Writes Jack Coleman
The sun has set on another Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), an annual event held in Los Angeles where developers get together and try to sell you on their games, many of which don’t even exist yet. A common story that arises every year is who came out on top, who ‘won’ E3? Whose conference was the glitziest and had the best game trailers? Unfortunately this year we didn’t really get a fair fight as Sony neglected to hold a press conference, stating that they were looking for ‘other ways’ to connect with their community. Microsoft would only have to contend with the likes of Nintendo and Ubisoft to win out this year.
The event kicked off on Saturday with Electronic Arts’ ‘EA Play’ event. The company decided not to hold a traditional press conference and instead hosted a live stream where they announced their upcoming games and accompanied these announcements with gameplay footage. EA showcased their evergreen sports titles, FIFA 20 and Madden 20 and also revealed major updates for Apex Legends and The Sims 4. Fans of Battlefield will also be happy to find out that the next instalment, Battlefield V, is on the way and is going to take the player to the battlefields of World War 2. However, the major reveal that has everyone amped, is Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order.
The newest addition to the long catalogue of Star Wars video games is an action-adventure game developed by Respawn Entertainment, the creators of Apex Legends and Titanfall and it promises to feature ‘thoughtful’ lightsaber content and an engaging story. The game is set between the events of Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope and features Saw Gerrera, Forest Whitaker’s fan-favourite character from Rogue One. It follows the story of Cal Kestis, a Jedi padawan that never finished his training and is now in hiding from the Empire while working as a salvager in the Outer Rim.
Then came Sunday when the meat of the event unfolded. The highly-anticipated Microsoft conference opened the proceedings, as Phil Spencer promised fans they would be seeing 60 new games throughout the event, and he certainly delivered. Microsoft had something for everyone this year: enchanting indie platformers, vibrant action-adventure games, intense first-person shooters and even a new edition of Microsoft Flight Simulator.
In a conference that revealed so many potentially great games like Ori and the Blind Forest: Will of the Wisps, The Outer Worlds, Gears of War 5, State of Decay 2, Minecraft Dungeons and Elden Ring, there was one game and trailer that stole the entire show. A cinematic trailer for CD Projekt Red’s newest project, Cyberpunk 2077, captured the attention of the audience with its striking depiction of the criminal underbelly of Night City, the game’s setting. At the conclusion of the trailer, the protagonist is shot and the screen fades to black, only to brighten up once more as an unknown character tells the player that it’s time to “burn this city”. The crowd became excited as they quickly realised this character was modelled and voiced by Keanu Reeves, of John Wick fame. As if this wasn’t enough, Keanu himself emerged from the smoke to announce his involvement in Cyperpunk to thunderous applause.
It was always going to be hard to top that moment for the rest of the conference but Microsoft continued on and ended the day talking about the development of their new console, Project Scarlett. This new machine promises 8k resolution and 120 frames per second capabilities which were previously unattainable for console gamers. Project Scarlett will also have a custom-built AMD Zen 2 processor and an SSD which will dramatically reduce load times. The console will be launching during the holiday season of 2020. Poetically, the first game announced for Project Scarlett is Halo Infinite, the same series that launched the original Xbox.
After a few hours cooldown following Microsoft’s stacked event, Bethesda took to the E3 stage to talk about their upcoming games. After the abysmal launch of Fallout: 76 and the massive community backlash the game received, Bethesda director Todd Howard faced the criticism with a few light jokes regarding the game’s launch and an optimistic attitude regarding its future. The game will be getting a substantial update to fix some of the design choices people took the most offence to and it’s even bafflingly getting a battle royale mode which thrusts Bethesda into an already saturated market.
Moving swiftly on from Fallout 76, a new horror game from Tango Gameworks was announced. Ghostwire: Tokyo features a rapture-like event that takes place in the city leaving the protagonist to pick up the pieces and figure out what happened. Tango’s signature horror combined with the classic Tokyo neon aesthetic sounds like a winning combo. New games in the Wolfenstein and Doom franchises were also announced. Wolfenstein will be getting a VR title set for release in July, Wolfenstein: Cypberpilot but the more interesting of the pair is undoubtedly Wolfenstein: Youngblood which tells the story of BJ’s assassin twin daughters who embark on a quest to find him. From the gameplay shown, Youngblood seems to tick all of the Wolfenstein boxes: fluid first-person combat, sprawling level design and killing Nazis are all present. If we switch Nazis to demons and ramp up the speed then we have the bones of Doom: Eternal which is set for release in November. Finally, we have Deathloop, Arkane’s newest project. A first-person action-adventure game where the key plot point is two assassins who are stuck in a time loop, possibly doomed to fight forever.
