Staff Round Table: Our Thoughts on E3 2011

E3 2011 has come and passed. There were a lot games as well as some new hardware to look at. Read on to see what we thought of this year’s E3 and the announcements that were made.

Tyler Lee

This was definitely an interesting E3. There were certainly a lot of things announced that were expected. However there were also plenty of surprises and unexpectedness.

The 3rd party developers gave impressive conferences, such as Ubisoft with such great titles as Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, the next Assassin’s Creed, and the upcoming guitarist trainer video game Rocksmith (one of my personal favorite announcements).

I wasn’t too surprised by how lackluster Microsoft’s conference was. I assumed they would discuss several upcoming things for Kinect and not much else, however, I’m a little surprised that they didn’t announce anything on their next console or even an expected handheld.

Sony showed some surprises by unveiling the unexpectedly LOW price of the PS Vita and whole plethora of developers ready to shell out games for them. It seems, however, that Nintendo may have giving us just as much as (if not more than) Sony when they showed off their next (and surprisingly unexpected) console design, the Wii U (I hate that name). The new system looks innovative, fun, and a step in the right direction. The Wii U special control was one of my favorite announcements, along with the showing of several great games like Ninja Gaiden 3, Tekken, and Ghost Recon that will be available for the new system.

In my opinion, Nintendo took the show, with the announcement of the Wii U and the extremely tasty lineup for the 3DS, with Sony right on their coattails with their showings of several great games on the way and the true introduction of the PS Vita.

Catherine Cai

I don’t think there was really a “winner” this year since nobody really blew anybody else out of the water. I’d give Sony and Nintendo for having the two best conferences.

I thought Sony did a really good job handling the PSN issue. They didn’t play around the issue or simply ignore it. They brought it up right at the beginning of the conference, apologized, and showed that they were going to do everything they possibly could to win their customers’ confidence back. Sony did a good job of getting through their lineup since they had so many games to talk about, but I was a little disappointed that they only showed trailers for most of their games. I was surprised that they were showcasing so many games with the Move since the Move really hasn’t done well in the market and really doesn’t “wow” with motion control. The PS Vita also doesn’t look like a handheld that’s really mindblowing. I was impressed with the prices ($250 wifi, $300 3G) and with the graphic performance, since the new Uncharted on PS Vita has the best graphics I’ve ever seen on a handheld. I’m not exactly thrilled that 3G service is going to be AT&T exclusive, although they could have done worse with a smaller service provider.

Uncharted: Golden Abyss on Vita

Nintendo’s conference didn’t exactly impress me with their line up of games for the 3DS. I felt that they were re-hashing a lot of their old hits onto the 3DS, which is why I think Reggie Fils-Aime had to hit on the “completely new, started from scratch” line again and again for almost every title (sorry Greg). However, they had great pacing, and they were able to keep everyone in the dark about the name of their new console. Wii U isn’t the greatest name for a console, but the console itself is a very impressive idea and it’s probably why I’ve rated them so highly. The Wii U combines hardcore gaming with casual gaming all into one console. I was a bit iffy about the Wii U at first, but now I’m pretty excited. I would love to be able to play a video game on the TV and on the controller itself. I could take it anywhere within range with me… into my room if I feel lazy, into the kitchen, into the bathroom… you get the idea. Nintendo’s always bringing innovation with their consoles and the Wii U is what we got. The only concerns I have are with how the wireless is going to function, how the multiplayer is going to work, and what the initial price of the console is going to be. However, I think those will all be addressed in due time.

EA also did pretty well in their conference. I really liked that they brought their best to their conference, showcased them with extensive gameplay, and were done in an hour. Very impressive line up of games.

Microsoft was a bit wishy washy in my book. They had a lot of great games to work with, but didn’t carry through. They started off really strong with Modern Warfare 3 and then ended it strong with Halo 4, but towards the last half of their conference, they started presenting games that I didn’t really think were appropriate for the conference. (Disney… really?)

Absolute bottom of the barrel conference for me was Ubisoft. They essentially did the opposite of what EA did. They brought in any and every game they could into their lineup, dragging on their conference. The only thing I really was waiting for was the new Assassin’s Creed, and Revelations certainly was no revelation. The gameplay showcase was short and didn’t show anything new in the gameplay, which isn’t a bad thing because Assassin’s Creed’s style of gameplay is fun… still it was a little disappointing after a long conference that was painful to watch. They needed Mr. Caffeine to keep everyone’s attention… which really is saying something considering he was the most awkward host to pick for a formal conference. Then again, Ubisoft seemed to be trying to get E3 featured on Comedy Central instead of Spike.

Jay Krieger

I have mixed feelings about this year’s E3, as I wasn’t completely surprised or enthusiastic about the announcements at the big three’s press conferences though was pleased by a few game trailers and gameplay that was shown for several games that I’ve been keen to play.  Finally seeing footage and trailers for Hitman: Absolution, Aliens: Colonial Marines, the new PSP Vita in action, Elder Scrolls 5: Skyrim and the longley rumored HaloCombat Evolved Remake really put a smile on my face.  Aliens: Colonial Marines showed off a cinematic trailer and while it doesn’t elaborate on the game it does confirm that this game is in fact still coming out and is not dead, which seemed the case for the last few years.  Though, what stole the show for me was seeing Skyrim gameplay and how far the in game graphics and environments have come sense its predecessor Oblivion.  While I’m still skeptical about duel wielding, seems a little halo 2ish to me, the combat system looks revamped and as I spent nearly 80 hours with Oblivion, saying I’m excited for Skyrim would be an understatement.

