In about a month, everyone in games and games development will once again convene for the almighty obelisk that is E3; a conference that's coming in hot on the heels of Omega May's game onslaught, and the one-last-thing June 7th release of Mirror's Edge: Catalyst. We're getting the front-loaded spring out of the way, which bodes well for anyone doing an E3 presentation because we're coming to this buffet already somewhat sated. So, don't worry, EA! Even if you disappoint us, we won't choke down your bullshit with too much anger.
That being said, let's get down to the Big Things happening at E3 2016:
BETHESDA AND ROCKSTAR: SEQUEL MANIA
Bethesda had a nice showing last year in their introductory keynote at E3, spilling the beans on DOOM, Dishonored 2, and the extended Fallout 4 presentation. Given the excellent news that Dishonored 2 is coming in November, expect that to be the belle of the ball, with perhaps a bit of news on their next Elder Scrolls game. If the latter object is still running on the same engine Fallout 4 was, it'll be hard to get hyped for another venture with that rickety rickshaw.
Rockstar is rumored to have someting special to share, and if they do indeed have their own press reveal, they'll probably show off the internet's worst kept secret: a Red Dead sequel/prequel (depending on how you decipher the leaks). Having played a bit of the last one, it'll be nice to finally have a Red Dead game that doesn't run like absolute dogshit on a modern console; GTAV showed us that Rockstar is finally capable of nailing down solid framerates, so I'd be the first to jump on the Marston horse if we do indeed get another crack at their cowboy game. Oh, and Mafia 3, I guess.
Disappointment Probability: Very low to virtually nonexistent for both. Dishonored 2 will likely look incredible and anything Rockstar has on their plate will be golden.
MICROSOFT/SONY: MEET THE NEW CONSOLES / SAME AS THE OLD CONSOLES
The big elephant in the room here is the PS4K plus whatever the hell Microsoft's answer will be. How will early adopters to the PS4 take to the supposed upgrade of their console mid-stream? Is the XBone getting something similar? It's going to be a potentially funny and disastrous reveal, but that's all we have to go on for now. We're approaching this show post-Uncharted, post-Quantum Break, and post-dream scenario via FF7/Shenmue/Last Guardian. I'm not really sure what's next for Sony, other than showing us more of Zero Dawn or assuring us of the release date of Last Guardian? We're approaching the end of a cycle and entering a new one filled with Final Fantasy shit and some Deus Ex previews for August. I heard some rumors about a PS4-exclusive Spiderman game that I hope to God is true, but I won't hold my breath.
As for XBone, expect more parity to come with their Windows 10 schematic, shortening the gap between their PC and console gameplan. Hell, I've been enjoying Killer Instinct on my laptop just fine, so I'm all for things like Cuphead to make the leap to the Windows Store. Xbone never really blows me away with their presentations, so my level of hype regarding their offerings is pretty null--I don't care about Gears of War 4 or Crackdown. I'm open to being surprised, especially if it involves more happiness from our celestial baby, Hideki Kamiya, and his Scalebound project.
Disappointment Probability: Moderate. These "new old console" iterations could easily be a poison chalice here, but this may ultimately be a wash and not really affect the playerbase (unless it promises Bloodborne at blistering 60FPS speeds). After 2015's wish-granted ragnarok from Sony, my expectations are in slight regression, but are not necessarily negative. With XBone, I'm decidely neutral as always.
NINTENDO: SEE YOU IN 2017, KIDS
Originally, I assumed Nintendo's presentation via Nintendo Direct would likely be the most important part of this year's show, if not the most important show of Nintendo's tenure in almost a decade. Coming off a system that suffered from a weak base yet offered a small wealth of treasures (3D World, Kart, Bayonetta, Smash, Splatoon, Mario Maker, Pikmin 3), Nintendo has to climb up from the ruins of a well-meaning but futile effort and show us that it's still relevant in a climate fraught with smartphones, tablets, and still-evolving consoles. The lid has been locked down tight on what exactly the NX will be, and we aren't quite sure how much more powerful it will be compared to its competition or the erstwhile WiiU. It recently came to light that not only will NX not show up at E3, but only the WiiU version of Zelda will be playable--and that's it for the show floor. While we're getting info much later in 2016 (probably Tokyo Game Show) to lead up to the March 2017 release, I can't help but feel like the company has sat out the entirety of 2016 (unless you count Fire Emblem Fates.) I was bitterly disappointed til I remembered Nintendo hasn't done anything relevant for me besides Fates in forever, so join me in pretending the company doesn't exist until November or something.
Disappointment Probability: Likely High. I mean, unless Zelda does your taxes and gives you free milkshakes, it's gonna be a tough sell to bank your hopes on this one game. There are so many other good games coming out that it will be easy to simply not give a shit about an underwhelming Zelda--or Nintendo, in general--for the majority of this year.
