E3 2012: Look on the Bright Side
I enjoyed spending the last week wallowing in E3 negativity. I would have preferred a bevy of Vita games, Timesplitters 4 and a western bound Yakuza 5, but I knew that we almost never get what we want from E3. So I settled on making the most of the disappointment, and what a disappointment it was. Twitter gave off a collective, week long sigh and websites big and small bemoaned a lack of innovation and three days wasted on overly familiar games. Some high profile sites even questioned the necessity of E3 in a culture of all-year-round video game announcements.
This final, E3 2012 write-up was originally intended as a do-over post, where I’d speculate on which companies would benefit most from having another crack at E3, as I did last year. I soon realised that almost all of them would welcome an E3 mulligan and that I'd struggle to keep such a post below 5000 words. So instead of dwelling on the countless missteps, I thought I'd highlight some of the positives from the E3 that we all loved to hate.
Motion Controls in a Supporting Role
Last year's press conferences were dominated by motion controls. Sony was keen to show off the PS Move and Microsoft did their best to ensure that we were sick and tired of Kinect by dinner time. This year, motion controls took a secondary role, appearing in only one or two stage demos. Even Nintendo made very little fuss about the motion capabilities of their brand new Wii U pad. Microsoft still see Kinect as a big part of the 360 experience, but PS Move appears to have been relegated to an afterthought, which is where it belongs until Sony and third parties find more convincing and innovative uses of their magic wand.
The Rise of Ubisoft
With Activision beginning to fade and EA playing the part of America's most hated company, Ubisoft seized the opportunity to shine. They had by far the best E3 of any of the big publishers, offering follow-ups to established franchises (Assassin's Creed, Far Cry, and Splinter Cell), critical darlings (Rayman) and new IPs (Watch Dogs and ZombiiU). Come 2014, we’ll probably be cursing the French studio for their sixth Assassin’s Creed in as many years or for giving us Rayman: Modern Warfare, but for now it's good to see Ubisoft challenging the established elite and taking necessary risks.
Metal Gear Solid Rising: Revengeance looks like fun. Not continuation of the Metal Gear canon fun, but fun nonetheless. The E3 trailer showed a game that is clearly far more Bayonetta and Vanquish than it is Snake Eater, but then who needs stealth, camouflage and lengthy monologues when you can slice up a helicopter with a sword? A full 24 hours before blades became the new dubstep, I found myself rewinding the trailer just to watch Raiden slice through a stone pillar to reach the guard on the other side like it were a column of ripe watermelons, or any other fruit for that matter. Despite my initial concerns, I have successfully talked myself into Metal Gear Platinum.
Taking Their Time
While it was disheartening to see Microsoft struggle to justify another year or two of current generation hardware, MS and Sony’s silence regarding the next generation is encouraging for those of us who bought into promises of an 8-10 year console cycle. Both companies are determined to wring every last bit of potential from their current hardware, providing the customer with unprecedented value; the days of the three year Saturn and four year Xbox are thankfully a thing of the past. The pessimist in me realises that both companies are probably just waiting for Nintendo to crash and burn with the Wii U before revealing their hand, but I'm encouraged that my PS3 has at least another year or two before it becomes yesterday's news, even if its twilight years will feature Wonderbook and Super Smash Sony.
Animal x City
It'll probably be far too quirky for its own good and may verge on being a bit shit, but that won't temper my enthusiasm for Sony's Tokyo Jungle. At E3, Sony almost forgot to announce that their survival action game will be heading West in the foreseeable future. In a sea of tits, machine guns and homicidal protagonists, Tokyo Jungle stands out as something truly unique; it is the only place you can put a baseball cap on a beagle or make an elephant on roller skates fight a velociraptor without fear of legal action.
He may no longer be with Lionhead, but Peter Molyneux would not let an E3 pass without making headlines. He announced his latest game/experiment, Curiosity, which will see players chipping away at a cube with a chisel, with the individual who makes the final crack being the only player able to see what is inside. The point to all this is that Peter wants to see how news of the final contents will spread; a social experiment of sorts. DLC will come in the form of increasingly powerful chisels including a one-off, diamond tool priced at £50,000! According to Peter "This is not a money-making exercise; it is a test about the psychology of monetisation." Peter Molyneux is science and I'm glad to see a change of environment has not lessened his ability to entertain.