Hello you beautiful misfits. My name’s Matt and this is the first in a series of brief-ish video summaries covering the main conferences of E3 2015. Like I did last year I’ll be looking at Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo’s conferences, but I’ll also be casting my withering gaze over the other big ones like Bethesda’s, EA’s, Ubisoft’s and Square-Enix’s. Starting with Bethesda’s one first of course. It is in the title of this video after all. Which had me intrigued before it even began although not necessarily for the games they might be showing.
This was to be Bethesda’s first ever big E3 conference and was hosted at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles, best known for where the Oscars have been held every year since 2002. Bethesda had never done anything like this before at all, whatsoever, and I was especially curious to see how it would turn out from a basic production standpoint. Would it be as insufferable as almost every other E3 presentation? Would it actually be entertaining? Or would they cock it up completely in some…amazing way? Like setting the theatre on fire or starting an international incident.
Top Bethesda bloke Pete Hines stepped out onto the stage, accompanied by the rousing main score from Skyrim, to open the proceedings, and immediately came across as someone you could comfortably have coffee with. Rather than someone you’d want to subject to the Voight-Kampf test from Blade Runner. He also promised “blood, guts and a bunch of stuff blowing up.” Those were his actual words by the way.
Pete then made way for Marty Stratton of id Software, looking a bit suity, to tell everyone about DooM 4. Or just DooM as Bethesda are calling it. Sadly at the precise moment he started talking, I sneezed…and wound up missing the whole presentation. Nah, only kidding. We got to see substantially more of DooM in this presentation than in that piddly excuse for a teaser trailer Bethesda put out a while ago. Like chainsaw dismemberment, punching imps in the face, double-barelled shotguns, tearing hellspawn in half with your bare hands, feeding a Mancubus it’s own cyborg heart, killing a zombie soldier with its own leg, and other hyperviolent gory goodness.
In short, all good messy wholesome fun. Who could possibly object?
Oh yeah. Of course. This joyless berk.
But I digress. As well as plenty of fast-paced single-player footage there was a good bloody chunk of fast-paced multiplayer on show as well, with players blowing each other up into measty giblets as either a regular hard-arsed space marine or one of the countless denizens of Hell itself.
Bethesda are also chucking in full support for user-generated content with Doom Snapmap. A supposedly simple to use editor that lets you carve out your own special corner of Hell quicker than a Revenant can beat you to death with your own arms.
Pfft, kids today. Don’t know how easy they have it. In my day we had to squint ourselves blind – hence the glasses – learning DooM map editors like DEU here. Bet they don’t even know what a vertex is. Or a Sidedef. Yeah, If ucking know my DooM map-editing shit motherf-
Anyway, consider me pretty bloody chuffed with how DooM looks so far. Emphasis on the bloody of course, with a side-portion of demon giblets. It seems to have the usual modern razamatazz and widgets people expect from modern shooters while retaining the Satanic spirit of the original. Loads of ludicrous gibs, fast-paced action, over-the-top blood and gore, Cyberdemons and Big Fucking Guns!
Up next was some fuss and bibble about Bethesda.net, a new central community hub for all things to do with Bethesda’s games. So a website basically? Woo?
Then there was Battlecry, which still looks like a third-person version of Team Fortress 2. Just like it did when it was unveiled at last year’s E3. Oh well. Apparently there’s a new faction in it now, and some new classes with names like Brawler, Infiltrator, Ranger and Gadgeteer. It looks alright I guess? Sorry, just not my thing. Not like-
DISHONORED 2! IT WAS THE TRAILER FOR DISHONORED 2! THERE’S A DISHONORED 2! YOU PLAY AS EMILY KALDWIN THIS TIME ONLY SHE’S THE EMPRESS NOW AND THERE ARE ROBOTS WITH SWORDS! AND NEW MAGIC POWERS AND WASP THINGS THAT CRAWL OUT OF PEOPLE’S CORPSES AND MORE ROBOTS AND MORE MAGIC POWERS AND MOVING ROOMS AND-
Yeah, I was just a teensy bit excited to see Dishonored 2 confirmed. I could say more about the game, but then this video would just be four hours of me yelling DISHONORED 2! DISHONORED 2! DISHONORED 2!
After that was some new stuff for Elder Scrolls Online: showcasing the new Imperial City and Orsinium zone. Which looked rather a lot like Skyrim in this footage. Right down to the glowing mushrooms. That’s it really.
Y’see I kicked my MMO habit years ago, so from me this just gets a perfunctory nod and a “yeah that looks alright.” My brother on the other hand fucking loves the game.
The Elder Scrolls theme continued with Elder Scrolls Legends, a free-to-play strategy card game of which Bethesda only showed this non-gameplay trailer fluff. Hang on…a strategy card game…with scrolls in the title. Why does that sound familiar? Methinks someone should be calling their lawyers.
And with that the show was over!
