E3 2013 — I’m back in on videogames, guys.


I Almost Went To E3 2013.

It was just about two months ago I wrote about my lack of interest in where the videogame industry was. My oh my, how things can change in two short months — or, more accurately, four days. Before I jump in to the convention itself, let me give you some context for just how big this E3 was for me.

About 3 weeks before the convention, I was offered the opportunity to attend the show (I know a guy who knows a guy). While I was initially interested in the idea, I ultimately turned it down, largely due to conflictions with work and class, but also because recent changes in my life led me to question whether I really cared about games all that much at all. I’ll spare you the details, but essentially my disinterest stemmed from a sense of stagnation in the industry, and a rather sinister notion that games were becoming a little too big — that gamers (and developers) were getting short shifted by console manufacturers in favor of  publishers and retailers hitting their projections and bottom lines. As much as I was interested in Xbox One and PS4’s next steps, at the time I couldn’t muster enough enthusiasm to actually go to E3, despite the offer I was given.

It goes without saying but holy shit did I make a huge mistake.

A Shot In the Arm; A Shot To The Head

E3 2013 was without a doubt the best E3 I’ve seen since I began following the event about 10 years ago, and arguably the most impressive convention since its inception.

I’m going to go ahead and assume that, if you’re reading this, you saw the conferences, read the previews, and watched and re-watched trailers over the past week. You witnessed every moment I did, and are probably excited about many of the same games as me — no need to recap the news or highlights. But I’d like to take a moment and talk about the things that really mattered to me.

Sony and PlayStation 4

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First and foremost, Sony. God damn, Sony. I was already interested in the PS4 after the February event (and even more so after the Xbox One reveal last month), but let’s be honest, Sony — no, ‘scuse me, Jack Tretton — slayed Monday night. I’ll admit, the always online and used game ‘controversy’ surrounding the Xbox One didn’t affect me, and in fact I found the entertainment-slant of the system to be far more offensive. Still, Sony’s showing of good faith towards gamers resonated with me. Sure, I’ll probably be mostly buying my games digitally from here on in, but the fact that Sony are keeping the option to buy and trade physical copies is a positive. Not to mention they’re launching at a whole $100 cheaper, despite being the more powerful system. I’ve heard some say that in those five minutes where the used games, PS+ cross over, no online restrictions, and price were all announced, that Sony won this new console war. Whether or not that’s how this all ultimately plays out, it was enough to completely change my feelings on console games, so much so that I preordered the PS4 the moment the press conference had concluded.

The Games

No matter how awesome any console is on its own, it’s nothing without games. And I’m sure I don’t have to tell you guys, but damn were there some amazing looking experiences on show this year. Here are the ones that really caught my eye.

 The week started out strong, with Microsoft opening their conference with what was my personal favorite of the show, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Open world Metal Gear, featuring Keifer Sutherland as Big Boss, and some of the best graphics I’ve ever seen in a game? Yes. A thousand times yes. This is shaping up to be something of a reboot for the series as well; while it’s clear MGSV will maintain Kojima’s brand of goofiness and absurdity, the trailers shown at E3 also feature some of the darkest moments in the series by far, including torture, child soldiers, and a (literally) gut-wrenching scene in which a package is removed from Paz’s body cavity. Between the gameplay demoed and the the themes being explored in the story, MGSV is steadfastly affixed to the top of my anticipated games list.

Not only did Monday begin with a bang, it ended with one as well. Bungie’s gameplay reveal of Destiny was one of the first moments of the show where I started to really see the potential of this new console generation. Sure, it was a sci-fi FPS, but the scope of the world, the polish of the multiplayer gameplay, and the (again) the graphical fidelity on display really captured my imagination. Bungie has never let me down before, and I have high hopes for Destiny.

The third big surprise for me came in the form of Final Fantasy XV. I have always had an interest in the Final fantasy series, but the past half-decade for the RPG franchise have been rocky at best. After years in development hell, Final Fantasy Versus XIII has emerged as Final Fantasy XV. Yeah, it looked really Japanese — in a way that would usually turn me off from a game. But the speed of the gameplay, the design of the characters, and the setting the trailer took place in really grabbed me in a way few JRPGs (or, frankly, Square Enix games) have since the PlayStation 2. While at this point I am maintaining cautious optimism, I can see this becoming one of my most anticipated games.

