Wrap Up: Just Another E3

There weren't any big surprises at E3 this year, which is surprising to me. 

As expected, both the Microsoft and Sony conferences were painfully boring, especially Sony's. Would it kill them to hire one person with at least a single cell of charisma? Nintendo didn't even have a traditional staging and they stomped both companies into the dirt as far as presentation goes.  At least Microsoft has taken a huge step in the right direction by putting someone who knows what they're doing at the head of Xbox. Phil Spencer has the right mindset for the industry and what so far is proving to be a solid game plan to close the gap between them and the PS4.

Xbox is finally revisiting one of the biggest one-ups it had with the 360 in its exceptional selection of smaller titles. This is awesome news, but it's also something they should have focused on from the start. Understandably, most of Microsoft's E3 was playing catch up and cleaning house, which they've done admirably.

Many of the smaller titles presented by Xbox were gorgeous and artsy, but Sony had the indie titles that really impressed me. They could have just played 30 seconds of Broforce, dropped the mic and walked off stage. That would have helped shave off some stage time given to shriveled up white dudes lifelessly regurgitating what's on their teleprompter, with one awful attempt at humor after another. Nintendo had me laughing out loud at both the excellent humor and top quality production, but I similarly chuckled while shaking my head at how many titles were stamped with "2015," and how quickly I didn't care anymore. What in the world is taking them so damn long to release a stronger library?

With that said, I was most impressed by Nintendo's games this year. The new Zelda looks like it will be no less than phenomenal. The refreshingly unique Splatoon employs a design philosophy I was drooling over, coupled with the fact that it looks like an absurd amount of fun. The same can be said for Captain Toad. I've been dying for a big Toad-centric production since Super Mario Bros. 2, and it looks like it will be yet another must-have from Nintendo. Absent from the digital presentation, but immediately following, was Itagaki's newest genius action title, The Devil's Third, which is precisely the kind of game we need to see more of hit the Wii U console–mature, complex, and bloody good fun. Being a huge fan of Itagaki's brilliant Ninja Gaiden series, and a gamer on a budget, I am a little disappointed it's not coming to the PS4. But you go, Nintendo! You ride this one straight into the sunset!

Nintendo seemed to be the only company with huge exclusives. I was hoping for a bigger, more intriguing title announced for Sony or Xbox. Just one would have made either presentation worth snoring through. Nothing shocked me. Everything was purely expected and the new games that were announced, barely—if at all—revealed any gameplay. I'm not sure about you, but pre-rendered cinematic trailers do absolutely jack squat for me. Show me how the actual game is going to look, or don't show me anything at all. Until I see it functioning, your gorgeous movie version of the game is meaningless to me.

Sure, everyone took a collective holy crap in their pants when Uncharted 4 closed the Sony conference, but that's nothing new; unless you don't know what the internet is, you should have known this was coming. How about trying to pull a Rainbow Six: Siege out of nowhere like Ubisoft did and get back to me, Sony? Ubisoft knows how to pace a presentation and what kind of fresh ideas people want to see. I'm not a big fan of Aisha Tyler or anything, but at least she speaks to the crowd like an actual human being instead of a flesh colored teleprompter with legs.

There are a crap ton of games that we should be excited for, however. When it's all said and done, games are what we watch E3 for. Even if nothing crazy was unveiled, there are still games on the horizon that are looking mighty darn fun! Personally, I've been dying for more asymmetrical AAA titles. Evolve looks like it will be a monster step in the right direction for compelling multiplayer content that isn't just another shoot-the-other-guys-with-guns game. I'm not a big Dark Souls fan because I prefer the finger numbing complexity of Ninja Gaiden or the twitchy visceral mechanics of Warframe. The Souls titles are too clunky and redundant for me even though that's like calling Chess boring. I understand. They're just not my kinds of games. However, Bloodborne appears to add some new layers to the combat which might invite more fast-paced gamers like me into folds of From Software's hardcore challenges.

No Man's Sky is back on track. It is without argument an ingenious design that was nearly lost when Hello Games' studio was flooded and the future of No Man's Sky looked grim at best. Writing this now, I can still feel the awkward, nearly overwhelming emotions that Sean Murray bled into my computer monitor as he made his E3 debut. He is finally able to bring his passion project to the biggest event in gaming after its near-death experience. I can't wait to be the first to discover my own totally unique dinosaurs, plant life, solar systems, and planets. It's not just a game, it's an experience that millions of science fiction fans have hoped for since we were first introduced to alien worlds in sci-fi books a hundred years old. Murray's nerve-shredded introduction on the E3 stage is one of the most beautiful moments in gaming I had the pleasure of viewing live.

Far Cry 4, Dead Island 2, Infamous: First Light, GTAV, Last of Us: Remastered, The Order, Ratchet
& Clank the Remake the Game, The Division, The Witcher 3, and Destiny were all games with tired presentations doing their least to remain impressive or surprising. They will probably all be spectacular games, no less. Two of them are already excellent titles, but there was very little that was unique about the new presentations prepared for this E3. In many ways, this is perfectly understandable. The best games don't really have to say much more to keep us excited. The Division, for one, couldn't possibly have me more excited, checking the calendar and counting the days until its release. The Order is no doubt a visual stunner, but it remains to be seen whether it will be any fun to play. So far, I've seen absolutely nothing that tells me it will play as well as it looks. Similarly, everything under the hood of Destiny has me salivating, but the gameplay looks no different than a title I could have played on the Playstation 2. If I didn't already know what Bungie is trying to do with this massively ambitious title, based on looks alone, I'd be bored already.

It tickles me that we are getting these top-notch remasters, and I'll probably play every single one of them.
However, it also disappoints me that cross-plats, remakes, and sequels were the bulk of the big titles featured this year. On the other hand, the potentially killer titles that we are already hyped beyond belief before the show still look great, no doubt about that. But I'd like to get at least a tease about what will truly set them apart from the previous generation besides better graphics and bigger worlds. While Sony and Microsoft's conferences were as dull as they've ever been, some awesome gaming experiences are still very much on track. High on my list are Sunset Overdrive, Destiny, No Man's Sky, Evolve, The Division, a plethora of indie titles like Broforce, Aztez, Cuphead, and Hyper Light Drifter, and almost anything that Nintendo can squeeze out of that little console that could—Captain Toad and Splatoon being the standouts to me.

While there will be an intimidating abundance to do as a gamer for the next couple of years, I'm still waiting for something that feels like it's only possible on the new hardware. I had hoped to see something more on Morpheus, but it's probably best they let it cook for longer until they have something stronger to show. If next year's E3 doesn't have bigger surprises, I'll be merely a content gamer, and not a fascinated, ecstatic one. The upcoming games do look fun, immensely so, but I don't think I'm alone in saying that I'm still waiting for something to push us into the future of gaming.

-JG Barnes