Just hours ago, the final press conference from Sony concluded the pre-show events. The Nintendo one has yet to air, and could still present significant information regarding its flagship franchises, but takes place on Twitch. Conferences were personally graded on several factors: quality of presentation, games presented, and surprise factor. Of course, these points are all entirely subjective. For the conferences attended (Bethesda, Microsoft, Ubisoft, and Sony), quite a large plate was revealed.
While I did not personally attend the Electronic Arts showcase, I did take some time to catch up on the stream earlier in my gap hours, and in summation, the conference failed to impress. The show felt poorly conducted, and released incredibly minor snippets of little value, especially with regards to Mass Effect. The conference went entirely as planned, with the only minor surprise being that the new FIFA 2017 would have a story mode. The conference was fairly dull, and criticized by popular media.
Later that evening, Bethesda took the stage, and stuffed press, industry, and professional analysts together with fans into the uncomfortably stuffy LA Hangar. Bethesda played it fairly safe at the show, banking on the incredible successes of Fallouts 4 and Shelter. While we saw things like Quake Champions and the somewhat predictable Elder Scrolls Skyrim remaster make an official presence, they also revealed new information for The Elder Scrolls Legends and their virtual reality material. The major highlight of the night was Bethesda’s display for Dishonored 2, which unfortunately lost favor amongst some of my seat mates at the show for dragging a bit too long near the end of the show. The title looks good, but I don’t feel it will be great. VR was the biggest surprise, and definitely won some points in that.
Following the showcase, Bethesda moved everyone over to the after party which catered food and open bar services to the approximately 2,000 people in attendance. Blink 182 made a headlining appearance at the show, and got many reveling in nostalgia, and my poor ears ringing. Trying out the Fallout VR, though, was actually quite underwhelming, and further cements VR’s place as a gimmick. The controls were a bit wonky, and for a game like Fallout, it’s much better received on console. The immersion factor is something to write home about, but other than that, it didn’t feel substantial. Even at CES, VR never got off the ground with me, despite being ubiquitous. Dealing with lots of lines, I got to spend some time playing the new card game, which was pleasant, but feels like much of the same with better alternatives. The visuals look quite nice, but felt a bit unoriginal.
Overall, Bethesda played a fairly safe conference with a few small tricks up its sleeve, instead riding on its previous successes. There’s nothing wrong with that either. Compared to some of the other players, though, it still could be a lot better to come.
The following morning saw me queue at Microsoft’s conference at the Galen Center. The conference felt fairly average. Games that had been revealed before saw more game play, and saw more sequels of the same old thing, only sharper with some optimizations. I’m looking at games like Forza, or milking Minecraft a little bit more. Games like Sea of Thieves definitely pleased, Halo Wars 2 was a bit of a surprise (extra points for that!), and Scalebound caught my attention. At the same time, Microsoft gains ground with the introduction of its secret Project Scorpio, but loses it by not answering some key questions: price (not likely cheap given its specs), its sneakily hidden factor of not mentioning 60 FPS game play despite a slew of specs, and then unveiling a new Xbox One S to its loss. The Xbox One S feels incredibly pointless and people are obviously going to wait for more information on Scorpio. The conference was entirely predictable, and only got a rise with the idea of customizable controllers. It’s a bit sad, really. Most of my predictions came true.
As Microsoft concluded, PC Gaming went up, for a second appearance at the gaming show. Based on watching the majority of the stream, it felt lacking. Not much of true significance was unveiled, and the AMD unveiling was underwhelming in the face of the GTX 1080. To be fair, as I was not present, my rating on it may be skewed, but the opinion I got from it is shared by colleagues: the show underwhelmed for a second time in a row.
Following that, I spent my afternoon at the Orpheum Theatre, for Ubisoft. Ubisoft managed to pull a clincher and got me into the premises at just moments before the show beginning. Even so, their conference was one of the better ones of the shows thus far, with excellent showmanship, some natural comedy that didn’t feel forced, and some great game play reveals for games like Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, which is exactly what The Division should have been. The quality of the presentation was top notch, with an opener for Just Dance, and the ever-solid Don’t Stop Me Now featuring some hilarious live dancers. Aisha Tyler proves, having done this years in a row, that she has an incredible stage presence and wholly deserves her praise. Ubisoft did not pull their punches, and unveiled some great gameplay for games like For Honor, some surprising Division DLC, some fairly intriguing VR PvP in the form of Eagle Fighter, and the great hack introduction to Watch Dogs 2. The showcase was impressive, gritty, and intense, which was happily lightened by a brutally hilarious South Park: The Fractured But Whole trailer. Ubisoft brought out a lot of great presentations, and unveiled some new sequels for Grow Up.