Finally, in terms of “next-gen” games, The Witcher 3 sounds like it’s shaping up to be the fantasy RPG to play. It’s more than a year away, but early impressions from the show floor have been so overwhelmingly positive, with many stressing that the game is the best example of “next-gen” on display this year, my already-high expectations have only been bolstered. The previous games in the series are some of my favorite of the previous generation, and I look forward to closing out the trilogy with what sounds like will be a groundbreaking role playing experience.

But those four games weren’t everything; Assassin’s Creed IV Black Flag secured itself a spot as my PS4 launch title of choice next to Infamous: Second Son. Sony’s support of indie developers was one of the PS4’s biggest selling points for me, and Super Giant’s Transistor was the highlight of their indie showcase; I’ve seen that trailer dozens of times, but it never fails to give me goosebumps. And, despite my tepid response to the Xbox One in general, Titanfall looks like an immensely fun multiplayer game, and I’m thankful I’ll be able to play it on PC as well. Finally, these will come as no surprise to those who know my taste in games, but Dark Souls II and Rayman Legends. That is all.

So many questions about the next gen were answered this week, and for me, the answers we got were beyond my expectations.

What Next?

Of course, in light of all my excitement, this does bring up personal questions: will I start writing about games again? Does this invalidate many of the statements I made just a few short weeks ago? Well to be honest, no, not really. I was compelled enough to sit down and knock out these E3 reactions, but I’m only now beginning to feel excited about games again after almost a year of struggling to stay interested enough to even play them. A lot of that was caused by forcing myself to pay attention to aspects of the business I really dispised, and try to play or be interested in games I had no interest in. I think I need to just enjoy videogames as a hobby for a while. However, that said, this E3 has sparked my interest in an ENTIRELY NEW aspect of the industry and games press. I’ll expound more about that soon, but I guess it’s worth saying that I’m not quite ready to write off the gaming industry as a possible career path, certainly not like I was a couple months ago.

Ironically, about a week before my “epiphany” that maybe games weren’t for me anymore, I finally bought a Playstation 3 and PS+ membership. Tomorrow, I will purchase and play The Last of Us and finally put some real use into the system. For some, the game represents the swansong for this console generation (they forget Dark Souls II is still several months out), but for me it’s the first step into the next generation, and I can’t wait to experience it.

Guys, I’m really excited about videogames again. It feels awesome.

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Shootin’ the Shit: 2013 is going to be nuts.

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2012 is just about over. The holidays are wrapping up, the new year draws nearer by the minute, and we can start getting excited about the coming year. I’ve got plenty to say about everything from games to music to movies, so let’s take this one at a time. First off, games!

Games in 2013

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2012 had some awesome games, but 2013 is going to be a big year. We’re all anticipating announcements from both Sony and Microsoft regarding new consoles; Valve is hard at work on a mysterious “Steam box”; The Ouya promises to give independent creators a new open source platform; and Nintendo begins their first year of the Wii U’s life cycle. But none of that matters if the games aren’t good. We’ve got a year left with our 360s and PS3s, and my oh my, what a year it will be.

Obviously, the first quarter of 2012 is going to be insane and I could list a ton of great looking games here that will be dropping between now and March (Bioshock Infinite, Deadspace 3, Tomb Raider, Crysis 3) The rest of the year is shaping up quite nicely as well. However, I’d be lying if I said those were the games I’m most looking forward to. My interests lie in the slightly-less-than-mainstream sector of the videogame market, and these five in particular have me literally jumping for 2013.

Castlevania: Mirror of Fate – My love of Castlevania has been well documented on Power Cords. I love Symphony of the Night and its sequels, and the entire series is filled with great, memorable games. Even though I have some reservations about Castlevania: Mirror of Fate, I’m optimistic. A new 2D Castlevania is almost as exciting as a new 2D Metroid, and beggars can’t be choosers.  Definitely on my radar.

Sir, You are Being Hunted – It’s really hard to describe this Kickstarter-funded indie game. So instead, I’ll show you the video that got me excited for the game in the first place. Keep in mind this is an extremely early build, but it still shows what the game is going for.

