E3 dumps a cornucopia of impressions and insight onto the internet. Thank goodness we didn’t find ourselves under that umbrella. I played as much as I could, and wanted to talk about a few games that almost entirely changed my perspective upon spending some more time with them.
After the jump, how do you gauge that? Hot? Cold? McDonald’s coffee?
1) Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Originally the first thing I was slated to see, I sat through a half hour hands-off demo of The Phantom Pain in the final hour of E3. Thirty minutes of this rigamarole, I expected. Welp. Setting aside everything Hideo Kojima about the game’s narrative, setting aside the overlong send-off from your desert guide, and setting aside the animated horse defecation, I left with the first inkling of anticipation towards a new Metal Gear Solid game in almost a decade.
The Phantom Pain is a crapshoot for story, and while I didn’t play it, the gameplay is sizing up to be the most refined in the series’ history. Not only is the cool Mother Base hub from Peace Walker back, but it’s fully customizable, modular, and a physical asset to protect on the high seas where all the goodies you retrieve in the field will show up. Everything that worked in Peace Walker is back, it seems, from the balloon evac to the light RPG elements. Ground Zeroes’ new gameplay mechanics are even more refined, as well, eliminating any complaints I had about the way that thing played. From now on, we’re just going to refer to this as MGS: Mother Base.
Score: Re-heated day-old Dominos pizza.
2) Sunset Overdrive
Someone out there is agreeing with me for mentioning this, because they also know it looks like one of the coolest fucking new IPs ever. I adore everything that Insomniac is doing with their vision of this game — from the energy drinks and amusement parks to the JSRF/Ratchet & Clank model.
They demoed an 8-player horde mode, which is not only overwhelming for players, but yeesh, the poor Xbox One consoles could barely keep up with all the whiz-bang effects flying around onscreen. Mine and another player’s even crashed, which seemed to be a regular occurrence that presenters prepared for in advance. I’m also not sure what the benefit of grappling from below or grinding atop a line is, but the former will limit you to one-handed weapons. For all the razzmatazz present in Sunset Overdrive, I’m remiss to say that it left me cold. It’s missing something… maybe the momentum of Titanfall, or the oomph of Dead Space’s guns. I almost wish there was a way to trick on the rails for a boost, or that it somehow pulled more from games outside of Insomniac’s lineage. Here’s hoping Fizzie’s game doesn’t fall flat this fall.
Score: Cold turkey.
3) Smash Bros. 3DS
No, I didn’t play the Wii U game. Who has time to stand in a line that long? Unsure of what awaited me, I think a cautious optimism drew me to finally size up Nintendo’s return to ensemble multiplayer games. For the most part, it was as jarring as the several years’ absence would have prepared me for, but something felt off. Curiously, using the slide pad to jump upwards tended to register only a majority of the time, whereas I’m pretty sure it worked 100% of the time in any previous installment. Either I suck, or this is going to be a problem leading up to Smash Bros. in the coming months.
Upon quizzing a few people, avid players also noted a difference in navigating upward with the slide pad, rather than using X/Y to jump. You’re on thin ice, Nintendo.
Score: Room-temperature sparkling water.
4) Persona Q
Okay, okay, laugh it up. Come back and read this when you get it out of your system.
We good? Fine. I wanted this game to be great. Honestly, I just wanted the 3DS being shown to me to take the form of a Playstation 3 controller, whereupon the booth was parted and lo, Persona 5 had lay in wait this whole time — a secret to everyone at the show. Since that never happened, I ended up getting to know a little more about Etrian Odyssey games and how Persona is being applied to the formula for something altogether collaborative.
Turns out, this may well be a handsome substitute for a fully-numbered installment in the Persona series. Players will have the option to play as the protagonist from Persona 3 or 4, and then run the circuit in new game+ as the other if they so desire. Altogether around 80 hours of content, the game looked great, sounded great, and seems to be the blend of Persona and Etrian Odyssey that everyone is crossing their fingers for. It’s also already out in Japan, if you can find some bilingual fans talking about it online. Consider that a PSA for you Japanese-fluent showoffs, who can play it post-haste.
Score: Retrieved the souffle with perfect timing!
5) Far Cry 4
It’s more Far Cry 3. I thought this article was about changing mindsets? What gives?
Score: I didn’t even write anything, how — saltine crackers.
