It's been a week since one of the largest gaming events of the year had closed it's doors, and the dust is only now beginning to settle. Last year we saw the unveiling of the big two (and a half) next generation consoles, making for an awesome spectacle as the two (and a half) gaming giants, Sony and Microsoft (plus Nintendo?), clashed together in an almost desperate attempt to "win" E3 2013. While the jury typically fell in favour of Sony's PlayStation 4, I can't help fall for my Microsoft fanboy tendencies and claim that the Xbox One took the real title - Kinect voice command and console TV all the way. But, I digress.
The titanic battle of the consoles made for great viewing during the conferences as each team cheered on their own mechanical mascot, however, the focus on the consoles left E3 2013 pretty barren in terms of game titles. Any titles previewed last year was either past the design date for re-dedication for next generation consoles and were limited to previous versions (South Park: The Stick of Truth), were still committed to development and were limited in what they could show (Destiny, Halo 5: Guardians, and The Division to name a few!), or were just delayed well past their release day (Yes you Watchdogs!). And that's where E3 2014 came into it's element! E3 2014 provided a platform for all those developers working behind the scenes in 2013 to show case their polished game titles ready for this generation of gaming; and wow, there were a lot of great games this year! I've written these blogs on behalf of Wikia to cover my experience at this years E3 including my own hands on experience with the games I got to see: the good, the bad, and the ugly (it was all good).
After an arduous 20 hours of travelling the "short" hop across the pond from London to Los Angeles I arrived in a zombie-like trance. Where following a quick rendezvous with one of the newest editions to the Wikia Staff gaming team, we made our way to the Hotel Wilshire in what can only be described as your stereotypical American yellow-cab taxi - a refreshing change to the plethora of hearse-like black cabs darting through the streets of London. Once in my room I was greeted by the other gaming staff from Wikia before collapsing onto the hotel bed in an attempt to fend off the ensuing jet lag. After no more than 5 hours of sleep I awoke to what would be day zero of this years E3 event, and the first item on the agenda (after getting washed, dressed, and watching the penultimate episode of Game of Thrones of course!) was the Microsoft press conference.
A short cab journey took us to the Microsoft venue in the Galen Centre at USC, where an army of young men and women armed with smartphones systematically scanned through thousands of invitation QR codes before cuffing each helpless attendee with chunky white wristbands. Whilst the original purpose of the wristbands caused a stir within the Wikia Microsoft party, their role became evident soon after taking our seats. The ambient green lights which flooded the venue dropped and the assault on our senses began. Music blared louder than a jumbo-jet take off and lights rapidly switched through all the hues of the rainbow, giving justification to the crudely written medical warning on the back of our seating cards. Taking part in this visual indoctrination were the very wrist bands cuffed to us at the start, which glowed and flashed colours complimentary to the stage itself.
But, western marketing aside. Microsofts conference was a great turn out this year, and a massive improvement to last. This year Microsoft pushed off "Sports" and "TV" and straight onto what matters most to the attendees, games. The conference was quick and to the point, passing from trailer to trailer listing off the important points of each title before moving onto the next - something I think Sony should invest more thought in doing. Of course, Microsoft started with one of their flagship games Call of Duty, crudely re-imagined as a futuristic military shooter - something most Call of Duty fans are screaming about inside but also something us sci-fi shooter fans can finally relate too. I will admit, for the first 5 minutes of that game all I could thing was "Halo" but the game play was a refreshing change to the usual linear modern warfare Call of Duty has been demonstrating for the past seven years - even if the trailer did have the cliché Call of Duty sacrificial death ...
The next notable game for myself was Assassin's Creed which had taken the bold (and smart) step of bringing the franchise back from American and into historic Europe. As an Assassin's Creed fan I was pretty disappointed by Assassin's Creed 3, the storyline was poor and the environment didn't match the style the previous titles had set. To see the franchise return to the tall brick-built streets of European cities was amazing, as it meant I could finally make the most of the games free-running it had become famed for. It's also nice to see the Assassin's story follow the overthrow of tyrannical corruption rather than appealing to the patriotic nature of it's consumer market. So good job Ubisoft, a big thumbs up from me!
