Who Won E3 2014?

Before we begin, some housekeeping. I’m nixing the poll results posts. I don’t get a big response from the poll anyway, and it isn’t worth the time or effort. I’ll still put up a weekly poll, but I won’t make an entire post simply about the results, I’ll just use the results to inform me of potential leanings of my audience.

Who won E3? This question is on the lips of gamers even before the event begins. Throughout Microsoft’s leading show, throngs of green-tinted fans were already declaring Microsoft the hands-down winner. Sony’s fans did the same, though with the addition of the second show, things began to get heated – as they always do. At this point in the conference, we had people less talking about how good the conference of their respective gaming idol was, and more people talking about how trash the opposite camp is. This is unfortunately not a strange reaction. Finally, Nintendo joined the fray with its prerecorded video conference, and the triangle was complete. Sure EA, and Ubisoft had live shows as well, but those were so uninspiring, nobody has been talking about them. So, today we’re going to wade through the sea of utter fanboyism and try to decipher which company won E3.

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As mentioned above, Microsoft led the charge. And, to its credit, Microsoft did a much better job this year. Actually, that’s not true. Microsoft had a very good conference last year, where they showed non-stop games. The only problem is that they were still reeling from their awful, mismanaged Xbox One reveal, so people were against them from the start. This year was exactly the same as last year. Microsoft wisely focused almost entirely on the games. Though I would have preferred some assurances of where Microsoft is going to take the Xbox brand, it was still a good idea to focus on what people want to play.

So, in terms of the games, there was the good and the bad. For the bad, Fable Legends looks terrible. It’s the first non-Peter Molyneux Fable and it shows. Whereas Peter Molyneux over-promises and delivers ambitious, but incomplete, games, Fable Legends looks to be delivering a lifeless and drab experience without any promise behind it. Fable fans may not be too interested in being sidelined for another genre as well. Crackdown fits in the bad category as well, I’m afraid. The original Crackdown and its sequel were both rather unique for the time. It was a combination of Grand Theft Auto III’s open world and super powers. A combination that I wholly endorse. Since those games were released, however, this has become a very overcrowded genre with most open world games finding some way to super power the player. As such, there’s nothing particularly new from Crackdown, and the games weren’t charming enough even back when they were somewhat inventive to last in an overcrowded marketplace. I could be wrong and the quality of the gameplay could utterly turn this one around, however.

Sunset Overdrive is what stole Microsoft’s show. It looks charming as hell, and fun to play. There’s not much more that needs to be said. I question if it is too similar from a genre perspective to Microsoft’s other big exclusive – Titanfall – but the game looks way too good to pass up. Scalebound was a bit of a coup. Platinum Studios is a niche company that makes niche games. The games, however, are all of the utmost quality. These are the guys who gave us Bayonetta after all, one of the best action games ever made. An exclusive from them is a massive achievement even if it won’t sell systems the way Call of Duty exclusive DLC might. Ori and the Blind Forest looks like it should be a great indie game for the indie-starved Xbox One. Finally, I’d like to highlight the Halo Master Chief Collection. There’s nothing new here, but for the price of a regular game, you get the first four Halo games. This is perfect for new gamers who may not have any idea how the series started.

All in all, Microsoft had a great conference. Lots of good games were shown, and the pace never faltered.

Sony was up next and they took a combined approach. When they were slinging games like Microsoft was, they were at the top of their form. Unfortunately, they took time in the middle of the conference in order to talk about non-gaming matters such as a new televisions service. It wasn’t bad, and I’m glad you’ll be able to share directly to Youtube now, and that the Playstation Now beta is coming zoo, but it broke up the flow.

Once again, there were bad and good announcements. On the bad side, I have to put Uncharted 4. I’m certain it will be a good game, but no gameplay and generic dialogue about this being “the last time” doesn’t excite me. For me, Uncharted has been playing it far too safe and has become rather boring; this teaser did nothing to assuage that fear. Also on the bad side was Suda 51’s new game Let it Die. That game couldn’t look more boring or more ugly (graphics-wise) if it tried. Maybe we’ll see something later that reminds us that Suda 51 is known for creative games, but that trailer was not it. Magicka 2 was also disappointing. The trailer was hilarious and fun; the gameplay looked stale and something that Blizzard threw away a decade ago.

