It has been many years since I last crossed the floors of E3. Much of it was as expected, peppered with a few little surprises. It remains a spectacle, a glorious exercise in the excess, a marketing sledgehammer wielded to force you to think something is cool. The best things don't have to convince you of course, as cool cannot be dictated. Below are some thoughts of this year's offerings.
Strangest: NBA Baller Beats.
This is, um, Guitar Hero with basketballs. Really. And I can't even knock it because it looked fun, and any basketball coach of any age team would love this as much as the players.
Most cohesive: World of Tanks/Warplanes/Battleships.
They are setting some high goals and look to hit them all. This looks like an amazing gaming community to belong to if these games are your genre of choice. Or not-- they certainly got me interested and I'm not that into wargames.
Most boring: Electronic Arts
Best looking: Ni No Kuni.
OMG I cannot wait for this game. There are vids and screenshots aplenty, but actually seeing it up and running is a sight to behold. It's gorgeous. Rayman Legends is a close second, it was what I'd have thought platform games would have evolved to a long time ago.
Going to have to say Namco, with that gargantuan screen playing Tekken Tag 2. It was a rare wow moment of the show to round the corner and see that monster.
Tomb Raider. Not at all what I, nor I assume many fans, expected in tone or presentation. That was some crazy stuff. I don't even know why they chose to keep the Tomb Raider moniker, because it easily had the strength to stand on its own as a new IP.
UPDATE: Wow, I never could have guessed the reaction to this game which has made itself readily apparent. When I watched the trailer I saw it as a rough take on the character, brutal even, and while there were certain implications of darker areas, to me they were just that, naively thinking no game would ever go beyond what a deliberately constructed trailer might lead some people believe. Now I read (with info from the developers themselves) that darker, controversial implications are anything but, and that's unsettling. The deeper issues continue to express themselves, noted in many other posts around the internet
Most diverse: Square Enix.
They had a really great slate of games, and look to be making some fine choices as a publisher outside of their own games.
Biggest disappointment: Nintendo.
Seriously, why would I ever want to get a Wii U? Maybe its jaded, grumpy old man syndrome, but there was not a single thing shown by Nintendo that excited me. Nintendoland speaks to an audience I am not a part of. Pikmin is just too niche for me. Even New Super Mario Bros. U was... unimpressive. The HD sharpness was definitely there, but I didn't see any of the love or artistic magic that had gone into previous games. Considering the strides that were taken to push the art styles of far more limited systems, finally being given the resolution and processing power of the Wii U did not seem to inspire the Mario team. I hope-- I dearly, truly hope-- I am wrong about this and as the game gets closer the beauty and artistry will be revealed.
UPDATE: I've now seen the official trailer, including footage of the "Van Gogh Level," which is closer to ideas I had hoped to see. More, please!
The Wii U tablet was cumbersome to me, I didn't find it to enhance the game experience. It was strange to decide what screen to look at, the tablet or the monitor. True, the pro controller was much more natural and seeing games like Arkham City and Dead or Alive 5 make things a little more palatable, but nowhere near enough for me to desire the Wii U as a system.
Biggest surprise: 1313.
I was extremely fortunate to have been invited to the closed door demo, and man was it a treat. LucasArt's presentation was elaborate, with a clever "staging set" that provided the illusion you were being brought deep into Courscant. You could tell they were really proud of what they were showing. The game itself looks to be Uncharted Star Wars, but that wasn't what stood out. The character models were unlike anything I've seen in gaming to date. For brief seconds I could have been told it was a live action shot, all while being reminded this was in-game engine. The lip-syncing alone was uncanny, and not in the detrimental way. It pretty much puts to shame any character work being done in other games, and especially going back to the show floor and seeing the likes of Sleeping Dogs, there was no comparison. I guess that's what you get when ILM helps you make a game, I truly hope 1313 will live up to the potential shown.
My game of show: Gameglobe.
Not a game, per se, but a game maker. Akin to the creation modes of Little Big Planet and Mod Nation Racers and totally browser based. I watched the full demo presentation and immediately signed up in hopes of being accepted into the closed beta. The demo was really impressive, with tools and features that look as fun to use as they are creative. I don't know if they were pulling any tricks but it ran at an amazing speed for what it looked like it was handling, they surely must have a formidable cloud infrastructure not only for storage but for processing. I've sampled just about every consumer-based creator there is, alongside my work in professional game development. Game globe looks to be the best bridge between the two, with its own style and possibilities. And much like Minecraft, I was filled with excitement for the possibilities not only of what I could do with it, but what the community it generates will bring.
Best booth babe: Nina Williams.
Not because she's a pretty blonde, but because she played the part. Her costume was the most detailed, though possibly not as suitable for fighting or extended movement as one would be lead to believe. The model took it all in stride and did all the stances and posed with all the fans. That has got to be a tough gig and she should be commended.