The Tragedy That is Sonic The Hedgehog – And How He Can Come Back

Sonic The Hedgehog TitleIt’s no secret that the Sonic: The Hedgehog games haven’t exactly been all-time classics in the last 10-15 years. On consoles, the last really good one probably was Sonic Adventure on the Dreamcast. I’ve been watching the current Retsupurae run-through of Sonic ’06 and it’s just startling how bad the series was at that point. It hurts a little because Sonic was at one point talked about in the same way that Mario is. And he still has some air of significance – see his appearance in Super Smash Bros. and the reaction to that. But have the days of good Sonic games passed us by? I actually don’t think so – SEGA just needs to step back and re-evaluate them.

The biggest issue with most, if not all, of the real bad console Sonic games was the sheer speed they had. It wasn’t a rare occurrence for Sonic or any other character to get moving so fast that the game just couldn’t keep up. That’s a pretty major issue. In some games, it was more camera related – Sonic moved along fine, but the camera just couldn’t keep up with his movements. In others, Sonic just moved too fast – I’ve noticed it a few times with slowbeef’s run in Sonic ’06. Whether that’s an issue with 3D Sonic games as a concept or not, remains to be seen. Now that we’ve gotten to the current console generation, maybe the power is there to make one that doesn’t breakdown and can actually present that sense of speed that Sonic needs.

Sonic 06 Boxart

That alone isn’t the only concern though. Around the time of Sonic Adventure SEGA started throwing all kinds of characters into the games – much like Mario games have. The problem is that, for the most part, Mario’s side characters don’t feature heavily in the “main Mario games.” They stick with a standard cast. SEGA shoehorned in as many characters as possible, and put them into the major Sonic games. That partially is because SEGA stopped making consoles, really limiting how much they could branch the franchise out, but still, I don’t know how many people needed to see Big the Cat appear in every Sonic game out there. It really starts to show in Sonic ’06 – three hedgehogs, with multiple support characters that are all playable, with limited stages to play in. It’s a development nightmare, making an engine that works with all the different playstyles, and ultimately doesn’t work with any.

I give SEGA credit for at least continuing to try to make it work – see last year’s Sonic Boom. But they keep focusing on issues that either don’t need to be addressed – Sonic’s design – and ignoring the major issues – actual gameplay concerns. And what kills me is that the answer is unbelievably simple. If we’ve learned anything in the current world of gaming from the rise of Indies, it’s that simple, retro styled games are back, and that they work perfectly. That’s what SEGA needs to do with Sonic – go the Indie route. Trim out all of the fat – go back to the roots, playing only as Sonic and maybe Tails; make it a 2D platformer; and go with retro graphics. The success of games like Shovel Knight, Spelunky and Guacamelee show that 2D games totally work today, just as well as 20 years ago. Plus retro or classic graphics work with those style games just as well as hand-drawn sprites do. And the best part here is that we know that Sonic games work like this – the best games in the series are those first three games after all.

Sonic The Hedgehog 3

What kills me here is the simplicity of the solution, combined with SEGA flirting with it over the years. I mainly have been talking about console Sonic games here because on handhelds – the Game Boy Advance and DS in particular – his games have generally been much, much more playable. Sonic Advance, which came out right around the same time as his 3D dark days, is a much more enjoyable game to play than any of the console games from the same era. SEGA has to know this. I would be curious to see the data on the classic titles that are on the digital marketplaces now – Xbox Live, PSN and Virtual Console. I want to know if the classic games – Sonic The Hedgehog, 2, and 3 – outsell the more modern games – Sonic Adventure 1 and 2. My gut tells me that’s probably the case – with the possible exception of Sonic Adventure, just because it’s probably the last good Sonic game.

In the end, SEGA really has no one but themselves to blame here. They took a much beloved franchise and their company mascot and ran him into the ground, and kept going. As a longtime fan of the Blue Blur I’d love to see them pull back, re-evaluate the series, and make something right by the fans. They were on the right track with Sonic Generations, but keep forcing in 3D parts. Just keep it simple, make something that hearkens back to the Genesis days and I think Sonic can live again.

What Really Excites Me the Most About Fallout 4

Fallout 4 Box Art

Continuing my pattern here of trying to shoehorn in a post on Fallout 4 every week, today I want to talk about the aspect of the game that excites me the most. The easy answer is player freedom. That’s not it. The buzzword answer is the customization and crafting. That’s not it either. And the PC-turned-Console answer is the prospect of mods later on. That’s partially true – it could be the case by this time next year.

