If the official judging portion is on the games, the unofficial scrutinising that comes afterwards is the press conferences. Make a big steaming pile out of your show and boy, are you gonna hear about it. Make an incredible showing and boy, are you gonna hear it.
Think back to fantastic performances like Nintendo’s E3 press conference in 2004 or 2010, Sony’s ‘golden era’ press conference for PS3 in 2009 and Microsoft’s E3 2006 press conference or maybe even Ubisoft’s E3 briefing last year and the reveal of Watch Dogs.
But also think back to Sony’s E3 2006 press conference, the past two press conferences running from Nintendo (pre-Direct) and Activision in 2006. Oh and Konami in 2010. Your press conference can be talked about for the right reasons, but also for the wrong reasons.
But this is also the first E3 of the next-gen, the first show featuring Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Everything you show, everything you say will be reviewed under scrutiny more than any other year. Every press conference had to make an impression this year with next-gen on the horizon. Did they?
Microsoft promised after the end of the reveal event for Xbox One its E3 press conference would be all be about games. And they delivered, it was all about the games. Punch-for-punch, kick-for-kick, it was a very heavily core-centric line-up, a mix of fantastic first and third-party titles.
Metal Gear Solid V kicked off the show in one of the most impressive showings of the show in terms of a gameplay, story and technical level thanks to Fox Engine, Insomniac Games’ Sunset Overdrive looked promising for its first foray in Microsoft’s bed, Remedy’s Quantum Break was showing potential (even if we’ve still yet to see proper gameplay yet) and Swery 65’s episodic D4 was an interesting one. CD Projekt and EA brought incredible gameplay demos of The Witcher III and Battlefield 4, whilst Respawn finally debuted Titanfall to a quite impressive demo.
Halo was announced in a typical non-gameplay way (though without a number 5 beside it, to my surprise), Black Tusk’s debut IP was teased as some sort of spy thriller, Killer Instinct was finally announced and Project Spark, while looking quite promising, looked more a lot like Microsoft’s attempt to take on Sony and LittleBigPlanet than an original effort. Minecraft was also announced for the system, though calling it a major pillar of Microsoft’s indie support when Mojang has more money than most indies combined is a stretch.
Not everything was on the positive side, mind. Crytek’s Ryse, last seen at E3 2011 as a first-person Kinect effort is now a third-person actioner heavily reliant on QTEs (really badly, it must be said), while Forza Motorsport 5 looked very underwhelming. Maybe it’s because I was not that overly impressed with FM4, maybe it’s because Horizon was such a great alternative or maybe it’s because Gran Turismo 6 is looking like the better sim racer right now, but I was very underwhelmed with what was shown of FM5. Dead Rising 3 also debuted for the first time, though looked a lot more like an open-world Resident Evil than a Dead Rising game.
Xbox 360 also got a bit of a showing with a redesign, as well as the announcement of World of Tanks, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood and a new trailer for Dark Souls II plus a PS Plus-like scheme for Live members until the launch of Xbox One that provides two free games per month, though you have to wonder the point when PS Plus is offering games as recent as six months ago on average while the first two games promoted for Microsoft’s program – Halo 3 and Assassin’s Creed II – are games between four-to-six years old that’ll probably save you something like £5-7 in second-hand copies.
And you could hear a pin drop as Phil Spencer announced that $499/£429 price-tag for Xbox One. Pricepoints and technical hiccups aside on BF4 and the re-reveal of Crimson Dragon, Microsoft’s showing was impressive. Non-stop games, decent first indications of games that’ll be coming for Xbox One’s November launch – I’d bet good money Dead Rising 3 will slip if I were you, though – and the showing was mostly constant throughout.
Eight sounds right.
This was easily EA’s strongest showing in years, helped by showing all of its games – Titanfall aside – running on either DICE’s Frostbite 3 or EA Sports’ Ignite engine.
EA Sports was a bit shouty shouty during UFC ’14 with Bruce Buffer on the mic while our first look at the the game consisted of noting more but a CG trailer with no gameplay at all. Otherwise, NBA Live looks set to actually finally come back this time (though probably not with rapping poetry or whatever that was), Madden is Madden and FIFA is FIFA, though the latter may have a challenge from the Fox-powered Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 this year. Titanfall was, unsurprisingly, given a shoutout following its Microsoft debut previously, but comprised of nothing more than a behind the scenes video. And I don’t think we needed that NFS movie segment. Or Drake on stage.
