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Multiplayer: E3 2017: The hits and misses

by Doublejump

In what felt like just a flash, the Electronic Entertainment Expo has come and gone for another year. Even a week and a half after the press conferences — and our coverage thereof — wrapped up, the Doublejump Staff Room is still buzzing with conversation about the myriad announcements that came out of the event (and even those that didn’t). With that in mind, we’ve taken some time to sit down and share our three biggest takeaways from the event, positive or negative.


Abir:

Xbox One X is shaping up to be a fantastic 4K console:
Microsoft has successfully developed a legitimate 4K/60fps-capable system at a price — $649 — that PC gamers can only dream of. In fact, my NVIDIA GTX 1070 graphics card, which costs almost as much as Microsoft’s latest console, can run games at 4K and 60 frames-per-second on medium settings. Even the PlayStation 4 Pro, which can’t run most games at 4K without scaling up from HD, is sitting just above the $500 mark. Games like BioWare’s Anthem and Ubisoft’s Assassin’s Creed Origins were demoed on Xbox One X hardware at E3 and really showed what games can look like when rendered natively (i.e. without scaling) at 4K. That being said, like with the PS4 Pro, the Xbox One X can use its additional horsepower to make 1080p games look great with additional visual processing. However, the place where Microsoft could have done a much better job of selling the new console’s viability was by showing off Xbox-exclusive games that properly take advantage of this new horsepower. As it stands, the only major game coming this year is Turn 10’s Forza Motorsport 7, and, frankly, a simulation racing game is not going to sell the system to the majority of existing and potential Xbox players!

Ubisoft’s press conference was a breath of fresh air:
Moving away from the cringe-worthy affairs of recent years was an excellent move on Ubisoft’s part. While we missed Aisha Tyler’s brand of vulgar-yet-sincere humour, there was something endearing about seeing developers given the room to celebrate their games and interact with fans both in the arena and at home. Whether it was seeing Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle director David Soliani tear up during the game’s introduction or veteran developer Michel Ancel get emotional when thanking fans following Beyond Good & Evil 2’s reveal, you could tell that Ubisoft is fostering a level of passion that seems to get lost during the typical spectacle of gaming’s biggest trade show.

Sony’s press conference was half-assed:
While Ubisoft spent its two-hour presentation celebrating its developers and their games, Sony hosted yet another glorified montage of game trailers and pre-recorded demos. Gone are the days of Sony executives sharing the stage with game directors and indie developers, and, instead, Sony Interactive Entertainment America President and sole presenter Shawn Layden introduced us to an almost uninterrupted stream of trailers and game footage. This really irked me because it meant that standout showings for Insomniac’s Spider-Man and Quantic Dream’s Detroit: Become Human and surprises like the Shadow of the Colossus remake and Monster Hunter World were not given the attention that they would have been only a couple of years ago. E3 has traditionally been a source of wonder and hype for game fans worldwide, and it’s sad to see that Sony isn’t hosting the type of show that won over so many PlayStation fans back in 2013 and 2014. The one good takeaway is that 2018 is shaping up to be another great year for PlayStation exclusives. I just hope that next year’s conference is as lively, confident, and sincere as Ubisoft’s one this year.

Alex:

Star Wars Battlefront II might be the game that 2015 deserved:
It’s no secret that Star Wars Battlefront II has become one of the most widely anticipated games of 2017. Stemming from the various disappointing aspects of EA’s first Battlefront, most expectations seemed to demand a far better video game, and not just another testament to the Star Wars universe. What was delivered at this year’s EA Play event was nothing short of fulfilling, as DICE looks to be getting a lot of things right in this upcoming installment. There’s still a long road ahead until November 14, but Battlefront II is shaping up to be a lot more successful than its predecessor.

