Wednesday, June 23, 2010

E3 2010: Big Three wrap-up

Maybe I’ve been spoiled following a year of seemingly endless high caliber hits, but once E3 2010 wrapped up this year, I was left thinking one primary thing: I’m not excited about too many things shown this year.

There were loads of games shown, sure, and even some new hardware, but nothing got my blood pumping like the 2009 lineup.

E3 feels more like a weeklong Christmas to me. It’s four days of gaming announcements, trailers and surprises to make my fingers itchy for the next year. While the presents weren’t as good this year, I still had a blast hanging out under the tree, tearing through package after package to see what I’ll be playing in the months to come.

While loads of press conferences are held each E3, the “big three” are always the most talked about. This year, one stayed solid, one returned to greatness, and one fell flat on its face.

I was asked a week before E3 what surprises I thought we’d see coming out of the 360 camp. I listed a few games everyone knew was coming and said there would be a heavy emphasis on the Kinect (then Natal). I finished saying, “But there’s just got to be more than that. Surely there will be some surprises or something to get extra excited about.”

I was wrong. Microsoft really dropped the ball this year.

After holding a special event for Kinect the night before, I was surprised by how much of MS’s E3 show was dedicated to the device.

I’ve stated before that I’ve seen nothing for the Kinect that couldn’t be done on the PS2-era Eyetoy and nothing was shown to change that belief at this year’s show.

Voice command and movement tracking will be cool for about five minutes. Argue if you want, but wait a month after you purchase the thing and tell me how much you use all those bells and whistles that initially had you excited.

Again, I think Kinect is a fantastic piece of technology, I just haven’t seen it used in a way that makes it relevant to gaming.

That’s saying a lot, considering about fifty percent of MS’s show was dedicated to watching awkward white guys dance, a few people exercise on stage and a couple more people dodge stuff and wobble around. Every single launch game looks like a shoddy Wii ripoff and, considering how advanced the Kinect is, there’s no excuse for that.
And yes, I saw the Star Wars demo and it looks like garbage. Sorry, but it does.

Kojima came out to talk about Metal Gear Rising, which was pretty neat, and there were nice showings for Fable 3, Halo Reach and Gears 3, but otherwise, where the crap were the games? Those are some big titles that will sell oodles, yes, but if you’re not into those properties or waving your arms around to control a raft, you look to be SOL this coming year.

The new 360 was shown off and it finally fixes some issues that should have been addressed a long time ago, including a hefty 250 GB harddrive and on-board wifi. If you don’t already own a 360, this is the one to get.

Also of note was the announcement of an ESPN partnership that will be a sort of pay-per-view sports package for Xbox users. I haven’t found many specifics on the service but, depending on how it pans out, this could be a huge get any sports fan should want to dip into.

In short, MS is putting most of their chickens in the poorly conceived Kinect basket, the game lineup for 2010 looks slimmer than that shiny new system and, really, where was the excitement? After such a strong 2009 showing, this year’s conference was just weak sauce.

Going the opposite direction, Nintendo took their abysmal show from last year’s E3 and pulled a 180, giving gamers loads to get excited about.

While much of what was shown isn’t exactly my cup-o-tea, I won’t deny a strong lineup of games, a great presentation and a new piece of hardware, the 3DS, that looks to offer a pretty sweet gaming package.

With Nintendo, everything that’s old is new again. Almost all of the big games shown come from well-established franchises and this was my biggest gripe with the show.

Everyone loves a classic, but at what point will Nintendo grow a pair and start creating new first party titles tat don’t involve the same old characters and worlds?

Two of the 3DS’s biggest announcements were a new Kid Icarus and a remake of Metal Gear Solid 3. On the Wii, we have games in the Donkey Kong, Zelda, Metroid and Kirby franchises up for grabs. All look interesting, and I assume especially so for Nintendo diehards, but forgive me if I’m not too impressed by yet another Link adventure, even if it does have motion controls that require a bit more than the brainless flicking needed in Twilight Princess.

There was also a Golden Eye remake announced but, after watching the clips and checking out some stills, it doesn’t look to improve on the original all that much. Golden Eye was ridiculously cool on the N64, but I’ve come to expect a bit more from my shooters these days. The nerd in me squeals for joy, but my wallet will most likely stay tightly closed on this one.

