Video game enthusiasts around the world look forward to E3 with the same level of anticipation that movie buffs look forward to the Academy Awards - it's a who's who of the gaming world and it gives game companies and software developers a chance to preview what we can look forward to in the coming year. This years E3 promises to be the most interesting yet, since it is coming at a time when Sony is recovering from a disastrous data breach, Nintendo is set to unveil their successor to the massively popular Wii console and speculation mounds on what Microsoft is going to bring out. I followed three main events today: the Microsoft conference, the Ubisoft conference and the Sony conference, easily the most anticipated of the day. Here are my impressions.
From Microsoft, we received a fairly by-the-books showing of games we already knew were on the way, such as Gears of War 3, as well as the announcement of Halo 4 and a re-release of the first Halo in a special anniversary collection. For fans of the series, this is fantastic news though how a developer independent of Bungie services the flagship series remains to be seen. The most welcome surprise of the show was the announcement of a new Fable game, however I am somewhat leery of the Unreal 3 game engine being used. For an RPG series that's becoming less RPG-like with each installment, I am unsure of how this will turn out. The rest of the games, which represents the bulk of the conference, was Kinect-centered titles that were of little interest to me. From the get-go, it seems like Microsot was going to heavily push the Kinect and this was proven to be correct. I am okay with this, however it seems like Microsoft is intent of shoehorning it into every game they plan to release, which makes me think they're overplaying their hand a bit. Overall, some bright sports were to be found but the conference was weak overall.
Ubisoft is the classic example of great material being poorly presented. The main games that stood out to me are Rayman Origins, which looks like a fantastically fun co-operative gaming experience, Far Cry 3 and Assassin's Creed: Revelations. All of these games looked great, but the presenter, dubber "Mr. Caffeine", was as annoying and obnoxious as they come. Many attempts were made at humor and all of them fell flat, and my fellow watchers on Twitter also affirmed this by saying he was painfully unfunny. However, it's all about the games and Ubisoft had a strong showing. Being a big Assassin's Creed fan myself, I look forward to the new game with feverish anticipation, even if it has been less than a year since the last installment.
The main event of the day was the Sony press conference, and this proved to be the make-it-or-break-it point for them after a month of data breaches, system outages, bad press and bruised consumer loyalty. They needed to bring their A-game to the proceedings and they did so admirably. Hosted by Jack Tretton, wearing a peach shirt and blue tie combo that seemed more fitting for a Florida bingo parlor, he opened with addressing the PSN system outage and apologizing for it to everyone, which I give credit for being a classy move. The games he went through included Uncharted 3, Resistance 3, Sly Cooper 4 and a few Move-supported titles. Re-releases included the God of War games on the PSP being given the HD treatment and finally a release time for the Ico & Shadow of the Collosus collection has been firmed. However, Sony really shined when it came to the hardware announcements, which included a cost-effective 3D television that retails for $500 and their newest handheld, the Playstation Vita (PSV). The PSV looked absolutely fantastic and it's clear that the graphics engine is miles ahead of any other handheld to date, and the price of $249.99 makes this a formidable platform that may jeopardize Nintendo's dominance of the handheld market. Adding social media and cross-platform functionality with the PS3, the Vita looks incredibly promising. Overall, Sony delivered a solid roster of games and the reactions of other gamers I saw online was one of almost universal approval. In the eyes of gamers, it seems, Sony has been redeemed.
The last game I'll mention is Batman: Arkham City, which is shaping up to be the blockbuster that Arkham Asylum proved to be. Added to which, you can play as Cat Woman, so this is shaping up to be another must-have title.
Tomorrow is another big day for E3 as this is where Nintendo will unveil their new console that is set to replace the Wii. In order to top Sony, Nintendo will really need to bring out the big guns and focus on the strength of their new hardware and back it up with some excellent game releases. Given Nintendo's track record at E3, they will no doubt be a show-stopper and I can't wait to see what they have in store for us.