E3 2012 – The Big Three

Well, E3 2012 has come and gone. Overall, it seems to have fallen short of last year’s show, not meeting the expectations that the beginning of a transition to a new generation of consoles generally brings. Though there were certainly some high points as well as some perplexedly odd and perhaps humorous moments. To start of my review/coverage of E3, I’ll begin with, unsurprisingly, the “Big 3”.


At this year’s E3 Microsoft was first up to give their big presentation. It started off with a bang; gameplay footage of Halo 4. And it looks great. It definitely seems that 343 will keep pace with Bungie’s former series. Following that was Splinter Cell: Blacklist, which for me was something of a mixed bag. Splinter Cell has never been my preference when it comes to shooters, but they really made this one look interesting. There is an “Execution” system which allows you to plan out shots in real time (sort of like Fallout 3’s VATS, only without the pausing). On one hand this looks fantastic, and clearly delivers a very cinematic feel. On the other hand it looks like it might be ‘easy mode’, making difficulty a joke and turning away most of the more ‘hardcore’ shooter fans. The game will also have voice commands via Kinect, which actually seems to have an interesting implementation: allowing you to call for assistance. However the best use of the Kinect’s voice commands appears to be, of all things, Madden 13. They appear to be using it at least to allow the player to call the play. A lot more was revealed about the game at EA’s conference, so I don’t want to get too into it or the other sports titles. Suffice it to say that both Madden and EA have actually managed to impress me this year.

After the sports bit came Fable: The Journey. Or as I like to call it, the Fable game that isn’t a Fable game. From all I’ve seen it still seems to be just a rail shooter with spells instead of bullets. Honestly it’s as terrible an idea as I make it out to be… Or rather, it wouldn’t be if it were going to be an Xbox Live Arcade title, priced at something like like $20 (American) and they weren’t trying to shoe-horn it in as being consequential to the story. Following Fable: The Disappointment was a trailer for the new Gears of War: Judgement. Which does look kind of interesting, especially for a series that’s supposed to be over. And then Forza Horizon which was… really pretty I guess. Nice cars but that’s pretty much all they showed. Oh yeah, and they had another new Fitness game. Because there just are not enough of those available. I want walls of nothing but Shooting, Fitness, and Fighting on the shelves of my local game store.

They also talked about the various applications/programs available via the 360. Here they brought up a new music service… further proving that Microsoft will forever be in denial about Apple beating them in the digital music department, years ago. They’re also finally adding web browsing capability to the 360, you know, like the Wii, PS3, and PSP have had for years. And which the 3DS and I assume Vita have. Yeah, little late to the game there, guys. Oh and of course the Browser will be Internet Explorer, the no-longer most used browser (go Chrome!). Their ‘big announcement’ was also a bit of software, Microsoft SmartGlass. Which will let you connect your iPad and iPhone (they say ‘Smart Phone’, but I’m positive it will be mainly iPhone with maybe some Android support) to your 360, to use sort of like an improvised Wii U controller. So, their big announcement is that they’re copying Nintendo. Um, way to go? Glad that worked out so well for you last time (it didn’t). Also, hey, way to tell everyone who doesn’t own a Smart Phone (Read: iPhone) to go extinguish their useless existences in a fire. The world of tomorrow really seems to just downright hate anyone who wants to use their cell phones for just making calls and maybe texting, and who don’t want to pay for a data plan so they can use #G which makes their phone die faster.

Tomb Raider is back at this years E3 and it still looks amazing. Actually, it looks even more amazing, and Lara has a voice now. Honestly this is one of the games I’m most excited for. It’s followed by Resident Evil 6, which looks cool, but they make it seem too action-game like. Not enough Survival Horror. Then few quick clips for upcoming titles: Ascend: New Gods, LocoCycle, and Matter. And a South Park RPG. Wait, what? I’m… I’m not sure what to say to that. Finally, we get another freaking Dance Game, followed by an Usher concert. Microsoft knows this is E3, right? Because, really, an Usher concert? Oh, and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. I almost forgot about CoD:BO2, because while the game does look good elsewhere, here it’s pretty much the same boring trailer-demo from the last two years. Only at the end this time.


Up next out of the ‘Big 3’ is Sony, which was after EA and Ubisoft. Honestly it’s a little hard to remember Sony’s presentation, because their host, Jack Tretton- CEO of Sony America- isn’t much of a showman. He very much appears as a guy in a suit reading a teleprompter. This means his words didn’t have as much impact as say, Reggie Fils-Aime, Nintendo’s usual host, or even Ubisoft’s horrible tag-team (we’ll get to them later). However, despite the fact that Tretton couldn’t make First Contact sounds interesting, Sony did have some solid titles to announce.

First up was a new game from the studio that made Heavy Rain, Beyond: Two Souls. This was just an announcement trailer, though it was an excessively well made one. The game’s consept seems interesting, though I’m still not entirely clear on it. Following that Sony showed off PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royal. Wow that’s a mouth full. It’s basically a Smash Bros rip off featuring Sony characters and some third party fare. The thing that struck me as annoying is that instead of the brawler gameplay with a focus on ring-outs (Smash Bros), the game seems to want to be more like a traditional fighting game, so instead of building up you foe’s damage, you build up a special meter, and can only defeat others (and be defeated) via those specials. That system just seems really stupid to me.