6) The Crew
No kidding, an open-world game where you can drive coast-to-coast with no load times and with an afternoon to do it in. Not only that, but banding together with your friends for a variety of missions sounds like fun, right?
There’s a super-team behind this game, but whatever driving games they’re modeling the physics upon should probably be ditched in favor of games where the vehicles are prone to staying on the road. I couldn’t seem to get a grasp on any vehicle, between off-road ice to barren pavement, handling The Crew’s automobiles was downright slippery. If this is still an issue when the game launches, then you can count me out. Hopping around the map works wonderfully, however. If only there wasn’t a defeatist set of physics keeping the fun of each area at bay.
Score: Casserole that may be saved if overheated and over-seasoned.
7) Sonic Boom
I don’t know what I thought going into this, but boy has it gone south. Whatever the final product may turn up, several bugs popped up in playing the Wii U demo, which featured one of those terrible third-person cameras I thought we retired in the early 2000’s and an adventure gameplay model that doesn’t even support the franchise it’s peddling. When franchises go weird, I usually get interested, but not in this case. Big Red Button, please figure out what your game is about, and drop at least all the V.O. banter between characters.
Score: Fruit flies have infested this otherwise fresh banana.
8) Alien: Isolation
Creative Assembly has decided to take up the Alien helm. Not only that, but they have games like Amnesia to thank for what kind of mechanics should be applied to a horror game in space. I watched a pre-recorded gameplay presentation which was followed by an opportunity to go hands-on with a “challenge mode.”
The challenge mode was a nice demonstration of using the motion tracker to keep your surroundings in order. A sense of dread didn’t haunt me as it did others, which is strange as an easily scared player. I died a lot, and felt like this was a great way of demoing mechanics while throwing players into a situation where they’d naturally be making snap decisions and sneaking around without reference. Catching attendees off guard and throwing them into an unfamiliar situation was almost a perfect pitch for what the Alien game is shooting for, gameplay-wise, although I didn’t spend much time crafting and my strategy usually resorted to being discovered torching creatures until they got fed up and ate me.
As far as the pre-recorded story gameplay… Maybe there’s such a thing as “too faithful.” Having players fill the shoes of Ripley’s daughter to piece together her mother’s past not only furthers any metaphor of following in one’s footsteps, it’s downright literal. Now, if we were trapped in a painstakingly faithful Alien theme park attraction, relying on movie lore to operate terminals and escape patrolling haywire robots, well that sounds like something to sign up for. Is it too late to make this game, instead?
Score: Somewhat cooled morning coffee.
9) The Division
Another game I’d noticed buzz about, people like this one because a car took realistic damage in a hands-off demo at last year’s E3. I liked the timelapse trailer that was shown this year, but it loses momentum once we meet the cardboard cutout protagonists. Ubisoft showed a hands-off gameplay presentation that I wandered into with not really any frame of reference.
I’m a sucker for snow. There are no two ways about it, and The Division’s setting is right up my alley. The gameplay, however, appears to be another tired vessel for third-person shootery. Most noteworthy, was that the weapon upgrade system is a multi-layered, modular system which is free of commitment to a specific branch of upgrades. I worry it could fall prey to Transistor’s freeform ability combinations, but Ubisoft tends to follow through on gameplay systems for the most part. By the time we saw a subway system lit up with a holographic echo from the past, taken down a heavier enemy with teamwork, and watched another car door shut when approached by your character, I was nodding off. So The Division put me to sleep. Mostly thanks to a sleepy demo, but with not much new to show outside of a versatile skill tree, it’s hard to be excited about seeing the same thing we’ve played a hundred times before.
Score: Waffles still capable of melting room-temperature butter.
There’s a lot that looked good and continues to do so: The Evil Within, Witcher 3, Yoshi and Kirby games, and Bayonetta 2 are all shaping up just fine, slowly steeping in development. That said, everything at E3 is a demo at best, if not barely held together with rubber bands and paperclips (hi, Bloodborne). Fortunately, in most cases, we’ll see a markedly improved, fully-fledged version of all these titles and more in the near future.
Quarter to Three’s scoring system for convention demos is based on a scale of food and drink. A waffle to some readers may be a pancake to others, so try not to take too much stock in a frozen yogurt over an ice cream. We have fun here.