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Ahhh, E3. With the show proper now in full swing, and John, Michael and Austin scuttling around the show floor for all the hottest scoops and impressions, the Chooch home team has convened to give our thoughts on what were the best and worst press conferences of 2016. Stay tuned, because we’ll also be covering the best and worst games of the show this Friday.
I honestly can’t believe I’m saying this, but it’s genuinely difficult for me to pick a winner between Microsoft, Sony, and yes, even Ubisoft, this year. I’ve been stewing on it since we wrapped up last night, and I think, when it’s all said and done, Sony juuuust about edged it. I was super impressed with Microsoft’s smart messaging around Project Scorpio, and you can’t underestimate the coups that Gwent and Tekken 7 were for the green team, especially considering Tekken has always been one of the franchise synonymous with Sony’s machines. We Happy Few is up there for the single best game shown at any conference, and looks like it could be something real special when it hits this summer. Microsoft wasn’t perfect – Scalebound looked dreadful – and our first real look at Sea of Thieves couldn’t have been framed in a much worse light, but by and large, they did a good job.
Ubisoft were their usual selves, shooting themselves in the foot with the completely tone-deaf Ghost Recon, some less than stellar Watch Dogs 2 footage and the complete bombing of South Park: The Fractured But Whole, although both For Honor and Steep stood out of two of the best games on show. Nevertheless, this is the first time in years I’ve been interested in anything Ubi’s had to show, so for that, they deserve some praise.
Ultimately, though, Sony did what Sony does best – and that’s play to the hearts and minds of the audience. Sure, not everything they showed was mind-blowing; God of War was a let down, and Days Gone looks to be arguably the worst game of E3 so far, but bringing back Crash, unveiling Spider-Man, and finally dating The Last Guardian were all big wins. Likewise, Hideo Kojima’s new game, Death Stranding, blew the roof off the place, Horizon: Zero Dawn looks dope, and the True Messiah of Gaming™ himself, David Cage, brought the most David Cage-ass fire he could with Detroit. By no means was Sony’s showing perfect, but they sure know how to create hype.
Whereas it was actually pretty difficult to pick my favourite press conference, one stands out as being easily the worst – EA’s. Granted, this year EA didn’t trot Pele out for an excruciating twenty minutes of talking about absolutely nothing, and we didn’t get any major whiplash ala Plants vs. Zombies, but EA still managed to put on an embarrassingly amateur stage show, complete with a cringe-worthy soliloquy from an actor portraying their new Fifa protag, Alex Hunter.
EA simply didn’t have much of note to show this year, which is kind of surprising, considering last year’s show had “holding pattern” written all over it. Battlefield 1 didn’t rock my world – although seeing Snoop Dogg smoking a blunt on the post-show was amazing – and Titanfall 2, while looking better than anticipated, doesn’t press my buttons. Having nothing substantial Star Wars related to show didn’t aid things, and you couldn’t help but feel Jade Raymond was talking a lot without really saying anything. Similarly light on details was Mass Effect: Andromeda, although we have since heard some stuff about the game’s new hero, Ryder. Even Fe, this year’s entry in EA’s now-annual “nervous Swedish man” showcase, failed to make the kind of impact Unravel did last year. There just wasn’t anything to sink your teeth into with EA’s conference, and that’s a shame.
This E3 was interesting in comparison to last year, mostly in that there wasn’t much that absolutely blew my mind or made my eyes shrivel up in disgust. That being said, most of the conferences were on the level of being fairly solid, but Sony was the winner by a close margin for me. Yes, Days Gone (by the makers of Bubsy 3D!) looked like wet rat turds and came close to ruining the conference at the end, but I’ll be damned if Sony’s wasn’t at least the showing that held my attention the most and for the longest.
The Last Guardian release date was a nice follow-up to last year’s announcement, and since I’m divorced from most of the build-up and hype around that game, I’ll be excited to play it on the level with no heady expectations. I’ve never been a huge Resident Evil fan, but the trailer for 7 was desolate, creepy, and bizarre enough to spark my interest in a big way. Horizon: Zero Dawn seems neat, I’m very excited to see how Spider-Man turns out, and Detroit looks enough like Blade Runner for me to say that game will be precisely my kind of thing.
