E3 2012 – 3rd Parties

For the second part of my E3 coverage, I’ll be going over the third parties. It seems that this year they stole the show, though whether that is a credit to them or a failing on the part of The Big Three, it’s hard to say. I will at least give credit to EA and Ubisoft for significantly stepping up their game from the last two years.


Following a lackluster little blurb about the benefits of DLC, EA kicks off it’s conference with Dead Space 3. …Now with Co-Op! Following a short trailer, Steve Papoutsis of Visceral Games takes the stage along with some other guy who ostensibly worked on this game (EA could not be bothered to put his name on the screen or mention it for more than half a second) to demo the Co-Op gameplay. They start off the demo by fighting a giant drill and immediately this makes the game seem more like an action shooter and less survival horror. This is followed by a segment where our intrepid duo walks out onto a well-lit ice shelf and enters combat with a giant monster furthering the apparent Gears of War/Resistance comparison and distinct lack of dark, claustrophobic corridors. Finishing off the demo, we get to see one of them get eaten and watch as he is swallowed by the giant monster. Gross. Before exiting the stage, Steve Papoutsis mentions that the protagonist will not be exiting the monster in the same manner he entered. Implying that the protagonist must either blast his way out or complete the journey. Seriously, gross.

Next up, [American] FOOOOOOOOOOTBAAAAAALLL…who really cares. Do the people who buy the same Madden game every year seriously watch E3? Cam Weber walks to the front and begins talking about the game’s new Infinity Engine. Purportedly, this physics engine allows each collision to look unique via dynamically meshing a vast library of animations. Despite my opinions on the Madden franchise, this actually sounds pretty cool, though I am certain that like every other physics engine, it’ll lead to some absolutely hilarious YouTube videos. Weber states that the aforementioned engine calculates a character’s mass, speed, and momentum to determine the outcome of every collision. He goes on to say that this allows situations where a character may be able to regain their balance or stumble a couple of extra yards following a tackle.

Next, he brings up career mode which to me sounds a lot like virtual Fantasy Football. Though, whether or not that’s a boon probably depends on how much you like Fantasy Football or story in your sports’ games. And thus, Hall of Famer Michael Irvin takes the stage and proceeds to take a big bite of air. I was going to say something about how its ridiculous we have these famous athletes take the stage for sports’ games and nothing else in the industry, but now I’m thinking we need more of this. More of celebrities making fools of themselves for our amusement. Alright, not quite Fantasy Football. It seems the career mode is more of a hybrid of Fantasy Football and a Football-based… RPG. To wrap it up, Weber announces that the game will have Smartphone, Tablet, and Social Media connectivity.

Maxis! Lucy Bradshaw comes out to talk about the SimCity franchise. First up, she announces that social game, SimCity Social, is coming to Facebook. The trailer starts with the SimCity Social Logo crushing a Tractor pulling a -Ville sign. That’s hilarious. It appears to be a pretty standard social game though with a dash of the SimCity feel. I imagine that will make it superior to other city building apps to SimCity fans, but it probably won’t matter to anyone else. Speaking of SimCity fans, rejoice, the next announcement is a new core SimCity title simply branded “SimCity”. Following a trailer, Bradshaw states that this iteration of SimCity will be the first to have multiplayer, although it is entirely optional (You have the option of taking on an entire region by yourself). She doesn’t really elaborate on any specifics, instead simply talking up the game and ending with another trailer. That said, the game does look very good, and as an old SimCity fan, I can not wait to play it.

After a short interlude, Patrick Bach and Peter Moore step up to talk about Battlefield 3. After stressing how incredibly incomprehensibly well the game is doing, they announce Battlefield 3 Premium. This is a “service” that grants you 2 weeks early access to the plethora of upcoming DLC. This appears to be a pretty transparent money grab by EA– something I don’t find all too surprising, but disappointing all the same. Said expansions will feature weapons, vehicles, customization and– of course– new maps that will be released throughout the year and early next year. It is an “amazing value” at $49.99. Honestly, this is basically just two guys up there going “money money money money give us your money money money money money”.