Skyrim Screenshot

The two announcements that I could really care less about were that of, Halo 4 and Nintendo’s newest console the Wii U.  Some of my fondest video game moments were that of playing Halo: Combat Evolved as well as Halo 2 as a kid, though the later games I felt was not only huge disappointments but ultimately more of the same without any real evolution of gameplay.  As for the new console announcement I think the Wii was a disaster of a console as they created innovative technology and over the course of five years failed to produce enough software that would warrant a purchase in my opinion.  From the short trailer of the new system its apparent that there will be another sports game that takes advantage of its motion technology, along with a new Mario game.

Abel Girmay

This year’s E3 has one of the weakest showings in recent memory. For me, E3 is all about the unknown. The anticipation of what could be and the shock of what is makes or breaks the show. In this respect, E3 2011 was a failure. All of the biggest games of the show were all known quantities, and there were no big announcements; more clarifications (PSVita name and price, Wii U name and price, etc). That being said, there were some great games shown. First though, lets recap the press conferences. Microsoft (MS) kicked things off with their show on Monday morning. The whole event was more or less a bore as MS chose to focus almost exclusively on Kinect. They made an honest and earnest effort to make Kinect appeal to core gamers, but the functionality was ultimately nothing that you couldn’t already do (and do better) with a standard controller. I have to say though, the voice commands in Mass Effect 3 looked really cool, but maybe that’s just because I’m a huge Mass Effect fan. Also, I don’t see why that feature has to be tied exclusively to Kinect. Tom Clancy EndWar proved that you can do good voice control with a standard Bluetooth or Xbox Live headset. The confirmation of the Halo Anniversary was nice, though that had been rumored at so hard it might as well of already been announced. And what can be said about Halo 4. Actually nothing, since they said nothing about the game other than it exists. A fact we already knew about hours before the show thanks to a coding error on the Xbox website.

Mass Effect 3 Screenshot

The next conference was EA, continuing this E3’s theme of solid, but nothing surprising. Insomniac’s new multiplatform IP Overstrike was announced, but nothing playable was shown. Ubisoft showed Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Assassins Creed Revelations, and Far Cry 3. That is all I’ll say about them; Mr. Caffeine still haunts my dreams. Sony ended Monday’s showing with a solid line-up of first party titles such as Resistance 3 and Uncharted 3, the NGP was named PSVita, and everyone still hates AT&T. Sly Cooper 4 was a nice touch, but with a new developer at the helm my enthusiasm has been kept in check. Nintendo’s Tuesday morning conference was a bit of a saving grace. Though no footage was shown, a new Smash Bros. game announcement is always welcome, and the 3DS library is shaping up nicely with games like Starfox 64 3D, Mario Kart, and Kid Icarus: Uprising. The real news though was Wii U. Just seeing the fabled controller in action was exciting enough; everyone from journalists’ to developers’ minds went nuts with the amount of crazy gameplay ideas that you can do with the extra screen. The caveat that people seem to forget though is that the system is limited to one screen-controller per console. It is a shame, but not a deal breaker by any means. The rest of E3 seemed to just go on from there. With no new IPs or crazy announcements E3 2011 lacked the same excitement as previous years, thankfully not games to be excited about though.

Greg Wampler

There certainly was a lot of announcements at this year’s E3. A lot of them, however, were just further details on already known information, games and hardware. I don’t think this year’s E3 compared to last year’s but it was still pretty good.

Sony definitely had the most impressive surprises, what with Sly 4 announced and PS Vita’s low price, but Nintendo, I think, showed why they are king of innovation and surprises. Even though their controller was basically no different than what was being rumored, they definitely showed what the controller can do and it was a lot more impressive than what mine and other journalists could think up. Let’s not even mention the giddiness that was brought out by the Zelda HD demo. Oh, and the awesome amount of Nintendo-developed games coming to 3DS this year! However, it was kind of scary to see no new third party software for the handheld.

Zelda HD Wii U Demo Screenshot

Microsoft’s conference was another bore fest, and although they seem to be pushing Kinect more for “hardcore” games, they seem to still be going more casual and kid-friendly. Don’t get me wrong, I have kids and they would love the Sesame Street game, but what about their core audience? They seem to be making the same mistake Nintendo did, except Nintendo at least told us all that they wanted to widen the market.

As for the other two conferences and what was shown on the show floor the rest of E3, there were so many games to even remember them all. Games like Skyrim, Skyward Sword, Uncharted 3 and even a few new Kirby games for Nintendo DS (why not 3DS Nintendo?) and Wii hit a certain chord with gamers. I think these along with all the games my staff members named in conjunction with the hardware shown off really made this E3 something to remember.

Those are our thoughts on E3 2011. What did you think about this year’s E3? Do you agree or disagree with anything we have said? Let us know in the comments below!

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