What I’m really the most excited about is the world that Bethesda is crafting for us. Not just from a visual standpoint – although I am looking forward to playing a Fallout game that doesn’t look super dated. What I mean really relates to every aspect of the game. Bethesda has an incredible knack for making these super expansive worlds still feel real. It’s all the little details that they put into the game. From the writing of the dialogue, to the way it’s delivered by the actors, to the very foundation of the world itself; they’re all so well done.

Fallout New Vegas The Strip

The writing is probably the easiest to point to. Dialogue trees and conversations play an incredibly important role in playing through any Bethesda RPG. From getting extra rewards upon quest completion, to getting out of some sticky situations, using your Speech skill matters a whole bunch. And it’s in those conversations that you probably will see the strength in the writing first. It’s pretty difficult to go through a Bethesda game without talking with a bunch of people. But the writing extends a lot further than that. If you’ve played a Fallout game, especially the Bethesda ones, you know that there’s a massive amount of flavor text in the terminals scattered about the wasteland. Add in the bunches of holotape notes that also appear and you get a good sense about the sheer amount of writing that goes into these games.

The next step then is the voicing of that writing. All of those conversations that are integral in the Bethesda RPG experience are all voiced. Granted, the player character hasn’t every been voiced prior to this year’s game, but still. The variety in the different characters in the games is staggering, even if they do use a relatively small voice acting pool. What always strikes me though is the amount of big names they’re able to snag for a role or two. In Oblivion it was Patrick Stewart, Fallout 3 had Liam Neeson, Fallout: New Vegas has Matthew Perry – it goes on. For Fallout 4, we don’t know a ton about the cast, other than Ron Perlman reprising his role as narrator; along with the player character actor and actress – Brian T. Delaney and Courtenay Taylor. Regardless of the celebrity status of the actors, they always do a great job bringing each character to life.

Fallout 4 Concept Bomb

Which really all ties into what I think has always been Bethesda strength. That’s making these worlds all tie in together and feel real. It’s more than just making the characters feel real through good writing and voice acting. It’s more than just putting little details in the houses to make them feel real. It’s much deeper than that. The best way that I’ve really been able to dive into this is by looking at the timelines that they’ve created for Elder Scrolls and Fallout. Granted Fallout was initially created by Black Isle Studios, but still, Bethesda isn’t exactly bad at this either. Just look at the two timelines for the games – you’ll see details that impact the games, but that won’t show up in actual gameplay, possibly ever. The Elder Scrolls timeline details the creation myths for each race, along with helping set the stage for each game. Fallout‘s timeline details out exactly what happened in the timeline after it split from our own – from the end of WWII on to the Great War. Little details like that just make everything feel like is has history behind it. And that’s really what has me super pumped for Fallout 4 – not only do we get another chance to fill in some blanks in the timeline, but this is the first time we’ve headed to Boston. That means that we’re probably guaranteed to learn a whole bunch more about that region – which also means a whole lot more writing and creating on Bethesda’s part.

Weekly News Recap – Week of June 22, 2015

This week has been a pretty Destiny heavy news week, unfortunately for the wrong reasons. There has been a few other headlines though, so let’s look back at the week.

Destiny Taken King Collectors Edition

DESTINY PR DISASTERS RESULT IN SOME REAL TALK
It’s been a rough week for Bungie PR. First was the Luke Smith Eurogamer interview. While I think the real takeaway from that was just that Luke needs to steer clear of the interviews on pricing, and stick with development talk; it still did plenty of damage within the fanbase. Combine that with terrible timing for the announcement of a partnership with Red Bull, and Bungie/Activision did a great job of taking all the good E3 vibes right away. It does look like some good will come  of this – Bungie and Activision look like their talking about the pricing and bundle options for The Taken King. The Red Bull thing honestly isn’t that big of a deal to me – it’s nothing new with Activision after all. Look at Call of Duty – they’ve been partnered with Mt. Dew for years now. Hopefully over the next few weeks Bungie can get back on the good side of the fans.

