FINAL: E3 2015 – The briefings edition

Welcome to Reckoner’s man-on-the-ground reports from E3’s briefings in Los Angeles. Each major briefing is listed below and will eventually cover 3 day’s worth of showcases beginning on Sunday with Bethesda and finishing Tuesday with the PC gaming show.

Instead of making the post ridiculously long with a mass of screenshots and photos the bolded links of game titles will take you to all the footage from their respective showings.

The shows are listed below in reverse chronological order or for your clicking convenience here are some handy links to jump to the one you’re interested in the most:

PC Gaming ShowSquare Enix | Nintendo
Sony | Ubisoft | EA | Microsoft | Bethesda


PC Gaming

PC Gaming Show

There was a huge amount of excitement from hardcore gamers about the first PC Gaming centric briefing ever at E3. It was definitely a different show to what we’ve become accustom to in recent years taking on a talk-show like format.

The show was filled with a variety of guests ranging from AMD’s “Chief gaming scientist” – who wins biggest bullshit job title – talking about AMD’s latest video cards to Microsoft’s Phil Spencer who admitted that … perhaps Microsoft has lost their way in PC gaming, touting the efforts put into Windows 10 to ensure that’s fixed. It was also reiterated how important DirectX12 is to PC gamers not only for the unification of APIs across Xbox & Windows 10 but also in that it takes direct advantage of newer multi-core graphics card and will drastically improve GPU power and the way it’s used.

Cliff Bleszinski made an odd appearance to discuss his new studio’s upcoming PC title codenamed Project Blue Streak. Unfortunately he had nothing to show and essentially talked about his influences and lay praise on Counter Strike, so expect an FPS there. He also mentioned that the title was likely to be ported to consoles at some point sort of missing the point of the show in my opinion but placating any fears the Twitter verse was already typing I suppose.

Blizzard left their mark showing off a new pack of upcoming content to their talk-of-the-town MOBA Heroes of the Storm called Eternal Conflict. The content pack shows that for the first time a battle arena that’s built from the world of Blizzard as well as some new characters to play. Blizzard also made mention of their final campaign instalment for StarCraft II, Legacy of the Void.

In a category I like to call “And it’s coming for PC” we were treated to the news No Man’s Sky is getting a simultaneous release along with it’s PS4 version. Also included in this category are Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Killer Instinct and of course one we already knew about, Fable Legends.

Other titles shown included Deus Ex: Mankind DividedEve: Valkyrie and American Truck Simulator to name a few.

The show was extremely long and a great first showing but I think a lot of it went over many a viewer’s head. The fact AMD are a core sponsor of it meant we only got half the side of the GPU argument too but that was to be expected. I look forward to it becoming a regular showing and especially next year where Chris Roberts has already pledged to be joining them to show off Star Citizen in more detail.

 


Square Enix E3 Briefing

Square Enix

Probably the smallest briefing in terms of production budgets to date Square Enix had an awful lot to show off beginning with Just Cause 3, coming December 1st. For those who don’t know JC3 is a massive open world game with a huge amount of destructibility and mayhem. It looks like a solid iteration on the series and a lot of fun.

Crystal Dynamics spoke of Rise of the Tomb Raider from a behind the scenes perspective but the real juice seemed to have been already shown via Microsoft yesterday. It wasn’t the end of all things Tomb Raider as a new  mobile title was announced, Lara Croft Go.

The real excitement was reserved for Kingdom Hearts 3. It’s not a title I’ve personally enjoyed but I know how loved the series is out there. The Disney collaboration seems as strong as ever with the new world of Tangled incorporated.

In addition to the show stoppers Square Enix replayed some previously seen trailers in the form of the Final Fantasy VII remake and World of Final Fantasy as well as reiterating releases with some new content like Hitman.

Other announcements of significance include Star Ocean and a new Nier Project and a new studio called RPG Tokyo working on a new IP (there’s that phrase again) Project SETSUNA.

For me though it was the gameplay footage of Deus Ex: Mankind Divided that truly stole the show. I really enjoyed the reboot of Deus Ex a few years ago and this is just taking that next-gen leap in a graceful way. I’m really excited to get some hands on with this one.


Yoshi's Wooly World

Nintendo

After an opening reveal of the long awaited next StarFox title called StarFox Zero Nintendo were quick to shut down any hope that there would be any information on their upcoming console with Reggie saying “NX information in 2016”. On the StarFox front reactions seem to be split with a dated art style and a heavy focus on motion control.

