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My e3 2015 Predictions

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The “Re-mastered Generation” has stumbled out of the box. When I look over my PS4 collection and observe that its best games are The Last of Us, Diablo 3, and Tomb Raider, an issue arises. Where are the games that define this generation? Super Mario 64 pushed the N64 off selves. Super Metroid rocked our world when it popped up on the Super Nintendo. Sonic the Hedgehog breathed life into my Sega Genesis. Remember Shenmue and Powerstone for the Dreamcast? What about Metal Gear Solid for the PS1? I took a dive onto the Xbox for Halo. I plunged face first into the Xbox 360 for Mass Effect and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Dating back to the original Atari, I don’t recall a single time in gaming history where so many recycled titles dominated the shelves.

Destiny was rubbish. I can say that. For everything the game accomplished, it managed to do a lot more wrong. Let’s review: no story, a bare bones competitive multiplayer mode, a boring grind system, and a repetitive mission structure make for a dull experience. An experience that not even great core mechanics, beautiful visuals, and an excellent frame rate can overcome. Shadow of Mordor hinted at greatness, the nemesis system was real innovation, but its true potential remained unknown, held back by being produced for last generation consoles that are now ten years in age. Dragon Age: Inquisition was a return to form for Bioware, but nothing about it screamed, “This is the future of gaming!” Too many fetch quests combined with unimaginative side quests produced an experience that was good, but not great. I felt I could have enjoyed a similar experience playing it on the Xbox 360 as opposed to the PS4. This generation’s library of games remains average at best.

Add to the dearth of titles the rise of releasing half-finished products and the non-too subtle attempt at inching towards always online connectivity, and I am left wondering if it is worth continuing this hobby? What about virtual and augmented reality? Shouldn’t you perfect what you already have before moving on to the next big thing? Or is sinking into a pool of mediocrity to be the accepted norm? Don’t worry true believers: re-mastered versions of God of War 3, Alan Wake, and Final Fantasy X are set to join the re-mastered versions of Sleeping Dogs, GTA V, Devil May Cry, and the Master Chief Collection that already populate the shelves. Recycle. Recycle. Recycle.

Hope exists. Another e3 is on the horizon. A chance for redemption may be in play. Perhaps this sinking ship can be righted after all. Or maybe it is time for this old guy to put down the controller and move on to reading. Here are my top predictions/wishes for e3 2015:

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Bethesda Steals the Show

They are already making history by announcing their own floor presentation. What do I expect? The Doom reboot, Dishonored 2, a dlc expansion for the Elder Scrolls MMO, and a new IP. I am hoping for Elder Scrolls VI. I think we may be surprised by what Bethsaida decides to do with Fallout. Many are expecting a sequel much in the vein of Fallout 3. What we may get is a trailer for a Fallout MMO instead. Not saying I like the idea, but there is evidence…

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Bioware Continues their Resurrection  

An expansion, similar to Awakening, is shown for Dragon Age Inquisition. A trailer is shown for Mass Effect 4 with a release date pushing it to holiday 2016. Another teaser is flashed for their new IP, and their segment is ended by the announcement that the Mass Effect trilogy is coming to the PS4/Xbox One. My hope is not just for the routine 1080p/60fps with all the dlc treatment. I wish they would also fine tune the combat, give it another level of polish, add additional cut scenes, extend other cut scenes, and transfer the sound effect lessons they implemented in Mass Effect 3 into Mass Effect 1 and 2. A steel case, the soundtrack for the entire trilogy, an art book, and a disc that goes behind the scenes into the making of the entire trilogy would be an added bonus. Alas, I feel my expectations have me set up for a major disappointment. Hey, if you are going to re-master everything, might as well get it done right.

