2015 marks the twentieth year of E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo), this year marks the first time video game publisher Bethesda have held their own press conference.
All the talk beforehand has been centred around questions of whether Bethesda had the clout and gaming library to compete with the bigger name publishers on a stage like E3, based on last night’s press conference, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. Leading up to the start of E3, focus was on Fallout 4 following its pre-E3 announcement, countdown website and initial trailer. Whilst Fallout 4 was clearly the main attraction here, Bethesda delivered a confident press conference that proved they can compete with the likes of Electronic Arts and Ubisoft, presenting a diverse line-up of titles and starting this year’s E3 off with a bang, quite literally.
There is something deeply comforting that in 2015 E3 kicked off with Doom. Doom is a franchise that is synonymous with hardcore gaming, delivering fast-paced twitch shooting and over-the-top gore and violence. In 2015 Doom is something of an anachronism, in an era where games are increasingly cinematic, story-driven and attempting to emulate Hollywood, Doom is unashamedly a video game.
Bethesda’s opening E3 salvo was an extended game-play demonstration of what appeared to be the beginning level of the new Doom title. Although concessions have been made to modern game design, Doom looks to be pleasingly old school and faithful to the franchise.
The demonstration showed the player immediately thrust into a combat situation, taking control of the nameless Doom space marine (who now looks oddly like Master Chief), given a gun and sent to fight the hordes of hell. No tutorial level, no cut scene, just the player, a gun and demons, lots and lots of demons.
The user-interface was refreshingly minimal, featuring little more than a health bar and ammo counter with a simple radial menu for gun selection. At a time when UIs are becoming increasingly cluttered and busy, it is refreshing to see Doom cut back on this on-screen information, really letting the on-screen violence and carnage take centre stage.
Based on what we have seen, the new game looks to be a mixture of Doom 3’s aesthetic combined with the gun-play of Bethesda’s well-received 2014 game Wolfenstein: The New Order albeit a little louder and more far-fetched and bombastic.
All of the fan-favourite weapons are making a return, we saw an utterly devastating shotgun that really deserves the ‘boom-stick’ moniker, a chainsaw that delivered bloody executions and of course we saw a brief glimpse of the legendary BFG.
The highlight of the demonstration was the new melee execution mechanic, eliciting whoops and cheers from the audience. Take an enemy’s health down low enough and they will flash blue, briefly informing the player that they are able to move in and deliver a brutal melee execution, these execution animations were brilliantly inventive and visceral, my favourite being the Super Mario inspired Goomba stomp execution, need I say more?
Doom looks to be shaping up nicely, offering a seemingly robust multi-player suite alongside its single player campaign, though strangely Id software opted to lead their multi-player portion with the announcement of a domination game mode, rather than going with a death-match based sales pitch. Presumably this was done to demonstrate willingness for Doom to evolve and compete with modern shooters, with more game modes meaning perhaps a larger player base and more longevity.
The Doom demonstration culminated with the announcement of a full map customisation editor called Doom Snap-Map a robust map editor that caters to both competitive and cooperative game modes with an emphasis on an intuitive but deep editing system allowing for easy map and game mode customisation. Hopefully this shows Id and Bethesda’s desire to support Doom as a title than can compete in an oversaturated first-person-shooter multi-player landscape. Doom looked great and was a fantastic way to start this year’s E3.
The original Dishonored was a surprise hit in 2012, seemingly coming out of nowhere to out-Thief, Thief and compete with the likes of Bioshock in delivering an engrossing, mature single player first person game. At E3 we discovered that developer Arkane Studios will be releasing a sequel that looks to take place sometime after the original game, with the player playing as returning protagonist Corvo Attano alongside a new female player character who seems to have very different powers to Corvo, including dark monstrous tendrils emanating from her body to assault foes. We do not know whether this means a cooperative campaign or a single player dual-protagonist story, in fact, nothing much was shown of Dishonored 2 and I have to write that, after the brilliant downloadable content for the original game, it is a little disappointing that players will not be resuming control of anti-hero Daud, his character arc was by far the best part of the original game and Michael Madsen delivered a memorable performance as a complicated, conflicted killer seeking redemption.
