A look back at some E3 2017 videos

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Transference (PSVR)

Only game to have drawn my attention during conferences, Transference is a intriguing UGO from Ubisoft. The publisher takes neurological experiences conducted in the late 90’s as base. It was about transferring human emotions into a digital space. By reflecting that in virtual reality, the French company lets us expect a mystical and deeply frightening experience.

Gran Turismo Sport (PS4)

With its Jurassic Park-like music, Gran Turismo Sport comes to reminds us that racing simulation is not just about teraflops. It’s also about impressive racing tracks, joyful atmosphere, great music and lavish show. As many aspects that Sony’s exclusive won’t lack when facing Forza 7.

Code Vein (PS4/XB1/PC)

Not very different from the trailer of last month, Code Vein’s trailer (strangely shown during Microsoft conference, BandaiNamco will have a lot of explaining to do at home) still’s worth a glimpse. It’s kind of a God Eater of darker design and world, with slower but more powerful gameplay. But more than that, the giant leap in graphics and animation is especially exciting.

13 Sentinels Aegis Rim (PS4/PSVita)

Announced two years ago, we still don’t know what 13 Sentinels Aegis Rim is for sure. Atlus brings it to E3 without even giving detail on its platforms or its genre… We therefore have to kill time watching this beautiful trailer until the publisher finally reveals everything. The music has a striking sense of grandeur, and the devastated and soulless Earth is intriguing.

Preview – Tom Clancy’s The Division

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The Division is one of the «big 3» AAA I’m waiting for eagerly this year. Having missed the boat of the closed beta because I pre-ordered and registered too late, I’m more than happy to give it a try in the public version.

Not much blah-blah in Ubisoft’s beta. The story of the game is barely hinted at and you have to fathom what’s really going on in Tom Clancy’s New York. A highly dangerous virus is decimating the population, and at the same time, armed men calling themselves the rioters started to act violently within the city.

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Despite the scenario being vague, we do contemplate the fabulous atmosphere in this TPS/RPG. It’s Christmas time, it’s snowing, and yet an eerie silence looms on the Big Apple. The city’s last defenders (you) are preparing their counterattack in improvised HQ, there are decontamination facilities everywhere, you can see a memorial to the victims etc. The main musical theme adds the mysticism and your allies scream in the coms when the situation is really bad. The post-apocalyptic setting is fairly convincing.

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Graphically speaking, downgrade or not, it’s absolutely impressive. New York looks as real as you could expect and animations during combat feel very natural. The lightning effects and the changing weather make wonders. It’s tremendously good to look at, but I expected no less after Watchdogs’s magnificent Chicago.

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The command center is in shambles. Up to you to rebuild it by looking for key persons gone missing (medic, engineer), all this in order to reopen the various wings of the base (hospital, security and engineering). Once you’ve brought back the specialist, you’ll have to improve the department via its own exclusive ability points (for example, the hospital wing needs supplies points). Each time you do that, your character receives new abilities to be used on the field. Perfect transition to remind you that The Division is a true RPG, as you get experience points, level up and have to assign combat/support abilities to L and R.

Following the know-how from Watchdogs, The Division seems to already have the basics of a good open-world game. New York seems somewhat busy despite the tragic events, although stray dogs outnumber the panicked passers-by. But the most interesting point is that there’s already a big density of missions to be done. In addition the main story, several side missions are spread at nearly every corner : taking an enemy hideout, getting rid of a murderer, helping in skirmishes, freeing hostages, fixing a sabotaged antenna… Still, those missions feel more or less the same and aren’t as complex or interesting as Watchdogs’s so far. Funny thing : a sewer network has been modeled and you can move under the city.

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Fighting has proved to be quite exhilarating. Everything’s down to your capacity to find the best cover and change it when needed. Every attempt to attack in the open is pure suicide given that your character has little resistance. You therefore have to be clever and move while in cover so as to flank the enemy, or be quick and precise in crossfire. It’s urban warfare like we seldom see in video games. But there’s a snag : X button is for cover, and circle is used for jumping over obstacles, with the result that the player is likely to make unwanted inputs. So I’d say the precision of the controls is not for the best as it is. The weapons physics are astonishingly realistic : the kick of the M4 is monstruous. You do have to learn to adjust your aim and fire small bursts.