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The Wii-U Swansong

My biggest hesitation last year with Nintendo was my worry that they would abandon the Wii-U and make a run on a new console. They haven’t abandoned the Wii-U, yet. The writing, however, is on the tombstone. The next system will be unveiled next year. If they’re smart, not only does it match the PS4/Xbox1 while introducing a remarkable innovation, it also hits store shelves holiday 2016. This creates a cloud over everything Nintendo decides to show at this e3. My mind is already looking to next year. What tricks do they have up their sleeves to recapture my attention to the Wii-U? Or is it already a lost cause?

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PS4/Xbox 1 Come out Swinging…

With what? PS4 will likely tout exclusive games like Deep Down, Street Fighter V, and No Man’s Sky. Xbox will be all about Halo, Crackdown, Tomb Raider: Rise of the Tomb Raider, and Quantum Break. More re-masters will be shown off. More boring stats that no one cares about will be recited. My hope? PS4 shows off that top secret RPG that Guerilla Games is supposedly working on, a new IP is shown off by Quantic Dream, and a classic like Syphon Filter is reborn. Throw in some more indies, another third party exclusive, and cap it off by showing more footage from Uncharted 4 and a teaser for the next God of War (time to take on the Japanese pantheon), and you’ll have a winner. Xbox needs to hit the first party exclusive scene hard. Perfect Dark? Kameo? Banjo? The next Gears of War? Yes, yes, yes, and yes. How about bringing Starcraft and Overwatch over from Blizzard? Throw in a brand new killer IP, and they will be golden as well. Why? The taste of being burned in the last half of the Xbox 360’s cycle is still fresh in my mouth. The part where they shifted their focus from games to TV. Blow it up with first party exclusives for the second year in a row and that taste may be gone for good.

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VR/Augmented Reality take Center Stage

This is unfortunate. Too many gimmicks have fallen flat on their faces over the last few years in the industry. Right the ship you’re sailing before you tether another boat lest both end up sinking. At least, that’s my take. I expect this season’s technological darling to receive an awful lot of limelight. We will see big promises. We may even be wowed by presentation. Just bear in mind reality. If the history of e3 presentations are anything to go by, looking at you Watch Dogs, keep yourself grounded in fact and do not be swayed by fancy fiction.

Destiny

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 Pros:

-Excellent Game Mechanics

-Tight Controls

-Beautiful Visuals

-Fantastic Soundtrack

-Plenty of Potential

-Nicely Polished

Cons:

-No Story

-No Wit or Charm in Dialogue

-No WOW Moments

-Lack of Mission Variety

-Poor Voice Acting

-Barebones RPG Elements

-Barebones Multiplayer Modes

-Unbalanced Multiplayer

-Lack of Vehicles

-No Hijacking Vehicles or Assassinations

-Lack of Melee Weapons

-Cheap AI

-Bullet Sponge Bosses

-Quietest and Least Social Online Game Ever

-Broken/Uninteresting Loot System

-World’s Lack Life

The Rundown: While fun at first, its many shortcomings left me bored and frustrated.

Score: C

I think comparing this to a Free-To-Play title is not without merit. The game feels like the meaningful content has been reserved for expansion packs and dlc. The loot system lacks the depth and enjoyment of a Borderlands or Diablo 3. The multiplayer is subpar when compared to the likes of the very series Bungie created (Halo). With no story to speak of and an overall experience that left me quite unsatisfied, this game has been sunk by the weight of its own hype. I doubt I will remember it a year from now, much less the expected 10 year life span that has been advertised. Grinding and/or farming may be enjoyable to some people, but for me, I don’t see the point. I made it to a level 25 Warlock and have no desire to pick it up again. That speaks volumes to Destiny’s failure to live up to the awesome amount of potential that exists here. To sum it up: fun for a few missions, but mind numbingly boring soon after.