Pipboy Edition

FALLOUT 4 PIP BOY EDITION SOLD OUT IN NORTH AMERICA
Bethesda this week managed to scrounge up a few extra copies of the upcoming Pip Boy Edition for Fallout 4, but retailers sold out just as quickly. At this point, it looks like North America’s stock is totally sold out – which means if you didn’t snag one in the last couple weeks, you’ll probably be stuck waiting until Christmas. Today Bethesda also cleared up which phones will be able to fit inside the Pip Boy. In keeping the Pip Boy as accurate to the game as possible, larger phones like the iPhone 6+ won’t fit inside it, but the other iPhones will. Honestly, I plan on using the app for sure, but I don’t really intend to use the Pip Boy like that. For me, the Pip Boy is a display piece, showing off my love for Fallout.

RAMPAGE COMING TO THE BIG SCREEN? WITH THE ROCK?
Yesterday The Rock shared that he’s apparently working on bringing the classic arcade game Rampage to the big screen. For the younger folks out there, Rampage pit a giant werewolf, lizard and gorilla against each other to see who could cause the most damage and destruction on a city block. With monster movies starting to come back a little bit, I could see Rampage actually being pretty cool, especially with The Rock involved.

Battlefield Hardline: Criminal Activity Thoughts

Battlefield HardlineI recently went ahead and grabbed the Premium upgrade for Battlefield: Hardline – after returning to the game from a break. The main factor to pick up the upgrade was that Criminal Activity – the first DLC for the game – is live now for Premium members. The new pack includes a few new guns, a couple new weapon accessories and four new maps. The new guns are all for the Enforcer class, with the exception of the M1A1 Thompson Sub Machine Gun, which can be used on every class. So I thought it would be cool to take a look at the new maps and game mode quick as well as touch on the new guns and equipment.

Firstly, the four new maps all fit within a theme of small scale criminal capers. They tie in pretty closely to the single player – Black Friday takes place in the same mall as one of the missions. They do tend to play a little more on the small side – Enforcers, Professionals and Operators do really well in any mode on the new maps. But the new maps all are really quite strong. Black Friday plays super fun – the middle food court area is where the crazy action happens, and that’s perfectly fine. In Battlefield the middle really should be where the action should be. Backwoods is a lot less centralized, but has some crazy sightlines that good snipers can dominate with. The conquest points are spread around well enough where maintaining control all of them is kinda difficult. Code Blue is the opposite – close quarters combat dominates it, and on Conquest vehicles can make a pretty big swing. Holding the nightclub is super important, since it’s the middle point of the map. The Beat is similar to Code Blue – lots of tight quarters, corners to watch out for, but with a few sections that play longer range. It’s a great mix of maps honestly, that does a good job of mixing up the action. A lot of Battlefield maps in general tend to skew on the larger side of things. It fits with the way the gunplay works, along with the vehicle combat.

Battlefield Hardline Hotwire

Which brings me to my biggest issue with Criminal Activity. It’s not the maps, nor is it the new Enforcer weapons. It’s a very specific combination of the new Bounty Hunter game mode, along with the new maps. That’s currently the only way to play Bounty Hunter, and that’s where the issue arises. Bounty Hunter is Battlefield’s take on Kill Confirmed from Call of Duty. It really is pretty much exactly the same – it’s Team Deathmatch, with a pickup that needs to be grabbed for the point. The problem is that Team Deathmatch has always been a real mixed bag in Battlefield. EA and DICE have done a pretty good job being in front of Team Deathmatch issues, almost exclusively with spawning in the base game. Those maps have all had three months of fine-tuning. These new maps don’t have that luxury. Which means spawn issues galore – I had a pretty good number of times where I spawned last night literally three feet in front of an enemy. Bounty Hunter is a pretty cool mode – I’ve always thought it’s a better way to play Team Deathmatch. It helps dissuade camping, which is what you need to do. Give DICE and EA a few more weeks and I think they’ll address the spawn issues that need it.

In general Criminal Activity has re-energized my view on Battlefield: Hardline. The game is still a ton of fun to play, and the new maps and weapons fit really well. Premium is definitely worth it – getting all the DLC a few weeks early is great, plus add in a few Gold Battlepacks sweetens the deal.

Fallout 4 – The E3 Game of the Show For My Money

Fallout 4 Box Art

Every blog and gaming website out there always gives a game of the show. Mine was going to be Fallout 4 going in to the show – and after everything we saw about it during the show, it was cemented. I think it was probably the game that we learned the most about – especially of the games coming out this fall. Going in, all we knew was that it existed. After the Bethesda showcase, we knew so much more. Release date, confirmed setting, details of character creation, world building/customization and combat all got expanded on. Add in Fallout Shelter, the upcoming companion app along with the Pipboy Edition and I think it’s a really strong pick.

