Held every year in Los Angeles, E3 is the biggest gaming conference hands down. With over 50,000 registered attendees, this year’s gala was the largest in a decade. As the mass hysteria indicates, and as many of those attendees and the millions of us watching online will confirm, it was indeed the most amazing E3 in a long time.
Locally speaking, after years of speculation, Bethesda Softworks confirmed Boston as the setting for Fallout 4 in the weeks leading up to E3. Anyone into Western RPGs who lives around the Hub should be extremely psyched for this announcement. Who needs the Olympics in 2024 when we will have a chance to virtually explore landmarks like Fenway Park, the MFA, and perhaps even the Lawn on D in the aftermath of an apocalypse that transforms Boston into an abandoned wasteland crawling with human-size insects? In Fallout 4, that dirty water will be officially irradiated, which sounds like way more fun than watching people in short shorts circle a track. Less gentrification involved too, since it’s a video game. In any case, the expected release date is November 10.
Also of note: Microsoft announced that the Xbox One will be backwards-compatible with the Xbox 360, allowing you to play all of your old games on your new system. Besides your typical AAA titles—Halo 5, Gears of War, you name it—one of the coolest new Xbox adventures at E3 was an indie called Cuphead. A throwback to 16-bit Genesis games like Alien Soldier and Gunstar Heroes with the visuals of a cartoon from the 1930s, Cuphead seemed to be one of the most inventive launches on display. In a video that you can find online, Soulja Boy, who is either decked in full-out Cuphead cosplay or is doing his impersonation of an Easter basket, gushes sillily about the game. I concur; the visuals are fresh and colorful, and I’m excited to engage. My only concern is that, like a certain rapper’s hip-hop career, there may be some style-over-substance issues afoot.
And don’t forget Sony, which revealed a long-rumored remake of Final Fantasy VII and surprised fans of the iconic puzzlers Ico and Shadow of the Colossus by announcing that The Last Guardian is still in development. One of the coolest Sony games at E3 is Horizon: Zero Dawn, which may be the most visually spectacular new choice for any console. Horizon stars a young woman who looks right out of Game of Thrones and is set in a lush, vibrant world that is overrun by machines. Overall it’s an eclectic mix of ideas and influences, and they appear to coalesce beautifully.
On the downside of all this, Nintendo embarrassed itself. The company refused to address the elephant in the room: NX, its next console. Instead, it announced a bunch of half-baked games for its current console, the WiiU, and for the handheld 3DS. Star Fox Zero, developed by Nintendo in partnership with Platinum Games, which is almost certain to be garbage. The level of design looks nearly identical to Starfox 64, and that’s tantamount to terrible. Meanwhile, hardcore gamers were waiting for a new Metroid on WiiU, and instead Nintendo gave us Metroid Prime: Federation Force, a 3DS game that looks to be equal parts ugly and mediocre. The company’s game Mario Maker has won some “best of” E3 awards, but to my mind it’s an insult. Not only do you have to buy the latest spin-off from a franchise that Nintendo has been pimping out since the mid-’80s, but you have to design your own levels before you can play them. For aspiring game designers, this is probably great news. For the rest of us, it’s a middle finger.
Otherwise, it was a great year for E3, with far too many awesome games to mention in this space. It’s disappointing to yet again hear nothing about Half-Life 3, but there’s enough action to ensure that the average gamer will have No-Life for at least another year.