Following that shameless money grab, some all too familiar Star Wars music plays as Dr. Ray Muzyka of BioWare takes the stage. He talks at some length about the game’s highly populated launch, existing updates, and future content. Not much in the way of specifics are given regarding new content (aside from an upcoming new planet, Makeb) though he does announce that the first 15 levels will be free to play to everyone starting July. Muzyka exits the stage as a trailer for the upcoming content begins to play. It shows off a new space mission, operation, companion (HK-51!), species (Cathar), increased level cap with new abilities, new warzone, and Makeb.

More modern shooters are up with Greg Goodrich showing off Generic Warshooter 88 Medal of Honor: Warfighter. This realistic modern shooter will be even more real by taking place in real places where real conflicts are really taking place. Really. What initially looked like a CG trailer is in fact a gameplay demo, and this game looks gorgeous. Draw distance is impressive, water effects are impressive, lighting and shadows appear very realistic. Really, this game looks to be downright the prettiest shooter of E3. That said, the gameplay appears par for the course for a modern cover-based shooter. Also, a few of the environment textures, specifically broken concrete, stand out as rather unimpressive, but that may change. As a player breaches a door in the demo, it appears to activate a bullet time-esque sequence. They then show off the player calling in an artillery strike via a tagging weapon/device. The remainder of the demo features the player controlling a small RC Car-like drone. Goodrich returns (he did not play the demo) to talk up the game’s multiplayer. In said multiplayer, you will be able to play as 12 different Tier 1 Units from 10 different nations. The ensuing trailer highlights six of the 12 units: Spetznaz, OGA, GROM, SEAL, SAS, SFOD-D. Just prior to the trailer, the backdrop also mentions UDT/SEAL, KSK, SASR, and JTF2. The trailer also runs to a Linkin Park song which, amusingly, seems to have more percussion than the onscreen battles.

Prior to Matt Bilbey’s arrival, there’s a brief interlude about EA Sports connectivity, which is boring, followed by a montage of Football [Soccer]. He begins talking about the recent World Cup and transitions into FIFA’s Football Club service. All existing FIFA 2012 Football Club levels and experience will transfer over to FIFA 2013, in addition all returning members will receive a special bonus. FIFA 2013 for iPAD and iPhone (and later on Android) will be connected to Football Club. There will also be a new iPhone app for all of you who feel the need to waste hundreds of dollars on a phone every single year. Bilbey then talks at length about nothing in particular besides the fact that they are really working on this game and want you to know that. This very slowly leads into the “first gameplay trailer”. Now, I haven’t played a FIFA game, but this doesn’t look like a gameplay trailer… though, it is clearly using the in-game engine.

Next we get a UFC montage. How come UFC and FIFA both got montages at the beginning of their presentations and Madden got some dude sitting there talking? Dana White is introduced making it rather strange that both Madden and UFC got respective celebrities, yet nobody showed up for FIFA. Dana White talks up the partnership between UFC and EA followed by himself and the EA Rep leaving the stage without anyone talking at all about the game. Is there a game? A UFC game? I kind of assumed there was going to be. Not even a trailer, guys? How about a teaser? No? Alright.

Well, the next game certainly has a trailer, time for some Need for Speed. Matt Webster introduces the next installment in the revitalized Need for Speed Series, NFS: Most Wanted. The game will feature an open-world environment where players will compete to become the Top Most Wanted. It will feature a new iteration of Hot Pursuit’s Autolog System keeping track of your individual times, pursuits, etc. to determine who is the most wanted of your friends. A neat little intro segways seamlessly into Craig Sullivan playing a live demo. He almost immediately tags another car causing them to crash. The open world pursuit appears appropriately exhilarating, fast-paced, and hectic. The racers are constantly running over sidewalks, embankments, and through debris; occasionally crashing into other cars and smashing some of the cops chasing after them. Closing out the demo, they announce a release date of October 30th.