Overall, for Ubisoft, this was a great presentation. Thankfully, they learned from the terrible mistakes of hiring Mr. Caffeine to talk about the show. Despite my minor gripe of a stuffy theater, they made their show feel natural without boring the audience. Of the duration, even something like the Assassin’s Creed film actually looked fairly interesting, after having director James Marshall on stage to talk more about it. Michael Fassbender kills the role, and here’s to hoping he ascends to greater heights. They then brought out the Star Trek VR and that was a big surprise for me. I couldn’t have seen that coming.
And of course, last but not least, Sony’s press conference at the Shrine Auditorium. Where does one even start with this? From the get go, the company hit the ground not even running. They flat out sprinted from the start and made it through a marathon with little slowdown. I had the pleasure of meeting one of the staff members over at Kinda Funny, James Schuler, earlier at the reception prior to the show and during queuing, and with him having a lot of thoughts about Sony, even he was dumbfounded by some of the reveals.
The quality of the presentation was just leagues above any other show. Sony obviously had an edge with the power of their movie production studios, but even so, this isn’t even a close victory by any other conference. With live symphonies and choirs performing key pieces (the main theme for God of War), the production value was leagues above everybody else. With brutalizing reveals for the new God of War and insane visuals, the game got a standing ovation for the show’s opening act. There were zero signs of slowing, either, with the new intellectual property Days Gone and its ending climactic game play with thousands of zombies attacking the protagonist. Fans were treated to more play from Horizon Zero Dawn, which looked absolutely phenomenal.
Just nearing the halfway point, Sony unveiled an interesting game that focuses heavily on player choice, Detroit: Become Human. The game play was intense, and it’s going to be intriguing to see it develop. Following up on that, Sony jumps into a lot of VR, with some incredibly surprising moves like Batman, Star Wars Battlefront, Final Fantasy XV, and Resident Evil VII playable entirely in VR. Square Enix must be entirely confident with its Final Fantasy XV product if it’s willing to branch into this. From that point on, the company unveils a surprise remaster for Crash Bandicoot (James was absolutely thrilled by this), a new Spiderman game that won a lot of praises, and then decides to figuratively drop the microphone and bring Hideo Kojima himself up on stage to unveil his stunning, and entirely mysterious new game with Sony: Death Stranding, with Norman Reedus. The stadium pretty much erupted after that. The man got a standing ovation from many present.
Something that has to be stressed with Sony was the ungodly level of its visuals. These were incredibly life like, and just stunning with its wide shot landscapes. Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare also looked incredible, game play wise. Despite its massive criticism from its reveal, it surprised all of us, and further warmed us up to the remaster for Modern Warfare. Take this from a guy who hates Call of Duty.
If something had to be criticized, or mentioned as predictable, it was the cringe from Star Wars Battlefront VR, which looked kind of weak compared to the other VR presentations. The Last Guardian feels terribly lackluster despite its ten-year development. That’s just the thing. The ten year development is what kills The Last Guardian. As for a final ice breaker, Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, as charming as it is, was predictable.
The end of the conferences brings a positive outlook on the video games industry. The next year or so will definitely see the rise of virtual reality, and more focus on delivering powerful visual experiences. Nintendo has quite the shoes to fill with its conference, and at this point, a lot of people are losing faith. With the upcoming NX, the Wii U feels like an afterthought, especially given its rumored worst month of sales yet. As far as rating the conferences, though, for me, they go as follows. Please note, my opinion does not reflect the whole opinion of Gamer Professionals and its staff.
- PC Gaming Show
- Electronic Arts
I’ll leave numbers five and six up for debate as I did not formally attend to witness the event first hand, something that definitely plays significance for the positive or negative. As a whole for the year’s shows, things are definitely looking interesting with the middling console generation and this move towards visually powerful experiences. Here’s to an exciting show floor experience – see you there! Be sure to keep up with us on Twitter at @GamerProsNews.