Last week was E3 2016, and it was epic. I know that term has been so overused in our modern day that it has become nearly devoid of any substantial meaning, but I’ve been following E3 news and events for about a decade now and this year’s E3 just might have been the best I’ve ever seen, so epic is a fitting description of it. This year’s lineup of games was simply phenomenal, and even though I’m not interested in all of them, there’s no denying that the sheer number of quality titles we are getting over the next year is an embarrassment or riches for the gaming community.
On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of this week I’m going to be giving my own thoughts and observations on this year’s E3. I won’t talk about every game or every announcement, but will instead be focusing on the ones that meant something to me. On Monday I will discuss the EA, Bethesda, and Ubisoft press conferences; on Tuesday I will discuss the Microsoft and Sony press conferences; and on Wednesday I will discuss the showcase from Nintendo, as well as a few miscellaneous items.
Today is Tuesday, so it’s time for the conferences of the two great rivals – Microsoft and Sony.
* Microsoft put on an outstanding show at E3. It was one hour long hardly missed a beat.
* The conference began with the reveal of the Xbox One S. It is a new iteration of the Xbox One that is 40% smaller, supports 4K resolution output, has an integrated power supply (so no more power brick), an updated controller, and a few other improvements. The Xbox One S comes out in August.
* During the rest of the conference there was a repeated emphasis on the Xbox Play Anywhere initiative, which allows many digitally purchased games to be played across both Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. While this is great in concept, I’m wondering what is going to be done about competitive games like Call of Duty, where players with a mouse and keyboard have a notable advantage over people using a controller.
* The first game shown was Gears (of War) 4. With the way Gears of War 3 ended you might have thought that the people of the planet Sera had finally caught a break, but you’d be wrong. A generation has passed, and now the planet is threatened by a new menace called the Swarm. The gameplay demo showed off the singleplayer campaign being played cooperatively, and it looks like more of the same dumb fun I expect out of the series.
* Killer Instinct and Recore both made appearances, but they’re not games I’m interested in.
* To my surprise, Final Fantasy XV showed up (I had figured they would be at the PlayStation conference). A gameplay demo showed a three-way fight between the protagonists, a giant, and opposing forces. The demo itself wasn’t that interesting and in the first minute I wasn’t sure if they guy playing it was having difficulty or taking hits on purpose. I’m still going to play the game, but a better section of the game should have been shown.
* Like at the Ubisoft conference, there was a trailer for The Division. For me it was yet another reminder that I have to get around to playing it sometime in the next year.
* Battlefield 1 was next. The only new thing was the announcement that players on Xbox One, and people who had subscribed to EA Access, would be getting the game a little earlier than other people. They showed the same trailer that was at the EA conference, which is a good trailer, but redundant since everyone had already seen it.
* I don’t think I will every completely understand the appeal of Minecraft.
* A trailer for Inside was shown. Inside is being made by the same studio that made Limbo, which I played but but didn’t finish because I didn’t like it. Limbo is now free on Xbox One, so maybe I should give it a second chance.
* A new slew of indie titles are coming to Xbox One. I’ll probably miss most of them.
* A trailer for a new game called We Happy Few was shown. I don’t know what to think of this one.
* Tekken 7 is coming out next year and we got both a trailer and a demo for it. Tekken games are among the few fighting games I care about, though, like all fighting games, I’m terrible at them. Series producer Katsuhiro Harada showed up, wearing some sort of traditional Japanese priest outfit. Harada is known for his eccentricities and showmanship, so him wearing something like that to E3 should be no surprise.
* Later we got a demo for Scalebound, the latest game from studio Platinum Games. Platinum’s reputation has taken a hit over the last few years, so perhaps Scalebound will be their redemption. The game strikes me as DMC with dragons. No idea if it will be any good or not.
* A pair of trailers for Sea of Thieves were shown. No interest in this one.
* Halo Wars 2 had a new trailer. While I didn’t play the first Halo Wars, I might check out this one since it’s both a Halo game and a strategy game.
* The Microsoft conference ended with the big announcement (actually, since it was leaked online, I guess we should call it a confirmation) of Project Scorpio, which has no relation to Hank Scorpio, the villain from that one episode of The Simpsons. Project Scorpio is the next version of the Xbox One and will be a significant hardware improvement over the current Xbox One. It promises to be the most powerful game console to date, and a few of the internal components were shown. This new Xbox will come out next year, and I’m guessing Microsoft will do its own event in the future to reveal the final product.
