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E3 Impressions 2017

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By Nelson Schneider - 06/18/17 at 03:33 PM CT

I honestly didn’t get my hopes up for E3 this year. No significant rumors have been circulating about major upcoming reveals, and the only new hardware we’ve been waiting for is yet another Xbox (which nobody should care about anyway). Fortunately, Nintendo managed to produce a large enough quantity of surprises to carry the rest of the show single-handedly.

Microsoft:
Want: Expanded Backward Compatibility, “Sea of Thieves” (still!)
Not Sure if Want: “Metro Exodus,” “Super Lucky’s Tale,” “Ori and the Will of the Wisps,” “Age of Empires Remastered”
Do Not Want: 4K Pandering/Hardware Fetishism, XBONEX, Ridiculous Car Stunt Reveal for “Forza,” “Last Night,” “Crackdown 3,” 22 ‘exclusives,’ of which only 1 is actually exclusive

Microsoft finally pulled the concealing tarp off of Xbox Scorpio… revealing the milquetoast mid-generational upgrade whose official name is Xbox One X. It is incredibly disappointing that neither Sony nor MS had the balls to push ahead into the 9th Generation, but instead actually followed-through on their promises/threats of a mid-gen hardware refresh. XBONEX, which sounds like an annoying teenage Xbox fanboy’s Live handle, only exists due to 4K resolution pandering and hardware fetishism, and is thoroughly unimpressive in every way. Not even comparing this $500 box to a luxury supercar can do anything to disguise the fact that “beyond generations” is shaping up to be nothing but lies.

After the shameless hardware worship concluded, MS finally got onto the topic people at E3 actually care about: Games. They touted a diverse roster of 42 games, with 22 being exclusive… except that wasn’t actually the case. Of the 22 “exclusives” MS showed off, only one, “Crackdown 3,” is actually exclusive to the XBONE. There were a number of other titles that are semi-exclusive, being playable solely on XBONE or the Windows Store, which is definitely where my interest sat. I haven’t gotten around to the ‘Metro’ series yet, but it seems like the type of FPS I can enjoy, so the fact that the next ‘Metro’ game is exclusive to MS platforms is good. “Super Lucky’s Tale” is a 5th Gen-style 3D Platformer that somehow looks much better than the Rare-inspired multi-plat release, “Yooka-Laylee.” “Ori and the Will of the Wisps” looks just as beautiful and emotional as “Ori and the Blind Forest,” but I’m concerned that the gameplay won’t be improved. Finally, “Age of Empires Remastered” didn’t actually get any coverage at the MS presser, but was revealed during the PC Gaming Show… but will be exclusive to Windows 10. Sadly, the rest of the stuff revealed was either old, multi-platform, or not my cup of tea. MS didn’t even manage to beat their tired old drum consisting of ‘Forza’/‘Halo’/‘Gears’ (much like Nintendo’s tired old drum of ‘Mario’/‘Zelda’/‘Metroid’), as ‘Forza’ was the only one of their big IPs represented.

Of the old things that got another look at this year’s E3, I’m definitely the most interested in “Sea of Thieves,” which is looking more and more like a definite ‘play’ for the MeltedJoystick crew. I’m still a bit dubious about the online features and whether or not the game will feature any form of compulsory PvP, which would instantly remove it from my watchlist.

Another old thing that MS talked about was their Backward Compatibility list. The company announced that they’ll be expanding it to include not only Xbox 360 games, but Original Xbox (which the company is calling Xbox OG) games as well. This consumer friendly move elicited a massive, positive audience reaction, so if MS has some toady somewhere watching E3 footage to determine where they should focus their efforts, BC should definitely get a lot of TLC. Apparently some off-the-record comments by MS employees have revealed that they want to bring this BC feature to Windows 10 as well, which makes me very happy.

Sony:
Want: “Moss”
Not Sure if Want: “God of War” (still!)
Do Not Want: Very Little That Wasn’t Shown Last Year, Lots of Cinematics and Horror, VR Games are Mostly Crap

Oh, Sony! What are you guys doing?! Remastering last year’s E3 isn’t how you do things, guys!

Yep, Sony is so obsessed with remasters and reselling/reusing the same efforts over and over and over again that they tried to give the remaster treatment to E3… and ended up losing the E3 Wars by a very large margin. Sony didn’t talk about ANYTHING new this year. All of the Cinematic games they showed this year are the same Cinematic games they showed off last year, and they managed to make the new ‘God of War’ title actually look worse by showing gameplay instead of sticking with Cinematics. The only significant ‘new’ (and I use the term loosely) addition to their upcoming roster is a friggin’ remaster of the critically overrated “Shadow of the Colossus.”

Sony’s VR segment at least did show a few new-ish titles, but only one of them, a ‘Zelda’-like puzzle-dungeon game starring a “Redwall”-inspired mouse hero, “Moss,” looked intriguing in any way. Who wants to play a 2D Platformer in VR… or catch fish with the “Final Fantasy 15” cast?