There was absolutely no sign of The Last of Us: Part 2:
While not entirely dull, Sony’s conference seemed to lack its usual share of hard-hitting announcements this year. Notably, there was a large, gaping hole where just about every PlayStation 4 owner would have been expecting The Last of Us: Part 2 to make an appearance. The follow up to Naughty Dog’s overwhelmingly-popular survival horror game has garnered more than enough attention and speculation since its reveal at Sony’s 2016 PlayStation Experience event, and it seemed like a fairly no-brainer that the game would be showcased in some way at E3 2017.

Either Naughty Dog has decided to keep things quiet until PlayStation Experience 2017, or the developer isn’t wanting to give much away until players finally get their hands on the game (hopefully) sometime next year. While the latter would be totally understandable, it’s still rather disappointing that another viewing of The Last of Us: Part 2 was held back this year; a viewing that undoubtedly would have wrapped up Sony’s conference quite successfully.

Breath of the Wild’s Expansion Pass is bringing greater challenge, and likely bringing back players:
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild certainly got its fair share of praise at launch, and plenty of fans have been anxiously awaiting more news about the game’s upcoming Master Trials downloadable content. Players have had the opportunity to trial Link in a fair share of unique outfits, and soon they’ll be able to have him sport some iconic apparel, such as the infamous Majora’s Mask, and the even more infamous Tingle costume. If overcome the wrath of Calamity Ganon wasn’t satisfying enough, then doing so looking like everyone’s favourite 35 year old fairy-lover should more than suffice.

More importantly, players will get the chance to up the game’s difficulty with a new hard mode, where enemies such as Bokoblins will gradually recovery health over time after taking damage. Nintendo’s also bringing in an all-new challenge arena, Trial of the Sword, where players are forced to overcome a 45-room test with no starting equipment so as to unlock the Master Sword’s full power. While not adding a vast variety of content to the already-packed game, the Master Trials DLC should offer up enough of a new challenge to rope in a fair share of old players, including yours truly, not to mention an element of replayability.

Ayden:

Metroid Prime 4’s may very well be the teasiest teaser to ever tease:
Well, Nintendo revealed the rebirth of a wonderful series in a timid ritual that resulted in a proper noun being engulfed in smoke. But it is more than enough for this Metroid fan, and to fully exhibit my excitement, I decided to write a limerick.

Samus is back from her stay,

She was left out in the fray!

Some are not pleased.

“The game was only teased”

Just don’t give us FF, mmm-kay?

Metroid Prime’s long-awaited return might not sound too big to more neutral fans, but Metroid fans will agree that going back to the Prime series is an opportunity for Nintendo to harness new technology and new ideas in a quest to make up for the failures known as Other M and Federation Force. To see Samus returning to such a fantastic series after its long absence is exciting, and the prospect of not having to deal with annoying motion controls is the icing on top of the cake. This is how I can imagine literary fans feeling if H. G. Wells came back from the dead specifically to write a new novel with an also-freshly-revived Philip K. Dick, and I love it.

The absence of Halo 6— Microsoft benches its heavy-weight?
Microsoft’s press conference this year sorely missed the one heavy-hitter that might have brought a bit more flavour to its otherwise-disappointing display. 343 Industries was a no-show, which meant that Microsoft missed the opportunity to use the Halo franchise — its most valuable and most revered work — to show off the capabilities of the Xbox One X; that was strange, given just how well-received a Halo 6 would have been in the current climate. With a drying pool of exclusives (Scalebound’s recent cancellation being the primary focus here), it would have been smart to deliver even the most vague of teasers for Microsoft’s best system-seller, but alas, John didn’t wake up this year. Sleep soundly, my prince.

Assassin’s Creed Origins, same old or something new?
Where do you go once you’ve gone everywhere? You go back to the origins after delaying a yearly release cycle, of course! Ubisoft managed to plug the holes in its press release firehose for ten minutes to captivate audiences with a new gameplay trailer for Assassin’s Creed: Origins, the game that it hopes will rejuvenate a dying series. Unfortunately, though, this colossus of a reveal did very little to rekindle this fan’s hope for the Assassin’s Creed universe.

