Mm, let's just start where it starts.
This year, they went first to set the bar. When only got a little bit of videogames before they started shafting people with it. I was watching with around twenty five hundred people when the new Halo 4 footage lurch into gear. Considering we probably shouldn't find a big metal man strolling though a jungle with a... slightly implausible weapon impressive anymore, 343 industries sure did look pleased with themselves. They actually seem to have added to the roster of enemies and what have you, yes and that's a step up from their embalm-make up-open casket of a Combat Evolved Remake but they look a bit too pleased with themselves here too. As a follower of the series, I tried to put it every other way as I watched but it's just more things screaming at the screen and hitting the Chief. They looked very impressive doing it mind you. It's that old thing of sitting there going no, no...no. How are they going to explain why these worlds are suddenly so populated, conflicted and important now? Why are the Covenant back with full original line up? Where's the edge of exploration? Is the Chief's "refined personality" just him grunting his every thought during combat situations? Perhaps not the silent type fans are familiar with. Don't get me wrong, its good that the game has enough new about it to raise these questions but bad that our only answer after some half a year is that AN ANCIENT EVIL HAS AWAKENED, at least Dee Bradley Baker is still being employed I guess.
The rest of the...show? Was a mixed bag. The thing that gripes me was that it was a mixed bag, not of good and bad games but of games and other such shite. Microsoft and Sony going all highest power level with the number of third party people they have streaming TV or music is not new or noteworthy. Nor is the gravity devouringly dense box that you have to shout at to get them to work. Speaking of which, I just new when I bought my expensive smart phone of the hour with its touchscreen that it, in all of its multifuctionality was always destined to be a third controller - after the shouty box and the real one. Fuck off.
Once you get past the sports, everything can be considered a highlight. Its technically not theirs but Splinter Cell may just have inched in the right direction. Forza Horizon also seems to have a better chance of being a Midnight Club LA beater than an other racer in a matter of years, their Colorado looks like a labour of love, although we'll have to wait to see if they truly have retained authenticity in the driving controls. They did a shit job of hiding the fact that Gears of War 3 is no where near done with a teaser trailer so short it forbids blinking. Around this time they were still banging on about Nike and speaking to the Xbox in Spanish. Just as you thought that all pretensions to videogames that existed pre-2007 had eaten shit however, Lara Croft shows up and starts panting alot. Despite not seeing her in so long and despite her being REVAMPED (TM) her trailer was one of the most compelling. The fights she got into seemed to have a better grip on Splinter Cell action than Splinter Cell. The cutscenes that threw her around also served to reinforce a young Bond take on the origin story, perhaps then she looks cuter than ever.
After this they realised that they had spent too long on sports and blasted through all their new IPs as I'm about to. Ascend: New Gods looks awful LocoCycle looks quirky but then again so does Acid and Matter should brace itself for a shitstorm of allegations of ripping off portal. Counter-Wise, Resident Evil six seems to have ripped itself off, looks like utter shite too, honestly watch it and look at something other than the explosions. After some more Kinect action - the kind that would have people walking past the window taking offense at your impersonation of their Cerebral Palsied son - it was time for South Park, no really. I do hope that Obsidian and the funny men can truly keep this one fifty fifty, funny and RPG haven't really married since the glitches of Oblivion.
Next, Usher danced and little bit and then it was time for Call of Duty: Brown Ops. Everything bad about the gameplay shown were the parts that looked like call of duty. There was the opportunity for not so much a new direction, but an entire other dimension here. Apparently a rail shooter bit in some overdesigned jet plane is it. I really don't know how us Brits can get away with moaning about Ass Creed's Benedict Arnoldism when America constantly seems to be on fire like this.
Dead Space looks shit, how appropriate that it should be displayed proudly seconds after the Origin logo is. This isn't so much damage control as waving another shiny thing on the other side of the room. The Co-op demo for Dead Space is just as obnoxious, giving no light as to why we're in the 'new environment' in a load fire fight with a drill or why people are shouting and swearing and talking and ruining the pace with their stupid suits that make them look like their in Minecraft 20.0. "Fuck this planet".
After Maxis confirm that they are still alive with some mutilated version of Sim City its was tiBWWMBWWMBWWM BWWM BWMMMM BWWMBWWMBWWM BWWM BWMMM. Yes Battlefield is still kicking it with five whole expansion packs and all the weapons, vehicles and BWM that you could want. How passionate, how responsive, this is true interaction with a fanbase and their paypal accounts as you'll have to sign up to some kind of COD:Elite abomination to get them early. Oh how far the moral choice system has come. Similarly TORTANIC attempted damage control with more and more content also. Shame their putting it into such a shit game, perhaps they should take a lesson from Dice. Corascant running on Frostbite 2.
Frostbite did pop back up with Medal of Honour which strangely seems to be channeling Counter Strike by way of MOH: Frontline of all things. Now if that sounds like a brilliant game, it isn't. Next up are some reiterations of alternative sports. UFC will join EA sports for all your authentic martial arts action, up to and including the parts where they barely use martial arts. Then there's Need For Speed: Most Wanted, seemingly a remake of a game not ten years old. Already it looks like a poor mans Forza or Midnight Club with the demo drawing the eye to flashy Burnout style crashes whilst the player car is stopped dead by a jutting six inches of wall only for the physics and collision detection to flop miserably, awful.