Cevat Yerli walks out to talk about the last game of EA’s conference, Crysis 3. He talks a bit about the multiple environments before starting a gameplay demo. I’m so glad we had time for one last demo, and it’s a shooter, something we have not seen yet. I was terrified this E3 would not contain a single live demo of a shooter. That said, this shooter is definitely Crysis. Yep, it’s Crysis. A 3rd Crysis. In the demo, the player is charged with shutting down a generator of some sort. It seems like a great opportunity for a puzzle– so instead he proceeds to tear it apart with his bare hands. So, it’s a manly shooter then. Following destruction on a level befitting a Michael Bay film, our protagonist takes out a helicopter with what looks to be a futuristic bow of some sort, dives into the water and gracefully swims away. He then blows up a bridge and jumps onto a suspension cable and zip-lines out of the explosion. Oh my god, this is a Michael Bay film. And the explosion causes the dam to breach, ending the demo.

And that’s all folks, from EA.


Oh god, Ubisoft. You guys remember what Ubisoft did last year, right? YouTube it. I’ll wait. Are you back? Wasn’t that terrible? Let’s see what horrible gimmick they have this time. Ubisoft wastes no time jumping directly into the song, Good Feeling by Flo Rida, segwaying into Moves like Jagger by Maroon 5 as a portion of the stage lights up featuring a pair of live dancers clearly showing off the next iteration of the Just Dance series. And… oh my god. Wild Wild West. The song, not the movie, thankfully. Have we not, as a culture, forgotten this ever happened? Giant spiders, man. Giant. Metal. Spiders. Oh, and, my god, there is an accompanying stupid cowboy dance. We then switch gears to Maneater by Nelly Furtado, and the entire stage finally lights up, now featuring a total of six dancers. Like the schizophrenic who must be working the soundboard, we switch back to Good Feeling. And then, and then… all of the world’s gold walks on stage glued to one little microphone. Apparently, this is a live concert by Flo Rida. For the record, it doesn’t sound nearly as good as the recording, and he is actively attempting to consume his bedazzled microphone. Seriously, guys, I can not stress enough how ridiculously bejeweled this microphone is. There… there are not words for the shark jumping I am witnessing at the beginning of this concert. Behold:
Aisha Tyler takes to the stage, walking up to Flo Rida, and clearly she wants a piece of his bedazzled microphone. Not surprising, considering that if that’s real gold, it’s probably enough to buy a car. She then proceeds to introduce her annoying internet co-host, Toby “Tobuscus” Turner. Okay, I know this woman has, like, a career in entertainment, but… she’s really annoying. She’s talking really fast and seems to be making some attempts at unfunny humor. This does not bode well. Thankfully, she quickly relinquishes the stage to Dan Hay and Jamie Keen, presenting Far Cry 3.

And we begin with a painted, half-naked woman walking around a tattoo’d man, ostensibly our protagonist. The tattoo’d white guy then stands up in order to lead his tribe of natives. Clearly we’ve learned nothing from the Resident Evil 5 fiasco. Ending that bit of awkwardness, we’ve switched gears to a gameplay demo with our hero swimming through the water. Much better looking water than Crysis 3, by the way. He then proceeds to stab some guy while making his way through the jungle and once again, we see our hero wielding a bow and arrow. This is a thing now, isn’t it? This is what’s “cool”, kids. Bows and arrows. He then proceeds to absorb levels of gun fire that I assume is only survivable in the demo. The building he wanders into bursts into flames and he begins to make his escape. Cursing abounds. If the half-naked woman at the beginning wasn’t an indication that this game is really pushing the M rating, the abundance of f-bombs, and fonts of blood spewing from every stab wound certainly are. Okay, awesome moment: Tigers are mauling the bad guys. Suddenly, our protagonist gets stabbed… into a massive drug trip? It is worth noting that the graphics look very nice, possessing a welcome vibrance to the colors that is often absent in modern games.

