Walking away from this year's slew of E3 press conferences, and a couple of pre-recorded video presentations, I can't say I felt enormously "pumped", as UFC's Dana White might have put it, for the next generation of video games consoles as I was perhaps hoping. Last year's E3 was a carnival of bombastic, bloody excess -- a gaudy and gory pantomime of slickly presented hammer blows, one after the other. We criticised the uber-violence, we lamented the lack of gameplay footage from some quarters (praising Ubisoft for bucking that particular trend), we slammed Nintendo for not being ready for their own, unopposed console release.
Some things don't change.
But others do. The industry listened and, with more to explain this year, publishers and platform holders stepped up their game, targeting their audience in intelligent fashion. By and large, the worst thing we could level at most of the press conferences, Sony aside, was that there was enough time to adequately express and explain the scope in design and ambitions for some of the next-generation titles.
The most curious games of the pressers -- the likes of Project Spark, The Crew, The Division, Titanfall, and Destiny -- also left us with a small taste of confusion in the mouth, though fact dumps and leaks for the last two had helped a little. There were things to point to of great interest, games to follow up on and titles that piqued our curiosity with seemingly innovative features, far-reaching designs on multiplayer and a connected experiences, but little (at least for me) that immediately made me bolt upright in my seat, and start drooling.
Actually, that's a lie.
You see, for all of the frustrated rage that Jon and I expressed in yesterday's Game Buzz regarding Nintendo's pre-recorded hot mess of a presentation, there were games in there that the dormant Nintendo fanboy in me covets. Mario Kart 8 looks absolutely bonkers and totally enthralling. X is an enormous open-world JRPG that looks truly genre-defining and totally next-gen. Bayonetta 2 appears to be just as insanely bonkers and beautiful, balletically, brilliant as its predecessor, and you know how much we love Platinum. But, of course, the big kicker is that most of the Wii U's impressive games will be coming in 2014, and as much as I love Kamiya's work, I'm not paying full price for a console just for W101; the same goes for Pikmin 3.
Moreover, Nintendo's surprises were backwards-looking iterations of previous games. The new Donkey Kong Country Returns 3D Nostalgia Megamix SNES Revamp Tropical Thunder Crush Freeze HD won't be a bad game; and neither will Super Mario 3D World, but there was nothing impressive about them. We've seen them before, on the Wii and 3DS (the freaking 3DS!!!!) respectively. It's possible that Mario no longer has the power to spearhead an evolutionary console jump the way he used to (see: Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy). That's ok, but Nintendo really ought to have realised that. They've had all of the time to really look to push their franchises forward, but their lead has evaporated, and the lack of releases on the slate is symptomatic of incredibly poor planning. I was so looking forward to Nintendo presenting me (not to mention third-party prospective partners wathing eagerly) with a barrage of reasons to get behind the Wii U right now. But they blew it.
In similar fashion, the more accessible pieces from Sony -- Killzone: Shadow Fall and Infamous: Second Son -- held little for me either. Both of them are shiny, and both will stand for quality exclusives come launch day for the PS4, but they're both incredibly safe bets. I know what I'm going to get with both of those franchises and they don't excite me at all. And as for the much-hyped Ryse reveal over on Microsoft's stage, clunky animation and swathes of quick-time events do not make for good entertainment.
So it was that the games that actually impressed me the most were the same ones that impressed me last year. Beyond: Two Souls gave us a more action-oriented look at the game, giving us a glimpse of some serious player agency and leaving me with so many questions, chief of all being how this military background would lead to a homeless, bedraggled Ellen Page flipping police cars with her mind. I can't wait to find out.
Watch Dogs gave rise to several presentations that showed off that particular game's diverse range of gameplay opportunities, and it's to be hoped that the game seems as open to player choice in terms of mission approaches as it first appears. In fact, the reason perhaps Ubisoft's press conference felt a little muted was because most of the titles they had there had already been announced: Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag looks like it could rescue the series with a fantastic degree of openness and a charismatic central character who gives us the Pirates of the Caribbean-esque title that the film tie-ins never could; Rayman Legends still looks fantastic, and that Vita version is going to delight our eyeballs thanks to that drop-dead gorgeous OLED screen. I was critical of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow, but that long gameplay trailer that emerged from Konami's pre-recorded presentation dropped my jaw -- I'm going to need that game in my life.
But the best console to win out? Probably the 3DS. New Pokemon that's actually seeking to advance the series rather than tread water in new make-up; Mario & Luigi's: Dream Team which is looking absolutely brilliant and hugely subversive (these days I almost enjoy Mario spin-offs more than I do the increasingly repetitive core games); new Zelda! Animal Crossing is just around the corner, too, as is Project X Zone.
Of course, there's an enormous current-gen game from Rockstar that's coming out in September that didn't feature in any of the press conferences!
My point is that off of the strength of this E3 so far, I see little reason in investing either any of the next-gen gadget boxes before Christmas. Titanfall and Destiny will both be on current gen systems, and there's always the PC sitting quietly there too. No doubt Gamescom and TGS will be bigger than ever this year (they really need to be for all concerned, especially those companies -- *cough* Microsoft and Nintendo -- who sometimes skip out on one or both), and I'm really hoping that a few little events and announcements over the next few months will seriously change my mind. I love new tech, I want to be convinced. But given the rocky start to the last generation (no death lights please!), the likelihood of more attractive bundles (for me personally) arriving a few months down the line, the noted need from both Microsoft and Sony to continue pushing titles on current-gen consoles, and the existence of my PC, waiting a little while might well be prudent.
Except I can't stop watching that Metal Gear Solid V trailer. But that's just me. How about you?