After an in-engine trailer and a gameplay showcase, it’s like any other Assassin’s Creed. The bells and whistles rang with a timorous or just lame chime. It came off as a standard Assassin’s Creed, devoid of anything startling or surprising. After watching the trailers a few times, I can honestly say that I’m having flashbacks to Black Flag. I wish I could say that Ubisoft has whet my palate for this release, but it’s more soiled my expectations.

Perhaps one of those classic pre-rendered trailers would’ve done the trick.

Cav:

Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus looks like a blast:
While a sequel to 2014’s excellent Wolfenstein: The New Order was widely expected to be announced, it’s still welcome news, especially when it comes with a trailer as good as this one. Live-action Nazi sitcoms, robot hound-riding, and resistance members dropping acid and talking to cartoon lizards while a pregnant woman stabs a Nazi in the face, made for a wonderfully mental showcase that ended an otherwise ho-hum Bethesda conference (See below) on a deliriously high note.

The first game garnered as much praise for its darkly funny and surprisingly genuine writing as its weighty, gib-happy dual-wielding gameplay, and on the evidence of this trailer Machine Games may just outdo it.

Devolver Digital’s ‘press conference’ schools everyone:
Let’s be honest, here:as much as your Sonys and Microsofts like to play RRP tennis, and your Hineses and Reggies like to sound tough, E3 has to be one of the most reverential showcases in the entertainment industry. The press conferences are usually platitude orgies with an audience of internal staff and the politest journos the companies can muster, and everybody’s too high on lucrative dealmaking and the sweet, sweet funk of marketing synergies to want to piss anyone off.

Everybody, that is, except indie publisher Devolver. Already notorious for regularly eschewing the masturbatory frenzy of the event with pisstaking offsite press events, it upped its game with their own pre-recorded press conference.that, in a hair under fifteen minutes, ripped just about every imaginable press conference cliche from the carcass of the games industry, and held them steaming in its face like so many guts.

Devolver line up the tropes, only to shoot them down in short order. You get the exec host with almost new-agey flowery script, undone by unsettlingly intense delivery (Here represented by “Chief Synergy Officer” Nina Struthers). You get borderline-nonsensical buzzword speech (“Tomorrow’s tomorrow’s tomorrow: Check a look.”), awkward video messages from star developers (Suda51 not knowing who he’s on camera for), and excessive, self-satisfied enthusiasm literally ending in Struthers hyping so hard, her head explodes. It’s a big, demented middle-finger to the event, what it stands for and the industry at large, and certainly far more punk rock than having a car sitting on stage doing nothing but declare how much money the publisher has.

Bless your black hearts, Devolver: we need more like you out there.

‘Haunting’ minimalist pop covers In trailers must die:
Damn you, Gary Jules, and that Valium-flavoured cover of Tears for Fears’ Mad World you did for the Donnie Darko soundtrack. Your fifteen minutes of fame may have been exactly that, but we’re still suffering your legacy of lumbering, minimalist covers of pop standards, shoehorned into trailers for cheap pathos. It’s the entertainment marketing equivalent of that random guy who starts strumming on an acoustic guitar in the middle of a party so he can get laid.

Unfortunately, these uninvited troubadours seem to grow up to become marketing execs for video game publishers, and the hype-hungry halls of E3 are like one big party waiting for them to rain THE FEELS over.. This year’s culprit? The Evil Within 2: Because Duran Duran and Burning Children Go So Well Together. Unfortunately, they had to use an utterly terrible cover of Ordinary World that sounds like the artist couldn’t work out whether they were copying Coldplay or Orgy (Not sure what the lesser evil is there…). The result was a trailer that rolled far more eyes than it moistened.

Damon:

The Spider-Man we want and the one we deserve:
Insomniac Games’ upcoming Spider-Man title stuck out like a skyscraper amongst an unusually-bland Sony press conference (which has had a reputation for being the “New York City” of the E3 press conferences). We haven’t been treated to a fun, or even decent, Spidey game since Treyarch’s Spider-Man 2 way back in 2004 on the now-ancient PlayStation 4 and Xbox, and after being treated to an eight-minute showcase it’s safe to say that Insomniac’s take on New York’s friendly neighbourhood Spider-Man fills that void.

