Quantic Dreams Come True, Wii U and Gaffer-Taped VR Headsets: What We're Excited About At E3
The stuff we can't wait to see and do over the next few days.
Clearly, we don't know every detail of what this week's Electronic Entertainment Expo will bring to light. (You only need to check out our E3 predictions for ample evidence of that.) But we do know what we like, and we're not afraid of displaying a little enthusiasm.
The conferences are just hours away now. This is the stuff we genuinely can't wait to see.
Tom Bramwell's excited about...
I have this sense that it's a bit unfashionable, but I'm a bit of a Quantic Dream fanboy, so I'm indecently excited about the possibility - at the time of writing unconfirmed - that we're going to learn more about David Cage's new game.
Many people loved Heavy Rain for its unusual controls, multiple perspectives, stunning performance capture, range of outcomes and cold, desolate locations. I also loved it because it's the only game that made me think about my own experiences of loss and hopelessness. That probably doesn't sound very appealing, but it's a more intense sensation than I've experienced in 10 hours of clicking on stuff in Diablo 3. As Ian Bogost noted after Heavy Rain's release, in reference to a sequence where Ethan Mars sits watching his son eat his dinner, "the silent time between sitting and standing" is an emotional moment for the player as much as the character. "The mental effort the player exerts in this scene alone is orders of magnitude more meaningful than all the L1s and R2s Xs and Os in the rest of the game."
Bogost, like many others, also questions a lot of the things Heavy Rain does for other, less glorifying reasons (even that quote I used above about the silent time is abridged slightly - the full thing describes it as "one of the only emotionally powerful moments in the entire game"). And many people found the game bleak, solemn, derivative of too many films, or felt that the interactions it often uses to extend a scene to create space for you to consider the characters' actions were needless or overlong.
Meanwhile, Fahrenheit - Indigo Prophecy to some - was stuffed with so many contrasting ideas and references to philosophy, history, myth and science fiction that it eventually buckled under their weight. This approach, even in the tempered form it found in Heavy Rain, usually means that Quantic Dream games are divisive and easy to mock. But it's also what makes them so fascinating and unusual, and so easy to lose hours discussing.
I'm sure there will be a few fascinating and unusual games at E3 this year, but I doubt any will be as spectacular or well-financed as whatever Quantic Dream is making, and that's an exciting prospect for anyone who follows a triple-A market that's become understandably conservative. For me, it's hard to look beyond that for excitement.
Rich Leadbetter's excited about...
I can't wait to see some actual Wii U games - particularly the first-party tentpole titles Nintendo will need to make this machine a hit. The company must surely have taken notice of the lukewarm reception afforded to last year's reveal and will hopefully realise that this thing is going to succeed or fail based on the quality of the software. In a sense, it's all or nothing time and I would love to see Nintendo rise to the challenge, applying its genius in inventive gameplay to the opportunities afforded by HD hardware.
Out of all the announcements revealed thus far, I'm most interested in Criterion's Need for Speed: Most Wanted. Having spoken with the development team immediately after the release of Hot Pursuit a while back, these guys have some incredible ideas for advancing current-gen rendering tech and I can't wait to see the end product. How the team manages to trump Autolog also intrigues me. Throughout this console generation Criterion has been way ahead of the curve on multiplayer/social gaming - I'd love to see an evolution of Burnout Paradise's Freeburn challenges.
I'm also hopeful of seeing actual gameplay from the likes of Castlevania: Lord of Shadow 2, Halo 4, God of War Ascension, Metro: Last Light and The Last of Us. I'm getting really bored of CGI trailers, enormous resolution "screenshots", offline rendered "in-engine footage" and other side-shows designed to promote titles by not showing the actual product. Gameplay please or pack up and go home.
Tom Phillips is excited about...
Let's be honest, last year's Wii U showing was rather underwhelming. A lacklustre Mario tech demo (or "experience", as press were told to call it) and a few seconds of thrown-together Zelda footage made the whole experience feel rushed, as if Nintendo had revealed its console too early.
It was a confused affair, especially for those who watched the conference on internet live streams. Unable to see the prototype Wii U base unit live on stage, the online audience was left to decipher a poorly-made product trailer. It seemed to suggest the Wii U was simply a tablet attachment for the current aging Wii, designed to lengthen that console's lifespan.
This year, then, Nintendo has everything to prove. Hulking chief crowd-pleaser Reggie Fils-Aime must re-introduce the Wii U to an audience that was previously left apathetic. Nintendo must also sell the Wii U's concept to consumers mindful of whether they should open their wallet at all, let alone for an unproven concept with other beasts seemingly on the horizon. (Nintendo made a good start on Sunday night with a video re-introducing updated hardware.)
