What You Can Expect From E3… Sort Of.

10 Jun

If you take an even amoeba-sized interest in gaming, you will be aware that today the biggest-gaming-event-in-the-world-that-actually-isn’t – E3 – kicks off in the City of Angels at its regular haunt of the Los Angeles Convention Centre. All the movers & shakers, hardware manufacturers, publishers, devs, press and major players (except the ones that matter – us) will be there in force and as always there has been rampant speculation about what might be unveiled. The internet has been awash with rumours, playground mudslinging between hardcore fans of both Microsoft and Sony, whilst Nintendo sits in the corner looking dejected wondering why it keeps getting picked on and has no friends.

There has been plenty (to put it mildly) written about Microsoft’s Xbox One reveal. It was a bit like watching a baby being born two months premature, hearing it splutter and wail itself into life, only to then be laid up in an incubator ever since, where information from staff in the know was all very vague yet brought seeming comfort to most mainstream gaming press and Joe Public. The concerned have been given answers yet have actually been told very little so as not to cause alarm and panic. The way they’ve handled the outcry over their DRM policy is evidence of this.

Microsoft have communicated their message and their product in a way that has been nothing sort of tragic. Their public image would probably have benefitted more if Don Mattrick had walked on stage, vomited some Alphabetti Spaghetti on to a silver platter and told us to work it out for ourselves.

In a way you have to feel sorry for Microsoft. They’re like the high school jock who was really good at sports, incredibly smart, always handed his homework in on time and got great grades. But the thing is he actually had few friends despite his seeming popularity, and it turns out he spied on the girl next door from across the street. As he got older he became like the kid in American Beauty who films everything (including not just girls from the house opposite but in this case the entire family), yet when asked about why he does it he denied all knowledge. Eventually he came clean, saying he did it because it’s beautiful. Amazingly over 20 million people believed him.

This is what Microsoft need to clear up, despite their recent statements denying that Kinect is a robotic leering eyeball perving on your missus when you’re not looking. It is a worry that many are concerned about. Microsoft’s denials have been undermined somewhat by the recent “revelations” regarding the NSA and their access – through a computer system known as PRISM – to everyone’s personal data on servers run by Apple, Google, Verizon and Facebook etc. The technology exists and the story confirms what most insightful people already knew. We’re being watched and there is nothing we can do about it. It has been this way for years and nothing will change that.

If I was still unsure about whether to buy an Xbox One, I would obviously prefer it if I wasn’t being watched constantly and having my heartrate monitored. The simple fact is, I used to be an Xbox Live subscriber. I got rid of my Xbox not because of the proliferation of adverts trying to sell me Sky TV or Zune (as annoying as they were), but mainly because of the lack of games and my decision to switch to PC. Halo 4’s announcement was not enough to stop me selling it because, well, because it’s Halo, a series that to me represents gaming succumbing to being designed by committee. It might as well be called “Monototron: Wombat Devolved” it’s so mindnumbing.

I know many will disgaree with this but for me, based on what I’ve seen of the most recent instalment, Halo has almost become a parody of itself and of gaming in general. Say the main character’s name out loud. Master. Chief. Maybe I’m becoming grumpy and cynical as I get older, but that’s a name so lacking in imagination it makes me wish he’d been called Nigel instead.

I honestly don’t know what to expect from Microsoft’s E3 as they have given so little away regarding games, other than that they’ll be showing off twenty of them. I know I won’t be owning an Xbox One in the near future, but I will be watching because if anything, I want to see if Microsoft can haul themselves out of the public relations quagmire they currently inhabit. Then the attention shall switch to Sony.

Sony are currently the darlings of the industry. They can seemingly do no wrong. After all, the PlayStation 4, according to lead hardware architect Mark Cerny, is “supercharged” and has GDDR5 RAM in it. As soon as it was announed that PS4 housed all that RAM, most of the gaming community ejaculated in unison and their decision regarding which console to buy was made.

We actually know less about PS4 now as we do the Xbone (is it “ex-bone”?) so some caution should be exercised. We haven’t seen the machine (not like that really matters), and most of the games Sony demoed at the reveal event in February weren’t really that spectacular. Killzone Shadowfall looked nice… and not much much else. Drive Club…er…Infamous… nope. The only imminent PS4 game that I would safely describe as a killer app is Planetside 2 – except I’ve been playing it for seven months already on my PC. It’s the only next-gen console game that I would describe as truly next generation.

I do hope that Sony have been holding back the goodies for their E3 press conference. An Uncharted 4 announcement would make the charming, good looking mass-murderer in me squeal with delight, however, Sony have been very quiet on their policy regarding used games. So far they have taken the seemingly brilliant step of letting Microsoft take the brunt of people’s anger. One might hope they will have learned from Microsoft’s PR car crash and not adopt a similar strategy. But, as is becoming seemingly apparent, publishers hold all the power. My bet is that Sony cannot afford not to have similar policies in place, or else they’ll just watch publishers left, right and centre pack their bags and get into bed with Microsoft.

It would appear inevitable that Sony will cave to publisher demands, but were they not to it would send out an almightily defiant message: that Sony are about the consumer not the publisher. Were they to do this it would put them in gamers’ good books for sure guaranteeing sales, but there is one problem. There’s no chance of it happening. You’d know gaming had reached an all time low when Jack Tretton walks on stage with a copy of Crank in his hand, slips the disc into one PS4, plays for five minutes, ejects it and slides it into another PS4 as if it was something to brag about.

The only thing we can do regarding this years E3 is wait and see. If you’d asked me a month ago who I thought might “win” E3 I would have said Sony. Now I’m not so sure. I just don’t care enough about speculation and rumour to get all wound up about it when I’d rather just wait, see it all for myself and draw my own conclusions.

One thing I will say as I don’t want to completely ignore them: keep an eye on Nintendo. I have a sneaky feeling they’re going to pull a rabbit out of the hat. Don’t ask me why, it’s just a gut feeling. We will finally see what Nintendo have had up their sleeves and been reluctant to show. If anything it’s a combination of two things.

Firstly, I hope that Retro unveil a new Metroid (preferably first-person – the Gamepad has too much potential as a 360-degree scanner for them not to do so) and secondly, I cannot wait to see what Nintendo do with Mario and an extra screen. Very exciting times. Whether that and the rest of what they unveil will be enough to give Wii U a much needed firecracker up the arse I couldn’t say. Mainly because E3 hasn’t started.

Needless to say, I cannot wait for it all to kick off. All we can do, however, is sit back, wait, watch, listen and make our own minds up and then buy accordingly, and not condemn others for their differing purchase. Enjoy the show!

Twitter: @_Heisenbird_

Email: heisenbird@hotmail.com

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