E3 Thoughts So Far After Day 1

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This is the first year I’ve ever rally paid a lot of attention to E3, which is a little ironic but we’ll get to that. I’ve watched the Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo press conferences and checked out some highlights of all of the other press conferences. It’s a good year to be a gamer.

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Microsoft Put on a Great Xbox Show

Microsoft’s set it off right with a killer conference showing a ton of upcoming games, albeit with some somewhat awkward presentations in between, and then put he rumors to rest by pulling a sweet “one more thing” move and officially unveiling Project Scorpio. Overall, it was a great showing that got me excited about the Xbox brand again. I even liked the Xbox One S, though it might have some sales issues given that they already have released details about the upcoming Scorpio to be released next year. I imagine that’s a core gamer mentality though, and there will be a ton of people who could care less about picking up the most powerful console in history and just want a smaller, sleeker, Xbox One.

Microsoft is pushing their Windows 10 gaming platform, nearly every game shown off was labeled as a “Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive.” It’s a bold strategy that could grow  their brand and get them some good will with their “Play Anywhere” feature. Play Anywhere allows cross play between both a Xbox One and a PC with a single purchase. Personally, I’m psyched for Forza Horizon 3 and some of the great looking indie games that ID@Xbox showed off like Inside and We Happy Few. All told, Microsoft knocked it out of the park and couldn’t have done much better.

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Sony is All About the Games

Sony came out next with a more epic styled showing, mostly due to full orchestra. They contrasted Microsoft and focused much less on the people bringing games out and much more on the games themselves. Sony went from one trailer to the next, rarely with anyone speaking in between. Microsoft is working on getting away from their initial Xbox One platform focusing on one total media box to do everything in addition to playing games, and Sony capitalized on that with a complete focus on games. They opened with a restyled God of War, one with a new setting in Norse mythology and updated gameplay mechanics to bring it in line with contemporary conventions. The action was gritty and close up, in comparison with the animated and zoomed out style of previous entries. The Last Guardian finally has a release date, and Kojima’s new project definitely looks interesting even though we won’t see it for years.

Sony is doubling down on PSVR, as they should, and showed off a ton of games coming out for it in addition to a release date and price point for the peripheral. The announcement that the Kitchen demo that I have heard so many people refer to was actually an early preview of Reident Evil 7 blew me away. The fact that you can play the entire game in PSVR as well as on the console is also nuts. From the looks of the preview, I’m not sure I actually want to play in VR because it looks scary as shit in a very good way. It became a little difficult to tell which games are coming to PSVR and which are not due to to their being no segues in between the trailers, but you can see which ones seem more fit for the platform.

One thing that was a little bit of a surprise given the fact that Microsoft had already presented was the lack of any mention of the PS4K. Microsoft confirmed the existence of their iterative console that morning and Sony has already confirmed their new console’s development outside of E3. One thought that’s been floating around is that Sony might be working on some further development on the Neo. Given the current consoles narrative and Sony’s dominance based almost purely on a more powerful machine, they might be redeveloping based on Microsoft’s statements about the performance level of their upcoming Scorpio console. That could be huge for Microsoft if they manage to get their new console out before Sony, as Sony might decide to redesign aspects of it.

I’m a fan of both consoles right now, even though I own neither. This arms race of console power that’s developing might be a pain for Microsoft, Sony, and any game developers out there, but its nothing but good for consumers and gamers.

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Nintendo’s Focus is Away from E3

To finish out, Nintendo showed their Treehouse 2016 stream this morning. It was nowhere near the spectacle that Microsoft and Sony put on, you can tell the bulk of their resources are focused elsewhere as they see the faults of E3. They released a gorgeous looking trailer for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and then moved on to a sedate gameplay demo of the new Pokemon games. The games look great, but the presenting pace was slow compared to everything else I’ve seen at E3. There are probably a ton of people who were super into the gameplay demo though, so I can’t fault Nintendo for taking advantage of the spotlight that Zelda gave them.

Nintendo seems to give no shits about E3, but they know Zelda will get them attention, and for good reason. The new entry in the series looks amazing and seemingly shakes the series up in a ton of well thought out ways that will add to the experience. It’s an open world with gear, weapons, and and ton of content off the beaten path to keep players interested. It was shown on the Wii U and looked great, so I can only imagine how sweet it’s going to run on the NX since its been confirmed on the system.

What a Year to Start Paying Attention to E3

All in all, this has been a great year to give E3 my attention. I haven’t been able to watch many of the presentations live, but the breadth of content around the event has made it easy for me to catch up whenever I have some time. The interesting part of this being the first E3 I have given my attention to is that this is the year in which E3 seems to be losing relevance. I watched the Giant Bomb day 1 wrap up video, and they hit on the amount of open space at the event many imes. Seems like in years past, this event was packed to the brim with journalists and publishers, that is not the case this year. Many publishers and studios have given up their space to save the huge cost of entry for more meaningful ways to reach out to their audience.

In the era of social media and a connected world, there might not be as much value in an event focused on industry professionals when its cheaper and more effective to reach directly out to the audience that supports the game makers.

