E3 2016: A Look Back at the Chaos.
Every year at this time I like to take a moment to look back at what E3 brought us. It gives me a week or so to digest all the announcements, trailers and surprises, time to sort out what impressed me and what didn’t. I must say that I found this year much more exciting than I anticipated. After the epic 2015 conference I was expecting this to be a quieter show with only one or two big announcements from the big studios but what we all got was a veritable cavalcade of new games.
Microsoft unfortunately had the wind taken out of their sails thanks to pre-show leaks. But while the surprise was gone it didn’t lessen what Microsoft had to announce. A big shift to the Xbox ecosystem was the clear force behind the conference. PC or Xbox, it now no longer matters to Microsoft as all of their exclusives from this point forward will be released on both. It is clear that Microsoft is looking to redefine consoles, probably a smart move considering the lead they have given up to Sony this generation. Some great games were on show as well with We Happy Few, Forza Horizon 3 (Aussie, Aussie, Aussie) and Scalebound being my personal highlights. Throw in not one but two new console announcements and some funky new OS features and it was a strong showing from Microsoft.
Where Microsoft was looking to change things up with new systems and a shift in focus, Sony was taking what is has and running with it. Games, games, games were the order of the day with Sony hammering out the announcements one after the other without a pause. So many game announcements in such a short time, it almost became too much for me. I say almost because there is no doubt that Sony killed it. My highlights were God of War, Spiderman and Horizon: Zero Dawn but there was so much in the show that surely everyone has something to look forward too. If I have one criticism of Sony, it is the same one I have every year and that is a lack of release dates. Very few of their games have a firm release date (the irony being that The Last Guardian is one of those) so it does temper the excitement a little. But apart from that small issue, Sony have given everyone plenty to get hyped about.
Ubisoft this year had a strange conference. The show was a little on the boring side with it running for about half an hour too long. Luckily there were some cracking games shown to get excited about. Ghost Recon: Wildlands is looking great (despite the cheesy scripted dialog), Watch Dogs 2 looks to fix the problems with the first game while doubling down on what it got right and South Park looks like…..well South Park (I am more than ok with that). The big surprise though was the announcement of Steep, a brand new open world extreme sports title. It looks to be a unique and entertaining addition to a genre that has been neglected in recent years.
Bethesda’s second E3 conference lacked the weight of Fallout but still managed to be quite impressive. As expected, they brought a whole host of Dishonored 2 gameplay to the show and boy it didn’t disappoint. I am super excited for what should be a strong contender for game of the year. Bethesda also managed to bring out not one but two big surprises. The first was the reimaging of Prey. The new game looks to be more of a thriller as opposed to the straight out shooter original, incorporating some sci-fi horror elements. The second surprise was Quake Champions. A new area based shooter set in the Quake universe. In all Bethesda managed to keep me excited for their products which really is the goal of these conferences.
The final publisher I want to talk about is EA and I must say they were rather disappointing. EA and E3 went their separate ways this year and EA hosted its own mini show to replace it. Sadly though they gave the masses little to get excited about. A small Mass Effect trailer, more Madden and FIFA, some brief glimpses of Star Wars and not much else. That isn’t to say that these titles will be bad (I am sure they won’t be) but if EA is going to host their own event they need to make it memorable and not predictable which this year’s show sadly was. The most memorable thing from the EA show was their new EA Originals program which is a way to fund indie titles like Fe, a title shown during the show. Sadly this will not go down as one of EA’s finer moments.
Aside from the big publishers, there was a host of great games on show. My personal favourites from the rest of the publishers were 2K’s 60’s gangster sim Mafia 3, Devolver Digital’s second time round with Lo Wang in Shadow Warrior 2 and Netherealm Studio’s second superhero fighter Injustice 2. In all honesty, though there were probably another ten more games I could name that I am seriously looking forward to. I guess that statement sums up E3 2016 pretty well in my mind. This year might not have had as big of an impact as previous years but it did offer exciting game after exciting game and, in my mind at least, that is what E3 is all about.