The convention center opened even earlier for day two of E3 and I was able to see more games with less sleep. Lucky for me some food trucks were set up adjacent to the event and I was able to grab breakfast. A delicious bacon wrapped hotdog topped with a fried egg. Now onto the show.
Halo has been an annualized franchise for several years now and usually I am excited. 343 Studios knows how to take care of the franchise and has proven themselves with both Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary and Halo 4. Spartan Assault is a beautiful top down, twin stick shooter. The only problem? It’s releasing on Windows Phone 8, Windows 8 Tablets and the PC Windows 8 store. Virtual analog sticks on a touch screen device are awful. I played the game on both a tablet and a phone and while I ran into less issues with the large, 10 inch tablet I was still constantly fighting the controls. If only I could use something like a 360 gamepad to play, all of my gripes with the game would disappear. Spartan Assault has no gamepad support. Even on Windows 8 where I use my 360 controller all the time to play PC games. This is a huge oversight and seems like a ploy from Microsoft to offer exclusive content to the consumers who have adopted their new mobile ecosystem.
The familiar Halo medal system is in effect. Players earn more points for multi and specialized kills. The visuals are great. Just what you’d expect from a top down Halo game. The familiar Halo medal system is in effect. Players earn more points for multi and specialized kills.
I can’t play the guitar and for this reason BandFuse intimidates me. Luckily I approached the BandFuse demo station, in the sweatiest corner of the Microsoft booth, with a friend who knows his way around a six-string. The small team at Mastiff have been working around the clock to bring players an advanced learning tool. Throughout my time watching BandFuse and listening to the pitch, it was clear they were making subtle insults to guitar learning titles that give players mini games. BandFuse wants to be a learning tool with engaging mechanics. They retooled the visual interface so the scrolling guitar tablature looks a lot prettier. It looks like a game that is geared more towards people who have experience with a guitar and are looking for a more engaging way to practice.
This is the real deal. Every 10 minutes or so Microsoft employees attract a crowd in their faux living room set up to show off all of the new features of their Xbox One required camera peripheral. This is how the Kinect should have launched on the 360. It reads facial expressions, heart rate from subtle changes in skin pigment picked up by the special camera, has a 1080p color camera for Skype calls and a lot of other interesting features. It looks like it could be a great tool for creative developers to work into their controller based games as long as Microsoft doesn’t make developers shoehorn it into everything just for a back of box bullet point.
I took my chance with another short line just to get my hands on the other new controller at E3. The controller for the Xbox One is fantastic, mostly because it feels like its predecessor. The DPad of the new controller is very flat and clicky, very similar to that of the 3DS and its great. A huge improvement over the original directional disc, but just a different flavor when compared to the transforming DPad. Unfortunately I haven’t found a demo where I can experience the new force feedback in the triggers, and equally unfortunate was the fact that the next game I did get to play with was LocoCycle.
The most disappointing time I have had with a Twisted Pixel game and it makes me sad. The demo felt like I was driving on rails and no matter how I played the game, I was still getting my melee combo up to a high number and always far from death. There was even a point where I was looking away from the game while mashing literally all of the buttons on the controller and still racking up kills and combos. Hopefully this was just another case of a bad E3 demo, chalked up to no booth attendant to guide me and maybe just a crummy introduction level.
I looked at another ‘learn to play guitar game.’ That’s two in one day for those of you at home keeping track. This media only theater demo showed off a very interesting dynamic band freeplay called Session Mode. They pitched it as adding AI into a music game in an interesting way. Players play a note in the selected scale on their real guitar and the set of instruments start playing along with the player in real time, dynamically changing and reacting to the speed, volume, and notes of the player. A very creative idea with an impressive presentation and deep customization options. If this demo was more than just smoke and mirrors this will set Rocksmith apart from similar guitar teaching games in a very big way.
Konami’s PR and booth attendants are incredible. Our guide walked us through everything they had at the show in under 10 minutes, loading us with information and details about all of their upcoming games. Nothing playable or new within the Metal Gear series, which was the most interesting title they have been talking about. The new PES game looks pretty, but it’s a sports game so I am immediately uninterested by it. They were showing an iPad game with that brown creature Domo in it, which was just a tilt and bounce game akin to Doodle Jump. Their other big playable game was Castlevania Lords of Shadow 2. Which I was unable to get hands on because the line was too long and I had appointments to get to. I still have my wristband to get access to the game, and I will try and get back to it on the final day of E3. I find its modern day setting to be very intriguing.
Harmonix delivers a new musical experience which evokes the spirit of Disney’s Fantasia. The reveal trailer of this game does it a huge disservice. Random pop music songs and silhouettes of people dancing with their hands and arms looked like something I would avoid. However getting hands on with the game I truly felt like I had become the sorcerer’s apprentice. I was waving my arms like a madman trying to confuse the Xbox One’s Kinect but it did a great job of keeping up with me and giving me credit when I did the motions correctly. The game play is a lot like Elite Beat Agents on the DS, where players tap and draw lines in rhythm with a song, but in Fantasia it’s all done in the air. While none of the songs shown were classical music, there will be a bunch that will ship with the game. Harmonix also says they are working on multiplayer. I doubt this will be a simultaneous multiplayer mode, because with all of the arm waving, people are bound to get smacked in the face.
Five times as more zombies on screen at once than previous Dead Rising games. Nothing much has changed other than having the ability to create tools of destruction anywhere. Since this was yet another theater presentation I am unable to say for sure what it plays like, but it does look like a prettier, larger scope Dead Rising. There were two issues I had with it. The framerate was very inconsistent. Sure this is probably not a final build, but the game is coming out in November and it’s concerning to see what could be a gorgeous game hindered by a frame rate which goes from 60fps to 15 depending on what’s happening on screen. The second problem I had was the smart glass functionality. They showed it off at the Microsoft press conference. Players can call down air strikes and other helpful attacks using the smart glass app on their mobile devices. In this stage demo, the presenter referred to using one of these air strikes as using a code. This screams microtransaction to me, but I was unable to get any monetization details out of the Capcom representatives. The smartglass stuff is all optional, but I’d like to be able to play around with it without having to drop additional money into it.
It took me a good 5 minutes before I could figure out the name of this game thanks to the strange font it was presented in at the booth. This puzzle platformer on PS3 is best played with one player controlling two characters across a world of enemies. The art style is simple, with contrasting colors and the characters are cute and plain. The green blob creature is controlled with the left stick and the pink blob is controlled with the right. Moving and jumping using only the controller sounded simple. It took me awhile to be able to get my brain to fluidly control both blobs in tandem amd solve some of the trickier puzzles later in the demo. This is definitely something I will be giving a lot more attention to once it is released.
I ended E3 day 2 the same way it began, at a food truck. Grabbed a Vietnamese pork noodle dish and we let some Nintendo booth attendants use our charging cables to breath life into their dying cell phones. Hopefully this little favor we did will grant access into Nintendo’s VIP area tomorrow, to rub elbows and get more intimate access to some of their games… but I am not holding my breath. Other plans for the final day: Bethesda booth tour with lengthy stage demos of The Evil Within, Wolfenstein: The New Order and a brief mention of The Elder Scrolls Online, at Square Enix a Thief 4 presentation and near the end of the day, an appointment for Bungie’s Destiny. Another late night with an even earlier morning tomorrow. E3 2013 has been as exciting as it’s been exhausting.