Looking Back at E3 2014: Good, but Not Great
So that’s all she wrote, folks! E3 2014 has come and gone and the dust has settled. All that’s left is to look back on what was shown, and look ahead at what’s on the horizon, both near and sadly distant. A few days before E3 began, I wrote an article questioning if E3 still mattered to publishers and now that it’s in the rearview, a lot of pre-show announcements make a whole lot more sense in hindsight.
I have already expressed my thoughts on Microsoft’s press conference in my review, but to summarize, it was a really good, strong show that delivered on exactly what Phil Spencer promised—games, games, games. An exhaustive amount of games were shown with highlights being Ori and the Blind Forest, a new demo for Tom Clancy’s The Division, and the announcement of Rise of the Tomb Raider to name but a few. Halo fans had a bittersweet show as Microsoft announced Halo: The Master Chief Collection, featuring the first four numbered Halo games, 100 multiplayer maps, and Halo 2‘s multiplayer in tact and all on one disc.
Unfortunately no further information was given about Halo 5: Guardians, which leads me to my first theory. Quite simply, Guardians wasn’t going to be ready for viewing. They’re just starting the upswing after almost an entire year of bad mojo; a bad or underwhelming showing for Guardians would have undone some of the positives. Instead, they announced it early, built buzz around the show itself, and in my less than humble opinion, I think they nailed it. And as someone who turned my nose up at 99 percent of their show last year (thank you, based Respawn) due to their policies, I was admittedly not expecting anything close to as good as what they presented.
Now let’s talk about EA.
EA, oh EA. Why did they bother to have a press conference? It’s crystal clear they just didn’t have much to show. Look, I get bringing a prototype or concept art to build hype for a game, but they seriously brought three. And all three were the things I was interested in the most: Star Wars: Battlefront, Mass Effect, and Mirror’s Edge. Here’s a tip EA, on me: don’t bring concept art and prototype gameplay (under 10 seconds of it, no less) to a hype show. It’s not what we want to see after teaser trailers last year and it’s a waste of everyone’s time.
As someone who has about a fly’s lifespan of an interest in sports games, EA’s show did absolutely nothing for me until the last 10 minutes when they showed Battlefield: Hardline. Man, is that game right up my alley. It’s like Payday 2 on Hulk steroids. 32 player matches, shootouts on the freeway, cranes crashing through buildings, and then being used as makeshift bridges. It looked really good. So good that I can almost forgive those awful, puny puffs of smoke that they ended with.
EA should watch Ubisoft’s show to see how it’s done. Ubisoft is by far my favorite of all the Triple-A megapublishers, and for good reason. They always bring well made games that make me feel like I need to play them. They constantly create and nurture new IP, and always end their shows with a huge surprise. This year was no different. First of all, Aisha Tyler was great. She was funny, sounded sincere, and made the whole experience a breeze to sit through. So much so that I almost feel bad about killing her in Watch Dogs…almost. She made a fart joke and I can’t abide that.
But I digress. Ubisoft made the most of their time. First they revealed the villain of Far Cry 4, Pagan Min, voiced by the vocal chameleon, Troy Baker. These few moments with him have already surpassed Vaas from Far Cry 3. His look, his mannerisms, his dialogue, and his delivery were all phenomenal. And apparently that’s the first five minutes of the game.
They also showed more Assassin’s Creed: Unity, which looks fantastic, another Blur Studios masterpiece trailer for The Division, and closed with yet another jaw-on-the-floor reveal of Rainbow Six Siege in pre-alpha gameplay. It looked incredible from a gameplay standpoint, if not from a visual one, and as someone who was weened on online multiplayer, everything they showed looked right up my tactical gameplay missing alley.
Sony closed out the day with an extremely solid, if unevenly paced, press conference that showed a lot of games. Unfortunately for me and probably the rest of the world, few to none of the exclusives they showed will release until 2015 at the earliest. That is a real bummer. Getting hyped for a few games in 2015 is one thing. For their entire Triple-A exclusive line up? Ugh. And that’s if they even come out in 2015 and aren’t delayed even further. The Last Guardian, anyone?
The one that stung and excited the most was Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End. The trailer was a stunner and apparently that was actually part of a level and running in engine, in game. If that’s true, a whole new bar has been set for this generation’s graphics. And again, not coming out anytime soon.
On the Nintendo front I don’t have much to say not being much of a fan for the past 18 years or so, but I can tell you that if I was, there was a lot to be excited about. For me the one game that really stood out was the prospect of an open world Zelda game. I would definitely consider buying a Wii U for $100 to play that game. I need to know more about Star Fox before that $100 goes any higher.
Obviously not every game shown on the floor made it to the main stage, like Alien: Isolation for instance, which I’ve heard is showing really well. Hopefully Sega isn’t going to send this out to die in October like they’re planning to. And when we did get gameplay, there was Batman: Arkham Knight, which looked incredible and made me a believer again after having a lukewarm response to Arkham City (I LOVE Arkham Asylum, though). I can’t help but feel that this year’s E3 overall was good and not great..
Ultimately, I didn’t get any new game revealed that wasn’t merely a trailer that floored me. I was looking for that Watch Dogs reveal moment that got everyone talking. Or a game that you could tell everyone was excited about like Titanfall. While I guess it’s great for all the games that one game didn’t really dominate the conversation, I truly love when I see that one special game and for me, it was the things that were a known quantity from last year’s E3.
So now, as we start to think about “Game of Show” and start counting our budgets, I guess the only thing left to say is “October will be so awesome that it sucks” and “There is always next year!”