Personally, Fallout is one of two games that I will get this fall, no matter what (the other is Rock Band). Sure Halo, Call of Duty and Taken King all look good too, but they just didn’t grab me like Fallout 4 did. And that’s all just from a gameplay standpoint.  Then we get to two big details that really should be getting more attention then they are. First, for Xbox One gamers, there’s the added bonus of Fallout 3 along with it. For players that maybe missed the game almost 10 years ago, that’s a fantastic bonus. The details are still missing – is this a download on the Xbox One, or is it just a Xbox 360 download and it will be one of the new backward compatibility options. Will it allow people to double up on gamerscore? Will it include the five DLC packs for the game? All that needs to be answered before November, and I expect them to.

Pipboy Edition

The other great detail is the prospect of the Modding community being able to share their work on consoles. Some details here have been confirmed. The PC dev kit will be out early next year, and Xbox One will get access to the mods shortly thereafter through the Bethesda.net service. This honestly could be the biggest game changer in Fallout 4‘s lifespan. Bringing mods to consoles has been a pipedream for players for years now – really ever since consoles went online. Bethesda being at the forefront on this also just feels right – their games always seem to benefit greatly from the modding community. Granted the mods will be a little curated for the consoles – probably looking for trademark breaches and mods that would impact the rating (ultra-violence/nudity mods) – but they definitely look like they’re going all in here. And that could make Fallout 4 the most flexible console RPG in years – the potential mods here are crazy.

November may only be a few months away, but we still have the slow months of the summer to get through. There are definitely a few games worth looking into this summer for sure, but damn, the fall can’t get here fast enough.

What the Destiny Interview Really Amounts To

DestinyThe big news floating around the web this week – especially in the Destiny community – is an interview that Eurogamer conducted with Luke Smith from Bungie. The interview is definitely worth reading, not just for the reasons the web is talking about. The focal point for the interview here is talking about the pricing for the upcoming expansion for DestinyThe Taken King. The meat here though isn’t so much what Luke had to say about that, it’s much more about how he said it.

Let’s start with some context. The interview took place either at E3, or right after E3. That’s a crazy busy time already, and add in the fact that he was apparently feeling under the weather, that’s a bad combination for a hard hitting interview. The writer over at Eurogamer did a really great job of trying to get an actual answer about the pricing situation – mainly as it amounts to the Collector’s Edition for The Taken King. For the most part, his questioning revolved around paying for content a second time – the Collector’s Editions include the base game, as well the previous expansions, and are also the only way to get certain in-game bonuses. In particular, the interview focuses on the new emotes included, and that this is currently the only way to obtain them.

That, at least initially, was the real issue here. As it currently stands, it doesn’t look like there’s any real plan to change the pricing or bundles for The Taken King. There’s still a few months to go, but it might already be too late to make those changes. After the interview though, the focus has changed around a little. The tone that Luke took really came across as confrontational at best, and really arrogant and entitled at worst. Regardless of whether or not that was his intention – that’s not important at this point – Bungie faces a pretty serious issue now. The initial reaction from the fanbase – especially over on Reddit – has been a call for boycotts/and cancelled pre-orders. Now, I don’t know that the right answer here is. I do think that Bungie has to do something here – and quickly. Personally, I’d love for Deej this week in the update to mention that they’re looking into the pricing/bundling for the Collector’s Edition; and also they should probably keep Luke out of the PR/interview spotlight for a while. He’s fine to have in ViDocs – that makes sense after all with him being a developer.

Destiny Taken King Collectors Edition

This is a weird story to talk about – the fanbase is pretty vocal on both sides of the issue. I do understand that some of Luke’s comments kind of allude to microtransactions making their way into Destiny – and that’s great, but there are way better ways to say that. Even if they aren’t ready to talk about that, there is a better way to say “well…maybe we’ve got some stuff in the future” rather than talking about putting a video on the screen and that making us throw money at it. But to me the biggest victim here is Destiny. And that’s because of the timing of this. E3 is when the good vibes tend to be flowing pretty high – Bungie had those going after the show. The Taken King looked really good at the Sony show, and the info coming out of the show floor seemed to have a pretty good feeling for the new content. Hopefully Bungie can get this sorted out quickly and get back on track here.

E3 2015 – Final Thoughts and Wrap-Up

E3 LogoNow that the insanity of E3 week has come to a close, I want to take a quick look back at the show as a whole. After a week of long posts, today’s is going to be a bit quicker.

