E3, the biggest gaming event of the year, thrives on hype. It shows us the present while also teasing the future. The conferences need a balance of both so people can imagine the next few years for their favourite platforms. Sometimes, too many future game teasers leave people wondering about the present. If someone announces a game too early, then it shows up at E3 for three or four consecutive years.
This year’s E3 ended as one of the best in recent memory. Some conferences excelled in game content yet they failed in presentation. The conference experience matters, for both people at home and at the show. With new publishers presenting this year, we came away with dozens of new games for the next few years.
EA jumped the line this year and presented their conference first for E3 week. With known games like Anthem and Battlefield V, EA could ride those games or end with a huge surprise. They instead expanded on games we already know.
DICE announced a Battlefield V battle royale mode and ended there. Aside from some brief multiplayer gameplay, they didn’t show anything concrete. A cinematic trailer of chained explosions and parachuting troops provided us with just concepts. I don’t understand their cryptic strategy for unveiling gameplay.
Origin Access, EA’s game subscription service, also expanded into a premium package. Origin Access Premier offers EA games at launch and access to the EA vault for $15 per month. The Netflix-like service copies Microsoft’s move to offer Xbox exclusives at launch on the Xbox Game Pass.
Throughout the conference EA showed smaller titles like Unravel Two, which released the same day as the reveal. The A Way Out team also started their next project and we learned about Command and Conquer: Rivals. Rivals, a phone game, disappoints PC RTS fans, but I appreciate a good range of titles.
Sea of Solitude, another small EA title, brought us to a flooded world with some puzzle mechanics. Cornelia Geppert, writer and director of the Berlin-based studio, jittered and gasped during her presentation. Her nervousness and enthusiasm brought life to a conference full of sports games and loot box denial.
The show ended with an extended discussion and short demo of Anthem. BioWare employees discussed Anthem’s design ideas, like building the game with story expansions in mind. Although Anthem won’t feature PvP, players can explore with friends. It looks closer to a mix of Monster Hunter and Destiny, rather than a straight copy of Destiny.
One segment focused on Respawn CEO, Vince Zampella. Instead of revealing Titanfall 3, he announced the studio’s new game, Star Wars: Jedi: Fallen Order. That’s all we learned. No gameplay, trailer or screenshots accompanied an empty, not ready, game announcement.
With the sports games woven between reveals, EA’s conference felt all over the place. The indie representation showed us some great games coming in the future, but the bigger games felt neglected. Brief Battlefield V coverage and the supercut Anthem demo frustrated more than answered questions.
Year after year people beg Microsoft to make games besides Halo, Gears of War and Forza. At E3 2018, those three franchises appeared, but alongside new games. Halo Infinite debuted with a brief trailer, showing a wider landscape on a halo ring. Their new Slipspace Engine powers the sequel to Halo 5: Guardians, and promises more Master Chief. The Halo story doesn’t matter to me, but I hope the gameplay stays closer to Halo 5 than previous games.
Gears of War also returns to continue the unfinished story started in Gears of War 4. The story focus on Kait and the environment variety need to refresh the familiar feeling cover-based shooting. Gears 5 (they dropped the of War) showed us snow, jungles and sunny, open environments. The open areas and weather variety also appear in Forza Horizon 4.
Leaks suggested a Japan setting for the next Forza Horizon, but Playground Games instead visited Britain. A seasonal weather cycle, 60FPS mode on Xbox One X and seamless online play doesn’t cure my disappointment. The landscape feels too familiar and bland. Horizon is the best racing franchise available, so I hope their additions feel worthwhile.
In 2019, Ori and The Will of the Wisps, Crackdown 3 and a new Battletoads bolster the Xbox library. DLC support for Sea of Thieves and Cuphead expand on already released games. With Gears Tactics, Gears of War turn-based strategy, and continued indie support for games like Tunic, Microsoft’s future looks promising.
