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.

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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.

Weekly News Recap – Week of June 1, 2015

This week has been a pretty solid week for news this close to E3. As I do every week, let’s dive into a few headlines to recap the week.

Fallout 4 Box Art

FALLOUT 4 ANNOUNCED. FALLOUT 4 ANNOUNCED. FALLOUT 4 ANNOUNCED
The biggest news of the week certainly has to be the confirmation of Fallout 4 from Bethesda. Just a press release alone with some screens in advance of E3 would have been plenty, but we were lucky enough to get a full ~3 minute trailer. I’ve already devoted a full post yesterday to my reaction to the trailer, but I really can’t understate how excited I am for this game. It immediately became my most anticipated game of the year, without knowing for sure if it’s actually coming this year. I fully expect that we’ll get a whole ton more information at E3.

Tomb Raider Logo

RISE OF THE TOMB RAIDER GETS A NEW TRAILER
The sequel to the reboot of the longtime franchise got a fresh trailer in advance of E3 this week, showing Lara climbing a pretty harsh mountain. I thought that the reboot was a fantastic take on the series, really giving it the new lifeblood it needed. I fully expect that we’ll hear a lot more about Rise of the Tomb Raider at E3 – Microsoft has it as an exclusive after all, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see it have a big presence at the show.

Uncharted Nathan Drake Collection

UNCHARTED COLLECTION FOR PS4 CONFIRMED
Yesterday we got confirmation that Sony plans to bring the full Uncharted series to the PS4 in a Master Chief Collection style anthology. What this has going for it is the primary focus on the single player story, rather than multiplayer. There are still a few details that remain, but it is a pretty big PlayStation draw for the year, considering that Uncharted 4 was pushed back to next year. I admit being woefully uneducated on Uncharted, not being a big PlayStation guy anymore, but I do recognize the success of the franchise. This could be a big draw in the fall.

Weekly News Recap – Week of February 23, 2015

There were a couple news pieces that are worth mentioning this week. So let’s just get right down to it.

FCC RULES ON NET NEUTRALITY – GETS IT RIGHT
In a pretty big ruling this week, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality. While it might not immediately relate to games, it does have a lot of bearing on the future of the web. Essentially, service providers won’t be able to provide different quality of service based on deals. This helps keep the web free, and keeps the power in the consumers hands. This keeps providers like Time Warner from determining web traffic. The immediate gaming world impact isn’t super apparent, but it’s definitely there.

BioShock Infinite

GAMES WITH GOLD FOR MARCH ANNOUNCED
This week Xbox announced the upcoming Games with Gold for March. This might be the best month of free games they’ve had in a long time. On the Xbox One we’ll get Rayman Legends; and on the Xbox 360, we get both Tomb Raider and BioShock: Infinite. If you haven’t picked up either 360 title, somehow, you really owe it to yourself to pick them up. They are both fantastic games. And on top of that, Xbox also announced that in April they will offer double the amount of free games. They haven’t announced exactly which games, but that does open up a good chance for some more great games.

Mortal Kombat X

MORTAL KOMBAT X CONFIRMS BRUTALITIES RETURN
This week on the Netherrealm livestream they showed off the return of Brutalities. The big thing that I’m looking forward to is that Brutalities don’t require huge strings of button inputs. That said though, they definitely aren’t any less brutal than the old ones. It looks like a lot of them are based around special moves, which makes them easier to put into combos. They also said that there is going to be over 100 different Brutalities. Mortal Kombat X is shaping up to be a pretty damn awesome game for April.

Achievements and What Makes Them Awesome

With Titanfall dropping tomorrow on the Xbox One, and with my playing of Thief and Fable II lately, I’ve been thinking about Achievements again, and I think I should probably talk a little about what I think makes a particular game’s list good or bad. To start, let’s look at basically the two broadest categories of Achievements – singleplayer and multiplayer. Then we’ll get a little more specific to hit a few highlights, before I talk about some good/bad lists.

Fable II

First off, singleplayer achievements – by which I mean, the achievements that you unlock through a game’s singleplayer mode. Generally these tend to be story progression based, but a good list will also include a bunch of different tasks to unlock some. For example – I’ve been playing a lot of Fable II lately – there’s not only the story related achievements (which also hold pretty big point totals) but also smaller ones for silly things like dying all my clothes and hair black (The Goth) or skill based ones like Killing 5 human enemies with a single spell (The Archmage) as well as a few that encourage you to try parts of the game – marriage (The Spouse,) using expressions (The Show-off,) and buying houses and businesses (The Property Magnate and The Ruler of Albion.) The other major category of singleplayer achievements tends to be Collectibles, and this is the kind of achievement that can make or break a game’s list. Some games require you to get every collectible, and each type – again, using Fable II, there is one for getting all the Silver Keys (The Hoarder) as well as all the Gargoyles (The Gargoyle.) Others will just require a certain percent/number Far Cry 3 has an example actually of both – you do need to get all the Memory Cards (Memory to Spare) and all the Letters to the Lost (Dead Letters); but you only need to get 60 of the Relics (Archeology 101) of which I think there are 120 total. The incentive to get the rest of them is to get extra XP to help with other upgrade related achievements. My problem with Collectible achievements comes in when we start talking about numbers – both of Collectibles, and of achievements. Some games will devote too many achievements to Collectibles, turning the game into a grind/scavenger hunt; or they’ll just have an obscene amount of Collectibles to find – Crackdown jumps out – well into the 800 mark for the orbs.

Call of Duty: Ghosts

Next let’s talk Multiplayer achievements – which is where a list can really break down. Sometimes it’s a game like Tomb Raider, where the focus is really on the Singleplayer, but they add in 15 achievements to get you to play the multiplayer. Now, the MP in Tomb Raider actually wasn’t terrible, but definitely wasn’t the focus. In general, I’m against Multiplayer Achievements if possible. Call of Duty is pretty good at that – especially the Infinity Ward games. There are achievements tied to Spec Ops, but that’s Co-Op, which is totally different than competitive Multiplayer. In general, if a game has to have MP achievements, and I know it will have a good lifespan/player count, I can get behind leveling up achievements and playing on each map achievements. Ones like the Gears of War ones to get 1000 kills with each weapon, when there were only a few kills available in each game are just asinine.

Lastly, let’s quickly talk DLC achievements. On the 360, in order to add in Achievements, some kind of a patch/update is required, but supposedly the Xbox One is going to allow more freedom for developers to add in later achievements. What that amounts to, is on the 360, you’ll generally only see new achievements when a major DLC addition comes out, and all the achievements are tied to that DLC. That isn’t a bad thing, but I think by adding more freedom to the system, it will allow developers to look at how their game is played, and add in achievements to either reward players that are doing that, or drive players to do something maybe they hadn’t yet.

Titanfall

Finally, I want to talk a bit about Titanfall since it comes out tomorrow, and it really is a unique game. It’s pretty much the first game to be exclusively multiplayer – even the story is told through MP. That means that all the achievements are tied to MP – which had me worried at first. When I saw the list though, I felt a lot better, especially since it leaked after the Beta. A lot of the achievements were simply progression based, with a few little skill based ones tossed in – but in general, they were already things I was doing in the Beta. Overall, I don’t think it will end up being a bad list to get most if not all done relatively quickly.