* After the conference was over, it was pointed out that during the entire event there was not a single Xbox console exclusive game shown. Every game in the conference can also be played either on PC or on PlayStation. This doesn’t detract from how well the conference went, but it is interesting to think about.
* After Microsoft’s strong performance, I was wondering whether or not Sony could deliver a strong response, but they did. The Sony conference was roughly an hour and twenty minutes, but unlike the Ubisoft conference, I wanted it to keep going because the hits never stopped.
* The Sony conference began with an orchestra and an all-male choir. Sony certainly upped the bar on showmanship this year.
* The first game was the new God of War. Leaving the Ancient Greek world of the previous games behind, we now find Kratos in a Nordic setting. The gameplay demo had a The Last of Us vibe, and it looks like this God of War will be a reinventing of the series. Crazy fact: the orchestra from the start of the conference supplied all the music during the gameplay demo.
* After God of War there were four game trailers/demos in quick succession. See below.
* Bend Studio, which has been MIA for years, finally announced its new game, called Days Gone, which is a game about a motorcycle gang member trying to survive the zombie apocalypse.
* A new trailer for The Last Guardian was shown, but more importantly we got a release date. It is set to come out on October 25. After a decade of waiting, I still don’t totally believe this game exists.
* An impressive demo of Horizon: Zero Dawn came next. Taming wild robots, destructible environments, slow motion, dialogue options, and demon robots were all shown.
* A trailer for Detroit: Become Human wrapped up the first third of the Sony conference. The game is being made by Quantic Dream, a studio known for making very unique games. The story of Detroit: Become Human seems to center around androids in a futuristic Detroit struggling with issues of consciousness and trying to find their way in a human society that is not always friendly to them. The trailer showed an android named Connor who is a hostage negotiator and demonstrated the various ways a hostage crisis can play out, depending on what choices Connor makes.
* The next segment of the Sony conference was dedicated to PlayStation VR. One of the things shown was the reveal trailer for Resident Evil 7. While I’m not a horror game fan and I won’t be buying any VR equipment for at least a year, I’m always interested to see what game developers are working on for VR.
* PlayStation VR will launch on October 13 and will retail for $400, making it cheaper than other VR offerings such as Oculus and Vive.
* Right after the VR section we got a gameplay trailer for Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare. At first I wasn’t sure if this was still part of the VR announcements, but after a minute it was clear that it wasn’t. As always with Call of Duty games, I’m looking forward to playing the singleplayer campaign but I’ll be skipping the multiplayer. The gameplay trailer showed battles in space and then boarding an enemy ship, which reminded me of the space battles in Call of Duty: Ghosts. It also appears you have some level of choice in what order you tackle the missions.
* The first three Crash Bandicoot games are getting remastered for the PlayStation 4. I never played any of the Crash Bandicoot games (which were on PlayStation 1) but I know this is a big deal for a lot of people.
* Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens got a trailer. Although its easy to construe the Lego games as being for kids, having played some of them I can say they are legitimately fun and as a Star Wars fan I’ll be playing this one eventually.
* The crowd at the conference freaked out when Hideo Kojima made a dramatic entrance and revealed a trailer for his next game, called Death Stranding. I have no idea what this game is about. Kojima trailers are oftentimes odd, but his track record has made him a god among men with the gaming community, so no matter what he does it will be labeled a masterpiece and no one will question it.
* A new Spiderman game was announced, and it is being made by Insomniac. While I would have preferred a new Resistance game, it was a good reveal trailer and hopefully will be a good game.
* The Sony conference ended with a demo of Days Gone (the Bend game from earlier). The zombies move like a living river (like in the movie World War Z, but not as fast) and the second half of the demo was the protagonist’s desperate escape from them.
* A final montage trailer showed various games coming to PlayStation over the next year.
* While I’m not a zombie fan, I’m very interested in the placement of the Days Gone demo at the end of the Sony conference. You would think it would have been more fitting to do it after the reveal trailer, but instead it was the final demo of the show. A few days before the start of E3, Sony announced that the PlayStation Neo (aka the PlayStation 4.5) was not going to be at E3, and I wonder if originally the Neo was going to be the final big announcement, but it got removed on late notice and the Days Gone demo was separated from its reveal trailer to fill the gap. This is all purely speculation, but it would make sense.
* Interestingly, there was not a single announcement during the Sony conference related to the PlayStation Vita.
* Like Microsoft, Sony had a strong conference. It might just be the best Sony conference to date, and if not then it’s definitely in the top 3.