System: PS4

e3 2014 Review

Conferences

Micosoft
Grade: C+
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Review: I was thrilled that Microsoft dedicated an entire e3 conference to games. And they managed to deliver a solid showing. As a big Halo fan, the Master Chief Collection should keep me satisfied until next fall’s Halo 5: Guardians arrives. However, it’s everything else that remains suspect. Scalebound looks promising, but Fable Legends appears to have lost all the magic that made the original so good (in my eyes, the series has been in serious decline since Lost Chapters). Crackdown 3…well, I am still aching from the mediocrity that was Crackdown 2, so that title has a lot to make up for. Project Spark looks like fun, but I have a bad feeling it will not live up to expectations. Sunset Overdrive looks funny, but I am still not sure what to think especially after hearing from numerous sources the game felt “floaty.” It hurts knowing that all the third party titles shown, given previous history, will look and run better on a PS4. Yea, they finally did the right thing by getting rid of the Kinect, but where does that leave the Xbox One? The entire system was built around the Kinect. Microsoft left this dilemma untouched for folks like me who have yet to purchase an Xbox One to ponder. And it is worrisome. The biggest highlight of the conference was Ori and the Blind Forest, which looked beautiful, but it’s not enough to justify a $400 purchase.
Next Time: The original Xbox had Halo and Knights of the Old Republic to convince me it was worth a purchase. The Xbox 360 had Halo 3 and Mass Effect. The Xbox One is in sore need of another AAA franchise. They really need a WOW moment. What about the Samaritan demo Epic showed off a couple years ago? A huge selling point for me would also be to make backwards compatibility a reality.

Sony
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Grade: B
Review: Another solid showing even if the conference lost some steam with the awkwardness in the middle. Bloodborne, The Order 1886, Driveclub, and Little Big Planet 3 all look to be fine exclusives. I am not sure what to think of the exclusive title Let It Die, but at least it shows Sony is not afraid to take risks. The highlight of the show for me was definitely No Man’s Sky. And after confirming that the trailer showed for Uncharted 4 was running on the in-game engine, yea, that is a must buy title for next year. But that’s next year. What about this year? I am still left wondering what all the other Sony in-house studios are working on. And really, nothing shown made me think I need to run out and purchase a PS4 right this instant. The most exciting titles announced were multiplatform.
Next Time: Where was Last Guardian? How about that open world RPG Guerilla Games is working on? Games, games, games. That is what this system sorely needs. The potential is there and I know the games are coming. Offering up more teasers, surprises, and wow moments will knock the next conference out of the ballpark.

Nintendo
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Grade: B-
Review: Welcome back, Big N. Legend of Zelda certainly offered up the WOW moment Nintendo needed to make the Wii U pop up on my radar. And with the success of Mario Kart 8 and another Smash Bros game due this fall, things are finally starting to look up for them as well. However, 3 major things give me caution: 1. The void that was third party support is deafening. It makes me wonder if this system will go the way of Gamecube. I would hate to purchase the system this year and next year have Nintendo release a new system. I can’t shake the feeling that this is a major possibility. 2. Hearing from a few sources that the Star Fox that was announced may be nothing more than a glorified tech demo disappointed me for sure. 3. Where was Metroid? Yea, as the conference came to a close we were left with a little tidbit that an announcement may be made in the near future. But here is the problem: delays. Everything on the Wii U feels like it is being delayed. Xenoblade. Smash Bros. The system is on life support as it is. It needs games, not delays. And see, this is where third party support would come in handy in keeping the system afloat.
Next Time: I need assurance that Nintendo doesn’t plan to abandon ship with the Wii U. This conference was a start in the right direction. But its baby steps when really Nintendo needs to be running. Unveil the games. Open the wallet for third party support. Oh, and how about allowing more than a single gamepad to work per Wii U?