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But we are in an RPG and you’ll have to increasingly improve your gear. Like in Destiny, your character’s level needs to match the one of weapons and armor. The higher the level, the better the equipment is. And after that you can customize rifles with various accessories (suppressor, better scope, foregrip for better handling), which allows the player to personalize their loadout. Frankly, money looks hard to come by in this game and you can’t really rely on vendors. The best option is to loot enemies, method that gave me this little one. This is actually the Mosin-Nagant, a very old Russian sniper featured in the Metal Gear Solid series.

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Very quickly, you do realize that the challenge in The Division is no joke. Mission 2 is nearly impossible to complete. You need to empty 1 or 2 magazines to take out one rioter, and those possess a fierce IA : they move constantly, aim extremely well and overuse their stun grenades. And given the tricky shooting due to the realistic weapon physics, it turns out that you’ll need help. And help is here, because you can join a cooperative session like in Call of Duty Black Ops III. That is if you do understand the kafkaesque machtmaking, but once you’re in a party, the game is very hooking and the servers seem solid.

I’m satisfied of this beta because The Division is turning out to be exactly as I had imagined it : a connected, cooperative experience which mixes the pleasure and intensity of gunfight with the incomparable flavor of an RPG progression system.

Review – Child of Light

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I’ve read that Child of Light was inspired by JRPG. Maybe, I could feel it. But it’s not really important since Ubisoft Montreal’s new title goes far beyond traditional RPGs or gaming in general.

At first sight, Child of Light looks no different from a fairy tale : Princess Aurora, who has been transported in a strange world, seeks to go back to her father. But the comparison stops here because you realize pretty soon that the thing is unique.

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Because Child of Light is, for starters, artistically unprecedented. Like Journey or The Unfinished Swan, Ubi’s game is immediately charming by its design coming from nowhere. As always, it’s up to each person’s perception, but you the strokes that forms the backgrounds, characters and monsters definitely seem alive. Lighting and shadows are beautiful and cleverly serve gameplay. Nearly every screen is magnificent. Every time I came to a new environment my jaw dropped. It’s very simple : you could open a museum with only Child of Light inside. 

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But the museum would hardly be enough. You really have to see all that MOVE! Not short of ideas, Ubisoft Montreal have created fluent and unique animations. Movements remind classic puppet theater a bit like Pupetteer which suits perfectly to the general picture. How to say it… it’s just 2D, but it feels a lot more immersive than most of «realistic» titles. Kudos to the animation in which Aurora loses her crown, picks it up and puts it back. It is really the must of kawaii.

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Adding to that, the direction is quite above average. Child of Light borrows as much from literature as from fine arts : the Shakespearean lines with faultless rhymes are filled with elegance and intelligence. The devs have included and smartly transformed a few references : the wicked sister Cordelia, Achilles’s Odyssey… The dialogs as well as the story are both funny and moving, which is indeed a major quality in the greatest JRPGs, and efficiently addresses classics themes like courage, honor, kinship, etc.

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What about gameplay, then? I’ll ask me. Well let’s talk about it, because again it’s not borrowed from elsewhere but created from scratch. True, the progression remains fairly linear, but it’s a pleasure to rummage the stages to find hidden objects and secrets. Moreover, a dozen of sidequests will make you search in places you’ve previously visited and you’ll have sometimes to search intensely.

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The battle system is fairly original too. You share with your enemies a timeline divided between “wait” and “cast”. If you hit a opponent that is in the “cast” area, that skips its turns. But careful, this applies to you as well! Thinking ahead the movements in the timeline is key to victory, but you have a trump card : your little fairy Igniculus (controlled with the right stick) can slower foes and allow you to overtake them. Each of the seven characters has a specialty and you can equip Oculi (gems) to boost their parameters (elemental attack/defense, ATK+, XP+, etc.). The fights in themselves are really interesting in the way that they emphasize buffs and debuffs which your opponents won’t refrain from using against you. Up to you to withstand with a defensive strategy or break their assault with a daring offensive.  

