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E3 2012 diary: Day Minus One

June 5, 2012

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This is a painfully myopic diary of E3 2012 as written by me while attending some conferences and appointments and ignoring others as dictated by my actual job of producing PlayStation Access TV.

This might sound rubbish but it’s also the reason the diary exists, as part of producing PlayStation Access TV is sitting outside a motel in Korea Town stealing the only wi-fi within a 5-mile radius capable of uploading the size of video files needed to make a show more than 12 seconds long.

So the scene is me, so tired that I have fallen asleep in every chair in which I’ve been stationary for the last 3 days, perched on a patio next to the ugliest fountain in the western hemisphere (it’s a sort of crystal shape in clay grey, without the gumption to launch its water into the air more than a centimetre or so, so that it looks like it’s dribbling on itself) and watching progress bars at nearly one in the morning.

This morning started with the Microsoft conference which my Sony affiliation dictated I did not attend. I like Halo a great deal and also enjoyed Bulletstorm, the developer of which is now making Gears Of War: Another One. I understand from reading twitter while hotel decorators exercised the biggest drill created by humanity in the room next to mine that these games made an appearance alongside Usher, Nike, and music.

My first real bit of work for E3 aside from googling the phrase “internet cafe Los Angeles” for over six hours was attending the EA press conference. I sat in front of Danny Bilson who no longer works for THQ and didn’t flinch even when the UFC’s Dana White came on stage to say how happy he was to be working with EA while everyone tried to forget how forgettable OK EA’s MMA game had been.

While walking back past the old United Artists theatre after the conference Rob Pearson told me how he’d once been sent to the headmaster’s office in school for frustratedly slapping a classmate in the head when he was very small for not being able to add five and five together (“TEN!”). This was very much how I felt while watching a group of Spanish journalists sat in the row in front giggling about the fact that Lucy Bradshaw is a woman and not a man and yet still works successfully in games.

This was almost as depressing as what EA seem to have done to Dead Space, which is turn it from a beautifully designed hard sci-fi horror into the noisiest action shooter in the world – like a drill, made by Michael Bay. Better news was that Criterion’s Most Wanted looked excellent and every inch an open-world follow-up to Burnout Paradise. Importantly, Craig Sullivan demoing the game drove through a billboard.

And then it was onto Crysis 3 which looks impressive but also simultaneously devoid of any inspiration whatsoever. Plus the music scrapes across my being every time I hear it, and sounds like the noise a sentient battery would make as it died. True, it’s written by Hans Zimmer, but so was the Going For Gold theme tune and if that fronted a blockbuster shooter it would sell six copies, all to retired schoolteachers from Norwich.

Medal Of Honor is more troubling because instead of using advanced trousers to thump alien squid it has you percussively headshottong citizens of the third world with cold military hardware. It’s like a bullying sim taken to a savage natural conclusion – the most lavishly funded military in the world kicking down shack doors and filling economically strangled foreigners with impossibly endless amounts of bullets. Whatever happened to being the underdog? It’s enough to make you realise that, well, selling war to children might be wrong.
Preparations for the Sony conference meant that I missed Ubisoft’s presentation in the middle, which is a shame as it sounded excellent and featured a new game (admittedly about shooting people and fiddling with wires).
Then the Sony conference happened and was really big in an enormous blue room. It took place in the LA Sports Memorial Arena, which is right next to the Memorial Coliseum used in The Last Boy Scout although nobody else seemed excited about this. Sony announced Beyond, which as a fan of Heavy Rain looks very interesting and also like an attempt by David Cage to make the Frenchest game of all time (“humanity” “death” “emotion” and “love” were all crossed out on my David Cage bingo card) and also Book Of Spells, a Harry Potter-universe collaboration with JK Rowling which for me is the biggest and smartest bit of business announced today.
God Of War Ascension was shown, and looked both brilliant and like more God Of War. I was struck as Kratos watched a spear fly into a peon at how it’d be more interesting if he was caring for a change, rather than a muscled car alarm set to a continuous wail of fury. And I’m biased, but The LastOf Us looked the best of all – fraught, full of technological wows, and a intriguing mix of scripted moments and player choices. The only thing that bothered me was the reaction of the crowd to the desperate violence. The long-standing joke about Nathan Drake is that he’s an affable matinee hero who also happens to be a brutal mass-murderer. The Last Of Us seems to engage with this head-on – its characters are also doing awful things, but they’re aware of it, and the world is heavy with mortality and consequence.
Which is a pretentious enough line to make me realise I need to go to bed. More tomorrow, if I’m still alive.
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