Top 5

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1. Witcher 3-It’s beautiful. The cities are thriving. The environments are so colorful. The combat looks fluid. This game continues to wow me with every showing.
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2. Batman Arkham Knight-Batman done right. Everything I have seen from this final chapter of Rocksteady’s epic trilogy screams awesome. My only worry is story. Arkham Origins has had the best story of any of the Arkham games and that was even done by Rocksteady.
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3. Dragon Age Inquisition-Bioware appears to have a megaton hit on their hands. I have loved everything I have seen and greatly appreciate that Bioware’s pledge to listen to fan feedback wasn’t lip service. My only gripe? The cities. Or lack thereof. Will there be cities to explore? And will they be as thriving as they are in Witcher 3 or will all the NPC’s be stuck in mud?
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4. No Man’s Sky-The idea of exploring an infinite galaxy sounds incredible. The atmosphere looked beautiful. And every player starts the game on a different planet? How cool! But will this game live up to the ambitions of its creators?
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5. Evolve-I came into this e3 without a concern or care in the world for this game. After watching it in action, I can safely say I was so wrong for ignoring it. Fun is the word that best describes it. An incredible amount of fun.

Surprises

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1. Lego Batman 3. Ok, don’t laugh. I loved Marvel Superheroes. And this comes from someone who is not the biggest fan of Lego games. So color me surprised when I saw this and thought, “Wow, that looks like a blast.” I’m keeping this on my radar although I am not guaranteeing a purchase. Not just yet.
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2. Shadow of Mordor. I’m sold. The Nemesis system is one of the best things to happen to this new generation of consoles. The game looks and feels great. If the story can be on par from the gameplay that was shown than this will end up being the LOTR game I have always wanted.
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3. Rainbow Six Siege. I’m a little sad that Patriots was canceled after showing so much promise. However, the hostage situation multiplayer matches looked fantastic. It made you think. It made you sweat. If this game can continue down this path it will not only distinguish itself from COD and Battlefield, it will also be a blockbuster hit.

Honorable Mention

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Far Cry 4-The game looked beautiful. I have major concerns with story. I also question Ubisoft’s ability to create a living world. And does there need to be so much profanity? It may be an attempt to come across as cool, but to me it is just lazy writing.
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Assassin’s Creed: Unity-Perfect time period selected what with it taking place during the French Revolution. Four player co-op? Yes. I was particularly intrigued by the murder scene investigation the player stumbled across. However, I am a bit turned off but what I feel is too much hand-holding in Ubisoft’s games. Also, after Assassin’s Creed 3, I am still fatigued with the series. So much so that I never bothered played Black Flag. This game has my attention, but it is surely divided at this point.

Disappointments
1. Mass Effect Trilogy-So maybe I got my hopes up. But seriously, this would have been awesome to have on the next gen consoles. 1080p/60 fps, all dlc included, and the combat in ME 1 tweaked to perfection. But the conference came and went without even a whisper of its existence.
2. Mass Effect 4-Concept art? Really? The game is playable, but all we get is concept art? Listen, I know you don’t want take the attention away from DAI, but still. A teaser trailer would have been significantly better than a few pieces of concept art.
3. Bioware’s New IP-Ok…what did I just see? A building. Day and night cycle. Right. What’s the point? Give me a name. A teaser trailer. Something to latch my excitement upon. This felt absolutely pointless.
4. Star Wars Battlefront-I get it. You went to some locations. You’re staying true to the Star Wars brand. But this feels like a theme that was pretty consistent with the entire EA conference. We have lots of cookies in the oven, but nothing to show right now. Like, nothing. No teasers. No game footage. Nothing. I don’t know whether to be excited or stumped. Therefore, I am left disappointed.
5. Last Guardian –You vehemently defend the notion the title is not canceled, but can’t so much as show a building with a day and night cycle. Man, we got that from Bioware’s IP. And what, Last Guardian has only been in development since the rise of the Grecian Empire under Alexander the Great. If it’s canceled, admit it. If it’s in development, then show it. At this point, you need make a decision and stick with it.

Overall, e3 2014 was a “Play It Safe” event. I understand the reasons. However, the lack of WOW moments has made what was a solid show mostly forgettable.

e3 2013 Review

My Top Ten:

The Witcher 3 (Best of Show): This open world gem looks to define what next generation consoles are truly capable of. Rich in story, incredible sword play, and a stunningly realistic landscape make this my number one most anticipated game-period.