Only kidding. There was still Fallout 4 to show off! For which Pete Hines brought out Skyrim head-honcho and director of Fallout 4 Todd Howard, sporting a fetching jacket and receiving the kind of rapturous applause that Jesus might expect if HE was making Fallout 4. Todd Howard then told the audience to burn Los Angeles to the fucking ground, which they did. Immediately and without hesitation or remorse, all the while chanting “FALLOUT 4! FALLOUT 4!”
I might have made that last bit up.
He probably could’ve though, judging by the audience’s devout and silent reverence towards this montage of concept art that went on just a bit too long. Eventually we finally saw some bloody gameplay footage, starting with this character creation bit set a short while before the bombs drop. You can edit your character’s face almost anyway you want, and you select your gender by walking away from the mirror as either the husband or wife here. Which is all very impressive, yet also a wee bit freaky. It’s like they’re a pair of shapeshifting alien infiltrators or something. Hey, maybe that’s a plot twist!
Another point I want to bring up about character creation: what if I want my character to be gay or lesbian? Does that mean they’re living a lie from the very start of the game? Is their marriage a sham? What about this baby they have together? Does the robot suspect? Was pre-war society so repressive that only nuclear armageddon would let them truly be who they really are? And if so, are the bombs a metaphor for the upheavel of societal change?
Hello is this Polygon? Yeah, I’ve got an article I want to pitch to you. It’s about how Fallout 4’s nuclear armageddon is a metaphor for societal change and sexual freedom. Yes, I’ll hold.
The baby even supposedly takes on the facial traits of its parents, depending on how you sculpt their supple digital flesh. Although it doesn’t live long enough to matter. Because despite your whole family surviving the bombs, 200 years later only your character survives to emerge bleary-eyed and clueless from Vault one-eleven. And that’s all the story Bethesda were willing to spoil.
Instead they emphasised player freedom while showing off the new mass-effect style dialogue wheel and dynamic conversations. Yes, the main character does have spoken dialogue, although it doesn’t seem as immersion breaking as I thought it would be. Then there was the new improved Vault-Tec Assisted Targeting System, or V.A.T.S. for short, which slows down time instead of freezing it outright like in Fallout 3.
And then there was the bloody dog. As well as attacking your enemies the dog can also get things for you, inspect things, be ordered to move to a certain spot, and even trade with you. All presumably designed to help you build an emotional bond with your new furry friend…before Bethesda kill him off in a cutscene right near the end of the game.
Bethesda insist the dog will be unkillable however. But then they would say that, wouldn’t they?
Todd Howard then unveiled a real-life PIP boy for the Fallout 4 collector’s edition, which you can slot your smartphone into. The PIP boy, not the collector’s edition. And of course Bethesda made an app for it! It’s one of those second-screen jobbies so you can do all your stats, inventory management and other PIP-boy type stuff on that, instead of bringing it up in game. Which admittedly seems pretty cool but: isn’t that, y’know, a bit of a stupid gimmick?
[“As far as stupid gimmicks go, this is the best fucking one I have ever seen”]
Best conference ever.
That bit about the second-screen app served as a segue for Fallout Shelter, a free iOS app reminiscent of game XCOM, Little Computer People, FTL and Sim Tower, where you run your own Vault. And it’s a free app, although it does have microtransactions in the form of lunchboxes with prizes in them. But Todd insists you can play it just fine without them, and who am I to argue with Todd fucking Howard.
The real meat of the Fallout 4 presentation however, for me, was the crafting system. According to Bethesda you’ll be able to salvage all that otherwise useless crap you find in the wasteland, and use it to build your very own post-apocalyptic settlement. Build it well enough and you’ll attract shopkeepers and other NPCS to come and live there, a bit like in Terraria. You won’t be building just one settlement however. You can build a bunch of them, and THEN run trade caravans between them.
You will also howcver need to craft defences, since your settlements will be attacked by raiders, supermutants and other hostile post-nuclear nasties. So basically you can become the alderman of a tiny village, the mayor of a small town, the leader of a burgeoning nation, or even the warlord of a…of a…warlord? Warlord? Warlord!
Now Bethesda…are you telling me I can be Immortan Joe? Because if you ARE then…Oh what a day! WHAT A LOVELY DAY! Aw, it probably wont have any flamethrower guitar blokes in it though. Tsk, that’s a bugger. Oh wait, I’ll be playing it on PC. There’ll be a mod for that.
So well done Bethesda! You’ve convinced me to be somewhat more excited for Fallout 4 than I previously was.
And for what was your first ever E3 conference, you did a damn fine job. Now there were a couple of things I wasn’t too interested in, but I’m sure plenty of other people were excited for them. And none of the hosts made me want to gouge my eyeballs out with pens, then jam those same pens into my ears. It was entertaining without being cringeworthy, paid tribute to the fans without being patronising, and had a good variety of games.
All in all, a bloody good start to E3. So it can only go downhill from there really. But you’ll have to wait for my videos about the other conferences to find out.