Finishing off an exciting Sunday was Devolver Digital Direct, a zany parody of Nintendo’s usual contribution to the event. While the absurd plot of the video package was quite entertaining, many may have been peeved by the lack of actual substance on display. Devolver simply didn’t have enough games to justify hosting their own event. Their two heavy-hitters were Carrion, a 2D “reverse-horror” where the player takes control of an amorphous creature and hunts down those who imprisoned it and My Friend Pedro, a dazzling shoot-em-up that tells the story of a man pursuing a banana.
Monday opened with the PC Gaming show, in a more chilled conference where indie developers got an opportunity to talk about their labours of love. Seeing the passion that these teams have for their games is always heartwarming and some particularly interesting titles that stood out during the two-hour event were Maneater: a “Shark-PG” that shines a light on the battle between a shark-hunter and the player-controlled shark through the lens of a reality TV show, the long-awaited Shenmue 3: an action-adventure game by legendary Japanese developer Yu Suzuki and Baldur’s Gate 3, a continuation of the iconic RPG franchise headed up by Larian Studios who earned their RPG chops with Divinity Original Sin. There were countless games revealed so this show is well worth watching for any avid PC gamer.
Up next came Ubisoft who immediately impressed by having a full orchestra delight fans with a rendition of some classic Assassin’s Creed music. This opened right into a lengthy gameplay reveal for Watch Dogs: Legion which takes place in a London under the thumb of authoritarian extremists. The video was thoroughly entertaining throughout as it showcased what makes this Watch Dogs different from the others, the ability to recruit multitudes of fully fleshed out characters to join your resistance group, Dead-Sec.
Fans of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia will be overjoyed to hear that Rob McElhenney is making a new TV show, and he announced it during Ubisoft’s press conference. Mythic Quest: Raven’s Banquet is a kind of mockumentary about creating an expansion for the world’s most popular MMORPG. Rob plays Ian Grimm, an egomaniac creative director who leads the development of the expansion.
Fans of the Tom Clancy series may also be happy as Ubisoft tends to plaster the moniker on everything. They announced Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon Delta Company, Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Quarantine and three new expansions for Tom Clancy’s The Division 2. Breaking up the waves of Tom Clancy, Ubisoft showed off a new PVP sports game Roller Champions, a new mythologically inspired game Gods & Monsters and of course Just Dance 2020, complete with a dance performance and everything.
Finishing off Monday was Square Enix, one of Japan’s largest game developers. If you’re a fan of the Japanese RPG genre then this conference must have been heaven because it played out like a machine-gun of JRPGs as they were announced one after another. The conference focused heavily on the upcoming remake of Final Fantasy 7 which completely overhauls the beloved 1997 classic. Remaking and remastering was a common theme throughout this event but we also got some new announcements such as Life is Strange 2, Dragon Quest Builders 2, Oninaki and War of the Visions. The last announcement of the night was Avengers, Square Enix’s upcoming collaboration with Marvel.
Avengers is an action-adventure video game where the player plays as the classic Avengers lineup: Captain America, Iron Man, Black Widow, Hulk and Thor. It seems like Captain America may be offed early in the story and following that the plot picks up five years later with the Avengers being blamed for destroying half of San Francisco. The game has been getting a lot of flak for its character designs but it was unreasonable to expect the visuals to be on the level of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Finally, the “weekend” finished on Tuesday with Nintendo Direct. Due to the incredible success of the Nintendo Switch, Nintendo were eager to start porting games to the platform and did just that with games like The Witcher 3 and Resident Evil 5 & 6 coming to the platform soon. They also announced new entries into their own iconic franchises with Luigi’s Mansion 3, Pokémon Sword & Shield, Animal Crossing: New Horizons and The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening all on the way. They also gave fair time to some of the smaller series they have under their wing such as the upcoming Danzer Dragoon and No More Heroes 3. Nintendo delighted fans at the end of the conference by first announcing that Banjo and Kazooie are coming to Smash Ultimate and then by teasing a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, an RPG which took the gaming world by storm in 2017.
And so the curtain closes on another E3, one of the most anticipated events of the year for any gamer. This year’s event certainly had it all, well except for Sony. We saw hundreds of games, some of them will become critically acclaimed and earn game of the year awards, others will attract a cult following and have fans begging for a sequel for years to come and of course a few will flop spectacularly and attract the ire of thousands of angry consumers. Only time will tell what becomes of these games but one thing is for certain, we’ll all have our eyes glued to the screen next year to experience it all over again. Oh, and who ‘won’ E3 you ask? Keanu. Keanu won E3.