Which brings me to Arkane Studio’s announcement of Dishonored: The Definitive Edition the announcement of which drew unfair groans and boos from the audience, I might draw the ire of the gaming community here but I really like want a definitive edition of Dishonored. Not enough people played the original game, considering it is one of the very best games of last generation; it was also one of the few games to have worthwhile DLC, the phenomenal add-on chapters perhaps even surpassing the base game’s considerable quality.
I for one am happy that gamers will get another chance to experience such a great game, last generation the fanfare really went to the Bioshock series and Dishonored went under a lot of gamers’ radars despite being the far better game. Dishonored: The Definitive Edition will give players another chance to visit the city of Dunwall with its fantastic oil painting art style poised to benefit massively from a visual update.
The build up to Fallout 4 was masterfully executed. All too often these days we as gamers are inundated with trailers, announcements and information that is released far too early and release dates that are all too often delayed with gamers experiencing agonising two to five year gaps between announcement and release.
The downgrade situation currently plaguing the industry stems from developers and publishers feeling pressure to build hype at an early stage and sustain that hype over a prolonged pre-release period in order to increase pre-order sales and keep the attention of gamers who are bombarded with game releases and information. Fallout 4 is a refreshing change to that formula. We have always known that it was coming but Bethesda kept quiet, letting our imaginations run wild, building our own hype machine. Last week’s trailer brought a palpable sense of relief to gamers, a sense that finally Fallout 4 IS really happening.
We were shown a lot of Fallout 4 at E3; the game is set in Boston and the surrounding area and sees the player controlling a resident of Vault 111. We witnessed the initial character creation suite where players can pick their parent’s looks and ethnicity, similar to what we have seen in GTA: Online and it was announced that players will be able to play as a female character as well as male. In fact, the whole presentation seemed to be centred on customisation and player agency with seemingly every aspect of Fallout 4 being customisable to some extent, customisable armour, weaponry and even the ability to change the wasteland itself. The audience were shown the player being able to salvage materials and strip buildings for resource to in turn, build their own wasteland settlement, first their own home, then extending to a town with its own electricity supply and defences against invading enemies, seemingly evoking Mad Max: Road Warrior albeit with a snooty robot butler and a teddy bear bazooka.
There was always the rumour floating around that Fallout 4 was going to be a 2015 release but we had heard so little about it and we are currently inundated with release delays and painful waits for game releases, I never believed that it would come out in 2015. I figured Fallout 4 would inevitably be released in 2016 or even 2017. Last night Bethesda dropped the absolute bombshell that Fallout 4 will release on the tenth of November 2015, the announcement of which drew a rapturous applause. I hope this leads to an industry-wide change in now announcements and release dates are handled in the future.
Bethesda also made a number of smaller announcements and demonstrations. The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited will be received numerous expansions and updates, they announced Bethesda.Net as their social hub for all games going forward and we were also shown a glimpse of the multi-player title Battlecry which seemed to show some promise.
Fallout Shelter is a free-to-play mobile title that was announced and made immediately available for IOS and Android. I have not managed to download the game yet but it looks to be a resource management game with players taking on the role of Overseer of their own Vault and seems to combine elements of X-Com and Earthbound with Fallout’s own charming visual style.
Todd Howard, game director of the Fallout and Elder Scrolls games also announced a dreaded companion app for Fallout 4 but did so in such an amusing and self-effacing way that I could not help but laugh.
Bethesda hit it out of the park at E3 and proved that they do in fact belong there, they were the perfect choice to kick-start E3, delivering a comfortingly predictable press conference of fan service and topped it all off with the announcement of Fallout 4’s looming release date, we only have to wait five months for it.
Keep locked here at FilmGamesEtc for all your E3 news and coverage and stay tuned for more E3 press conference write-ups from myself and the team here at FGE.