E3 – the trouble with backseat driving

As much as I’d love to offer some serious, considered commentary on this week’s E3, I can’t.  I’m not there, obviously, and so everything I’m hearing about it is 100% hearsay.   I watched streams of the Microsoft, EA and Ubi presentations, but missed both Sony and Nintendo – and those would seem to be the 2 most important ones of the show.  Still, I’m a man with opinions, and so here’s my take on the week so far:

1.  First thing’s first – Giant Bomb’s podcasts have been amazing.  The first night featured an extended, uncensored conversation between Jonathan “Braid” Blow and Microsoft’s E and Stepto which got heated, a little bit, although still being respectful – I’d like to think that it was viewed as “constructive” on both sides.  The second night featured a riveting discussion between the outspoken David Jaffe (God of War, Twisted Metal), a programmer from the Uncharted team, and 2 dudes from DoubleFine, focusing on any number of interesting, “inside-baseball” topics – the development process, the creative process, the marketing process, the trouble with today’s games journalism, etc.  No idea how they’re going to top it tonight, but I’m very much looking forward to it.

2.  Everyone else has moved on by this point, but it bears mentioning:  when all is said and done, Mr. Caffeine was perhaps the most embarrassing thing I’ve ever seen.  I sincerely hope that guy’s out of a job by the end of the week.

3.  I have absolutely no desire for a Wii U.  I think it’s a colossal misstep for Nintendo.  And it’s got the dumbest name I’ve ever heard.

4.  The Playstation Vita is a damned sexy device, and I have to admit that $250 for the wi-fi only model is a very appealing price.  But I still think that the iPhone has fundamentally changed the handheld space, in almost every way that matters, and I can’t help but feel that I wouldn’t really play it all that much.

5.  Hearing lots of positive things about Uncharted 3, Batman, Tomb Raider, Bioshock Infinite, and Skyrim.  I am intrigued by Battlefield but maybe not enough to actually spring for it.  I am less intrigued by Modern Warfare 3.

Beyond that, there’s not much I can offer that you can’t see for yourself.  In the meantime, I can say that I’ve played the first 20 minutes of Infamous 2 – it’s pretty much the same game as last time, which isn’t the worst thing in the world.

E3 2011 – Microsoft impressions

That was a pretty great press conference, actually – a lot better than I thought it would be.  I’m definitely glad to own a Kinect unit, that’s for sure; sure it’s been dry lately, but there’s a lot of really cool stuff coming.

OK, running down the list here…

Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 3 – that was a pretty great looking trailer, certainly; I’m kinda lukewarm on the COD series in general, and especially in light of the Infinity Ward craziness, but I could see myself renting this and enjoying the single-player campaign.

Tomb Raider – whoa.  Looks fantastic.  Love that Lara isn’t sassy and full of quips – she looks scared and vulnerable and the animation really reflects this well.  Nice QTE stuff, very Heavy Rain-esque.

EA Sports – not a lot revealed here, though it’s about time that Tiger Woods got some Kinect support.  (Not sure it’ll improve the putting game, but still.)  I wonder what the 4th game will be (besides Madden, Tiger and Fifa).

Mass Effect 3 – OK, here’s where the Kinect integration got exciting.  Voice recognition for dialogue trees is really cool.  Not so sure about giving combat orders through voice, but still – the conversation stuff looks great.

Ghost Recon Future Soldier – that Gunsmith thing looks fucking insane.

The new dashboard looks pretty rad.  YouTube is a great addition, and if there’s Kinect voice search to go along with it my wife and I may never leave the couch.  The Bing! stuff is interesting, too.  I’ll be more interested in the Live TV stuff if they get Time Warner Cable involved.

I don’t give a shit about the UFC, so…

Gears 3 – that looks like Gears 3.  At this point, my live stream was starting to fall apart, so I had a really tough time seeing how good this actually looked.  I wonder who would win in an arm wrestling / machismo contest between Marcus and Duke Nukem.

Ryse – OK, that’s a hard-core Kinect game.  I might need to get in shape in order to play this one properly.

Halo CE Anniversary – This sounds great in theory, but unless they fix all that backtracking in the 2nd half I kinda don’t give a shit.

Forza 4 – there’ll be more of this at the show, right?  Hard to judge from a trailer.  Still, I’m a fan of the series and this looks promising, as always.

Fable Journey – first person on-rails spellcasting?  OK…

Minecraft/Kinect – Fuck and yes.

Disney – don’t care.  Super-happy children freak me out.  Nobody should be that cheerful.

Kinect Star Wars – my wife will love the shit out of this.  Controls still look laggy, though, and I wonder if Kinect will record video of us playing and have us be the new Star Wars Kids.

Once Upon A Monster – if my wife and I ever have a kid, we’ll be playing this.  Hell, even if we don’t, we’ll be playing this.  THIS is how you have kids on stage, also.

Kinect Fun Labs – so this is where we get to play with all the cool Kinect hacks that were on YouTube last year?  SIGN ME UP.

Kinect Sports 2 – again, my video connection shorted out here, but I saw the intro, and I can at least get behind some of the sports involved.  Still not sure I’ll care after a week or so.

Dance Central 2 – I only know about this from Twitter.

Halo 4 – Yeah, I guess that’s pretty big news.

WIPTW / E3 2011

So I more or less did everything I said I was going to do on Friday.

  • Played the Duke Nukem Forever demo.  I sincerely hope it’s the same demo that was released at PAX, which would explain how… unfinished it looks.  That said, it is what it is.  And in a strange way, I kinda like how dated it is – it’s almost refreshing.
  • Played the Infamous 2 demo, which also is what it is.  In related news, I got my “Welcome Back to PSN” freebies, one of which was the original Infamous.  Infamous 2 certainly looks better than the first one, which is no mean feat; the original looked great.  The new game has been getting generally positive reviews, although nobody thinks it’s better than the original; I suppose I can live with that.
  • Almost finished The Witcher 2 prologue; I’m done with the flashbacks and am now trying to escape from prison.  I am wondering if I should bother staying with it, now that a 360 version has been officially announced; I know it won’t look any better than it currently does on my PC (and it looks phenomenal there, to be sure), but I’m hoping it’ll at least have a better tutorial system.
  • Finished L.A. Noire – did both DLC missions, cleaned up a bunch of side missions, and also went back and 5-starred “The Golden Butterfly”, a Homicide case that I kept screwing up.  Still not happy with how that mission works.  ****MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD***** For one thing, I didn’t like either of the 2 suspects for the murder, but I had to choose one of them, and I’d kept choosing the husband (which kept resulting in a 2-star result).  Cole Phelps is too much of a golden boy to deliberately choose the pedophile, especially since the pedophile clearly didn’t do it.  There are way too many unanswered questions, also – certainly Cole should check out the pedophile’s workplace to see about the rope and the overalls?  And considering what happens at the conclusion of the Homicide story arc, the whole thing just feels pointless.
  • Inched my way forward in Dirt 3.  Did a little bit more of the Outbreak multiplayer mode; goddamn, that’s fun.

Microsoft’s press conference is in less than an hour from the time of this writing, and major news is breaking on Twitter – Halo 4 and an HD remake of Halo CE being the biggest.  I’m more or less done with the Halo franchise, but I suppose this is pretty big news all the same; I just hope it’s not the only big surprise.

Will post later today with impressions of the day’s keynotes.