By Gieson Cacho
East Bay Times
For years, the Electronic Entertainment Expo has been an event that caters to trade professionals, but this year the showcase in Los Angeles was open to the public for the first time. Fans who were able to snatch up tickets got an inside glimpse of a Disneyland for gaming.
For those who were unable to go, here are highlights coming out of E3 over the past few days:
Microsoft had the biggest announcement, as the tech giant officially revealed the newest member of its console family — the Xbox One X. It’s not exactly the fourth generation of the device; it’s more of an upgrade to the existing systems. It’s a console built for 4K televisions with HDR (high dynamic range), the bleeding-edge screens of today.
HDR displays more colors than predecessors, upwards of a billion at last count. That gives images a more realistic, rounder look. And that’s what made games pop off Microsoft’s screen, with BioWare’s “Anthem” and Turn 10’s “Forza Motorsports 7” turning heads.
These games show off the potential of the Xbox One X, but to actually enjoy the technology, players may have to sell their first-born. A 4K TV with HDR costs more than $700, and the Xbox One X costs $499. It’s a pricey proposition, but an investment in technology that is supposed to hold up through five years from now and perhaps beyond.
Sony’s briefing focused on games and highlighted the company’s dominance. The PlayStation is indeed home to some of the best software on the planet, a fact highlighted by its three tentpole games for the upcoming year: “Uncharted: The Lost Legacy,” “Days Gone” and “Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds,” an expansion of possibly the best new IP this year.
What’s interesting is that two of Sony’s major releases, and a few others, focus on stronger female characters. Gone are the days of the old sexualized Lara Croft and male-only avatars. Character’s such as Aloy from “Horizon Zero Dawn” and Chloe Frazer from “Uncharted” are often more complex and daring than any female characters in the past.
There’s even diversity, with Janina Gavankar, an actress of Indian descent, playing the lead role of Iden Versio in the single-player mode of “Star Wars Battlefront II.” When it comes to games with customizable avatars, “Far Cry 5” and “Forza Horizon 7” include female options, as well as males.
Sony’s event also spotlighted a bright future, headlined by what’s likely to be the best “Spider-Man” game ever made. A new “God of War” and “Monster Hunter World” look like legitimate rebirths of long-running franchises. The wait for these games will be excruciating; some won’t see the light of day until 2018.
Not to be outdone, Nintendo unveiled big news, too. Riding the wave of the successful Nintendo Switch launch, the venerable video game company announced more support for the console.
Nintendo has leaned heavily on its portfolio of beloved franchises, and some of its major announcements here focused on those. The biggest news was the resurrection of “Metroid.” Samus Aran is returning in a big way with “Metroid Prime 4” on the Nintendo Switch and a remade version of “Metroid 2,” a title that was originally released for the Game Boy, on the Nintendo 3DS.
Also announced was a new “Pokemon” for the Nintendo Switch, which could further boost the console’s success. That news, along with stronger support from third-party developers such as Ubisoft and Psyonix (creator of “Rocket League”) bode well for Nintendo.
But the game carrying E3 for the company was “Super Mario Odyssey.” Coming later this year, Mario’s latest adventure features a magical hat called Cappy, which can take over enemies and objects. If Mario throws it on a frog, he becomes the frog. If he tosses it atop a Bullet Bill, he becomes that character, flying through the air. Cappy seems to be the main mechanic for the game, opening up interesting possibilities and a fresh take on the “Mario” franchise.