From what we’ve seen so far, Spider-Man’s active and sprawling urban environment is so full of life and colour; its cinematics and quick-time events weave in and out seamlessly, without any jarring cuts or wipes; its combat mechanics look superb, resembling the ever-popular Batman: Arkham series’ style while adding it’s own intricacies… It’s really no surprise that the Internet was ablaze during the demo, or that the general consensus seems to be that it’s already an absolute home run.

Although I would have loved to see a release date announced during the conference, I don’t mind waiting — I’ll just go back and watch that demo a few hundred more times.

The Pokémon RPG brings our childhood dreams to fruition — at long last:
It’s finally happening. It’s not a drill. Nintendo and The Pokémon Company have confirmed that they are working on a mainline Pokémon RPG for a home console. That’s all Nintendo really needed to put a nice little bow on E3 and wrap up its position as the clear winner. Despite many people being uncertain that it would ever even happen, this was arguably the most talked-about, most-anticipated announcement in quite some time (perhaps ever), and with the disastrously-boring Pokémon Direct just a week before E3, it was an announcement that Nintendo needed to make. The company needed a strong Pokémon presence at E3 to show that it is standing behind the Switch and dedicating itself to the ambitious hybrid console’s success; all gamers wanted was an announcement, and we could not be more thankful.

I don’t think I have ever seen the Internet in such a frenzy over an announcement, especially when you consider that it was a ten-second announcement without a title, logo, trailer, release window or really anything of substance, but now comes the fun part: the speculation. Fans around the world now have the pleasure (or torture) of discussing what they think the game might be like; whether it’ll follow a similar graphical style to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, how Nintendo will handle going back to a single screen, whether the game will be linear or non-linear, whether we’ll see a new region and/or several older ones, how the online and social aspects will tie into the game… The buildup is well and truly here.

Nintendo has firmly, firmly won E3 in my view with a strong list of games, but the ace in the hole was this tiny little announcement. Now, the wait is on for more information.

Anthem looks great — but I caution to temper expectations:
Well… Now we know where all of Mass Effect: Andromeda’s developers and graphics teams disappeared to!

We didn’t see too much of Anthem, but what we did see looked absolutely beautiful. Its world looks graphically stunning and appears to be very complex, with layers upon layers to what seems to be a huge open world. Based on EA’s famously-awkward press conference navigation, it also appears to encourage players to incorporate their friends into the game, which is always a big plus. EA and BioWare supposedly have a ten-year plan for Anthem, much like Destiny did when it arrived; that seems more than fitting, given how similar the games are in their look and feel as well as the promises being made. That’s a good thing — it shows that there’s a level of commitment involved; since EA solely owns Anthem, as well, there may well be a little more flexibility and creative control than Bungie was afforded with Destiny.

I do remain cautious, though, because we have been let down by games that burst onto the scene boasting gorgeous visuals and a massive open world in the past — think Watch_Dogs and Destiny itself, just for example. Both of those games arrived in stores bland and apparently downgraded from the exciting games that their developers showed and promised, so, for now, I’m loving what I’m seeing but I’m remaining cautiously optimistic.

Emily:

Beyond Good and Evil 2 is a dream come true:
The look on Michel Ancel’s face said it all. The revelation of Beyond Good and Evil 2 was, in my view, the best thing to happen at E3. Ancel’s passion and pride in announcing and showing off Beyond Good and Evil 2 were palpable (and oh-so-lovely to see), and fans both in the audience and on the Internet were rightly ecstatic to see that their beloved Beyond Good and Evil is being revisited in prequel form. Unfortunately, there’s not much else to tell about Beyond Good and Evil 2 at this point, only that it’s finally coming and that’s a damn good thing.

