Our E3 Bulletins run every day this week. Here is Monday’s.
E3 Tuesday is the point at which the dust starts to settle and we can start discerning the key trends, which this year appear to be terrible queue management, not bothering to pretend that there aren’t new consoles round the corner and releasing games on February 22nd 2019, a date which has appeared on so many announcements as to suggest the development of a strange cult among retail marketers.
Days Gone, Anthem, Crackdown 3 and Metro Exodus all release on February 22nd 2019.
I guess this is what game publishers meant when they said they were looking into the battle royale category.
— Daniel Ahmad (@ZhugeEX) June 10, 2018
There were some great announcements on Monday but you simply can’t have E3 without ennui, and Square served up a generous quantity to start the second (fourth) day, with a deeply underwhelming presentation that confirmed two new games, neither of which it offered any details on, some trailers we’d already seen in the Microsoft conference and a game that has already been on sale in Japan for several months. Babylon’s Fall is notable for being developed by Platinum, which had an interesting-looking game cancelled by Microsoft, and The Quiet Man is notable for being developed by Human Head, which had an interesting-looking game cancelled by Bethesda, leading us to wonder if an agressively low-key E3 presentation was part of the contract to affirm things will be different this time.
Thankfully it was followed by Ubisoft, which has long had its E3 game on lock: live musical numbers, dead Tom Clancy NPCs, soulful cover-version soundtracks and unfathomably expensive moonshots of the sort that nobody else would risk money on. Just Dance once again had us covered for the former, with a dancer in a panda suit leading a marching band through an extended musical number ending with a spirited rendition of I’m Still Standing, which both opened and closed the show and can only be interpreted as a middle finger to Vivendi’s recently-thwarted attempt at a hostile takeover.
The financially-unsound wonder was once again Beyond Good and Evil 2, which broke with tradition by opening the show rather than closing it and also appearing to be a real videogame rather than just a trailer, with a specified genre and everything. Pey’j is a cook, Jade is evil, you’re a space pirate captain and it all looks wonderful, although an open-world co-op RPG that looks this pretty seems almost impossibly ambitious even by Ubisoft standards. A clue at how it’s expecting to pay for all this was offered by the news that the world decor will be created by “the community”, which sounds suspiciously like free labour although we were assured otherwise by organiser, um, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.
The Community was a regular presence throughout the Ubisoft conference, with assorted Ubifolk commending it for sticking with the games that fell out of the starting blocks and only made it after diligent social support and decent DLC. This list includes Rainbow Six Seige and For Honor, both of which get expansions but only one of which gets a documentary, and to a lesser extent Trials, which had a new game introduced by a Finnish man on a tiny motorcycle who fell through the speaker’s podium. This is the sort of theatre that we expect from Ubisoft at E3 and most of its presenters are so enthusiastic that even total failure would be well-received, although we might make an exception for the insufferable guy from The Crew who turned up dressed as a guy from Watch Dogs 2 to show some more The Division 2, which is getting eight-player raids and free DLC.
— Sos Sosowski (@Sosowski) June 11, 2018
Donkey Kong is coming to Mario Rabbids, which anybody else would have revealed with gameplay footage but Ubisoft did with a headbanging live band conducted by Grant Kirkhope. Post-Assassin’s Creed pirate game Skull and Bones came back with a single-player RPG mode and a breathless regional narrator, which is a big improvement over the faux-online banter that Ubisoft has previously resorted to and suggests that it’s going to be a bit more of a one-man-one-boat single-player experience that we’d expected.
There followed some mopping up of stuff announced last year and immediately forgotten. Elijah Wood came back with Transference, which looks a bit more like a videogame now, and that videogame is jump-scare horror with a creepy dad and optional VR. No Man’s Skylanders has added Clone Wars-esque cinematics and, unexpectedly, Fox McCloud, which gave Yves Guillemot another opportunity to parade a delighted Miyamoto around the stage and remind the other publishers that this is what they could have had if they hadn’t given up on Wii U.
