A trail of ruined PRs and journalists dragging their hangovers through the crowds to slump onto the assorted jovial beanbags of the Media room: this is what greets me as I drink in the morning of day three at E3. This expo has a weird pace to it, what with all the jet lag and drinking, and you get to see people you know well going through quite opposing stages of "being". Excitable one minute and then, two hours later, sweaty, broken and clutching greasy snacks with both paws.
This is the point of E3 where journos start to swap schedules and mine each other for information. There is a sea of personal perspective passing that occurs where we try to fathom if we've misjudged our calendars and now need to furiously call our contacts to beg for new appointments, so we don't miss out on hands-on time with whatever's been anointed the hottest game of the event.
E3 is (hopefully) a well-tuned balance of seeing what you need to cover mixed with some cheeky "I just really like the look of that game" appointments. My sneak of the day is getting some hands-on time with Battleborn. As a true Borderlands series fan, I do tend to pay attention to what its makers at Gearbox are getting up to, and their new game looks similar enough to the (mostly) Pandora-set franchise to just pick up and play, but brings in loads of other stuff to make it feel different. There are 25 playable characters, which means you could actually find ones that are a bit outside the usual "well, that one has a bow" sort of tropes such classes usually get stuck in.
Then it's over to Nintendo to try out some of their forthcoming titles. The new Star Fox Zero is actually pretty fun, and this is coming from someone whose brain just doesn't comprehend flying games. Like, at all, to the point where it's borderline embarrassing to watch me play something a small child could master. This Star Fox uses the Wii U's GamePad and the TV in tandem in an interesting way: your eyes flick between the two depending on what you're doing, and the controller's small screen really helps with the tricky business of aiming while trying to pilot a bloody great space fighter thing. And when you're clearly 3D cognitively deficient, like myself, this represents a winning set-up.
The other Nintendo game I get to play, and come away from really rating (again), is Super Mario Maker. I first got my hands on this a while back, before it was "Super", and was impressed then, and my enthusiasm for it hasn't waned in the slightest. There is something incredibly exciting about being able to make really professional-looking Mario levels, and not just sad ones you show to your friends, scrawled on the back of tea-stained envelopes.
Maker allows you "skin" the levels you make to resemble a variety of previous Mario series titles. I guess it taps into that arrogance inside us all, where we secretly think we could do a better job than game designers, even though so few of us have any experience in the field. Discounting those old envelopes, of course, but they probably don't count, save for adding 10 points to your lifetime lameness score.
The afternoon presented the opportunity to visit Ubisoft and get a feel for their new IP, For Honor. It looks like it's got potential, but with the stinging reminder of Ryse in my mind, the last high-profile game (I can immediately think of) to feature photo-real swordplay and all the resulting viscera, I went into it knowing that first impressions of sunny optimism can quickly enough begin stinking of shit.
It turns out that For Honor is pretty tough, as combat goes. You are constantly blocking and countering attacks, which doesn't sound too complicated – but you have to factor in attack directions as well. It's like Just Dance with sharp and pointy things, I suppose. And while it's not too taxing to get your head around the one-on-one fights – in fact, these situations can make you feel just a bit badass – heading into the arena tells a different story. Here, combat is part capture the flag, part hack and slash (at the ground-level grunts), but you must also deal with hardier enemies requiring the more complicated fighting techniques. So, you have to switch from button mashing to some very tactical, quick-response gameplay.
What doesn't help you at all though, is the fact that all the enemies look pretty similar. I suppose that makes sense, given they're all part of the same army, but it becomes disorientating, and the switching of combat styles with no warning feels awkward at best (and more often simply annoying, if I'm being entirely honest). The experience is much like being Kesha's personal antibacterial hand-gel distributer: never-ending, and ultimately you feel as if your efforts are entirely pointless.
Next, I get some time with Ghost Recon Wildlands, which as an open-world-style Tom Clancy game looks kinda cool. With a solo campaign and four-player co-op available, it could be the most fun to take on missions as part of an elite unit. That will rely on finding four capable friends though, as it is challenging, and you just know there'll always be that one twat in your squad who ruins an otherwise perfect stealth campaign.
Assassin's Creed Syndicate is exactly how you imagine it, even down to the drama-school (read: overplayed) "London" accents. I did bring this up with one of the chaps doing the demo but he assured me, even though I am a Londoner, that these accents were perfectly accurate. Me, I'm not really sure Danny Dyer-style intonation is truly representative of all of London (and, speaking of said heroic slag). That said, Assassin's Creed meets The Football Factory could be hilarious. Throwing pint glasses as a distraction technique for avoiding guards, or chucking handfuls of crumbled-to-dust pork scratchings into their eyes to temporarily blind them? Sign me up. And just imagine Our Danny trying to be stealthy. He would not have it, the little tinker. "Fuck being quiet, kick that muppet in the nuts, he's a right toff wanker," and so forth. It certainly has a colloquial essence about it that you might say's been missing from the AC series to date.
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