 

Watch Dogs: As a person who studied film and met his future spouse in the Windy City, this is somewhat of a biased pick. I love that Ubisoft has completely recreated the city of Chicago. It is gorgeous. I adore the sci-fi thriller story they have cooked up for this new IP. This game has so much potential. It is one to watch for sure.

 

Batman Arkham Origins: All my fears about Rocksteady not working on this one have been washed away. The game looks terrific, plays like an old friend, and will undoubtedly have an awesome story to boot. I am not sure how they intend on incorporating the multiplayer feature. I am also saddened that Kevin Conroy will not be voicing Batman in this one. Still, I have been satisfied by how this one is coming along.

 

Dragon Age Inquisition: I owe it to Bioware for allowing me to attend e3. This was the main reason I was there-to see the progress that has been made on the new Dragon Age title. I am disappointed that no game play was shown (it would be higher on the list if some was shown). However, the trailer was beautiful. The musical score top notch, the graphics improved, an epic tale was teased, and old friends were revealed. I am also glad that the team is being given plenty of time to do this one justice. Fall 2014 cannot come fast enough.

 

Final Fantasy XV: I have never been a fan of Final Fantasy. The last one I played was VII. However, this one intrigued me. It had plenty of escalating conflict and tension. The action was fast paced and looked like fun. I was sucked into the story from the onset. For the first time in years I am actually looking forward to a FF title. Color me impressed.

 

Metal Gear Solid V: My hope here is the story will actually make sense and will not be too over the top. Everything else I saw from this title wowed me to the core.

 

Kingdom Hearts 3: This one bleeds all kinds of awesome. It has been a long time coming and fans of the series will be pleased for sure. Will Marvel and Star Wars be making appearances since they are now Disney property? Maybe. Either way, I love RPG’s and this was icing on the cake for me.

 

Destiny: Before e3, I was not really feeling it for this one. But then they showed off the game play and I was reminded of Borderlands on steroids. If they can add the magic of Halo to the sheer enjoyment of Borderlands, with a solid sci-fi story to boot, I am sold.

 

Battlefield 4: I was not expecting this to make my list. I am not a military FPS sort of person. However, I loved what I saw of the intense 64 player matches. The game looks like a lot of crazy fun with plenty of suspenseful moments. If it can do it all at a full 1080p at 60fps, I may just have to give it a shot. If it can also deliver a gripping campaign with a great story, I am 100% in.

 

Titanfall: I really liked this one. The idea of jumping in and out of giant mechs was super cool. The game was action packed and the sci-fi feel was great. I am hoping this beast decides to grace the PS4 in the near future, but for now Xbox fans have a nice little exclusive gem on their hands.

 

Honorable Mentions:

  1. Infamous Second Son-The game play filled me with a whole lot of excitement.
  2. Assassin’s Creed IV: Blackflag-I’ve been waiting for a decent pirate game since Sid Meir’s Pirates!
  3. Killzone: Shadowfall-I have never been a big Killzone fan but this series may have finally hit its stride.

 

Biggest Surpise: The Sony E3 conference, of course. I really don’t need to include any detail here.

 

Biggest Letdown: Mircosoft’s Attitude. I’ve been a loyal customer of theirs since they entered the gaming market. That’s going back to PC days. They really have this sort of arrogant attitude that causes me to lose interest in anything they have to say. It was weird.

