E3 2014: Quick Day One Impressions

There was a lot to take in yesterday, with big conferences held by Microsoft, EA, Ubisoft and Sony, and thankfully there were at least a handful of surprises. That was a nice turn of events in and of itself, given how the abundance of media coverage on gaming the last few years has almost completely sapped the E3 conference of actual new information.

Microsoft kicked things off, and they did a complete 180 from last year's presentation and made this year all about the games - a wise move in my opinion.

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - Once again we see a futuristic setting for the franchise, which is a nice departure from the gritty real world ones we have seen in the past. Strange alien-like swarms of creatures fly about, mech-like suits are worn by soldiers and probably the coolest moment for me was when the characters ripped car doors off to serve as riot shields. It looks to be running a new engine for the first time in ages, which will help the visuals along, and small tweaks like the heat-seeking grenades may just be enough to keep the gameplay feeling fresh.

Forza Horizon 2 - It looks to be built off of the Forza 5 engine, with some absolutely stunning lighting and weather effects. Forza 5 was arguably the best thing about the Xbox One launch, and taking the same great game but adding new cars, vistas and options should excite fans of the series. Promised 1080p visuals and the expansion of Driveatars are the cherry on top

Evolve -  I am always a fan of a "be the monster" mode, and Evolve's certainly looks promising. The Visuals remind of Gears of War, stomping around the underground levels with your squad. It looked cool, but I would have enjoyed seeing a bit more than the one scene.

Assassin's Creed Unity - Here the team promised the "biggest playground ever. This title creeps up a few more times over the course of the day. Ubisoft knows how to get everything it can out of its main series.

Dragon Age: Inquisition - Like Assassin's creed, this is more about the game than the console, though Dragon Age looks more like Skyrim with its much prettier visuals this time around. Content first seems to be a theme for Xbox One when showing off their games.

Sunset overdrive - Super smooth, ridiculously over-the-top gameplay and visuals have an experience breaking the fourth wall that Deadpool would likely be proud of. Nice to finally see something else Xbox One exclusive.

Inside - Considering how much I absolutely loved Limbo, seeing something new from Playdead Studios is always a plus. The visuals have a familiar look to them, but with more detail and splashes of color, but it looks like this is still largely a platforming/puzzeling game.

Dead Rising - The DLC has the kind of ridiculous name I always associate with the future Street Fighter iterations. This zombie slaying series is always over-the top but I can't say that this DLC interested me at all. Humor is in the right place, and it feels like it is channeling the ridiculous over-the-top-ness of say, Far Cry's Red Dragon DLC some time ago, just with a distinctly Street Fighter feel to it.

Dance Central Spotlight - I do not do dancing games really. My wife and daughter do. So it's a bad sign when this didn't even appeal to either of them.

Fable Legends - I mentioned with Evolve that villain player roles can be fun. The humor from the characters running about was decent, though I could see it becoming repetitive. I'd like to see more though. The idea of a single player trying to lay out obstacles for the cooperative players made me want to call this D&D: Fable Edition.

Project Spark - This is the sort of open ended title that I could definitely see appealing to my daughter. I would rather sit down and play something already fleshed out by a dev team, which is why games like LittleBig Planet probably would have appealed to me when I was younger, but despite how well made they are, they just never appeal to me personally. However, for my daughter who loves Roblox, Minecraft and LittleBig Planet, this could be huge. The Conker plug makes one think that there is a ridiculous amount of tie-in possibility as well - perhaps at a higher level than the costume packs and such that LittleBig Planet offered in the past

Ori and the Blind Forest - This is one of the first titles that had that really slick combination of music and visuals with so little explanation that it still looks amazing. Viewing it rather reminded me of the first time I saw Limbo. This looks absolutely stunning. the music pulled me in and the lighting and color of the graphics... this could be very cool

Halo 5 - We knew Master Chief would have to make an appearance, and of course here he did. The promise of a more personal story from the team while showing off some amazing graphics - it was a nice way to kick things off, but some actual gameplay would have been nice.

Halo: The Master Chief Collection - all 4 primary Halo titles - the package looks massive. The promise of all maps means that the multiplayer options look robust with a single interface and the original Halo 2 multiplayer replicated exactly. 1080p, 60fps, dedicated servers, 4000 gamerscore - not a bad set of numbers to be dropping.

