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The Greatest E3 Ever?

Whew! What a week! I knew there were going to be some surprises last week, what with new consoles taking the spotlight at E3 in Los Angeles, but there were some that were completely unprecedented, making for some announcements that will live on in memory forever. I’ve been tracking E3 for many years now, but not a single one has excited me as much as this year’s event. It’s pretty simple for me to say that this is the best E3 I have ever seen.

Where to start? How about Microsoft’s conference? I walked away rather satisfied, to be honest. Anyone who knows me knows that I’m not a big Xbox guy, but after seeing their conference on Monday, I hopped on Amazon and pre-ordered one. I know about the whole used game deal and online check-ins, but folks, like I said in my last blog post, a console is only truly as good as its games. And, damn, does the Xbox One have some nice exclusives coming its way, many of which will be on or close to launch.

My favorite pick, of course, was one of my most-anticipated announcements: Killer Instinct. It’s real! It’s actually happening! I was literally cheering and pumping my fists in the air as soon as the “KI” logo hit my screen. It has been far too long since the last entry in the series, and now, it’s coming back on the Xbox One.

So, here’s the skinny on it. The game is going to be available as a pseudo free-to-play title, where you’ll have access to every mode, but only Jago is playable. You’ll have the chance to play against every other character, though, and if you happen to like some, you can buy them separately and piece together your own game. Or, you can just download the entire game that also comes with the first season pass for characters, which will entail multiple versions, including some sort of collector’s bundle that is hinted to be containing a port of the original Killer Instinct, which would be amazing.. There will be no physical release, which bites, but it’s better than not getting it at all.

Gameplay-wise, I’ve heard it borrows some elements from both previous KI titles, as well as some elements of Street Fighter, both IV and Third Strike. To me, based on gameplay vids, it looks like KI, but at a faster pace. Characters leap and attack swiftly, with combos being fast and somewhat chaotic. It definitely has the ridiculous combos of the old games, which is a plus, and it has Ultra Combos. My only concerns are that it lacks both finishers and Ultimate Combos, which could be added later on at fan request, but it’s weird that they’re not there. From what I’ve heard from people who have played it, it’s been getting a warm reception and plays well. Jago, Sabrewulf, and Glacius have been revealed, with Fulgore, Spinal, and Cinder being confirmed as far as returning characters go, from what I’ve heard. The devs have also said that they want to put in more female characters than the series previously had in order to balance things out and that there will be new characters, naturally. Development is being handled by Double Helix, and while they don’t have the best track record, they’re working closely with Rare veteran Ken Lobb and seem pretty passionate about the project, so I really don’t have many concerns on that front. Besides, most of the people who made the game within Rare before have left, so it wouldn’t make a difference if Rare was developing it.

The visual style does sort of borrow from Street Fighter IV a bit, with character models being exaggerated and some ink splashes during load screens. I’ve heard people complaining about Jago’s steroid-ridden look, but I dig it. He actually looks more badass than he did in the first two titles. Perhaps I’m in the minority here, but we all have our opinions, and besides, there could always be alternate outfits that could pay homage to his older looks. Sabrewulf and Glacius look spot-on and are fitting evolutions of the characters. I really want to see Glacius in action, but that will have to wait until EVO next month, where I’m hoping they’ll reveal more characters. All in all, I’m very excited for Killer Instinct. This game alone makes me want an Xbox One on day one.

That’s not all the Xbox One has, though. Dead Rising 3 looks promising. The franchise is back to being Xbox-exclusive, like the first title was. It seems to have shed the silliness of the first two titles, for the most part, going for a more bleak tone. It’s more wide-open now, with a city to traverse instead of indoor environments. Hordes of zombies block you at every turn, and the game tasks you with trying to navigate through and around them in order to survive. Plus, the crazy weapon-crafting makes its return, which would have been a criminal omission. I’m definitely keeping my eye on this one as a possible launch pick-up.

A more sure-fire purchase, for me, is Forza Motorsport 5, which sports a new A.I. feature. In fact, there is no A.I. Every opponent that you race against is based off of the behavior of your friends, with their driving styles and habits being mimicked. If your friend is aggressive, their “ghost” will be, as well. Opponents will even drive their cars, too. It’s yet another push towards innovation from Turn 10, which I’ve come to expect, that propels Forza further ahead of its competition. The game looks drop dead gorgeous, to boot.

Then there’s Titanfall, which is the big project that upstart developer Respawn has been working on since its founders (or should I say “founder”, since West left and only Zampella remains) left Infinity Ward. Now, I’m not too big on FPS titles nowadays, as many lack true variety and innovation, but Titanfall looks to be pushing the envelope. Battles seem like legitimate battlefields, rife with action and well-populated. Mechs stomp around and destroy everything in sight while soldiers boost and kick off of walls to get around in a sort of parkour-esque fashion. The game is also supposed to be taking advantage of the Cloud-based structure of the Xbox One, too. The visuals don’t look very appealing for a next-gen title, but graphics aren’t everything. Titanfall is definitely one title I’ll keep in mind, though it won’t hit shelves until next year.