In a huge changeup on the Amiibo front Activision announced a partnership with Nintendo to produce a figurine that’s compatible with both the Skylander portal and with a twist of the base a standard Amiibo. The two new figures are Turbo Charge Donkey Kong and Hammer Slam Bowser.

The Legend of Zelda Triforce Heroes on Nintendo 3DS is a new multiplayer co-op adventure game. It introduces a new “totem” mechanic allowing players to stack on one another to solve puzzles as well as a “fashion” based system that changes how your character tackles adventuring based on what you’re wearing.

Also shown for the 3DS were Hyrule Warriors Legends, Metroid Prime Federation Force, available 2016 and Mario & Luigi Paper Jam.

On the Wii U front Yoshi’s Wooly World (YWW) is a whole level of cuteness the world may not be ready for. Teased last year YWW follows a somewhat similar art style as Kirby’s Epic Yarn. They showed off a new co-op mode and the ability to have Yoshi wear a costume by pairing your Amiibo. It was the only title shown I truly had any real interest in.

Other Wii U titles we saw included Xenoblade Chronicles X available December 4th, Animal Crossing Amiibo Festival – a Mario Party-esque clone and Mario Tennis Ultra Smash, meh.

Mario’s 30th anniversary is celebrated with a reshowing of Super Mario Maker and the announcement of the 8-bit super giant Mario Amiibo that’s bordering ridiculous in size. It’s release is September 11, 2015.

I’m not a Nintendo fan-boy but their showing seemed lacking to me. The omission of the upcoming Zelda and no sign of a real Metroid Prime left a sour taste in your mouth. The systems seem dated and graphics super lacking in comparison to todays system, it would’ve been nice to hear something about NX and catching up!


Sony

Sony

Well fuck me dead. Sony just took everything to a whole new level. Opening with the hugely anticipated title, honestly thought to be vaporware, The Last Guardian and continuing from there on in with hit after hit after hit. Sony really blew the internet away this afternoon.

Guerrilla Games were given the opportunity to spin the new IP wheel on Sony’s behalf and landed on an open world action RPG called Horizon Zero Dawn. Playing as a caveman like woman from a tribe in a distant desolate future the gameplay saw you encounter enemies in the form of robotic dinosaurs that can be looted for materials used in the continuation of your journey. It’s going to be interesting to see this in finer detail in the months to come and it’s great to see Guerrilla do something that isn’t Killzone for a change.

We got a very rushed cross section of Hello Games No Man’s Sky that alluded to some actual gameplay mechanics via comments such as “…that’s the centre of universe, we’re all trying to get there.” Shown was the character landing on a completely random planet that even the developers didn’t know what would be there as it is entirely procedurally generated and then went on to explore explore and identify animals, life, plants, etc. Uploading that data to a planet’s “beacon” and being rewarded credits. We also saw a glimpse of a universal protecting creatures, “sentinels” and were shown how every aspect of the world is destructible.

Media Molecule announced a new IP called Dreams. It’s almost too hard to even begin explaining it, especially when the guys showing it off tell you that they can’t even do it! Think of it as a collaborative tool for literally creating “anything you can dream of”. It looks to be more of an artistic application than a “game” and not even the execs after the briefing could really nail down what it was. Strange.

In addition to the traditionally western focused showcase Sony announced the upcoming remake of the fan favourite Final Fantasy VII as well an odd showing of support for a Kickstarter they launched live on stage for Shenmue 3. I’d never heard of it but it clearly had a following and before the end of the briefing was already at US$400k and rising.

Sony also made mention of their VR work, Project Morpheus, amongst a thankfully much shorter media section this year. The majority remained irrelevant for anyone outside of North America focusing on their Playstation Vue streaming service but its good to see they’re actively focused on game development for Morpheus albeit without a price tag as yet.

Sony’s big one, two finish came via the announcement of their exclusive content deal with the Call of Duty franchise beginning with Call of Duty: Black Ops 3. This is a big one for Sony CoD has long been associated with the Xbox and it will be interesting to see if the eSports community migrates along with the franchise’s deal.

It was Uncharted 4 that stole the show though. This game is incredible. I don’t know how Naughty Dog do it but with every title they release the quality of graphics and story telling continue to get better and better and better. The environment’s destructibility seems to have been improved on as well as many pieces of cover Drake hides behind are shot to nothing preventing you from cover hiding in one spot forever. We also saw a new driving mechanic that for the first time in franchise history allows you to take control behind the wheel. It may have been delayed but Uncharted is very much the cherry on Sony’s large, cream filled, chocolate frosted cake.

