Today, Konami gave a surprisingly early pre-E3 keynote, streamed via Gamespot. In this digital presentation, which mimes the style of the popular Nintendo Direct broadcasts, Konami shed some light on the big games they currently have on the horizon; Pro Evolution Soccer 2014, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2.
The presentation was rather basic this year, mainly sticking to these three games, after a somewhat tedious intro about mobile and social games that even Konami always seems eager to just get over with. In case you missed the keynote, or just want a recap of the highlights, we’ve compiled what you need to know right here:
GO ALL IN, KONAMI STYLE!
In case you actually do have an active interest in Konami’s non-gaming related ventures, their keynote did announce that they’ve expanded into gambling apps. If you’re a casino fiend, Konami’s now offering new ways to gamble on the App Store, which will also be bolstered by some established social gaming hits like Puzzle Chasers, their shared project with Zynga.
Like we said however, even Konami seemed to be bored by patting themselves on the back for their social gaming advances. Even a noble effort to make Dance Dance Revolution part of a big initiative to help combat child obesity and get kids more active in classrooms was seemingly met with lethargy. Heck, Konami didn’t even seem that enthused about their own 40th anniversary this year!
Still, at least the sleepy intro didn’t last long, once Konami dug into the much-touted meat and potatoes of their presentation!
PRO EVOLUTION SOCCER… AGAIN.
Rending the problem of Konami seeming to be bored by their own intro, is the fact that they didn’t seem that much more excited about Pro Evolution Soccer 2014. Even producer, Kei Masuda admitted in this very keynote that it was getting harder to keep the series fresh! At the very least however, Konami is still trying to tap the potential of current-gen platforms, after they confirmed that Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 wouldn’t be releasing on PlayStation 4 or Xbox One.
The keynote discussed the technical advancements of Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 at length. Much was said about how the game’s A.I. will be affected by location, weather and other such dynamic factors. There was also a lengthy explanation of Konami re-developing the new FOX Engine for the game, allowing for more detailed player technique and response during soccer matches. Apparently, this is the closest that soccer has come to the ‘real thing’; You know, if you forget about that little matter of next-gen-enabled FIFA 14 and all.
In the end, even with a modified FOX Engine powering the game, it seems that it just amounts to more Pro Evolution Soccer. It’s just a soccer game, and it’s very difficult for North Americans especially to get particularly excited about that. The fact that the competing FIFA 14 actually is releasing on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One will no doubt kill almost any attention on Pro Evolution Soccer 2014 in the West. It seems like even Konami knows that.
Oh well. If you like this series, at least it’s getting a technical boost, and at least it looks to still provide you with your fix. Beyond that though, nothing exciting was really mentioned. The game is still on track for a release on September 20th of this year, and will still be coming out for current-gen platforms only, specifically, PC, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3. Even all of the recent last-gen platforms, Wii, DS and PSP, are also getting the game, yet it won’t even be coming out for 3DS, Vita or Wii U. As usual, the Pro Evolution Soccer team is aggressively resisting trying to adapt to new hardware for as long as they can! There was a trailer, but, once again, it was just the same old trailer.
Unless you’re a real tech geek that also happens to be a real detail-oriented soccer nut, there wasn’t really anything to see here.
SNAKE GETS A NEW VOICE, AND REFUSES A NEXT-GEN MAKEOVER!
Pro Evolution Soccer wasn’t the only Konami series seemingly refusing to make the leap to next-gen platforms. Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was next up for Konami’s keynote, and it still seems that the game is happy to stick with current-gen platforms itself. It’s still only planned for Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 at this time. Those holding out for an announcement of PlayStation 4 and Xbox One ports are seemingly out of luck, unfortunately.
Fortunately however, Konami’s keynote finally picked up here, since it seemed like they finally reached a franchise that they were actually eager to talk about! Series creator, Hideo Kojima started to speak about Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, finally confirming who Snake’s new actor is, after the series’ regular Snake voice actor, David Hayter, apparently wouldn’t be reprising the role this time. So who got the lucky gig? None other than 24’s Kiefer Sutherland! He came on the recommendation of Hideo Kojima’s good friend and Marvel Studios founder, Avi Arad, who is still set to produce the long-in-development movie adaptation of Metal Gear Solid, whenever it gets off the ground at Sony Pictures. Arad was also on hand to speak about Sutherland’s casting, along with Sutherland himself.
