Gaming Bits: Breaking down Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft at E3

Gaming Bits: Breaking down Nintendo, Sony and Microsoft at E3

Welcome to another edition of Gaming Bits, an infrequent feature by Playing Critic columnist Joel Leizer.

E3 is going on in Los Angeles right now, and I'm not there.

If you're reading this, you probably aren't either.

It's a week with a ton of gaming announcements, but I'm not going to begin to even try to cover them all. I will, however, share with you some of the stuff I know about, both major and minor.

Nintendo

It's traditional for folks to pontificate about who "won" the war of E3 press conferences. I'm not really on board with the idea; gamers are always the winner. But if I had to say who evoked the most delight from the audience this year, it would have to be Nintendo.

They revealed we will eventual be getting "Metroid Prime 4," a new entry in one of gaming's most-loved franchises, as well as a side-scrolling Metroid game for the 3DS — the latter will be out this fall. Among the other announcements: new Pokemon RPG, Kirby and Yoshi games; "Rocket League," aka soccer played by cars, is coming to Switch; Mario will be able to possess almost anyone in "Super Mario Odyssey"; and Hyrule's champions will be the focus of the first "Breath of the Wild" DLC.

An announcement you may have missed: They are remaking the first game in the Mario & Luigi series. "Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga + Bowser's Minions" is in development for 3DS.

Microsoft

Project Scorpio, first discussed at 2016's E3 press conference, has been officially named the Xbox One X. It'll retail at $499.99, and is slated for release on Nov. 7. It'll be a little more powerful than the other versions of the Xbox One, and is intended mostly for folks with 4K televisions. No mention was made of VR capabilities, which were originally touted as its raison d etre, so I'm kind of guessing Microsoft has nixed its virtual-reality plans.

Should you plan to run out and buy one? Only if you've already got a 4K TV and disposable income. Despite all of Microsoft's puffed up claims, it's not going to be that much better than the other versions for the average gamer. And, frankly, I've seen no evidence it does anything to fix the Xbox One's huge flaw: Installing games, especially from discs, takes far longer than it should. One of the advantages consoles used to have over PCs was the ability to pop in the game and go; they've forfeited that advantage.

After the Xbox One X announcement, Microsoft showed off a huge stable of games coming to its console and Windows 10 personal computers.

Quite frankly, a good chunk of them had me ready to nod off. I'm not saying they'll be bad games. They just didn't look like anything we haven't played before.

I mean, the Forza series of race games is fantastic if you're into racing games. But a Forza game with more cars, better dynamic weather and sleeker graphics is absolutely nothing new.

The few things that caught my eye that I won't be able to play on PS4, at least not anytime soon:

— "State of Decay 2." OK, from some perspectives, it's just another zombie game, and most of us are probably a little tired of the idea. I'm hoping they actually go somewhere new with the concept of building a functioning community for survival.

— Playerunknown's "Battlegrounds." It's made the rounds on PC, and now it's headed to Xbox One — a giant game of last-man-standing. I love chaotic games involving tons of players.

After that though, "Anthem" and "Shadow of War" aren't exclusives; "Crackdown 3" looks same-old, same-old, and I've got a feeling DS Volition's "Agents of Mayhem" will be similar but lots more fun; and "Sea of Thieves" looks fine if you play regularly with close friends, but isn't worthwhile for the vast majority of gamers.

Sony

I was hoping for some surprises from Sony. I didn't really get any. I liked what they showed and want to play those games, but it was all within expectations, which oddly feels disappointing. The rundown:

— "Uncharted: The Lost Legacy." We knew it was coming, Aug. 22 in fact. But I love me some Uncharted, and I love me some Claudia Black. Anyone else feel, though, that the trailer gives away too much?

— "Spider-Man." Looks amazing, obviously cribbed from "Batman: Arkham Asylum." I love the environmental takedowns, but wonder how obvious they'll be to use when you're playing and in the moment. Also, I wish there weren't so many quick-time events, but I understand the necessity in some instances.

— "Days Gone." Another zombie game, but with a "The Last of Us" feel. Zombified bears are a terrifying idea. It'll be interesting to see which ends up being better: "Days Gone" or "State of Decay 2."

— "God of War." Looks fantastic, and the idea of Kratos being a parent is both entertaining and heartwarming, while also slightly worrisome. The combat looks based on, yet a departure from, the isometric viewpoint of the previous games in the series.

— "Detroit." A Blade Runner-type story from Quantic Dream ("Heavy Rain," "Beyond: Two Souls") where your choices supposedly will have repercussions. They're known for telling great stories. I just hope they deliver what they promise.

After that, they revealed a few PlayStation VR games, including "Moss," where you join a mouse named Quill on an epic adventure; showed off "The Frozen Wilds," an expansion for "Horizon: Zero Dawn"; and announced a remake of one of my favorite games of all time, "Shadow of the Colossus." The latter isn't a remaster; it's a remake, where they rebuild everything from the ground up with modern tech.

Best of the rest

— My favorite game announcement was actually from EA. "A Way Out" will be a story- and character-driven prison break adventure, playable only cooperatively with another person. So, yes, in many ways it'll be difficult for me to play. Arranging a play date with my wife or another friend to enjoy this probably won't be anywhere near as easy as I want it to be. But genuine co-op like the trailer and "director's commentary" demonstrate looks to be a blast.

— "Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus" puts the Nazis in control of the United States, and they're getting along just fine with the KKK and other hate groups. The previous game, "Wolfenstein: The New Order," was an extremely fun first-person shooter with a decently told narrative, so I'm interested to see if they can do even better with the sequel.

— "Monster Hunter: World" brings the juggernaut series — in Japan at least — to both the PS4 and Xbox One, and will feature cross-region play (i.e. Americans can play with folks elsewhere in the world) for up to four players online. And the multiplayer will allow folks to drop in and out at will. The graphics are a vast upgrade from the previous games, and the environment appears to have a new verticality lacking before.

— "Anthem," the latest from Bioware, looks intriguing. I've heard a few folks denigrate it as a riff on "Destiny," but I personally like the idea of heavily customizing my own mini-mech suit to play my way.

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