E3 2015: Laguna’s Day 3 Thoughts
Max has got his Day 1 recap up for all to see, but to tide you over for day 2 and 3, I’ll finish my E3 2015 coverage for GamerHeadlines with some of the top titles you may have been watching out for. Brace yourselves folks, because I’m not one who easily gives into hype.
Let’s start with, on the ground floor, the most talked about game of the convention: Star Wars Battlefront. I’ve been fairly critical of what we’ve seen and heard so far, most of which has just been about fidelity to the movies, and as much as I like the movies, I personally found the old expanded universe greatly enriched the franchise as a whole. My “fun” is not copying or reliving the movies, but feeling like I’m part of something bigger.
In some ways, I certainly got that when I played a snowtrooper in my demo. I am terrible at shooters, especially if I have to use a controller. I was the snowtrooper who was almost always the first to die, right at the front. It’s not the game’s fault I’m terrible or had to use a controller, but I know I’m not the only Star Wars fan in my situation. However, as I got to learn the game a bit, I found other things.
I could pick up tokens around the field to receive useful items… or control vehicles, the latter of which was a godsend. I called down a single orbital strike out of three times I managed to control the AT-AT, but I destroyed the defense of two outposts while we were pushing them. I may have ranked last in my match, but it was the winning side, just like in the movie.
Just the same, the game didn’t feel too innovative. I did like how the vehicles showed up, and the Tie-fighters having to choose between speed and fire power on the spot felt like a good Star Wars call. Using jet packs (not constantly as in Tribes but once in awhile like Boba Fett) felt more unique. However, at the end of my demo, I just felt I’d played a lobby shooter influenced by Star Wars. If I can wrangle some friends into trying it, I’ll put money on a digital deluxe pre-order, but otherwise, it may be a title I pass (maybe until there’s a Steam sale).
Next is The Division. I’d been looking forward to my demo for ages, especially after reading some other hands on previews, but I think a lot of it is mainstream hype. My handlers bluntly told us that we were to kill the other team so we could fly off with the loot. There was no talk of strategy, use of gestures, teaming up, going rogue… nothing. I was VIPed through the line, but my demo had both exhibitors and other media who couldn’t get pre-arranged demos, and perhaps they just see the game and the Dark Zone as another shooter… and that’s the problem. When the people running the demo and the other participants see the Dark Zone as just another place to kill each other, it cheapens the value of the emergent play the developers tried to open.
The game handled well enough, and the cover system was more fluid than I expected. I liked that players were “downed” before killed and that anyone could help “rez” their friends. The UI did feel a little cluttered, but part of that may have been because the other teams fired on us almost as soon as we were spotted, except one guy who turned the corner and started shooting 1 vs. 3. Perhaps he thought we were NPCs, since the field didn’t seem to have many of those. Maybe our arena was too small, or the other teams had killed them all, but after watching the trailer, I almost felt like I was in a MOBA where you got one wave of minions and then something broke, because after those 4 NPCs, I didn’t see a single one.
We’ll have to wait to see how things develop, but if industry insiders couldn’t treat Dark Zone as a murky pool of potential allies and enemies and reduced it to a simple shooting spree, I don’t see how regular gamers will promote it as anything higher.
Now, I have to admit, I’ve never played an Assassin’s Creed game before Syndicate at E3 this year. Max hopefully got some time with it and can tell you fans more about it, but for me, I came at it with new eyes, and those eyes said, “Batman.” That’s not a jab, but a compliment. The first Arkham game was pretty fun. I was busy as hell when the sequel came out, but it was interesting enough for me to watch my brother play through almost the whole story.
The combat and exploration are simple enough, but the guided actions make for some enjoyable eye candy and varied gameplay. The idea of a turf war in old England was refreshing, as was the idea of using a grappling gun while wearing a top hat. Honestly, I’ve never felt like I could take the “assassin” part of the series seriously due to the fashion statements, but the combos and options, like shooting a dragged dart into fire to create a hallucination inducing area of effect cloud was pretty cool. If I didn’t already have one large, open world game waiting for me from a series I’ve already sunk a lot of time into, I’d probably think more about playing Syndicate. However, I do feel like I better understand why the series has so many fans, and I hope they can appreciate the game at least as much as I did as a newcomer.
As much as I love my Wii U, Nintendo, and Star Fox, I really didn’t like Star Fox Zero. One thing Nintendo still has trouble with is making use of that second screen, and Star Fox Zero currently, in my opinion, may be executing one of the greatest sins- too much split time between two screens. I don’t think I was alone in this experience either, as my handler noted that a lot of people had resisted some of her advice, failed the mission, and some even got upset with her. I had even felt a tinge of resentment towards her a few times for her coaching until, almost at the end, I realized that her advice was there because I was catching what I needed to do about one or two seconds too late due to looking at the wrong screen all the time.