Double Fine’s Projects – I’m gonna cheat — instead of talking about just one game, I’m going to talk about THREE! Ever since Psychonauts and Brutal Legend, Double Fine Productions have remained a favorite studio of mine. Thanks to an extremely successful Kickstarter campaign, the studio is now hard at work on a brand-new adventure game. But that’s not all! In just a few days, they will be releasing their 2D adventure The Cave on Steam. BUT WAIT, THERE’S MORE! The company recently lifted the veil on their internal design contest, Amnesia Fortnight. Aside from being an amazing community- and charity-building event, Amnesia Fornight gave birth to new projects. One in particular from a previous internal event, Brazen, is a Monster Hunter-esque action game where Greek-inspired heroes battle mythic beasts. All these games look great, and further cement Double Fine as an important and special studio. Actually, speaking of Monster Hunter…

Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate – While a lot of people (many Power Cords contributors especially) get into capturing and training pocket-sized monsters, I spend my time hunting and trapping giant ones. Monster Hunter is my Pokemon — or at least it used to be. I haven’t played Monster Hunter since the gen 1 games (Monster Hunter Freedom, specifically) but I cannot wait to get back into the series with Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. And with Monster Hunter 4 hitting in Japan this year and hopefully North America soon after, there are plenty of epic hunts in my future.

Dark Souls II – The announcement of Dark Souls II took me by surprise; I wasn’t expecting a sequel to one of my all-time favorite games so soon. In fact, I wasn’t really expecting one at all. While some fans reacted harshly to early details about the game, this article put many of the concerns I had about Dark Souls II to rest. I don’t want an easy mode as much as the next guy (I sincerely doubt there will be one, just for the record) and I wish Miyazaki had a stronger presence in the design, but I haven’t been this stoked for a game in years. By far my most anticipated game of 2013.

One man's despair is another man's joy.
One man’s despair is another man’s excitement.

While those five may be the big ones for me, there’s more out there to be excited about. Phantasy Star returns with Phantasy Star Online 2. Retro Studios is working on a still-unknown project, and there are rumors of new Zelda, Donkey Kong Land, and Yoshi’s Island all on 3DS. And, if the promise Everquest Next pans out, it could be a truly revolutionary MMORPG. 2013 is going to be absolutely nuts. Oh, and there’s going to be another Castlevania game next year, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2So, yeah. Nuts.

Movies and Television in 2013

Movies and television are kinda Marshal’s bag, but I dabble. A while ago, I made the conscious decisions that film would take a back seat to my preferred entertainment medium, videogames. However, there are still some big movies and tv series I look forward to seeing. First off, Game of Thrones returns in April, and season 3 officially marks me not knowing what happens next in the series. Then, of course, the final season of Breaking Bad. I’d go so far as to say it’s the best crime drama series I’ve ever seen, and I’m eager to see the end. For films, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug is my big one. It’s a year away, sure, but An Unexpected Journey was really good, and I’m excited for part 2. Finally, Guillermo del Toro’s next big-screen hit, Pacific Rim hits next summer. It may look like just another summer tent-pole blockbuster, but the Kaiju Monster fan in me sees something more…

Oh, and maybe show off more of the new Godzilla? Please?

Music in 2013

2012 was a pretty good year for music, but not amazeballs like 2011. In fact, it was kind of a lukewarm year, and I spent a lot of time with bands that weren’t the uber-extreme-disgustingly-filthy metal I’ve been blasting into my skull the past few years (check out my top 21 albums of 2012 here). I rediscovered my love for prog rock, stoner metal, and electronic music. In the past couple years, I’ve become a much more casual listener of music overall. Still, a bunch of great bands will be releasing new music next year, and I plan on reviewing and talking about these releases more actively.

New Year’s Resolutions

I want to read more. I was given a large stack of new books for Christmas, including a few new graphic novels. I enjoy reading quite a bit, and could really stand to spend a few more hours each weekend with a book. So that’s my new year’s resolution. I’m also making an effort to write consistently, but with so much excitement and what is sure to be a news-packed year, I doubt that’ll be much of an issue.

Power Cords in 2013

We’ve mentioned it before, but we’ve got big changes coming up soon. In fact, we’re just a few days away from finally making our announcement. What will it be? You’ll have to wait and find out, but I can assure you we’ll have plenty of new things to talk about next year. There will be more features, more reviews, more videos, more podcasts, new topics, new voices, but the same passion and identity we do our best to create. I’m really excited.

And with that, thus concludes regular posting on Power Cords for this year. Marshal’s got a list or two saved up for you guys, so stick around for those. But don’t take our silence for laziness — we’re hard at work on our next venture, and can’t wait to finally unveil it!

Happy New Year, and best wishes,

-Brendan, and the Power Cords crew.