E3’s now a week behind us, and big reveals and press conferences even further back than that. E3 2012 was a strange year — a year of transitions and wheel spinning, and estrangement. That’s not to say it was a bad show this year, or that there were no great games. On the contrary, there were some great presences from several titles, and numerous developers and publishers wowing us enthusiast crowds with some damn good looking games.
There were certainly missteps, I won’t shy away from that fact. But overall I was satisfied with what I saw. So let’s get into some of the things that grabbed my attention from this year’s E3.
I’ve never been the biggest Halo fan. I really enjoyed the original Halo: Combat Evolved on the PC way back in the old days, but after that I never really held much interest. I completed Halo 2 and 3 in co-op, but never indulged in the multiplayer, never played ODST or Reach, and certainly never gave two dead chicken turds about the story.
But during the first few minutes of Microsoft’s presser, my jaw was affixed to the floor, drool pooling. I had finally seen the light.
I gotta hand it to 343 Industries, the new masterminds behind the Halo franchise. They’ve really done a number on the series; it looks fresh, exciting, and extremely well-polished, certainly up to (if not surpassing) the high standards set by Halo’s creators, Bungie.
If anyone read my E3 Day One wrap-up or Marshal’s Halo 4 demo impressions, you may have noticed our comparison of Halo 4 to Metroid Prime, and if you know me at all, you know I’m a junkie for the ‘Troid. Certainly, my interest stems partially from such aesthetic and atmospheric similarities between the two titles, but Halo 4 just looks damn good. The graphics are gorgeous, the new weapons look interesting, but most of all the multiplayer sounds compelling — more than I can say for any past entry in the Halo franchise. Sufficed to say, 343 Industries and Halo 4 took me completely by surprise, and were among the most impressive showings at E3 2012
Of all the conferences, all the major publishers present, and all the games shown, no one was more consistently on top of their game than Ubisoft. Despite some odd choices in host for their presser, Ubisoft showed off a slew of great looking upcoming games, including Far Cry 3, Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Rayman: Legends, Assassin’s Creed 3 and — most notably — Watch Dogs, the supposed next-gen project that stirred up quite the commotion at the show.
It’s hard to pin point just one high point in the Ubisoft presser for me, there were just so many: Far Cry 3’s mind bending and totally bat-shit crazy demo; Watch Dog’s extremely high fidelity graphics and animation, not to mention impressive gameplay concepts and striking multiplayer implications; or the unanimously loved gameplay demo for Assassin’s Creed 3, breathing new life and imagination into a franchise that certainly wore out its welcome over the past few years. With so many great games to show, and most of them releasing in just a few months, Ubisoft was the talk of the town at the LA Convention Center this year.
Of course, there was one demonstration in particular that really caught my eye…
When Rayman returned in last year’s Rayman: Origins after years of absence and crappy party games, I was thrilled. It’s my favorite platform series, both its 2D and 3D entires. So when Ubisfot demoed the much-rumored sequel to Origins, Rayman: Legends, my inner child leaped from his seat with glee. The charming, whimsical, yet brutally challenging series is poised to bring new gameplay ideas and even prettier graphics (if that’s even possible) to platformer fans everywhere.
Showing off the game on Nintendo’s Wii U, the demo featured Legend’s new, beat based levels. In Rayman Legends, players will rocket through levels, and as they collect items and jump over obstacles, their actions and collisions will trigger musical notes in time with the soundtrack. It was silly, totally non-violent and lacking any mature themes, a beautiful change of pace from an E3 that was severely lacking in titles like this to break up the barage of knives and bullets (and bows). Hopefully we’ll see this little gem on other consoles besides just the Wii U. It was pure, unfiltered gameplay, exactly the thing I want most from my videogames.
But that’s certainly not to say I wasn’t absolutely floored by the games with violence and atmosphere.
The Last of Us
Of the three big publishers (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) Sony’s was the highlight for me. I don’t own a Vita, I don’t own a PS3. But damn, by the end of The Last of Us’ 7 minute gameplay demo that closed out Sony’s press conference, I was thirsting to drink the waters of the Sony river. What was shown of The Last of Us is in many ways exactly what I always hoped games were evolving towards: an immersive experience, with no barriers between the player’s actions and the story. Of course, I did not play the game, and with it not due out until 2013, it will still be sometime to see if the experience communicated by the demo will be consistent throughout the entire game, but damn did it look good. Every act of violence was so raw, so primal, so heavy and meaningful. It was hard to watch at times, and even when facing a single enemy, the footage had me on the edge of my seat. I wanted to see more; I wanted to know more about the character’s I’d just barely seen; I wanted to see what I would do in those situations; I wanted to see if I could survive.
The Last of Us holds a promise for many gamers of an experience where running and gunning is not just dangerous and ill-advised — it’s scary, it weighs on your mind. Of course, it’s a game, it will certainly be fun, but for a game to cause distress at the sight of a single enemy — the knowledge another desperate struggle is at hand — is captivating.
Possible Next-Gen Advancements
Besides the Wii U, E3 was privy to a small handful of announcemnts with heavy implications of what we can expect on the next iteration of consoles.
Watch Dogs, Star Wars 1313, and Epic Games’ Unreal Engine 4 all gave us glimpses into the future of graphics and physics engines, and in the case of Watch Dogs, a taste of the scope and detail we may come to expect from the gameplay in the next generation.
Here’s a glimpse:
That was all running in real time, in the game enviornment. Nucking Futs, people!
Now, while all these were impressive, and opened plenty of questions about next gen, with the exception of Unreal 4, the devlopers and publishers were awefully coy as to whether or not we can expect these titles to for sure be part of the new console generation just around the corner, or simply high fidelity examples of what developers can do after working with tech for nearly a decade. Still, theres no denying that the future looks bright, man.
So that does it for the good. Well, actually it doesn’t: Assassin’s Creed 3, Far Cry 3, Crsis 3, Dead Space 3 (TOO MANY 3’s!!), Tomb Raider, a handful of upcoming 3DS games, big announcements from EA and the UFC, and plenty more. It was a great year for games. Maybe not so much for surprises, and certainly not for tech or consoles *cough* Wii U *cough* but I doubt there’s a single videogame enthusiast who didn’t have at least something to get excited over from this year’s E3.
There were certainly some issues though, but we’ll get into those next time…
For now, what were your favorite games, press conferences, or moments from E3? Anything totally blow you away? Let me know in the comments, or tweet me @Homelessviking. Heck, send us and email: firstname.lastname@example.org
We wanna know! And be sure to be on the look out for my thoughts on the bad and the ugly moments and announcements of E3 2012.