Other trailers shown include a new Hitman title from Square Enix, Street Fighter V, another for Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate which introduces a twin sister as an alternative character to play as, Firewatch and finally Batman Arkham Knight PS4 exclusive Scarecrow missions.

 


Ubisoft E3

Ubisoft

Ubisoft got things started with a big surprise, first thing. South Park creators Matt Stone & Tray Parker emerged on stage to swallow their words about never creating another video game to announce South Park – The Fractured But Whole. The new game sees the characters you love this time take on the persona of the more vogue super hero genre and focuses on the back story of “the new kid” and “why [your] butt hole is so amazing“.

For their turn on the “New IP” wheel Ubisoft announced For Honor. Demoed as a 4v4 you play a hero knight, vikings or samurai. Surrounded in a battlefield populated with AI minions gameplay is akin to the recent Batman system unless encountering another live player which then appears to switch to a fine control method of sword fighting. There isn’t a lot more to say about it now but they’re accepting registrations for a beta on their website now.

For the third year running we see The Division trotted out and whilst that should disgust me I couldn’t be more excited! Earlier in the MS briefing we were treated to a new trailer and told Xbox One users would have access to the beta early in December so it was great to see Ubisoft show off some completely new gameplay inside the game’s “Dark Zone”.  A sort of PvPvE style environment we see for the first time an encounter between two playing groups that can choose to either fight each other or work together against a common environment AI. That doesn’t mean you can’t then turn on one another after defeating the enemy together as you see in the video via a series of betrayals shown in the trailer. We also finally got a release date, March 8 2016 with the beta becoming available for PS4 in early 2016.

Rainbow Six Siege also returned to the stage but this time with the unveiling of a solo and co-op modes against AI opponents. The demo showed a group of five playing with a huge amount of oddly scripted communication that I fear unless playing with friends is likely to turn into shit-storm of internet randoms doing as they please. It will be interesting to see if it gains any traction. Open beta begins September 24th.

Of course Assassin’s Creed was there, it wouldn’t be an Ubisoft presentation without it. Syndicate, the newest title in the series  will hopefully leave the trouble riddled Unity well behind it but only time will tell.  For me the series has turned into an unfortunate annual release lacking any substance at this point and whilst the trailer and gameplay shown looks nice I’ll reserve my full judgement until I get hands on.

Also shown were trailers for Anno 2205 (SimCity for the moon) & Track Mania Turbo, as well as the next iteration of dance franchise, Just Dance 2016, which no longer requires a camera to play and comes with access to a new subscription service for unlimited new tracks beyond what’s included on-disc.

The show was closed out the show with Far Cry for drug cartels or as Ubisoft are preferring to call it Ghost Recon: Wildlands.

 


EA - Star Wars Battlefront

EA

In the strongest opening  we’ve seen so far EA kicked things off with a cinematic unveiling of Mass Effect “Andromeda”. Don’t get too excited though, it’s not coming until “Holiday 2016” but it was an awesome way to start and had it not been for the Star Wars: Battlefront showing at the end they may as well have dropped the mic and ended things right there.

The rebooted Need for Speed looks to be a somewhat frankensteined combination of almost every version prior or as I like to call it “Burnout: The Fast and the Furious edition”. The car customisation and modelling is nothing short of amazing and the night time gameplay they showed off was incredible. If you’re a fan of arcade style racers I definitely think you’ll want to check it out or grab it when it comes out in November.

In an unusual move for EA a new indie IP was showcased from a small studio out of Sweden called Unravel. Best described as a “Limbo-esque” platformer in colour you control Unravel’s yarn composed protagonist as they traverse their way through a forest of dangers. It looks beautiful and I love that EA has made a big deal of it.

From there we dove heavily down the EA sport rabbit hole. NHL 16, FIFA 16, Madden 16 (see a pattern here), NBA Live 16 & Rory McIlroy’s Golf were all shown in their latest forms. Interesting things to come out of this year’s releases are a new in-game training scheme where player options/buttons to help them play better, faster are now included across most. NBA Live 16 will also incorporate a new face scanning app/technology that uses your iPhone to put your face into the game.

The recently announce-leaked (it’s a new word) Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst had gameplay shown for the first time. Its story centres around it’s protagonist, Faith, and her origin. The art style seems to have taken a slightly more realistic approach this time around whilst maintaining it’s clean white & red feel to highlight objects that can be used for producing the best run times. Interestingly the game is touted to have no loading screen and no levels and will be a true free running open world experience. It’s due for release in February 2016.

