The hype train has left the station and E3 is over for another year. Eugenia Woo watched the whole bloody thing and now lets rip on which games she can’t wait to play – and which should be consigned to the dustbin of history.
It’s been an insane few days for the games industry. In fact, trouble’s been brewing for a few weeks now; everyone’s played through the 2017 GOTY contenders more than thrice by this stage and developers know that we’re desperate for the next hit of AAA goodness. What better way to feed the addicted, unquestioning masses than to gather them all up and bash them over the head with YouTube influencers and merchandise? For the uninitiated, that volatile formula of consumption is best illustrated by one of the world’s biggest gaming expos – E3.
As early as May, Twitter timelines were slowly taken over by those lucky twats who had “@E3” in their handle (almost a whole bloody month early) and by the rest of us who were trying to reassure ourselves that nothing important would happen at this event that we definitely wouldn’t rob our parents to go to. Luckily for everyone who suffered from a debilitating case of FOMO, you didn’t miss out on much if you couldn’t get down to Los Angeles this year. Take it from someone who regularly got up at 4 in the morning to cover all the conferences.
Currently (in)famous for the Origin client and the sorry state of Mass Effect: Andromeda, the purveyor of great classics like The Sims and Dragon Age seemed like the horse to bet on if you wanted a well-presented presser. However, if you don’t like wearing snapbacks then the majority of the line-up, featuring beer pong favourites such as FIFA 2018 and Madden 2018, definitely wasn’t for you. There were a couple of diamonds in the rough, however, and the fact that they’ve gotten a new IP out didn’t go unnoticed either. Compared to the other studios, however, this was largely a forgettable offering.
Good: A Way Out. From the people that brought us Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, which was revolutionary for its narrative and beautiful mechanical delivery, this new title promises much more grit in an equally polished package. It’s been designed with couch co-op in mind, which is one of the good things about gaming that the industry has disregarded over the years, and it looks to tell an entertaining and emotive story about a prison breakout. Gameplay trailers are already out, and I’m already pretty excited.
Bad: Star Wars: Galaxy of Heroes. Why EA bothered to devote any time at all to this mobile game is beyond me because literally nobody cares about it, but hey, they’re the professionals. Combining all the most banal parts of every best-selling, microtransaction-packing game on the App Store, the product was a hard sell even when they trotted out a couple of overly enthusiastic people in a tent to drum up some interest.
Forgettable: Probably an unpopular opinion, but it’s Anthem. BioWare’s fresh new IP was a bit of a fizzer. Everyone had already gotten aboard the hype train when EA revealed Project Dylan, but the 10 seconds of footage showed us a huge wall, the aftermath of an apocalypse, and suits straight out of Destiny. The world has had enough of generic open world games set in an uncertain, sci-fi flavoured future, and if this is what they canned Mass Effect for then the tradeoff is hardly worth it.
Good ol’ Microsoft did a little better on the conference front than EA, which is a bit surprising considering that most of the show was focused on the Project Scorpio and Xbox One X tech circle jerk (try saying that three times fast). There were plenty of expected sequels around, though not all of the blockbuster variety, and overall there was a good balance of known works and arthouse stuff making its way to the forefront. From the welcome sight of the first non-white Assassin’s Creed protagonist in years to the inexplicably tearjerking visual promo for the new Ori game, there was a lot to feel positive about coming out of this presser. Am I going to need to buy an Xbox One X, though? Probably not for as long I’ve got a PC.
Good: Middle-earth: Shadow of War. Everyone’s gone nuts over the charismatic orc from the trailer, Bruz the Chopper, and if you don’t think that we all have a mate like Bruz then honestly you’re kidding yourself. Rustic (see: bogan) orcs aside, this title is a sign that the franchise has set its sights on greater horizons, both in terms of quantity and the quality of the formidable troops that you can use to tell Sauron to fuck back off into Mordor.
Bad: Life is Strange: Before the Storm. Before I get crucified for this, my disappointment upon this reveal stemmed from a lot of things, ranging from the fact that a different team is working on this prequel, there’s no continuity between the voice-acting, and the trailer seemed to be aiming for an “edgy teen” feel that didn’t quite hit its mark. With such high standards to live up to, I’m not very hopeful about this addition.
