Monday 10 June 2013

Today's Review: Microsoft's E3 Conference

From the lacklustre announcement of the console to their awful sounding privacy and licensing features, it's fair to say I had just about given up on owning this console. It seemed to have nothing for me, with a large focus on entertainment and features that I wouldn't use, and putting limitations on the only way I can afford to play games, buying and selling them preowned. But, I held out until their E3 conference to see if they could present anything at all that would sway me. There wasn't much.

First of all, there was no mention of the privacy features that have had gamers in uproar since their announcement. Not that I expected much, they've published their official, if complex and unclear, report on the matter, and that's the way the XBox One is. The Kinect must be plugged in at all times, the console has to perform an online check every 24 hours, or you may not be able to play any games, even if you have physical copies. All of that is established, so all that remained in this conference was to unveil the games that will be gracing this dubiously designed console.

We started out with Metal Gear Solid 5, which was certainly a solid opener. The series is going in a different direction that could work out really well, and will certainly be a stand out game in the early stages of the next generation. But it's certainly not XBox One exclusive, and several of the games that received a large focus in Microsoft's conference can be found elsewhere, such as Battlefield 4 and The Witcher 3.

As far as exclusives go, there were actually a few new titles on show. Sunset Overdrive looks like a quirky, fun shooter, albeit full of generic zombie type enemies, although from the way it was described it seems to be multiplayer based, which is not really my cup of tea. Project Spark seems to be a very customisable game creating tool, allowing you to make lands, allies, enemies and many other various things. The details aren't all that clear at the moment, but I can only assume that when it's launched there'll be phalluses everywhere. Again, this is a game focused on sharing ideas with the community and playing others' creations, a feature that worked well in the LittleBigPlanet series, but again, not quite my kind of thing.

The token next gen driving game was announced in the form of Forza 5, which of course showcases what can be done graphically on the XBox One, but also introduces a strange new feature called the Drivatar, an AI which learns how you drive while playing the game, then goes off an races against other people for you when you're not even there. Slightly baffling. But hey, if you're into your weird game mechanics, there's also Quantum Break, which affects some form of TV show depending on how you play it, but the experience wil also be different for each player/viewer. Not quite sure how that works either, but it certainly seems to be complex and focusing more on cinematic experience than gameplay.

The other exclusives didn't do much to rouse my interests either. There's a fighting game in the form of Killer Instinct, a fan favourite that is turning some heads, but not mine. Ryse looks very much a quick time event laden slash em up with no real substance, and a new Halo was teased, but no information given. Dead Rising 3 was the only game revealed in some detail that I'd actually be interested in, because although there were a few interesting looking IPs, all that was provided were tiny teaser trailers with no accompanying information.

Perhaps I would have been more excited for Crimson Dragon if the trailer had any kind of sound. There were also technical problems at the start of the Battlefield 4 gameplay video, which started out looking like the beginning of COD 4, but then added a boat sequence. It's surprising how these technical faults happened, seeing as everything else was so obviously and meticulously staged. People were brought onstage with controller in hand to showcase actual "gameplay", only to breeze perfectly through sections, somehow showing off all the features and cool parts of the game, while reacting perfectly and in no way reading a script.  Other features were shown and obviously staged, like the application of SmartGlass and video editing, that will most likely never go as smoothly as it did on stage today.

So yeah, I thought it was quite a lacklustre, sometimes cringeworthy, presentation today, with not many games catching my interest. Even their last hurrah, science fiction FPS Titanfall, seems entirely focused on multiplayer, already hailed as a potential Call Of Duty beater. Great news for lots of people, but I much prefer my single player games. I may have been tempted to pick one up to play a few of the exclusives on offer, but all the other stuff that's happening regarding privacy and licensing have really turned me off that idea. Hopefully Sony will have a detailed presentation with a good offering of games tonight, or I might just have to give up on the next generation and lock myself in a room with my N64.

My rating: 2/5

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