Saving your game in Call of Duty on your PC at work and picking up on your MacBook on the train home and then finding your progress reflected on your console is insane. It’s like living in the future.

I like Xbox Live a lot, but this just couldn’t happen on the Xbox 360 as it stands. It’s the kind of thing that was promised by Live Anywhere, but what little of that still exists now seems to be coming only to Windows Mobile phones. Besides the fact that I don’t and won’t own one, it’s a great system if you’re willing to lock yourself into Microsoft’s products, but Steam now works on consoles and, if the rumours of an upcoming Linux version are true, computers regardless of operating system. An open network doesn’t always work out for the best on something that should be as plug-and-play as a console – see the disaster that was the Konami ID in Metal Gear Solid 4, as well as how online functionality can still vary wildly between PS3 games – but I think Valve has demonstrated its community credentials on enough occasions to be the one to try this.

The ‘one-console future’ is inevitable if this medium ever wants to grow up, and simply facilitating interaction between platforms is the first and largest step. We’re still going to have PlayStations and Xboxes for the foreseeable future, but Steamworks and independently developed community features like Rockstar Social Club and Battlefield 1943’s Coral Sea Challenge that are showing the barest hints of cross-platform interaction are, I think, seriously showing the way things are going. The way things have to go.

I could be wrong and this could turn out to be nothing, of course. I don’t think it will, though. This has to happen so let’s get it over with.

E3 2010 Conference Review

It’s E3 again! That means broken promises, broken hearts, betrayal, disappointment, and that’s just when there’s a World Cup match on. For reference, check out my report cards for 2007, 2008 and 2009.

So without further ado, in chronological order…


To be honest, I got exactly what I expected from Microsoft. We all knew that there was going to be a huge focus on Natal Kinect and that was borne out. It’s undeniably technically impressive, but the lineup doesn’t interest me in the slightest so far. My antipathy towards the Wii is no real secret, and so it’s going to take something special, likely from an established developer known for great ‘normal’ games, but for the time being I’m happy to be an observer. I can see people who are in the intended audience being really impressed by it.

If we’re talking stuff outside hardcore games, ESPN was the most impressive thing. It’s almost certainly not coming here, but it’s potentially the definitive way to watch sports, and it’s included in an existing Xbox Live subscription. I’m a football fan, and having a library of classic matches as well as HD streaming live stuff with all those community features would be fantastic. Imagine getting a similar thing with the BBC iPlayer, for example.

As for the real games, there weren’t really any surprises for the most part, but what I saw impressed me. Gears 3 looked like Gears 3, and Halo: Reach really looked like a proper next-gen Halo game. Crytek is apparently making a God of War game as well, and MGS: Rising looked decent, albeit like it’s reviving something that should now be finished with. That interests me still, as even if it’s part of a genre that I don’t often get on with, those cutting mechanics look incredibly cool. Could be some real potential there.

Echoes of Sega’s E3 1995 Saturn announcement with the unveiling of the new machine, which perhaps isn’t the kind of memories to be dredging up, but you can’t deny the effectiveness of showing off the reduced size of your redesign by having it on stage inside the old one the whole time. It’s been much-needed on the technical side for a while, and I’ll certainly be tempted to upgrade at the next price drop. I’m liking the look of it, actually.

But the overall impression was underwhelming. Halo: Reach was the only game that really got me excited, and that’s… well, Halo. A Halo game that was announced over a year ago and that most of us have already played, in fact. I’m writing this section on Monday night before either of the other two conferences so I could be proven completely wrong here, but I expect Nintendo and Sony to blow away the paltry number of new announcements to appeal to gamers, and they’ll almost certainly be exclusives, which Call of Duty and Metal Gear Solid aren’t. There was a lot of flash there for really not that many new games for 2010 and 2011.

So a fairly unimpressive line-up of new games with some intriguing but unproven technology means that this conference scores a…

D Continue reading E3 2010 Conference Review