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In particular, the bosses have varied behaviors and strengths/weaknesses, forcing you to switch constantly between your characters. Let’s stress that the boss fights have an epic dimension that totally lives up to the best JRPGs. The “bad guys” are horrible and scheming, the monsters are gigantic and the boss battle theme has some grandeur. Oh yeah, THE MUSIC! The orchestration is glorious, the melancholy affects the player deep inside. Ok let’s voice some concerns for the sake of it : I would have liked a larger trophy list, and the game crashed twice. That’s about it…

Child of Light is exactly what gaming needs : something beautiful, like no other, that pleases the senses and the mind while being profoundly emotional. It is an oasis in the middle of sadly generic titles, a masterpiece that stand out in the coldness of the mass market. Child of Light is one of the best titles of this gen and next-gen, and it costs only 15€…

 

Some really exciting videos from E3 2012

Medal of Honor Warfighter (PS3/X360/PC)

This video of the New Medal of Honor is a huge slap in the face! Kicking ass like never, you see several of the elite units features in the game such as the US Seals, the Russian Spetznaz, etc. The non-stop action is reinforced by the world’s best game engine : Frosbite2. Snipers won’t fail to notice that the first ever kill shown of MoH Warfighter multiplayer is a neat quickscope done with a MacMillan Tac-338 in the right part of the torso. The good guys of Danger Close, unlike DICE, care a little about what the community says and listened to the pledges of dispirited recon players. Medal of Honor Warfighter actually looks like Modern Warfare 2 running on Frostbite2.

Assassin’s Creed III (PS3/X360/WiiU/PC)

I stopped playing Assassin’s Creed after the second episode. I found that Brotherhood and Revelations weren’t innovating enough. No complain though with AC3, which brings a new hero with a new gameplay, as well as a more open and lively world. In the wilderness or at sea, Assassin’s Creed 3 will make you experience the American Revolution like you’ve never seen it!

Watchdogs (PS3/X360/PC)

Another game from Ubisoft, Watchdogs has been unanimously declared the best game of E3 2012. Partly because it hadn’t been leaked and appeared as a real surprise, a rare thing in today’s connected world. Connected, the main character certainly is : he can hack almost any electronic device within range (tablets, traffic lights), promising a innovative gameplay. But it’s in graphics where Watchdogs strikes the most.The first day when it was revealed, it looked so realistic that many observers thought it would be running on Xbox3 and PS4. It was later revealed that the game would release for PS3, X360 and PC in 2013, so it won’t be long before we can throw ourselves in this dark near-future atmosphere.  

Agni’s Philosophy (PS4?)

I know it’s just a tech demo, but Agni’s Philosophy made the buzz so loud that the rest of the SquareEnix line-up went right under the radar (pretty bad line-up by the way, so serves them right). Build on an architecture supposed to be used by next-gen consoles, this real time cutscene was realized by the Japanese division of SquareEnix (which at least proves they work on something) and depicts the misfortune of a young lady called Agni, who could very well become the heroine of the first Final Fantasy on PS4 (provided the series still exists by then. If not, sha can always be a James Bond girl in a later Hitman game…). 1080p strongly recommended.

Sim City (PC)

This title may let you think that Sim City fell into the “reboot” hype, but the video tells different. What we can see a Sim City in which management features have been detailed to the extreme : the roads are no longer straight, the zoom allows you to observe the Sims in a most precise way, etc. But the biggest change in the series is the add of multiplayer features, which will connects the players’ cities and turning them into a real “Sim Country”.

