Johnny's top picks from E3 Pt.1 (Microsoft edition)
Written by: Johnny Marcondes
E3 is still going strong but I wanted to bring you my top three favorites from each conference. As well as some of my favorites, I'll also give you my thoughts of what was unveiled this year. From Microsoft to Ubisoft and Sony, I picked a few of my favorites that I think stood out the most. While listing the stand out titles, I'll be sure to give my opinion on what I believe wasn't a hit but a miss by those major companies.
South Park: The Stick Of Truth - Trey Parker and Matt Stone walked onto the stage to show off their newest title, which in retrospect isn't an easy thing to do when it's your first time at E3. Starting their presentation by showing off a trailer that was visually impressive and comically on point to the TV series. The trailer is something every South Park fan should see, the graphics to game are a perfect match to the TV series. Showing off some teased gameplay footage that looked as if you were playing an actual episode of the show. Voice acting and attention to detail is second to none, it's clear to see from the trailer that this game wont just be a brand making money off of games. It's obvious that both Parker and Stone are serious when it comes to this MMO. With a plot being narrated by character Eric Cartman, the player automatically is able to feel as if the plot is something that's not a far stretch from the show. The town is trouble and it needs a savior, who is this fabled hero? You, the new kid in town of course. The boys seek out the Stick Of Truth, a hinted weapon that will save the town, while a basic theme for a plot it's easily accepted. South park is known for their outlandish humor and adding a twist on pop culture, Matt Stone and Trey Parker have done everything in their power to make sure that this game will feel nothing less of the South Park fans love. Even though as a video game it's hard to sell people on games made from shows or movies. This game is nothing to take lightly as I predict it will be one of the most fun MMO's to be released that year. (And yes Mr.Slave will be in the game, and yes he will shove things up in his unmentionables.)
Gears Of War: Judgement - It's no surprise that Gears Of War: Judgement would be one of Microsoft's main titles to be displayed. Taking place years before the events of the first game, the main character is now the sarcastic pretty boy of the group of COGS we know and love. Baird is on trial for something that he had done, not much is known about the plot besides minor details like the trial. Joining Baird is a younger looking Cole Train, from the short trailer shown at E3 the game seems to take on a more dramatic turn. Baird and Cole looked to be more serious this time around, the locust army is back and from interviews talks on multiplayer has been announced. Being another addition in the Gears Of War series it's hard for me as a fanboy of the franchise to be disappointed. Gears Of War is a series I see never getting old, in a vast universe built on war it's hard to just end the story. Though a prequel to the first title, the fact that you get to see more of a back story to these characters we're already familiar with and a expand on already immersive and loved universe is enough for me. Epic Games knows what they're doing, so it's a safe bet to say that they won't be messing up this title. Fans of the series will already be excited, those new to the series should find this an excellent start point.
Tomb Raider - While announced and teased during last years E3, It was obvious that during this year's E3 Lara Croft would make her presence known. Taking place years before the events of the first title, players are treated to the gritty and rough origin story of one of video games most famous characters. Lara sets out on a ship ironically called Endurance, being commanded by Conrad Roth things suddenly go down hill. Endurance ends up falling victim to a violent storm which ultimately splits the ship in two. Waking up in a cave surround by corpse's the young Croft flees, while running for her life she notices a fellow shipmate's dead in a ritualistic pose. While trapped on this island the young hero to be is faced with her toughest challenge yet, survival. Lara must hunt for food, construct her own weapons, defend herself in an unknown terrain and search for her fellow travelers. From the gameplay footage shown and the trailers displayed, players will finally be getting a full understanding of just who Lara Croft is. Shown in the demo of the game was a scene that involved Lara killing a deer. What made this scene visually stand out was the range emotion Lara showed as a character. No longer is she this toughened up bad ass, but she's a more relatable even somewhat innocent character who you feel for. As she killed the deer and began to skin it, there was a moment where she sighed and showed a glimpse of remorse as if she didn't want this. It's moments like that in which give me as a gamer and a person who's not too into Tomb Raider, a chance to really connect and appreciate this character. With a rich and beautiful forest to travel through, the game can easily be compared to titles such as Uncharted when it comes to gameplay. Lara will be able to take cover, show off incredible athleticism, as well as counter melee attacks in a similar fashion to Nathan Drake. Don't let the previous past of this character change your opinion, while a prequel this game will be everything but a dumbed down title making money off of a brand.
The elephant in Microsoft's room.
