E3 2014 conference roundup

Feature Niall Mcloughlin 23 Jun 2014 - 05:59

Niall rounds up all of the major announcements from all the major games companies at this year's E3, in case you missed it

So E3 is over for another year. Breathe. After a frenzied four days which saw the major hitters in the gaming industry showcase their future releases, now is a good time to take stock of the major news released during the press conferences at the beginning of the expo. Microsoft, Sony, Nintendo, EA and Ubisoft all had their chance on the main stage to wow fans with exciting announcements and brand new footage of the year's upcoming releases.

While this year's set of conferences could arguably be described as solid rather than spectacular, gaming's biggest companies still demonstrated that they had some treats in store for us over the coming year. Without further ado, here is a breakdown of all the biggest gaming news that happened at E3 this year.

Microsoft

Microsoft showcased a good variety of AAA titles and small, independent additions that accumulated into a solid showing on the E3 stage. Microsoft had to deliver after their misfire last year and for all intents and purposes they did a reasonable job, deciding to focus exclusively on what is important with a games consoles, the games.

Microsoft kicked off their conference with a demo of the latest entry in the Call of Duty franchise, Advanced Warfare. Developed by Sledgehammer, the gameplay demonstrated was good if not spectacular, with the game's typical enormity shown off within the city setting. What was interesting and something that has become synonymous with the console war was the announcement that DLC will come to Xbox One first. This news was met with cheers from the crowd which I found very surreal and one hopes over time superficial details such as DLC releases will be released evenly over multiple platforms. It seems any advantage in the console war is in fact an advantage.

One piece of news stood out above the rest and that was the announcement of Halo: The Master Chief Collection which will be released on November 11 2014. Bringing all four major Halo titles that feature Master Chief onto the Xbox One the collection acts as a great interlude before Halo 5: Guardians is released. Running 1080p 60fps, the Master Chief Collection will include all multiplayer content released for all four games, pushing the total number of multiplayer maps to 100, something which should keep all of us very busy. Also included is the Ridley Scott helmed Halo: Nightfall as well as exclusive access to the beta version of Halo 5: Guardians.

There were also a number of promising upcoming releases announced such as the Deadlight-esque Inside, the colourful Sunset Overdrive and the gorgeous Ori And The Blind Forest. Featuring an art design that seamlessly flows between bright and vibrant as well as dark and moody, the 2D platformer has you playing as Ori, an adorable white bunny traversing across the enchanting forest accompanied by a ball of light named Sein. The game was a pleasant surprise and its beautiful aesthetic is one the is sure to enthral when released.

An intriguing point to note was Microsoft heavy promotion of their new “ID @ Xbox” indie development service, which demonstrated short snippets of gameplay from titles such as Earthlock, Drifter and Lifeless Planet. This time last year Microsoft, among many other contentious issues, declined to provide confidence to indie development, instead opting to focus heavily of the media/TV aspect of the Xbox One. One year on and Microsoft’s conference this year just goes to show the admittance of their errors last year. They have listened to the fans and should be commended for shifting their plans for the Xbox One.

Major titles announced for Xbox One:

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (DLC exclusive to Xbox One)
Forza Horizon 2
Evolve Assassin's Creed: Unity Dragon Age: Inquisition Sunset Overdrive Fable Legends Project Spark Ori and The Blind Forest Halo: The Master Chief Collection Inside The Rise of Tomb Raider Witcher 3: Wild Hunt Phantom Dust Tom Clancy's: The Division Scalebound Crackdown

Sony

Sony's conference was long. Very long. But it was a conference that could be argued as the strongest of E3 despite small lulls in between the action.