For the good stuff, the Order 1886 looks amazing. The gameplay isn’t breaking the wheel, but the atmosphere, graphics, and setting are enough to draw me in. After early hesitation, I’m willing to say I’m a believer of this game, and can’t wait to try it out. No Man’s Sky also looks very impressive, though I have no idea what the game is about and if there is even gameplay other than random exploration. Still its ambition caught my eye hard. Bloodborne was probably the Sony highlight for me. A new exclusive from From Software made by the Dark Souls team and billed as the spiritual successor of Dark Souls, Bloodborne looks every bit as inventive and gruesome. Throw in the interesting Renaissance-style setting and faster combat, and you have a game that should sell consoles. Little Big Planet 3 rounds these gruesome games out with a dash of something everyone in the family can enjoy (a perpetual weakness for Microsoft), and it looks like more of the same. But, in the case of Little Big Planet, more of the same is still very interesting and inventive. The same can be said with ABZU, which looks exactly like Journey but underwater. Of course Journey was an amazing game, so I’m still intrigued. Finally, I don’t normally get excited for exclusive DLC, but Sony’s push to be the primary Destiny platform is actually really impressive. There’s more than just a DLC pack attached.

Sony’s conference wasn’t as strong as Microsoft’s because of the flow-breaking presentation in the middle. The games they showed, however, were significantly more impressive. Truthfully, I care more about games than I do about whether some executive wasn’t a great public speaker or the program was poorly thought out, so I would rate Sony decisively above Microsoft this year.

Finally, there was Nintendo, bumbling, stumbling Nintendo. It’s funny that the company that Mario built lumbered into E3 with very few expectations levied on it, yet it managed to blow many people away with a targeted presentation hitting on key points that gamers care about. They needed to show that the Wii U is worth owning, and they did just that with their Wii U-centric approach this year.

Once again, let’s start off with the bad. Palutena and Pacman aren’t the most thrilling characters to be included in Smash Bros., especially since Palutena was leaked months ago. Mii’s? That’s going to be fun for some, and a total wasted slot for others. Still, it’s nice that over ten years later, Nintendo is starting to think about using the avatars. Speaking of avatars, I’m not sold on Amiibos. Maybe I’m simply not the target audience, but I don’t see too much that the Skylander-inspired toys add to games. They seem too targeted for Smash Bros. to be used in other games, and I don’t know I trust Nintendo’s track record for keeping peripherals relevant. Then there’s Captain Toad’s Treasure Hunt. This could be good, but the extremely slow pace worries me. If the levels are well-designed, but getting through them feels like a chore, I’m not certain this game will be worth playing.

On the good side, I would be remiss if I didn’t open with Zelda for the Wii U. Very little was shown for this game, and idiots derailed the conversation because they mistook the often androgynous Link for a girl, but what was shown looked amazing. Graphically, it showed what the Wind Waker-style still has a lot of room to improve and wow audiences, and taking the open approach of the first Legend of Zelda game definitely has me excited. Monolith Soft’s X finally got a name – Xenoblade Chronicles X – and we got the first story trailer. I, for one, am excited. It doesn’t have the graphical power of say Zelda, but its sheer scope and space opera style has me salivating for more. Hyrule Warriors is a game that came out of left field and has continued to surprise me. I’m not a major Dynasty Warriors fan, but the chance to ride around as Midna, tearing down legions of enemies is very appealing. I spoke about Platinum Studios earlier, and their Wii U exclusive, Bayonetta 2, continues to look like the action game we all should want to play. Finally, Nintendo’s use of Yoshi in his Kirby’s Epic Yarn-style game – Yoshi’s Wooley World – and the return of Kirby’s Rainbow Course’s gameplay in Kirby and the Rainbow Curse look great.

Nintendo, overall, didn’t surprise me. There were no major announcements or shocking moments. They did, however, highlight a roster of extremely impressive games. More importantly, Nintendo showed again that they have the best exclusives of all hardware developers. Third parties might shy away, but Nintendo still packs them in.

Because of the strength of Nintendo’s roster, I’d put them above Microsoft. As for whether they managed to beat Sony, I’m not so sure. Both showed games that I feel obligated to play. In the end, however, I’m giving this year to Sony for one simple reason: the games they showed were more inventive than the rest. I saw more innovation on Sony’s side than either competitor and that speaks well for the future of the industry as we move forward.

Agree? Disagree? This E3 was close for many, so let me know your thoughts in the comments.

– Mistranslations for the Modern Gamer

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