Then Microsoft announced five studio acquisitions. They acquired Undead Labs, Playground Games and Compulsion Games. A new studio, The Initiative, also formed in Santa Monica, California. Most exciting of the studios is Microsoft’s acquisition of Ninja Theory. They developed Hellblade, DmC Devil May Cry and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West. One of my favourite developers can now create games with financial backing and stability. It’s a huge acquisition Microsoft needed to sustain a steady flow of quality titles.
Third party games also drive healthy console libraries, and Microsoft’s partnerships with Japanese studios helps it. You never saw games like Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Nier: Automata, Devil May Cry 5 and others at Xbox conferences. Nero and Dante at the Xbox conference is a huge milestone for the Xbox brand.
Every year Microsoft relied on third party support, yet they avoided exclusive content. This year proves no different. Aside from enhancements for the Xbox One X, games like Dying Light 2, Just Cause 4 and Shadow of the Tomb Raider all release with identical multiplatform packages. Third party appearances won’t sell Xbox consoles, but it also doesn’t hurt its image.
The Cyberpunk 2077 reveal to end the show doesn’t feel less exciting knowing it plays the same on other platforms. The reveal instead elevated an already incredible show filled with great games, announcements and features for the Xbox platform.
Microsoft lacked one thing this E3: a huge, new exclusive. A big exclusive, not Cyberpunk 2077, needed to close the show. Microsoft can’t tout a game like Horizon: Zero Dawn or The Last of Us: Part 2. With their studio acquisitions and creations, that IP will come later.
The Bethesda games people love, I tend to avoid. A brief teaser for Elder Scrolls VI and a new IP, Starfield, closed the show. Those announcements mean a lot to millions of people, but I latched onto other games.
Doom Eternal, Prey DLC and Wolfenstein: Youngblood expand on the Bethesda games I want to play. Bathesda’s continued support for single player story driven games give players variety in an industry favouring multiplayer games.
Fallout 76 tries to bring both online and single player together. The traditional Fallout experience still exists, except dozens of people roam the wasteland. Things like base building ensures teamplay as a viable option, but you can veer off alone as well. For the first time in a while, I want to at least try a new Fallout game. The promise of finding nuclear missile silos primed for launching at enemy bases, is something I must now do.
Bethesda brought surprise reveals, upcoming games and DLC support to E3 2018, and you can’t ask for more than that.
Square Enix’s first ever E3 press conference ran short. In just a half hour, they showed Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Dragon Quest 11 and Kingdom Hearts 3. Although we saw these game before, Square Enix showed them again. It ruined the point of a dedicated conference: to show new games.
They did reveal new things, however. In 2019, PlatinumGames will release Babylon’s Fall, a fantasy action game. Four characters in the trailer could indicate some sort of multiplayer. In a conference full of already announced games, I wanted more from this reveal.
Square Enix then showed The Quiet Man – a back-alley brawler promising more information in August. Aside from the terrible name, The Quiet Man didn’t reveal much either. Like the rest of the Square Enix conference, we didn’t see much new to get excited about.
Ambiguous reveals for two new games didn’t help justify Square Enix’s E3 conference. The Final Fantasy VII Remake didn’t show up at all this E3 either. In a conference full of brief reveals, I wondered why Sqaure Enix even chose this year to debut a presentation.
Ubisoft, in almost annual tradition, danced their way onto the E3 stage with Just Dance. The drums, trumpets and dancers then opened the show for Beyond Good and Evil 2 – an action adventure RPG. With the Space Monkey Program, Ubisoft and Hitrecord.org invite community members to contribute art, music and writing for their game. The collaboration pays selected contributors, while also assisting in development. The program offers anything unlike I’ve ever seen before.
The Division 2 kept up the theme of rewarding the community. Instead of paid content, the three DLCs in year-one of The Division 2 release for free. It promises eight-player raids and new activities. This could mean content beyond year-one will require payment, but Ubisoft didn’t discuss it. A year of free content may help build the community before possible segmentation with paid expansions.
The Crew 2, Skull and Bones and Starlink diversify Ubisoft’s catalog of open-world games and shooters. For Honor DLC and the surprise appearance of Nintendo’s Fox in Starlink, showed a real effort to excite players for their smaller titles.