Sony kicked off with the jewel in their crown with upcoming release Destiny, arguably Sony's answer to Microsoft's Halo franchise. The anticipation and hype surrounding Destiny has been ongoing ever since its official announcement and now as the release date draws nearer, Sony have shown faith by promoting its release heavily. For those who are after a taste of the game before release the alpha will be released on June 12, while the beta will be released on July 17. Sony also announced that alongside Destiny they will be releasing a special edition white PS4 bundled with the game on September 9. The bundle pack will include a standard 500GB hard drive as well as a 30 day subscription to PS Plus.

The first gameplay footage was shown for upcoming horror title The Order: 1886. While nothing substantial, the footage set the tone of the game well, clearly pushing the claustrophobic feel of hunter vs monster. With a third person, over the shoulder point of view, reminiscent of recent Resident Evil games, The Order: 1886 looks set to be a solid addition to the PS4 exclusive list.

Also shown was Entwined, a small indie title released by new developers Pixelopus was released on June 9 and features two souls who are in love but cannot be together. The gameplay on stage looked wonderfully vibrant given off a cool psychedelic feel with distinct comparisons to Rez. With one character controller with the left stick and the other with right, the game challenges the player to guide each character through a series of tunnels while maintaining momentum with the opposite character. Released on June 9 immediately after Sony's conference, reviews have been overwhelmingly positive and for a price of $9.99 it should be snapped up immediately.

A welcome addition to the conference was the announcement of Little Big Planet 3. The cute and cuddly franchise was a revelation during the previous generation and here the 3rd instalment hopes to capture the imaginations of players just as much as the first two games in the series. With new characters available, such as Oddsock who Wall Jump, Toggle who can use brute force and Swoop who can fly, the four player co-op shown on stage looked very promising, but one hopes the integration of these new characters will be seamless in other levels. Alongside Little Big Planet, we were also shown trailer for the PS4 release of The Last Of Us, Dead Island 2, Bloodborne, Magicka 2 as well as PS4 exclusive character for Disney: Infinity 2.

Far Cry 4 was up next and impressed with fast and frantic gameplay set within the Himalayan mountains. The footage shown demonstrated multiple ways to play the game, initially breaking into stealth then quickly racing into first person madness. Escaping through mountainous tracks, we were shown the addition of the wingsuit, allowing the player to cross the vast landscape quickly, allowing seamless moving from one environment to the next.

At the end of the trailer Sony announced that Playstation Plus subscribers will be able to invite friends to play co-op with them even if their friend doesn't own a copy of the game, a feature that was audibly approved off in the conference hall. Providing this feature to the PS4 will allow a greater range of players to engage with the game and if all goes well, this feature should turn out to be a resounding success.

By far and away the most impressive footage of arguably the whole of E3 was the demonstration for the ambitious No Man's Sky. The game has the player travelling seamlessly between planets in search of new adventure and worlds to explore. The stunning aesthetic of the game was gorgeous and fitted in well with the shifts of environment the game adopts. From the barren lands of the desert to the colourful battles of space, the game moves at a lightning pace and its sheer scale and invention should be lauded even at this early stage. I was captivated by what I saw and despite no official release date being announced the presence of the game play was enough to steal the show. It was breathtaking.

After this Sony kicked back to announce some recent developments with “Project Morpheus”, Sony's answer to the Oculus Rift. VR gaming is widely seen as the next logical step in engaging players within the gaming experience. Whether Sony's VR system will work is another question. It was announced that Youtube will be coming to the PSN Network, with Sony going on to glorify in the number of players interacting with the share button that is featured of the Dual Shock 4. Playstation Now, Sony's game streaming service, will launch on July 31st with all PS4, PS3, PS Vita,, television and mobile devices able to connect to the network. When released over previous gen games will be available to play and it marks the beginning of backwards compatibility on the PS4 console.

What was surprisingly lacking within Sony's conference was any PS Vita games exclusive to the device. As mentioned we were given details about Playstation Now and Vita's compatibility with that service as well as its already popular remote play service with the PS4. However, no games were shown off for the Vita and while there are games in development for the system it was a shame to see the Vita merely acting as secondary support to Sony's upcoming service. E3 showed that the next year will be a decisive one for the Vita.