The biggest question that remains, though, is just how long we’re going to have to wait for the game’s release — let alone some more information about it. The title is in pre-production right now, and so that reveal trailer was only a small taste of what’s to come; I couldn’t be more excited to see how Jade and her camera got their start, though!

Prepare to be scared with The Evil Within 2:
The Evil Within is one of the most terrifying and most confusing games I have played in a long time — even now, replaying it three years later. It was no surprise that the sequel’s announcement trailer was incredibly disturbing, with the original protagonist, Sebastian Castellanos, returning to the fold as an alcoholic after the events of the first game (quite understandable, given what he went through), forced to re-enter STEM to rescue his daughter, who he thought had perished in a house fire. What I’m hoping to see most is a story that makes a whole hell of a lot more sense than the original; specifically, I would like to see the game delve into Castellanos’ background, rather than just throwing him into the dark world of STEM for no reason.

With the information we’ve seen so far in hand, I couldn’t be more excited to see what The Evil Within 2 brings on when it’s released on October 13 (yes, that’s a Friday); as with every horror game I’ve played, I’ll make sure that my puppy is by my side the entire time.

I’m not sure how to feel about the Shadow of the Colossus remake:
Shadow of the Colossus was one of Sony’s — and E3’s as a whole — standout announcements, but I’m genuinely unsure exactly how I feel about it. Although I trust in Bluepoint’s ability to retain the essence and beauty that made the original title nothing short of a masterpiece, I can’t help but worry that an emphasis on visuals might take away from it. It’s a case of waiting to see whether the full remake will dramatically change the game, or simply put a fresh coat of paint on it and put the spotlight on one of PlayStation’s best-ever titles. Either way, though, fans — myself included — will surely be excited to see how Shadow of the Colossus looks in the modern day, and it’s also a great way to give those who missed the original title in 2005 a chance to see what the fuss is about.

If it’s done correctly and respectfully, this remake will shed some light on why Shadow of the Colossus won so much critical acclaim, and that’s exciting; I just hope that the charm of the original title isn’t lost when it’s all modernised and polished up.

Jake:

A Way Out’s fresh approach is exactly what this industry needs:
For the longest time, I’ve told anyone who will listen that it’s the independent developers that will move the video game industry forward. With triple-A developers and publishers beholden to their investors and forced to focus on making money, it’s the little guys that I’ve trusted to take risks, to try new things and to deliver the kinds of new and exciting experiences that video gaming needs. One thing that I can say for sure is that despite its timing as the first of the major events this week, I did not expect to see EA Play validating my opinion — what a pleasant surprise A Way Out is!

Coming from a group of the minds that brought us Brothers — A Tale of Two Sons, the co-op only A Way Out is the first and only legitimately inventive approach to gameplay we saw throughout the conference. While other developers showed off their tried-and-tested franchises, gameplay mechanics and art styles, and looked to virtual reality for a bit of variance, Hazelight Studios decided to take us fifteen years into the past by encouraging us to play A Way Out on the couch with a friend. It’s a bold move, especially considering how much of modern gaming is based online (the game can be played online as well, of course), but given the attention it’s received even just within the Doublejump Staff Room, it looks like a winning one.

Nintendo has finally thrown its weight behind the Switch, and that’s an amazing thing:
When we sat down to talk about what we were hoping to see out of E3, I implored Nintendo to really display its commitment to the Switch and “give fans and skeptics alike some reason to really get on board with the console,” not for my own benefit but for that of the company and its more voracious fans — the ones who had put their trust in what is a truly ambitious project. I said those things because there was a part of me that just knew that Nintendo had something massive planned, but even I wasn’t expecting to see the Japanese giant throw that much weight behind the console.

Even though the only concrete release dates we heard during the E3 2017 Spotlight were for the already-announced Super Mario Odyssey and Xenoblade Chronicles 2, simply knowing that properties such as Pokémon, Metroid, Kirby, and Yoshi are making their way to the Switch soon enough is a massive affirmation to gamers that Nintendo is pushing for the Switch to succeed. On top of that, as Alex noted above, The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild’s Expansion Pass looks like it’s going to add significant play time to the experience, and working with Ubisoft for Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a great first show of third-party support from both perspectives — especially seeing Nintendo open arguably its most precious IP up to third-party collaboration.