Everyone was there for Star Wars: Battlefront and they left the best till last. They showed us gameplay from a one of the massive 40 player battles based of the infamous Battle of Hoth. Pilot your own tie fighter, stomp about in an AT AT or take on the role of the newly shown Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader as hero characters, this truly looks incredible in the new Frosbite engine. November 17th can not come fast enough!

 


Microsoft E3 2015

Microsoft

The first “big” briefing of 2015, Microsoft didn’t bother holding back firing their big guns early with a new trailer for Halo 5: Guardians. For Halo fans they’re going to love it but for me it just doesn’t grab me like the original did all those years ago.

Gears 4 gameplay was shown for the first time alongside the solidification of its distant release date and upcoming collection to tide you over until then. A definite next-gen upgrade for the series I’m looking forward to it even if the overall reception was underwhelming by most. This far out a lot of things are still likely to be changed and much polishing to be done.

Exclusive wise Rise of the Tomb Raider looks incredible and is a solid sequel to the rebooted series. Microsoft, whilst only having a timed exclusive, is going to get a lot of sales with a combination of this and revised holiday console pricing alone. Ubisoft also seem to have a new, somewhat exclusive partnership, as they showed a new The Division trailer that let us know exclusive beta access is coming December for Xbox One. Lastly, in the exclusive department,  Forza 6, a Ford GTO lowered from the ceiling to make a point of the iconic car being included in the upcoming iteration.

It was Microsoft’s tech announcements that truly blew the crowd away. First their huge drop of full backwards compatibility with every Xbox 360 title released. No requirement for extra hardware to run them, just insert your old 360 disc and it’ll download the title to your XB1 and play. That is providing the game’s publisher has allowed it to be played on the Xbox One. It’s only catch being that it’s entirely up to the publisher to make the title available, not a technical limitation.

Next was the announcement of the Xbox Controller Elite. A totally redesigned controller for the gaming pro with customisable features, new paddle triggers, fine tuning mechanics, removable & replaceable components. This controller looks hot and improves on what is already the best console controller out there. The downside, there’s a rumour it’s going to be about US$150!

And then there was HoloLens. Demoed using a new version of Minecraft the Hololens is a completely different take on gaming that is going to take on its own genre of titles I think. Don’t expect it to be a VR headset, Microsoft have partnered with Oculus for that and today even mentioned they’re doing a similar thing with HTC’s Valve based headset too, no, Hololens is its own beast and for titles like Minecraft or perhaps The Sims it’s going to be a whole new, amazing experience.

Microsoft also lauded their indies using their amazing [email protected] platform with a long montage of upcoming titles such as Below, Ashen, Cuphead & Beyond eyes to name just a few and showed off a trailer for the eagerly anticipated Dark Souls 3.

 


Fallout 4 - Bethesda

Bethesda

Forcing us all here to start working yet another day earlier than the actual E3 conference starting, Bethesda held their first ever E3 briefing on Sunday. We already knew that we were getting Fallout 4 and Doom be it through leak or teaser announcement but what we didn’t know about was the reveal that Dishonored 2 is in development. There was no release date specified but they did confirm it would be released on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

The new Doom reboot was the Bethesda lead and with good reason, id Software showing off their new Tech 6 engine in all its glory. The game looks like it’s staying as true to its roots as it possibly can, a fast paced, gore fest, with Big, Fucking, Guns. In addition to the game itself a new tool for level creation called “Snapmap” is coming. It allows rapid development with a level of customisation that can be as detailed or hands off as you want them to be.

Fallout 4 is what everyone really wanted the details on. Shown was a deep level of character customisation and a new crafting system allowing you to use a variety of world items to create an item instead of one specific ingredient list. Fallout die-hards will love the collectors edition of the game announced that includes a real life, functioning Pip-boy that uses your smart phone as its brain. To tide you over until it’s November 10 release an iOS Fallout title was announced and released called Fallout Shelter allowing you to manage your own shelter in the Fallout world.

Other notable mentions from the briefing went to Battlecry (Bethesda’s TF2-like title), Elder Scrolls Online getting new characters and class upgrades as well as a new card game called Elder Scrolls Legends akin to The Witcher 3’s Gwent and Blizzard’s Hearthstone.

 

 

 

 

Reckoner had its humble beginnings way back in June of 2013.

Founded by James Croft, along with Peter Wells and Anthony Agius they created what would go on to become one of Australia’s most highly regarded and award winning independent tech blogs.

With its uniquely Australian voice Reckoner is committed to offering a “no-holds-barred” approach to its writing. Beholden to no one but its audience. Reckoner’s goal is to remain completely transparent and honour the trust it’s built with its faithful readership.

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