The Crew 2 has added bikes, boats and planes now, which feels a bit like it’s trying too hard, and the grand finale was the previously-leaked Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, which looked extremely good and received a glowing report from Tom. RPG trimmings, a choice of two playable characters plus romance options suggests that Ubisoft has stepped up to fill the void left by BioWare and give the thirstiest fanfic writers some material to work with in Q4. We will grudgingly accept this in lieu of the traditional One More Thing mega-reveal, which Ubi presumably skipped because it’s exhausted both its back catalogue and development teams trying to finish everything announced last year.
i love video games pic.twitter.com/GOwpxIbkzD
— (????)? It's Geop! (@MrGeop) June 11, 2018
The PC Gaming Show happened next, and seemed to go well, but the last few backside-numbing years have trained us not to watch it live and just pick out the interesting bits afterwards. This year these include Satisfactory, which is Factor.io X No Man’s Sky, Yakuza on PC, and an open-world RPG in which you play as a man-eating shark. Good work, PC gaming. Less cheeringly, if the Battle Royale trend is showing signs of getting boring already: 1000 players per round and bleak webcomics seem unlikely to reinvigorate the form, but TDM has lasted a while so we will see how things go.
It was then off to Sony, which has reached that stage of market-leading hubris at which swivel-eyed marketeeters decree themselves to be too big for a normal conference, like the losers, and have something experiential instead. The experience for attendees was of escalating irritation at being shuffled between peculiarly themed stages with inadequate seating to watch live musical performances, while the actual news was revealed on the waffle-heavy livestream being used to fill the gaps.
I just found out about Cayde's death on a livestream I can't watch while a guy plays a recorder solo. Thanks Sony.
— Tom Phillips (@tomphillipsEG) June 12, 2018
For one interminable moment it looked like we were back in the early PS3/Xbox One dark place from which men with suits and shit-eating smiles emerge to tell you how lucky you are to have a chance to spend £500 on their console, but then some actual game footage showed up and things improved significantly. The Last of Us 2 did its E3 party trick of cutting from a genuinely moving personal moment to a horrifically brutal murder, which we have to assume is Naughty Dog deliberately trolling everybody who’s attempted to argue that games are capable of nuance and sophistication. Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tshushima was more tonally consistent and looked equally remarkable too.
We already knew that it was Kojima Trailer Day, and you know what that means: time to watch precisely one trailer of barely-coherent gibberish and spend the next twelve months forming elaborate theories about what it could possibly mean, cross-referencing frenzied Reddit conspiracy theories with Tweeted pictures of C-list actors and wilting snacks. This year didn’t disappoint, showing off what appears to be an Icelandic walking simulator about parcel delivery starring the Bionic Woman, and confirming Kojima is back in that MGS4 place where people keep giving him money in the hope that it will eventually make sense, only to realise too late that it never will.
Insomniac’s Spider-Man looked decent, although it also looked like the only first-party game that is actually capable of running on PS4. Sony elected not to follow Microsoft’s lead and openly admit it’s working on another console, preferring instead to show stuff that couldn’t credibly be on anything else, so look forward to some tortured C-suit linguistics about Just Wanting The Best Experience from this year’s interviews.
The third-party stuff was very strong too. The Resident Evil 2 remake trailer looked tremendous, if not all that much like Resident Evil 2, Nioh 2 was a nice surprise, and Remedy’s Control looks like archetypal Remedy third-person TV-fired nonsense but with a female lead, which has been one of the more cheering trends of this year’s event. The CoD marketing deal means that Black Ops 3 is free on PSN right now, which is a good get, From Software’s Deracine looks intriguing and Rick and Morty spin-off Trover Saves The Universe was merely OK. And that was that – not a conference for the ages, but yet another demonstration that Sony’s first-party crew are really some of the best.
oh good I'm glad this exists now pic.twitter.com/5WtLXLbjPb
— mikey zee @ quantumdot.space (@quantumdotdot) June 11, 2018
What else? Devolver had it’s annual… thing, which was at least a bit shorter this year and revealed games about prison fights, mech-suited Presidents and friendly bananas, respectively. Bohemia announced a new European-set survival game but it doesn’t have zombies in, which just about passes for innovative. Elder Scrolls 6 is in pre-production but Starfield is playable, according to Todd Howard, who would know. The Skyrim Very Special Edition actually exists, and the Command and Conquer mobile devs think you should give the game a try before hating on it, an offer we are still considering. Jump Force is basically everything you’re expecting.
Tomorrow we’ll have the Nintendo conference and E3 officially starts. Imagine that. We will have another round up in the morning.