Wednesday, June 16, 2010

E3 2010: First Impressions

The first two full days of E3 have now come to a close, and while there is still more to come I thought I’d offer my thoughts on the materials presented thus far. With their overhaul focus on the Playstation Move and Kinect, Sony and Microsoft seem to either want to play catch-up with Nintendo very desperately, or they simply have little new games and peripherals to show off at this year’s expo. Of the two situations, I really hope it’s the former, because – while I could certainly understand highlighting their new motion controlled peripherals on the first day – keeping the Move and Kinect the focus of two whole days of E3 isn’t a particularly effective way of keeping potential consumers interested.

Sony did a fantastic job this past year in realigning themselves to better compete with Microsoft and Sony. For the longest time following the release of the PS3, it seemed Sony could only promise games that would be coming out in the future, never giving the slightest hint of an expected time frame for said releases. Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and Little Big Planet were huge successes for Sony, while titles like Resistance: Fall of Man saw a decent return. But with so few exclusive games that were actually enjoyable to play and had a great deal of replay value, Sony was lagging behind by a long shot.

With the more recent releases of God of War III, Heavy Rain, and Demon’s Souls, Sony has reminded gamers of their last-gen successes with many a PS2 title and in turn has seen a significant spike in the sales of their PS3. Second and third party titles such as Borderlands and Batman: Arkham Asylum have also helped Sony back on its feet, and the recent PSP-exclusive release of Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker played an instrumental role in keeping their handheld market humming along smoothly.

With all of this in consideration, Sony should still be very cautious this coming year with their games and peripherals. Personally, I think Move is stupid, considering that Nintendo’s Wiimote controller has carried the system without a single hitch in three and a half years (not counting initial wrist strap strength issues). But if Sony wants to gamble with the Move, they better have some big titles lined up to fall back on (both new and old) in the event that their expedition into motion-controlled gaming goes belly-up.

Microsoft didn’t deliver a ton of new gaming developments in 2009 and 2010, largely due to financial reasons (with the recession both in the US and in other countries around the world). They relied heavily on second and third party developers for sequels that were as direct as they come, in the forms of Bioshock 2, Mass Effect 2, Assassin’s Creed II, and so on, though this certainly didn’t cripple Microsoft in sales.

Microsoft’s biggest seller for years has been the Halo franchise and they’ve got another title in the series slated for a September release (which, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you probably already know a bit about it). This time around, Bungie is opting for more squad-based gameplay as players experience the fall of Reach firsthand. New armor abilities, weapons, vehicles, and a revamped multiplayer mode make this Microsoft’s golden goose for the Fall, but with most of the game’s major features and selling points highlighted prior to E3, it makes me wonder why this seems to be the only thing outside of Kinect that Microsoft wants to focus on. Where’s Gears of War 3? What about Dead Space 2? These and other titles have been briefly glossed over, but it seems that Microsoft is sticking with what we’ve already heard time and time again as of yet.

Nintendo, who had me both excited and disappointed by last year’s revelations, have proven that they are coming out in full force this year. The 3DS, which many people expected to be the major focus of Nintendo’s showings, has actually been reserved for later on in the show, which has me hoping and believing that Nintendo has some exciting surprises up their sleeve with the new handheld system. As far as games go, they’ve shown off plenty of the upcoming Metroid: Other M, and have finally given a name for the newest adventure in Hyrule, The Legend of Zelda: The Skyward Sword.

But Nintendo didn’t stop with the big names everyone was expecting. They’ve announced Paper Mario, Animal Crossing, Donkey Kong, and Kid Icarus all for the 3DS, as well as Kirby’s Epic Yarn for the Wii. A lot of footage from the new Goldeneye game was shown off, utilizing (obviously) the Wii’s motion controls and replacing Pierce Brosnan with Daniel Craig in one of the most critically acclaimed first-person shooters and multiplayer games of the late nineties. What all will be included as far as new material in Goldeneye remains to be seen, but the footage in and of itself was a much welcomed surprise. The lineup shows Nintendo’s desire to balance fans of new and old gaming styles, with some traditional platforming ala Kirby and the current free-roam do-whatever-the-heck-you-want-whenever-you-want gameplay of Animal Crossing. Or if players want both old-school and new-school in the same game, then they can turn to Metroid: Other M for their fix. No news yet on Pikmin 3, but there’s still plenty of time for news on that – I’m a bit eager with this one in particular, due to how long it’s been since the release of Pikmin 2 and the fact that the third title has been confirmed as being in development.

I’m not saying that things can’t turn the other way around by the end of the expo, but Sony and Microsoft better step up their game if they want to have the slightest chance of stealing any of Nintendo’s thunder. Even Capcom with Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and Resident Evil: Revelations, Eidos and Square Enix with Deus Ex: Human Revolution, and Day 1 Studios with F.E.A.R. 3 are proving to have more impressive showings that Sony or Microsoft right now. I really hope there are many surprises in store from the two companies, otherwise 2010’s E3 will be a very lopsided and (frankly) disappointing expo.

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