See, in SFZ, the main screen works like any other SF game. You can look around and shoot, but the controls are more complex, and it feels needless. The second screen is a cock pit view that allows more precise aiming; your normal aiming feels shoddy and off kilter. Breaking and acceleration are tied to the right controls stick, well the left is for basic movement. To ask the player to do this while also moving around with the game pad to control where you’re firing… it feels like too much at once. Maybe it will click after more experience, but it’s certainly not the arwing I’m used to, and the idea of flying around on one screen while scanning for enemies on another just resulted in too many accidents.
That being said, core fans will be happy to know other things haven’t changed. You still have your charged shot, u-turn and loop, group banter, and branching paths which are sometimes dictated on how you kill a boss. For example, in the Corneria demo, I was told that I could either kill the boss by going inside it and using the “chicken mode” (as I like to call it), or I could take out it’s weapons and let the boss escape, though I’d have to fight him again later. I’m hoping the old nostalgia will be enough, but I wonder what the controls mean for local multiplayer or even online play (if we get it).
Super Mario Maker has been on my radar since it appeared last year, and I have no idea why. I don’t really do 2D platformers, and while I love the idea of level editors, I usually barely touch them. Just the same, making Mario levels appeals to me. My first run through, my Nintendo rep pitted me against a few cute scenarios. I told her I wanted to try something unique, and she gave me a level that was quite short and free of power ups, culminating in an attempt to get behind a giant Bowser to reach the axe to knock out the bridge, with no easy way around him. Instead, I’d have to wait for him to jump and dash under him without getting hit. The level would normally take maybe 1 minute max to finish, but getting the timing right was difficult. It was both frustrating and addicting, and felt perfectly fair to ask of me.
This is probably because all levels in SMM require the author to finish their creation before putting it online. I did get some hands on time with the level editing tool, but was severely limited by my second Nintendo rep. Just the same, seeing how I could make baddies grow, set up potential green-shell death traps and tight jumps over great chasms was interesting enough. The only thing I worry about is how to make a good underwater level, especially if it’s short. I love water, but have very few positive memories of 2D water levels. It’s nice to have the option though.
While not the biggest new title on the Wii U, as my E3 time came nearer to ending, I decided to try out Mario Tennis: Ultra Smash. While I felt motion control wasn’t needed for Star Fox Zero, being made to use a classic controller for a tennis game felt like a step back. Wii Sports’ tennis was one of the better games for the Wii U’s launch, and a few Nintendo inspired tweaks could have gone a long way. While it’s nice to be able to change up your shot from jump, power, and drop shots, I feel the changes could work on the wii remote. My Nintendo rep didn’t know if the classic controller would be the only option for the game’s release, but I honestly hope it’s not.
The game itself is still rather simple, and the addition of the mushrooms makes things a bit frantic. I scored several shots on my rep, not by abusing my massive size, but by using drop shots even though I was huge. The ability to do some mind games in a friendly looking Nintendo sports title was interesting, and made me wonder if there were ways Nintendo could keep that up.
A few quick final comments on E3 this year. First, VR certainly was the winner. Every day, that’s what people were talking about. The games this year sadly couldn’t compete with some of the tech demos. I’m still looking forward to a couple of games, but the hype is mostly just hype. The past year was pretty good to us, gamers.
Next, there’s times where security starts to lock down. People buy and sell E3 passes online, and it doesn’t end well. However, I noticed that this year, exhibitors in particular were being targeted. I was often allowed to walk right into the exhibit halls and meeting rooms I was supposed to be in, while long lines of exhibitors also had to show ID that matched their pass. I also felt like exhibitors really outnumbered press this year, so perhaps that’s why it stood out.
Finally, a general shout out to Nintendo’s staff. I spoke with some of their floor people, as I noticed the lines seemed busier than usual and there were more 3DS demos for those waiting in lines, but I saw less Nintendo people on break. For reference, Nintendo has given a good deal of break time to it’s floor people in past years, and unlike some other booths, they’re usually quite happy while they’re on duty.
However, Nintendo understands that short, 5 minute or less demos aren’t really enough to form a strong opinion. Because of that, they pushed demos up to 8-10 minute demos. This caused lines to be longer. In order to keep people happy, they tried to provide more 3DS demos to entertain people in line. However, I think the human touch in general was a big help, for both their staff and attendees. I’m not always standing near people who want to chat, and I think many of the booth staff feel like security guards. Most are friendly when you talk to them, but they speak about their boredom and having to do the same task and see the same image all day every day of the convention.
Nintendo’s people were more cheerful and talkative, so while I may have waited in line for an hour for a ten minute demo, I generally either got hands on with another game I normally wouldn’t have tried, or I’d have a cool moment with a discussion with the otherwise anti-social seeming people around me thanks to a Nintendo rep. I honestly wish more booths would use Nintendo’s strategy. It should be interesting to see Max’s take on event, so stay tuned!