From a personal perspective as well as many within the E3 conference hall, the appearance of Tim Schafer was a pleasant surprise. To add further excitement to the mix the announcement that the Schafer's classic Grim Fandango will be getting a remaster over 15 years after its original release. As a Grim Fandango fan this news was perfect and I as well as others will be hotly anticipating the game's release.

To round off Sony's conference we were given trailers of Metal Gear Solid 5: Phantom Pain, Grand Theft Auto V, which will be coming to next-gen consoles, Batman: Arkham Knight, which has been delayed until 2015 and lastly Uncharted 4: A Thief's End.

Major titles announced by Sony:

Destiny The Order: 1886 Entwined Little Big Planet 3 Bloodborne Giant Squid Far Cry 4 Last of Us Dead Island 2 Battlefield Hardline Magicka 2 Grim Fandango (Remaster) Let it Die No Man's Sky Mortal Kombat X Metal Gear Solid
V: The Phantom Pain
Grand Theft Auto V Batman: Arkham Knight Uncharted 4: A Thief's End

Nintendo

Ahhh, Nintendo, always the masters of generating delight and wonder. This year was no different as the Japanese giants demonstrated some expected releases as well as a surprise or two, those of which caused delirium within the E3 conference hall. This year however, Nintendo had to take a risk, had to avoid the 'play it safe' attitude that accompanies the presentations of Sony and Microsoft. The painfully slow progress of the Wii U has been a frustrating one and only now has started to generate traction due to the releases of Mario Kart 8 and Super Mario 3D World. Sales are starting to pick up but Nintendo know that there is still much work to be done.

Nintendo began their presentation with some sword fighting between Satoru Iwata and Reggie Fils Aime, something which already put the Nintendo presentation as 'most eccentric of E3'. What they were there to demonstrate however was a release that dominated headlines through E3 and that was Super Smash Bros. The hotly anticipated beat-em-up was expected, but fans were given the chance by Nintendo to glorify in doing battle with Nintendo's roster over the 4 days of E3. Response to the game has been positive and one hopes that the when the full game arrives for the 3DS on October 3 and the Wii U version in Q4 2014 it will continue to amaze fans of the series.

Yoshi's Wooly World, formerly known as Yarn Yoshi (a better name in my opinion) was showcased after and immediately impressed with an adorable and vibrant aesthetic that was reminiscent of characters from Little Big Planet. While gameplay looks similar to the 2D Mario platformers, Yoshi's Wooly World looks a comforting addition that any gamer will appreciate, it's too soft and cuddly not to give it a try.

After this Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker was shown off. It is a wonderful thing to see Toad get a Wii U exclusive to himself and with the game being a third person puzzler, the game seemed to have potential. Hands on response however has noted that due to the third person puzzling aspect merging with the 3D islands the puzzles are set on, the camera does suffer as it struggles to keep with player movement as well as keeping constant focus on the puzzle itself. While only a preview, here's hoping those issues are resolved prior to release.

Up next came the biggest announcement of Nintendo's E3 conference. The Legend of Zelda will be coming to Wii U. While this news was expected, the surprise came in the philosophy that Eiji Aonuma goes on to explain prior to the trailer. Aonuma describes how in the early Zelda games, there was a feeling of vastness, an open world able to be explored due to the screen shifting afforded to developers at the time. When Zelda transitioned into 3D that feeling became harder to achieve, arguably closest within Windwaker. The big announcement is that The Legend of Zelda will be an open world game where players can explore the world of Hyrule at their pleasure. The footage shown was later confirmed to be gameplay footage with the typical Nintendo aesthetic of bright vibrant colours glittering the screen. The new Zelda really is an exciting prospect. There will be a wait for the new game with only a 2015 date confirmed but I'm sure it will be worth it.