Ubisoft ended the conference with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. Although leaked by a retailer keychain, the Ancient Greece setting changed the whole feel of the franchise. It looked like a new series with changes like deeper RPG systems and gender selection. Ubisoft’s demoed some great games, but had their surprises ruined weeks before E3.
E3 2018 stabbed a lot of people in the face. Between Tomb Raider, Devil May Cry 5 and Last of Us Part 2, many sharp blades dulled. Sony opened their E3 press conference with a The Last of Us Part 2 demo featuring an uncomfortable amount of gore. The realism turned the violence we often see into something unsettling. I turned away many times, despite wanting to see what Ellie dealt with next. Without a release date to close the demo, it feels far away.
The church-like venue for the demo then paused the presentation and moved the audience to another location. In the second location, we saw Ghost of Tsushima, Sucker Punch’s new title. The samurai action game took place in an open-world, but we don’t know the limitations of exploration. A story of betrayal and war debuted the new game, but again, no release date.
Resident Evil 2, Nioh 2 and Control all debuted at the show, but with varying quality. Nioh 2 flashed a logo, while Control opted for a super-cut gameplay trailer. It looked familiar and a carbon copy of Quantum Break. When the Remedy logo appeared, it all made sense. I didn’t enjoy Quantum Break, so my interest Control evaporated.
Resident Evil 2, a remake, looked like a brand-new game. The overused zombie enemies didn’t detract from the impressive, atmospheric reveal. Everything felt familiar and expected, until Death Stranding demoed.
Kojima’s item carrying simulator, Death Stranding, continued the gore with toe nail pulling instead of throat stabbing. Like The Last of Us Part 2, the more I saw, the more questions I asked. My excitement diffused when few release dates appeared. These games felt not just many months away, but many years.
Resident Evil 2 and Spider-Man arrive soon and need to buy time for the rest the PS4 library. The future, much the like Microsoft’s outlook, looks bright. While Microsoft didn’t commit to many release dates, we at least saw many 2019 dates. For something like The Last of Us Part 2, it feels a lifetime away, or maybe even a console generation away.
Nintendo E3s often disappoint. Their Nintendo Direct streams come throughout the year, yet they skimp on content for the year’s biggest reveal event. E3 2018 proved no different.
The show started with a debut for Daemon X Machina, a brawler mech game. Pokemon Let’s Go, Super Mario Party and a Xenoblade Chronicles 2 expansion followed. The solid start for Nintendo’s E3 expanded on current games and showed us games for the near future.
Fire Emblem: Three Houses demoed for the first time in a 3D environment. The grid positioning transitioned into large scale 3D battles, sort of like the Total War games. Outside of combat, an open area allowed players to wander their base, talking to other party members. The combat scale excites me, yet I need to learn more before I squash any doubts.
For Fire Emblem Fates series, Nintendo’s translation ruined the conversation between characters. It pushed the Fates games into my most disappointing game of 2016. The character dialogue felt run-on and unnatural, where simpler structure proved more effective. Fire Emblem: Three Houses launches spring 2019.
A Super Smash Bros. Ultimate segment filled majority of the show. The roster of fighters adds the entire set of characters from all previous Smash games. The full roster offers slight changes to each character, as well as additions like the Inklings from Splatoon and Ridley from Metroid. The full roster, along with the 8-player battle mode, launches on December 7, 2018.
The extended look at Smash Bros. framed an obvious scenario during the reveal: the end of Nintendo’s 2018 E3. Nintendo didn’t plan on showing Bayonetta 3, Metroid Prime 4 and Retro’s new game. Those game release dates landed outside of Spring 2019, and so they skipped E3. They just aren’t ready.
A whole year without any Metroid update makes you wonder why Nintendo even bothered to reveal it last E3. And while Nintendo’s upcoming games looked impressive, everyone expected more. Expectations matter, and our reactions change within the context. If Nintendo showed just one of those games, it turns their E3 from disappointing to great. But instead of one of the three games, we saw none.