Image Credits: E3 Expo, Microsoft, Kotaku, Sony, and Nintendo

I Finally Finished Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain….

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By finished, I mean that I beat all of the main missions in the game and then went on YouTube to watch the unfinished cutscene of the last mission of the game that somehow didn’t make it into the published game. That’s a pretty good way to start running down my impressions of the incredible story around the unrivaled gameplay of Metal Gear Solid V.

There is so much to the story of Metal Gear Solid V, and the game itself contains very little of it.

To start out, I’ve always been into the Metal Gear Solid story. I picked up a PS One late it its console cycle for a deal and the first Metal Gear Solid title was one of the must play titles that I picked up and was definitely the original Playstation title that resonated with me the most. The story was crazy, the gameplay was fun (if a little awkward), and at one point you had to plug your controller into the 2nd player port to keep a boss from reading your mind and predicting you every move. I was sold, the crazy man who created this game was a genius. I dabbled in the series from there on out, I played the second Solid game on a PC that was not meant for gaming but ran it and then did the same thing I did with the PS One with a PS2 and played through Snake Eater. Better late than never. I still haven’t had the opportunity to play Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of The Patriots, a story which I’ve avoided but seems to be the conclusion of the series. Don’t tell me….

Then came Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, a game that was more hyped up than anything I’d ever been excited for from the time that a trailer was released disguised as a game unrelated to the series. That charade was quickly decrypted by fans and everyone was chomping at the bit to get their hands on the game ever since.

Then the game was released, and I had a shiny new Alienware Alpha to get back into the series on, what a ride it’s been.

I’m not planning to go into the gameplay in this post much. It’s been out for months and there are plenty of reviews to tell you all about the amazing military sandbox that Kojima has created, one in which you can approach every situation from at least a dozen different ways. That alone says enough and there’s a ton to read already if you’re curious. I thoroughly enjoyed the game, it stands out as one of the best of the year for sure, but what fascinated me almost as much as the pure gameplay was the story around the game and its release which certainly has been covered more frequently in gaming news this year than any release that I’ve ever paid attention to.

It all started with the disguised trailer way back in 2012, that’s pretty standard fare for a creator that doctored trailers for another of his games to hide the fact that you didn’t play as the hero who everyone expected you to (more on that later).

As the actual release of the game neared, the situation at Konami in regard to Kojima became more and more murky. What looked like a fully blossoming professional relationship with the release of MGSV and the pending Silent Hills game quickly imploded for reasons that we will hopefully someday find out.

We know that Konami removed Kojima’s name from the box are as well as from his Los Angeles studio. They announced the cancellation of Silent Hills despite the significant buzz of P.T., the playable trailer for the game and the promise that it showed.  A story was published about abhorrent working conditions at Konami where employees were monitored in ever way aside from being shackled to their desks. I read all about the situation and watched as Geoff Keighley disparaged Konami for not letting him attend The Game Awards 2015. It was a crazy story, but it impact me completely until I finished Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

I Finally Finished Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain....

This amazingly well crafted game was obviously leading somewhere with its story. The story beats in The Phantom Pain were fewer than in other games in the series, which I didn’t especially mind, but I still saw them going somewhere; then the game ended.

I was taken aback by a bad cliffhanger at the end of what could likely be the end of the series, and is the end of the arc headed by Hideo Kojima. What I found next was unbelievable. I had noted a few articles to read about the game, but not until I had finished the game, it was time. I found out that there was an unfinished cut scene that detailed a final mission that had not been included in the final game and had just been tacked on to a collector’s edition with little fanfare, until people realized what it was. When a kid who looks like he might be (confirmed in the final time line cut scene) a significant character in the series runs away with a hugely powerful military walker, its nice to know what comes of that story. That resolution was intended to be in the game, but for some reason Konami cut development of this crucial ending to the game that brings the whole decade-spanning story together, and shipped a blatantly unfinished masterpiece of a game.

Watching the grand final mission on YouTube and picturing how great it could have been while finished in the game made this my most interesting game of the year so far. I’d never seen anything like it. It also made me feel like it might have been intended as the 50th episode of the game which is just a more difficult (expert) version of the mission from the midpoint of the game where you face off with the metal gear, Sahelanthropus.

There is also more speculation beyond all of this. Metal Gear Solid V is the first in the series to use a roman numeral. It is speculated that Kojima wanted the Peace Walker entry in the series to be the 5th installment, but Konami wouldn’t allow a sequential entry in the series to be on a mobile platform. Beyond that, Hideo said in an interview that the “V” in the title is for “Victory” because of the achievement the game is. Spoiler, which has already been spoiled everywhere else, you actually play through all of the Phantom pain with a soldier who was altered to look and act like Big Boss, Punished “Venom Snake” could also be the root of the V.

So, if conspiracy theories are believed, we actually got two false Metal Gear Solid 5’s and then Kojima left Konami. Kind of a buzz kill ending to the most amazing game in a series that has influenced gaming so much in its lifetime.

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More on this in another post as this one is much longer than I intended and there is so much to this game and story. Cheers!

Images courtesy Komani and IGN