Prior to this year’s E3 actually taking place, there were some questions as to how the convention will be affected with top-tier publishers such as EA, Activision, and Konami pulling out of reserving booth space on the show floor. The main focus of speculation was that we may be heading back to an era of E3 somewhat losing its importance. Despite the visible excess booth space that went unused on the floor, and lower attendance, the show went on and as always featured lots of upcoming titles for attendees to get their hands on and preview.
The first day of the show is always an overload, with no idea of what games can be played where a lot of time is spent wandering around checking out the layout of the show floors. To start the day off I decided to try out Sony’s PlayStation VR, with a playthrough of Rez Infinite. After having to point out that the game was running in cinematic mode (which I believe the person that demoed it before me didn’t even realize!) the staffer who ran the demo finally managed to figure out, and I jumped into the futuristic and manic world of Rez. While it’s certainly an interesting way to play the game, it’s not necessarily a good showcase for VR, as there’s not much realism to the world. I also did experience some motion sickness, for the first time on PS VR, during a boss chase encounter.
Next up was a visit to the Atlus and Sega booth, who for the first time had their own combined booth at the show. Sega was only showing off one title, which was Yakuza 0, a prequel in the series taking place in the 1980s. In the afternoon the booth held a stage show featuring an appearance by series creator, Toshihiro Nagoshi. The 15-minute stage show consisted of an interview which provided a lot of insight into what’s new and different about the game. You can take control of two characters; either the series’ level-headed protagonist Kiryu or hothead Majima. One of my main complaints about the Yakuza series is that the combat can get a bit repetitive considering that the games take a long time to complete. New to the series are different fighting styles, which you can switch off on the fly with the D-pad. And since the game is set in the 1980s, Sega is featuring some of its games from that area which will be playable within the arcades in the game’s area, such as Space Harrier and Outrun. I got to play a demo of the game, and while only got a sense of it through side missions and mini-games, it seems that the title still retains the quirky humor that the series is known for. Yakuza 0 will be releasing in early 2017.
After the end of the show’s first day, Microsoft holds its annual international media reception, which is a great opportunity to try out the company’s titles without the hustle and bustle that normally goes on. A fairly laid back affair with food and drinks provided, the Xbox booth is also host to a lot of developers that are available for interviews.
Here I tried out a range of title on offer, starting off with Forza Horizon 3, the latest entry in the casual racer. This time you’re cruising through Australia, and the demo track provided a range of environments from forests to tropical beaches. Utilizing the support for HDR on the Xbox One S, the environments look beautiful and you really feel immersed as you’re driving around.
We also spent some time with Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night, the Kickstarted spiritual successor to Castlevania. Developer Koji Igarashi was on hand and chatted with attendees about their thoughts on the title. There is nothing bad to report as Bloodstained feels like a return to form for Iga, and it feels familiar yet different at the same time. Gameplay feels closely linked to Symphony of the Night, which will be great news for fans of that game, and the cel-shaded art style really brings the whole package together.
The much anticipated platformer Cuphead was also on display, and gave a look at some of the game’s platforming stages. Last year demos were only limited to boss fights, which were incredibly difficult, and I can report that not much has changed with the actual stages themselves. Cuphead will definitely provide a challenge once it finally releases.
I closed off the show with a look at Dead Rising 4, the title that had been leaked but intended to be revealed during the E3 press conference. It seems like a return to form for the series, bringing back original character Frank West and once again featuring camera mechanics, which is a welcome change as the previous games felt a bit lacking without that aspect. Graphically the game leaves a bit to be desired but it’s understandable considering the amount of enemies on screen, and I’m still unsure if we needed yet another Dead Rising game, but perhaps fans of the series feel differently on this one.