Despite admitting to not being a gamer, Sutherland praised the Metal Gear Solid series at length, stating that he was well aware of the franchise and its impact, despite not playing video games. He also assisted Kojima in explaining that Snake’s emotional spectrum will be bolstered like never before with the FOX Engine in Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. The game would apparently rely less on spoken dialogue to convey Snake’s emotions, instead using subtle facial cues and actions from Sutherland, along with his established talents as a Hollywood action man on 24, to bring the character to life like never before! The casting may not be a complete shock, since Sutherland’s voice could already clearly be heard from another character during the GDC trailer that first confirmed the identity of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. This raises even more questions about Snake’s psychology in this new title, since he’s apparently talking to himself.
Despite most of the Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain coverage focusing on Sutherland’s casting and direction with being the new voice of Snake, a few new nuggets about the game were dropped by Kojima in passing. Kojima confirmed that the game will be set in 1984, with Snake (as in ‘Big Boss’, the ‘real’ Snake) pushing fifty at that point. He also reminded players that the game would be re-imagined as a huge open-world game, where players carried out operations from a mother base, a la the PSP games, only, with a persistent world this time. To this end, the typical ‘Tactical Espionage Action’ subtitle of every Metal Gear Solid game has been replaced with ‘Tactical Espionage Operations’ for Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.
Much of the game’s mechanics are still vague, and most disappointingly, it wasn’t given any kind of release info during the keynote either. This suggests that Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain probably won’t release this year, and likely won’t come out until well into 2014. Nothing was said about prequel game, Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes either, which was disappointing.
Still, at least we finally know who is voicing Snake now, even if many questions about this game still hang in the air, unanswered.
THE TALE OF DRACULA WILL COME TO A CLIMAX THIS WINTER!
If there was any surprise to be had during Konami’s rather predictable keynote this year, it was that Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 received even more coverage than Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain did! The game had gameplay footage shown and detailed for the first time, with the announcement that it would also be releasing ‘this Winter’. Yes, ‘Winter’ is probably the most annoying release window that a gamer could hear, since it could mean either late this year, or early next year. Still, at least we know that the game will have made it to retail before the conclusion of Konami’s current fiscal year at the end of March!
Regardless, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 was easily the standout game of the keynote, looking like a gorgeous, action-packed and highly emotional spectacle! With Gabriel Belmont returning to the protagonist role, now fully converted into the series’ longstanding villain, Dracula, players will finally get to see the backstory and explanation of how this villain fully came to be in the rebooted Lords of Shadow universe. A trailer shown after the interviews and demonstrations also claims that this is the ‘conclusion’ to the Lords of Shadow saga, which so far spans the original Castlevania: Lords of Shadow on PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 (and PC as of this Summer), and interquel, Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate on 3DS.
The lengthy trailer showed off loads of impressive visuals, and the developers promised a very compelling story, confirming that Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 will pick up in the modern world, where the ambiguous epilogue of Castlevania: Lords of Shadow left off. Gabriel’s ally, Zobek was confirmed to return, and Gabriel’s son, Trevor Belmont (who is now also Alucard in the series’ rebooted continuity) is also confirmed to be featured in the game. Satan himself will once again be a key villain, with the world being threatened by his forces amassing an army to stand against Gabriel/Dracula, attempting to resurrect their master in the process. This will be the key conflict of the game.
This awesome reveal and showcase was almost ruined by a ‘surprise’ turning out to be an awkward Mega 64 skit ‘lampooning’ Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, but even so, this was definitely the game that Konami did the best job generating hype for! MercurySteam confirmed once again that it will be releasing on PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and PC, with no PlayStation 4 or Xbox One port, and no Wii U port. More current-gen platforms and nothing else for Konami, it seems.
Oh well. This game still looks fantastic!
So, Konami had no real surprises. There wasn’t even a whisper of Frogger, Contra, Gradius or even Silent Hill. The only real noteworthy highlights in the keynote were entirely directed at Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain and Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2, which gamers are already well aware of. If you were hoping for a surprise new Silent Hill game to be announced, or for any word on that mysterious Contra game for 3DS, which Konami first teased at E3 2011, you’re out of luck, again. Those franchises weren’t even brought up, despite the company celebrating their 40th anniversary this year. You’d think they’d have a lot more to say about their legacy offerings and such in that case, but apparently not.
Konami did fine in our opinion, but they merely made par. They didn’t exceed it. Their bullish refusal to adopt next-gen hardware at this point could very well leave them lost in the hype shuffle at this E3, especially in the case of Pro Evolution Soccer 2014. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 should still be a big release for the company that’s hopefully reasonably successful, but Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain seems like a long way off, and we don’t even know when to expect Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes either!
They could have done better, but Konami told us what we wanted to hear, showing us the games we wanted to see. It was adequate and satisfactory. Hopefully next year however, they’ll have actual curveballs ready.