E3 kicked off this year with the surprise news that the show was looking to relocate elsewhere for next year, on account of construction developments potentially rendering one wing of the venue unusable. This would mark the first year that the E3 has not been held in Los Angeles, and may not even be held in California at all.
Of the two console conferences held today, Sony’s was easily the better – not because it was anything special, but because it was a conservative orthodox presentation on gaming, which is more than can be said of Microsoft’s efforts. Sony wowed crowds with footage from Naughty Dog’s The Last of Us, which looks to be heavily reminiscent of the Uncharted series in terms of fidelity, if not so in terms of brutality, which looks to be stark and shocking in its gritty realism. Sony’s conference also served as the venue for the official ‘announcements’ of God of War: Ascension and Quantic Dream’s Beyond: Two Souls; two games that have been confirmed in all but words for a number of weeks now. It was also confirmed that hipster actress, Ellen Page, has been cast as the dramatic lead for Beyond: Two Souls, lending the game the Hollywood cred that David Cage so earnestly courts.
The Sony conference also saw the announcement of Call of Duty: Black Ops Declassified, an Activision shooter looking to cash-in on the dearth of credible competitive FPS experiences available on the PS Vita. Finally, Sony made a couple of announcements with respect to upcoming PSN services; stating that PSOne Classics will be available to download for the PS Vita sometime this Summer, and that Sony is currently working to implement PS Vita functionality into two PS3 games, Playstation All Stars Battle Royale and Little Big Planet 2. The games will have the PSVita serving as an enhanced controller of sorts, making use of the enhanced functionality of its colourful and responsive touch screen in a bid to undercut Nintendo on their Wii U gimmick. While excitement is high about the PS Vita possessing this kind of functionality, it is easy to doubt just how much of a positive boon it will prove to be for the two games announced as being compatible.
Microsoft were also looking to negate the Wii U’s gimmick, announcing Smart Glass – a service which will allow smartphones and tablet PCs to interact with Xbox content; both game content and entertainment media. Microsoft also announced that Internet Explorer will be coming to the Xbox 360, for owners who are keen to use their gaming console as a shitty PC. This service is not without a catch however, as an Xbox Live Gold Account will be required for it to function – adding yet another service to the list of the things that Microsoft feels entitled to charge for when other console holders give them away gratis.
Other than that, the Microsoft conference proved to be a yawn inducing douchefest for the most part, which placed a heavy premium on style over substance, with celebrities like Usher taking to the stage to endorse Dance Central 3, Flo Rida being trotted out to promote Just Dance 4, and Trey Parker and Matt Stone presenting a commercial for their upcoming title: South Park: The Stick of Truth – a game whose relevance to Microsoft extends to the fact that it will launch with an Xbox 360 exclusive costume pack; ah, but it is good to see Microsoft’s marketing dollars at work, no?
That is not to say that Microsoft’s conference was entirely without noteworthy announcements. The Microsoft conference was used to announce (presumed) Xbox exclusives Gears of War: Judgement and Splinter Cell: Blacklist, the latter of which is of particular note given that Michael Ironside, the long-time voice of Sam Fisher, will not be returning to voice the high-tech protagonist. The Microsoft conference was also used to announce Ascend: New Gods, a drab little game which looks to be of no importance whatsoever.
Today was also host to the conferences of EA and Ubisoft. EA kicked off their conference with the news that they had acquired the rights to UFC from THQ, as THQ made the announcement that they were closing down their San Diego studio responsible for producing UFC titles. EA also announced Dead Space 3, the screenshots of which began to leak onto the internet about a week ago. It would appear that the Dead Space series has lost much in the way of identity in the intervening years since Dead Space 2‘s release – long gone is the lonely corridor crawler, replaced with what looks to be a banal Lost Planet knock-off, replete with mandatory co-op, much like every other EA title. EA also used their conference to make two announcements: firstly, that they are indeed launching a premium subscription service for their terrible game, Battlefield 3, in an effort to have players pay twice for the use of servers; and secondly, that Electronic BioArts’ ailing MMORPG, The Old Republic, will be free to play up to level 15 starting in July.
Ubisoft used their conference to announce three new titles. The horrendously titled ZombiU is to be a Wii U exclusive, and is almost certainly the game that was being teased in Nintendo’s equally horrid hipster-infused Wii U promotion video, which made the rounds a couple of days ago. The second game announced was a competitive shooter going by the inspired title of ShootMania Storm. Finally, Ubisoft announced Watch Dogs, a Deus Ex cum Hitman fusion by way of Grand Theft Auto. Regardless of how derivative it sounds, this game looks to have some serious potential, and sports a futuristic and extremely attractive dystopian setting.