Our annoying co-host returns with “Questions from the Web”. Or rather, question from the web, as they only answer one: a question regarding the freedom to explore the game’s world. The answer is that the game contains an entire archipelago to explore and paint with your enemies’ blood. Following that, we get another trailer featuring some new scenes, Tigers, Ms. Shirts-are-for-Losers, and more trippy visuals. And then our annoying main host retakes the stage and emphatically states her desire to murder tigers. I can’t stress enough how unfunny this woman is. No one is laughing at her “jokes”.

While introducing the new Splinter Cell, she is interrupted by the annoying co-host and we have ourselves an annoy-off. It is a cycle of eternal unfunny-ness. Tobuscus has apparently kidnapped Max Beland, the director of Splinter Cell: Blacklist, who immediately points out the redundancy of talking about the game here as it has already been shown at Microsoft’s press conference. Cue CG trailer. Then the return of Aisha Tyler and her unfunny jokes.

Next, we have another CG trailer. This time for Marvel: The Avengers: Battle for Earth. Based on the trailer, the game focuses on the broader roster of the comic book Avengers rather than simply the movie cast. Also the logos at the end of the trailer marking the game for release on Wii U and Kinect seem to worryingly indicate a motion-based game. This is followed by more annoying banter by the annoying hosts, apparently leading up to an entire segment of Wii U games.

First up in that segment is Rayman Legends with Michael Micholic. Interestingly enough, this is the first time, in the 3rd Party conferences at least, that chairs have been brought out for the people demoing the game, and I have to wonder why this isn’t done more often. Gamers don’t tend to stand awkwardly while playing their games. The game appears to heavily feature asymmetrical gameplay with the player using the Gamepad controlling a character that directly interacts with the environment in order to assist Rayman. The player controlling Rayman uses the Pro Controller for your standard platformer gameplay with the other Pro Controller players following suite. Using this set-up, the game will support up to 5 players. Based on the next level shown, some areas will contain rhythmic-based game play. Next, we have ZombiU, the rather blatantly named Zombie-centric survival-horror game. We are shown a simple CG Trailer followed once more by the return of our annoying hosts. You know, I think it’s insulting to call what they are doing, banter. An insult to the very concept of banter. And the final portion of the Wii U segment is a montage of upcoming titles featuring: Rabbids Land, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved 2013, Sports Connection, and Just Dance 4.

After a blissfully brief and joke-free interjection by Aisha Tyler, it’s time for Assassin’s Creed III. There is yet another CG trailer, this one featuring the American Revolution Era Ancestor taking out an entire platoon of Red Coats in order to nail one guy with an arrow (again with the Bows and Arrows). I’m fairly certain this doesn’t represent an actual in-game scenario. François Pelland then takes the stage to talk about the game and quickly passes the torch to Philippe Bergeron, who gives us a gameplay demo. Our hero, Connor, is hunting some deer when he is attacked by wolves. After easily fending them off, he walks to what appears to be a trade camp to complete his ‘Hunt some Deer’ quest. On his hunt for a target, we see a new assassin move as Connor ropes and hangs a guy from a tree. Truly, he is a one-man lynch mob. Notably, the hatchet seems to allow on-the-move kills that retain some of the characters momentum. The demo closes with Connor impaling his target with a bayonet. We get another web question regarding the vilification of the British. Pelland’s answer is rather vague, but indicates that your enemy is primarily the Templars and that you will be fighting people on both sides of the conflict. This is followed by an in-game trailer which closes off the Assassin’s Creed 3 presentation.

We now reach the gimmick portion of Ubisoft’s conference, which, up ’til now I would have thought was covered by the annoying hosts or, at the very least, Flo Rida’s glimmering, glowing, gleaming, golden microphone. The hosts take a moment to talk a little about eSports and the “more than 17 people” that watch them. Based on the arrival of several game stations on the stage, they appear to be setting up for a live competition. Sure enough, after more of this atrocity the hosts are perpetuating on the stage, they introduce the game that will be played onstage, Shootmania. They finally leave, acquiescing the spotlight to Joe Miller and Miss Harvey. These new hosts proceed to introduce the competing teams: Aisha and the Rocket Angels (Red Team) and Tobuscus Railgun Allstars (Blue Team). They will be playing the Elite Mode of Shootmania which is currently in Alpha. Each team has three players and each match is played out in a 3-vs-1 format per round. The competition isn’t much of a competition as the blue team soundly trounces all but one of the Red Team ending the contest with a score of 3 to 1. While this game clearly seems to be designed for eSports, it does not appear abundantly fun or capable of unseating the current reigning king of competitive shooters, Counter-Strike.