But EA dropped a ton of surprising games for the show as well as some knockout demos. Popcap showed off a Plants vs Zombies third-person shooter which not only looks decent but maintains the humour of PvZ, Need for Speed: The Rivals from Ghost and Criterion looked promising following last year’s disappointing Most Wanted and Dragon Age: Inquisition was finally shown and looked an impressive sight.
But if one studio defined EA’s time on stage, it was DICE. A majority of the games shown on stage were running the DICE-created Frostbite 3. But that wasn’t all from the Swedish studio. It announced Star Wars Battlefront to massive reaction, it showed a outstanding 64-player multiplayer Battlefield 4 demo in which buildings were brought down big time and – after a long time of waiting – we finally seen Mirror’s Edge Next announced for PS4, Xbox One and PC as an origin story for Faith. To see it announced at last after the potential of the first game is a relief.
Besides a few presentation issues and a lacklustre sports showing, EA had an incredible line-up and the best one its had for years. Were it not for the problems mentioned above, it’d get a nine no problem.
It gets an eight instead.
Ubisoft went in strong last year, bookended with the reveal of a new IP at the end of a new console cycle. This year, Watch Dogs was lucky to get a trailer appearance. While we got a demo at Sony, we could still have seen two demos for both pressers – if Assassin’s Creed III can do it last year, Watch Dogs and Assassin’s Creed IV can do it too.
It also got through the current-gen stuff rather quickly. Splinter Cell: Blacklist had a very hacked together trailer, PC F2P game Mighty Quest for Epic Loot didn’t get that much of a gameplay showing and South Park: The Stick of Truth was skipped by rather quickly. A shame considering its trailer was one of the funniest of the show. The only game that didn’t get passed by rather quickly was Rayman Legends. On the association of Rayman, Rabbids Invasion – no. Nope nope. To put it in Aisha Tyler terms, noooooooope.
As I mentioned above, Watch Dogs got a trailer. A cool trailer it must be said, but just a trailer nonetheless. The same treatment was also given to Assassin’s Creed IV in what was a kind of weak CG trailer, which is disappointing considering every CG AC trailer at E3 has knocked it out every year since. To also have no demos for the two biggest games you have this year at your conference, even if they were eventually shown at Sony, is still kind of baffling.
But Ubisoft did have two big new IPs to show during its show, with Ubisoft Reflections and Ivory Tower’s The Crew looking quite good on first showing. But it was Ubisoft Massive’s open-world online RPG Tom Clancy’s The Division that stole the show with an interesting premise and looking very technically astonishing. Its now become a tradition to see Ubisoft unveil a massive new IP at the end of its press conference and now Ubisoft Montreal and Ubisoft Massive have been given the honour. Next year? Calling it: Ubisoft Toronto’s new IP.
Six seems generous, but in fairness, it gets it for being heavy on new IP. Not to mention, South Park was very funny and Rayman Legends looked very awesome. Otherwise, mixed results for Ubisoft.
Sony. Oh Sony. You brought it. You really brought it.
It kicked off with what was coming to Vita, but was otherwise passed upon rather quickly. Even with a next-gen machine on the horizon, I hope gamescom has a much bigger showing for the handheld. PS3 also got a quick shout-out with what was coming from first-party and third-parties. Last of Us, now out, had a great launch trailer, Puppeteer looked good (and plays quite good, having tried it in London recently), Rain looked astonishing and Gran Turismo 6 is looking like it could be a better game this time round over its Microsoft rival. The only bad showing in that line-up was Beyond: Two Souls. But one bad trailer is not indicative of a bad game, so don’t be turned off by it yet – there’s loads of promise there.