EA/UBISOFT: ZILLION DOLLAR UNDER(WATCH)DOGS
EA, now that they have tanked Battlefront into a boring slog and finally did the Lord's work with a Mirror's Edge sequel, have little else to offer besides their big money baby: Mass Effect. I'm not expecting to see that much of Andromeda, but it sure would be nice if they gave us something to drool over when we aren't drooling from brain damage at the boring sports shit they preview. EA is actually straying away from the pack this year with their own EA Play event, held independent from E3 but still happening in the same 48-hour time frame. What are you plotting, EA? Dead Space 4? God, if only.
Ubisoft has likely realized that they milked the cow for all its worth with Far Cry Primal and AC Syndicate, opting to take a break from both franchises at E3. Maybe we'll get another terrible Watch Dogs? Who knows, but what we do know is that both Watch Dogs and "play for 3 weeks then have nothing to fucking do" megahit The Division have set records in the past in terms of profit. This depresses the shit out of me because both games are terrible, mediocre shit. Ubisoft will, as usual, promise a bunch of shit while Aisha Tyler helps us all be ashamed to be watching this fucking conference.
Disappointment Probability: Null and void. I've never expected ANYTHING from EA or Ubisoft, save for when EA had the good grace to greenlight Catalyst seemingly just for me. EA at least has some clout with a new Mass Effect on the way, but Ubisoft may have dug themselves even deeper into the "who gives a fuck" abyss with their new superstar skinner box The Division and a likely sequel to Watch Dogs on the way. I look forward to hearing about how their interesting projects--Wild and Beyond Good + Evil 2--have been cancelled.
DARK HORSES / WILD CARDS
The following are random games that don't necessarily have a single conference attached to them, but I hope to see more of them at some juncture at E3:
Persona 5: This is a bit of a recent concern for me, given that I finally own a Vita and became hooked on Persona 4. Though I'm a little miffed that P5 will once again be a high school affair, more Persona is never a bad thing and I'll gladly play this one whenever it comes out (in fucking 2018 or so). I'd expect this to be more of a Tokyo Game Show thing, though.
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim: I absolutely love Vanillaware. Muramasa is one of my favorite games ever, Dragon's Crown was a ball, and I can't wait to sink into the revamped Odin Sphere this summer. Vanillaware trying their hand at some kind of giant mech game set in the neo-future sounds like an amazing concept far removed from their usual swords and sorcery settings, but all we've seen is a tiny trailer from last autumn's Tokyo Game Show. All I need are some gameplay previews and I'm good with waiting until 2017 or so.
No Man's Sky: How many E3s has No Man's Sky been at? It seems like its been around forever, but finally touches down slightly after E3 finishes. There's time for one last hurrah, which I expect to take place on Sony's stage given how much they've hawked it. Will the wait be worth it? Personally I love the idea of flying around and categorizing species while crashing into shit so this game could be a winner for me.
Ruiner: Devolver Digital is screaming to life with a game that pretty much pisses all over Hatred's grody, uninteresting corpse and puts a Hyper Light Drifter spin on it. With an aesthetic that looks like it was pulled from a Queens of the Stone Age meets Deus Ex video and gameplay that may out-Drifter Hyper Light Drifter at its own plan, Ruiner could be a secret GOTY candidate much in the bloody vein of SUPERHOT.
Allison Road: The successor to our dearly departed P.T. has not been forgotten, even if it kind of dropped off the face of the earth this year. Not a peep has come out of Lillith Ltd. since they got picked up by a bigger publisher in Team17 (the guys who do Worms) and I've been wondering how far along they've come since the excellent tech demo. Seeing anything about this title at E3 would be a massive longshot, but I can dream.
Wild Guns Reloaded: A late addition to this list and one of the most pleasant surprises of them all, Wild Guns was originally an underrated classic for the SNES. Natsume has decided to reach up from the grave grasping the corpse of this forgotten gem, promising a remastered and retooled exclusive arriving on the PS4. Color me excited-as-fuck to peep this dream scenario resurrection.
Resident Evil 7: Based mainly on the good word of the somewhat-dependable Serkan Toto, a Tokyo-based analyst and CEO of consultancy firm Kantan Game, Resident Evil is going to go "back to its horror roots" and will be partially designed by one of the dudes responsible for MGSV and P.T. To say I'm excited about this would be putting it mildly, especially because Capcom is gearing up for something big to launch early first quarter in 2017.
