I knew prior to coming to over to E3 that such a busy schedule would make it seem like the party was over before it started. Sure enough, Day 3 at E3 arrived and before I knew it I was in an Uber on my way to LAX ready to head back to Auckland. The final day was ridiculously busy and happened to contain both my low-point of E3, a surprise that came out of nowhere and also some time with a game that may just end up being my best hands-on gameplay of the show (although I need to reflect on it just a little bit more).
Stepping out onto the pavements of the Los Angeles Convention, I made my way inside the venue that has seen over 52,000 people step through its doors over the past 3 days. First stop was a visit to the Warner Bros booth and when given the choice of what I wanted to see first, of course I opted to play Batman Arkham Knight. Having not played any pre-release gameplay this was one of the E3 moments I was most looking forward to. After getting about 10 mins on the game I walked away salivating at the prospect of a release in a weeks time. I’m going to put together a full feature on Arkham night but let me just say that with Rocksteady back at the helm this is the going to be the perfect way to end the series. The legendary Batman gameplay is back to it’s brutal, beat ’em up best and controlling the Batmobile is the sort of thing I’ve dreamt about since Batman Arkham Asylum. It was too little time to determine quiet where this rates in the Arkham franchise but one thing is for sure, it is definitely much better than Arkham Origins, but then again it was probably always going to be.
Next up I went and played Mad Max, technically the second time I have played it after I gave it a blast at the Xbox After Hours event. This time I choose the alternate demo which allowed me to attack a fort and provided more of a chance to see the combat system in action. It was a much better demo than the previous one I played but I still have some concerns about the gameplay mechanics. I was told that the control system had been simplified but to me it feels a wee bit unintuitive with the main offender being shooting mechanics that don’t feel natural. It’s a real shame because the game at heart is a lot of fun once you do figure out the control scheme but I fear that without further refinement Mad Max will be a little held back by the controls.
The Warner Bros tour finished with a look at Lego Dimensions. I have been a big fan of the Lego franchise and Dimensions represents a major shift in direction, taking on gameplay incorporating characters that are placed on a gamepad akin to Skylanders or Disney Infinity. There is a lot to like about dimensions, none more so than the fact that you actually have to build your characters using an on-screen lego manual. It doesn’t stop there though, if you upgrade a vehicle then you are also prompted to change the design by modifying the pieces that were supplied with your pack. I love the idea of lego building meets video game but it is not without some concerns. The starts pack will give you three characters and a vehicle but in the demo I played it relied on placing other characters on the board, characters that were not supplied with the starter pack. I thought the actual game played like a classic lego game but if progress through the story is held up by the need to buy additional character packs then it’s going to seriously imped the appeal of Lego Dimensions would end up deterring me from putting time into the game and instead opt to stick to the more traditional Lego games.
With Warner Bros all wrapped up it was time to head on over to Turtle Beach to check out their latest line-up of headset for 2015. What I saw was the bulk of the 2015 line-up that was announced but unfortunately there was no sound demo of the headsets. It’s kind of hard to right about how godo the headsets were without being able to sample the sound but having said that, Turtle Beach delivered the biggest surprise moment of E3 and it wasn’t even a piece of gaming tech per se, that surprised me. What impressed me was a working demo of their Hypersound Speaker, initially due for release this year as a health product, only available through outlets that sell products for people who are hearing impared. I know what you’re thinking because I was probably thinking the exact same thing when Turtle Beach first pitched Hypersound, why would I be interested in this and what does it have to do with gaming? Well the thing that makes it exciting is that Hypersound delivers sounds in a way that only people sitting directly in front of the beam can actually hear the sound produced. Again I know what you’re thinking but bare with me because this will blow your mind! The technology actually works! I was standing next to the person who was directly in front of the Hypersound and all I could hear was sound from the TV. Once he moved and I took my place in front of Hypersound, all of a sudden I could hear a much clearer and defined aural profile transmitted through Hypersound from the TV. It absolutely blew my mind to think that I can be less than 3 feet from someone and not hear what they are hearing. The idea is that this will be used to allow hearing impaired people watch TV with their family members without the need to have the volume up so loud it wakes the dead. The price tag is gooing to be $1,500 so this is not a consumer product but I am assured that Turtle Beach are working on how to bring this to the home for consumers. Imagine the possibilities, being able to play Call of Duty or GTA V in the same room as the family without having to wear headphones because they won’t be able to hear the sound from the game. Surprise E3 moment, 110%.
At this point I was scheduled for some time with Disney but also had a booking with Microsoft to check out an experience involving the HoloLens. I was able to spend about 10 mins with Disney and checked out the two new Star Wars Disney Infinity 3.0 games, albeit VERY briefly. They played well and appeared to play a lot like a Lego game but I spent way too little time with them to be able to provide more than a passing comment.
