Friday, June 14, 2013

E3 2013 Day 3 Impressions (Is it Over Already?)

It’s the final day of E3 and there are still plenty of games out there that I want to talk about. Once again I’m going to spotlight a bunch of games that stood out to me or that I’m really excited to learn more about and/or play.

First up, it’s Octodad: Dadliest Catch! I thought LocoCycle might be the most ridiculous thing at this year’s E3, but that award actually has to go to a game that had me cracking up laughing at Sony’s press conference Monday night. In the midst of all these grand current and next generation games like The Last of Us, Beyond: Two Souls, Killzone: Shadow Fall, The Order: 1886 and interesting, emotional indie games like Rain, there comes this bizarre footage of an octopus in a suit fumbling around and knocking stuff over.

Yes, this is a thing

Apparently, the game is about an octopus who has infiltrated human life and is pretending to be a human father with a human family. Of course, it’s your job to make sure no one finds out your big secret: that you’re actually an octopus! This is the most ridiculous concept for a video game I’ve ever heard and once again I just have to admire the versatility of this medium. First there’s Shadow of the Colossus and now there’s Octodad! The way that Octodad moves around and slinks and stumbles through obstacles is simply hilarious.

Next I want to say a word on the DuckTales remake supposedly coming this summer. I had the pleasure of finally playing the original NES DuckTales just recently and I enjoyed it very much. It’s the kind of old-school adventure platformer that draws you in for a night of secret-finding, great gameplay, and terrific old-school 8-bit tunes. One of the reasons I finally decided that I should play this old-school gem was hearing about the upcoming DuckTales: Remastered. Based on the remake’s trailer, it looks fantastic, with brilliant animations that bring a cartoon world to life and exciting recreations of the game’s classic environments and obstacles.

Scrooge McDuck is back!

However, I’m not entirely digging what I’m seeing in this gameplay footage. While I think it’s cool that they brought back the old voice actors from the cartoon and have added in a little more story to the game, making it feel like an episode of the cartoon, I’m not a fan of how often the game seems to pause for lines of dialogue from the characters. It seems quite annoying for the action to pause so often in a simple game like this every time you pick up one of those coins. Speaking of which, did they have to add in an asinine coin-collecting fetch quest just to pad out the Amazon level more? Is there going to be something like this added to every level? What’s the purpose? One of the sections of the Amazon level shown in that footage above was an optional secret in the original game, but in the remake it’s mandatory and also seems much easier to find because of this. DuckTales is great for all its little secret areas and well-built stages that encourage the player to explore and discover every treasure. This remake seems to placing less of an emphasis on those simple joys and more on building a story surrounding the levels that unfortunately, from what I’ve seen, seems to hurt the flow and simple fun of play. I’m sure the final game will turn out to be an interesting, beautiful-looking remake, I’m just not so sure it was be as fun to play as the original. Hopefully the dialogue is at least skippable.

One triple AAA title that I forgot to mention in my last post is Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag. I’ve always been interested in the Assassin’s Creed titles but have never gotten around to fully playing one. Now there are so many games in the series and it would be hard to know where to begin. When I first heard about the announcement of Black Flag, I simply groaned and thought: “Another one? So soon after the last?”

After seeing the gameplay in motion though, I gotta say, I actually want to play this game. I’m a huge fan of stealth and watching the main character trail somebody into the jungle and stealthily crouching through vegetation as a secret meeting unfolds looks like a lot of fun to me. But most importantly of all, the game is about pirates! I love pirates. I took a class in college solely dedicated to pirates and it was a lot of fun. The atmosphere and historical period going on in the gameplay demo speaks to me and this might just be an Assassin’s Creed game that I really want to play.

Blackbeard is your bro in this game, apparently

While we’re on the topic of big AAA demos, I want to quickly highlight Ubisoft’s big new reveal, Tom Clancy’s The Division. The game is described as an “online open world RPG”, but the game is unique to the online, big open world RPG genre in its setting. Instead of taking place is a Middle Earth-esque fantasy landscape, the game is taking place in a modern day, disease-infested, crumbling cityscape. I’m not big on multiplayer experiences, but what really impressed me about this game is the environment.

