Konami just held its pre-E3 presentation, at which it revealed a few mildly interesting pieces of information. Spoiler: there was no surprise announcement of a new Suikoden game - sorry, Jeremy.
Let's delve in and take a look at what they had to share with us.
After some preamble about sports-themed social games which, judging by the attitude of the chatroom on Twitch, won't be of interest to anyone here, first up was the company's flagship soccer title and FIFA rival.
The newest Pro Evolution Soccer game features an all-new engine exclusively created for the new game. It's designed around the concept of "fluidity" and is apparently based on analysis of actual, real-life soccer -- particularly the way that skilled players are constantly moving fluidly. Given that my own soccer skills are limited to hoofing a ball way up into the air and it inevitably landing on my own head at high velocity after a couple of seconds, I'm not in a particularly good position to judge how well the team at Konami has succeeded, but it certainly looked quite good.
There are six new elements to the engine, known as TrueBall Tech, M.A.S.S., PES ID, Team Play, Heart and The Core. Of these six elements, Konami specifically discussed three of them: TrueBall Tech, M.A.S.S. and Heart.
TrueBall Tech allows players to control the ball in any direction, and to control the center of gravity of players separately from the center of gravity of the ball. Judging by the video, this looked to involve some juggling of both analog sticks, and apparently results in a "more instinctive" style of play. Exactly what that means is anyone's guess, but it looks a little different from the usual "press A to pass, B to shoot" mechanic. Whether "different" means "better" remains to be seen.
M.A.S.S. stands for Motion Animation Stability System, and is probably one of those things where someone thought of the acronym first and then squeezed some vaguely relevant words around it. M.A.S.S. is a physics system that simulates body contact and triggers seamless animations during play, apparently allowing for "real play, physics and tactics" to be used. My real-life soccer tactic of simply shoulderbarging other players out of the way can finally be put to use in a video game.
Heart, meanwhile, is intended to capture "the essence of playing both at home and away." It does this by simulating team morale and individual player motivations -- factors which are significantly affected by where they are playing. When playing on home turf, surrounded by friendly fans, player motivation will be high; when playing in hostile territory, there's a risk that morale may be lower. It will probably be a bit more complicated than that in practice, but that's the gist anyway.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Metal Gear Solid V, according to Kojima-san, focuses on some new themes and has a darker tone. Specifically, it looks at issues such as race and revenge.
Kojima was keen for Snake to have a "more subdued" performance in the new game - with much of the meaning of what's going on expressed through facial expressions and tone of voice rather than simply the words he's using. Consequently, the team behind the game has shifted away from hand-crafting characters to making use of sophisticated motion and facial capture technology. The results are very impressive indeed - the cutscenes shown in the trailer demonstrate by far the most "movie-like" footage Kojima has ever shot, though it remains to be seen how the gameplay stacks up.
Probably the biggest news about Metal Gear Solid V, though, was the expected news that David Hayter would be stepping aside from his most famous role in favor or a new actor who could truly capture a 49-year old Snake.
The new actor for Snake, handling both voice and facial capture duties, is Kiefer Sutherland. That's right, Jack Bauer is Solid Snake. Sutherland himself claims that he's not a gamer, but that he was aware of the Metal Gear Solid series and the profound influence it's had on video game culture at large over the years. He certainly seemed enthusiastic, too.
This is a brave decision for Kojima and Konami, since Hayter has been the iconic voice of Snake in the West since the first Metal Gear Solid game on PS1. Sutherland at least has precedent for doing growly-voiced gritty, though, so I'm sure he'll do a fine job. In the meantime, fans have been expressing their support to Hayter on Twitter - "getting fired was never so heartwarming," he tweeted shortly after the reveal.
Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2
SPOILERS for Lords of Shadow 1 ahead!
It's impossible to talk about Lords of Shadow 2 without spoiling the end of the first game - mildly annoying, since I haven't actually finished it myself yet - because it follows directly on from the epilogue of the first game. (Seriously, the next paragraph spoils it completely. Don't say I didn't warn you.
Lords of Shadow 2 once again casts you in the role of Gabriel Belmont who, as anyone who finished the first game will already know, is now Dracula. The new game promises a "dark, cruel" story - because we obviously haven't had quite enough of those recently - that will incite "intense, contradictory feelings." You know, kind of like when you drop a piece of barbecued meat into a soda and discover it still tastes good. Maybe.
Dracula, as we shall refer to our anti-hero from now on, has some new abilities. His dramatically-named Chaos Claws are used to break through enemy defenses - since apparently enemies are now often equipped with shields and armor - and he can finish the job with either his Blood Whip or his Void Sword.
The game structure has undergone some significant changes. Gone is the discrete level-based structure of the original, to be replaced with an open-world setting that apparently has no loading times. The Devil May Cry-style fixed camera angles of the first game have also been replaced with a free camera that can move everywhere - a big deal was made out of this in the presentation, but really it just looked like you could rotate the camera. You know, like in pretty much every other third-person perspective game out there.
Following on from the epilogue of Lords of Shadow 1, the setting is now modern day: Dracula's castle is still there, of course - what Castlevania game would be complete without it? - but much of the action takes place in a modern-day city that looked somewhat Arkham City-ish.
Oh, and yes, Patrick Stewart is back. What I wouldn't give to hear him deliver the "what is a man? A miserable little pile of secrets!" speech...
Lords of Shadow 2 will be coming to PS3, Xbox 360 and PC - there was no mention of next-gen consoles.