The next notable game was a big one for me. As a die-hard Halo fan from it's original conception and release in 2001, it was incredible to see 343i had finally listen to its fans and brought all the previous favoured titles of Halo to Xbox One with Halo: The Masterchief Collection - including Halo 2: Anniversary! Halo 2's multiplayer platform was without doubt the best multiplayer of the series, with Halo 3 coming as a close second. To be able to play Halo 2 and Halo 3 one their original engines (yes that means multiplayer as you remember it just with bumped up graphics!) was something I had considered but never imagined 343i ever committing too. Congratulations 343i! You had big shoes to fill and after the shocking Halo 4 campaign I thought your reign would forever be tainted, but alas you saved yourself with this title. On top of the return of all our favourite maps, 343i introduced Halo: Nightfall another live action series following the success of Halo: Forward Unto Dawn and Halo 4, and a beta for the upcomming title Halo 5: Guardians. What can I say? As I Halo fanboy that's all I could concentrate on for the rest of the conference.
Being as I've already eaten through most of my Day Zero slot with blocks of text, I'll focus on one last game from the Microsoft conference, The Division. I first saw this game back in 2013 where I was lucky enough to experience a demo behind closed doors, and I loved it. Not only was the design of the game gorgeous, but the ability to join and interact with your friends on the Xbox using your tablet was an amazing selling point. This year they demoed even more of the games awesome environment and graphical architecture, but the one thing that shocked me the most was the interaction between players. I'm still at a loss whether the communication between characters about the enemies and surrounding environment was either pre-recorded actors or the NPCs themselves. If it was truely AI interaction between characters, then The Division may have finally perfectly in-game queued audio - a characteristic largely attributed to in-game commentary of sports games such as FIFA. If you're into large open worlds free to be explored, modern warfare, and classic first and third person shooters then The Division is definitely the game for you. Out in 2015, I think this game could be a serious contender in next years titles.
But enough with Microsoft, and onto EA. The second item on the agenda was actually to pick up our passes for the E3 show floor which would consume the next three days following the press conferences. However, I was lucky enough to be donated an EA pass by one of the Wikia staff who were unable to make the entirety of the show. Sneaking in with fellow admins Awyman13 and Loleil we entered a pretty small venue for the EA conference. On the tables were doughnuts and not far away an open bar (unfortunately no alcohol!). Whilst significantly less populated than the Microsoft event, the EA conference felt more welcoming, as opposed to millions of dollars of marketing being rammed down your throat. Along with a great venue came some pretty awesome game announcements. I was pretty stoked to see EA announce a new Dragon Age, which Loleil will no doubt give you every amazing detail in her own post, a the new Mass Effect game (Yes my friends, Mass Effect is back on the market with a new protagonist, new story, and hopefully new environments) and finally a new Battlefront! Star Wars geeks like me are probably still cheering at the prospect of entering the forest moon of Endor or the ice planet Hoth, we can only hope playing as a Tauntaun or Ewok is an option.
However, it should be noted that along with those three epic titles, EA announced a string of less impressive IPs wrapped in new graphics but without any true bulk to previous titles. Madden and FIFA are returning with their yearly releases which demos new players and slightly improved graphics but nothing impressively exciting (which can be expected, american football is still american football and soccer is still soccer). The Sims 4 seems to be almost identical to the Sims 3, just shipping with a new set of character emotions which apparently warrants an additional number to the series, and Battlefield: Hardline seems to be an impressively copy paste of Battlefield 4, just with different vehicles, guns, and characters, and yet the same gameplay as the older title. Some more innovation would be nice.
After a short playable demo of Battlefield: Hardline and swinging by the LA Convention Centre to pick up our passes for the show floor, I returned to the hotel with a few other admins to grab some food and watch the Sony conference (snore, DESTINY!, snore) which the Nintendo golden ticket winner BlueHighwind was able to see in person.