This is next gen

The attention to detail and beautifully gritty landscape really look like a “next gen” game, and the way the developer describes the game as having all sorts of events that the player can ignore or take part in with other players, all in one giant, seamless, dynamic world is really impressive. I don’t know if I’ll ever play the game, as like I said I’m not big on multiplayer things, but the game is worth paying attention to for its technical excellence and original position among big, open world RPGs.

Speaking of next gen-defining games, The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt looks and sounds incredible. I’ve never played a Witcher game before, but I’ve always heard good things. This next installment, containing a multi-region, vast, living, breathing open world seems like an amazing RPG and Keza MacDonald from makes it sound like a dream game for me. It’s now moved to the top of my list and is just more of a reason to buy a next gen console for me. In fact, The Witcher 3 actually won IGN’s People’s Choice Award this year.

I want to play this

Project Spark is an interesting game that was shown off at Microsoft’s press conference this year. The game is described by its developer as an “open world digital canvas.” Perhaps the game can be compared to something like Minecraft where the player is given creative freedom to mold the world around them, but the game also adds the ability (it seems) to set up narratives that exist within their world and continue to morph their world in real time as these stories unfold around them. I’m still confused on what exactly the game is and how it all plays, but it certainly looks intriguing.

What exactly is this game?

Murdered: Soul Suspect is a detective game in which the player plays as a ghost who has to solve his own murder. I love this concept and I also love a good mystery. The game certainly has my interest, enough to watch that nearly half-hour-long gameplay demo I just linked without getting bored, and I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on it. From the way the developer talks, it seems like the team behind the game is putting a lot of effort into building an original afterlife realm called the Dusk with its own rules and boundaries while also placing the game in the very real-world location of Salem, Massachusetts (a fictional version of it at least). My only worry is that the game sounds very guided because the developers are placing so much importance on telling a linear story, so I’m curious how much player agency will actually matter in the grand scheme of things. 

The scene of your own death

I also love the concept of the enemies in the game and how the ghostly realm that the main character finds himself in is not as safe as it appears. The tortured wraith enemy that appeared and began to stalk Ronan in the demo and the very idea of being trapped in this limbo with things like that successfully creeped me out. Unfortunately, these enemies were almost immediately then disarmed of their terrifying presence when the player simply snuck up behind one, jumped inside it, and tore it open from the inside. The game’s designer promised that these demons would show up in many different forms throughout the game so I hope they all aren’t as pathetic as the ones shown because this kind of enemy has the potential to be a very frightening threat. Maybe these creatures might have been more effective if they were invincible. But that’s just my first impression from a short gameplay demo.

Next up, virtual reality! Sort of. I really don’t how to feel about the Oculus Rift. I think it’s a really neat idea; I’m just not sure how necessary it is to be that close to a game, or how it would affect immersion. Also, I feel like it might give me a headache or something, not really sure why, like I’d get nauseous playing a video game in this way (maybe because I feel like it would be like being too close to the TV). Really, I would just have to try it. In any case, with interactive worlds becoming more and more immersive and authentic, it’s fascinating to think about this kind of technology and where it could lead. Would I actually want to put myself in a video game or I am just fine experiencing them the way I do now? I don’t know, but it’s something to think about.

How close are we... this?

The Witness has my attention, although I still don’t quite understand it. Jonathan Blow’s last game Braid isn’t the best indie title I’ve ever played and has some pretentious, text-heavy, garbled storytelling, but one thing about Braid is that it is a great puzzle game with some real challenge to it. I do admire Blow’s philosophy about respecting the player’s intelligence and not stuffing a game with padding or excessive hand-holding.

It may look like Minecraft from a distance...but it's not

So many games, so little time to talk about them all. There are many, many games that I want to play from this year’s show, some I probably forgot to mention and many I probably entirely missed.

I’m going to be busy the next couple of days, so I won’t be able to post my final word on this year’s show, including what the games that I’m most excited about are and my concluding thoughts on E3 2013, until a couple of days from now. Overall, I’m much, much more impressed with this year’s show than last year’s and it mostly lived up to my expectations of what the big next gen battle royale between Microsoft and Sony would conjure up, with some Nintendo magic thrown in to complete the shiny, ribboned summer Christmas gift of hype that is E3.

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