Heavily Rumored Spiderman: It's just a rumor (possibly backed by the same guy who leaked info about God of War 4, as well as a motion capture artist's resume) but God damn I hope it's one that sees fruition at E3. Spiderman games have been in freefall since SM2 and Web of Shadows; seldom is something as fun as the webslinging physics when done correctly. Beenox has slowly but surely buried the game series into the fucking ground for years, even though its clear the concept is too good to just remain stagnant. Is Sony helping fund the dream scenario of a GOOD fucking Spidey game? Is this the mystery game Sucker Punch has been working on? This is probably the biggest stretch of the lot, but I haven't given up on a good Spider-Man game.
E3, for all its bullshots and Lies: As Dictated By Todd Howard, is still a fun event for me every year. Games are fun, and this is a big dumb show all about them, so let's all be positive and keep basking in the great year that still isn't over. SEE YOU IN THE MOSH PIT, CHIPPIES.
My first experience with Uncharted came at the tail-end of PS3's cycle, when I purchased one about a year before the PS4 came out and feasted upon all the games I didn't get to play for the last eon. One of my friends was generous enough to insist I dive into the Uncharted series--a system seller and a staple in the Sony library. The Last Of Us had not come out yet, so my exposure to Naughty Dog's new era was very limited indeed. At the behest of others, I skipped Drake's Fortune and moved on to Among Thieves. From the train crash onward, I was absolutely in love with what amounted to Indiana Jones made flesh in gaming form; the setpieces were amazing, the presentation fresh, and the graphics mindblowing. I enjoyed Uncharted 2 the same way I enjoyed Last Of Us: a huge experience that didn't easily worm its way into my head as a "must-replay" due to its journey's depth and overall gunplay being not as fun as you'd want it to be. Uncharted 4 is supposed to be the crown jewel of Sony's technical prowess--does it make the grade?
Perhaps surprisingly, I don't have too much to say about UC4 in terms of the things it accomplishes; it's a big step up from certain pitfalls in the series due to new aim options, stealth play, grappling hook segments (which always make any game better), and even some nice vehicle levels. It's an Uncharted game for sure, and one that approaches the end of the line with tact and proper emotional resonance. All the loose threads of deus ex fraterna Sam Drake and the story of their origins are tied up nicely in a tale more grounded than the mystic bullshit of previous games, instead focused on a complex pirate utopia that predictably turns to hell. There's treasure, betrayal, flashbacks, and more crates than you can handle--this is Uncharted at its best, but it's also on a somewhat predictable leash.
The problems I have with UC4 basically stem from familiarity, which in turn breeds contempt. I can't personally say I felt contempt, but rather a degree fatigue crept up as I limped to the last fourth of the game, followed by relief as I came to the closure. Climbing up cliffsides followed by a shootout followed by a box or rope puzzle bored me after a long while, but luckily the bigger setpieces (the getaway/rescue of Sam, the galleon invasion, the auction house) are just as memorable as the thrills I played through back in UC2. I was hammering the X button to rush through a few climbing segments near the end, as the only worthwhile part of those later missions came from staring in awe at the vistas and locations ND has crafted.
This game has to be one of the most technically gorgeous, if not the most gorgeous, on a home console; there's really no comparing the way it looks to anything else in existence. How everything runs at a stable 30fps is beyond me, but I wish ND would share the wealth so we could get more quality like this on the PS4.
I'm not sure how well Uncharted games stand the test of replayability, but there's quite a lot of treasure and collectibles to accumulate during the journey--and they're extremely well-hidden this time around. Although the treasures aren't that interesting, they do help towards your final endgame stats, which in turn give you points to spend towards skins, cheats, and weapons. ND was particularly generous this time, letting you buy a variety of stupid filters, infinite ammo, and almost any weapon with a pittance of the points given. You'll likely be able to afford anything you want after the game ends, and you can even select chapters based on each encounter within them--a huge deal, in my opinion.
UC4 also ships with a multiplayer mode, which runs at 60fps and is actually quite fun. The matchmaking ain't the best, and death comes at a brisk pace, but the mad dash jumping and swinging around ruins while shooting up everyone as Sullivan dressed as Walter White is hilarious. Granted, it ain't gonna have anything on Overwatch or dedicated MP games, but it's a neat addition to the package that I genuinely like playing.
Uncharted 4, in summary, seems like more of the same but to an insanely polished and revamped degree. There's nothing wrong with being "the ultimate Uncharted package," as Uncharted 4 by itself is a great game that absolutely deserves a playthrough. It does, however, start to slog whenever the action takes a break to enforce a box "puzzle" or very formulaic climbing; my memories of segments like the clock tower ascension outweigh the droll cliff descents. The gunplay, in essence, is still not the greatest in third person history. The strong suit of Uncharted is its well-balanced story and construction, doing multiple things very well while offering up the most sumptuous visuals you'll see this generation. It should be an essential play for anyone with a PS4, and being an essential game is no small feat for something that is tasked with closing out such a bombastic and adventurous series.
Amazing and topical!