For the past three years, I’ve been writing about my excitement leading up to annual Electronic Entertainment Expo and then followed it up with my subsequent disappointment in what I saw. From 2010 to 2013, E3 has rolled out the red carpet for the Nintendo 3DS, the Playstation Vita and the Nintendo Wii U. All three consoles have had a wretched time upon their release with terrible sales and uninspired launch titles. Funnily enough, I’ve actually come to warm to the 3DS and Vita a lot since I first bought them and I’ve played the heck out of both systems this year. My Nintendo Wii U however still sits there collecting dust and I haven’t found a single game to purchase for the console since its launch seventh months ago. But I digress.
E3 2013 was to be the launching pad for the Playstation4 and the Xbox One, the two long awaited systems that would really kick off the seventh generation of game consoles in a lot of people’s eyes. They’re the two showcase consoles for improved graphics and the expected home of the next tier of triple-A blockbuster video games. Call of Duty, Halo, Metal Gear Solid, Final Fantasy, God of War…the next iteration of all these games would find their home on one of these two consoles.
Well E3 has come and gone and the talk of the town has been how spectacularly badly Microsoft have handled the unveiling of the Xbox One with the system garnering a reputation for having an unprecedented assault on consumer rights. Microsoft announced fifteen exclusive titles for the Xbox One at E3 but no one really gives a shit because no two MS executives can seemingly give a straight answer on reports that the system won’t allow the reselling of games, won’t allow the lending of games to friends, requires a 24 hour online check-in to function and is basically set up in a framework whereby no one actually ‘owns’ the games they buy anymore. Instead you pay full price for a ‘license’ to use the game under which Microsoft heavily dictates the terms in which you use the game and who’s allowed to play it.
For their part, Sony aggressively attacked Microsoft at their conference in a manner that brought back memories of E3 1994 when they undercut the Sega Saturn. After Sega did a presentation on the games and features of their new $399 system, a Sony exec took to the stage afterwards and simply stated ‘$299.’ Fast forward nearly two decades and this time we were treated to Sony gleefully taunting Microsoft with a power point slide that stated their games would allow lending, borrowing and reselling. It brought the crowd alive and got the biggest response of the entire show. Then they stated their system would be $100 bucks cheaper. At that moment, Sony effectively won the hearts and minds of the majority of gamers at E3. It may well be the defining moment of the new generation, much like Sony’s own disastrous 2006 conference was in establishing the pecking order of which console would sell the most. Right now it would take a brave man to predict Microsoft outselling Sony this Christmas.
For me, I’m generally happy with what Sony has shown of the Playstation4 and despite the aggressively negative reputation around the Xbox One, I still anticipate that system too. I like games too much in general that I would find both systems hard to pass up. I love Sony’s first party offerings and their support of indy gaming should ensure the system is home to plenty of fun, quirky esoteric games. No one does online gaming better than Microsoft though and I am genuinely interested in seeing what they can do positively with an always online console. Me personally, I don’t really buy or sell second hand games and I rarely lend or borrow games so I’m not personally affected by some of their DRM.
Lastly, when it comes to games, this year was a darn sight better than E3 2012 where every game seemed fixated on shooting people by the hundreds. In no particular order, with the dust settled on E3, here are my ten most anticipated games for the rest of 2013.
Bravely Default: Flying Fairy (Nintendo 3DS)
A Square Enix J-RPG made in the style of classic Final Fantasy games. Super deformed characters, random battles and classic turn based combat. Coming to PAL regions in November. I cannot wait.
Ace Attorney: Dual Destinies (Nintendo 3DS)
The fifth installment in the Ace Attorney sees the return of former protagonist Phoenix Wright as he takes on four new homicide cases. The original quadrilogy on the Nintendo DS stands as one of my favourite adventure game series of all time. This is the first time the franchise has had an installment on the 3DS and its great to see the crazy improvement in the production quality. 3D graphics, full voice acting and high quality cut scenes. Looks uh-mazing.
The Wonderful 101 (Nintendo Wii U)
This super hero title from Platinum Games was supposed to be a launch game for the Wii U. It’s arriving nearly a full year later but it looks like it’ll be worth the wait. 60 frames per second, 1080p and oozing with colour and charisma.
Batman: Arkham Origins (Playstation3, Xbox 360)
I love Warner Bros.’ Batman franchise and its fantastic to see the series reach its logical destination of being an open world game in which the player gets to roam around not just Arkham Asylum, not just the slums of Arkham City but the whole of Gotham. And not just that, the game is set during Christmas time! We don’t have enough video games with a Christmas setting.
The Legend of Zelda: A Link To The Past 2 (Nintendo 3DS)
The original Link To The Past on the Super Nintendo is one of my favourite games on that system and what I would consider a perfect game. I’ve waited 21 years for a sequel. 21 years. My expectations are sky high and I doubt they will be met but if they are…
OctoDad: Dadliest Catch (Playstation 4)
You’re an octopus disguised as someone’s dad. That’s the game.
Super Mario 3D World (Wii U)
The 3D Mario Galaxy games on the Wii were some of the greatest platform games ever made and showed Nintendo at their creative best. This is the successor to those games. That’s all you need to know.
Beyond: Two Souls (Playstation3)
David Cage’s successor to Heavy Rain is in the same interactive film format that he is known for and features lead performances from Ellen Page and Willem DaFoe. Cage always seemed to aspire to make interactive Hollywood films and now he has his wish. There’s no doubting the acting talent in this production. Now he needs to ensure his writing can deliver the goods. I’m cautiously optimistic.
Grand Theft Auto IV (Xbox 360, Playstation3)
Has it really been five years since the last mainline Grand Theft Auto game? Time flies and the industry has come a long way since GTA IV. It’ll be fascinating to see what Rockstar has learned and what changes they will apply to the series after the ludonarrative disonance in the last installment. The trailers, as always, look fantastic.
The Witness (Playstation4)
You might notice a distinct lack of Playstation4 and Xbox One games in this list. That’s not to say I’m not anticipating their launch titles, its just that most of them are pretty safe and predictable games that have annual installments (e.g. FIFA, Call of Duty, Assassin’s Creed). The one exception in the Playstation4 launch line up is The Witness, the next game from the developer of Braid, one of the most critically acclaimed indy games of the last generation. With so much news in the gaming press, The Witness tends to be overlooked. But I can still remember playing Braid for the first time and being amazed by what Jonathan Blow achieved with that game. He’s had five years to create a follow up and it should hopefully be something special.