This week, Zero Punctuation takes a look at the trailers offered at E3 this year.
What would be the best word to describe this year's E3? "Routine," perhaps. Certainly seemed to follow the usual central commandment: "Thou shalt come out of it knowing about as much about the actual gameplay of the big name titles as thou would if thou had stuck thy head down a toilet."
Course, for the last couple of years there's been a secondary law: "Every new thing thou learnest about the Wii U will somehow make it seem even worse." What is this obsession with using consoles to interact with other people? I've met a lot of other people and they're all twats. The most I want them joining in on my leisure time is when they're covertly spying on me masturbating. You know what it is? Japan's birthrate is down and Nintendo must have latched onto the idea that it's all their fault for pioneering so many wonderful alternatives to sex. Your social concerns do you credit, Nintendo, but leave your conscientious fuckcouragment out of my free time.
But I don't want to harp on the Big Three this year when it's the game trailers that matter. Without games, a console is just an elaborate living room work surface, or in Nintendo's case some kind of Facebook alternative exclusively for meeting people you hate.
So while we're on the subject, let's start with New Mario Super Bros. Wii U Something: If They Brought Any More Extraneous Words Onto This Title It's Gonna Look Like Fridge Magnet Poetry. Sometimes it seems like the new Mario, Etc. franchise is being run by George Lucas and that they bloodymindedly stick to the things everyone hates for no better reason than to stick a middle finger up at the people who didn't mindlessly consume it like good little sheep.
New Super Mario Br - I'm just gonna call it "Steve" from now on, all right? - Steve's main problem was that four simultaneous players bouncing off each other made gameplay an absolute clustermolest in precision platforming environments. And Steve's new solution is to add a fifth player who uses that stupid Etch-a-Sketch thing to add platforms for his undoubtedly cooler and more popular friends who are actually playing the game. So the solution to the first game's clusterfuck issue is to add another player whose job is to throw rocks at people?
And besides, five simultaneous players? Do you think we all live in Mormon farmhouses or something? I have enough trouble convincing one friend to come over and sponge my forehead while I'm playing Guitar Hero.
But let's move with no particular direction to Dishonored, Bethesda's new, er, thing, which just going by the trailer seems to be proposing to be a game largely about knifing people with sideburns. That's knifing people who have got sideburns, rather; the alternative would be absurd. I make a point of exposing myself to no hype or preview besides this grudging little annual rundown of three-minute videos, and it disturbs me how little I'm left knowing about Dishonored from this little tease except that you knife a bunch of people in the throat. And what's doubly disturbing is that that alone is what's supposed to win me over:
"Hello, sir! Care to buy our game? It's first-person and it's full of knifing people in the throat, amongst a couple of other things."
"Hmm, well, as long as I can look them in the eye while I'm doing it, 'cause that's what gives me a chubby."
Still, at least there's actual gameplay on display, unlike in the Assassin's Creed 3 trailer, and incidentally, with that there's a rather disturbing theme emerging of British people being brutalized.
But surely this pattern won't be continued by the Tomb Raider trailer? Oh good, it wasn't, because if the voice actress playing the young Lara Croft in this trailer genuinely thinks that that resembles an English accent, then I will deep-fry my bathroom sink and eat it with Worcestershire sauce.
And to say she gets merely brutalized is like saying a steak dinner is a bit under the weather. Throughout this trailer, she gets impaled, beaten up, covered in filth, almost raped, and tossed about like Barbie in the spin dryer. It's like I Spit On Your Grave combined with all the scary bits from the Indiana Jones movies. I do like the little detail where she apologizes for killing a deer for food, considering that in her future life animals are going to be as safe around her as they are around myxomatosis.
Maybe she's preemptively getting her karmic backlash for that, but there's something icky about all this. Yes, the "hello, boys" chest like two friendly chinchillas, Bigfoot ball stomper Lara Croft was oversexualized, but this is still sexualization from the opposite, somehow even creepier side of the coin. At least that Tyrannosaurus in the first game never tried to feel her up.
Right, what's next? Oh, what a delightful trailer for some kind of Lost Planet sequel. What are they calling this one? Dead Space 3?! Fuck off! "Hey," says Dead Space, "remember when we were supposed to be a horror series? We hope you don't!" I don't want this to turn into "Game X looks different to Game X - 1, therefore it has changed for the worse," but my problem with this is that we're fine for action. We can stick our hand down any pipe in the house and it'll come up covered in warm, greasy action. But there's a niche in AAA gaming right now a mile wide for a new, genuinely scary horror franchise, and all we can do is strap guns and giant monsters to what few flimsy horror franchises we have left: Resident Evil, F.E.A.R., Dead Space. It's like taking gruel from African children and feeding it to Oprah Winfrey.
But speaking of looking different to Game X - 1, Hitman: Absolution. And to coin a phrase, what the crucified fuckchrist was that? Even if you take the gender politics out of it - like, imagine it was a bunch of burly men in sexy nun outfits - it's so all over the place that it's even more meaningless than pre-rendered trailers usually are. What boggles my mind is that bit where 47 mournfully closes the eyelids of a dead kung-fu supernun. What the hell kind of tone are we trying to set here? "This poor misguided girl," thinks Agent 47. "If only the Catholic church would end their sexy rocket launcher assassin training scheme."
Well, I hope you enjoyed another attempt on my part to stem this painful gushing session the industry insists upon annually. And if you have, why not consider hiring my excitement-killing services? Are your kids screaming the house down in the lead-up to Disneyland. Twenty minutes in my van and they'll be suddenly kicking the back of your seat all the way to Anaheim.
It's a shame I don't have time here to cover every game, but in general terms, do be optimistic but just exercise critical thought and don't get taken in. If there's no or very little gameplay in a trailer, ask yourself what don't they want to show you. The same bland garbage as always, no doubt.
I mean, look at Watch Dogs - that's how you do it! Ten minutes of unedited gameplay showing core mechanics to make my balls heat up and toss restlessly in their sack like kittens to be drowned. Congratulations, Watch Dogs, for winning the inaugural Zero Punctuation "Least Excruciating of E3" award. If you're gonna get pumped, get pumped for that, not because you saw an eighth of a second of Master Chief wearing a new hat.
- Although that pile-up looked a wee bit scripted I thought: Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw
- I'm getting really fucking sick of that background rising orchestral tone thing all the trailers do these days
- So presumably we have to call the Escapist Expo "E2" at some point
Extra: Escapist Expo
So me and a bunch of my Escapist chums are attending a bit of a get-together this year we're calling "the first Escapist Expo". September 14 to 16 in Durham, North Carolina, Check the website for more details. Hope to see you there! Yes, you! No, not you, the pretty one.