Last week, the gaming industry descended on the Los Angeles Convention Centre to show off their wares, swap war stories and make the wallets of gamers everywhere quiver in fear. E3 2017 was not exactly a banner year for the expo, with precious few of the unexpected announcements and 'mic drop' moments that we've come to cherish. There were, however, more than enough juicy morsels of information to keep lifelong gamers such as myself sated for what promises to be a very long summer.
Microsoft entered E3 2017 as the underdogs. The Xbox One is far from a failure, but it's sales have been dwarfed by those of the PS4, primarily due to Sony's console being more powerful, more affordable at launch and stocked with more compelling first party exclusive games. This year, however, Microsoft conspired to shift the conversation away from games and back towards hardware, an area in which they have always excelled (at least if we choose forget the notorious 'red ring of death' failure rates of the Xbox 360). The confusingly named Xbox One X was, until this week, known by the infinitely cooler name of “Project Scorpio” and it left all but the most die-hard Xbox fanboys feelings more than a little underwhelmed. Which is odd, given that the console itself actually looks pretty remarkable.
Set to ship on November 7 for £450, the console is a genuine behemoth and whilst the price point might put you off, trust me when I say you are getting a lot of bang for your buck. To build a stable gaming PC that powerful would set you back a lot more and it wouldn't look half as sleek and sexy. I won't go into specific details here (specs are dull) but it is comfortably twice the power of the PS4 Pro and in many aspects outperforms even the Nvidia GTX 1080 graphics card, which alone costs more than the Xbox One X. But what does all that extra power actually mean? Not a fat lot really, unless you have a 4K TV that is.
Personally, for what is less of a new console and more of an upgrade, I think it might actually be a little overpowered. Original Xbox One and Xbox One S (remember that one?) owners will probably feel a little duped and like they're getting a lesser experience than One X owners, but I sincerely doubt they would feel jealous enough to fork out another £450 for a better running, sharper version of the same thing. Frankly, I think it's the latest in a long line of misfires from Microsoft. I honestly think they should have taken a 'shit or get off the pot approach' and just called it a new console that happened to be backwards compatible. That's my two cents anyway.
As for the games? Sea of Thieves from the legendary British developers Rare looks genuinely unique. An MMO pirate game involving epic sea battles, it appears to have turned the best part of Assassins Creed 4 into a whole game and added a ludicrous amount of charm and character. So I'll be having me some of that please! Crackdown 3 was also a big feature, with a trailer starring actor, sportsman and famous gamer Terry Crews. Honestly, however, since the first Crackdown came out more than a decade ago, the open world genre has come so far that it looks almost quaint now in comparison to something like Saints Row 4. There was also another Forza game, which looked beautiful, but will probably just be more of the same, and Ori and the Will of the Wisp, a sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest that I'm very eager to get my greedy paws on.
The Sony press conference was a breakneck event that got off to a shaky start (sound issues abound once again), but felt like more of a cinematic experience than a press conference, complete with dazzling pyrotechnics and live musicians. With no new hardware to show off it was all about the games for Sony and this was a very smart move indeed. They kicked things off with a look at the latest Uncharted game, which began life as a simple add-on for Uncharted 4, but appear to have grown wings in the ensuing months and is now looking like a full-blown spin-off for the series. Uncharted: The Lost Legacy follows the characters of Chloe and Nadine from previous entries in the series, and looks set to be the most ambitious piece of DLC yet released, with many members of the Naughty Dog team putting the game runtime in excess of 10 hours. Speaking of Naughty Dog, there was nothing from them about The Last Of Us 2, which is a shame. Also noticeable by its absence was Hideo Kojima's first post-Metal Gear game, Death Stranding. I imagine we'll see more of those two next year.
Ambitious DLC continued to be shown off with a new piece of content for Horizon: Zero Dawn called The Frozen Wilds, but the real meat of the show kicked off with an extended gameplay trailer of Days Gone, an ambitious zombie open world game from Sony Bend. Whilst it is indeed true that the market (particularly the gaming market) has become saturated with zombie content in recent years, this one actually looks quite special. For one thing the sheer amount of characters on screen at once was impressive to behold, as was the way the character appeared to use the zombies themselves as weapons against his enemies. In essence, it looks a lot like Dead Rising, only with a decent plot and more inventive gameplay mechanics.
Next, we got a glimpse of a new Monster Hunter game from Capcom coming to the PS4 rather tantalisingly called “Monster Hunter World.” This is big news, particularly for Japanese audiences, as the Monster Hunter series is massive in its native Japan and this is the first time (to my knowledge at least) that a game in the series has come to a Sony console. Team Ico then revealed the long-rumoured Shadow of the Colossus remake (it looks great, of course) and we also got a glimpse at Marvel vs Capcom Infinite, Destiny 2 and the new Call of Duty. We then got a rundown of Sony's upcoming PSVR line-up, which you can read about RIGHT HERE as part of my E3 VR coverage.
The Sony conference ended with a solid triple header of Quantic Dream's Detroit: Become Human, the new God of War and Marvel's Spider-Man. Become Human appears to take the classic David Cage formula of choose-your-own-adventure style gameplay to the next level, but I'm not convinced by the story yet. It all seems quite generic to be honest. God of War looks truly spectacular though. Ditching the daft machismo of the series in favour of something more human and mature looks like a very wise move indeed. The game that really got tongues wagging, however, was definitely Spider-Man. What Insomniac (the team behind the Ratchet & Clank games) have done is effectively make an Arkham game out of the Spider-Man franchise. And that's really all they needed to do. Even with the quick time events (is this 2007?) it looked like a potential classic and I'm sure it will sell by the shedload when it launches in 2018.
As has been customary with Nintendo for the last few years, hey decided to forego a traditional press conference once again this year in favour of one of their Nintendo Direct worldwide broadcasts. Nintendo are firing on all cylinders at the moment with the remarkable success of the recently released Nintendo Switch almost completely erasing the memory of the failed (though underrated in my personal opinion) Wii U.
In under 25 minutes, Nintendo delivered game after game after game. Honestly I couldn't give two shakes about ARMS or Splatoon 2, but we got brief glimpses of everything from Xenoblade Chronicles 2 to new Yoshi and Kirby games and even the official announcement of Metroid Prime 4! Pokémon creators Game Freak also slipped in the fact they were currently creating a mainline Pokémon RPG game for the Nintendo Switch (the first time this has ever happened on a home console). We also got a glimpse at the upcoming DLC for The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and the news that Rocket League was coming to the Switch (yay?), but the last few minutes of the spotlight were saved for Mario Odyssey, a game that almost everyone who played it said was their game of E3. I don't know what else to write here. It's 25 minutes and you can watch it yourselves above. If you have even a shred of interest in Nintendo, give it a watch!
It's also worth noting that Nintendo also made their presence felt in a big way during the Ubisoft conference, with Mario and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto joining Ubisoft chief Michel Ancel on stage to announce a game many assumed would be an afterthought, but turned out to be one of the great surprises of the whole expo. Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle is a tactical, turn based strategy game that looks like a cross between a conventional Mario game, XCOM and Pikmin. I want it now, of course, but will only have to wait August 29 to play it.
My winner of E3 then? Hands down Nintendo. Even though there was a lot more to cover with Microsoft and Sony arguably had a more extensive and varied game line-up, Nintendo managed to do more in half an hour for the reputation of the brand than their competitors managed in double or even thrice that amount of time. Disagree with my verdict? I'd be happy to discuss in the comments below.
Benjamin Hiorns is a freelance writer and musician from Kidderminster in the UK.