By Bill Tressler
It’s now officially summer, which means that the biggest event in gaming, E3, has just come to a close. E3, or the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is an annual, multi-day conference at which the biggest contenders in the gaming world step up with their newly minted games, trailers, and tech demos to hype up consumers for the coming year of products.
As per usual, the “Big Three” (Microsoft, Sony, and Nintendo) announced a slew of new titles and future tech during their allotted conferences. The event also saw a new face added to the presentation list as veteran publisher Bethesda Softworks hosted its very first press conference. This year’s event was certainly action packed, showing gamers that they have plenty to look forward to in the year to come.
Hosting one of the show’s first conferences, Microsoft delivered a presentation that was absolutely packed to the brim with game announcements. Halo 5: Guardians, Forza Motorsport 6, Dark Souls 3, Gears of War 4, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, Rise of the Tomb Raider were just a few of the titles Microsoft had to offer.
Many gamers who own the current generation of consoles have complained that the selection of games offered to date has been pretty slim. Indeed, Microsoft and Sony especially spent the time leading up to, and immediately after, the release of their current generation consoles promoting them as home entertainment systems, with an emphasis on their abilities to stream movies and music, browse the web, and so on. This year, Microsoft sought to show customers that while these consoles are great for movie, television, and music consumption, they are still, first and foremost, gaming machines. There was hardly any mention of Netflix, Hulu, or other streaming services; games were the priority at this year’s expo.
Those announced by Microsoft were an excellent demonstration of the power held by the Xbox One. Halo 5: Guardians was graphically stunning and promises to feature the most action-packed multiplayer experience of the franchise to date. Plus, it will feature the return of beloved nerd hero, Buck, played by Nathan Fillion of Firefly and Castle fame. Fans also saw a riveting cinematic trailer for Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege, featuring truly impressive facial animation and the beginnings of a dramatic international storyline.
Along with its game offerings, Microsoft also had some incredible hardware on display. Case in point: the Microsoft HoloLens. The augmented reality headset, while not designed specifically for gaming, has great implications for the future of the industry. While on stage, Microsoft representatives demonstrated the headset to project an elaborate Minecraft construction onto a table, creating a beautiful hologram that can be manipulated in real time. Microsoft is clearly trying hard to capitalize on and improve upon virtual and augmented reality technology, evidenced by their new partnerships with PC gaming juggernaut Valve and Facebook, who currently owns VR leader Oculus.
Not to be outdone, Sony put the spotlight on Project Morpheus, their own take on the VR headset. They demonstrated the headset being used with a handful of games, including London Heist: Getaway, Super Hypercube, and Rigs: Mechanized Combat League. The demos all seemed to work with surprising efficiency, ranging from manipulating cubes in a sort of 3D Tetris-style puzzle, to looting a desk for valuables while fighting off waves of enemies, to zipping around a futuristic sports arena from the first-person perspective of a mechanized athlete. The controls were said to be mostly intuitive and comfortable, providing a reassuring boost to the confidence of Sony fans looking to be early adapters of the coming VR wave.
Sony’s presentation was also replete with impressive game offerings. The company made waves with its announcement that The Last Guardian, a game eight years in the making and plagued by delays as well as the loss of major creative influences, was still in development. They also announced an HD remake of fan-favorite Final Fantasy VII, as well as new additions to the Hitman and Assassin’s Creed franchises.
To bookend all of these announcements, Sony presented a riveting and graphically beautiful gameplay demonstration of Uncharted 4, one of the company’s most beloved franchises. There was a slight technical hiccup, as the game’s co-director Bruce Straley was unable to get the character on screen to move during the live demo, but it was eventually figured out. Once the game was in motion, viewers were wowed by the graphical power of the PS4, watching series protagonist Nathan Drake being dragged from the back of a jeep through muddy streets like a scene straight out of Indiana Jones.
The console’s sheer computing power was also wonderfully demonstrated in the gameplay demo for No Man’s Sky, a unique open-world (or more accurately called an open-universe) exploration game. It allows players to explore countless unique alien planets on foot, then hop into a spacecraft and fly off through the atmosphere and into space, all in real time, no loading screens needed. The amount of power required to make this type of gameplay possible (and so beautiful in the process) is immense, and is a testament to how quickly gaming technology has been developing these last few years.
The last of the “Big Three” companies, Nintendo, gave its press conference the next day. Rather than take risks on new IPs, the company announced follow-ups to a few of their most popular series. They announced Super Mario Maker, a game which allows users to build their own Super Mario levels from scratch while using their interactive Amiibo figures to change their character skins. The long-awaited return of Fox McCloud was announced with Star Fox Zero. Fan-favorites Link and Samus will also return in their respective games: The Legend of Zelda: TriForce Heroes and Metroid Prime Federation Force.
This year’s E3 was all about showing the fans exactly why they spent $300 – $400 (or more) on their respective consoles. Gamers saw a slew of announcements the likes of which they haven’t seen in years. Beloved franchises made glorious returns, exciting new IPs got some much-deserved time in the spotlight, and, perhaps the most exciting of all, gamers got to see some serious hands-on demonstrations of the much-hyped VR and AR technology. The impressive graphical performances of many of these games, combined with the almost too-futuristic-to-be-true HoloLens, Oculus Rift, and Project Morpheus headsets, provided for a genuinely riveting conference.
Now more than ever, gamers have a reason to be truly elated at the technological state of gaming. So much advancement has already been made, and there is so much yet to come. Gamers, rejoice!