E3 – Square Enix, Ubisoft, Sony

1499 wc

I watched the Square Enix showcase but it left little impression on me. Unlike seemingly everyone else, though, I liked that it was just a series of trailers and videos, and not one of those awkward live presentations in front of a confused audience. I just feel like in the year 2018, we should have evolved beyond the 90s-Steve Jobs-cult-of-personality-walking-around-on-stage phase of our lives.

Although the guy from Bethesda talking about Fallout 76 actually was pretty entertaining. I’ll make one exception for him I guess, if I could remember his name. Everybody else sounded, though, like a corporate robot talking about PowerPoint slides, graphs, and charts, and sucked every bit of fun out of the games they were supposed to be excited about, because it’s so, so obvious that it’s just numbers on a spreadsheet to them.

Anyway, the only thought I had during Square Enix’s presentation was that Final Fantasy XIV is looking dated. It’s pretty obvious it’s running on a very old engine, when you mix it in with other games in 2018. I think it’s about time we start hearing about a Final Fantasy XIV sequel, and now is the best time to start, while the game is peaking (or, perhaps, after it’s peaked), because it’s just going to go downhill as the game ages and everyone gets bored with the nice but predictable content releases that they’ve settled into.

I don’t even remember what else they showed. Another Tomb Raider, I guess. I own both of the new ones on PC, finished the first one, haven’t finished the second one. I expect the new one to be a solid game but nothing that can’t wait until a sale. There was also that one about the kid with imaginary superpowers which, if it was a movie, I would describe as Oscar-bait ("Oscar Gold"). I’m sure it’s a great story but I imagine, just like Life is Strange, it’s not something I’m interested in playing instead of watching.

The Ubisoft presentation had a similar non-effect on me. As I’m typing this, I don’t remember anything they showed, so I need to consult my Twitter timeline to refresh my memory. Oh! Now I remember. A lot of weirdness. :)

The one and only thing that impressed me was the trailer for Beyond Good & Evil 2. The setting was beautiful, the characters were interesting, the story was intriguing. I don’t recall seeing much gameplay, though, so that always makes me nervous. Fantastic cut scenes don’t necessarily make a fantastic game worth dropping $60 on, as much as game studios would like us to believe otherwise.

I initially thought their plan to crowdsource art and music for the game was exploitative, but I’ve since read that they do plan to pay people for their work. Personally I miss the days when there was a big wall between the creators and the fans, but I guess this is a post-Kickstarter world now and salespeople have successfully convinced fans they need to be a part of the art they consume, like some kind of parasite, or an overly-attached girlfriend.

The funniest moment was when Elijah Wood asked something like, “Have you ever dreamed of entering another person’s consciousness and exploring their darkest thoughts?” I just burst out laughing. Because my initial thought was, “OMG NO THAT SOUNDS HORRIFYING.” Then I laughed even more because my second thought was, “Well no we don’t need to imagine that because we have Facebook and Twitter.” It led to a whole series of jokes I told myself about how inappropriate and weird a pitch it was. I couldn’t stop laughing and kind of missed the rest of his presentation. I can only guess it was some kind of story-based horror game, because in my darkest thoughts, that scenario can only lead to a horror story.

Oh! I almost forgot: That motorcycle game (Trials I think) looked awesome and hilarious. Mostly it reminded me of another game I loved years ago, a racing game called, I think, maybe, possibly, Wreckfest? No! FlatOut, from BugBear Entertainment. Wreckfest is the newer one. Anyway it was so much fun wrecking cars and watching the drivers fly through the windshield using ragdoll physics. That was back when ragdoll physics first came onto the scene, and everything about it was funny and inventive for a couple years. Trials also reminded me a little bit of a very old Amiga game I loved called Stunt Car Racer, which, to this day, almost 30 years later, much to my annoyance, I have not seen anything similar. Until … maybe, possibly, Trials?

So actually the Ubisoft presentation had a lot of fun stuff in it, now that I think about it.

The Sony presentation was a mixed bag of boring corporate talk and jaw-dropping game demos.

I can’t say enough good things about the Last of Us 2 demo. I couldn’t believe my eyes, that such an amazing-looking game could come out of a console. My PC is not top-of-the-line, but it’s no slouch either, and there’s just no way it could produce those visuals at any reasonable frame rate. It’s the very first time I’ve seen something on the newer consoles that made me think, “Holy crap I need to buy that console right now, where’s my credit card?!?”

So, I did, in fact, buy a PS4 Pro. I mean, there was a sale, so it’s not like I had a choice. I got a plain black one at Walmart for $350 plus tax. Financially speaking, it’s actually the worst possible time for me to buy a console, but in terms of feeling like I would get my money’s worth, now seems like a good time to pull the trigger on one. I’ve been collecting a list of PS4 exclusives I’ve wanted to play for years now, including Bloodborne, Horizon Zero Dawn, The Last of Us (all of which I ordered online for $20 each), and all the Uncharted games after the first one (said first Uncharted game being one of the very few games I actually played on the PS3 which otherwise mainly served as a Netflix server until it got packed in a box after I bought a smart television). With five or six exclusives to play, it doesn’t quite feel like a total waste of money, like the PS4 did at launch. It’s going to take some work to get used to the PS4 controller, though, as I’ve been using an Xbox 360 controller on my PC for many years now.

Side Note: One of these days I keep thinking I should dust off my PS3 and play Demon’s Souls, and maybe even the first Red Dead Redemption that all the kids say was such a great game. I’m sure I can pick both of those up cheap now. (Another side note: All of the PS3 games I used to own-maybe 5-were destroyed by a couple of puppies around 2010.)

Having said how great the demo was, I don’t know if I will actually buy Last of Us 2, certainly not at launch, because honestly the gameplay looked more stealth-focused than I like. But it sure showed off the capabilities of the console really well. If it was real. I’m sure it was scripted (ie. not controlled by a player live) but I hope it wasn’t pre-rendered.

The other games didn’t impress me as much. They were mostly graphically beautiful, but looked like cookie-cutter games stamped out of a factory mold. The Samuri game looked exactly like The Witcher 3. (Which was a great game, but I already own it so I’d just as soon play the one I have that I know is good, instead of wasting money on another one that might not be as good.)

In these game demos, I’m always looking to see what the gameplay looks like-the gameplay loop as the kids like to call it now-and I’m always looking for gameplay I’ve never seen before, and that is incredibly rare these days. The setting of a game is almost never what attracts me to play it (I can simply close my eyes and imagine the setting for free). Unfortunately almost every game to me looks like a clone of a previous game, just with different models, textures, and sounds. They appear to be controlled the same way, using the same buttons and movements, the same tactics we learned back in the 90s. The fact that most games now are built from one of about a half-dozen popular game engines does not help the situation. Sometimes a compelling story will get me to overlook recycled gameplay, but it’s rare, considering how many games are pumped out every year now. Compelling stories in games are just as rare as compelling stories in television and movies-which is, in my humble opinion, really rare.

I missed most of the Nintendo showcase but it’s unlikely anything there would have appealed to me. I’ve just never been a Nintendo person.

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