Nintendo:
Want: “Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle,” “Super Mario Odyssey,” “Metroid Prime 4,” ‘Core Pokemon’ on Switch
Not Sure if Want: “Xenoblade 2” (still!), “Kirby,” “Yoshi”
Do Not Want: Ridiculous 90’s-Style ‘Gangsta’ Ad Campaign, Over a Year Before We See More of “Metroid 4” and ‘Core Pokemon’ on Switch, “Fire Emblem Warriors” (still!), More Damned Amiibos, 3DS Still Getting Exclusives (“Metroid 2” Remake)

I wasn’t expecting much from Nintendo, as they’ve been too busy licking-up Sony’s remaster slime trail recently to impress me. Fortunately, they managed to keep a significant number of surprises up their sleeves, giving them the best press conference of the year, and definitely the best Nintendo showing in a long time.

“Super Mario Odyssey” looks great, and its hat-based mechanics were revealed; “Metroid Prime 4” is coming to Switch; a new ‘Core Pokemon’ title is coming to Switch; a new (very formulaic) “Kirby” is coming to Switch; a sequel (also very formulaic) to “Yoshi’s Woolly World” is coming to Switch; “Xenoblade 2” is looking decent (and the tits on the anthropomorphic sword-girl are pretty great… hopefully Nintendo doesn’t censor them upon release); and Nintendo is teaming up with Ubisoft (boo) to create “Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle,” an all-new TRPG! Mic dropped.

Nintendo really blew the doors off E3 by giving Nintendo fans a huge dose of what they want. Sure, “Metroid Prime 4” and new ‘Core Pokemon’ are still a long ways off, but when most of the games announced by Sony and MS are still 2018 releases, nobody at Nintendo should feel bad about teasing things so far in advance.

Unfortunately, not everything was perfect in Nintendo-land. Aside from a cringe-inducing intro that just oozed ‘90s Gangsta style (making me think Nintendo is actively courting the Xbox audience), Nintendo still managed to show off plenty of old stuff, ports, and remasters. The two worst things at Nintendo’s show would have to be the fact that even the “Zelda: Breath of the Wild” DLC pack is getting MORE DAMNED AMIIBOS, and the fact that Nintendo – despite having a single device that is both a console and a handheld – is releasing a high-demand game exclusively on their last-gen 3DS handheld: “Metroid: Samus Returns” is a remake of the ancient Game Boy Brick “Metroid 2: The Return of Samus” (which explains why Nintendo has been so lawyer-y about taking down fan-remakes of said game). I would love to play a remake of “Metroid 2,” but on the SWITCH, NOT the damned 3DS!

PC Gaming Show:
Want: “BattleTech,” “Tunic”
Not Sure if Want: “YLands,” “Griftlands,” “War Groove”
Do Not Want: Soooooo Much PvP Garbage and E-Sports Pandering, Intel Hardware Whoring

This year’s PC Gaming Show (only the third one ever) was sponsored by Intel instead of AMD. This is unsurprising, as AMD has no money because people don’t buy their crappy hardware if they can afford Intel. The requisite Intel hardware whoring involved pushing expensive, hot, inefficient overkill processors in the Intel Core i7x and Core i9x lines, which nobody in their right mind should buy at this point.

Despite the fact that I’m gaming more heavily on PC than I ever have and rarely even touch a console anymore, the PC Gaming Show loves to rub me the wrong way. This year, the overwhelming presence of ‘e-sports’ really tripped my trigger. Far too much time was spent talking about new FPS (both traditional and in VR) and Card Battle titles than quality, single-player experiences. It seems like everyone wants to get in on microtransactions driven by competitive e-peen waggling to the point of tripping over their own e-peens in the process.

Thankfully, there were a few actually interesting things shown off that are exclusive (for now) to PC. The new “BattleTech” looks great, as it’s based on the rules of a tabletop RPG featuring giant mechs. Likewise, “Tunic,” an isometric ‘Zelda’ clone featuring an anthropomorphic fox wearing a… tunic… looks like something worth experiencing. There were a lot of user-generated-content games shown-off as well, including “YLands,” which looks like a mash-up of “Minecraft” and Microsoft’s late “Project Spark” as well as “War Groove,” a do-it-yourself TRPG by Chucklefish (who also published “Wanderlust: Rebirth,” but I think we can forgive them for that). “Griftlands” is another intriguing PC exclusive that will be coming soon, but not enough actual gameplay was shown to determine whether the developer has a good game on their hands or if they just have a talented art department.

The Rest:
Want: “Anthem,” VR “AAA” Games Including “Skyrim” and “Fallout 4”
Not Sure if Want: Bethesda Creation Club, EA Originals, “Middle-Earth: Shadow of War,” “FarCry 5,” “Beyond Good & Evil 2,” “Wolfenstein 2”
Do Not Want: EA’s Sports Fixation, Everyone Pushing a Wannabe E-Sports Platform, Digital Card Games, “Star Link” Collectable Spaceship Toys, NO Mention of “Dragon Quest 11”

Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, and newcomer Bethesda Softworks were the three big publisher conferences to pay attention to this year. Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately), Square Enix didn’t do a dedicated show, which I suppose is just as well… though I really wanted to hear some more about “Dragon Quest 11.”

