Written by Game Rant‘s Andrew Dyce and Anthony Taormina.
E3 2012 has come and gone, and with it, another batch of press conferences, cinematic trailers, gameplay demonstrations and efforts by each publisher and developer to catch just a bit more of the spotlight. Some managed to do just that exceedingly well, but no E3 would be complete without a few missteps, a few blown opportunities, and several decisions that had gamers everywhere scratching their heads.
Not every moment of E3 2012 was golden, even if the rest of the show was full of fantastic announcements, gameplay demos, and even surprise sequels or brand new IP. And while most of the moments we took issue with will likely be soon forgotten, or go on to be wise business decisions, there’s no denying the disappointment and horror that was experienced the moment they were unveiled.
There’s a good chance that those who paid close attention to the events will share our frustration and confusion as we offer the 5 moments of this year’s show that were, undeniably, the worst.
The concept of scripted banter itself is counterintuitive to be putting on a live show in the first place. It doesn’t encourage on-the-fly thinking, nor does it give off the sense that any of the people playing these games care about the product in front of them. There were several moments of scripted conversations scattered amongst each of the big three’s press conferences but the most egregious crimes go to Microsoft’s demo of Madden 13‘s Kinect functionality and the brief 3DS details during Nintendo’s event.
Joe Montana is one of, if not the, greatest football players in history, but he’s also not that great of an orator. His demo of Madden NFL 13 wasn’t all bad, it is Joe Montana after all. But his inability to make the play calling feel natural, and his post-demo claim of: “this brings back some great memories, and I just might have an advantage being a quarterback at this new Madden stuff” was clearly Microsoft trying to get the Hall of Famer to express enthusiasm, but instead it felt like my grandpa talking about “vidya games.”
That awkward interaction, unfortunately, looked like a live performance of Shakespeare at The Old Globe when compared to Reggie Fils-Aime’s witty banter with Scott Moffitt. Since Nintendo’s Press Conference was primarily focused on the Wii U, Moffitt was only given about five minutes to hype up the 3DS’ upcoming slate. The obviously disappointed Moffitt wanted to make sure Fils-Aime knew he felt slighted. His retort? “Thanks a lot Reggie! A couple of minutes? Where’s the love?” Cue the groans.
Next: “Oooooh, bright lights!”
Nintendo had a tall order this year: make up for last year by giving, as Fils-Aime put it, “a proper introduction” to the Wii U tablet controller. As we’ve mentioned, that also meant giving short shrift to their latest handheld. Unfortunately it also meant delivering a press conference that failed to announce any groundbreaking returns of the series’ most beloved characters (beyond Mario in yet another side-scroller). The conference was certainly more reassuring than last year due to Pikmin 3 alone, but most of the rumored heavy hitters were absent.
Following the extensive parade of title cards and sizzle reels of games that would be released on Wii U after other consoles – and an in-depth gameplay walkthrough of a single ghost-hunting mini-game – came what seemed to be the tease we were all waiting for. To close out the show, Fils-Aime directed everyone’s attention to the big screen for one final send-off.
Smash Bros.? Zelda HD? Donkey Kong? Metroid? Nope. To the disturbed and stunned silence of all present, the world was treated to b-roll of a fireworks display taking place in Nintendoland. Words simply cannot express.
Next: No Fear.
The Death of Survival Horror
Rumors had been circling about the frozen world that would provide the backdrop for Dead Space 3, and as much as that seemed to be at odds with the dark and moody environments we found the most terrifying in previous games, we had given Visceral the benefit of the doubt – it worked for The Thing, right? Then came the EA press conference, and sadly, the truth settled in to stay. The introduction of co-op with John Carver was obviously going to eliminate some of the fear that Dead Space had cultivated so expertly, but in the name of fun with a friend.
Unfortunately, the on-stage demo showed what EA meant when they said Dead Space 3 would appeal to a broader audience. Namely, make it more like Gears of War. Those who had hoped for more slow and meticulously terrifying Necromorph-slaying were treated to chest-high walls, straightforward boss fights, and more dudebro-ing than a frat party (“Get some”? Really?). The game certainly looks like a lot of co-op fun, but more unlike the series to date than we had hoped.