I said my goodbyes to Disney and made the mad dash from the South Hall to West Hall to make my appointment with Microsoft. If any Journo’s are reading this that have been to E3 then you will know exactly what that mad dash looks and feels like. I swear that time must have stood still for a couple of minutes because by some miracle supplied from the Heaven’s I made it to the appointment in time. My excitement levels were through the roof, HoloLens was soon to revealed to me and this piece of Witchcraft from Microsoft was about to be shown to me in all its glory. Alas those same Gods that paused time for me decided to play a cruel joke on me through the lovely staff at Microsoft. After making my way through check-in and to the media desk for the experience, myself and some other Journo’s from New Zealand were informed that they were running well behind schedule and it would be at the very least, a 30 min wait to check it out. Those of you who have had booked schedules at E3 before will know exactly what a delay means but for those that don’t know let me fill you in. A half an hour delay in an appointment spells doom. Our schedules are booked before E3 and are usually pretty much back to back so a half hour delay inevitably means making the tough decision to leave that appointment in order to be able to do everything else on the schedule. Yes it was HoloLens but if I’d have waited the 30 mins (minimum) then my schedule for the rest of the day would have been out the door. It was a heartbreaking decision not to wait and was my absolute low-point of E3, that moment when you know in advance this is THE must see event of E3 but that it is not going to happen.
After the low-light, there was only one thing to do, regroup by going to eat dirty food-hall mexican food and an oversized Coke.
Bad mexican food downed and Coke restoring my faith in humanity it off of the a media room to take one final look at Horizon Zero Dawn. This was similar to the events I attended yesterday but with a bit more of an explanation about the game as well as some concept photos for things still being built. The gameplay demo was much the same as yesterday so my Day 2 wrap will fill you in, as will the full feature that will come on my return to New Zealand. Without wanting to spoil the full feature piece I will say the Horizon Zero Dawn is full of potential and could well be one of the highlights of 2016.
The final appointment of E3 belonged to Ubisoft so I made my way over to the booth. I was able to get a quick 10 minutes with Assassin’s Creed Syndicate, which was good although it was a shame that only Jacob was playable and not Evie. In what was a refreshing piece of honesty, Ubisoft admitted that they messed up by releasing Unity when it was still riddled with bugs and that they are well aware they can’t afford to make the same mistake again. Graphically the gameplay demo looked about average, it’s clear that this game is going to look good but there is a lot of polish to be done between now and release. The new grapple system made me immediately think that it took some inspiration from Batman, however it wasn’t quite as accurate as I would have liked. The takedown and combat system works well and is very easy to switch between weapons or go in for the melee kills. I really didn’t get enough time to get too deep into an opinion on Syndicate but I’m confident it will be a much better day one experience than Unity.
After a brief time with Syndicate I got the tap on the shoulder to hurry me up to head into the media session for Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Wildlands. The media session was a hands off presentation where the developers sat down and played through a mission where there were attempting to extract a high value target imprisoned by a Drug Cartel. One of the things I found most interesting was how each of the 4 players had been off doing their own thing prior to starting this mission together. The developers talked up how players will be able to go seamlessly from completing missions on their own to going online and playing co-operatively to complete missions. When playing co-operatively (like this mission) it highlighted that objectives work best when players pair up, for example one flying a helicopter while the other operates the machine gun or one player takes the scout position which another watching his back. Alternatively you might all hit a position from different points to completely confuse the enemy, or even cause two rival factions to start fighting each other making it easier to complete the objective. Wildlands is a vast open world and already has some gorgeous visuals. By the time this is released I’m expecting a highly polishing Ghost Recon game that could be up there as one of the best in the series.
Unfortunately I was unable to see The Division but I wasn’t that disappointed because I got to check out Rainbow Six Siege. When I say I got to check out Rainbox Six Siege I don’t just mean a hands off presentation, that was the first part but after that we actually got hands on with the game and I was really impressed. Those of us in the session were told about how smart the enemy AI is and how it can quickly adapt between offense and defense and choosing smart positions from which to operate from. I’ve heard this sort of talk about “smart” AI before only to quickly realise it was nothing more than a buzz word but then something happened in the mission that the developers played through that made me stand up and take serious notice. The developers, yes the very same developers that have been building the game, actually lost there multiplayer session to the AI. After that loss we were invited to have a play and got to experience the unrelentless AI. Our job in this beautiful looking game was to disarm a bomb, we had a good mix of abilities in the team so I was hopeful that we’d do alright. Within about 10 seconds of starting the demo our first man was dead (there is no chance of revival either, once you’re dead you’re out of the mission). BY the time we got to the first bomb there were just three of us left. The 30 second disarm countdown begun and all of a suddent the enemy Ai was hitting our position from all locations, coming down stairs, breaching through walls and taking cover during a firefight. This isn’t the sort of AI that will stand out in the open waiting to be killed and who shoot about as well as Stevie Wonder. This AI makes a point of finding cover and are deadly accurate with shots. With 10 seconds to go 2 of us were left, with 5 seconds to go I was the last one alive and with about 2 seconds until the bomb was disarmed I was taken out. Mission Failed. It was an experience that was exhilarating from start to finish even though we had failed the mission. Ubisoft have to be commended for creating such a challenging game that punishes players who don’t put the team first, survival and mission success is heavily dependent on teamwork and even then success is not guaranteed. I need a bit of time to reflect on every game I tried but let me say this, Rainbow Six Siege may well have been the best game that I got to try at E3.
After failing the Ghost Recon mission I looked at the time and with a heavy heart realised that my time at E3 was over. I went back to my room, picked up my bags and made the trip to LAX. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to finish the Day 3 wrap before getting on the plane but have finished it off from the Air New Zealand lounge in Sydney. Shortly I’ll be on my flight back to Auckland and back to reality. It was a crazy time in Los Angeles and E3 was an amazing experience. E3 may be over but the tales from the event will long live on. In fact this coming week will be packed full of E3 content providing more details on what was seen and what you all can expect.