Forgettable: Crackdown 3. I love a good Terry Crews visual, and my religious watching of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is testament to that. However, not even his enthusiasm could help us figure out what this latest Crackdown was going to feel like, let alone whether or not it’d be worth shelling out for. No one’s been crying out for the revival of the franchise, and Microsoft would have been better served giving more screentime to some good ID@Xbox games (shoutout to the spectacular Ooblets, who deserved a full presentation and more).
Lots of writers have choice words for Bethesda and their policy regarding reviews, but those opinions didn’t have much of an impact when it came to the reception of their conference. Having positive press leading up to it probably wouldn’t have made up for the distinct lack of new product, the unexplainable addition of “Bethesdaland,” and the addition of all the Skyrim content that literally nobody asked for. While there were some surefire commercial hits announced, such as Dishonored 2 DLC and The Evil Within 2, it was really a conference that held no surprises. Depending on your perspective, that would have either been a relief or a travesty.
Good: Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. Wolfenstein’s reboot was a raging success, and it looks like Bethesda has hit on a winning formula here to give us more of the same with the latest addition. After the campy FMV opening evoking The Sound of Music, the media promo evolved into showing us the BJ Blazcowicz that we know and love – knocked out in a hospital bed, probably days away from experiencing life-threatening torture that he’ll have to shoot his way out of.
Bad: The Evil Within 2. The first iteration of this series was marketed as a return to classic horror, but it was less Silent Hill and more like a budget high school production of Silence of the Lambs in execution. I’m not sure what was going through their minds when the studio decided to pump out a survival horror game in which survival was laughably easy with enough gunpowder, but they’ve decided to have another crack at it that will probably end up lukewarm.
Forgettable: Skyrim on the Switch. Sure, Bethesda continues on their lifelong mission to make sure that every console that ever existed gets a version of Skyrim, but does anyone care anymore? In honour of Nintendo’s latest child, you can now play as Link in the new edition of the game, if you’re okay with the fact that Skyrim-Link looks like the result of a one-night stand between the original and the daughter of Conan the Barbarian.
PC Gaming Show
Probably the most-skipped presser for journos, there was still a fair amount delivered here for those worshipping solely at the PC altar. Other conferences had touched on most of the titles that were given airtime, but the big budget offerings stood out the most without an army of on-stage devs to really do the rest justice. For those still living in the past, remasters were the name of the game – Age of Empires is now going to be in 4K – so you’ll have something to distract your parents with over Christmas when the dinner table conversation inevitably turns to immigration bans. Otherwise, new XCOM 2 content and Total War: Warhammer 2 were also on the cards and made for some interesting viewing.
Good: XCOM 2 War of the Chosen. This is a truckload and then some of new content for the game, and it’s at least twice the size of the previous DLC that has been made available for the title. We’ve been clamouring for more variety when it comes to XCOM 2, and the devs have listened and delivered. The goodies don’t stop at a new storyline, and it’s slated for an August release, which means that we don’t have long to wait at all.
Bad: Tunic. Previously known as Secret Legend, this late in the E3 game it turned out to be yet another cute game about a fox exploring the wilderness. Fighting ancient glowy-eyed enemies with retractable swords is a little too Zelda-esque for my taste, and it’s not really doing anything new or innovative with the formula that it chose to adopt.
Forgettable: Killing Floor 2’s Summer sideshow content. Clowns, spooky festivals, mutants, and exaggeratedly incredulous screaming was the name of the game here. The constant thrumming of Generic Metal Sample #1 and the fact that everything was on fire or bleeding 100% of the time was boring instead of jarring. Show us footage of crushing a man enough times and we’ll stop caring about it. Next.
There was a lot to love coming out of Ubisoft, least of all Assassin’s Creed: Origins and Skull & Bones. While there were definitely a few personal misses, this was perhaps one of the most well-presented and coherent pressers of the whole event. With a great focus on devs, and also giving creators the chance to really share their love of the work with the audience, it struck a chord where others may have fallen flat when relying on influencers to market content. Heck, it even announced Beyond Good and Evil 2, which people have been waiting 15 years for, giving some much-needed hope to fans. Considering that on top of the wide variety of titles, it wouldn’t have been my pick going into things but it was certainly one of my favourites going out.