 

Top 5 MIA:

  1. Bioware: The trailer for Dragon Age was nice, but what about the game play? We heard nothing about their new IP, Mass Effect 4, or whatever new Star Wars game they happen to be working on. Also, we heard nothing on any updates for the Old Republic. It was rather odd to tell you the truth.
  2. RTS Void: Ok, Total Rome II showed up and wowed me, but where was everyone else? No Warcraft 4? Lord of the Rings: The Battle for Middle-Earth 3 (I loved the second one)? Star Trek Armada 3 (best Star Trek video game series ever)? What about Age of Wonders III which is due this fall? It was odd to have this entire genre sort of glossed over.
  3. Fallout 4: I can understand Elder Scrolls VI being a no show, although I want that one more than just about anything else. But I know The Elder Scrolls Online is taking center stage right now. Still, why no news on Fallout 4? It seemed like a missed opportunity.
  4. Superman: The Arkham series has shown the world that superheroes can be translated into great video games. Man of Steel is proving to fans that Superman can be converted to the silver screen and totally rock. So why no Big Blue in video game format?
  5. Fable IV: Yea, I know they announced a Fable Anniversary Edition. And yea, it looks ok. But this series has always had so much potential and has never quite lived up to what it could be. You know, a funnier, light hearted Zelda with customization options. Fable 3 was mediocre at best. Fable The Journey was utter rubbish. Fable IV needs to come along and redeem this once promising series.

 

Hype-Train:

  1. Star Wars Battlefront: Sign me up. I’m all in.
  2. The Order 1886: Alternate history? League of Extraordinary Gentlemen? Booyah.

 

System Wars: The Sony Playstation 4 won the PR machine hands-down. It has a lot of steam. Now they just need to throw in some more substance.

 

Next Gen Gaming

The rumors are spreading on the internet faster than the latest viral youtube video.  Spend too long eyeballing quotes from one “insider source” and you’re likely to have it debunked by an update a minute later.  Going on seven years, this is the longest gap between generations of game consoles in the history of the interactive entertainment industry.

To put this into perspective consider that the Xbox 360 was behind computer technology when it hit store shelves in November 2005.  Translation: console gamers are fumbling around in Gremlins while their pc buddies are cruising by in BMWs.

Over the past seven years we have seen an explosion of digital content.  Add to this the majority of yearly best sellers in the gaming world contain some element of multiplayer, and it’s safe to say that online functionality is now a staple of gaming.

Coinciding with the advancements of technology this past generation has brought is the cost of production.  Stars Wars The Old Republic and Red Dead Redemption had budgets exceeding $100 million.  Big budgets mean that the price for failing to meet sales margins may lead to layoffs and bankruptcy.

We already know that the Nintendo Wii-U will be launching this fall and will incorporate the use of an innovative tablet controller.  What direction will Sony and Mircosoft take?  Let’s put aside Sony’s present financial woes for the moment to offer up some conjecture:

The sale of used games has hurt the industry for years.  Rumor has it that a chip will be inserted into the new Xbox that will disable the play of used games.  True or not is beside the point.  This is a major issue that will be addressed in some form.


Expect an expansion of Xbox Live and the PSN Network. You know the new Xbox will have an updated Kinect attached and Skype will be squeezed in.  Both systems will allow every release to be purchased digitally.  And fully anticipate the new Xbox to have a Blu-ray player.

I would love to see new consoles crammed with enough new technology to make even the purring engine of a Ferrari jealous.  The reality is that Mircosoft and Sony will probably go the cheap route and offer up a cpu and graphics card powerful enough to play next gen games.  That would entail offering up older but working technology that would bring the price of consoles on par with where they are now.  It still stands that the Xbox controller needs better D-pad functionality.

Backwards compatibility is a must.  Not to mention a killer line-up of launch titles.  The Xbox 360 has been lacking 1st party titles and exclusives.  They risk losing core-gamers in their pursuit of a causal audience.  The PS3 has been hurt by inferior online play and developers unable to take advantage of the hardware.  This is why most multiplatform releases are generally better on the Xbox.

Uneasy economic times make for a puzzling transition.  I think we will see the new Xbox hitting store shelves late 2013, followed by the PS4 unveiling in 2014.  The next generation of gaming must pave the way for new trails to be blazed and worlds to be explored.  With interactive storytelling in its infancy, next gen gaming could prove to be a defining moment.

by D.L. Timmerman

writerofthings1@gmail.com