Day One was remarkably less eventful than day zero, so don't worry not every day will be an essays worth of events! Following the conclusion of day zero's events we all woke to the start of what would be my second experience of the E3 show floor and the first for the other admins (Sactage, Awyman13, Loleil, and BlueHighwind). To mark the day we started with a hearty breakfast which was a lot heavier than what I'm usually used too - a glass of water is a good kick to the start of the day for me, pasta and eggs however was a new experience to say the least. When we arrived at the venue, the atmosphere was buzzing with electricity. Thousands of people were making their ways to the venue doors, each flaunting their various badge colours: Brown for exhibitors, blue for press, red for fans, and yellow is still a mystery. Half of the Wikia staff and all of the admins wore our blue press badges, granting us access to hidden demo areas and private viewings, whilst the other half of the Wikia staff wore their brown exhibitor badges, as this year Wikia had it's own booth!
Outside each show floor, south hall for the big three (Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo) and west hall for all the big developers (including Activision, EA, Ubisoft, WBIE, Konami, 2K, and Capcom to name but a few), there were huge lines stretching from the doors and into the concourse hall dividing the two. The first stop for me however was westhall to rendezvous with Activision who were demoing Call of Duty, Destiny, and Skylanders. First we saw brief private demo of Skylanders: Trap Team, which yet again surprised me with their innovation on what many would consider a pretty mundane game. Sure the genre isn't for me, but that's normal as the target audience for this game is kids, and they can't get enough of it! Each year Skylanders realeases a new game along with new toys. It's a business gold mine, and it's no surprise it's one of Activision's most successful games.
Unfortunately, as the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare demo was running late I was unable to attend it, and moved straight on to the game I had really came to see at E3 this year, Destiny! Last year I was pretty lucky to see another behind the scenes demo with VIP access and a private interview with Harold Ryan himself (President of Bungie). This year, what I got to see was even better. Firstly I got a hands on experience for half an hour with Destiny's PVP mode the crucible. Whilst getting accustomed to the PS4 controllers took a bit of effort, I still managed to yoink top player on our team twice. Upon exit players were awarded awesome Destiny t-shirts and a set of Destiny button badges. Following that, I was then carted upstairs again to get private early access to the alpha where we played an exploration mission and a strike mission against Sepiks Prime, the machine boss previewed in the Destiny trailer. All in all, despite not being able to see the new Call of Duty demo I was really stoked to have been able to play almost an hours worth of Destiny and get hands on experience. After seeing how gorgeous the world design is, how big the world is, and how customisable the weapons, armour, and characters are, I can't wait until the beta which is going public on the 17th of July!
Again, after the Activision appointment my agenda was set to be pretty empty. So on my way to explore the show floor I decided to tag along with the Wikia Staff and admins (Loleil and Awyman13) on their way to see the EA demo. Loleil of course off to see the Dragon Age demo and Awyman13 off to lay into yet another 63 unlucky people in the Battlefield: Hardline multiplayer mode. Luckily, EA were kind enough to supply me with an EA VIP pass so I could go an watch the Dragon Age demo too. The line for the Hardline demo however was pretty hectic, so I decided to go explore the Titanfall booth instead. Titanfall was back again after setting wakes in the gaming community last year with their awesome asymmetrical and full multiplayer based sci-fi shooter. This year they were demoing their brand new DLC which included awesome new maps and a VIP-like gamemode called "Marked for Death", Marked for Death randomly marks players from each team as a target for the opposition to kill. The marked player is able to see all other players on their minimap, whilst the opposite team is able to see them with a very obvious waypoint.
The aim of the game in Marked for Death is to kill the opposite teams target whilst protecting your own, the first to kill the oppositions target wins the point and a new set of targets is randomly selected. I've got to say I'm really impressed with this new DLC. Usually I complain about DLC being limited to just new maps and gametypes, but as Titanfall was dedicated to multiplayer from the word go I had expected that future DLC would forced to be new weapons, titans, maps, and gamemodes. The one pitfall of Titanfall for me was it's lack of maps and gamemodes, so to see a brand spanking new set of maps and gamemodes that were both beautiful and well polished was great. The maps play well and the balance between both teams had been carefully taken into consideration, and with a more objective based gamemode it changed the usually boring and mind-numbing onslaught of titans and pilots into a more structured and team orientated contest.