Crysis 3 (PS3/X360/PC)

3rd iteration of the famous science-fiction shooter series, Crysis 3 impresses by its fierce gameplay and the classy design of its weapons. Even though I’m not a big fan of non-military shooters, the futurisc bow alone makes me want to play…

Nintendo’s E3 2012 is an epic fail

June 5th 2012. A frozen atmosphere reigns in the Los Angeles Convention Center. Cooling was too strong, they say. But the fact that some people left before the end of the Nintendo conference is an unmistakable sign that something went wrong. How did it end up like this? How could WiiU, destined to be the star of the show, become a embarrassing subject for both Nintendo and the press?

Shigeru Miyamoto starts the conference by presenting Pikmin 3, so identical to the previous ones that it would be funny if only it wasn’t the best game to be introduced. Miyamoto leaves the stage quickly to let Reggie Fils-Aimé, the man who didn’t want Xenoblade, host the rest of the conference. The president of Nintendo of America throws himself in a long and unless explanation of the WiiU GamePad functionalities and the Miiverse. Iwata had already briefed us on Sunday. Reggie follows with New Super Mario Bros U, a new non-innovating iteration of the game released 25 years ago. The public suddenly awakes when the guys from Warner Interactive take the stage. They doze back off immediately, given that the WiiU version of Arkham City is the same as the game they already played on PS360. We are then notified that multiplatform games like Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Mass Effect 3, Ninja Gaiden 3, Darksiders II, Alien vs Colonial Marines or Trine 2 would also be available on WiiU, without telling when.

We’re immediately back to the casual side of the Force with Wii Fit U and Sing, after which the Marketing Director of NoA comes to present 3 mario games for 3DS (which makes 4 mario games in one presentation) before inviting everyone to watch another presentation dedicated to 3DS, to be held the following day. Reggie takes the stage again with more WiiU stuff, which is a big relief for the journalists who thought that Wii Fit U was the conclusion of the WiiU part. Unfortunately, they have to watch a painful trailer of Lego City, presented as a big hit for Nintendo’s new system. Yves Guillemot of Ubisoft then comes to help WiiU with his horrible French accent and ZombiU, an FPS that takes advantage of the GamePad, but not always smartly.

Ubisoft boasts about his rich WiiU line-up, essentially made of crappy casual games, in which you surprisingly find Assassin’s Creed III. But the latter won’t be mentioned because the French publisher wants to focus on Just Dance 4. The nightmare continues for the poor journalists who can now barely stand the pain : a party-game called Nintendo Land is thoughtfully detailed until the end of the conference.

The 3DS conference was no better, because it held no surprises. It was a lengthy presentation of stupid mario/disney/casual stuff destined to kiddies. Real gamers were expecting Fire Emblem Awakening : in vain, Nintendo just sent a discreet tweet confirming the North American localization with “more info to come”. Tweet to which I  vehemently responded.

News from the show floor aren’t good either : the system is just as powerful as a PS3 or an X360, the use of two GamePads simultaneously hurts the frame-rate and the tablet-like controller can’t hold more than 3 to 5h before needing a 2,5h-hour charge. 

The manufacturer clearly took the casual turn again, probably to avoid direct confrontation with Sony & Microsoft on the core gamer market, on which they are bound to lose because PS3 and X360 will be cheaper with a far richer library. While Mass Effect 3, Arkham City or Trine 2 might interest gamers returning from a 1-year academic exchange on Pluto, most of the audience will have finished those titles already, and are not likely to buy them again despite the crucial inventory capabilities of the GamePad. Nintendo fanboys must face the brutal truth : third-party publishers, who lost a great deal of money on Wii, don’t give any credit to WiiU, which will have to rely on powerful exclusives like TANK! TANK! TANK! to attract costumers during the holiday season. Nintendo has not so many friends (not a single one, besides Ubisoft), and has no choice but to develop first party titles. But even when they do that, they don’t go beyond shitty 2D platformers or ridiculous party-games, because making a truly next-gen title costs too much and reduces profitability. This E3 is further proof, if needed, that Nintendo has nothing but contempt for gamers, and that this company is the worst shame of this industry.