E3 last year was pretty strong – there was a strong focus on games, from all the developers and publishers. Going into this year’s show I think we had a feeling there might be a bit more tech shown. VR is picking up now, with Microsoft and Sony both embracing it in different ways. And while both publishers did devote a little time in their press conferences to VR, it wasn’t a focus for either one. Instead we got a second year running where games took the spotlight. And really, that’s how E3 should be.

E3 is the one week of the year where developers know that the entire industry is transfixed on their games. They’ve spent a ton of time and effort on these games, and this should be a showcase of them. The show has evolved over the years for sure, and I think that we’ve gotten to a format now that not only makes sense for the exhibitors, but also helps legitimize the industry. And this year in particular was awesome. This year might have had the strongest lineup of games ever. It certainly had the strongest in any recent memory.

It’s a really popular thing to grade the show and declare winners and losers when it’s all said and done. I think that’s only partially worthwhile. Grading the show makes sense – two years ago was weak, this year was much stronger. That helps the developers and publishers know more of what we’re looking for with E3. In that regard, this year’s show was easily an A. There were huge announcements – both games and news – and the games shown looked incredibly strong. With winners and losers though, I hate doing that. The answer to that question is always the gamers. We’re the winners, and there really isn’t a loser of E3.

Fallout 4 Box Art

I do like picking a game of the show though. Really it isn’t any question for me. It was probably going to be Fallout 4 going into the show, and after Bethesda’s and Microsoft’s conferences that decision was cemented. There were a ton of awesome games this year – Horizon, Halo 5, Kingdom Hearts III the list goes on. But for me, Fallout 4 is just the game that I am far and away the most excited about. It comes out this year, so the wait is much less; the game looks like a major step forward for the series, and on top of that just look amazing.

E3 2015 – Third Party Press Events Wrap-Up

Today may be the last day of E3, but we still have a few more press conferences to look back over. Instead of going through each of the three shows (EA, Ubisoft, and Square-Enix), game by game – like I did with the Microsoft and Sony shows – I’m just going to hit the heavy hitters today. Much like the rest of the show, there are plenty of big games to talk about.

EA Logo

We’ll start with EA – the first of the third party pressers. The early focus was all about the new Need for Speed – due out this November. We got our first look at gameplay – it does look gorgeous, I’ll give it that. But the focus of the game looks a little dated to me – the idea of a Fast and Furious style car club/underground racing club seems like it was made for about 10 years ago. Add to that the fact that there’s serious competition – Forza 6, and I think there’s trouble for Need for Speed. Luckily EA had a couple other early moments. In particular the combo of the reveal of Unravel – a new physics puzzle platformer with a really cool main character; and the follow up with more Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2. The combination really helped lighten up the mood, both games have a fantastic character about them. However, EA still struggles with how to handle their EA Sports games at E3. They need to talk about them – they are consistently the biggest selling games around the world, but really aren’t exciting to talk about. They try different things, but this year was pretty rough – I love Pele, but man, seeing him do an interview on stage really killed the flow of the show.

EA I think knew that a little because they kept the heavy hitters for after – starting with the reveal of Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, and closing with Battlefront. Both games stand to be massive games, for different reasons. Mirror’s Edge for it’s unique gameplay and storytelling, along with a strong player character. Star Wars: Battlefront for being Star Wars, and also an amazing shooter. Overall, I think EA had a show with pretty strong moments, but man, they continue to have real issues with the setup of their show. And also that Mass Effect: Andromeda was announced, but not shown during the show. Weird.

Ubisoft Logo

Next up was Ubisoft – always a fun show to watch, with a pretty unique format and Aisha Tyler hosting. Ubisoft knew enough that the tone of E3 was surprises this year – so they started with a couple. A brand new South Park game – The Fractured, But Whole; along with For Honor started the show strong. We got a look at more Division footage that looked really cool, except for the part where you can dick over your own friends in the Dark Zone. To me though, the first real highlight was seeing Rainbow Six: Siege again in action. This time was the return of Terror Hunt, the co-op mode that looks super great. This was also when we got the beta details – this September on all platforms, featuring PvP and Terror Hunt. Ubisoft had to show off Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate – since this was before the Sony show, this was actually our first look at E3. The trailer from the Ubisoft show did a good job of setting the game up, introducing Jacob Frye and the setting of the game. And again, the show closed with a surprise, just as it opened with – the triumphant return of Ghost Recon. It’s been a few years since we’ve seen the team, and it definitely looks like there have been a good number of changes. Assuming that we’ll get hands-on next year with it, that would mean that Ubisoft is really pushing Tom Clancy games again, which is a smart move.

