E3 2012: Chris Micieli Grades This Years Biggest E3 Publishers & Upcoming Titles

E3 2012 is finally in the books, and after a solid 24 hours to digest what was seen, what looked amazing and what needed work, we can sit back and assess how it all went down. It’s damn near impossible to see absolutely everything E3 has to offer, but over three jam packed days I feel I got in what is deemed the big players. So, here is a quick summary of how I feel the big boys did. It’s probably good to keep in mind many of these games are not completed yet, and if a bad grade is given, it’s still possible for that games developer to turn the game on its head and be a force…but that’s highly unlikely. Listed are the developer followed by a few of the highlighted games they brought for the show. Obviously not all of what they brought, but indeed the more important games are listed. Enjoy!


Electronic Arts

Sim City, Dead Space 3, Crysis 3, Medal of Honor War Fighter

EA was the first developer we had time to spend with, and boy did they deliver. Over the course of three days I saw dozens of games, so it’s rare that the very first game you see can stick with you long enough to still be considered one of the best you saw. Yet somehow Sim City did just that. For fans of the series or even the genre, you’re in for the time of your life. If you’re new to the sim world, then now is the time to jump on the wagon. The game is so incredibly deep with what you can do within your own world as well as friends world. Your cities can play off each other, and not always in a good way. If you’re neglecting your city and the crime rate starts to rise, that could potentially effect the crime in your friends city. Scenarios like that are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Sim City. It easily made my list of Top 5 games of E3 2012. On top of that we got our hands on two other EA titles which are nearly turning into a yearly fix of Dead Space and Crysis, and that’s certaily not a bad thing. A yearly fix of Madden, now that’s a bad thing. The showing of Dead Space unfortunately had some network issues therefore at the time I was unable to to see the co-op in action. Trying to imagine is not really the fair thing to do so I’ll have to hold off on how I feel about that until I actually see it. Shooting humans is a welcome addition to the series however. Overall, EA put together a great booth after putting together a lackluster press conference.

Grade: A-


Ubisoft

Assassin’s Creed 3, Zombi U, Far Cry 3, Watch Dogs

As far as press conferences go, Ubisoft was at the top of the food chain. After the past few years of treating the audience like they were middle schoolers, Ubisoft took a more serious approach which paid off in spades. Yeah, maybe the guy doing the backstage stuff was a little annoying, but after the crap we were put through last year, I could easily forgive that. Plus what it really comes down to is the games anyway right? Oh my did Ubisoft deliver. Assassin’s Creed 3 looks like it will be the winner of many Game of the Year awards come year’s end. They are taking the franchise into a whole new territory and I cannot wait to get my hands on it. Far Cry 3 is in the same boat. The game looks fantastic and they seem to be throwing a whole different twist on the game messing with your conscience. It looks very promising. Then there was Watch Dogs. Nobody knew anything about this thing until they finished the press conference with it. To say there was a buzz around this game would be an understatement. It was more like a room shaking earthquake. You would hear people talking about it just passing them in the convention center. Again, little is known about the game, when it will release and which platform you can expect to see it on, right now Ubisoft is hush hush.  Regardless, take my advice, watch Watch Dogs. You will certainly be in line putting your reservation in when the pre-order options are available.

Grade: A


Square Enix

Tomb Raider, Sleeping Dogs, Hitman Absolution, Quantum Conundrum

A company I almost but given up on came back like a tidal wave at this years E3, easily winning my vote for best developer. Square offered up four games I was able to view. Each one of them alone will be one to watch, and after viewing all of them, Square has positioned themselves back as a top notch publisher/developer. A large chunk of this is due to my Game of Show: Tomb Raider. People throw around the phrase “forget everything you know” a lot when it comes to something that’s been out awhile and needs a revamp. Tomb Raider fits this category to a ‘T’. After what I saw between last year and this year, Tomb Raider is set to become one of the best games in recent memory. They have thrown Lara in a situation that comes across as hopeless. Deep in a forest she is not familiar with, being hunted by people that have more than enough weapons and you genuinely become connected to Lara and almost feel like the first death would mean the end of the game. Tomb Raider has all the makings of a blockbuster experience.

Sleeping Dogs was better than what I expected. When a game is on the verge of being totally shut down and is brought back to life, it usually doesn’t bode well. When I heard Square was the company that brought it back to life (True Crimes) I feared the game would suffer. After the showing Square had this year, I would almost prefer they buy every game on the verge of disaster and fix it up! Sleeping Dogs is basically a GTA game set in Hong Kong. The new setting is of great interest to me. The Hong Kong underground is a lot more badass than the New York or Miami underground. So the missions should be more brutal and satisfying. Throw in a Disney style version of Portal (Quantum Conundrum) and a updated Hitman and Square is the runaway winner at this years E3. A very surprising and pleasant viewing.

