Last week was probably the most exciting week of the year for gamers. We witnessed several days of blissful video gaming heaven at the annual Electronics Entertainment Expo or more commonly known as E3 2013. Talk to any gamer about games you’ll their eyes light up and hear an excitement in their voice about the next generation of consoles and games along some frustrations and anger thanks to Microsoft’s new strategy for their next generation.
E3 is bigger than Christmas for most gamers, we become giddy with excitement.
The Next Generation
The biggest news this year was clearly about the next generation, we got most of the final details on the next generation of gaming consoles from Sony and Microsoft, plus tons of next generation games. As the current generation is going into its 8th year, both the XBOX 360 and Playstation 3 consoles are still going strong with exceptional titles being released. Sony and Microsoft had already announced and showcased their consoles at previous events earlier in the year. However they waited until E3 to unveil the final goodies, details, and most importantly the games.
Microsofts original XBOX One announcement caused an uproar among gamers when they focused on positioning the XBOX One more as an entertainment device to integrate with your TV instead of games. Then having an always online requirement and DRM on games preventing gamers from sharing, selling, or buying their games used. We all felt like our gaming rights were getting violated.
Their E3 conference was the prime opportunity to do some damage control and take corrective action, plus focus on the games. They did focus on the games, a lot of games and nothing else. Nothing addressing gamers concerns about always online or game sharing and used games. In fact, the one bit of bad PR that came after their conference in an interview with Microsoft’s Don Mattrick saying “Fortunately we have a product for people who aren’t able to get some form of connectivity; it’s called Xbox 360”. As if the spotlight on Microsoft were not bad enough. They seriously need to improve their communication and PR strategy or this generation could be their demise in the gaming industry.
On the gaming side things were great. We got a sampling of some great new games along with plenty of sequels including Ryse: Son of Rome, Quantum Break, Spark, Halo, Dead Rising 3, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Forza 5, Battlefield 4, Call of Duty: Ghosts and most notably impressive Titanfall from Respawn Entertainment.
In the end, it seems like Microsoft is simply trying to create the all in one home entertainment solution in one device. This is fine, but they need to remember that the XBOX is a gaming console first and that is why gamers buy it. Focus on the games, make the entertainment stuff secondary, but don’t force it down our throats and don’t force new policies on us that we don’t want. Give us the choice. Right now Microsoft has taken that choice away from some gamers who have no internet connection and those who only buy used games to save money. This has left many gamers with mixed feelings and running over to the Playstation 4 as their next generation console of choice.
Microsoft E3 Press Conference
Sony had announced the Playstation 4 earlier in the year with full specs and some games, but hadn’t showed off the actual device. So their E3 conference provided just that, along with a few punches. The conference was pretty much all about the games until near the end when they came out swinging a few punches at Microsoft by stating that the Playstation 4 will not need an internet connection to play games, nor will they enforce any DRM on games. Thus allowing gamers to share their games, sell their games and buy used games. Then to really hit a home run with gamers as they announced the Playstation 4 will be coming this holiday season for only $399 – POW!
Sure they touched on entertainment stuff a little but it was quick and the focus was really all about showcasing the games. A few new games along with some sequels including Killzone Shadow Fall, inFamous Second Son, Knack, DriveClub, The Order: 1886, Mad Max, and most notably Destiny from Bungie.
Sony E3 Press Conference
The Next-Gen Games
The other thing to note that will impact games as both consoles will connect to a cloud of thousands of servers. It might be too early to say, but it seemed like Microsoft has the stronger cloud strategy and Sony add it through an acquisition and is in the process of figuring it out. Regardless, as game developers begin to develop with the cloud, it will begin to change the dimension of our gaming experience. The games will not only increase in scale but also start to become living worlds that can persist and evolve even when we stop playing. To me this seems like its providing next step in the evolution of gaming and going beyond the limitations of the actual console hardware. Not to say that the new hardware isn’t powerful, it is, but this adds a new layer of opportunity to create a greater immersive gaming experience.
One new feature showcased in several games was the use a tablet as an enhancement to the game. Adding a new layer of gameplay that is purely an alternate or simplified gameplay element. I can see this becoming a cool way for friends that are visiting to participate in your game, allowing them to join into the experience without being fully invested in main campaign or without diving into the usual multiplayer gameplay. Plus it eliminates the need for split screen, so players still get a full immersive experience.
The tablet adds a new layer of gameplay enhancements and options.
For example in The Division demo, the tablet user controlled a flying drone to provide recon for the other players. While in Battlefield 4 it provides a whole new gameplay called Commander Mode providing strategy from a high level overview and issuing commands to squads. Similarly in Watch Dogs it allowed the tablet player to help the console player to evade the cops in a map style overview. In the driving game The Crew you could use the tablet to customize your cars when you’re not playing the main game.
