E3 2013

E3 2013

Electronic Entertainment expo

The next generation of gaming is upon us. Despite industry assurance that the next generation of consoles would not hit the market until 2015, it seems that fierce competition between Sony, Microsoft and, to a smaller degree, Nintendo, have pushed that date forward a year.

Nintendo launched their version of a next-generation console last year with the Wii U. However, many agree that specification-wise this system is not a part of the next generation of consoles but is in fact a late addition to our current one. Nintendo acknowledged this, opting for a pre-made video at E3 instead of the massive press conferences prepared by other companies. In doing so Nintendo have essentially taken themselves out of the war and left Microsoft and Sony to battle it out … and boy have they been doing that.

Sony first announced the PlayStation 4 in February. This impressive conference saw many game demos and specifications but no physical console. Microsoft announced their new console – the Xbox One – in May. Microsoft’s conference contained little game information and instead demonstrated the console as more of an all-round entertainment unit than a gaming console.

After these two companies’ conferences, rumours and speculation abounded. Now, after E3 and the subsequent fallout, many of these questions have been answered. This is how the consoles currently stand.

I have decided not to include any technical specifications in these outlines for a number of reasons. Firstly, few people will understand their significance. Secondly, the consoles’ specifications are ridiculously similar. And finally, I agree with Microsoft executive Albert Penello, who recently argued that the comparison of specs is “meaningless” because in the end the real determination of specs is which console allows you to "to play great games and have great experiences.” Ultimately, both of these consoles are capable of playing the same games to the same level of quality.

PlayStation 4: $649 NZD

In many ways the PlayStation 4 is just a gruntier PlayStation 3. The real differences in the PlayStation 4 are going to come from the new experience Sony is trying to create with their latest console.

From what has been demonstrated of the PS4 user interface it looks in many ways like the current Xbox 360 UI. It seems to have moved away from the tab system the PS3 currently has and instead has gone for a large, block-based aesthetic, in which an assortment of cubes demonstrate applications or folders. From what has been shown it seems a lot more user-friendly than the current UI, which can be restrictive.

Last year Sony bought cloud service Gaikai and now it is blatantly apparent why. The PlayStation has a big emphasis on cloud-based services, which offer gamers access to an incredibly easy and fluid way to share and access information. Sony has bragged that this service will allow PS4 users to stream their games on a PlayStation Vita with this service.

The PS4’s controller, the Dualshock 5, clearly demonstrates this new emphasis on cloud services with its share button, which will allow gamers to instantly upload and share gameplay footage with their friends and the whole world. Many consider the current Dualshock 4 inferior to the Xbox controller, but the Dualshock 5 seems to have a sleeker design with better-designed triggers that could level the playing field.

Xbox One: $749 NZD

Microsoft’s introduction of the Xbox One may go down in gaming history as the greatest fuck-up of all time. The console itself looks amazing, the UI superb and the controller even better. Here is where they went wrong:

- At their first conference they neglected games, which is the fastest way to piss off gamers – their biggest market.
- They announced that the console would be DRM, essentially meaning that it always needs to be connected to the Internet.
- All Xbox One games were announced to be code-based, meaning that they were restricting how people could share their games and stopping them from selling them altogether.
- Every single Xbox One will be bundled with a Kinect, an accessory which many consider a dismal failure.
- The always-online function, combined with the Kinect, encouraged rumours of Microsoft being able to listen and watch people at all times.

Essentially Microsoft made themselves seem like a money-hungry corporation that didn’t give two shits about gamers. This caused many gamers to revolt by preordering the PS4 instead. The low preorder sales caused Microsoft to go back on a few of its decisions.

The Xbox One will no longer require constant connectivity. Instead, you will only ever have to have your console connected to the internet during initial set-up. Microsoft has also done away with any code-based games, meaning that you will be able to share and sell your games just as you can with the Xbox 360. This change of heart has been humorously nicknamed “the Xbox 180.”

The Games

Though many of these issues will sway consumers in their decision regarding what console to buy, historically the console itself has been inconsequential in the sale of consoles because consoles don’t sell consoles – games do! So which company has the games to back up its console?

Both consoles will have access to all of the big upcoming third-party titles, such as Call of Duty: Ghosts, Watch Dogs, Battlefield 4 and Assassins Creed 4: Black Flag, at launch. So it’s really going to be first-party titles which will sell these consoles. Again, each console has bragged that they have 20 first-party exclusives coming out, so whose games are better? Here are the stand-out first-party titles from E3.

Sony is really using the strength of existing franchises to sell their console. At E3 their biggest games were Killzone: Shadow Fall and Infamous: Second Son, both games based on existing franchises.

Killzone: Shadow Fall seems to have stepped up the quality in a series known as a B-grade first-person shooter. The graphics, enemies and gameplay shown at E3 looked like gigantic leaps forward for the company. The multiplayer in particular looked fast-paced and brutal (just the way we like it).

Infamous: Second Son looks like another departure from its roots. The game has a new protagonist, voiced by Troy Baker (Joel in The Last of Us), who employs fire as his superpower instead of the usual electricity. The gameplay samples shown at E3 look like this series has also been taken to a whole new level.

One of Sony’s new IPs is The Order: 1886 from Ready at Dawn, developers of God of War. Not much is known about The Order: 1886 gameplay-wise, but the studio and trailer indicate it may well be a third-person shooter. The game is based in the Victorian era in an alternate history, where a group named the Order have pushed the state of technology to combat an unknown threat.

Despite the bad press Microsoft has received post-E3, they absolutely killed it in the games department.

Quantum Break is being developed by Remedy, developers of Alan Wake. The game deals with the manipulation of time, though in what way specifically is still not clear. Though little is known about the gameplay, the premise has the potential to offer some innovative new gameplay.

Project Spark is a game being developed internally by Microsoft Game Studios. It appears to be equal parts game and game creator. From the demos at E3 the game seems to offer players an unprecedented amount of control when creating landscapes, AI and gameplay. It seems like an exponential evolution of Sony’s Little Big Planet franchise.

The real triumph of Microsoft’s game demonstrations, however, was Respawn Entertainment’s new multiplayer first person shooter Titanfall. This game was directed by the creators of Call of Duty, and it shows. The game is multiplayer only, but a narrative is tied into the epic battles in which you participate. The game has you fighting both as a foot soldier and as an epic Mech warrior. Both fighting modes seem to have distinct styles, the foot solider being fast and lithe, the Mech destructive and durable.

This new generation has set the gaming industry on fire. If one thing is certain from everything so far, it’s that the next few years are going to be full of great games.
This article first appeared in Issue 14, 2013.
Posted 6:05pm Sunday 7th July 2013 by Baz Macdonald.