That Was The E3 That Was

So, E3 is over for another year, and I can finally stop checking gaming websites for E3 updates every five minutes. Undoubtedly the biggest controversy of the show was Ubisoft’s terrible gaffe about Assassin’s Creed: Unity, but in terms of sheer headline grabbing, there was nothing to compare to last year’s PR war between Microsoft and Sony. In fact, it was surprising to see a new, humble side to Microsoft under the leadership of Phil Spencer, who credited the “amazing games” made by Nintendo and Sony.

One theme that stood out was delays – the gaming drought looks set to continue, as lots of big titles were pushed back to or revealed for 2015, leaving the Christmas 2014 line up looking fairly sparse. But on the plus side, there were some very exciting games unveiled, not least by Nintendo, who in my opinion came out of E3 in much better shape than Sony or Microsoft. Not only did they unveil a tantalising list of new games, many of them new IP, they followed up their slickly produced (and hilarious) 45-minute Digital Event with reveals of new games and information throughout the week via the Nintendo Treehouse YouTube channel. Plus they arguably caused the biggest buzz of the show with the reveal of a stunning new Zelda game for the Wii U.

The new Zelda on Wii U - Nintendo claims this is all in-game footage. Wow.
The new Zelda on Wii U – Nintendo claims this is all in-game footage. Wow.

Frankly, I wanted to rush out and buy all of the games in Nintendo’s line-up, not least Yoshi’s Woolly World, which had such kitten-in-a-teacup-playing-with-a-duckling-in-slippers levels of cuteness that I was practically welling up. (Let It Die this most definitely wasn’t, although that game gets kudos for having possibly the best name since Run Like Hell.) Other Nintendo highlights were Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker (need!), Super Smash Bros. Wii U (which looks better every time I see it), Splatoon (such a great idea for a competitive shooter) and Code Name: STEAM (which is a cross between XCOM and HP Lovecraft – sign me up now).

Yoshi's Woolly World - so cute it makes me want to throw up rainbows.
Yoshi’s Woolly World – so cute it makes me want to throw up rainbows.

Microsoft had a bit of a mixed bag of games by comparison. The announcement of Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which includes remasters of Haloes 1 to 4, didn’t exactly set my world alight, but that’s the big game MS are banking on this Christmas. I’ve only just got around to playing through Halo 4, so I’m not in any rush to play through the earlier games again… plus I definitely have a sense of diminishing returns with the Halo series, certainly in the single player campaigns, and I’ve long since given up on attempting to follow the labyrinthine plot.

By comparison, Sunset Overdrive looked a lot more fun, and Rise of the Tomb Raider is a game I’m really looking forward to. Scalebound, on the other hand, was a bit of an odd one: An Xbox One exclusive, it’s being developed by Platinum, whose games I adore, but the trailer left me stony faced. White-haired guy who looks a bit like Dante, giant fire-breathing dragon… all things we’ve seen a hundred times before. Ms. D was watching the trailer over my shoulder, and I asked her what she thought. “Looks just like a video game,” she concluded. “Just like any old video game.” Oooh, she can be cutting when she wants to be. Cutting but incisive.

Hold on, was that a giant enemy crab in the trailer? It’s clear that Sony don’t have the monopoly on them when it comes to E3 presentations…

Perhaps the highlight of Microsoft’s presentation was the indie reel, which I’d highly recommend you to watch. Sadly, the games flashed by far too quickly for my liking, but Ori and the Blind Forest looks stunning, and other stand outs include White Night, Below, Habitat and Lifeless Planet. But perhaps Cuphead is the game that stood out most for me, perhaps because it’s the one that’s most likely to give me nightmares with its evil Disney stylings.

Cuphead, like being sucked into a 1930s cartoon and FIGHTING FOR YOUR LIFE.
Cuphead, like being sucked into a 1930s cartoon and FIGHTING FOR YOUR LIFE.

Sony also had a bit of a mixed bag of games, although there were perhaps a few more I’d want to play than in the Microsoft presentation, not least of which is the promised remake of Grim Fandango. I missed out on the game first time around, so I’d love to play a shiny new version. Is it enough to persuade me to buy a PS4? No. But it’s certainly helping the decision.

If there’s one game I’d buy a PS4 for (or an Xbox One for that matter), it’s Batman: Arkham Knight, which looks simply stunning. The trailer featured in Sony’s presentation blew me away, and it’s perhaps the first game I’ve seen that really makes the most of the next-gen power at the developers’ disposal. “Look, the cut scenes are indistinguishable from the main game! Wowweeeeeeeeee!” says my inner child.

Otherwise, the game everyone was talking about after Sony’s show (even BBC News) was No Man’s Sky, which admittedly looks amazing (see trailer above), especially considering it’s an indie game made by a tiny team. The idea of being able to explore an effectively infinite game space stuffed with unique planets and animals sounds enticing, but I second the question voiced by Ms. D: “What do you do?” I imagine planet exploration could get dull fairly quickly as you catalogue yet another animal that’s only slightly different from the last one. I’ll reserve judgement on No Man’s Sky until I know a bit more about it.

Overall, the game of the show for me was undoubtedly Zelda: the new graphical style looks stunning, and the move towards an open world is a much-needed change for the series. Can’t wait for this one. Let’s watch the trailer again.

How about you? What were your highlights of E3?