By Phil Harris
Square Enix hadn't been at E3 for a while and you wondered what else they were going to show, which we hadn't already seen at other press conferences to date but they kicked off with Just Cause 3, a game which is bound to excite many.
Just Cause 2 was a massive toy box of a game where anything goes, and often did, whilst having its tongue firmly wedged in its cheek. The third in the series, released in December this year, promised even more toys to play with as well as enhancing what was already there. Add to that even more in game challenges and fun and a vast open world to play in the game looks as if it can do no wrong and with the promise of extended support for all the games in the Square Enix stable the future of virtual destruction is looking bright.
NieR: New Project (Working Title) was a spiritual sequel to the original NieR game but in very early development for the PS4. Whilst the team assured us how eager they were to make this successor the detail was scant, including the title and the talking point of the presentation is more likely to be director Yoko Taro's head mask rather than what was actually said.
Following a look behind the scenes of Rise of the Tomb Raider, which revealed nothing any other brief behind the scenes studio look on a project of that size would show we were shown Lara Croft Go. This was apparently a new way to see Lara, in a turn based strategy and followed in the footsteps of Hitman Go both stylistically and in the way the game play flowed. This isn't a problem but may not attract all fans of the rest of the games in the series.
Final Fantasy VII Remake teaser trailer was shown again before we broke into a new mobile version of Kingdom Hearts: Unchained Key for iPhone and Android to merely tease the audience for discussion of Kingdom Hearts III. Introduced by members of the Disney animation studio we finally got the play footage we wanted to see and, as expected, the style and character was beautifully rendered throughout. For those familiar with the game the Kingdom Hearts feel was certainly strongly in evidence and everything seemed fast, frenetic and entertaining.
Hitman's detailed trailer was followed by another reel of games we probably wanted to hear more about, including bromance game Final Fantasy XV, although they probably didn't want to address the all male playable cast of this game – there was a single woman in the trailer though – ooh!
This in itself led to a in-game footage of Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, a name that simply seems to trip over the tongue, the scenes shown providing no real surprises in the play and little plot points to understand how the story would develop. Stating that they wanted to move away from JRPG's being considered as movies rather than games they talked about the fact there would be fewer cut-scenes to watch and the story would be a more interactive experience.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided was the penultimate game we were briefed on. A game where, they were proud to tell us, the decisions you make influenced the story and the eventual outcome of the game… like the original Deus Ex then? The game play video looking better paced and a good deal less orange than Human Revolution gave us hope and as long as the boss fights aren't farmed out to other studios again, like Human Revolution, the whole feel of the game should be better.
The style of Square Enix' press briefing seemed rooted in the past, whilst many of their products felt like they were in the distant future and it's been a while since we've seen so much talking versus actual game footage. Not only that but you'd think that voice-overs on trailers for games, poorly explaining things going on, was a thing of the past but with Square Enix it was alive and well and still as annoying and distracting as ever.
In some ways, and due to the size of the room they were presenting in as well as the early footage of so many products, it felt a little like they should have done a later press release at another conference, especially the big reveal at the end, Project Setsuna, where we were told they didn't have many images to show us, which translated to two.
The potential of many of their products and the sheer number the studio seems to be involved in at the moment saved the event from being too dull but if they're going to be back next year Square-Enix may want to look long and hard at some other studios presentations to ensure they get the impact they seek.
Phil Harris (@PhilipGHarris) is a games developer and writer currently working with One Thumb Mobile on their MMORPG Celtic Heroes. He also created Zentorii, helped design Nevistech's Pet Roulette for Android devices and is the story writer for Blazing Griffin's new space strategy game Distant Star: Revenant Fleet. To read more about Phil check out his profile on Indie Teamup.