Hey Bearders, Wes here, and we at Nitrobeard hope you're having an amazing E3 week! Since we (and many of you at home) have been keeping up with the goings-on and radical announcements, it's only proper that we share what our "Hits And Misses" have been of the show thus far! In this post (which may be a series, but we'll see), I'll be dissecting the Pros and Cons of each of the 'Big 3', and ranking them in order of which I liked best. I'll also cover key moments of each Press Conference, and we'll top it off with some amazing video clips of my personal favorite games of the show thus far! Enough exposition, let's do this!
Something was troubling with Microsoft this year: It was their year to really break free of the competition, and they dropped the ball. Hell, they didn't just drop the ball, but the ball was identical to Nintendo's ball, circa 2008. We've seen this conference before, and gamers cried foul. There were a few cool showings, like Metal Gear Solid: Rising, and the fact that ESPN On-Demand is coming to XBox Live Gold, but overall we all felt a major sense of 'been there, done that' from a company that shouldn't be doing so. Instead of putting all of their eggs in the Kinect basket, Microsoft should've lended its hand to explaining WHY gamers needed Kinect. We already have the Wii to give us sports games, family games, and cool interactive experiences, so why should I buy an add-on to do so again? Why should I buy an add-on that as far as we can tell, will be nearly as expensive as the Wii?
They didn't do a good job of 'convincing'. Do I want to watch people awkwardly jump about, talking about how much fun they're having? No. Because I know they're not having that much fun. Hell, if I was getting massaged by Olivia Wilde in her Tron outfit while learning guitar from Slash, I wouldn't be having as much fun as these girls were having slowly careening off of a cliff, Six Flags style. It was disingenuous, and while I know that we Weekend Rambos watching from our PCs could sense the foul smell, you could cut the failure with a knife in that convention center.
It wasn't all bad, though. Halo: Reach shocked me with the reveal of honest-to-God flight combat in space, and the reveal of the new 'slimline' 360 was a brilliant one. It's what the company needed after the botching of their conference, but even so: We could tell that the Oprah Winfrey style 'giveaway' was to hide the fact that no Kinect pricing was announced, and they focused entirely too much on the wrong thing. C'mon, guys, Sony was building momentum all of 2009, and came in swinging in 2010, we need more than your generic sequels and Wii hand-me-downs. I mean, seriously, how many goddamn fitness games will Ubisoft make for this thing?
Consider me genuinely surprised: Not only did Sony show up swinging, they nearly stole the show. There was only two things I wanted from the conference, and while Last Guardian was a no-show this year (single tear), the second thing was delivered in spades: Good exclusives. After losing the exclusivity of a few major players (Metal Gear, Final Fantasy), Sony needed to redeem its dominance as the 'superior' gamers console, and I believe they achieved that. Focusing on the content (whether it be the games themselves, or Limited Edition Exclusives like Dead Space Extraction with Dead Space 2, or MoH: Frontline with MoH: Beardy Beard Beard) was the perfect way to shift the perspective back on Sony in a positive way. Sony also wins the 'Most Mindblowing Reveal', when a good friend of Nitrobeard made his appearance on-stage: Gabe Newell from Valve.
Gabe's been very harsh on the PS3 in the past years, and the support for Orange Box PS3 is absymal at best. This is all about to change, though, as Steamworks and Steam Cloud support are being added to the PS3 architecture, meaning future Valve titles for PS3 will be updated and patched day-and-date with their PC counterparts. Also remembering the cool Steam Cloud features of games like Torchlight, one can guess that a Portal 2 savegame may be accessible from PC or PS3, no matter where you play. Bad. Freakin'. Ass.
As for the games, I have to start by saying that The Sly Cooper Collection may be my most anticipated PS3 release this year. Those games are incredible, and this will give me a perfect chance to own them for myself (Instead of playing the game on my cousin's system when I used to babysit. Ahem.). Twisted Metal's reveal was fantastic (I know the games are good at best, but dammit, I'm a nostalgia whore, and it tickled my Twisted Metal 2 fancy like you wouldn't believe), Dead Space 2's demo was really well done, inFamous 2 is always a treat (ice!), but I think I was most impressed with the functionality and use of the Playstation Move.
I've always thought that when new technologies are shown at E3, the games they show off never feel like actual 'games', but glorified tech demoes. Sorcery is the first title that seems to break this trend (either that, or supersize the term 'tech demo'), and could fill the 'Harry Potter/Star Wars' niche we've been wanting from the Wii. Mixing and matching spelltypes to make new attacks was shown off perfectly, and gave a great sense of what's possible within the game. The response time was great for the controller, and the 1:1 seemed to work nearly flawlessly. They're really gunning to prove that the Playstation Move isn't a 'new direction' that PS3 is going, but it's part of the branching out that Sony hopes will give us new ways to experience our 'hardcore' games. Well done.