For something that looks lovely, you might try Crysis 3. Whilst the demo shown didn't seem to boast the same freedom as the Far Cry series or the first Crysis, things were looking gorgeous and playing seamlessly in a number of different situations of combat and peril. Again, this may not sound like much is new but the new environment is a beautiful beast and boasted features such as the bow and the new mobility features seem fully fleshed, even at this stage. Yay?
No, its not a good start with that Dance Central shite but this was, no surprise, likely the strongest of all conferences. Getting past a massive shouting idiot and Flo Rida we got some TITS. In the sequel to the strongest (if most inadvertently self effacing) trailer of last year, there seems to be hope that Far Cry 3 will have more than two things to do and more than a small handful of ways to do it. Psychedelics, tigers, turtles and foliage. If there truly is as much freedom here as was claimed then this could be the first game to get excited about. Shame there almost never is. It's not clear at the moment how the game is going to marry the freedom of an entire archipelago of islands and the tightness of the Jason vs Voss story line, although even individually these mainstays make the game desirable as it is. Fingers are crossed for even more gameplay footage although it would be a tall order as we've had two years of it. Apparently we should stay tuned 'for surprises'.
Another jump in tone bounds from a peak at the new Avengers game which seems to have more in common with MVC3 rather than the latest film - make of that what you will. Then Rayman Legends turned up and looked quite nice and stuff. Admittedly it's hard to do 2d and not look completely retrograde. Things the jumped again into Zombi U, its trailer as tantalising as Dead Island's, its setting as refreshing as can be and its concept dated as fuck. Come on people lets have some gameplay.
"Here to tell you more about killing Templars in the New World is Producer X..."
Okay, the new Ass Creed still has a couple of old troupes to shake off but it seems like the fun ones - sophisticated combat and challenging, open ended infiltration assassination missions - are here to stay. Graphically things could look worse, especially with the attention to detail. Unfortunately a couple of moments show that this could be a showcasing of scripted elements. AI, combat and the new battle situations do, however, seamlessly combine with this to give an impression of a very different angle on the core gameplay. This is no Revelations, there is only a little ways to go before this is a game that could make it on its own.
Ubisoft end on a much stronger note called Watchdogs. If the implied free flow of situation and situational control seen here are true then this is likely 2013's first great game. Its an innovation exactly like we want and gameplay as refined as we've come to expect, even this early on. You may realise that I'm trying to not give much away and the demo is something to be seen for yourself. Even if the accusations of this demo being scripted are true, this is a showcase of a pantheon of lovely little ideas and a beautiful looking showcase at that; ALLLLLLLWAAAAAYYYYYYYSSSS I WANT TO BE WITH YOU... etc.
My old staple haven't helped themselves at all this year. I'm not sure I can even bring myself to watch it again. Getting past cheap give always and annoying presenters later a glimmer of hope appears in the form of Heavy Wane developer Quantic Dreams. Beyond seems to have expanded beyond the limits of Heavy Rain's gameplay and many other games' levels of characterisation. What else is new you ask? A less plausible but potentially more engaging story, even further improved graphics and motion capture and uh, Ellen Page. If indeed your waifu is a selling point, congratulations, something other than the Japanese market has caught on to this.
The list of "ooh look at that" continued with the revelation of the first female Assassin of the Creedand a look at the rather noisy four player co-op of Far cry 3. Then the Playstation Move showed to ruin the party. The thing was a farce. As far as I know everything developed for it is utter turd and these new wonderbooks were just the same mockery. Why? Because they aren't games they're fucking toys. It grinds my gears when a shitty franchise gets a new game never mind when a dead and shitty franchise gets forefront of an insultingly bad new technology with a huge mark up tag. They undermined themselves and the point of the whole show, if you'll excuse my earnest plea.
Their attempt at redemption came in the form of the wonky and under-refined new God of War. Looking full well like a palette swap of what we've seem before, even if what we saw before was a half decent game. I don't know if it can stand up to DMC and MGR. Their death whimper was The Last of Us and I should make it clear that the game looks good but by that time we were seeing it through a filter of the shit that had been flung at us. By that standard it would have looked amazing, who knows maybe Sony are smarter than we think. All I can award however is more kudos to TLOU's visual team and the guys that programmed the combat. Its exciting that a game looks so competent despite playing a fairly different take on this. It also doesn't hurt that the game seems to be quite character driven also.
In Other News
Nintendo are disqualified for attempting to blanket coverage a fucking toy. Not so much the toy part, we're used to that, more the pompous presumption that people want to see twice as much about their gimicky bumf as they do other developers trying to boost a balanced amount of first and third party titles.
On a lighter note, things are looking up for Metal Gear Rising. I tuned into the demo from Spike TV and it has to be said that the game is looking confident, varied and independent despite boasting a number of features from that lovely first trailer. Remember that people were at times jarred by Metal Gear Solid's style, whilst the gameplay was almost universally adored. They are getting on with making a very different game with a reliable injection of fun. Certainly, there was enough here for a lesser development team to ship out a completed product but we still have time yet.
Worst Conference: Sony
Best Conference: Ubisoft
Spirit of Independence: Beyond
Worst In Show: Playstation Wonderbooks: Book of Spells
Best In Show: Watchdogs