Rise of the Tomb Raider  - Just a cinematic, but I loved the last one so this is good news right here. Still, this won't be an Xbox One exclusive so it means a bit less here in this conference in my opinion.

The Witcher III: Wild Hunt - So beautiful yet dark and gruesome. The griffon hunt was a great scenario given its winged nature and the tracking. Combat looks to have a certain rhythm to it - as the series always has. It is nice to see that sort of block and strike system still in tact. It looks very impressive

Phantom Dust - It is apparently a reboot to a game I have no familiarity with personally. The cinematic looked sharp enough, but since I have no context for the game itself, more about it would have been nice.

The Division - Visuals are very impressive, like the bullets denting the meal in cover at one point. Pinpointing things with information that pops up in the environment while walking reminds me of Watch Dogs.

Scalebound - Again, a nice teaser as it looks like something both original and exclusive. I was hoping to see more like this. The trailer looked different, which coming from Platinum Games is not a surprise. If the action can live up to the insanity shown in this? They could have something very cool on their hands

Crackdown - Not a surprise to see this announced given how popular the first two were on Xbox. The ridiculousness of the series also looks to be continuing, though the theme of trailers instead of actual gameplay seems to be continuing.

All in all I thought Microsoft did a good job of making this year's presentation very game focused. Of course, you expect them to give some air time to big games like The Division and Tomb Raider, but these titles fail to feel special when you know they are going to be on multiple platforms and no doubt seeing the stage on several occasions as well. More exclusives, more actual gameplay footage would have been ideal, but this was a big improvement over last year's showing.

Sony closed out the evening, with a presentation that ironically felt a bit more like Microsoft's from last year. They started strong, ended strong, but the section right before the end pulled some of the focus off of games. Hardly a deal killer, but it did slow their momentum and served as one of the slower moments of the crazy first day.

Destiny - I half-expected a mash-up sizzler reel, but much like Titanfall was the shooter that Xbox One hitched its fortunes to this year, it is clear that Sony is doing the same with Destiny. What was shown looked slick, but the real proof will come in the gameplay. It was exciting to hear betas were coming so soon.

The Order 1886 - As usual the sneak peek here looks nice, but mostly scripted - even the 'shooting' parts didn't seem to impact what was actually happening at the time. Still an improvement over the previously fully rendered portions we had seen, but in truth what I saw here just... didn't tickle my interest the way the initial tease last year did.

Entwined - A combination of art and music, at first it looked like a handful of similar style games I have played on Steam, but with dual stick controls it feels like it probably has a very different style of play to it than anything I am used to at this point. Interesting way to kick off its release last night at the show - hopefully we will have a review on it shortly.

Infamous: Second Son DLC - Fetch is a side-character from the game that appears to be getting a new DLC called First Light. It is stand-alone, and while it is neat to get to see more out of her, I have to admit I was a little disappointed not to be getting some new power for our primary protagonist from the game as well.

LittleBig Planet 3 - I am not going to lie: my son and daughters were in heaven. 3 new characters so that you have 4 very distinctively different characters. The visuals were as delightful as ever, and it sounds like this release will be leveraging existing areas from the first two LittleBig Planet titles. Probably the highlight of the day for my kids.

Bloodborne - All the pre-rendered stuff sure looks nice, and coming from From Software, I immediately have some high hopes from the studio behind the Souls games

Far Cry 4 - The good news is, it looks like Far Cry - the graphics are excellent, there appears to be plenty of interesting voice work and I have little doubt that we are looking at loads of explosive action. One thing that stood out to me is that this looks like it might be pretty far along compared to a lot of what we have seen today, with plenty of in-game footage and a nice open world vibe.

Dead Island 2: The trailer had plenty of humor but it really didn't show anything. It sort of reminded me of when Dead Island was first announced, and the trailer looked amazingly well done but then like it had almost nothing to do with the game itself. More of a fluff piece than anything substantive at this point.

Magika 2 - This had a funny lead in, but it was nice to see some game footage. Not a lot, but Magika 2 could find a comfortable home on PS4 and it is nice to see Paradox showing some more commitment to the PS4

Grim Fandango - A classic game that is getting the remastered treatment. This got quite a few loud cheers from the audience

There were a slew of indies thrown in at this point, most of which seemed to be of the shooting variety and looked to be trying to harness that retro/indie craze. Not a bad thing, but very few of the titles really stood out.

