Little 'wow' factor at Electronic Entertainment Expo

People wait in line to play Nintendo’s Splatoon video game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
People wait in line to play Nintendo’s Splatoon video game at the Electronic Entertainment Expo on Wednesday in Los Angeles.
Published June 11, 2014

LOS ANGELES — The jaws aren't dropping at E3.

Traditionally, the Electronic Entertainment Expo is the place where video game publishers reveal their biggest and boldest creations. That's changed in recent years as game release dates have moved beyond the holiday season and leaks about upcoming titles have spread across the Internet.

In the months leading up to this year's trade show at the Los Angeles Convention Center, an unprecedented amount of deliberate publicity campaigns announcing new games and seemingly unintentional breeches about upcoming titles meant that much of the typical E3 hype landed with a thud.

Can game makers still astonish?

"I still think it's possible to surprise people," said Matt Nava, the former Journey art director who wowed the crowd at Sony's news conference Tuesday with footage of Abzu, his undersea fantasy coming in 2016. "There's still so many places you can take people where they never imagined they could go before."

A sampling of some big surprises at this year's E3:

Cuphead: Despite receiving only a few seconds of screen time during Microsoft's briefing Monday, the old-school 1930s animated art style of this run-and-gun game from indie developer Studio MDHR captured attendees' imaginations. It's coming to the Xbox One as part of Microsoft's ID@Xbox indie initiative.

Powers: Since the Xbox One's debut, Microsoft has touted the console's entertainment prowess and invested heavily in a slate of original programming. However, rival Sony used its E3 news conference to tout a show set for its online service: a live-action adaptation of the graphic novel by Brian Michael Bendis.

LittleBigPlanet 3: It was assumed ahead of E3 that sequels to franchises such as Tomb Raider, Crackdown and Uncharted would be teased and the prospect of a new LittleBigPlanet was a long shot. That made the revelation of LBP 3 coming to PlayStation 4 this year with playable sidekicks a bombshell.

Splatoon: Nintendo unveiling Skylanders-like figures and a Legend of Zelda installment for the Wii U on Tuesday didn't catch gamers offguard, but no one guessed that the Mario Bros. maker was working on a zany online multiplayer shooter featuring an original crew of shape-shifting squids battling each other with paint guns.

Alien: Isolation: Buried in a press release announcing that former THQ president Jason Rubin had joined Oculus VR as the head of worldwide studios Tuesday was the shocker that Alien: Isolation, the upcoming survival game based on the original Alien movie, would also be playable with the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset.

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Other jolts this week included the procedurally generated indie game No Man's Sky bringing some gamers to tears at Sony's briefing and Ubisoft announcing plans to resurrect Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six.