E3 2009 Impressions

June 9th, 2009

metroid-other-m-saus

I’m a bit behind the ball, but here’s how I feel about this year’s show. I missed a few of announcements like Golden Sun‘s resurrection, Social media of Xbox 360 and GT5.

Microsoft

E3 can bring out the worst in my fanboy bias against Microsoft, after all this is the convention where game companies drop bombs and I’m clearly rooting for Nintendo and Sony, I want them to “win”. I guess it would be a good compliment on Microsoft’s part to say that the company’s strong showing made be quiver with fanboy trepidation. Take all that away though, and as a player I was hardly excited by what they had on offer.

Most of this is reflected by their lack of exclusive content that wasn’t already jacked up with testosterone. Halo:ODST and Outreach are really starting to wear thin, I mean, how much longer is the industry going to evangelize these soulless franchise? Forza 3, Crackdown 2 and Left for Dead 2 are great assets. Like many people I’m surprised and slightly irked that Valve decided to sequalize L4D so quickly. The other two though don’t particularly interest me much, not a fan of racing sims and the open-world, sand-box genre feels kinda tight at the moment. I’m not too fussed about L4D 2 either, since I rarely play games online. Still, for others is probably a big coo.

Splinter Cell: Conviction, Shadow Complex and their 3rd party content were impressive. Splinter Cell looks to have some cool mechanics such as slapping objectives as text on the walls as well that rapid fire technique which has supposedly been a part of the series for a while now – still cool IMO. Shadow Complex is perhaps the only title I feel particularly envious about. A downloadable Metroidvania game is genius, perfectly suited to the services, you would have thought that Konami would have jumped on this earlier. The game seems more appropriate to the PSN though, since it’s more of a full length feature.

shadow-complex

Microsoft also deserve kudos for their selection of celebrity sponsorships Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Tony Hawk and Steven Spielberg are all likely to grab them some air time from the major press. Each celebrity was attached to games that didn’t use a regular controller too, which is interesting.

As for Natal, I think that there are too many problem that they’ll have to overcome. I personally foresee that it’ll be too tiring for the player (try holding your hands out in front of you for more than 5 minutes and you’ll get the point). The – premium tech – hardware is likely to be rather expensive as well. I also doubt that Microsoft has the talent to design for such a device, like almost everything they’ve ever done, they crib from the competition, this time though, they are walking alone. I discussed this with Richard over at Critical Gaming who thought that the lack of tactile feedback would also be problematic. I just don’t think that they can do it, and if they did, I don’t think that I’d want to play it.

It has to be said that Microsoft is still attempting to fool players with the fake casual gaming pretense and I don’t think it’ll ever work for them because their hearts aren’t in the right place – their products reflect that.

Nintendo

Talk about a hokey presentation – boring one minute, rapturous the next. Discarding the performance itself, the company had an improved showing over last year. I couldn’t believe the fangasm they dished out with Metroid: Other M. My brother and I let out a disrespectful laugh when Reggie said that he reads the blogs – no doubt we should have, the presentation was unimpressive up to that point – but he delivered and the peasants rejoiced.

The two new Mario titles are interesting because instead of reinventing the franchise they concentrate on expanding previous designs. It’s definitely a wise move as it allows Nintendo to be creative within an established template.

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Like a lot of people, I was confused by Mr Iwata’s annual editorial on company philosophy. His speech wandered around in circles and didn’t have a clear direction. The Wii Vitality Sensor was similarly lost in the muddle, a curious non-announcement at best.

I liked Bill Trinen more when I saw his name in the credits of my favourite games instead of seeing him on stage. He’s just not quite that good a presenter, really irritating. The Wii Sports Resort demo still caught my attention. I like how they’re truly making this game for everyone with added bite for the hardcore players. I agree with Trinen that the sky diving intro really sets the scene for the game, seems very Pilotwings-esque. The demo just looked fun and that’s all it needs to be.

Sony

The leaks really hurt Sony I think, but they recovered better than I anticipated. There was less of a focus on PSN and more concentration of the big announcements for their two primary devices. I thought that they could have stressed the extent of 3rd party support for the PSP stronger as it really is unprecedented. Just a series of logos on screen would have been enough. I don’t like Hiraz so much, he clashes with Tretton’s softer presentation style and comes off too cock-sure in comparison.