Let it Die - Do not let it be said that Suda 51 is looking to pull punches. This looks like an absolutely brutal, gory brawler that will no doubt have fans of his work frothing at the mouth looking for more over the coming months.

Abzu - With ties to the PS3's incredibly successful Journey, Giant Squid showed off a pretty, peaceful game that inevitably reminds me of Journey

No Man's Sky -  This looked really cool, with production values looked better than 'small indie studio' as the team referred to itself. This looks to be a science fiction exclusive for the PlayStation 4 that could definitely be worth keeping an eye on.

Project Morpheus and the PlayStation Camera entered the conversation, but it was more tell than show at this point. I am curious to see where the hardware goes, but perpetually skeptical of hardware added optionally - it just never seems to end well (Kinect, Move, PS Eye, Powerglove and about 5,000 other examples over the years).

PS Now announced with very little fanfare from the audience, but having been a part of the beta for it on PS4, I was excited to hear that Sony plans to open up the beta next month. Not only that, but the selection of games looks to be greatly expanded as well. I have enjoyed the service so far in its beta form. It has worked well, I have gotten some free trophies and I am curious to see if it holds up. PlayStation Now was also announced to coming to select Sony TV's - not sure how that works nor do I have any Sony TV's, but it is interesting to see Sony talking about their ecosystem a bit.

Almost nothing specific shown for the Vita, which has been disconcerting until now when they announce that Vita has 100+ titles in the works. There is more of that ecosystem, but it does feel like the Vita got neglected a bit tonight. The PlayStation TV talked about at $99 and frankly this looks kind of cool. I can see this getting leveraged in our house in places where we have a PS3 for only a select handful of functions but almost no heavy gaming. I want to see what options it has.

This last section of the show dragged on a bit, truth be told, as we moved away from the games, but now it looks like we are finishing strong.

Mortal Kombat X - actual gameplay footage is awesome, brutal and I definitely want more.

And the conversation pulls off of games again to talk about movies and television. I am once again reminded of last year's Microsoft conference, maybe just because I am personally so laser focused on games this year.

The Last of Us - Re-released for PS4, this was a surprise to no one, but it's nice to see it's coming out so soon.

Metal Gear Solid: Phantom Pain - This looks like it could be amazing visually, but was more teaser than anything. We actually saw more of the game at last year's show. Here is hoping that over the course of the week, we see more of it.

Grand Theft Auto V - Releasing on the PS4 this fall, with the option to transfer of data/characters as a nice touch.

Batman - With two amazing releases to kick this series off, and then one that feel too similar without enough innovation, it will be interesting to see if this iteration in the series does enough to breathe new life back into the series. The bit with Scarecrow near the end looked and sounded awesome.

Uncharted 4 - Talk about the perfect way to end the show. I love the Uncharted series, and based on the crowd reaction, I am not alone

Sony showed more exclusives, though they dipped into the games on multiple platforms well also. I felt like their overall showing was maybe a little stronger than what Microsoft had to offer for games, but the presentation dragged a bit near the end when the conversation turned to hardware, movies and non-game properties. It is worth noting that Jack Tretton's presence was missed.

EA took the platform this morning shortly after Microsoft's presentation. Their show felt very diversified, but also familiar - likely due to the usual suspects such as FIFA, Madden, NHL and Battlefield popping up as game titles.

Star Wars: Battlefront 3 - Wow, what a way to kick this thing off. I am beyond excited to finally see something, even if it is mostly the developers talking about their love of the source material (I am right there with them), but what they did show looked spectacular. One of my most anticipated games for this new generation of consoles, so EA hit a sweet spot for me right out of the gates.

Dragon Age: Inquisition - So, EA definitely knew how to capture my interest this year. If I had to say there were three EA titles (possibly 3 titles in general) I was most excited to see? I would probably have said Star Wars, Dragon Age and Mass Effect.

Mass Effect 4 - Okay, so EA is now reading my mind. Of course, this presentation is a bit less exciting than the Dragon Age one, simply because this is more about what is happening than actually getting to see it (basically, we get to see some pretty trees). Dragon Age is obviously much further along and it shows, but the Shepard-less adventures waiting for us in Mass Effect 4 cannot get here soon enough.

Sims 4 - I am not a Sims person, but good lord the moment this was talked about my oldest daughter squealed and ran into the room. She discovered Sims 3 on my PC a while ago and has logged a ton of time with it already. If there was ever a 'target audience' for this title, she is it and she definitely approved of what she saw.

