Just a few quick E3 thoughts this morning

Unfortunately real-life is conspiring against my ability to fully digest and share my thoughts on E3 right now, between my dad visiting from out of state, some issues at work and so on.  Still, having gotten to watch some of the press conferences, here's some of the things that caught my eye for better or worse.  I will start with what everyone seemed to be talking about, even at work yesterday afternoon: Tomb Raider.

My oh my, this game looked really good.  I had been skeptical in the past with the limited trailers I had seen before that looked pretty, but also looked like glorified quicktime events, which are not my favorite part of a game by any means.  That said, the lengthy look at the combat laced with the other action-packed scenes left me anxious to see more.  The game looks pretty polished at this point, and it's still more than half a year out, meaning that the game should be getting even better on that front going forward. 

It sounds like PlayStation Plus users are getting some excellent games going forward.  Some of them we own, like Infamous 2 and Little Big Planet 2, but Just Cause 2, Virtua Fighter 5 and more will be welcome additions to my hard drive, though I may have to clear off some space on one of my PS3's, due to all of the free games already on it.  Such a terrible burden to have to suffer through - too many games - no?

Book of Spells, which is set in the Harry Potter universe, really did not do much for me.  My family loves all things Harry Potter, even some of the crumbier games.  I am much more skeptical.  Outside of the Lego Harry Potter titles, I haven't really cared for any of them.  I really don't have much in the way of hopes for this one, but no doubt at least one of my kids will ask me about it sooner than later.

God of War: Ascension looked good.  I don't know if it's just because the games always look amazing or what, but this one's demo just did not excite me the way God of War III's did when they opened with Kratos scaling the back of a titan while battling enemies.  It all looked sharp and will no doubt be fun, but this demo just didn't quite hit the same sweet spot for me that III did a few years ago.

I was pretty impressed with the way The Last of Us looks so far.  This is a title that I've been growing steadily more interested in.  Initially it struck me as something I was passingly curious about, but the more I see, the better it looks to me.

I know sports games are not the most popular with some video gamers.  While I was watching the EA conferences on IGN, the comments section was absolutely FLOODED with hate for NCAA, FIFA and especially Madden.  Sorry, I am so not in that camp.  I love NCAA and Madden and get those games more often than not (though NCAA is usually an every 2 to 3 years pick up, where as madden is almost always yearly).  I thought the physics system put on display by Tiburon looked good, and I'm curious to see what comes of the Connected Career mode.  It feels more like a Football RPG with some of the additions, and I'm definitely okay with that.

NCAA looks okay - but I was disappointed to hear that Madden's new physics/Infinity Engine would not be showing up until next year in this series.  The Heisman mode looks decent - I'd love to play as Barry Sanders - but I felt just a bit less enthused about the NCAA showing than Madden's.

It took me a long time to get around to it, but once I played Quantic Dream's Heavy Rain, I found it to be a fun game (review forthcoming!).  What Qauntic put on display for Beyond: Two Souls looked really good.  I had heard about their strides in their visual engine recently, and what they showed off sure looked slick - so here's hoping there's gameplay to back it up.

I know Black Ops II will be a hit here at work and with a lot of people on my friends list who all enjoy the CoD games, and my son is already saving his pennies to buy it this fall.  I guess I'm just still at the curious stage.  Everything looks good, I enjoy CoD games - but I still haven't seen anything that has made me just go: Yes!  That's what I'm looking forward to seeing/doing/playing yet.

Microsoft revealed its list of Summer of Arcade games to be:

Dust: An Elysian Tail
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD

No dates were provided, though this usually kicks in around mid-summer.  Usually you get 1 or 2 great titles, 1 really lousy one and some filler.  Usually Microsoft offers up some sort of a buy-them-all-deal, which is okay if you don't mind the poor game.  Wreckateer (which I'll mention below a bit more) requires a Kinect, which may kill any all-in-one package deals for some users right off of the bat.

On the other hand, I did find myself enjoying the Halo 4 demo quite a bit.  The lighting effects looked awesome, and there seemed to be a lot going on at once, which I liked as well.  That said?  I think South Park: The Stick of Truth put the biggest smile on my face outside of Tomb Raider yesterday.  Which is funny, because I am not a big South Park fan.  I watch episodes here and there, but never religiously.  Still, this game looks like it may nail the aesthetic and here's hoping the RPG elements hold up as well.  So far though, a lot of effort appears to have gone into this game.

Last year, I thought Sony 'won' the E3, even if they oversold the Move.  This year, they did a good job of tempering their Move enthusiasm, but outside of the bookend showings of Beyond: Two Souls and The Last of Us (both of which I thought looked sweet), the rest of the conference felt very average to me.  Far Cry 3, Assassin's Creed 3, All-Star Battle Royale - it was all serviceable stuff with a bunch of stats thrown in, but for whatever reason it just failed to grab me this year.

What about Microsoft?  Well, their Smart Glass looked okay but isn't something I'm lining up to see.  I did enjoy seeing Gears of War and Halo franchises brought to the forefront again as well.  Though, I would have liked to see a bit more of Gears than I did. 

Fable: Journey just looks... bad to me.  Maybe it's because I don't have a Kinect and therefor have no real vested interest in its titles, but if this is one of those games that Microsoft is hoping will amaze people into buying a Kinect, I can't help but feel that they are going to wind up very disappointed.  Forza looked beautiful, but I am not much of a racing fan.  I thought Splinter Cell: Blacklist actually looked pretty solid.  There was plenty of bloody carnage to be had there, and it delivered nicely.

The Kinect got shoved out there several times throughout the presentation, whether it was for Fable, or Usher going on stage to perform for Dance Central 3 or a voice commend distraction for Splinter Cell - and it all seemed to work well, but I never really connected with it.  I do know two people with Kinects and they both like it, and while neither admits to regretting the purchase, neither one really recommends it to others yet either.

Smart Glass was one of those things that looked okay on the show floor I guess, but with Move and Kinect already struggling to find a foothold, I just can't help but wonder just what another optional periphrial brings to the table at this point.  There were a few other titles tossed out there like Matter, Wreckateer (another Kinect title that reminded me of Angry Birds, but less fun) and Ascend: New Gods, which was... an odd demo that left me with more questions than answer, but not a lot of interest.

All in all, I thought both of these conferences were decent, but not amazing.  Maybe it's just because there are so many sequels that a lot of these games have a 'been there and done that' quality to them that it takes some of the edge off.  Or maybe because there are so few genuine reveals - almost all of this stuff was pretty much known, complete with trailers, weeks ago if not more.  I have noticed some gaming companies like Konami doing a pre-E3 series of trailers and press releases over the last week, trying to get a jump on their competition by getting their games talked about before E3 hits and their titles get lost in the mass of other release information. 

Unfortunately that dilutes the actual E3 presentations in my mind.

I am very curious to see how Nintendo's goes later, as I felt they had the worst E3 last year, and am really hopeful that they give us some real, substantive information on the Wii-U and some killer game announcements that we haven't already been hearing about for weeks.  What have your thoughts been on E3 so far?  Any games or announcements that struck you as particularly great or disappointing?  Sound off!

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