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Special Report: E3 2018

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E3 2018 is officially over. Personally, I’ve come to evaluate E3 more by the ability of gaming companies to spark my excitement for games being released in the coming year, rather than games scheduled for some-point in the indefinite future. Going into E3 this year, I know I had a lot of expectations across the board -- there are many games in the pipeline that gamers have been anxiously awaiting, and it was about time for the next entry for a number of franchises. Maybe it’s because of those high expectations, but this year’s E3 honestly fell kinda flat. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely games coming out this upcoming year that I’m really excited for. However, it felt that E3 largely didn’t do much to fuel that excitement, rather than poking at some already lit coals.

Microsoft
As has been tradition, Microsoft was the first of the big three to host their press conference. Microsoft opened on Sunday afternoon with what should have been a slam dunk, the reveal of the next entry in the Halo franchise, Halo Infinite. This teaser started with various shots of different landscapes and locales before finally revealing Master Chief’s iconic helmet. Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed this teaser (especially listening to the familiar notes of One Final Effort), and the fact that everything shown was running on the new game engine certainly helps, however it is hard to feel especially excited for a reveal that featured no real gameplay or story cues and really didn’t tell players anything other than that there is a new Halo game in the pipeline (which, duh?). Afterwards, Microsoft announced that their press conference would cover fifty upcoming games, a definite step in the right direction from some of their previous showings. Next up, Microsoft revealed a sequel to 2015’s gorgeous platformer Ori and Blind Forest titled Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Next up, FromSoftware unveiled their newest project, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Regardless of what the developers say, this action-adventure game, set in the sixteenth-century, looks a lot like a Souls game with Samurai, which is not a bad thing. Bethesda took the stage next to show the first gameplay trailer for the next entry in the Fallout franchise, Fallout 76. This was a little weird given that Bethesda had their own press conference scheduled for a few hours, and it was expected that Fallout 76 would be front and center. SquareEnix was next up, revealing a trailer for a new game set in the Life is Strange universe called The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. Based on the trailer, I have no doubts that this game was designed with the singular goal of pulling at your heart-strings and breaking hearts. A new trailer for Crackdown 3 again featured Terry Crews and the over-the-top gameplay of the franchise and again reminded me that the franchise was originally used to give players access to the Halo 3 beta.. Good times. Nier: Automata’s complete edition got a brief trailer before another stunning trailer for Metro Exodus. A new trailer for Kingdom Hearths 3 followed, this one featuring the game’s January 29th release date, which would have been huge.. ..had SquareEnix not revealed it a few hours earlier. Of all the game’s shown that are coming out this next year, without a doubt, this is the one I am most excited for, but, it has also had years to percolate and build up hype. Rare was next, showing a trailer for upcoming content updates to Sea of Thieves. I will admit that I want to be excited for this game, but there has been nothing to really rekindle my excitement since the game’s beta/original release. Battlefield V was briefly shown followed by an obligatory segment on the latest entry in the Forza franchise, Forza Horizon 4. With this being the first gameplay segment featured during this year’s Microsoft press conference, I couldn’t help wondering how many gamers are racing game enthusiasts to justify these segments every year. Don’t get me wrong, these games always look gorgeous and the new features and experiences sound good and all, but are there really games who watch E3 waiting for these segments every single year? Microsoft then briefly touted several studios they had brought in-house before a brief trailer for We Happy Few, coming out in a few months. This game still reminds me of Bioshock, in a good way, which is enough reason for me to still be excited. PUBG was next, which, I remember when a lot people said the announcement of PUBG on Xbox was huge last year, but since then, Fortnite happened, sooooo yay? To celebrate the game’s ten year anniversary, a Definitive Edition for Tales of Vesperia was announced. I admittedly fell off the Tales’ franchise, so I’m probably not the person to ask about this one. The next segment featured a teaser and gameplay for The Division 2. I didn't keep with with The Division past its initial release, so I’m curious to hear what long-time players thought of the reveal. I will say, I do have some questions about the change in setting and seeming change in story direction, if anyone would like to explain all that. Microsoft then briefly touted their Xbox Game Pass program, which I did not know was a thing, but sounds awesome, before a brief segment on indie games and [email protected] Shadow of the Tomb Raider was next which featured a trailer which seemed in line with the latest entries in the franchise, so good news for those who have been enjoying it since its reboot a few years ago. A trailer for Session, a new skating game was next, which felt like an odd game to feature, followed by another trailer for the MMO Black Desert. Every time I see anything about this game’s story and setting it excites me, until I remember it’s an MMO. Microsoft unveiled an over the top trailer for Devil May Cry 5 next, followed by a trailer for upcoming DLC for Cuphead called The Delicious Last Course which has me both excited and terrified, and then a trailer for the still adorable Tunic. Bandai Namco then announced Jump Force, a 3D anime fighting game which looks to bring together characters from Dragonball, Naruto, One Piece, and other franchises. The next segment featured Dying Light 2. I never played the first game, and I wasn’t too enticed by the gameplay shown, but the choice/consequence system they described sounded pretty impressive. Microsoft then briefly took us back to our childhoods.. ..our painful childhoods.. ..with a teaser for a new Battletoads game before a trailer for Just Cause 4. Microsoft then announced three new entries in the Gears franchise, a mobile game, a tactics game, and the fifth numbered entry in the franchise. This new game looks to be about what you’d expect from the Gears franchise, although I admittedly stopped playing after the third game (cause the story felt complete and I don’t want to hear anything else >.>). And with that, Microsoft’s press conference drew to a close. Except not, because they had one more game to unveil: CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077. This was more of a teaser than anything, but given what a phenomenal game the Witcher 3 was, I imagine most gamers watched this one more than a few times. So that was Microsoft’s press conference. Honestly, it wasn’t bad, and while Microsoft showcased a number of great looking games, I didn’t walk away from their press conference with a great feeling of excitement for this coming year.