Next up we were given the release dates for the remakes of Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire, with Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire released on November 28. Immediately after footage for the long waited sequel to Bayonetta was demonstrated with the game slated for an October release. As a bonus for Bayonetta fans, a special edition of Bayonetta 2 will be released with the first game included. Also shown was Hyrule Warriors, a collaboration of Zelda and Dynasty Warriors as well as the highly anticipated Xenoblade Chronicles X. 2010's Xenoblade Chronicles for the Wii was one of my favourite games for the console and so I have extremely high hopes for the sequel when it comes to Wii U in 2015.

There will also be a new Kirby game with Kirby And The Rainbow Curse set to be released for the Wii U in 2015. Initial impression were mixed with concerns about the game's ability to engage the player of a long period of time, but with the release date so far away, there is time to tweak, hone and refine and niggles that lay within the aesthetic sumptuous release. Mario Maker was also unveiled and allows the player the opportunity to create their own Mario levels, allowing the player's imagination to run free. It's a cool addition and one that will inevitably find traction when tracks are uploaded online.

Splatoon was the surprise package of Nintendo's conference and epitomised the strength of depth that Nintendo brought to E3. Splatoon is a third person multiplayer shooting game that see players battle against each other shooting paint at one another. It sounds gloriously simple, and it is. The object of the game is to cover the map with as much of your colour as possible and for an additional tactical edge you can also shoot other players you are competing against. The trailer shown was colourful, vibrant but above all, it symbolised Nintendo's philosophy, it looked like a lot of fun. Splatoon shoots its ways onto Wii U at the beginning of 2015.

Finally, right at the end of the conference Shigeru Miyamoto himself appeared to tease what is seemingly the next instalment in the StarFox franchise. Playing with the Wii U gamepad, the screen that Miyamoto was looking at was blurred but the unmistakable silhouette of ships flying across the screen made it apparent that StarFox looks set to return on Wii U.

Going into E3 there was much discussion about the future of the Wii U, with Nintendo having to quash rumours that a new system would be unveiled. These rumours have naturally stemmed from the Wii U's struggles to capture an audience, with sales slowly trudging along. There have been multiple theories at to why the Wii U has struggled but from a personal stand point I do feel Nintendo place a heavy burden on their 1st party releases. In the past, these releases have been the crowning jewels of previous consoles. The N64 had Super Mario 64, Mario Kart 64, Paper Mario and Super Smash Bros. The Gamecube had Super Mario Sunshine and Windwaker. The Wii had Wii Sports, Mario Galaxy and Mario Kart. The Wii U again has similar titles but it has taken the Wii U far longer than usual to gain similar results. The glut of competition, particularly from mobile devices, is arguably one reason why this is but it would probably do Nintendo good to try and gain more 3rd party support. Either way, one cannot deny that Nintendo are trying. Nintendo are different and that's what I love about them.

Major titles announced by Nintendo:

Super Smash Bros. Yoshi's Wooly World Captain Toad: Treasure Tracker The Legend of Zelda Pokemon: Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire Bayonetta 2 Hyrule Warriors Xenoblade Chronicles X Kirby and The Rainbow Curse Mario Maker Splatoon

EA

EA's conference was a strange one. While it was far more intriguing than expected it was hard to shake off feelings of wanting more, particularly with titles that are in early stages of development.

EA kicked off their conference with a new trailer for the highly anticipated Star Wars: Battlefront, with the footage presented demonstrating familiar worlds of Endor and Hoth. It was simply rendered footage demonstrating where the game will take place and while it was fantastic to see progress made on the game and also the clear passion that developers DICE has for the franchise, it was a minor disappointment that there wasn't anything else shown. With a 2015 release, anything other than trailers at this stage shouldn't be a surprise so here's hoping in the coming year we'll see something more concrete.

