Our hard-working writers don't all receive the Golden Ticket to appear on the Conference Call, let alone press passes to E3, but perhaps that provides them with a more down-to-earth perspective on all the hype – unless, perhaps, hype is more effective at ground level and vast distances away from the expo. At any rate, it turns out that some of our salt-miners have "opinions" and "feelings" about things. As an editor, I traded those in for pedantry and cynicism a long time ago. But just because I am emotionally numb doesn't mean I should silence the hearts of those I serve. (I'm an anaesthetist, not a killer.)
I'd offer my own thoughts, but as I look to Q4 of 2015, my mind tends to focus on my impending fatherhood and questions of whether I can manage a baby sling and Rock Band guitar at the same time.
With that said, I offer you, the Week Ahead crew's views on E2 2015.
Look, I tried to find something hip and obscure to squee about, but honestly, I'm most pumped about Fallout 4. What struck me overall was how much they re-examined core systems, as well as adding new ones. That impresses me more than better textures.
That said, I thought it odd that so much time was spent revealing the new home-building systems. Will Fallout 4 just be "Hearthfire with guns"? While it may be simple fun to build houses and suburbs, I'm wondering how it integrates into the main game. Will there be some late-Ezio Assassin's Creed-ish systems for controlling and defending territory? Is it another way to generate cash and resources and break the game's economy even earlier than usual? Or is it something you could ignore totally? If it's not necessary, I'm unlikely to dig deep into it.
I'm all for the additional layers of crafting, and modular weapon crafting – providing that it is more than aesthetic and results in interesting choices about weapon stats and effects. Something like the weapon modding in Wasteland 2 would be a good start.
As a VATS enthusiast (except for sniper rifles), I'm always suspicious when they push the line that you can totally play Fallout as a realtime FPS or 3PS. All the combat footage was centred around that style of play. From the approximately 1.3 seconds they showed of VATS, it appeared that entering VATS now slows time, rather than stopping it entirely. In previous Fallouts, selecting VATS targets with a controller could be fiddly, so I'm not totally sold on having less time to do so.
The dog looks cool, but we've had Fallout dogs before. I'm most excited about the main character having a voice now. I especially like that the object and environment descriptions look to be voiced in addition to the dialogue. Sure, it may end up with a lot of "I can't use these two things together", but I've found from previous series like Dragon Age that I just dig my character more when she has a voice, especially when everyone else has one.
Providing a great environment to explore is kinda Bethesda's thing, so I expect Bethesda will wow me all over again. What looks extra promising about Boston is the variety of locations and colours. Fallout has finally shed the yoke of post-apocalyptic brown. I saw blue skies and even reds and yellows! The future is glorious.
Fallout 4 is shaping up to be a system-seller for me. It deserves to be played on the biggest screen in my house. It may even warrant taking a week off work.
Although I've been on a Nintendo high lately, and truthfully haven't payed much attention to E3 because I've been busy playing Splatoon (seriously, if you have a Wii U, why are you reading this instead of playing?), there was one announcement that was both unexpected and immediately the highlight of the show: Yoko Tarro is making NieR 2 in conjunction with Platinum Games.
Those of you who have been around long enough probably remember an epic missive [editors, feel free to delete this if you don't think it fits] [It's your horn to blow. -Ed.] I wrote back when I originally played the game. Sure, it had some warts, but it was easily the most thought-provoking game I played in years – something that still holds true to this day (although Catherine came close). Since NieR's developer, Cavia, disbanded shortly after making that game, I honestly never expected to see the IP revived, much less so soon.
I will admit I have misgivings, both from a general can-lightning-strike-twice perspective and that the one promo we've been shown makes it seem as though Ending D is canonical (whereas I think Ending C fits much better, but that is far too grognard-y a conversation for this space).
Suffice it to say that it will be a fascinating game with layers upon layers of meaning that likely won't be apparent until after you've played the game a few times. The themes will be dark but in an interesting and poignant way, not in a "dark is cool so let's make everyone terrible human beings" sort of way. The biggest complaint with the original was that standard combat was samey and boring, but Platinum's inclusion should solve that, so ... tentative thumbs up? Without a doubt, this is definitely the most surprising and welcome inclusion of the show.
I may be the only person in America for whom this game is a system-seller.
Perhaps it's the curmudgeon in me, but the news that Square Enix will be remaking Final Fantasy VII doesn't fill me nor my pants with fanboyish glee. I've had enough of creators dipping their quills back into formerly used ink wells with George Lucas and Star Wars, thank you very much. Instead, what really grabbed hold of my attention at Sony's press conference was Horizon: Zero Dawn. I've rewatched that announcement video several times now, and while each piece of scripted convenience stands out more and more obviously, the hints and possibilities scream loudly and proudly as well. Multiple weak points on the beast, armor that breaks off as it takes damage, and a crossbow built of several smaller, assuredly customizable crossbows are all showcased within the stage demonstration, and each of them has me hungry for whatever shape the final game may take.
Platinum Games has otherwise stolen the show for me. It turns out they're involved with Star Fox Zero, whose footage may as well be a remake of the original Super Nintendo game. From familiar enemies to entire stages bearing an uncanny resemblance to the level "Space Armada", I am eager to give these new controls a try just for a taste of that old arcade action with a fresh new look and silky-smooth framerate. Yet Platinum has also been hard at work for Activision, bringing an even earlier portion of my childhood to life with what looks to be an incredibly action-packed Transformers: Devastation. Watching Optimus Prime pummel a Decepticon in mid-air only to suddenly transform into a truck and swing his trailer into the unsuspecting villain is just the sort of crazy you expect Platinum to bring to the universe. Promising several of the original cartoon's voices, I can only hope that Devastation is as ultimately satisfying as I found Fall of Cybertron to be.
The real dream come true is the knowledge that game director Yoko Taro has teamed up with Platinum to deliver a sequel to Nier, a favorite game of mine whose story was excellent but combat was merely passable. It was enjoyable enough, got the job done, but was nothing to really write home about. That Platinum Games specializes in finely-tuned action combat sequences means Nier could possibly pack a one-two punch of the game industry's best story as well as greatest combat mechanics. A concept trailer has never had me so excited.
I've been on a bit of a Fallout 4 high ever since the teaser trailer hit the week before E3. The gameplay footage at Bethesda's press conference only has me slavering for more. The game looks great, still has VATS and takes place in Boston, which is where I currently hail from. Also, there's a dog that I will surely befriend and then instruct to wait somewhere safe while I adventure around the wastelands of Jamaica Plains, coming home periodically to feed him and offer a kind word.
Of course, you already knew all about that. I don't need to convince this audience to care about a Fallout game, even though you all persist in this bizarre notion that New Vegas was somehow better than Fallout 3.
But did you watch the EA press conference?
I wouldn't fault you for skipping it. Goodness knows I wasn't expecting anything interesting from them. My inner contrarian got the best of me, though, and convinced me to sit through it. Between trailers for the new Star Wars game and the sequel to Plants Versus Zombies Garden Warfare was something amazing – something unique – something I never would have expected from Electronic Arts.
An extremely nervous looking man with tattooed hands held up a little red kitten made of yarn. Unravel is a stunningly beautiful platformer where you play as an unraveling yarn doll. Using the lengths of string uncoiling from it to jump, swing and slingshot around a vibrant forest environment, you are in search of ... Something. The trailer was vague on story and explicit on set pieces, but that didn't stop my inner child from doing a little happy dance.
The game is releasing on PC, XBox One and Playstation 4. EA says they want to make more games like it. I, for one, intend to try and help make it worth their while.