Of course, all of this wouldn’t have stung quite so badly if Capcom hadn’t unveiled an on-stage demo of their own at Microsoft’s presser: Resident Evil 6. As the series that made the survival-horror genre one that could support numerous franchises, we had hoped for a return to form. With all the series’ favorite characters returning in one game, the stage was set to capitalize on all their individual strengths. What we got instead was action that even Michael Bay would call “a bit much.”
It wasn’t the tanker exploding when crushed by a fighter plane. It wasn’t even the explosion of said tanker setting off a nuclear chain reaction of sedans and station wagons that defied reason. But when the out of control helicopter went head-to-head with the train, then exploded through an office building, then flew out the other… forget it. Let’s all shed a tear and move on.
Next: Take that, LeapFrog.
Oh Wonderbook demo, what a glorious failure of epic proportions you were. Not only was the crowd on hand for Sony’s live demo for Book of Spells not the right demographic for this type of PlayStation Move experience, the game’s inability to function properly left it ripe for mockery, of which there was plenty.
Not only could the “average Jane” fail to get the thing to register her summoning of fire, the developer on hand for the demo stood there awkwardly rather than assisting in any way. This lead to several glittery 4′s being written in the air, only to have nothing but idle chatter follow.
The game and peripheral are sure to sell like gangbusters, based on J.K. Rowling’s attachment alone, but what was on display at E3 was laughably broken. If real books were this hard to read, there’d be a lot of illiterate kids out there.
Ubisoft’s ‘Media Briefing’
Let’s make one thing clear here: press conferences are incredibly complicated events. Orchestrating several of a publisher’s highest-ranking executives delivering well-worded announcements and teases alongside highly-honed gameplay demonstrations is an art form that almost all of the biggest studios on hand performed better than usual. In fact, with the events being so meticulously planned and structured, seeing those on stage deliver off-the-cuff statements (look no farther than Michael Irving during EA’s presser) can quickly become a highlight.
But sometimes, people go too far. And in the case of Ubisoft, they had some help. We’re not prudes, so we’re not talking about the parade of short-shorted dancers demonstrating Just Dance 4. We know as much as anyone that attractive people having fun playing games is a great way to advertise a lifestyle. Host Aisha Tyler’s claim that the girls were the attention of everyone present since we’re “all a little bit gay” was a bit of a surprise, but we didn’t know what we were in for. Those not in attendance may not have heard the catcalls and cheers from some of the ‘press’ assembled at the sight of bare breasts in the Far Cry 3 segment, but in retrospect, it set the tone for what followed.
Tyler’s continuing references to ‘girl wood,’ premature ejaculation jokes and banter with with her co-host that was more cruel and uncomfortable than anything else had us longing for the professional demeanor of last year’s ‘Mr. Caffeine.’ Even if he was a bit abrasive and irritating, he never descended to juvenile. We don’t hold anything against Aisha Tyler, since she was sought out by Ubisoft. But it seemed that too much attention was paid to giving those in the theater what they wanted – some cheered for digital boobs, remember – instead of the millions around the world looking at what would define the studio for the coming years. For a quick lesson on how a company should match pride, experience, optimism and dignity under such weight, simply have a look at Sony’s show.
The worst part of all of this is that Ubisoft probably had the most games that we are now anticipating on display. Watch Dogs and Splinter Cell: Blacklist were game-changing and surprising respectively, and Assassin’s Creed 3 and Rayman: Legends showed that the studio is intending to improve even their most successful franchises. Had Ubisoft merely ran the trailers and demos without any host, nothing would have gotten in the way of our excitement.
So there you have it: our list of the memories we will carry with us as the lowest of the low, or at the very least the most confusing. You will likely have some of your own that we’ve missed, so feel free to share them in the comments. E3 2012 wasn’t all bad, so be sure to check out our 5 Best Cinematic Trailers and 5 Best Gameplay Trailers of E3 2012 too.
We’d like to say that the issues we have with the individual developers and minds behind the press conferences should be corrected after such monumental disaster. But then again, there’s always next year!