Naturally with an EA conference we were exposed to the regular seasonal updates of some of EA's major sporting franchises, for example, the up and coming FIFA 15, NHL 15 and Madden 15. Alongside this a trailer showing EA's newly revamped golfing franchise, minus Tiger Woods, demonstrated both real and fantasy golf courses, a feature that I enjoyed from the earlier Tiger Woods games in 2003 & 2004. There was also heavy emphasis placed upon UFC, released June 20, and in particular the inclusion of Bruce Lee as a playable character, an addition that should excite UFC fans.

We were also given details on the upcoming Sims 4, which will be released on September 2nd. The information given was focused on the personalities of each sim and how they interact with a more populous environment. With these details wrapped around a story of two conflicting sims, the footage showed the changing emotions and aspirations of each sim while affording EA the opportunity to display their new share feature, which allows any player from around the world to upload a sim and be used in another player's game. It is a great addition and one that should keep Sims lovers busy for months when the game hits the shelves.

Mystery was a word that cropped up when surrounding a couple of projects shown within EA's conference. We were given studio footage from Bioware and very early glimpses into an unnamed upcoming project. It was exciting to see EA provide fans with this information so early in the development process and is indicative of the confidence EA has with Bioware. Within the same footage we also teased information on the next instalment of the Mass Effect series. In a similar vein to the Battlefront trailer, footage focussed primarily on the developers thoughts and aspirations while we were given small clips demonstrating the worlds the player will be able to visit. While minimal footage of the actual game was shown, the trailer is bound to stir excitement and generate hype over the coming months.

Mirror's Edge fans were also given extensive details into the new release that will be hitting next-gen consoles in 2015. While the first game was never that popular, fans of the original have begged for a sequel to be made and at long last, the parkour inspired free runner is back. Two keys things stood out in the trailer and that was that it seems that the gorgeous, primary coloured minimalism of the original has remained but also slight changes to the gameplay. The sequel offers players choice, choice in exploiting either shorter or longer routes with varying degrees of risk. The new mechanic offers a differing style of gameplay and while the original did this to an extent it seems the focus of the sequel will be in challenging players with finding and choosing different routes through the rooftops.

Finally, Battlefield Hardline was the gem in EA's presentation, with the final section of their conference demonstrating gameplay from the upcoming game. Released on October 21st, The demo shown was impressive and EA ramped up the hype by announcing that a beta for the new game was available to sign up for on a first come, first serve basis. However, response to this beta has been overwhelmingly negative, with firm criticism pointed at EA for charging $60 for what is essentially DLC packaged up as a AAA title. While this is only a beta, it seems there is much work to be done if Battlfield Hardline is to shine.

Major titles announced by EA:

Star Wars: Battlefront Dragon Age: Inquisition The Sims 4 UFC NHL 15 EA Sports
PGA TOUR
Madden 15 Dawngate Mirror's Edge Fifa 15 Battlefield Hardline

Ubisoft

Ubisoft's presentation will be remembered for the demonstration of exciting AAA and the attempts to reignite the fitness genre.

Ubisoft kicked off with further footage and information of Far Cry 4. After featuring heavily in Sony's presentation, an intriguing move on reflection, Ubisoft had to step it up and showcase something fans had not seen or something fans had been anticipating. Ubisoft decided to keep it simple and reveal the villain of our game. While the trailer shown seemed innocuous on the surface, it wasn't until the second half where we are introduced to the psychotic Pagan Min. With a pink suit and crazy hair style it will be interesting to see the full story of the game's antagonist when Far Cry 4 hits shelves on 18 November.

Just Dance 2015 was unveiled but more significantly Ubisoft also revealed a nifty little feature that may transform the way gaming is played in social environments. Ubisoft demonstrated Just Dance Now, a mobile game downloaded via an appstore and can be connected to a computer screen or smart TV. What this allows is that a group of people can now apparently play at the same time and compete against one another. It's a nice feature that taps into the majority of people owning a smartphone and should eliminate problems of only 4 players being able to play at once. Naturally, no details were revealed of the pricing plan behind the app apart from being free to download but do expect to pay for additional songs.