Pros
New Halo
Souls + Samurai = Sekiro
KH3 Finally has a release date
Cuphead DLC: coming soon to a broken controller near you!
New Gears
Cyberpunk 2077

Cons
Halo Infinite was a teaser, at best
The biggest games felt like they’re in development, not coming out this year
Cyberpunk is not out now..
Nothing that knocked my socks off

Final grade: B-


Sony
Sony took a different approach this year. Their press conference started in what appeared to be a weird church-like venue with an intro that honestly sounded kinda cultish. Sony opened with one of the games that I am most excited for, The Last of Us Part II. What made this trailer especially cool was that the opening scene was set in a church that resembled the room where the press conference was occurring. In any case, this trailer started in a peaceful church before transitioning to a gameplay segment which featured the same brutal action and combat that defined the first game. The Last of Us did a phenomenal job of using violence to tell its story, and this trailer seemed to leave no doubt that the tone hasn’t changed in the sequel. Unfortunately, the trailer did not end with a release date, so it seems like it'll be a while before we get to enjoy this one. Afterwards, rather than showcasing a lot of games, Sony revealed that they were opting for what they called a more intimate press conference which focused on four cornerstone games, rather than the trailer filled press conferences of the past. As they changed venue, they announced that God of War has a new game+ mode coming, showed a preorder trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops 4, recapped a number of announcements from last week, and showed a brief story trailer for Destiny 2: Forsaken that was, in my opinion, far worse than the reveal Bungie hosted last week. After the intermission, Sony unveiled a samurai game called Ghost of Tsushima. This game looks gorgeous and the action definitely had some Witcher vibes, but there was such little shown and no real context given, I feel it is too early to give an adequate evaluation. Sony then took another intermission, briefly showing trailers for Control, a game that reminded me of 2016’s Superhot, a Resident Evil 2 remake which looks like it has been updated to resemble Resident Evil 4, a strange game from the creator of Rick and Morty called Trover Saves the Universe, and a third trailer of E3 for Kingdom Hearts 3. The next cornerstone of Sony’s press conference was Death Stranding which still looks incredibly weird. Honestly, somehow I felt less interested in this game after this segment. I wasn’t excited for this game before, and the gameplay shown looked like a lot of wandering around an empty world. I imagine it’ll be some time before this game is out, so maybe it can win me over before then. Sony then briefly teased Nioh 2 before jumping into the final game, Spider-Man. I’ve said it before, but this game looks like it merges the Arkham games with the Spider-Man universe -- which is definitely not a bad thing. I will say, one thing I didn’t like about the Arkham games was that it felt like they tried to cram too many characters in at times, and while this trailer revealed a number of Spider-Man’s rouges, the Sinister Six is a thing in the Spider-Man universe, so I’m cautiously optimistic it’ll work better here. Spider-Man is coming out in a few months and I already have it preordered, so this game already won me over before it aired. And that was it for Sony’s press conference. If I’m being honest, this was probably one of Sony’s worst press conferences. It might have been different if more of their games had release dates, but of the four cornerstone games they showed, the only one with a release date is Spider-Man, and we’ve known about that for a while. The worst part about it though, their press conference gave the unfortunate feeling that there isn’t a lot to be excited for coming out soon.