Now for Sony. Their conference was loaded with jaw-dropping moments, including one where they pretty much danced all over Microsoft by stating their clear defiance of restricting used games and any sort of online check-ins, choosing to trust their consumers instead. Sony didn’t have to worry about piracy with the PS3, and probably won’t have to with the PS4 if they can keep it airtight, so online check-ins are probably one thing they may have never considered. However, used games were up in the air until the show, and now we know we can still share and trade-in every game. Online passes and DLC-locked content will still exist, however, but that’s on a publisher-by-publisher basis.

As far as games go, I’m happy to say my prediction of Final Fantasy Versus XIII turning into Final Fantasy XV and coming to PS4 was correct, and my heart was pounding during the entire trailer as Square-Enix finally decided to show this amazing-looking title off after a long hiatus. FFXV looks astounding and will surely deliver a new kind of Final Fantasy experience. The announcement directly after FFXV, though, was out of left field. Never, in a million years, did I foresee a reveal for Kingdom Hearts III, but there it was, and I was so happy that I think I nearly cried. I could definitely hear my voice crack, that’s for sure. It’s been far too long of a wait, and it’s going to be even longer as it isn’t close to being finished, but it’s finally coming and that’s all that matters. What takes the wind out of Sony’s sails with these two announcements, though, is that they’re both headed to Xbox One, so these are two potentially ginormous exclusives that have slipped through their fingers.

What Sony doesn’t have to worry about losing, though, is its first-party titles. Sucker Punch’s inFAMOUS: Second Son is definitely the game to own on the PS4. It improves upon everything the first two entries built up, with improved parkour and fully-destructive environments that truly give Delsin’s smoke/fire-esque powers a greater punch as well as letting him use the terrain to his advantage (think toppling towers and bridges). This is the reason I’m buying the PS4, though it won’t be available until early next year, so there will be a bit of a wait.

We won’t have to wait long for Killzone: Shadow Fall, though, as it’s coming on launch day. I’ll be honest. I’ve never liked the Killzone franchise. It has stunning visuals, sure, but gameplay-wise, it’s always been ho-hum and unremarkable, making it easy to bubble it in with almost every other shooter on the market. Shadow Fall, however, may make me change my mind. It takes the linear levels and cookie-cutter gameplay and throws them out the window. Now, every level is open-ended, allowing you to tackle several objectives in any order you wish. Player freedom is almost always a plus, and it’s great to see huge levels where you can think more tactically about how you engage unsuspecting guards instead of running through scripted events one after another ad nauseum. As for gameplay, Shadow Fall is introducing the OWL, which is like a floating sentry bot that can give you covering fire, supply shields, stun enemies, and allow you to zip-line across gaps, making getting around the new, large levels a breeze. Plus, besides the OWL, you work alone, which means no having to put up with hokey one-liners from butch sidekicks you don’t even care about.

Sony also announced some indie titles, and one that really stood out to me was Mercenary Kings, which comes from Tribute Games, the makers of Scott Pilgrim VS The World: The Game. It has a similar graphical style, but its gameplay is more like Metal Slug with explorable levels and weapon customization. It looks like a boatload of fun, especially with four-player co-op.

There are also two thrid-party titles that, while not exclusive, will sport exclusive content for the PS4. The first is Ubisoft’s amazing-looking open-world title, Watch Dogs, which will have an additional hour’s worth of gameplay. This title was pretty much one of very, very few good things to come out of E3 2012, with its genre-pushing design and gameplay that allows you to hack an entire city, from taking money from civilian bank accounts, to hacking security cameras, to activating various elements of the city to help break off pursuit of police officers giving chase, and more. It’s definitely a huge departure from Grand Theft Auto-style open-world titles, but I think it’s going to be one of the best titles this year and a definite day-one purchase for me on the PS4. Expect this one to blow people away.

The other title is Destiny, which looks more and more impressive each time I see it. The PS4 is the optimized platform for the title, meaning it will get new and exclusive content before anyone else. The title itself, though, looks like a deep and engrossing online experience. Just the very thought of being able to explore a wide open world with tight FPS mechanics and a MMO-style loot system with friends sounds like a great way to whittle the hours away, and hopefully with a constant flow of new content, can be an experience that lasts for many years to come.

The Xbox One and PS4 both have titles I want, so, while this does sound asinine, I have both pre-ordered. There’s definitely enough on each console to make buying both worth it, even if I have to wait a couple months for some of it. One console I haven’t been convinced of yet, though, is the Wii U. That is, until now. I actually found Nintendo Direct at E3 to be underwhelming, as the next Mario title is nothing but Super Mario 3D Land blown up for the Wii U, and then there’s a new Donkey Kong and Mario Kart that I admit I will buy once I pick up a Wii U, but they won’t make me buy a Wii U this holiday. What will ultimately make me buy a Wii U is Super Smash Bros., which is coming next year, meaning I’ll wait until then before I take the plunge. I was going to buy Super Smash Bros. anyway, but now that my favorite game character of all-time, Mega Man, is a playable character, it’s officially a must-own. Just bask in the glory of this reveal trailer. I’ll let it speak for itself.

All in all, E3 was excellent this year. I expected no less, given that there are new consoles on the horizon and, with them, plenty of surprises. The wait for both to launch will be arduous, as well as impatiently waiting for more characters to be revealed for Killer Instinct, but with about five months left to go until at least the Xbox One launches, there’s sure to be even more surprises along the way.

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