E3 2015: Highlights and disappointments

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Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) logo

I never used to pay much attention to the E3 presentations, but for the past few years I have fairly closely followed the conferences by several companies in the gaming industry. There are quite a few games that have just been announced, and I want to give some attention to a few in particular. I will briefly go over each of them, but I will also be talking about some of my disappointments in the expo. Of course, these are all my own opinions. I know there are several games that are coming out that many people are excited about, but I wanted to keep this post as concise as I could, so I couldn’t discuss everything in massive detail. E3 doesn’t finish until tomorrow, but my excitement for some of these games couldn’t be contained and I needed to get it written down as soon as possible.

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Screenshot of Cloud Strife from Final Fantasy VII Remake teaser trailer

“The reunion at hand may bring joy. It may bring fear. But let us embrace whatever it brings, for they are coming back.”

I want to get this first one out of me as soon as I can. At both the Sony and Square Enix conference, the remake of Final Fantasy VII was announced. People lost their minds at the conference, and I don’t blame them. This is one of the most beloved games of all time. Admittedly, I have only ever played a small amount of the original game, which came out 18 years ago, but I am pretty well acquainted with it. Upon its release, my cousin got me to watch the film Final Fantasy: Advent Children, which served as a sequel to the game. I absolutely loved it. At first I didn’t quite understand it as I didn’t know the story of the first game inside out, but I got the gist of things. I found it fascinating and I looked into the original game more. I feel as though picking up the original game now might be a wasted effort on me as the older style of gameplay might end up being more of a hindrance to me rather than a nostalgia trip. After watching Advent Children, I did wonder if Square Enix would ever revisit their classic game and create a remake. The characters looked incredible in the film, and the most recent additions to the game franchise showed that it was possible. My Facebook was flooded with talks of a remake for Final Fantasy VII and I found myself a lot more excited than I thought I would be. Although I never fully played the original, I feel as though I am coming back to something that I loved a long time ago, even if it wasn’t through gameplay.

The reaction during the conference was incredible, and after watching a few reaction videos on YouTube made the announcement even better. The teaser trailer was exactly that. A massive tease. I found myself grinning at the music that I recognised from the film, which were remastered from the original game. Seeing only the back of the protagonist’s head had me even more excited. What I am interested in seeing is if the entire game will look like the cinematic teaser trailer that was shown, or if it will be more of a HD remake. I admit, it will be hilarious to see Cloud cross-dressing and riding a dolphin in the next-gen graphics style, but at the same time it may take something away from the game. Incredible graphics aside, the cartoony style of the original game made moments like those aforementioned more humorous, but Square Enix may have more to surprise us with.

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Protagonist with Trico

Shadow of the Colossus (2005) was undoubtedly one of the best games created for the PS2, and as such another game by Team Ico has been highly anticipated for several years. The Last Guardian has elements of both Ico (2001) and Shadow of the Colossus, most notably the enormous creature known as Trico, or Toriko in Japanese, who serves as your companion. Its size is reminiscent of the Colossi, and the comradery between the two characters is reflective of the player and the horse, Agro, in Shadow of the Colossus. I was extremely confused by the design of Trico at first as I wasn’t quite sure what it was. Initially, I thought it was a griffin, but apparently its Japanese name, Toriko, could be a portmanteau of ‘tori’ (bird) and ‘neko’ (cat), although I thought its face was more like a dog rather than a cat. Either way, it was confusing.

After I got over this I realised just how perfect the creature is. It is beautifully constructed and the imaginative and creative mind of Fumito Ueda never ceases to amaze me. It fits in so well with the environment, which is also stunning in its own right, and the map appears to be as vast as its predecessors. I did notice that the young boy the player takes control of is less detailed than Trico and the environments, which made him seem slightly out of place but it becomes less noticeable through gameplay. Ueda has also confirmed that the player will be able to ride and control Trico, but it will be challenging as they must learn his behavioural instincts. Ueda claims that he wanted to create a realistic animal, and so the player will be able to utilise him but also have to coerce the creature into doing actions. The player will also have to care for the creature if it becomes injured. All of these features make the game seem incredibly lifelike, and I know I’m not the only one when I say the wait was worth it.