The queue for Titanfall was huge, and you could see why. At the end of each match players were given packs of cards tightly concealed within Titanfall decorated packets. Inside were a stack of burncards, exact replicas of the game. Players who got a silver card won a t-shirt, but players who got a old card won a Titanfall edition Xbox One! I won't lie, opening those packs took me back to my childhood Pokémon days were after saving up enough money I'd buy a pack of cards fingers crossed for a shiny Blastoise or Charizard! Needless to say, I remember being a lot more lucky back then. It took another two rounds of Titanfall to finally get myself a t-shirt, others however seemed to win Xboxs and t-shirts every time they played.
Despite spending an entire day doing what I love doing best, gaming, it was actually a pretty tiring event. With no time to grab food or drinks throughout the day the words "parched" and "famished" were an understatement. Being 21 years old for the first time in the US, I was invited to attend a Wikia sales party closer to the centre of LA - with a chance to eat and have a drink, how could I refuse? It was an amazing experience to meet representatives of different companies who worked with Wikia, whether it was people I had met before on different Wikia Stars projects or new faces in the industry, and a great way to end the first real day of E3 2014.
Day two started much the same as day one, again long queues formed at each hall as people desperately tried to get their hands on demos they may have missed the day before. For us Wikians however, standing in line for hours was not a problem, before each day we were able to relax in the Wikia booth and plan out the agenda for the day. And for today, may agenda was to visit 2K's booth in order to play Evolve! Similar to Titanfall, Evolve is an asymmetrical game made even more asymmetrical by the fact that one team is comprised of only one player, playing a bad ass monster boss, and the other team is comprised of four players, each fulfilling a class role: Assault, Support, Trapper, and Medic. In my opinion Evolve is like a fun blend of Team Fortress like class mechanics and Gears of War like monsters. Albeit with better graphics, more re-playability, and a more competitive edge - this is a game I could see being a prominent title in eSports!
Whilst class mechanics are well known and not new to the gaming scene, the monster role definitely shakes things up. If there was one objective every player had when standing in the Evolve demo line it was definitely "I need to be the monster!". The player acting as the monster has two simple goals: one, eat all the surrounding wildlife in order to grow into bigger and stronger evolutions, and two, use your bigger and stronger evolution to kill the four pesky players trying to hunt down, trap, and kill you! For the four player opposition however, while the goal was simply to kill the monster, achieving the goal was a lot more complex. You may out number the monster 4 to 1, but the monster is fast, powerful, and has a hell of a lot of health. To beat the monster the 4 man team will need to work together, fulfil their role, and as Evolve put quaintly "not be selfish".
The assault classes role is arguably the easiest but still fundamental to the group; packing serious heat the assault player's role is to deal the bulk of the damage to the monster trying to take off armour and drop that health to zero. The trapper role is key to the teams success. The trapper's faithful companion dog-thing is able to track the monster allowing the trapper to follow it's footprints to it's current location, once found the trapper is able to trap the monster within a small arena preventing the monsters escape and allowing the team to lay down fire. The support's role is to aid the other team members by giving them buffs such as invisibility or improved vision of the field of play, the support class also offers supportive fire at a reduced rate of the assault class but improved rate of the medic and trapper class. I was able to demo the medic class, and I have to say it was pretty hard! The entire team is banking on the medic role to do their job and not only heal the team members when the monster is dealing copious amounts of damage but also revive them when they die. But don't worry, you'll not just be running player to player trying to heal and revive, you'll also play an effective role in dealing damage to the monster. Carrying a pretty hefty sniper rifle, the medic is able to lay down fire creating nodes of weakness in the monsters armour which other team mates can focus on to lay down increased damage.
Not only was the game incredibly fun for each class and both teams, but having a game where teamwork is key to success and where those who don't fulfil their role get punished was extremely refreshing. I'm a big fan and supporter of team play in games and often get frustrated when players don't play to the objective. Evolve offers a gaming experience when players who don't play to the objective are rapidly killed off and will soon be forced into playing as a team!
- Batman: Arkam Knight
- Shadow of Mordor
- Mortal Kombat