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July 25, 2011 | by  | in Visual Arts | [ssba]

E3—The Good, the Bad, and the Hideous

The middle of the year is always a bit of a foot-dragger for the games industry, the major releases at the start of the year having lost their charm and the “ol’ faithfuls” of your video game collection are the only things that hold any replay value.

It’s about that time that the hype machine kicks itself into overdrive and the rotors of publisher PR departments and game-journos start whirling up a media storm about the next batch of Triple A releases and hardware. In the eye of this storm lies E3, a gaming/press convention at which last week, despite the brevity of Angus’ coverage, we managed to touch on virtually everything that warranted any interest. Microsoft is still pushing Kinect, the motion-control add-on for the Xbox, as hard as it can, despite a lack of interest from the core gaming community. Hiring child actors to flail about embarrassingly in front of a screen and having two guys play pretend football on stage is probably not the best way to endear “hardcore” gamers back to the product. Though granted, this may not be what they are trying to do at all, as the Kinect is still selling like hotcakes at J-Day… So this all makes a twisted kind of sense.

Besides the original Halo getting a fresh coat of HD paint and the (completely unexpected!) announcement of another three Halo games, it really was a poor showing from the once-prolific software giants in the gaming department this year. Here’s hoping they remember who they used to be, leaders and innovators of the industry, and see them return to some semblance of their former glory. As for the handheld Playstation Vita (Sony thankfully having all but buried their lacklustre Wii-mote clone, the Playstation Move) and Nintendo’s bright shining future embodied in their newly announced console, the Wii U, this next step in gaming hardware presents some interesting and potent changes to the shape of the industry, partially brought about by the ever-increasing popularity of mobile/tablet gaming. So much so that I think we can wait to touch on these another week.

As opposed to Microsoft, Nintendo certainly know how to show up to a press event. For the 25th anniversary of the fan-favourite Zelda franchise, they brought along an entire symphony orchestra to belt out large-scale versions of the games’ iconic theme tunes. Combine that with their long-awaited broaching of the high definition-gaming arena, and I think we have a lot look forward to from Nintendo (don’t we always). Sony, however, speaking as a company at the event, had a very predictable tone to their proceedings. Another unreserved apology was given to Playstation 3 users for the lapse in service as a result of the Playstation Network being hacked earlier this year, and in all honesty, it sounded as sincere as it gets coming from a multi-national technology conglomerate.

The reason I have barely mentioned actual video games thus far is because E3 is not entirely about video games, in the same sense that an electoral campaign is not a session of parliament. It’s a press event, where publishers and hardware producers come together to show face and pump out media releases regarding the most topical aspects of the gaming industry that year. The games, though present, are often not the main focus. If pressed though, I’d have to mention the enormous amount of first-person-shooters on display this year. Now, I love a good first-person-shooter as much, if not more than the next guy. But when the vast majority of Triple A tiles being shown involve having the butt of a gun stuck to the middle of the screen for most of the game, one starts to worry… Still! Battlefield 3, of course, looks jaw-droppingly, processor-flamingly gorgeous. Bioshock Infinite will hopefully live up to its namesake and stir up the formula of a genre that is dangerously close to stagnating. Batman: Arkham City takes the brilliance of the original Arkham Asylum and paints it across a much, much larger canvas. Finally, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is quickly shaping up to be everything I could possibly want in an RPG title, and more. Now we just have to wait agonising months until we see any of these games again…


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