What will be E3 2014’s game of the show? We take a look at the heavyweights headed to downtown L.A. and place some informed bets.
E3 2014 is already shaping up to be massive, with a huge line up of anticipated titles and unannounced games on the schedule for each of the four big media briefings. It’s a key show for Sony and Microsoft as they need to build on the early momentum of the new consoles, but both EA and Ubisoft have massive games in the wings, and even outliers like Namco Bandai and Square Enix, which rarely make much of a showing on their tod, have a chance to score big at the platform holder briefings.
After a couple of stalemate years, Sony surprised us in 2013 by picking up Microsoft’s dropped ball and running with it, but this year things are far more interesting. The PS4 has a nice lead on its rival, even in its traditional home territory of North America, and both companies will be pushing to close or widen that gap with a strong show. Ubisoft and EA have made huge investments in next-gen, though, so they’ll definitely be bringing their A-game, too.
Who will win this confrontation? Let’s take a look at our champions.
First party properties – Halo 5: Guardians versus Uncharted PS4 and God of War PS4
When you ask the question “who’s going to win E3?” the easy answer is “Microsoft”, long the local favourite – especially on years when it has a Halo title on hand.
This year, though, things are a bit chancy. The instant hype generated by a Halo game is diminished a little by a slightly softer reception for Halo 4 than anticipated, with 343 Industries’ takeover not going down as well or as smoothly as Microsoft had hoped. Halo 5: Guardians is, moreover, a prequel, and apparently stars a new character – both risky moves. This may well be the shake-up the franchise needs to ensure its longevity, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to please core fans.
That said, Halo, like Call of Duty, is a franchise with massive mainstream appeal, and those less-invested gamers aren’t necessarily as bogged down by canon as we obsessives are. The hat-backwards, popped-collar crowd will roar their approval when that iconic helmet makes an appearance – regardless of who’s wearing it.
Meanwhile, in the Sony camp, we have the brand that elevated the PS3 from a difficult, slightly lower-par console to a machine that was worth developers’ investment. The first Uncharted was a revelation as to what the PS3 could do, and ended the series of shitty ports we’d received as developers struggled to work with the unfriendly architecture before decent middleware tools made an appearance. Both successive sequels raised the bar, so when Uncharted hits the PS4, it’s got huge expectations riding on it.
Unfortunately, while Sony fans do love Uncharted, Nathan Drake just doesn’t have the same recognition as Master Chief. Third-person adventure doesn’t have the same pull as first-person shooter. Charming, lightly-handled drama doesn’t have the same audience as silly sci-fi treated like deeply meaningful narrative.
If Microsoft and Sony go head-to-head with their confirmed major first-party properties, it’s unfortunately going to be a one-sided fight: the hype-o-meter indicates Halo will wipe the floor with its nearest rival. However, we’re almost certain God of War PS4 is coming too. And that changes things considerably. Two massive fan-favourite properties in one show? That’s solid gold, son.
Verdict: If Halo was facing off against just one Sony showing, it wouldn’t have a problem. Against two, though, things get chancy – unless Microsoft already has something to show for Gears of War, it’s probably going to go down to a TKO. A one-two combo like God of War and Uncharted will take a chunk out of even Halo’s manly jaw.
Next: the big traditional shooters go head to head – and it’s not as cut-and-dried as you might expect.