The Switch has been a little slow coming out of the gates, but Nintendo’s E3 2017 Spotlight has proven that current and prospective Switch owners have a lot to look forward to.

Have we not had enough of Skyrim yet?
If there was one lesson to be learned from Bethesda’s press conference this year, it’s that nobody flogs a dead horse quite like the Maryland-based publishing giant. Since its release in 2011, when it was the greatest thing since sliced bread, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been almost omnipresent within the video game industry, racking up three DLC releases and two special edition re-releases. By announcing that it’s releasing Nintendo Switch and virtual reality versions of the game (and using it to promote the Creation Club and The Elder Scrolls: Legends), though, Bethesda has proven once and for all that Skyrim has become little more than a cash-cow, a platform that it plans to continue using rather than — in its own words! — moving on to other projects. Were I an Elder Scrolls fan, now is about the time where I would start to get very, very restless.

Rhys:

Kingdom Hearts III got a sweet new trailer:
I called it: Kingdom Hearts III finally got a new trailer, and it looks absolutely phenomenal! Everything about the trailer screamed perfection, from the visuals to the overall gameplay and sound design; it really did look like the product of 15 years’ worth of experimentation. As a massive Kingdom Hearts fan, it’s an absolute joy to see the long, long, long-awaited third instalment looking so very close to completion and release. Now, I’m hoping that Disney and Square Enix will go on to share a release window — or even a release date — at the D23 Expo on July 15… That would make me a very, very happy man.

God of War is headed in the right direction:
I can’t help but feel that the next instalment in the revered God of War series is shaping up to be the best one yet. Removing some of the crazy, bloody, fast-paced violence that seemed to be one of the series’ biggest selling points does come across as a risky move from Sony’s Santa Monica Studio, but the emphasis on a more grounded and realistic story (you know, as grounded and realistic as a game set in Norse mythology can be) looks to be paying off. Everything we saw at E3 2016, as well as this year, looks like it will put the PS4 and PS4 Pro’s graphical potential to the test, and the gameplay shift from the third-person hack-and-slash of the past to what looks to be more of an action-adventure is really quite exciting. On top of that, I can’t help but make parallels with The Last of Us when it comes to the relationship between Kratos and his son, Atreus; I think that’s going to end up tugging at a few heartstrings when the game launches in early 2018.

Bethesda completely dropped the ball:
I don’t think I’ve ever groaned with disappointment while watching an E3 conference before (though I have groaned at some of the more cringeworthy moments we’ve seen over the years), but I couldn’t help but let out a guttural groan of disgust at another Skyrim re-release and the sheer number of franchises I saw that are okay at best. As much as I admire id Software, Doom and Wolfenstein: The New Order, I can’t help but think that Doom VFR is just a cash-in on what many thought should have been 2016’s Game of the Year, and I can’t see anything new coming to Wolfenstein: The New Colossus… In truth, The Evil Within 2’s was about the only announcement that I was even slightly happy with; although the original had its flaws, the idea of Shinji Mikami having more scares and psychological twists up his sleeve has me excited to see what he’s got in store for us.

Overall, it sucks to say it, but Bethesda’s E3 Conference was a total bore. No new IP, no new announcements from the company’s biggest franchises (outside of “hey look, here comes Skyrim for what feels like the zillionth time!!!), very little that piqued my interest, very little that made me want to even think about supporting the studio in the next year… That, to me, is Bethesda’s biggest problem. It’s time to move on and give us something new.


If you’ve made it this far, well done! We hope you’ve enjoyed the read. Of course, there was a hell of a lot of announcements that we might not have covered, or you might have something to say about one of our little thoughts — if you’ve got anything to say, feel free to follow the links below and join the conversation on social media!


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