A few other things to metion were Kevin Butler's call to arms, LittleBigPlanet 2's amazing showcase, and Gabe Newell announci-oh, what's that? I talked about that already? With the Steamworks and the other things? I did? Oh. BUT IT'S VALVE! AND PS3! MAKIN' BEAUTIFUL BABIES TOGETH--
I was not expecting this. Now, you'll know I'm not a huge 'drinker of the Kool-Aid' when it comes to Nintendo, but I own a Wii, and I own a DS. I enjoy the innovations they've brought to gaming (analog sticks, 3D gaming, motion control), and respect them whole-heartidly as the forefathers of our culture. That being said, I never looked forward to Nintendo's E3 press conferences, as they played by their own rules: They knew they were going to make a bazillion dollars, be on the cover of TIME, be on morning shows, and be defended nonstop by message board heralds. They were leaving 'hardcore gamers' by the wayside, occasionally throwing us a bone with Twighlight Princess, Super Mario Galaxy, and Super Smash Brothers. They changed their perspective, and gamers weren't the focal point: Money was. E3 wasn't about competing with Sony or Microsoft, it was about sealing their soccer mom funds for the next fiscal quarter. Consider my mind absolutely blown, though: Whoever fed Nintendo those Wheaties, keep 'em coming, I'm now in the Nintendo Love Club.
Let's take a look at games that were announced: A new Kirby, a new Zelda (focused on Wii functionality), a new Goldeneye, a new Kid Icarus, and a new Donkey Kong Country. Every single one of these games looked stellar (even with Zelda's on-stage technical difficulties), and was just what the doctor ordered. Nintendo's conference with only those games would've been an improvement over the past 2 E3's but they didn't stop there. Nintendo's been guilty of not having the best support from third parties (or at least games that rank up with Nintendo's first party efforts), but with Epic Mickey, I think that is coming to an end.
First of all, Nintendo wins by default for giving Warren Spector the amount of stage time they did. Many of you know that my favorite game of all-time was directed by Mr. Warren Spector, so anytime I get to hear him talk about design philosophy and game mechanics is a good day. From the stage presentation, it looks like Epic Mickey is taking everything I love and hold dear about Deus Ex, and putting it within the imagination and vast universe of Disney: Sure, it's not something that clicks in your brain right away, but when you see that Mickey uses Paint Brushes and Paint Thinner to change the world around him (deleting areas, adding or deleting characters, etc), you can't help but remember the choices of Deus Ex, and how they effected your experience. Consider me a day-one purchaser.
Nintendo still wasn't done. With the official announcement of the Nintendo 3DS, with the AMAZING amount of third-party support (Metal Gear Solid, Resident Evil, etc), an absolutely perfect killer-app (LEGEND OF ZELDA: OCARINA OF TIME, BITCHES!), and backwards compatibility, Nintendo sealed the deal quickly, and early: This is the best handheld on the market for the hardcore gamer, bar none. Even the way the presentations were handled was very mature: Seeing Kojima and others talk about their first experience seeing and playing the 3DS really sold the idea that this is a platform in which creators will be allowed to explore. While when the Wii was first announced, there was a pretty sizeable split in design philosophies, the 3DS is sparking up some genuine interest for enormously big names.
Nintendo is back in the saddle, as the king of the industry they invented. They're leading in innovation, creativity, and overall message: It's okay to pave your own path, but don't forget about the people that got you there. Welcome back, Nintendo. We missed you.
[WES'S E3 PICKS]
CHILD OF EDEN: The spiritual successor to Rez, made by Tetsuya Mizuguchi himself. Rez is my favorite 'cult classic' game of all-time.
STAR WARS: THE OLD REPUBLIC - Bioware's 800lbs gorilla, going to battle with World of Warcraft for MMO dominance. The battle system looks remarkable in this video, and the sense of character to the world is endearing, but overwhelmingly positive. A day-one purchase for sure.
EPIC MICKEY: From the mind of Warren Spector (System Shock, Thief, Deus Ex) comes Epic Mickey, showcasing the old, forgotten, rejected Disney characters of our youth. Phenomenal imagination, and fantastic gameplay mechanics.
THE SLY COOPER COLLECTION: Hooray! Amazing platform titles by Sucker Punch, so we'll be able to play some grade-A platforming while we wait patiently for inFamous 2. Coming this November!
PORTAL 2: I mean, c'mon. It's Portal 2.
Alright gang, that brings my side of this little shinding to a close! I'll keep updating my Twitter feed with more off-the-cuff remarks to things I'm noticing on the show floor as E3 continues, but all-in-all, this year has been the best E3 in recent memory, and while I may not agree with every decision made by each company (I'm looking your way, Microsoft), the games shown were polished, well-realized, and of a certain quality that tells me one thing: No matter what you enjoy playing, or what system is your main means of doing so, we have alot to look forward to, and it's a great time to be a gamer. Game on, and enjoy the rest of E3!