Good: I never thought that I’d utter these words, but my pick is Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle. Someone told me even before the title was confirmed that this hybrid beast would be GOTY, and I’m glad that I didn’t promise to eat my socks if it did because that would have worked out awfully. It looks to be a turn-based tactical battle fest, which is both unsettling and incredibly entertaining.
Bad: The Crew 2. If you liked Need for Speed then this isn’t the game for you. However, if you’ve wanted to race literally every kind of motor vehicle that looks remotely like it could make it up the side of a watchtower, then I guess you’ll want to buy this if Forza is sold out? I was disappointed by the Inception-like graphics which meant nothing in the end, but I’m sure that someone out there will pay full price for this one day.
Forgettable: South Park: The Fractured But Whole. Yay, another South Park game. The mechanics were uncertain from the promo materials, but the last one was done well according to fans so it’ll probably be another crowd-pleaser. Particularly innovative? Nah. Funny in its own way? Yeah. If you like kids in LARPing gear then this will probably be way up your alley.
The home of the Playstation has done it again – delivered on a perfectly acceptable, mediocre press conference. While Sony will always have the better console exclusives by virtue of its JRPG-heavy catalogue and diverse genre offerings compared to the historical approach taken by Microsoft, that advantage didn’t play out at all this time. Compared to the trailers trotted out by the other competitors, it was a decidedly quiet affair for Sony this year. There was some interest in Shadow of the Colossus being remade, but as others have speculated, it was a logical step to take after they cashed in on The Last Guardian. Boring zombie game announcement aside, it was safe and drama-free.
Good: Uncharted: The Lost Legacy. I had my interest piqued by the two female leads, and the impressive scenery and action sequences pushed me the rest of the way over the line firmly into I Want This territory. A great console exclusive, with top voice acting and the work of the geniuses at Naughty Dog, it looks to live up to its legacy (ignore the name) in delivering a tense and exciting exploration adventure, even though it is technically only a spinoff.
Bad: Call of Duty: World War II. Is the premise not a good enough reason to throw this title in the trash? Sure, everyone loves a good Call of Duty title and I remember Modern Warfare 2 fondly. However, the good elves at the FPS factory have called and they’re running short on sprinkles of decent narrative elements. With each new game the story gets more and more diluted. “But the whole point of it is playing with your mates,” you froth? In that case, pick up Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds and do your dignity a favour.
Forgettable: Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds. It’s DLC for one of the GOTY contenders that everyone loves. The base game was already beautiful, and its environments were already unforgiving. This is more of the same, except with more snow and more Zoids. Looks like an unreasonable amount of setup for Aloy summiting a mountain.
Nintendo’s was a decent show to end E3 on, with a lot of titles that were announced already confirmed in one way or another before the expo. It gave fans what they wanted for the most part, ranging from the adorable to the bizarre, making sure that it was all dressed up in familiar costuming. There were some surprises, mainly Metroid Prime 4, which the jury is still out on regarding whether or not it’s going to live up to its predecessors. By far and large, Mario was the main man of the show and for good reason – nothing quite says “this will make us money” like displaying your company’s mascot in every title possible. Not sure how I feel about his hat being some sort of sentient, mind-possessing object, but Pokken Tournament DX will make me feel better.
Good: Fire Emblem Warriors. I’m a sucker for a good Musou game, and this is shaping up to be it. There have already been numerous teasers for the game, and it was presented beautifully, with a great rendition of the classic theme and cutscenes designed to show off the spectacular moves of some newer fan favourites. Add the fact that Koei Tecmo is on board, and it’s going to be one beautiful game.
Bad: The fact that no one announced anything related to Animal Crossing. I can’t believe that we’re not going to have a new title announced for Switch, and New Leaf is great but it’s been 5 YEARS since it was released. What’s it going to take for a new Animal Crossing game, Nintendo? Huh? TELL ME.
Forgettable: Rocket League. Cool, we get it on the Switch and we get cross-network play and some exclusives too. Aren’t we all already playing this on PC? I mean, is there anyone who doesn’t already own this game? Am I speaking to myself?
Made with the help of the benevolent superhumans at Bigpipe Broadband, the best ISP in all possible universes.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.