And of course, in the moment that will be discussed for years to come, Hideo Kojima trotted out onstage to the Fury Road soundtrack, proclaimed his return, and proceeded to subject hundreds of thousands of people across the world to a completely inscrutable trailer featuring naked-ass Norman Reedus. The announcement of Death Stranding left my jaw open and my mind spinning in how unbelievably, stupidly audacious the whole thing was. Let’s just hope the game can actually deliver.
Despite Ubisoft’s atrocious South Park preview feeling like it stretched on for an eternity, I’d say EA takes home the worst conference. Even Ubisoft had a couple decent games this year, but EA committed the most heinous E3 sin of all: it was absolutely, totally, irredeemably boring.
Even as I write this article I struggle to recall which games EA devoted their conference to. Battlefield 1? The visuals and setting are cool, I guess. Titanfall 2? Nothing stands out. Sports games? Same as every year. EA even managed to bungle Mass Effect: Andromeda, rolling out an ambiguous preview and “behind-the-scenes look” that revealed almost nothing. They did the same thing for the Star Wars announcement, which was a flaccid, hype-free reminder that yes, EA has the Star Wars license, but no, you don’t get any info whatsoever about what they’re actually doing with it.
I’d take EA’s mess of a 2015 conference over this dry toast hour-and-a-half fumble any day, because at least last year’s bungles kept me laughing or on my toes. EA 2016 was simply a wasteland devoid of entertainment; a massive sandy expanse in which the husks of mediocre games cower for shade beneath a monolithic Ozymandias-esque sculpture that simply states: WE ARE GAMERS.
I’m gonna preface this by saying I missed 75% of Bethesda’s conference since I had to leave for work and I just plain slept through Microsoft’s.
We (and that’s the royal “we”, not “we” meaning the esteemed Video Game Choo Choo Video Game News Reviews Tudes And Nudes The Website aka Chooch dot Biz aka John Michonski’s High Quality Love Palace) tend to judge E3 conferences on a set of highs and lows. I think in this regard, Sony unquestionably won E3. The highs outweigh the lows exponentially. Kojima striding out on stage with the fattest grin and then proclaiming “hey, guess what you ass eating clowns? I’ve got a trailer with some WEIRD SHIT in it. And you’re gonna eat it up. You’re gonna eat it so hard. Do I even have a game to show yet? No, I have a bunch of abstract ideas and naked Norman Reedus and you don’t need anything else. You fools. You imbeciles. Sucb mny dick.” And we didn’t. We really didn’t. It was easily the best part of the show hands down.
Sony also managed to show off a few other impressive titles outside of total duds like Days Gone. I’ve got little love for God of War these days and I know a lot of people weren’t impressed by the trailer. I personally wasn’t into how much it tried to tap into Last of Us while also seemingly missing the point of Last of Us entirely. But I’ll say that it still impressed me in certain regards that I think are worth mentioning. Aside from how goofy Kratos looks set to a much more realistic world and how much he just can’t pull off a viking beard, the game looks gorgeous. The third person over the shoulder melee combat is also a departure from what we’re used to from God of War games and I’m hoping it winds up feeling good to play. The Last Guardian got a release date. That’s cool! That game has been in development hell for the last decade and under such tight lock and key that it felt like people were questioning whether it would even be here this year. Horizon: Zero Dawn still looks cool as hell and that game has a style to it that just feels unmatched. It seems to understand trends in games such as open world survival and third person action, and it feels like it takes it’s own unique spin on them. I wanna keep being surprised by it. Death Stranding happened and I don’t think there’s much more that needs to be said about that.
I think Ubisoft deserves some credit for making me cautiously optimistic about Watch Dogs 2. Watch_Dogs was hot trash. It was fitted with Ubi’s open world format and felt designed by committee. It followed everyman Aiden Pierce through his heteronormative journey to murder everyone he doesn’t like. It had no flavor or character to it. Watch Dogs 2 surprised me in this respect. The gameplay trailer they showed off didn’t show their protagonist, Marcus Holloway, firing a single gun. He does fire a taser at one point which mechanically didn’t look different from just firing a gun, but it showed awareness of criticisms that the first Watch_Dogs faced. Not to mention that not only are there finally actual dogs in the second game, but you can also pet them. Outside of guns, Marcus also uses tools like drones and RC cars and other silly things. That stuff is cool. I’d really like it if you can get through this game without firing a single gun. I sincerely want this to be a good game, I really do.