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Lara Croft brandishing a bow and arrow

Once again, Square Enix are knocking out any competition they see. I thoroughly enjoyed Tomb Raider (2013), it brought something new to the franchise and I wasn’t expecting it to. The level of exploration of the huge map was a pleasure to progress through and the story was well paced. The different types of weapons and approaches to combat variations were extensively thought out, and it just made the game a joy to play. I was quite disappointed to hear that Rise of the Tomb Raider was going to be an Xbox One exclusive. I was genuinely upset by this as I had enjoyed its predecessor so much that I was very excited for the sequel. Only, it turned out that I and many other people were completely wrong. The game will not be exclusive to Xbox One, but it will come to Microsoft’s console first before being released on both PC and PS4.

Lara is looking quite amazing. I was highly impressed with the design of the infamous protagonist in the 2013 game as she looked like a real person. I have mentioned the depiction of women in games in my review of Mortal Kombat X (2015) and how they are portrayed with almost impossible body types, but Square Enix have done me proud. Personally, I think Lara is looking at her best in Rise of the Tomb Raider. The developers made sure to make the game seem as realistic as possible, such as giving Lara bruising or dirtying her clothes when she gets into combat or falls. I was impressed during the gameplay to see Lara fumbling and struggling through the snow, adding a kind of weight to the environment. She doesn’t progress through things easily, and this accompanies the fast paced action in the game as you’re willing Lara onwards. Danger is always imminent, and that makes it all the more exhilarating. The levels are gorgeously constructed and I can already tell that exploring them will be just as fun as its predecessor.

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Dogmeat returns

I’ve already spoken a little bit about Fallout 4, but I mainly concentrated my review on Fallout 3 (2008) as I played through it for the first time. After seeing some of the content of Fallout 4, I can say I am sold on this game. Just the customisation of the character had me in awe. No more scrolling through pages and pages of options, just select part of the face and move your analogue to adjust their face to your liking. It’s fluid and easy, and it doesn’t seem pointless anymore. Giving your player a face was almost redundant in previous installments, even though you could play in third person, but now third person is even more dynamic. The movements aren’t as clunky and the environment is a wonder (a ruined one at that) to behold. Not only this but the developers have recorded 1000 of the most popular names, meaning that the characters will possibly be able to refer to your character by name for the first time ever. I doubt my name will be on there, considering I can’t even find it on a keyring in souvenir shops. It’s not a huge loss, but I will be impressed if my name is said.

The German Shepherd who is seen in the trailer can also be utilised to scout ahead and gather supplies for you, which is a helpful way of knowing what lies ahead in the desolate wasteland that you find yourself in. The protagonist also has a voice actor, who has yet to be confirmed but after listening to them more I came to the conclusion that it’s not either Nolan North or Troy Baker, which is a shame as I’m a fan of both of them. Overall this game just seems so compelling and I can’t help but feel excited by it. The graphics are amazing, the story is amazing, the improvements are amazing. Everything is just amazing. Bethesda have created something special, and I can’t wait to experience the game for myself.

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Pre-Alpha stages of the game

I won’t say a lot about this one, but it deserved a mention. I cannot remember the last time I played a Tom Clancy game, but I know they’re awesome. Just from the trailer, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands looks absolutely spectacular. I know The Division and Rainbow Six: Siege are coming out, but this stood apart from those in my opinion. It may have just been the clever trailer, but I appreciated its artistry. The trailer showed us the options we can take to dispatch our enemies without giving too much of the game away. It showed the many different environments that can be explored, from a cramped jungle to the heights of a mountain, indicating that the game is immensely huge. The main selling point of this game is variety. There are different places, different vehicles and different strategies, which I think is a great thing to endorse. Many games are becoming monotonous or simply quite boring. Ghost Recon: Wildlands is an interesting take on the open world aspect that many people adore. I’m excited to see how this one turns out.