Tom Clancy's The Division has generated much hype and anticipation since it was first revealed and at E3 we were treated to gameplay the 1st Tom Clancy release in 6 years (Tom Clancy's: Rainbow Six Vegas 2). The focus of The Divison's story centres on an apocalyptic society that has collapsed due to the presence of a virus that has destroyed American civilisation. The player's role within the game is to be part of a group named “The Division” to save what remains. Being a third person tactical shooter, the gameplay offered glimpses into what to expect when released in 2015 with teamwork and coordination playing a critical role in the flow and ultimate success within missions. It was incredibly impressive and despite the announcement of its delay until 2015, the game looks set to be a success.

Driving games do not particularly excite many but open world racer The Crew may just be one that could intrigue those that shy away from the racing genre. The big selling point of The Crew is the coast to coast driving between LA and New York with no loading times. Driving through America with missions that can last up to 2 hours long is an impressive technological achievement and testament to the additional power afforded by the next gen consoles. While the actual scale of the map is not yet known, according to creative director Julian Gerighty it will take the player 90 real life minutes to cross from one side of the map to the other. Released on November 11 for PS4, Xbox One and PC the game looks an exciting prospect.

The latest instalment of the popular Assassin's Creed franchise was showed off at E3 with Assassin's Creed Unity. Set in Paris during the French Revolution the game introduces a new assassin named Arno Dorian, who alongside a team of assassins look set to uncover the true powers behind the revolution. The gameplay featured followed Arno through the streets of Paris and naturally the attention to detail was incredibly impressive, with architecture, clothing and tone perfectly representing the period.

The footage also demonstrated a new feature that allows you and up to 3 other assassins to co-op and take down specific targets. It is assumed that AI would take over if co-op isn't available to you. Fears that the franchise was turning stale was vanquished spectacular with the release of Black Flag and as a particularly passionate fan of the series, I hope that Unity continues to demonstrate all the things that have made Assassin's Creed one of the most popular franchises today. Assassin's Creed Unity is released 28th Octoer on PS4, Xbox One and PC.

The fitness genre is one that has been attempted time and time, such is the large demographic available for such a game, anyone that wants to get fit at home. Shape Up is a new release for the Xbox One and despite the countless fitness games crashing and burning when released, Ubisoft is confident that this will be the on e to capture both serious and casual gamer's imaginations. Featuring vibrant aesthetic, the demonstration given was a push up challenge, with the game utilising the Kinect technology. It's an interesting idea but it is the variety of mini games and ways in which the game attempts to keep you going that will either make or break the game. Shape Up is released

The Ubisoft conference was ended with “a surprise” in the form of Tom Clancy: Rainbow Six Siege. Released on PS4, Xbox One and PC in 2015 the gameplay footage shown demonstrated a 5 vs 5 multiplayer battle between terrorists and a counter-terrorism unit. With the game mode taking place within one household, the footage gave indication into either the main mode of gameplay or a potential co-op/online mulitplayer feature. The game seamlessly flowed between rooms and also kept the intensity of the game mode by switching who held the hostage at critical moments. It was an intense experience and is a game that should be interesting to follow the development of.

Finally huge credit should be given to host Aisha Tyler. E3 2014 marked the 3rd time Tyler has hosted Ubisoft's presentation and her blend of enthusiasm, wit and charisma gave Ubisoft's presentation a distinct personality and character, traits these conferences are always severely lacking. It was genuinely refreshing to see a fan of video games being excited about video games.

Major titles announced by Ubisoft:

Far Cry 4 Just Dance 2015 Tom Clancy's The Division The Crew Assassin's Creed Unity Shape Up Valiant Hearts Rainbow Six Siege

So there we have it. E3 was fun. Here's to the next year in gaming. It looks like a good one.

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