Square Enix Logo

Finally, we had the Square-Enix show on Tuesday. Square had an…interesting show. The format maybe hurt it, but damn, the games were really strong. Just Cause 3 looks like the kind of mindless, over-the-top crazy fun that the series is known for, just kicked up more. I was surprised to see a new Nier game announced, but at the same time, Square does things their way. We got more Tomb Raider, but just a little. To me though, the real meat of the show was coming up. We got the Final Fantasy VII trailer again, along with the news we’ll see more this winter. They then of course played with us a little bit, showing off Kingdom Hearts Unchained, a new Mobile game coming that will tie in with Kingdom Hearts III. Square didn’t tease us for long though, and we finally got our first look at gameplay for Kingdom Hearts III – and man, that game looks great. It immediately got me back into that state of mind – it looks just like Kingdom Hearts should, bright, colorful, and full of character. Unfortunately, we have a long wait ahead – I would be surprised if it came out next winter, but it could. Most likely it’s looking like early 2017. Square also showed off more of Hitman, which does look pretty cool. This was also the first glimpse of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, showing some looks at gameplay, but still in the form of a cinematic trailer. The close of the show though was a little weird to me. After Deus Ex, I expected them to close with Final Fantasy XV. Instead we got a super super early announcement that a new studio – Tokyo RPG Factory – is making a new series. Final Fantasy XV, probably their biggest in-house name, only showed up for a few seconds in a trailer montage. That seemed really odd to me.

Ultimately, when the Square-Enix show wrapped up, we were done with the press events and could really start looking for smaller, more focused reports. The press events this year were top-to-bottom strong. There were slow moments, in every conference, for sure. But there really was less of them, and hardware talk was way lower this year than it has been recently. Now that we’ve gotten some hands-on reports too, it really does look like this year has had one of the better E3’s in a while. It’s why I just plain love this week.

E3 2015 – Sony PlayStation Press Conference Wrap-Up

PlayStation 4

Last night, rounding out a really busy Day 0 of E3 2015, was the Sony PlayStation conference. The day had already been a really busy day, with all kinds of big announcements across the board, so Sony had to really have a strong show. And good lord did they ever.

Sony started off huge – finally showing new info on The Last Guardian, a game that a lot of people thought was lost to the ether. We got a new video, that admittedly looked a little bit more like a PS3 game, but really did get the excitement going early. We do have to wait a bit longer – at least until 2016, but at this point, that’s cake. We then got a confirmation on what Guerrilla Games has been working on. They’ll be bringing Horizon: Zero Dawn to the PS4, most likely next year. The trailer showed gameplay, with some pretty cool visuals – giant robot monsters, being fought with really low-tech weapons. In an age with a lack of dinosaur hunting (Turok in other words) this is a pretty cool sight. Rounding out the first batch of games we got a look at a CG trailer for Hitman – the latest entry in the long running franchise. While it’s going to be multiplatform, the beta for the game will be on the PS4 first, and the game will also feature 6 exclusive contracts on the PS4.

No Mans Sky logo

Sticking with the theme of exclusives, we got another look at Street Fighter V, which is console exclusive for PS4 – along with the announcement of two new fighters. Really though, the first huge highlight for me was that we next got a gameplay look at No Man’s Sky. I have been super, super high on this game, ever since last year – it has been the game most driving my desire for a PlayStation. Seeing it in action was insane – I cannot imagine what the code is for that game, now that we’ve seen the scale and scope of it in action. Sony has a really strong exclusive lineup – continuing with the new game from Media Molecule – Dreams. It, while looking really cool, really didn’t seem like something that I’m particularly interested in. It looks neat – creating anything you want, based around dreams – but just didn’t really grab me. Maybe I have to play it to get it, we’ll see. Rounding out the indie lineup here we found out that Firewatch will be making its console debut on the PS4. I hadn’t heard about this game, not really being an indie PC gamer anymore, but it really grabbed me right away. The art style looks cool, the premise is unique and engaging and it looks like the writing and acting is strong.