Alright, now that I’m done singing praises for a few games that I’m excited about, let’s move onto the disappointments. Firstly, lets start with what the hell were Nintendo doing? Muppet type things in their conference? Come on, guys, you can do better than that. Or maybe not, actually. Star Fox 64 is near and dear to my heart, I loved that game as a kid. It was fun, exciting and completely inaccurate (I’m looking at you, “barrel rolls”). Upon hearing that Shigeru Miyamoto was working on a new Star Fox game I was understandably thrilled about it, and I thought it would be in great hands as he was the guy who produced it in the first place. Instead, the game has been butchered. I understand that Nintendo like to keep the art style of their original games so as to stay true to them, as they have done in their HD remakes of The Legend of Zelda games for the 3DS. However, Star Fox Zero just seems as if its lacking in artistic quality. I wasn’t that impressed with how the game looked, and by the sounds of it, not a lot of people were. Of course, there is always the argument that gameplay wins over graphics, so I looked more into how the game was played and it was okay at the best. Some of it felt stiff and forced, and I just wasn’t feeling that great about it anymore by this point. It’s a great series of games, just not when its done like this. I suppose there are still time for improvements, but until then I’m turning away from Star Fox.

Another, more unexpected, disappointment was Gears of War 4. Now, I honestly thought they were going to stop making more Gears games after the third one, but I honestly should’ve realised sooner after the release of Gears of War: Judgement. Microsoft can’t seem to let a franchise go, and so here we have it. Admittedly, I think the game is aesthetically great and I can already see that they’ve made improvements such as the roadie run feature, which was next to impossible to control in the original games unless if you were going straight. But that’s about as much as my praise goes at the moment. The other new thing is the developer, The Coalition. Does this situation not sound familiar? I’ll get back to that in a moment, I do have a comment that will tie into that. As I watched the gameplay, I noticed something that was all too recognisable. There were bulbous growths on the walls and floors of the environment, bright orange in colour and were to be avoided. I’ll get straight to the point. They looked like what the parasitic lifeforms known as the Flood leave behind in their wake in the Halo franchise, which is yet another franchise that Microsoft couldn’t let go. Developers of Halo, Bungie, left Microsoft and their franchise was then sold onto 343 Industries, who proceeded to make Halo 4 and the newly announced Halo 5: Guardians. Bungie were clearly not tired of making Halo, as Destiny feels and looks the exact same. However, the rights to Gears of War were bought from Epic Games and sold to The Coalition. I feel like both of these titles are stretching out too much, though at least they’re not as bad as the Assassin’s Creed franchise but I won’t go into that again.

On a more positive note, I will give a few games some honourary mentions. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s EndStar Wars BattlefrontDeus Ex: Mankind Divided and Batman: Arkham Knight all look to be very promising games. Each of them appear amazingly crafted and truly great testaments to the gaming industry. However, I’m extremely excited for two games, one being World of Final Fantasy. I almost lost my mind when I saw how cute the characters were, so I’ll be keeping an eye out on that one. Another game is Unravel, which is an adorable looking game featuring a character completely made of yarn. It’s also a platform game so this one is right up my street. I was a bit shocked to see that Dark Souls III was announced, seeing as it hasn’t been that long since the last game in the franchise. Not only this but Bloodborne (2015) has only come out in the past few months. It might be a bit too soon to announce another Souls game, but it does look like it’ll be good. Overall, E3 has been a rollercoaster. Of course, there were some major disappointments but the anticipation for a lot of these games is overwhelming. I suppose I could turn a blind eye to the the mediocre parts of these past few days and focus on the amazing games that will be coming out.

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