Following another annoying interlude by the original hosts, they cue up a trailer of Ubisoft’s Worlds Online featuring Trials Evolution, the Settlers online, and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Online. Next up, Yves Guillemot is introduced to talk about a brand new IP. Without divulging a name or little else, Guillemot exits the stage as a trailer begins to play. The “trailer” seems to be a conspiracy theory-type video about massive digital connectivity in the information age. It appears this is a set-up for the setting/world of this new IP. This is followed by the arrival of Jonathan Morin who continues to talk about the setting of this new game/franchise wherein all systems within a city are connected by a central operating system (ctOS). He then proceeds to start-up a gameplay demo.

The actual gameplay starts with the player character walking through a New York-style city with some very nice graphics. Walking up to a crowded building, he uses a small PDA/Cellphone-type device to jam cellular communications of all the people around him. This causes the building’s security to walk away from the doors looking for a signal, allowing him entry. Inside the building, he meets with a character in a short in-game cutscene. This reveals that the player is here using himself as bait to draw out his target, DeMarco. The other character also slips the player a gun. Using his PDA/Cellphone-device, he accesses personal data on various guests in order to locate an associate of his target. He then proceeds to listen in on a phone conversation confirming that his bait has attracted it’s target. The player then exits the building after beating up a security guard that tried to stop him. Back outside, we get some very pretty rain and water effects as the player goes to head-off DeMarco. He stops at an intersection and again uses his device to mess with the traffic lights causing his target to be caught in an accident. As he approaches the pile-up, some people open-fire on him. The game seems to employ a visually-impressive bullet time system as the character returns fire, which even shows the individual raindrops in free-fall as time is slowed. While making his way through the pile-up towards DeMarco’s vehicle, he helps a pedestrian out of his car and away from the crossfire. This is followed by an action sequence that appears to take place in real time. The player character rolls over the hood of one car, runs up to another, and skids across the hood while shooting one of his enemies. He then tops it off by kicking him in the face. The nearby gas station, which up to this point has been on fire, then explodes causing cinders to rain down on the area. Finally, he makes it to DeMarco’s vehicle, bashing in the window and yanks him out, slamming him into the street. This cues up an in-game cutscene ending DeMarco’s life with a gunshot to the face. As the demo closes out, perspective switches to another character with the floatname “Bixxel_44”. It appears ambiguous whether this is a shift in the player’s control or if the second character is controlled by another player. Lastly, the name of this IP is finally revealed to be “Watch Dogs”, to great applause. Closing out the conference, we get one last interlude by our horrible host duo who seem absolutely flabbergasted by the reveal of Watch Dogs.


Well, those were both more impressive than the Big Three. It really seems that both EA and Ubisoft brought their A Game to this E3, soundly upstaging the first party conferences. That said, both conferences certainly had their highs– EA’s Sim City reboot reveal and Ubisoft’s new IP, Watch Dogs– and their lows– EA’s non-start UFC partnership and Ubisoft’s sad mini-eSports competition. Both also deftly covered all their bases from Casual to Hardcore. As for who came out on top, I would have to say that despite Ubisoft’s having some atrocious hosting, they certainly made more of an impact with their bedazzled microphones, brazen and crazy Far Cry 3 demos, and the absolute show stealer, Watch Dogs. Ubisoft also had an interesting segment showcasing a number of titles for the upcoming Wii U Next Gen Console. So, congratulations to Ubisoft for really bringing the content despite some horrible, if memorable, framing.

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