Games, games and even more video games. That was the overwhelming theme of last week’s Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles—the three-day megaconference headlined by tech giants Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.
For video-game makers to shout the praise of software might sound like the ultimate in no-duh obviousness, but much of the conversation from the Big Three over the past few years was about redefining gaming consoles as all-in-one digital entertainment platforms capable of delivering TV, movies and music. This time, companies used E3’s big stage to double down on their bread and butter: flashy action games, fantasy epics for the “Game of Thrones”-loving crowd and tried-and-true sports and shooter franchises.
That’s especially true for Microsoft. After forcefeeding us consecutive Kinects, the company finally backed off last month by announcing plans to sell a Kinect-less Xbox One bundle for $400. Additionally, Kinect was mentioned only in passing in reference to an upcoming “Dance Central” sequel. Instead, Microsoft dedicated a large chunk of time to hyping the release of “Halo: The Master Chief Collection,” a remastering of the first four games in the series, along with beta access to—surprise, surprise—“Halo 5: Guardians.”
Sony exuded cool confidence, likely because it’s beating its archrivals in the war of new consoles in terms of sales. Its E3 lineup included exclusives for PlayStation 4 like the so-cute-it-hurts “Little Big Planet 3” and “Uncharted: A Thief’s End,” the fourth adventure from the Indiana Jones clone. Sony also revealed a PlayStation TV capable of streaming games and a futuristic virtual-reality helmet for the PS4 called Project Morpheus, which looked intriguing even if it makes users resemble a goofy RoboCop.
Critics have been writing eulogies for the Wii U, but E3 looked like the start of a comeback tour for Nintendo. The House that Mario Built came out swinging with a funny “Robot Chicken” animated presentation that showed off a few potential hits like the new “Super Smash Bros.” and a beautiful open world “Zelda” on Wii U. Kids zap each other with paint instead of bullets in a softer, but surprisingly fun shooter called “Splatoon.”
Other big standouts: a four-player cooperative “Fable,” a men-vs.-monster shooter called “Evolve,” a second “Tomb Raider” prequel and “Batman: Arkham Knight,” which appears to lean heavily on the addition of the Batmobile. “Sunset Overdrive” also thrilled the E3 attendees with a trailer showing a brightly hued action game about a cool punk-rock dude’s extermination of mutants warped by a contaminated energy drink.
>> Avondale-based developer NetherRealm Studios put a bloody exclamation mark on E3 by unveiling a playable version of “Mortal Kombat X.” The 10th in the legendary fighting series mixes things up with a score of new characters, including an insect woman who can summon larvae and swarms of flesh-eating beetles to battle on her behalf. Just don’t expect this “Kombat,” coming to PS4 and Xbox One in 2015, to tone down the gore. New addition Cassie Cage, for example, has a fatality move that puts a literal spin on the term “ballbuster.” Ouch.
>> Iron Galaxy made an E3 appearance to preview “Killer Instinct Season 2.” The Lincoln Park studio recently took over the title after Amazon acquired former developer Double Helix Games. The second round of the classic arcade fighting game reboot is expect to land on Xbox One sometime this fall.
Ryan Smith is a RedEye special contributor.