E3 2012: Day 0 Wrap-Up

(Editor’s Note: It’s hard to dispute that Sony and Ubisoft were the clear winners of the day, so my wrap-up will focus on them due to time constraints)

Even though Ubisoft’s conference was at a relatively cozy setting, it felt more packed than Sony’s mega-confernece. The sidewalk was spilled-over with people and the lobby was scorching hot. Ubisoft were nice enough to provide free bottled water, drinks and soda to cool everyone down. Once inside the auditorium, things went from hectic to awe-inspiring, begging with the conference’s historic and gorgeous setting, The Los Angeles Theatre.

Before the show, a set of green lasers would “scan the crowd” and show a pre-written stats and photos of well-known journalists in attendance on screen. It was a little cheesy, but it did set the high-tech feeling of the conference nicely. The conference began with a bang, literally, as Flo Rida took the stage with some beautiful dancers and introduced Just Dance 4. I’m not a Flo Rida fan (at all), but it’s hard to say it didn’t get the crowd pumped.

Host Aisha Tyler took the stage to begin the festivies, promptly showing off Far Cry 3, which looks absolutely fantastic. I’ve never been too into the series, but what they showed off looked absolutely incredible. The sequence featured protagonist Jason Brody entering the village of the sadistic Vaas. In a chilling and effective manner, Vaas taunts Jason on TV screens throughout the structures before finally confronting him. The story looks really deep and Vaas one of the most evil villains to ever grace a game.

Next up was Rayman Legends. I was incredibly relieved to find that the game, while rendered in 3D, would take place entirely on a 2D play. While nothing can top Origins’ beautiful hand-drawn visuals, the game looks absolutely fantastic. The gameplay looks largely the same as Origins, but features some nifty Wii-U exclusive features, including being able to rid levels of hazards on the screen, while your comrade rushes through the stage. Rayman Origins was one of the top titles last year, so I love that they are sticking with the basic style for the latest iteration and not *shudderes* Rabbids.

Wrapping up the conference was one of the most unexpected and incredible debuts of the day, Watch Dogs. Not much is yet known about this title, but it seems absolutely fantastic. You play as a “Watch Dog” who can scan anybodies “digital shadow” and instantly find out anything about them. Additionally, you can manipulate cameras, stop lights, cell phones and pretty much anything else hooked up the “the grid”. It’s truly like nothing we’ve seen before in a game and even seems like a great movie idea (closest thing it reminded of was The Matrix with Swordfish) and reflective of the worries of our times. If executed correctly, this could be a big deal.

After Ubisoft, us important people boarded the shuttle Sony and the madness began. First off, a big props to Sony for having a giant food cart outdoor pinic area from some top food carts in the area. Oh yeah, and it was absolutely free. It was a nice, fun atmosphere — at least until the announcement was made that the doors to the colosseum were opening at a mad dash to the doors begun. Eventually, everyone got settled down and we witnessed a surprisingly impressive press conference.

Game after game was impressive, with only a few missteps. Quantic Dream’s Beyond looks to be one of the more realistic looking games yet in terms of movement and facial expressions. The ever-adorable Ellen Page is lending her likeness and voice to it. She didn’t show up, but we still love her.

The only misstep seemed to be WonderBook. While the technology is nifty and at times seemed promising, it was a bit to reminiscent of flops like Eye of Judgement for my taste. Not helping things was the fact that during the demo, the demoer was having issues getting it to recognize her perfectly-reasonable inputs. Hopefully they can get the kinks worked out, but even then, I can’t see WonderBook having appeal past children.

Not much attention was given to the Vita, which was a bit concerning. I still think it’s a strong console and it was just recently launched, but having no major revelations for it could certainly hurt it. Using it as a second screen, ala WiiU, should be a great feature to compete with Nintendo’s console if done right, however.

God of War Ascension looked to be the most brutal and epic God of War yet — and this is coming from someone who has always been lukewarm on the series. When the demoer climbed that kraken, jumping tentacle to tentacle, the audience’s jaws collectively dropped. What a good way to presumably send-off the series on PS3.

Many of us assumed the conference had to end with the epic-ness that was GoW Ascension — after all how do you top its sheer spectacle  — yet The Last of Us came out of the darkness and proved us all wrong. Bringing to mind The Road, The Last of Us takes place in a post-apocolyptic world where most survivors are part of roaming nomadic gangs. A man and girl survivor have banded together in an honest attempt to survive in the fallen world. What a beautiful, brutal game. Attacks are executed with a rawness that has yet to be seen in a game. Shootouts are executed so well that it felt that you were watched a scripted film at times. We expected this title to be strong, but not this strong. If the rest of the game lives up to the demo, we may have witnessed something important tonight.

After Sony’s conference, everybody quickly filled out of the coliseum to get back to their hotels. After all, we need all the rest we can get — E3 has yet to even begin.