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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    E3 plays it safe, but well

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    Courtesy of Torsten Ward

    Sony and Microsoft’s convention floor boothes compete for attention at the 2013 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California. Fans at the 2014 Expo experienced newly announced titles for the PS3, PS4, PSVista, Xbox 360 and XboxOne.

    Sony utterly crushed its competition at last year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo, effectively taking hold of all that the next generation of gaming has to offer. But winning the 2013 battle doesn’t mean the war is over. Last week, Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony all took the stage in Los Angeles once again to duke it out over the hearts of gamers everywhere. Who came out ahead this year, you ask? Let’s break it down.

    Microsoft

    At 9:30 a.m. on June 9, the company behind the Xbox 360 and Xbox One gave fans everywhere a look at its upcoming roster of blockbuster, exclusive and even indie titles. Yes, you read that correctly. After Sony’s indie-advocating performance last year, Microsoft finally stepped up its game and not only revealed some independent titles coming to its platforms (such as “Inside” and “Ori and the Blind Forest”), but also spent nearly the entire media briefing talking about nothing but games, a topic pushed to the background of its conference last year for a larger focus on the “lifestyle” of gaming’s next generation.

    Fans couldn’t be happier. After a huge change in direction for the Xbox One in which the company matched the PlayStation 4’s price-point and unpackaged the once-required Kinect, Microsoft has found its way back to targeting its core audience: gamers. Microsoft’s briefing was a non-stop train of heavy-hitters and big titles, albeit with no major surprises included. It opened with “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare,” the ever-present franchise’s latest installment, and talked about some highly anticipated third-party titles such as “Assassin’s Creed: Unity,” “Dragon Age: Inquisition,” “Rise of the Tomb Raider” and “Witcher 3: Wild Hunt.” Big deal. The real fun began when the exclusive titles were put into the spotlight.

    “Forza Horizon 2” looks like the most polished racing title ever to grace the screen, “Sunset Overdrive” looks like stupid amounts of zombie-bursting fun, and “Scalebound” looks like a dark, badass “How to Train Your Dragon” game. The studio behind “Left 4 Dead” even announced its next project, “Evolve,” which brings back four player co-operative play against a Predator-like monster. Some compilation titles, including “Fable Legends” and “Halo: The Master Chief Collection,” were announced as well. The biggest surprise of Microsoft’s conference, however, came when the rebooted “Crackdown” franchise and re-imagined “Phantom Dust” were announced. Overall, Microsoft took one small step in the direction of rebuilding trust with its customers and one giant leap towards some hopefully awesome gaming experiences in the coming years.

    Sony

    Speaking of space, Bungie’s “Destiny” acted as Sony’s flagship game in its press conference at 6 p.m. that same Monday. Sony took charge of media outlets everywhere for almost the entire duration of its near-two hour briefing. I say almost because the fluidity and energy of the presentation died somewhere in the middle during talk about network specifics, hardware and content aimed at incredibly niche audiences. That’s not to say services like PlayStation Now and products like Project Morpheus, PlayStation TV and the “Powers” program don’t sound promising based on the information presently available, but delving into hardware specifics and technical prowess in the midst of a press conference immediately following Microsoft’s gaming-focused briefing was a dull but expected move from Sony, especially considering that no definitive content was announced for the PS Vita at all.

    However, as far as PS4 (and PS3) games go, Sony was right on the money. Gameplay from the highly anticipated “The Order: 1886” and “LittleBigPlanet 3” as well as trailers for “Let It Die,” “Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain” and “Bloodborne” were warmly welcomed as exclusives, while third party titles such as “Far Cry 4,” “Battlefield: Hardline,” “Mortal Kombat X” and “Batman: Arkham Knight” followed suit with nothing but pleased reactions from fans everywhere. In fact, “Arkham Knight’s” gameplay was outright astonishing on the PS4. But the biggest hit from the conference happened to be from Hello Games’ four-man studio in the form of “No Man’s Sky,” a beautiful procedural universe containing planets full of dog-fighting space ships, a huge sense of exploration and freakin’ dinosaurs.

    After talking about a huge partnership with indie-publisher Devolver Digital and an intriguing, mysterious title called “Abzu,” all that was left to speak of were the reboots. “The Last of Us” and “Grand Theft Auto V” both have remastered editions coming to the PS4 in the near future, as well as a reboot for Tim Schafer’s “Grim Fandango” and the announcement trailer for a “Ratchet & Clank” movie. Oh, and of course, Sony ended things with a trailer for “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End.” Mic drop, bitches.

    Nintendo

    Nintendo is nothing if not a crowd pleaser — a virtual crowd, that is. For the second year in a row, Nintendo brought its press conference to audiences by means of a digital event. In other words, its pre-recorded rendition of the “conference” allowed Nintendo to save a lot of time presenting and make sure it was delivering information in the best and most fun way possible. Several of these strategies played out as live action “Super Smash Bros.” battles between Nintendo heads Reggie Fils-Aime and Satoru Iwata and a sassy claymation about E3 done by the guys over at “Robot Chicken.”

    However, most of the crowd-pleasing came in the form of, what else: games. Longtime fans of Nintendo had no shortage of bells ringing in their heads during the digital event, as new games in the Mario Bros., Kirby, Yoshi, Star Fox and Zelda series were revealed over the course of E3. More “serious” titles, such as “Xenoblade Chronicles X,” “Devil’s Third” and “Bayonetta 2” as well as “Splatoon,” an original take on the action shooter genre, were announced to the delights of Nintendo’s more adult audience. Kids, on the other hand, will get their fix from Nintendo’s new toy-to-game line called “Amiibo,” which seems to work much like “Disney Infinity” figurines and those of the “Skylanders” series. Already revealed were some of “Amiibo’s” upcoming integrations into games like “Super Smash Bros. Wii U” and “Mario Kart 8.”

    Unfortunately, many of the big titles announced by Nintendo have scheduled release windows in 2015, giving fans of Microsoft and Sony extra time to possibly leave the Wii world and find their fix in the myriad of content available already on the Xbox One and PS4. However, with the upcoming release of “Smash Bros.,” I doubt Nintendo has anything to worry about.

    E3 2014 was played relatively safe by the big three. But that doesn’t mean this year’s conference was any less exciting for gamers everywhere. No clear winner can be determined based on press conferences alone, as many of the games and services announced by Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo are purely subjective in nature. Such a wide variety of entertainment options and an abundance of new, next-generation experiences are on the way and for that reason, the real winners of this E3 are us gamers.

    Except those of us still waiting for “Fallout 4”, “The Last Guardian” and “Half Life 3,” of course. Tick. Tock.

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