After that debacle they brought out a block of Assassin’s Creed 3. First they showed off Liberation, for the PS Vita, which will feature ‘the first female assassin’. The game looks very good, rather par for the course in terms of the series. What concerns me though is how (and if) they will touch on the issues of racism and slavery, since the game’s protagonist is African-French, and the game is set in 18th Century American New Orleans. On to Assassin’s Creed 3 proper, they had a bit of a surprise reveal: Naval Battles. In an interesting turn of events the player will apparently command a ship in at least one segment in-game, where in they partake in ship-to-ship and boarding combat. That sounds very, very interesting. Though I still think the American Revolution seems a bit of an odd setting for a series that primarily exists around the European Renaissance.

Then they showed off some Far Cry 3 gameplay, wherein they unveiled four-player co-op. The co-op gameplay looks great and all, but the segment they chose to show off was a bit tedious, consisting of the protagonists needing to amass some explosives on a bridge. Finally, here it was, the new piece of hardware. The… Wonderbook for the PS3 EyeToy and Move. Really Sony? Yet another peripheral that requires your prior peripherals? This is seriously getting annoying. And honestly this whole concept just bothers me on a fundamental level, it’s a book, where there’s only stuff in it when you look at it’s picture on the TV via the EyeToy watching it. That’s just… wrong for some reason. I just hate this thing, on some base, instinctual level.

Following the sin against all print media, Sony brought out God of War: Ascension. A pretty hefty segment of gameplay demo was shown. And… well, it looks like another God of War game. If you liked the others this is probably right up your alley. I didn’t though, so, not really much for me to say about it. But wait, Sony’s not done yet, time for some gameplay from Last of Us. Now, I think that gaming, and really pop-culture in general is packed so far to the brim right now with post-apocalypses and zombie-proxies that they really need to stop making more of this stuff for a good 5-10 years. That said, Last of Us looks fantastic. It really seems to be a bit of a different take on the survival genre, and I’m honestly finding it a lot more interesting than I thought I would. Oh, and the AI actually seems decently smart and useful, as the NPC is more than just an escort quest, she actually distracts a bad guy at one point, giving the player character a much needed opening. Really quite a great end to both the demo and the conference.


So Nintendo’s Conference begins with a scene of Miyamoto preparing for the conference with Pikmin all over. He then takes the stage, as CGI Pikmin appear throughout the audience, and summons his translator with a whistle. I can’t decide if that’s hilarious or disturbing. Miyamoto then talks about how being intrinsically tethered to the television has held back video game consoles. Thus, one of the core ideas of the Wii U was to allow people to play on the system without requiring the use of a television at all times (Similar to handhelds). He then decides to stop teasing everyone and…

Announces Pikmin 3. The graphics shown for Pikmin 3, which I assume are representative of the Wii U, look very nice. The graphics definitely look like they can compete, if not beat, current generation consoles. The controls also look very succinct and polished. The game uses both the Wii U GamePad and/or the Wiimote (and Nunchuk). The GamePad screen is mainly used to show the overall map making it easier to keep track of your active group and all of your Pikmin and goals. The map view of the Wii U GamePad combined with the presence of 4 captains has been used to enhance the tactical gameplay. Olimar (the captain in the prior entries of the series) was curiously not among them. They also introduced a new Pikmin type- Rock Pikmin! I’m sure if I was a fan of Pikmin 3 I would’ve thought that rocked.

Following the Pikmin 3 information and gameplay video, Miyamoto talks about how Nintendo wants to focus on games of greater depth over relying on mostly casual fare. Miyamoto then pulls a Pikmin out of his pocket and then whistles for his dog- I mean Reggie to come onto the stage. Apparently not being degraded enough by being summoned onto the stage by a whistle, he furthers the metaphor by describing himself as a Purple Pikmin.

Reggie then discusses all of the content coming up for the Wii U. He mentions 23 upcoming Wii U titles- not by name, just by number as well as support for Netflix, Hulu Plus, Youtube, and Amazon Video. He then goes on to talk about the Wii U GamePad and all of its features (which was discussed prior on Nintendo Direct). They basically just go over the hardware- the GamePad has the standard D-Pad, 4-Faced Buttons, Twin Analog Sticks, Two Shoulder Buttons, and Two Trigger Buttons. In addition, it has stereo speakers, camera, and microphone all mounted on the GamePad itself and also the obvious, the touch screen. Reggie also mentioned that each Wii U console will support 2 Wii U GamePad controllers though we will only see single pad demonstrations today.