EA Sports UFC - A lot of attention was given to the addition of the legendary Bruce Lee, which is indeed nifty, but not a game seller from my standpoint. Still, the combat actually looked pretty smooth and I am curious to see how this one turns out.

NHL 15 - So far, despite my initial excitement about the first three titles discussed, I have that slight "been there and done this" feeling creeping in. Not that it is necessarily a bad thing, because I love EA's sports titles (especially Madden), and it is great to see NHL on next gen.

PGA Tour - I was laughing heartily at the battleship. Seriously, I want to know more about what is going on here. Hyper realistic golf sim is how things started, but again - there were jet planes and a freaking battleship on the course near the end. I did not see that coming.

Madden 15 - The graphics are excellent, but the cone on the tackles reminded me of the old passing cone (which for fans of the series know, that ended badly). It could be cool - especially since I am someone who likes to take chances and go at hard hits, so I am not opposed to this - but the passing cone similarity in how it is presented makes me just a bit twitchy. Hopefully the replay system gets better due to the new help from NFL films.

Dawngate - MOBAs are really popular lately, but they just do not appeal to me. That being said, the approach being taken here by EA - asking for feedback both good and bad is quite commendable and should help with the development process.

Mirror's Edge - This is another title that I just could not get into last Generation, but it always had a cult following, so seeing the property getting new life was no doubt a happy announcement for many. It was more behind-the-scenes than anything, which has been a bit of a theme in some of the presentations so far.

FIFA 15 - Like Madden, FIFA did get a current gen console debut (unlike NHL), so this is the second go-around for the series. I didn't see much from the 'passion' and 'fan' standpoints that stood out to me, though the elbowing, tugging at jerseys and jockeying for position looked intriguing.

Battlefield Hardline - I enjoy the Battlefield well enough in small doses, but I think that what is happening here in Hardline is an interesting, and almost necessary choice. Take a popular engine and do something with it. This is an even more dramatic turn that what Call of Duty is doing with its futuristic setting. This is like cops and robbers on steroids. I applaud the change in direction.

Ubisoft talked after Electronic Arts, and it felt like they showed fewer games overall, but it also felt like we got better looks at the titles on display. EA was showing off so many titles that most of them felt like we were jumping from one thing to another very rapidly. Ubisoft took their time a little more.

Far Cry 4 - It was shown during the Microsoft presentation, and the game received quite the reception from the audience. It was quite the introduction with everything hitting the fan pretty quickly - reminding me of Far Cry 2's beginning a bit.

Just dance 2015 - This series has always been a hit with my wife and oldest, and the phone tie-in is unusual, but seems like it could be cool as a 'replacement' for the Wii remotes/Kinect sensors. iPhones have pretty good movement tracking, so this thing could prove somewhat accurate, though I am not sure I want to be sweating it up all over my phone either. Modes were touched on, songs were sampled, this was given quite a bit of stage time.

The Division - Again, this is a title that has gotten some previous play on the big stage and qualifies as one of the bigger games coming out later this year. The extended time with the game was a welcome look at how it will play. Chris from our team ranks this as his 'hands down' most anticipated title of the year (except perhaps Super Smash Bros.)

The Crew - The team here is clearly very proud of their lack of load screens and how expansive the world and roads can be as it feels like a more relaxed type of racing game.

Assassin's Creed Unity - This title actually feels like a step towards the new generation, and not just because of the visuals (which do look impressive). No, what caught my eye here was the multiplayer component. The social aspect of gaming has been getting touted since the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 were were announced, but very few games have really leveraged that experience so far. This could be very cool.

Shape up - seems like a typical fitness game, with fun visuals. A lot of attention got paid to this and Just Dance. Ubisoft clearly has a plan in place to put some emphasis on casual gamers, based on how much floor time these two got.

Valiant Hearts - This is a title we have been following here for some time. The music, the tied together story lines, all of it tugged at the heart strings a bit. This looks like it could prove to be a special game

Rainbow Six - This team-oriented shooting game looked incredibly slick. In a day filled with guns blazing, this was one of the more interesting titles because of the focus on team play.

So those were my takeaways from the first day. Lots of video, lots of announcements - but obviously everyone has different types of genres and games that they are looking forward to. Did any of the above games stand out to you? If so - which ones?

Article by Nick
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