As for EA, they predictably pushed sports, sports, SPORTS, only now some of the sports have new Cinematic drama tacked on! It was amusing to see one of the biggest, evilest gaming publishers bend over backwards to apologize for how badly they screwed up “Star Wars: Battlefront 2” last year, but the promise changes did nothing for me, personally. In general, only one of EA’s games caught my attention – “Anthem” – because it looks to combine the open world, mech-suit, co-op goodness I’ve been craving since I played “Defiance” and “Xenoblade Chronicles X.” However, the fact that EA has created a new bureaucratic mechanism for dealing with Indie developers really grabbed my attention. It seems that ‘EA Originals’ will be the new method by which EA swoops in to steal the thunder from small, Independent studios instead of buying them outright. I can see both sides of this system, as it allows small studios more wiggle-room regarding budgets and gives them the industry connections they might not otherwise have, while at the same time EA gets a cut of the profits (how much is unknown) without having to buy up a bunch of one-hit wonders, then shutter them once they have lost their usefulness.

Ubisoft shocked me from the get-go, as not only did they jump straight into talking about games with no stupid, psychedelic musical intro, but traditional Ubi-shill, comedienne Aisha Tyler, was nowhere to be seen. Aside from the large amount of time spent on their collaboration with Nintendo, Ubisoft finally managed to impress me with a ‘FarCry’ game, as “FarCry 5’s” setting, which puts the player in direct conflict with a group of Christian Fundamentalists in Montana, is definitely the type of social commentary we need, rather than all the Third Wave Feminism and SJW nonsense we’ve been getting. Other than that, Ubisoft showed off old stuff, uninspired VR, and a pirate game, “Skull & Bones,” that looks like a non-toon rip-off of “Sea of Thieves,” only with detestable compulsory PvP. It’s odd that Ubisoft is just now getting in on the collectable meatspace toy market that Nintendo and Activision have been flogging for years, but they are with “Starlink,” a spaceship game where players assemble their virtual ship using non-virtual toy/model components that snap together.

Bethesda, as the new kid when it comes to doing a stand-alone conference, did remarkably well. They tied everything together with a cute ‘Fallout’ universe-style animated sequence touting the attractions at ‘Bethesdaland.’ I was quite pleased to see the company putting decent effort into releasing VR versions of their titles, as there are few “AAA” devs doing so. Unfortunately, they didn’t show off any new games that caught my interest: Nothing but sequels to established IPs, plus their own wannabe e-sports platform. They did, however, give us a first glimpse at some of the non-game things they’re doing behind the scenes. Not long ago, it was discovered that Bethesda is launching their own Origin/Uplay/Epic Games style launcher that will deal exclusively with their own products. Whether this means Bethesda titles will be de-listed from Steam is still up in the air (it would be an incredibly stupid move). However, we do know that Bethesda will be using their launcher to power the Bethesda Creation Club, which will allow both PC and console versions of Bethesda games to employ third-party DLC. Yep, Paid Mods v. 2.0 is on the way! Fortunately, it looks like Bethesda has the right idea about paid mods this time around, as they are specifically partnering with limited third-parties and heavily curating these things.

Conclusion
For E3 2017, I’m handing the trophy to Nintendo, for a truly impressive list of upcoming titles… even though they’re all first-party stuff…

My Game of the Show goes to “Mario + Rabbids: Kingdom Battle,” as there simply aren’t enough TRPGs around these days that are willing to break the “GRIND FOREVAR” mold. I’m looking forward to seeing how this game shapes up… and it might be the title that finally sells me a Switch.

The Booby Prize goes to Sony, for a spectacular remaster of last year’s E3.

Overall, though, the worst and most ominous thing about E3 2017 was the overwhelming presence of e-sports retardation. It seems like everyone, be they big-league hardware manufacturers, “AAA” swill peddlers, or small-time Indie developers wants to push the idea of competitive gaming as a legitimate career… and they want to be the ones who provide the actual games that serve as the e-sports platform. The fact that it’s not all Arena-style FPSes is even more disturbing, as the recent open beta of CD Projekt’s “Gwent” card game is being joined by scads of others… and none of them are actually ‘free,’ but all revolve around the same paid booster pack mechanic as meatspace Trading/Collectible Card Games, only without any of that icky manufacturing, retail, or aftermarket for the publishers to deal with. I see what you’re doing there, Games Industry, and I do NOT approve.

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Nelson Schneider

Wrote on06/21/17 at 03:00 PM CT

This was definitely NOT the worst E3 ever, Christopher! 2013 was significantly worse, as far as I'm concerned. You're just bent out of shape as a Sony fanboy because their show was the worst this year.

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Chris

Wrote on06/19/17 at 07:29 PM CT

Worst. E3. Ever. And I agree, Nintendo did have the best showing and Sony dropped the ball by essentially recycling last year's E3 but, really, nothing got me excited and I'm still not ready to give Nintendo another chance after the WiiU debacle but I'm edging ever so slightly toward maybe considering a Switch some day.

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