Grade: A+


Activision

James Bond, Spiderman, Black Ops II, Skylanders Giants

Everybody always likes to see the mighty fall. No matter what Activision came with at E3 this year, the naysayers would instantly say everything they showed was terrible. This year, what they showed maybe wasn’t all terrible, but for Activision was subpar, save for the obvious Black Ops II. Lets get that out of the way right now. Black Ops II is everything a CoD game should be and more. By just adding a simple thing like an option to stay and snipe a path for your teammates, or take that path and let the AI do the sniping is a big thing for the series. In addition, adding a mode where you can basically take the form of whatever is in your squad and fight. It could be another soldier, or it even could be a mech blowing up the enemy, it’s a fantastic addition.

Now for the bad news. The James Bond demo was easily the worst thing at the show. Not only did the game have nothing new to offer, the two guys presenting 007 Legends offered no life for the game. Based on their body language it seemed they even knew what they were offering would have no lasting staying power whatsoever. It all comes down to Activision having the rights to James Bond and being forced to make a game out of it. The game looked dated. Terrible graphics, bad sound and yet again we get a Bond game based on previous Bond movies. Why? Is it sacrilegious to make a Bond game with a fresh story? I believe that’s the only thing that could save the Bond series as far as a video game. Sorry, but the audience just won’t be there for this one.

Spiderman on the other hand has me torn. Did the game look good? It looked great. But the one thing I just could not get over was that no matter where you were when soaring from building to building, your web would go in the same direction every time. Even if you were in the middle of a park, your web shot would go straight up. What are you swinging from? Is it forgivable, sure it is. It’s just annoying to me. I have to give credit to the guys presenting the game as well. They were quite the opposite of the Bond guys. They are Spiderman guys to the bone, and it shows in the game design. It was good, but it didn’t blow me away.

Grade: C


Bethesda

The Elder Scrolls Online, Dishonored, Doom 3

I’m ashamed to admit,  but I never really got into the Elder Scrolls until Skyrim. Because I’m a noob to the series I’m excited for Elder Scrolls Online. I’m also a noob to the PC gaming world. So games like this and Sim City have really got me excited to start my PC gaming career. Is it a skinned version of every other MMO out there. From what my colleagues say, it is. But do I care?? Like I said, I’m new to it. So bring it on.

Dishonored is getting a lot of press lately and rightly so. Being able to play a game multiple ways is always attractive. But to do it the way Dishonored is doing it is fresh and new. Want to enter a building where your targets are? Then feel free to walk in the front door guns blazing. Or, make your way around the back where you can dive in the lake and take control of a fish that’s swimming and get in through a drainage pipe. Keep your weapons in their holster and take out your targets without firing a weapon. It’s pretty genius if you ask me.

Grade: B-


Nintendo

Pikman, Nintendoland, New Mario 2, New Mario U

Oh where to begin. People were expecting so much from Nintendo this year. A new console raises everyone’s expectations as they should. In time, I truly believe this will go down as the worst Nintendo press conference ever. Quite possibly the worst ever for any company. I was so dumbfounded after it ended, I was stretching to find things good with what I just witnessed. Nintendo failed to bring anything to the table that made people say “wow”. Batman and Mass Effect 3? Great games, but by the time the Wii U comes out will anybody really want to go back and play games that have been out for over a year?

To not unveil a release date or a price point was the biggest flop for Nintendo. More people are paying attention to the video game world at E3 than at any other time of the year. The most important info needs to be released at this time, and Nintendo let it slip. It’s been four days since the Nintendo press conference and there is not one thing I can look back on and say “that was impressive”, and to do it on the year when your all new console comes out is inexcusable. Yes, ZombiU does look exciting, now moving right along.

Grade: D-


Sony

Beyond, The Last of Us, God of War Ascension, Play Station Battle Royale

If you listen to the GameReverb podcast, there’s probably a 50-50 chance the episodes you’ve listening to, I’ll mention Heavy Rain and how I can’t wait until the next Quantic Dream game comes out. Well my prayers have been answered. For starters, Beyond looks more refined and more amazing than Heavy Rain. Nobody can tell a story like Quantic Dream, and the level they showed at the Sony conference has us more excited to see what they have conjured up. Just having Ellen Paige doing the motion capture and voice over for the main character proves they want to take their gaming into the next level.

Much has been said about The Last of Us. It’s gotta be tough to please everyone when your game has this much hype, but Naughty Dog seems to be pushing all the right buttons on this one. The game looks fantastic and the story looks second to none. People were almost standing and applauding as the level shown came to a dramatic conclusion. There’s no question that “The Last of Us” is going to be a long standing IP.

