The Bulletin is a roundup of a few game-related news stories from the previous week.
Microsoft at E3: Forget-me-now
You may have heard some unpleasant stuff about the Xbox One in the last few weeks. It needs an internet connection, its treatment of used games is super-complicated, its treatment of giving games to friends is even more complicated, and it may or may not be constantly spying on you. Luckily for Microsoft, the company had a fantastic opportunity at last week’s E3 convention to come out swinging and show off all of the great games that are going to make you forget about all of that bad stuff. In theory.
First, Microsoft took a moment to talk about that ratty old Xbox 360, stinking up everybody’s living rooms with its ability to play used games or whatever. In honor of the Xbox One’s hip new “ugly VCR” design, Microsoft will be releasing an updated 360 model that is specifically designed to match the new console. If you’re wondering why Microsoft is apparently marketing an Xbox 360 to potential Xbox One buyers, this GameTrailers interview with Microsoft’s Don Mattrick should help explain it.
There you go. If you want a console that isn’t always online, buy an Xbox 360. Or, you know, a certain other option. Or two. Or three. But I’ll get to that later.
Moving on to the Xbone, Microsoft spent most of its press conference parading out flashy big-budget games that you’ll be able to play on the new console in the next year or so. Some of it was expected, like the barbarian-stabbing simulation Ryse: Son Of Rome (which has been teased a few times in the past), the mass-zombie-slaying game Dead Rising 3, and a new Halo game. But a couple of surprises managed to sneak in, like Sunset Overdrive, a parkour-based shooter from the formerly PlayStation-exclusive studio Insomniac Games, and mysterious game called Below from Capybara Games, part of the team behind the iOS hit Superbrothers: Sword And Sworcery EP.
However, a couple surprises were a little less surprising if you’ve been keeping up with The Bulletin: Killer Instinct and Titanfall. I mentioned the possibility of a Killer Instinct revival back in April, when Microsoft settled a few lingering trademark issues with the name. (Admittedly, my stance back then was a decidedly safe “it’s not not happening,” but I’ll still count this as a win.) Interestingly, it looks like the new Killer Instinct is going to be available in a free-to-play version. Kotaku is reporting that one character and all modes will be free at launch, with additional characters available for purchase separately.
Titanfall, on the other hand, was pretty much a sure thing after its existence leaked a few weeks ago. What I wasn’t expecting, however, was just how cool it would look. Call Of Duty with mechs sounds fine, whatever, but seeing the one robot rip the pilot out of another robot and then throw the pilot in the air was pretty much the coolest thing. At the end of its show, Microsoft announced that the Xbox One would be in stores this November for $500, a full hundred dollars more than the most expensive version of the Xbox 360 at launch.
Sony at E3: Mic drop
You know how every superhero movie has the part where the villain just sits back and allows himself to be captured while the good guys unknowingly dig their own graves and play right along with his evil master plan? I think that was Sony’s approach to E3 this year. It watched Microsoft build up all of this bad press over used games while people worried that Sony would do the same thing, and then BAM. Harvey Dent gets blown up, Iron Man’s friend gets killed, and Sony laughs all the way to world domination.
First of all, Sony finally revealed what the PlayStation 4 will actually look like, and shockingly, it’s another black box. But wait! It’s not just a black box, apparently it’s a parallelepiped (which is a good thing to know the next time you get a million P and L tiles in Scrabble).
The rest of the press conference was innocent enough, with Sony revealing a series of exciting new games you’ll be able to play on its upcoming PlayStation 4. There was The Order: 1886, some sort of steampunk shooter about killing Victorian werewolves. There was also a tease for a game based on the Mad Max movies (which is being developed by Avalanche, the studio behind the Just Cause series) as well as a bizarre tech demo from Quantic Dream (known for Heavy Rain and the upcoming Beyond: Two Souls) that showed off the PS4‘s ability to render old-man faces.
The long-delayed Final Fantasy Versus XIII also got a new trailer, and Square Enix, the publisher, officially re-christened it Final Fantasy XV (making it II whole fantasies better). Square Enix also teased the Disney mashup role-playing game Kingdom Hearts III. One of the centerpieces of Sony’s presentation was when it showed off no less than nine indie titles coming to the PlayStation 4, including Transistor (the next game from the Bastion developers), a remake of Oddworld: Abe’s Oddysee, Octodad 2: Dadliest Catch, Don’t Starve, and Ray’s The Dead.
By most accounts (including that of our own Ryan Smith), Sony put on a pretty good show, but at the end it got even better by hitting Microsoft in the face with a series of proverbial glove slaps: The PlayStation 4 does not require an internet connection (once every 24 hours or otherwise), it does not have any restrictions on used games, and it will cost $400. Sony even released a wickedly tongue-in-cheek video in response to Microsoft’s complicated game-sharing policy. It’s hard to believe this is coming from the same Sony that had so many dumb E3 moments in previous years.
