Sony, Microsoft and Bethesda scored at E3. The others? Not so much.
E3 2015 is more or less in the books now that every major publisher’s event and conference has concluded. The consensus has been more or less clear: Sony has “won” the event with announcements like Shenmue 3, a remake for Final Fantasy 7 and The Last Guardian. Forgetting the technicalities associated with said announcements, Sony offered up an extremely solid line-up with gameplay footage from Horizon: Zero Dawn, Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End, Street Fighter 5, No Man’s Sky and much more. Heck, even the new IP Firewatch looked kind of cool.
Microsoft didn’t quite measure up to Sony’s E3 conference but it still had an excellent show. Along with the announcements of backwards compatibility for the Xbox One with Xbox 360 games, we got a look at the new Xbox Game Preview program which puts a nice spin on Early Access for consoles. A relatively solid line-up of indie titles, some new IPs like Sea of Thieves and Recore, and impressive gameplay footage for Halo 5: Guardians, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Gears of War 4 and Forza Motorsport 6 helped Microsoft stand out this year. And goddamn if HoloLens didn’t manage to look cool.
"Where did all that time go then? Why, into the sports titles. There were long, drawn-out discussions and footage from FIFA 16, Madden NFL 16 (with some good ol' sports talk that no one in your audience will possibly care about), NBA Live 16, etc."
So it’s generally accepted that both Sony and Microsoft had good showings for this year. And yet somehow, everyone else managed to fumble things to an almost incomprehensible degree. This of course doesn’t include Bethesda Softworks because even if every other game at its event was horrible, it still had Fallout 4. What’s more, it had extensive time devoted to Fallout 4.
Let’s start with Electronic Arts. It’s ultimately debatable as to whether the publisher learned its lesson from last year when instead of even cinematic trailers, we were treated to extensive behind the scenes video. This year saw plenty of good gameplay from Star Wars Battlefront but many of the other big-name announcements were either cinematic (Mass Effect Andromeda, Knights of the Fallen Empire) or “in-engine” (Mirror’s Edge Catalyst).
But the main story was that regardless of how cool the announcements were, not nearly enough time was spent talking about them. Unravel was probably the exception – despite coming off as slightly awkward and nervous, its creator talked eloquently but honestly about the game’s development and inspiration while showing off enough gameplay to get people excited. That’s how you debut a new IP from a relatively unknown developer despite some of the hiccups.
It was sadly all downhill from there. Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 looked fun but EA had to have an awkward man in a zombie costume with Danger Zone playing. If you had to ruin the song for anyone, that’s one way to do it.
Where did all that time go then? Why, into the sports titles. There were long, drawn-out discussions and footage from FIFA 16, Madden NFL 16 (with some good ol’ sports talk that no one in your audience will possibly care about), NBA Live 16, etc. Legendary footballer Pele made a surprise appearance. It was less exciting than you’d think.
Next up was Ubisoft and really, could it be any worse after EA? As it turns out, it wasn’t but the event wasn’t all that great either. Ghost Recon Wildlands was probably the stand-out announcement since it featured a large open world and tactical shooter mechanics. Tom Clancy’s The Division re-emerged, looking slightly the worse for wear than last year while featuring some rather odd mechanics to betray your entire team for their loot.
"Nintendo had slightly better luck despite its preoccupation with friggin' puppets of all things by focusing on showcasing games upon games. Star Fox Zero looks fun but the rest of the event was dedicated to games we already knew about."
Rainbow Six Siege received details on its story and we got a look at the Terrorist Hunt mode. New IP For Honor was fine – nothing overtly special but it’s one of those things you need to play to really understand what the hype is about. Trackmania Turbo and the new expansion for Trials Fusion both look interesting. No one cared about The Crew when it released and it’s arguable whether anyone really cares about Wild Run.
But that theme of “fine” is what dictated Ubisoft’s entire E3 presser. Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate’s cinematic trailer was impressive but given past controversies, some cool gameplay would have been preferable. For some reason, the event was inundated with celebrities. Jason Derulo’s performance was lame, Angela Bassett simply appeared to ham it out with host Aisha Tyler (who was nigh unbearable this evening), and Matt Stone and Trey Parker were themselves from 20 years ago (take that as you will).
Nintendo had slightly better luck despite its preoccupation with friggin’ puppets of all things by focusing on showcasing games upon games. Star Fox Zero looks fun but the rest of the event was dedicated to games we already knew about. But hey, at least Super Mario Maker, Yoshi’s Wooly World and Xenoblade Chronicles X are all releasing this year. A bunch of 3DS releases were showcased including The Legend of Zelda: Triforce Heroes, Animal Crossing: Happy Home Designer and Mario & Luigi: Paper Jam. However, again, there was hardly anything earth-shattering.
We have to ask though: Whose horrible idea was Metroid Prime Federation Force and why haven’t they been fired for ruining one of the greatest franchises of all time?
Finally there was Square Enix, who served to remind us why it shouldn’t do E3 press events. Long periods of talking interspersed with clunky translating met compelling gameplay trailers. Just Cause 3 looked awesome and despite not really walking us through a mission, the gameplay footage we saw of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was great. Hitman looks impressive though how its digital approach will function remains to be seen.
"But as we sit here, we can't help but wonder how every other major event - from Ubisoft to Square Enix - could have so little clue on how to offer a great E3 event (except for Bethesda Softworks, who was great. But you already knew that)."
Then we had the announcement of a new Nier title from Platinum Games and Project Setsuna from the new Tokyo RPG Factory. We’d give you more details but Square Enix didn’t really bother so we won’t either. They did present some creepy…thing of sorts wearing a mask when Nier was discussed. It was way less exciting than you’d think.
The biggest highlight of the conference was Kingdom Hearts 3. Gameplay, for lack of a better word, looked phenomenal but familiar. This was indeed the Kingdom Hearts we had been looking forward to but bigger, flashier and altogether awe-inspiring in its scale. Now if only we had a release date of any kind. Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward was missing but we did get World of Final Fantasy and mobile efforts like Tomb Raider Go and Kingdom Hearts: Unchained Key. Frankly, we would have preferred footage of a raid from Heavensward instead.
E3 2015 was a rather odd mish-mash of good, bad and god-awful, interspersed with less substance from any publisher not named Sony or Microsoft than you’d think. The future is at least bright for fans of both consoles, both in terms of games and third party support.
But as we sit here, we can’t help but wonder how every other major event – from Ubisoft to Square Enix – could have so little clue on how to offer a great E3 event (except for Bethesda Softworks, who was great. But you already knew that).
Why not scrap all of this stage presentation nonsense and just release a bunch of trailers? Why focus on celebrities and have discussions no one cares about with them? Why try to make a goddamned meme of all things? Why ramble on and on and f**king on about sports games and mobile titles? Why make only the barest announcements for games with zero details? Even Nintendo, which had an interesting line-up, didn’t really present any powerful new IPs. Mario Tennis and Mario & Sonic at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games are hardly ground breaking.
Last but not least: Who in all the seven Hells did that to Metroid Prime?