I’m gonna go off on a tangent before I talk about what I hated most about E3. I was tasked with writing up the announcement of Days Gone after the first short announcement trailer. And that sucked. There was zero info in that trailer. Thankfully the 9 minute long gameplay trailer got posted accidentally when the announcement one showed at the conference. But trying to pay attention to both that and the show wasn’t happening. So I tried my hardest to capture a screenshot on my awful wifi with my terrible laptop in a definition that wasn’t 360p, and tried to gleam what the game was about from the first minute of that trailer. I wasn’t even aware that there were zombies in it. Quick google searches yielded results such as “Days Gone trademarked, possibly Last of Us 2???????” This cumulatively took me about 10-15 minutes to write 2 sentences and include a trailer in the post. This was before I found out it was a generic third person zombie shooter. Days Gone has caused me physical strife and I want it to fail.
I share the opinion of peers on this website that EA had the worst conference. Not because the games don’t look cool and I’m not interested in them, but because I was subject to a video of two incredibly annoying YouTube personalities being not funny. Fuck StoneMountain64 and NeebsGaming. I don’t care about the conflict surrounding your Battlefield One match and I’m incredibly jealous that you got to hang out with We Are Your Friends star Zac Efron. If I was to rub a Genie’s magic lamp, my three wishes would all be to never hear your dumb names, voices, or bad jokes again. I want a sniper to eliminate your YouTube channels with tactical precision. The zeppelin seems cool.
There was no Final Fantasy 7 so Sony was actually trash and the worst and I hate them and I wish them nothing but failure. I know my peers here at Video Game Choo Choo don’t give a shit about Final Fantasy 7, but I do, and I want to see Cloud’s beautiful face and chest. I want to stroke my hand through Barrett’s beard and look at his gun arm and whisper “how awful…” I know you have to judge a conference on it’s merits and not what it doesn’t have, but Sony has denied me this carnal pleasure and I will no longer support their system. This is an Xbox family now. “Get in the game.” – My dad, Phil Spencer.
The E3 Press Conferences are always a weird roller coaster between exciting announcements, showings of games that seem like repeats and corporate executives trying to appeal to the kids. Through all the whiplash and vaguely pukey feeling, I did find a lot to enjoy. I think Sony really delivered this year. Showcasing games like Horizon: Zero Dawn, Resident Evil 7 and Call of Duty actually got me really wanting to play those games. Even though God Of War isn’t my bag I’m still glad to see they’re willing to take one of their landmark series’ and rework it for modern day. And even if I’m not a huge fan of his work I’m glad Kojima is out there still being himself. The industry is better with people like him in it.
I don’t think Microsoft can be swept aside though. They also had a strong showing. ReCore looks great, as does Dead Rising 4 and Forza Horizon. They also showed We Happy Few which is a game I’m just happy to see more of. I have a weaknesses for Ubisoft’s mess of conference each year and this one delivered in the best way. I didn’t expect to be at all excited for Watch_Dogs but color me surprised. That game looks a bit of a mess, but it looks like a mess I want part of. They also had Eagle Flight which was the only main stage VR game that seemed interesting to play and not just experience.
EA started well, then they dropped off into a chasm of boredom. I’m not going to complain about sports games because that’s every year, I expect that and they certainly appeal to someone. However Mass Effect and Star Wars shouldn’t leave me staring blankly at the screen as I see people work on tablets. I love seeing how games are made but these was barely a behind the scenes look. For singularly bad segments though I have to give that to South Park: The Fractured But Whole at Ubisoft. I’m not big into South Park but even I can admit the show can elicit a laugh in it’s best moments. This was them at their worst. While you think that a parody of the modern superhero movie landscape would be ripe for new laughs, it was full of lazy repeated jokes and just plain tired humor.
Microsoft had a strange problem where it would present games I was somewhat excited for and then show them in the least appealing light. Final Fantasy XV, Scalebound and Sea of Thieves are all games I want to like, but these demos made them seem boring and bad. Whose idea was to show Final Fantasy: Boy’s Trip fighting a pretty boring giant monster? Why showcase the still rather unknown Sea of Thieves by having people shout over it? Either they don’t know what makes those games interesting and good or they just aren’t either of those things to begin with.