One notable absence from Sony’s E3 lineup was The Last Guardian, the long-awaited follow-up to Shadow Of The Colossus from Team Ico. Sony’s Jack Tretton told Game Trailers that it is “on hiatus,” but Joystiq reported that the game is still “in active development.” If we’ve learned anything about damage control over the last few weeks, we know the real answer: It’s not coming any time soon.
Nintendo at E3: Hey, remember Mario?
Nintendo sees you guys fighting over there, Sony and Microsoft, and it doesn’t want any part of that nonsense. “Video games are supposed to be fun,” it shouts, waving around the expected handful of sequels to beloved games that it puts out every year. Sure enough, what Nintendo lacked in surprise, it made up for in sheer Nintendo-ness.
The House That Mario Built announced a new co-op Mario game for Wii U called Super Mario 3D World that lets you play as all four of the characters from Super Mario Bros. 2. (Yes, even Peach!) And unlike the New Super Mario Bros. games, this one will be a 3D platformer in the vein of Super Mario 64. Also, Mario can wear a cat suit that lets him climb up walls, and it is just the cutest thing ever.
Nintendo then introduced Mario Kart 8, which is a Mario Kart game (and will therefore spread nothing but frustration and hatred throughout the world), as well as two new Super Smash Bros. titles, one each for the Wii U and 3DS. The big hook in every Smash Bros. sequel is seeing which video game characters you’ll be able to pummel to death, and this new entry is actually shaping up to have a cool list. In addition to the obvious picks like Link and Samus, Super Smash Bros. Wii U and 3DS will introduce an Animal Crossing villager, the female trainer from Wii Fit, and Capcom’s Mega Man.
Also, as you may recall, late last month Warner Bros. announced Scribblenauts Unmasked, a title that claimed to include “every character who as ever appeared in a DC comic book.” I believe my exact words at the time were “Yeah, right,” and sure enough, the developers at 5th Cell are now backpedaling. According to Joystiq, they are now saying that “it’s not possible to get everything that’s ever been created.” My apologies to the readers who had their hearts set on an appearance from Arm Fall Off Boy, but at least I can count this as another correct prediction.
Oh, and that part where I said Nintendo didn’t want to be a part of the petty squabbling between Sony and Microsoft? Well, Nintendo might be above that, but it is certainly not above pouring salt into a gaping stab wound. Speaking with Polygon, Nintendo Of America president Reggie Fils-Aime said that “if [game developers] build great content, then the consumer will not want to trade in our games.” In other words, he’s suggesting that maybe used games wouldn’t be such an issue for certain other hardware developers if the games they were putting out were, you know, better. When the company behind the debacle that is the Wii U is giving you a hard time, you know things aren’t going well.
Third parties at E3: We’re here, too!
Despite the fact that they get most of the attention and I’ve devoted the entire Bulletin to them so far, E3 is not all about the big three console makers. Other companies had things to announce at E3, too! Like Electronic Arts, everybody’s favorite publisher. EA has had even more bad press lately than Microsoft, but rather than charge right in and hope everyone forgets about it, EA spent the show doing as much crowd-pleasing as possible.
First, the company brought a PopCap representative onto its press conference stage to announce Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare, a third-person shooter that takes the iconic flora and turns them into Team Fortress 2-style archetypes like “healer” and “sniper,” while somehow looking significantly more fun than it has any right to be. Also, before getting off the stage, the PopCap guy revealed that the studio is currently working on Peggle 2. And then he did an uppercut. It was rad.
Also rad? EA showed a teaser for a new Star Wars Battlefront game and a trailer for Dragon Age: Inquisition, the latest entry in BioWare’s fantasy role-playing game series. Then, in another moment that Bulletin readers knew to expect, EA finally gave Mirror’s Edge fans what they’ve been begging for and announced a sequel to the first-person parkour game. Joystiq reports that the new Mirror’s Edge will be a “reboot,” but hopefully that means “prequel” and not “we’re just making the same game with fewer shooty parts,” but I guess we’ll see.
Telltale Games also showed up for E3, and it revealed that a bonus chapter for its Walking Dead adventure game would be coming to a slew of platforms later this summer. As reported by IGN, it will be called The Walking Dead: 400 Days, and it will tell a “Pulp Fiction-like anthology story” that bridges the gap between the game’s first season and the upcoming season two. So if you’re looking for a fun, breezy game to spend some time with this summer…you might want to look somewhere else.
And lest you think E3 is no place for indie games without a big-time publisher backing them, Polytron released a slick teaser announcing Fez II, a sequel to its world-rotating (and brain melting) puzzle game. Also, Fez creator Phil Fish is a pretty outspoken guy, so he probably made a crack about Microsoft on Twitter, just like everybody else.