Epic Mickey looks pretty dang awesome, as does a new entry in the Golden Sun series, and there was a handful of other titles shown. My point is, whether you are a fan of the Nintendo titles or not, you have to admit that they know their audience and brought out some very big guns for this year’s show. Wii fans have lots to look forward to this year, but those core players hoping for a reason to dust off the tiny white box might be out of luck in 2010.

While I agree that spending nearly a month leading up to E3 dishing out awesome first looks at new games kept the industry buzzing about the Playstation 3, I can’t help but feel that tactic came with the very big negative of taking some air out of their press conference.

Games like Killzone 3, Infamous 2 and Little Big Planet 2 all look killer, but wouldn’t they have packed more of a punch during their time in the E3 spotlight if the general public had no prior knowledge of their existence? Rather than being three big surprises, they were three showings (good showings, mind you) giving us a little more information about games we were first excited about weeks ago.

Kevin Butler made an awesome appearance, as did Gabe Newell in an unforgettable Portal 2 reveal featuring some good laughs and a little humble pie.

Sony only spent a merciful fifteen minutes discussing 3D, opting to throw in a montage of upcoming 3D titles rather than focus too much on this latest technology getting shoehorned into games.

Move, too, had a surprisingly brief presence with the game Sorcery proving to be one of the coolest surprises of the entire show, showing off motion controls we all wanted and still have not received with the Wii.

Sony is wisely having developers plug in Move controls to their existing and upcoming titles, giving those who invest in the product more ways to use it other than the specifically made handful of titles and boatload of glorified tech demos coming out. They’ve got the right idea with how to implement motion control, even if I do still think it’s too little, too late.

There were a lot of games shown at Sony’s show, but a bit too much time was dedicated to montages rather than having another on-stage demonstration of one of the upcoming titles. I suppose that’s the problem you face when you’re trying to cram info for one home console, one handheld console, motion control, 3D, PSN and more into a single conference.

David Jaffe did at least end the show with a wicked reveal of the next Twisted Metal (a series that holds a special place in my heart), so at least there was a couple surprises snuck in this time around.

My biggest gripe with the Sony show, though, was how much 2011 kept popping up. They showed a lot of titles, but most of them won’t be ready for our grubby mitts until this time next year. It’s a good way to build hype, but a poor way to get me excited for the time spanning the next six or so months.


Jeff said...

Good analysis, sir. I agree 100%.

One thing you did not address that I was hoping to get your thoughts on, though: PSN+.

What is your opinion on the newly announced subscription service?

-Ryan Winslett said...

I KNEW I forgot something. Dang it.

Well, here's my take: For $50 a year, it's a pretty sweet little deal. My only fear is that advancements for regular PSN will come to an abrupt halt. Not too big a deal, but if some of these features should have been made available to everyone, it'd be a shame to see something dangled over non-payers' heads. What we have right now will always be free, though, so I can't complain too much.

I've read in several locations that cross-game chat is coming, so that's cool. Auto-backup to cloud for all your save files is a blessing to me, since I fear the worst with this generation's hardware.

Automatically searching for and updating every game you own is also pretty rad.

Additional sales on games is a plus and, honestly, the first two months pay for the service entirely (and that's not including the first three free months yout get with a subscription). You get Wipeout day one, a game I consider one of the best racers of this generation, and the expansion (which doubles the content) will be 50 percent off month two. Not sure about the U.S., but Euro users also get a digital copy of Little Big Planet (the full damn game) day one. Those two alone are worth $50.

I've become a huge fan of Minis (good ones, anyway) so getting a couple of those AND a PS1 title each month is another rad perk. Even if a few months go by with nothing you are interested in, each mini you decide to check out is 2-5 bucks and each PS1 game is worth $5 as well.

I believe Qore is included too, and that's a savings of another $20 for the year.

Then there's the themes and avatars, which I could care less about, but that's another few bucks of content thrown your way.

Extra demos and betas are cool too, as an early look at a game could save you $60 on a game you thought you wanted to pick up. It might also turn you onto something you didn't have an interest in before.

To those who complain games disappear after your subscription ends, I say this: Buy the games you like. If you use the service for a year and decide it's not worth your cash, but you got a couple "free" $10 games and really liked them, how hard is it to buy those games?

I honestly didn't think I'd like the service but, more and more, it looks like a decent way to spend less than I would for a single disc-based game for a year's worth of goodies and games. I'm going to wait and see what people think of the services , but I don't think it will take much convincing for me to pull the trigger on this one.