Everything Sony did at this years E3 seems to be a touch of gold. From the games presented to the announcement that full retail games will be available for free to Play Station Plus members. Oh, and God of War Ascension looked incredible. Icing on the cake

Grade: A-


Microsoft

Halo 4, Gears of War Judgement, Smartglass

If any company played it safe this year it was Microsoft. They didn’t leave you wanting more, but they didn’t blow you away either. Halo 4 was the shining moment as far as games, but what impressed the most was the non games announcements The newly announced Xbox Smartglass was easily the biggest highlight. It’s basically the 360’s answer to the Wii U. Not when it comes to gameplay, but for watching movies or searching the net (the addition of the explorer browser is a sweet addition as well). What’s best about Smartglass is that there is no additional equipment to buy. If you already own a smartphone or tablet you’re good to go.

Microsoft pretty much said “here’s a few games you know are great, we know are great and go have some fun”. Everyone knows next year is a big year for them due to the rumors of the new console they are working on. So I can’t blame them for not wanting to throw all their eggs in one basket, especially if what they announce this year isn’t very relevant next year. Having said that, if they disappoint next year like Nintendo did, I reserve the right to go back and change this grade.

Grade: C


Telltale

The Walking Dead Episode 2

Is it unfair to grade a company that only brings one game? Probably, but since that game is the second episode of The Walking Dead series you can’t help but forgive me. Fear not, I’m not the spoiler type so I’ll quickly summarize now. I got to see the first 20 minutes of episode 2. In short, it’s awesome!

Grade: A+


2K Games

Borderlands 2, Spec Ops: The Line, Xcom Enemy Unknown

2K didn’t perform as well as one would have hoped. Borderlands 2 looked like…Borderlands. That’s not a bad thing however. We were able to play a level in Co-Op mode which is always fun, and while the game looks a little more cartoonish than the original, all we really want is more guns and more guns we have. It’s just, when you’re at E3 and you are seeing so many new and fresh titles, when you see a game that seems to be playing it safe with some new visual details it’s a little disappointing. Am I excited for Borderlands 2? Absolutely. Maybe it’s just because I wish we could have seen more. What we saw wasn’t anything unexpected.

Xcom was a game I had some excitement for, then they showed us the demo. I can’t sit here and say it was good or bad because it was the shortest demo I saw. They didn’t get in depth at all with the game or explain very well what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. It was a big let down.

Grade: C


Konami

Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Zone of the Enders

This is basically a review of one game. Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance. Which was maybe the biggest surprise for me. I’ve never been one to care for the Metal Gear series (blasphemy, I know) but being a huge fan of Bayonetta, this game had me hooked. Currently it seems there aren’t as many combo moves in MGR: Revengeance as we experienced in Bayonetta and it’s more of a button masher than anything else. Yet, I’m ok with that as long as what’s happening on screen means something, and it does. Konami amped up your power for the demo just to see how badass you will eventually become. That was a great decision because I feel there were a lot of people there who felt like me which when they heard there was a new Metal Gear game, their reaction was ‘meh’. When you get to play it and see how the game looks and plays, your opinion will change immediately. A very good surprise! Konami needed it because everything else there didn’t look as spectacular. Because of that it hurts their grade. Metal Gear gets a B+ but this is a review for the whole showing.

Grade: C


Capcom

Resident Evil 6, Devil May Cry, Street Fighter V Tekken

One of the franchises that got me into video games in the first place was the Resident Evil franchise. Now being able to work in the video game world and seeing everything that’s out there and what other zombie games have to offer, I feel the Resident Evil series is starting to become dated. I’m happy and impressed the series is having its sixth true version (obviously not counting the numerous other Resident Evil games available), but they seem to be holding on to a story that has worn out its welcome. Sure I’m excited for it because it’s what got me hooked on gaming. So there’s a soft spot for the series. I just fear people are turning their backs on it every day.

Capcom seemed to be the booth nobody knew was there. Sure it was big in size, but you could walk right by it and not even know it was there. Other than Resident Evil there was no buzz around the company. You would think people would be flocking to the new DMC Devil May Cry from developer Ninja Theory, yet it just felt like they weren’t. It’s tough to say but Capcom, who is usually a force at E3 was not this year. Possibly because of the location of the booth. For the past few years they have always been right as you walk in the door. This year they were in the back of the hall jammed in between Activision and Square. Location is everything!

Grade: C-


THQ

Metro Last Light, Darksiders 2

Last year Metro Last Light was a sleeper for me. The level shown at that E3 took place in the sewers of Russia and you were making your way in stealth mode through what seemed like a rough crowd of followers for whatever they were fighting for. It had real moments of suspense, never mind the game looked great.

For some reason this year Metro took a step back. The tough thing is, I can’t seem to put my finger on why. The game still looks great, but the level shown was slow and some of the mechanics didn’t seem to work. I’m referring to wiping your mask off from dirt and debris. It’s neat but didn’t seem necessary. Still the game has my attention and interest and I’m not yet willing to give up on it after only one level shown. Maybe my expectations were too high, but I walked away not as impressed as last year.

Grade: C

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