Destiny Taken King Collectors Edition

Then we get to the heavy hitters. And oh man, did we get some heavy hitters. First, Destiny is getting The Taken King, this September, focusing around Oryx – Crota’s father. A lot of those details we kinda new from speculation – but seeing it in action in trailer form was fantastic. The new subclasses were announced, and look awesome; but perhaps most impressive was that the DLC looks like the story content will actually be pretty strong. I’m curious about the transition from Year One to Year Two, but that’s a question for not E3 week. After Destiny showed off new DLC, we got a different look at Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate than we did at the Ubisoft show (wrap up for that later). This bit was all about showing off Evie Frye, the twin sister of Jacob. It looked pretty cool, and also announced some PS4 exclusive missions, the Dreadful Crimes.

This first section already had some serious players. But nothing compared to what we got next. Square Enix came out to talk about Final Fantasy. First was World of Final Fantasy – a chibi styled FF game with some monster battling in it due out next year only on Sony consoles. That’s great, but again, nothing else in the show compared with the next announcement (to me). After the biggest dick move ever with the fake Final Fantasy VII update at PSX, Sony finally – FINALLY – stopped messing around. Yes, there is a real remake of Final Fantasy VII in the works. It’s real, and that means I have to put my money where my mouth is. I said way back in 2006, when they had the PS3 tech demo showing the intro cutscene that if they ever did remake it, I’d buy that Sony console. So I’m in the market for a PS4 for really two games – No Man’s Sky and FFVII.

It’s hard to really stay at that same high level, but Sony did have a few more games to show. We got a four pack from Devolver Digital. The Kickstarter for Shenmue 3 was announced – and it’s already been met. That’s $2Million in less than 24 hours. We got a glimpse at the PS4 content for Arkham Knight, due out next week. Then the one part that Sony always seems to put in their show – hardware. It always seems to pop up, and never really gets any reaction from the internet which bugs me. When Microsoft talks Kinect or Live stuff, they get killed. Sony talks Project Morpheus and PlayStation Vue and nothing. I don’t get it. Both companies need to talk those things – maybe E3 isn’t the best place – but it should go both ways.

Regardless, Sony knows that talking hardware like that does really drop the energy. So they had the perfect announcement to pick it back up. This is one of the bigger news bits of the show, that isn’t a direct game announcement. We knew Black Ops III was coming. It was absent from the Xbox Show – which was noticeable. We now know it’s because Activision is doubling down on Sony. The DLC early access is now a Sony Exclusive, flipping from Xbox for the first time. That also extends to the MP beta this August – first on PS4. I think this is probably partially due to the success of their partnership with Destiny. It’s a big deal, especially when we get to the next franchise – Star Wars. EA has been pretty up front saying that the footage they’ve shown of Battlefront has been recorded on the PlayStation 4. They haven’t said anything about exclusives, yet, but that honestly wouldn’t really surprise me at this point. Now, Battlefront isn’t the only Star Wars game – the franchise is also coming to Disney Infinity 3.0, with an exclusive early access campaign.

To close out the show, there really was only one choice for Sony. Uncharted 4 is by far their most anticipated exclusive. We already know it got pushed back to next year. So instead of just retreading what we’ve already seen, Sony gave us an actual live gameplay demo. And it was clear to see that it was live – the game looked like it crashed on stage – not a bad thing necessarily, it is still really early. The gameplay we saw was pretty exciting for sure – driving is new for the series of course. Not being particularly vested in the series, I was still impressed with it. Sony had an all around great show – some serious big announcements across the board. I hate declaring a “winner” of the show – I always say that we are the winners at E3 – but Sony might have had the better show this year. Microsoft has a great 2015 lineup; but Sony has great games this year, and a crazy lineup for next year.

E3 2015 – Microsoft Press Conference Wrap Up

Sunset Overdrive Xbox Bundle

This morning was the Microsoft press event – the actual kick off for E3 week. Bethesda set the tone for the week last night, and Microsoft did a great job keeping that tone all morning/noon time. Let’s get going – there’s a lot to talk about.

Halo 5 Guardians

Microsoft got the show started right away, pulling out the big guns at the outset of the show. Halo 5: Guardians was the first game that we got to see – and this was gameplay showing off some new stuff. We got to see what looked like four-player co-op, featuring Spartan Locke’s squad (including the return of Sgt. Buck/Nathan Fillion) tracking down Chief on a Covenant planet. It looks pretty standard Halo – lots of action, good set-pieces, and pretty incredible vistas. To me, the big news was the announcement of Warzone – the new multiplayer mode. It features 24 players split into two teams, as well as a third force made up of A.I. enemies. It reminded me of a sort of combined Firefight mode, with some PvP elements there too. It looks like it will end up being a great side mode to play when burnt out on PvP.

