Uhh… I’m about to do this. Yeah. Oh, where have my standards gone…
Whilst E3 2016 was a safe year for the industry – mostly because we’re still a good few months away from Sony and Nintendo spilling the beans on their new consoles – I have to admit that I actually wasn’t that disappointed with E3 this year. Sure, it was safe and a little predictable but for the most part, it was better than it had any right to be considering the terrible timing involved (particularly with a terror attack not twenty-four hours before it kicked off. Eesh…).
But I like to complain, and I’ve picked out five games from E3 2016 that just made me sink my head into my hands. I think we know what’s coming… so let me get right into it.
5. DAYS GONE (SIE BEND STUDIO)
Days Gone was one of the most bizarre reveals. The game is very pretty and striking, to be sure, but the problem with it is like most people – we sat there, watching, all saying the same thing; “Is this a sequel to The Last of Us?” To which the answer is no – though you can’t quite shake off the feeling maybe, possibly, just perhaps someone somewhere intended it to be, ultimately having to switch the Infected for your average, run-of-the-mill zombie.
It’s never good when your reveal is making you think of Naughty Dog’s seminal horror title, but worse when your lead character is a biker with more than a passing referential nod towards “Ride to Hell: Retribution”, a game I and the world at large would like to forget. That was probably a mistake, SIE Bend Studio.
But the real problem with Days Gone is that it looks so utterly generic; when put up against Dead Rising 4 – bringing Sexy Frank – and even Horizon: Zero Dawn, it just seems like a game that is aimed at ticking boxes rather than actually doing anything outrageous or innovative in its own right. It’s a pretty game with lots of zombies… but so was Dying Light! There are countless zombie games which look to be actually trying to do something fresh with one of the most stale formulas in the industry. Days Gone doesn’t look like one of those. No doubt it’ll probably be a good game… but I’m not expecting much.
4. GEARS OF WAR 4 (MICROSOFT)
Look, I’ve made no bones about my dislike of Gears of War in the past. But as I’ve said before – it’s not the gameplay that I hate, rather it’s the in-game story and how in the end I actually felt bad for the Locust and actually pretty annoyed at the convenient and stupid Deus-ex Machina that ultimately concluded the original trilogy. With a better writer and a stronger eye on war being terrible on both sides, it could have been amazing. But it fumbled the ball. So there.
Gears of War 4 however just sailed by. Another flesh-changing viral mutagenic thing happening and the world is in peril again or some such nonsense. Oh dear. Been there, done that. That’s the sad part of Gears 4; it’s trying the same thing hoping for a different outcome, which as we all know is the literal definition of insanity. I wouldn’t even say the game was pretty; it didn’t look that big a step up from Gears 3, and this far along we really are expecting our games to visually blow our collective underpants off. See the new Zelda game. Phwoar.
It’s more of the same set-piece, chest-high cover-based action-oriented bruteathon that we’ve seen done before. And no, I don’t think doing the same thing is a bad idea for a sequel, but after the Gears prequel dissipated like a fart in a Jacuzzi, evidence suggests that the series needs something new and fresh to carry on. As a result, it just looked like more Gears, and most of us are now long over that phase. Heck, even Resident Evil has moved on! Come on Gears, get with the times…
3. POKÉMON GO (NINTENDO)
Okay, this rubbed me up the wrong way for a multitude of reasons.
First up, I have no problem with people enjoying a Pokémon app on their smartphones, or porting those to Sun and Moon. It’s a nice idea, in theory, and more legitimate than the avalanche of hacked ‘Mons that plagued the Black and White era. And that’s awesome – except, two things. One, I have a complete Pokédex, and I’d like an easier way to shift that over to Sun and Moon please. And secondly, running around the real world catching things via my smartphone? Awesome, let me just… oh wait, I’m disabled. I’m afraid I can’t do that Nintendo.
I get what Nintendo is trying to do… it just seems ultimately pointless and extraneous. Gen-6 Pokémon has effectively let everyone catch up; every Pokémon is available across the four games (X/Y/OR/AS), and this year Nintendo has been freely giving away tons of Legendary Pokémon that haven’t been available for years. So knowing that you can get everything… why would I be excited to catch ’em all in real life, in what amounts to lobbing a Pokéball and hoping it catches it. If not – oh look, you can buy Pokéballs. For real world money. Yeah guys, I’m just saying no to this nonsense, it’s a cash-grab and there’s nothing more to it than that.
I had hoped Nintendo would resist the temptation of pointless and expensive apps like this. Guess I was wrong…
2. SEA OF THIEVES (MICROSOFT/RARE)
As a new Rare game, Sea of Thieves should have been the centre of attention. Unsurprisingly, it wasn’t – because it just looked rather underwhelming as a Pirate simulator-come-adventure.
Most have called it “Pewdie-Bait”, a reference to PewDiePie and his usual thing of showcasing quirky, oddball games. It’s not entirely fair, but I see where they are coming from, particularly when they decided the best way to showcase this co-op pirate game was to have a bunch of YouTube “celebrities” team up and play together with no briefing or anything. It was cringe-inducing viewing, and I didn’t see the point.
The naval combat looks kind of cool, but that’s about it. I think the reason this was such a letdown is because it just lacked any real focus or direction – rather like No Man’s Sky, the preliminary marketing paints an open canvas but in doing so lacks a meaningful hook, a sort of precious seed to cultivate. Open sandboxes are fun for a while but you do get bored if there’s no strong goal to strive for. And we’ve also done naval battles – even recently, say hi to UbiSoft!
I just don’t understand it. It’s just “something”; and I expect better from Rare. I’m waffling because oh jeez… I’m going to have to do this, aren’t I?
1. DEATH STRANDING (SONY/KOJIMA PRODUCTIONS)
Look, I struggle to get past that nonsense name that really doesn’t roll off the tongue at all. Death STRANDING?! What the hell does this mean? Why is there an “r” in there? And the “Why?” doesn’t stop at the title. Why the trailer? Why the umbilical cord? Why Norman Reedus? What was with the crabs? What was that teaser saying? Why is Kojima an auteur, a man often utterly incapable of straight-line thought and process?
I had hoped that freed of the shackles of Konami, Kojima would settle down to do something a little simpler and more focused, liberated from the convoluted mire of Metal Gear Solid. Death Stranding’s teaser, sadly, only confirmed my worse fears; freed from the yoke of Konami, the man is going balls-out weirder than ever before, and the last thing Hideo Kojima needs is to get weirder. This was compounded when Kojima himself confirmed that it would be “like Metal Gear Solid” – so the man has moved on, but not moved on, if that makes sense. He’s free from Konami, free from Metal Gear Solid, and his first independent gambit is… an Auteur Action Game in the same vein as Metal Gear Solid.
… as much as I hate Konami, I’m really starting to wonder if Hideo Kojima was part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. It just fell flat for me, a dull thud on the ground, ultimately trampled over by much more interesting fare.
And that’s what didn’t float my boat this E3.
Coming next – my top five games of E3 2016. I think we all know Zelda will be there.