It’s interesting to observe how the Uncharted franchise has gone from semi-blockbuster accused of borrowing too liberally from its competition to E3 show-stopper. And so it should be regarded that way. Everything about this title looks fresh and lively. Drake’s dialogue is slick, the interface clean and the graphics lush. The game has what so many current generation games are lacking; colour. This title, paired with God of War III (which I was admittedly less impressed with) represent the start of the visible technical divide between the current two generation platforms.

Many people have criticized the PSP Go over the price. As said by Michael Pachter, the cost of a 16gb harddrive is considerably less than a UMD drive, Sony are already making good profit on the PSP 3000, there is no reason to hike the price up an additional $100. I need to buy a PSP for myself, so I’m being cautious over my decision as I want to be able to play my old UMD games on the new hardware and so far the “good will” alternative remains sketchy at best. Let’s hope they find a proper solution fast.

Both of the Metal Gear Solid announcements bothered me. The series has run it’s course, let’s not beat it into the ground, please. I’m more interested in MGS: Peace Walker as it’s fleshing out a patchy part of the backstory, a part that MGS:Portable Ops left open. MGS: Rising on the other hand, I’m not convinced. Raiden is not a likable character and his backstory isn’t an important part of the series timeline. I’m expecting MGS: Rising to tell the story of how Raiden reclaimed Sunny from the Patriots. Also, I think that there’s something up with his suit as the torso protrudes awkwardly protrudes outwards, perhaps his in a Gundam or something. I like how Peace Walker will be treated as a proper franchise entry, with the MGS4 crew and Hideo himself personally working on the product.

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The Final Fantasy XIV and Rockstar (Agent) announcements proved that Sony still yields power over 3rd parties. Both announcements could have been delivered better though. Tretton ought to have first shown the Final Fantasy XIV trailer before blurting out the name as it sounded downright ridiculous – the crowd’s disbelieving laughs highlighted this. I think that it’s inevitable that this title will arrive on the Xbox 360, the three versions will likely all launch at the same time too. Agent on the other hand remains to be a PS3 exclusive, Sony really should have hired Take 2 boss Ben Feder to do the boasting, with quotes like this, you can’t lose;

“The game, like anything from Rockstar North, is going to be very, very cool. It’s going to push the edge, it’s going to be genre-defining and it’s going to be a whole new way of experiencing videogames that we haven’t really seen before,”

Similar to the way they introduced FF XIV, Sony mad a mess in introducing the motion controller. Firstly they shouldn’t give the device the same label as the Wii-mote, this makes you look fraudulent. The two engineers started out on wonky ground (better than the GT Mobile guy, looked like he was being tortured on stage) but once the demonstrations were rolling they found their groove and impressed. The technology clearly isn’t the problem, the positioning is. It’s difficult to see where this will fit on the PS3 and I think the same applies for Natal as well. All three systems have their own proprietary motion sensing technology, no developer is going to develop for all three, Natal seems to have too many design hurdles, the PS3 wand device is only a peripheral really, Wii now has Motion Plus and the largest possible audience, plus it’s cheaper to developer for – which would you choose?

Wrapping up, Modnation Racers looks cool. Sony should have referenced Syphon Filter Combat Ops in the Play.Create.Share propaganda me thinks – might have seen a sales spike. Otherwise their conference was well done, they presented more exclusive content, further along in development and this ultimately was their key strength. The conference would have been huge if the leaks hadn’t sprung and the presentation was tidied up a little, but it’s all the same really. I’m very enthused for some Playstation, the best out of the three I’d say.

  • What this year made me realize is that console partisanship is truly the stuff of children. Now that I have a somewhat decent cashflow, I can afford all three systems and whatever exclusives they carry. It’s a good year to be a trans-console gamer 🙂

  • Not to poke fun at your own possible preference, but my own historical lack of faith in anything Nintendo and Sony. I’ve been a pretty huge fanboy dickbag in my time!