It will, of course, all rely on the games: the titles Nintendo can muster for the console's release, and those (as Tom states) that will be announced and then pushed back to trickle in post-launch. Can Retro Studios convince core gamers with a Wii U Metroid? Will Nintendo excite the masses with Pikmin 3? And, crucially, what support has been coaxed from third-parties?
Nintendo has an enormously difficult task ahead of them this year, and we all have a ring-side seat.
Robert Purchese is excited about...
Finding out about the next generation is what I'm most excited about. Who's that publisher executive talking openly at the next table about things he or she shouldn't? What's the word on the E3 boulevard, what's the goss? I want an exciting new flurry of 'he said she said'. If there's ever a time and a place for the industry to loosen its collective lips, it's right here, right now - it's at E3 this week. And, oh boy, I'll be listening.
Christian Donlan's excited about...
What I'm really excited about for this E3 is all the stuff I don't know about. Have the big three managed to sneak any real surprises past the press so far? Will there be a Crackdown 3, a Gears 4 (yes, by the looks of it) or a Stranglehold 2 (no chance, alas)? Beyond that, though, the one announced game I'm really excited about is the one game I already know I'm going to buy on release day: The Tomb Raider reboot.
God, I love Tomb Raider. More importantly, I love Tomb Raider reboots. Not Angel of Darkness so much, but Legend, which is pretty much my favourite instalment in the series. Legend is what Crystal Dynamics did when they had a good chunk of blank page to work on. Now, they've got an entire blank page to work on. They've got to make Lara Croft work again - and they're completely reinventing things, by the looks of it.
Survivalism, gear-gating, a mysterious Japanese island filled with nutcases: I'm totally up for this game. Hopefully, we'll get to see a bit of the freeform traversal stuff that's been hinted at, and hopefully the game's overall structure will start to come into focus, too. It'll all be a touch bittersweet, of course, because I know that I won't get to play the finished thing until 2013, but E3 should give me a bit of new information to keep me going. That's what I'll be looking out for.
Martin Robinson is excited about...
I'm like a kid on Christmas morning before and through E3, so it's no exaggeration to say that I'm actually excited about EVERYTHING next week. Still, there are a few things I'm more excited about than others: first, as someone who's becoming increasingly attached to their Vita, I'm looking forward to seeing Sony's plans for it throughout the rest of the year. Third-party support's obviously key here, and I hope we get to see something on Call of Duty, BioShock and Assassin's Creed - as well as a handful of other new properties that will hopefully make their way to the handheld.
Halo 4's another obvious choice - I was cynical on the series' future after Bungie's departure, but the more I see of it the more I warm to 343's vision. And as a racing game devotee, there's a lot to look forward to. First there'll potentially be a look at Criterion's new Need for Speed at EA's conference, and then a first look at Forza Horizon during Microsoft's show. Both of them have the potential to really deliver something exciting, and I can't wait to get more of a handle on the pair.
Lastly, I'm looking forward mostly to Ubisoft's conference, always a highlight of E3. After Joel McHale's bemused hosting effort in 2010 and the unforgettable Mr. Caffeine last year, it's always a treat to see what the eccentric publisher's got in store.
Oli Welsh is excited about...
In terms of new games, I share Tom's excitement at the prospect of more from Qunatic Dream - not to mention Pikmin 3, at last! - but E3 2012 is all about tech for me. Obviously, in the absence of the "real" next-gen, that means Wii U. Having been one of the first to sample this odd machine last year, I can't wait to see its real-world potential expressed in real games this year. The future of living room entertainment is twin screens - just ask Apple or Microsoft, they'll immediately pretend not to know what you're talking about - and Nintendo is first out of the traps with a typically strange take on the concept. Being a Nintendo machine, it will have both stupid limitations and brilliant ideas no-one else has thought of.
Also, I just want to pick one of those mad controllers up again. Honestly, they feel great in the hands.
There are a couple more tech things being shown this year that I'm really excited to see. The first is Unreal Engine 4 which, like it or not, is probably going to define the look of the majority of games on the next generation of Sony and Microsoft consoles (and PC). The next generation really does start there.
And finally, there's John Carmack's wonderfully ridiculous throwback to the virtual reality headsets of old. Just looking at the thing in The Verge's video makes me feel all warm inside. It's a proper mad-professor invention by a bona fide genius, and it's made out of ski goggles and gaffer tape. It's probably not the actual future, but it has the unbreakable spirit of gaming's glory days, where anything was possible in the pursuit of exciting virtual worlds. That's what E3 should be about. Bring it on!
Wesley Yin-Poole is excited about...
Halo 4. F*** the haters.