Sony brought out PS4 for the first time. That looked good. That entertainment bit? Not so much. At least Microsoft got that out of the way with the Xbox One reveal. Then we were back on the games and with them, one of the most loved execs in games, Shuhei Yoshida, who confirmed 20 games were in the works from WorldWide Studios. Out of the 20 were 12 new IPs. Yet, one of Sony’s minus points was just announcing one new IP – Ready at Dawn’s The Order: 1886. In fact, Sony’s first-party line-up was quite barren in comparison to Microsoft’s. Actually, as a whole, Sony’s games line-up was less than Microsoft’s presser.
Not to take anything way from what was on show, mind: The Order’s first trailer – also in-game – was quite the tantalising tease, Killzone: Shadow Fall looked good, DriveClub was looking hot, inFamous: Shadow Fall looked bloody incredible and Knack was, well, Knack. Quantic Dream’s tech demo The Dark Sorcerer showed a new side to the otherwise serious French studio (disclosure: I’ve yet to see the full thing).
The one thing Sony had a massive advantage over Microsoft was its indie support. Microsoft promised a decent indie support, but Sony meant it when it promised a big indie showing: Supergiant was announced as a PS4 partner and confirmed its next game Transistor will make its console debut for PS4 next year. But that wasn’t all: a ton of indies were brought on stage, including Oddworld Inhabitants, Kiel Entertainment, 17-Bit Studios and Young Horses and the seriously promising Octodad.
Third-party time and the bombs started dropping. Nomura was shown on stage in video form to announce Final Fantasy Versus XIII had become Final Fantasy XV as well as Kingdom Hearts III. Final Fantasy XIV was also confirmed for a PS4 release alongside its PS3 brother. Assassin’s Creed IV’s demo stuttered and stuttered while Watch Dogs had a bloody great presentation. NBA 2K14 was shown on next-gen for the first time, The Elder Scrolls Online was announced for the system (and Xbox One) with a beta coming to PS4 first and Mad Max shown for the first time. And Destiny got its gameplay debut at the end and looked incredible. Lots of excitement for that.
But it was the no second-hand restriction and no online-authentication bits from Tretton that brought the fucking house down. It was one of those ‘where were you’ moments at E3. Sony wasn’t skirting around Microsoft, it went directly for Microsoft. And Andy House’s announcement of a $399/£349 price for PS4, and in turn undercutting Xbox One by $100/£80, was the knockout punch.
The lesser games line-up in comparison to Microsoft, the TV bit and the lack of at least a rough month for release just keep it from a 10. But Tretton’s public execution of Microsoft gives it the most locked-in 9 by miles and, in turn, not just this year’s best press conference but one of the best E3 press conferences in living memory.
Oh Nintendo. What the hell is going on? There was no press conference instead going for a Nintendo Direct, but as evident the night before with Sony, press conferences provide some magical moments. A webstream – never mind one a stuttering one – don’t provide the sense of magic that typically these press conferences give. Nintendo Directs can be otherwise great at times but for E3, not so much.
I said before E3 that a Nintendo Direct instead of a press conference was a good thing for Nintendo. I take that back now: it’s not. It did have a legit reason, to be fair, in ducking out this year with the next-gen battle happening, but next year, it needs to bring it back.
From a software line-up, it didn’t – mostly – live up to the hype, especially when Wii U is on the ropes. Pokemon X&Y kicked things off, but went straight into Wii U afterwards with the reveal of Super Mario 3D World which disappointed: one was expecting it to be something incredibly knockout, not essentially a port of Super Mario 3D Land. And at a time where it doesn’t need any, titles got more delays – Wii Party U and Wii Fit U due now later this year and this winter respectively. And to see Retro work on another Donkey Kong rather than something new was a bit of a disappointment. And for a series that convinced me to go out and buy a Wii five years ago, Super Smash Bros didn’t do anything to convince me to buy a Wii U (if I didn’t already own one).
Not everything shown from Nintendo was disappointing, though, to its credit. For someone who didn’t play the original, Zelda: Wind Waker HD looked drop dead gorgeous, Bayonetta 2 is set to be just as good as the last and Monolithsoft’s X screamed Zone of the Enders x dinosaurs in a RPG world. Yes to that, then. Otherwise, bring out the big guns for next year, Nintendo. You are going to need them. And bring back the press conference. If you can bring out the big guns, you’re going gonna get those magical moments you’ll only find in a press conference. Remember this?
It’s a five.