Next on the schedule is New Super Mario Brothers U. This sequel to New Super Mario Brothers Wii will support an additional 5th player utilizing the GamePad. The 5th players main purpose for using the GamePad will be spawning blocks to assist the other player. Some gameplay was shown which looks a lot like Super Mario Brothers Wii, but with new powers such as the Flying Squirrel Suit and colored Yoshis. Following NSMBU, Martin Tremblay comes on stage to talk about the Wii U version of Arkham City: Armored Edition. The game will obviously have special features using the Wii U GamePad, examples shown include Inventory Management, Touch Screen Control of Explosive Gel, and Motion Control for the Guided Batarang. The new controls look interesting although it all comes down to if it’s implemented smoothly or clumsily. As a bonus, Arkham City: Armored Edition will come with exclusive Armor Skins for both Batman and Catwoman.

Following the trend of sequels, we hear about Scribblenauts Unlimited. The game looks a lot like its forbears although it seems like it might’ve addressed some of their issues. Then we get a montage of upcoming Wii U adaptations- Darksiders 2, Mass Effect 3, Tank! Tank! Tank!, TEKKEN Tag Tournament 2, Trine 2: Director’s Cut, Ninja Gaiden 3 Razor’s Edge- and the upcoming game, Aliens: Colonial Marines. Then comes what may become one of the worst named games in history: Wii Fit U. The game appears to be a lot like Wii Fit only with the additional use of the GamePad for certain tasks as well as allowing you to exercise without using the TV. The game is to include a “Fit Meter” which just looks like another pedometer. Next up is SiNG, a karaoke game I couldn’t possibly care about which includes dancing for those not singing. Honestly, the only thing I really remember about this is how stupid the guys looked having to go through singing… umm… “Call Me Maybe” (thank you, Wikipedia).

After that incredibly awkward moment, Scott Moffitt walks onto the stage to discuss the 3DS. He says there will be an hour long webcast later about 3DS games and then leaves the stage. Ha, just kidding. He does take the time to mention New Super Mario Brothers 2 which will be available August 19th, Paper Mario Sticker Star, and Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon. NSMB2 (God, this titles are getting annoying. Trust me, its going to get worse) would look like more of the same if it wasn’t for the fact that it seems to focus on getting THE MOST coins. Really seems more like a Wario game to me, personally. Sticker Star however does seem to be quite interesting with its use of stickers as your combat abilities as well as interacting with the world. Not much is shown of Luigi’s Mansion Dark Moon although they do mention that there will be multiple mansions.

We then have yet another montage featuring upcoming 3DS games- Castlevania: Lords of Shadow: Mirror of Fate (told you so), Disney Epic Mickey: Power of Illusion, Scribblenauts Unlimited, and KINGDOM HEARTS 3D: Dream Drop Distance. This leads to the unveiling of Lego City: Undercover for the Wii U. The game looks like an interesting take on the Lego Universe rather similar to all those MySims games. There will also be a version coming out for the 3DS.

Ubisoft then takes the stage to own Nintendo- I mean show their titles for the Wii U. They first talk about Just Dance 4, a game that I particularly care about but appears to have quite the following, in what appears to be an interesting or horribly torturous move, the Wii U GamePad will be used to allow one player to direct the other players’ dance moves. And now, the main event: ZombiU. This is a great looking survival horror game which I will cover more when I talk about Ubisoft’s conference. The GamePad will be used as an all-in-one Survival Kit including a Motion Detector-esque Sonar, Inventory Management, Scanner, Sniper-scope, and Door Hacking. The game also has a feature using the GamePad’s camera which “Zombifies” the player. Ubisoft then has a montage of their own featuring: Assassin’s Creed 3, Rabbids Land, Your Shape Fitness Evolved 2013, Rayman Legends, Sports Connection, and Avengers: Battle for Earth.

And now, the grand finale: Nintendo Land. Obviously Nintendo has retaken the stage. Katsuya Eguchi and Jonathan Yeckley take the stage to discuss the game, which is styled like a Nintendo theme park. This will be the included minigame package for the Wii U much like Wii Sports for the Wii. The games mentioned include The Legend of Zelda Battle Quest, Animal Crossing Sweet Day, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, and Takamaru’s Ninja Castle. Some games appear to be focused on single player, such as Takamaru’s Ninja Castle, while others focus on multiplayer, like Luigi’s Ghost Mansion. Within the multiplayer games, the user holding the Wii U GamePad will take on a special role in what Nintendo refers to as “Asymmetric Gameplay”.


So that wraps up the Big 3. Overall, their conferences were rather mediocre which is especially a downturn for Nintendo who did so well last year. Microsoft’s conference was overwhelmingly by the books despite some excellent announcements and it really felt like they were going down a check list (something mentioned by many of the people covering the event). Sony certainly had some of the biggest announcements, however they lack stage presence. Their presentation always feels a lot more like a business meeting than a media presentation. Nintendo certainly didn’t have anything terrible, unlike Microsoft’s Usher concert, however they lacked a large hard-hitting announcement like Beyond: Two Souls for Sony. I’m sure I speak for many when I say I was disappointed to not see a mainstream Nintendo Legacy title for the Wii U launch. There was no Zelda, no Metroid, no Star Fox, no 64-style Mario, and no new information about the upcoming Smash Brothers game. When it comes to who “won” E3 this year, I’m not entirely sure who will take the trophy, but I can assure you it is none of these 3. And that’s quite disappointing.

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