It wouldn't be a Microsoft E3 conference if they didn't come out and talk about something was heavily rumored online. The rumors of a Microsoft tablet is true? Yes and no, what was presented was the "Xbox Smart Glass" a companion to the Xbox and all your mediums. Essentially what Smart Glass does is it connects to your Xbox 360 and allows you to use it a second screen to "enhance" the experience. With Smart Glass people will be able to use this tablet device as a hub almost to their media. If you're watching a movie on Xbox, Smart Glass will be able to feed you more information about that film or tv show. Giving you more insight into the actors, characters, facts about the show or film and more. The person using Smart Glass will be able to connect all their devices together in Smart Glass. From your mobile devices, to laptops and computers and your TV, Smart Glass wants to be the first thing you go to. What connecting all those devices will do is just give you a new way to experience it all, if you're watching TV then Smart Glass could be used as a controller. Those who are playing games on the Xbox while connected to Smart Glass will be able to use its double features in a similar manner to the Wii U remote. While similar the two are not one in the same, players will be able to use Smart Glass for more certain features like inventory or setting up plays in Madden.
Is Smart Glass a good thing?
It's hard to judge a device that I personally haven't had my hands on, for all I know this could be by far the best thing to happen to the Xbox since bigger hard drive spaces. Strictly judging from what I witnessed and heard from E3, I've made up my mind and have a few thoughts on the device. To answer the question on is it a good thing, I'll have to ask another question. Is this really for gamers? As a gamer myself I sat there looking at the device they say will enhance my experience playing and doing everything else, but do I really need that? Being a gamer I'm personally fed up with all the middle men in the industry, How many things do I really need to enjoy my games? First it was Nintendo with the Wii that made players pick up two controllers and swing their arms around to play games, then Microsoft introduced Kinect with the same idea in mind that motion controls were the way of the future. Playstation themselves followed soon after with the Move which had controls similar to the Wii. While those are technologically impressive and I am guilty in buying them, do they really enhance the experience? Remember when all you needed to enjoy the newest games were just the system and the controller, now it seems that every year they tell you that you need a new peripheral in order to play. There's so much time and effort put into "enhancing" the experience that it seems they're overlooking the most important aspect to gamers. The games themselves, if the industry just focused on solely making games then I truly feel we could push forward and have something actually memorable. From what I saw of the Smart Glass, personally I feel like it'll just be a neat toy to mess around with but as for making a lasting mark on people it wont hit the mark. How many people are really interested in a device that will tell you some facts about the show you're watching? The ability to use Smart Glass as a remote control is fine, but there are plenty of apps on smart phones and tablets that already do that. When comparing the Smart Glass to the Wii U controller it also draws up more questions. To the average consumers they appear to be one in the same, both work with consoles and can be enjoyed while not playing games. But what separates them is the fact that Smart Glass isn't necessarily bound to just games. As displayed by Microsoft themselves while Smart Glass does work and offer features to further experiencing games, their goal is to make a device that combines everything you have for easier use. While billed as the Xbox Smart Glass, what Microsoft wants is for people to use their device first for everything they want to connect people. What the WiiU controller is actually something that puts gamers in control of their games, while the Smart Glass tends to do something similar the Wii U controller dives head first and immerses players fully. It's easy to compare the two since they both share certain aspects and specs, but it seems that only one is truly for gamers even if they are just casual gamers. While the other device is for more a person looking for another middle man to help him/her find a way to combine everything they love. There is one key component to remember, since Microsoft didn't announce a new console it's safe to say that Smart Glass will be an add on. While this is fine, Nintendo has made clear that the Wii U controller comes free with the Wii U. So while one is free and the other is paid for, looking at it realistically Microsoft will need to really push this device. The price or release date hasn't been announced for the Smart Glass or the Wii U, but one thing is for certain and that's that Microsoft has to take this seriously. A low selling price will really help them in the long run when the Smart Glass is actually released. The Kinect has a prince $150 and higher depending on bundles, to really have Smart Glass as a success I feel like they'd have to make it affordable. Take notes from Nintendo and Sony, both selling hand-held systems with a price tag equal to close to their consoles. If Microsoft were smart they'd release this device around the holiday system either at a lower price if not the same price range as the Kinect. But going back to the original question, I don't feel that this is necessarily going enhance the experience a gamer gets. It might make navigation on the menus and watching TV more fun, but when it comes to games I don't see this having much use. I don't need another device telling me I need it to fully experience a game, I think it's a lazy tactic and it's not fair. There are still gamers who don't own a Kinect and can't fully enjoy a game they spent nearly $60 on. A gamer who buys a game such as Ghost Recon won't fully see and experience everything the game has to offer without the Kinect. There are moments in the game that it offers you a chance to use the Kinect, while it's optional it's still a part of the game that some players won't get to see. I feel like I don't need another thing that I have to buy just fully enjoy something that I already own. Only time will tell if I'm wrong about Smart Glass, but while we wait there's always more things to see and more games to play.
This ends part 1 of my E3 posts. I wanted to get Microsoft out of the way first because of my thoughts on Smart Glass. Check back tomorrow for my post on Ubisoft I'll have a top 3 games that stood out me from them, as well as what I didn't like from their conference. Did you agree or disagree with my choices for Microsoft? What are your thoughts on the Smart Glass? Let me know what you think.