There were many games announced and showcased for current generation of consoles and handhelds as well as the next generation. Many games are even being released on both current gen and next-gen including Watch Dogs, Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, Destiny, Battlefield 4, and Call of Duty: Ghosts. However I really focused on the next-gen games coming out at launch and over the next year. For me, I want to jump into and experience the next generation right away and the games listed below are the ones I’m most looking forward to playing.
Needless to say all the next generation games looked absolutely stunning.
The big surprise from Ubisoft at last years E3 and is really the first next generation game that we’ve waited to be released. It looks to be coming along nicely and is going to provide some new gameplay experiences for us. Providing an open world living and breathing Chicago where the lead character, Aiden Pearce, is a rogue anti-hero on path of revenge who uses technology from his smart phone to hack and manipulate pretty much anything in the gaming world. The game is also supposed to feature some multiplayer capabilities that tie seamlessly into the single player game, however they did not touch on it at E3. Still the game looks super impressive and I can’t wait to play it. Watch Dogs is a launch title for both the Playstation 4 and XBOX One and current generation consoles.
The big reveal from Respawn Entertainment, the new development team from the former leaders at Infinity Ward who are notorious for the best Call of Duty games. Their new game is a fast paced sci-fi shooter that mixes ground battle and agile mechs. It looks like one of the games that is will utilize the cloud and blurs the lines between traditional online shooters and single-player campaigns with a persistent online multiplayer world. The action and pacing is fast and fluid. The gameplay looks sick, it definitely has a similar feeling to the Call of Duty games while clearly introducing new gameplay dynamics and energy. To me this is the must own game that, for now, is exclusive to XBOX One, and could easily be the system seller. Unfortunately it’s not coming out until 2014.
The first game from Bungie that isn’t Halo. Destiny looks to be a massively deep game in a persistent world that also blurs the lines between online multiplayer and single player campaigns with a persistent multiplayer world in a single player campaign experience. It looks and feels like a cross between Halo and Mass Effect games but on a larger scale. The gameplay is very reminiscent of Halo’s while introducing new abilities and powers similar to those experienced Mass Effect. While the gameplay demo was impressive, it didn’t really showcase anything new. However it seems a game of this scope is difficult to showcase when only showing one area in a demo. I suspect that Destiny will be a rich deep gaming experience once released sometime in 2014.
Much like Watch Dogs was the big surprise at last years E3 conference from Ubisoft, this year they followed the same format and finished their conference with The Division. A new Tom Clancy game that puts us in a real-world scenario of how the world would be after a massive epidemic virus wipes out most of the population. Yet another game that is blurring the lines of online multiplayer into a single player campaign experience to combine a persistent online open world role playing game. The gameplay demo here shows how the tablet gamer adds a new layer to the game. I don’t know when The Division is going to be released, I suspect sometime in 2014, but it looked really good and will easily be another system seller that is highly anticipated.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The Witcher 2: Assassin’s of Kings made my Top 10 Games of 2012, so I was very excited to learn more about the sequel. It is reported that the new game will be a massive open world that is 35 times larger than the previous game. Looking like a true next generation game with incredible scale and scope combined with the deep gameplay and excellent story telling to make for an exceptional gaming experience. In addition it seems have greater focus on monster hunting and the variety of monsters in the game. This will be one of those games like Skyrim that will take a few hundred hours or more to complete. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt is set to release sometime in 2014.
I never played the previous Thief games, however I’ve always heard great things about them. The development team that worked on the excellent Deus Ex: Human Revolution is now working on the new Thief game which has me more excited for it. From what I’ve seen so far, the game looks fantastic, set in a rich old world setting where the gameplay focuses on stealth infiltration with the option of action combat. The idea of playing a master thief that requires careful planning and careful stealth gameplay sounds and looks like a lot of fun. It looks to be more of a thinking persons strategic gameplay which should be a nice offset the mindless shooter games. Thief is set to release sometime in 2014.
Ryse: Son of Rome
From Crytek, the developers most famous for the Crysis games, comes a new original game focused on Roman soldier and infantry combat. A great looking game that visually screamed next generation. While the gameplay demo showed off a lot of quick time events, afterwards I learned that they trimmed the combat sequences down for the sake of the demo. Apparently the close quarters combat goes on longer before the quick time events are triggered. Which is good as it looked like they were happening too much. Still the game looked great and has potential to be a fantastic new game. I love the idea of playing the Roman battles from that era and this looks like it could be a visceral experience. We’ll see how good the gameplay is when the final game comes out. Ryse: Son of Rome is an exclusive launch title for the XBOX One.