We then got a new exclusive announcement for a new franchise from Keiji Inafune and the team behind Metroid Prime called Recore. The game won’t be out until next year, but based around what we saw today, it looks pretty neat. The trailer did a good job of setting the world up, but left the gameplay in mystery. It was a solid start before we hit the hardware portion of the show – the only part that was, and was pretty quick. Microsoft learned from two years ago and has really focused on games way more since then.

The big news hardware-wise is that backwards compatibility is finally coming to the Xbox One. In fact, for preview members, it’s out today. The rest of us have to wait until the Holiday, but still – that’s a huge step forward, by stepping backward. It opens up a huge library of games – digital games will automatically show up, and retail discs work similarly (pop in the disc, and download and you’re good to go). The real cool part for this is that the Xbox One features will still work – snap, taking clips, screenshots and broadcasting all work with 360 games. This announcement ran right into the new Xbox One Elite controller coming this fall. It looks a lot like the third party controllers with lots of custom features, some that I think are silly, others kinda neat.

Fallout 4 Box Art

After some Xbox specific stuff, we got back to the games. Fresh off the killer Bethesda show from last night, Todd Howard popped back in to talk more Fallout 4. We got two big Xbox specific bits of news here – first is that Fallout 3 will be included with the new game this fall. The second one is the real kicker though – for the first time ever, mods will be playable on console. Fallout 4 mods made on PC will work fine on Xbox One as well. That’s a huge step forward, and depending on whether that’s an Xbox exclusive could really shape Fallout 4‘s profile.

We then got a little bit of EA news – Madden NFL 16 comes out August 25, and a few new games are coming to EA Access: Titanfall this week, and Dragon Age: Inquisition this summer. And to go along with that, EA Access’s vault will be available for all Xbox Live Gold members this week as well. We also got the announcement of Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 which will be out next spring. The trailer was actually pretty funny and cute – fitting right in with the PvZ style. I’m sure there’s more EA stuff in their own show.

We then got a few more trailers – Forza 6 along with a release date, 9/15/15; then the debut of the trailer for Dark Souls III, which comes out next year. Seeing Dark Souls announced at a Microsoft show was pretty cool – the series has tended to be mainly a SONY franchise so far, so this is potentially big.

The Division

That got us to The Division, a new trailer for the action RPG from Ubisoft. The Tom Clancy series is pretty stacked this year, as Ubisoft showed. The Division looks great, saying there’s a beta on the Xbox One this December. And continuing the trend, Rainbow Six: Siege comes out October 13, and will actually include the classic Xbox Rainbow Six games, Vegas, and Vegas 2. Ubisoft of course showed off more of these during their own show.

We then hit the indie section – Gigantic, which looked like a free-to-play MOBA style game with a beta coming out August; Tacoma will be a space mystery from the same team behind Gone HomeAshen from Aurora 44 – an open world action shared world game; Beyond Eyes from Tiger and Squid, which honestly didn’t look like a game I will go for, just personally; and finally Cuphead – the Indie game from Studio MDHR that I’ve wanted since it was first shown off a while ago. It look so great. The ID@Xbox segued into the Xbox Game Preview program, a way to support games that are still in development – similar to Steam’s Early Access. They used this program to unveil Ion, the new game from DayZ creator Dean Hall.

We then got back to triple A games with Rise of the Tomb Raider – with a new gameplay video to show it. It showed Lara in all kinds of snowy trouble, scaling a cliff that should not humanly possible to scale. It definitely looked a lot like the reboot – which is a good thing. We will see more I’m sure, but the game launches this Holiday. This was also when we got to see what Rare studios has for us – a collection of 30 games, celebrating the 30th anniversary of the studio (complete with Battletoads). And a brand new IP – Sea of Thieves – a Pirate based MMO that looked pretty neat.

Microsoft then showed us some of their first party games – starting with Fable Legends, showing a new villain character, and restating it being free-to-play, cross platform with Windows 10 and coming out this Holiday. VR was shown – they had an actual stage demo of the Hololens and Minecraft that looked unreal with how futuristic it was. But at this point we had reached the end of our time – and Microsoft closed with a fan favorite. This August we’ll get Gears of War: Ultimate Edition – the first game, remastered for Xbox One, and with a public beta out today. Then they formally announced Gears of War 4, with a gameplay trailer that looked very much like Gears. We have a ways for this one though – not launching until Holiday 2016.