Dead Rising 3
The first Dead Rising was one of my favorite games when it first came out. It was so much fun. The second one was good but it didn’t stay with me like the first one. Now they announced Dead Rising 3 and it really looks like great example of the next generation in terms of the volume of zombies, visual graphics, and massive scale. It did show of a more gritty and slightly more serious style than previous games, however I’m sure the ridiculous stuff that Dead Rising games are known for is still there. Dead Rising 3 is an exclusive launch title for the XBOX One.
The Elder Scrolls Online
Originally I haven’t been paying too much attention to The Elder Scrolls Online because its always been the assumption that its a PC MMORPG and I’ve always preferred playing my games on consoles. However at E3 this year it got my attention when they said it will be coming to the next generation consoles and that the Playstation 4 will have a beta. The game is essentially the next evolution from Skyrim providing the same gameplay experience but now online and playing with your friends and other people. Another game that looks great and expands upon the massive Elder Scrolls world that we love. The Elder Scrolls Online is set to release in 2014.
Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag
What? Another Assassin’s Creed game? As I’ve mentioned in my others posts I feel like Ubisoft is cranking out AC games too often, apparently they have 3 more AC games in development so there is no signs of it slowing down and we are likely to get burned out on these games. That said, I really enjoyed Assassin’s Creed III and IV: Black Flag looks to provide a dramatic enough shift to keep it feeling fresh and fun. Set in the pirate world with more focus on the ship combat and gameplay. The gameplay footage shown looked fantastic with that classic Assassin’s gameplay that is so much fun to play. This is one that is coming on current and next generation, I don’t know if we’ll see noticeable improvements for the next-gen, but the demo footage shown looked awesome. Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag is set to release in this holiday season for all consoles.
Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts
What would a next generation launch be without the set of staple sequels that we can always rely on getting. Normally I would not mention them here, however I felt both look to up the ante and improve the next installment in each respective series. The demo footage shown in both were great, each showing visually stunning graphics and new dynamics in gameplay. These games will need to continue innovating into the next generation life cycle as the competition is getting stiff from games like Titanfall and Destiny. Both Battlefield 4 and Call of Duty: Ghosts are set to release in this holiday season for all consoles.
Mirror’s Edge 2
Easily the biggest surprise of E3 was the announcement that Mirror’s Edge 2 is in development. The first game was a masterpiece and has become a cult classic among gamers. A first person parkour platformer combined with stealth and action set in a beautiful utopian city using white with primary colors giving it a very unique and original art style. While the video didn’t show off much, it does look to retain the classic art and gameplay style on the next generation consoles. According to Dice, Mirror’s Edge 2 is set to release when it’s ready, most likely on next generation consoles.
There were a ton of games announced at E3 and many more that I didn’t mention here. I only focused on the bigger titles that I’m most looking forward to playing on the next generation of gaming consoles. Even then I only touched on a few of them, others that I’m looking forward to include inFamous: Second Son, Killzone: Shadowfall, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Knack, Murdered: Soul Suspect, Project Spark, Quantum Break, and Wolfenstein: The New Order.
A few other games that looked interesting but didn’t really showcase anything beyond a CG trailer, however they are worth keeping an eye on as they develop, those titles included The Order: 1886, Dying Light, The Evil Within, Mad Max, Sunset Overdrive, and Star Wars: Battlefront.
Then you’ve got current generation games that are coming out that I’m still looking forward to including Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Batman: Arkham Origins, South Park: The Stick of Truth, Beyond: Two Souls, and Grand Theft Auto V.
When looking back and reviewing the games from last years E3 report, it was a good year of games. Of the games that have been released, Dishonored, Dead Space 3, Need for Speed: Most Wanted, and The Last of Us (currently playing) have lived up to their expectations. The few that were released in 2012 made my Top 10 Games of 2012 along with many others.
The disappointments this year were pretty much the same games I listed last year, no signs of The Last Guardian, Half-Life 3 or Episode 3, or Rainbow 6: Patriots. The one game I was looking forward to from 2012’s E3 that is up in the air and missing is Star Wars: 1313. However with the recent Star Wars acquisition by Disney and them handing off all Star Wars games to EA, I suspect we’ll be seeing it at E3 2014.
Overall it was a stellar E3 this year. It showed a clear sign that video games are continuing to evolve and become more robust, beautiful, complex and an immersive form of entertainment that keeps us captivated and engaged. The next year should be a very exciting filled with a new generation of consoles and a ton of killer games. I can’t wait to see what game developers bring us a year later on the next generation, we’ll see at next years E3, until then, happy gaming!
What did you think about the next generation of consoles and games? What are you gonna get? Please feel free to share you thoughts in the comments below and thanks for reading.