Pros
The Last of Us Part II is looking amazing
Ghost of Tsushima looks gorgeous
Spider-Man still looks great

Cons
I feel less excited about Death Stranding
Sony didn’t really show a lot
What is there to be excited about this year?

Final grade: D


Nintendo
I think most would agree that Nintendo has had a pretty good year. The Switch has done exceptional and they’ve put out a number of phenomenal games since its release. Going into E3, gamers wanted to know how Nintendo would continue to support the Switch for the rest of year two and beyond. Like usual, Nintendo again chose to do a Nintendo Direct this year. Nintendo opened with a trailer for Daemon X Machina, a game that looks like an Armored Core game with giant robots fighting bigger giant robots. This was followed by a trailer for the upcoming DLC for Xenoblade Chronicles 2, Torna the Golden Country, which will focus on events preceding the game. I will say, of the three Xenoblade games, I enjoyed this one the least (although that’s more a testament to the other two entries), but DLC that gives me more Mythra is a definite plus in my books. Nintendo then briefly covered the two upcoming Pokémon games, Let’s go Pikachu and Let’s go Eevee. I’m not especially excited for these game, but let me know when we have more info on the core Pokémon game coming for the Switch. Next up, Nintendo showcased Super Mario Party which features some impressive gameplay uses for the Switch and just tells me I need more friends with Switches. Nintendo then showed a trailer for one of the games I’m most excited for, Fire Emblem: Three Houses. The added power of the Switch looks to be adding some new dimensions to the visuals and combat, so I cannot wait for this game, although next Spring feels so far away.. Nintendo then announced that Fortnite would be available for Switch that day before trailers for Overcooked 2, the pixel fighting game Killer Queen Black, and platformer Hollow Knight. They also announced that Octopath Traveler would finally be out on July 13th and that a demo would be available on June 14th. Nintendo then quickly showcased a number of quick reveals and release dates for upcoming games and DLC. There was a wide variety of games shown so it felt like Nintendo was trying to show there were things for a lot of audiences before moving to their next game which was the crux of their press conference: Super Smash Brothers Ultimate. This was a long segment and there was a lot of info to digest. In addition to covering a number of the changes for this entry in the franchise, Nintendo announced that every character from previous Smash games would appear in Ultimate, Gamecube controllers would be supported, Ridley would finally be appearing, and the game would be out on December 7th. While I didn’t play as much Smash 4 as I would have liked, the Smash franchise is near and dear to my heart, so this will definitely be a day-one purchase for me. Still waiting to see if they announce a bundle with Gamecube controllers though. Like previous years, Nintendo then spent the rest of E3 using their Treehouse segments to really dive into their upcoming games, but I’d say these segments weren’t nearly as strong as previous years. Then again, that’s probably at least partially due to the amazing games they featured the last two years (Breath of the Wild and Mario Odyssey).

Pros
Fire Emblem is out this year
A ton of games coming out this year
Smash Ultimate looks like it is going to be a beast

Cons
No new info on the core Pokémon game
No new info on Metroid Prime 4
Not as strong a line-up as previous years

Final Grade: C-


Game of E3: Cyberpunk 2077
There were three games in the running for me this year: Kingdom Hearts 3, a game I’ve spent years waiting for which finally has a release date and had three different trailers and had hands-on impressions, The Last of Us Part II, a sequel to my 2013 game of the year that looks to carry the same brutal magic, and Cyberpunk 2077, a game that we really don’t have a lot of info about, apart from a teaser. Even with all my talk about E3 being about games coming out in the upcoming year, Cyberpunk 2077 is the game that has me most excited. There are few games that get me to go back and purchase every game in the franchise just so I have the complete story, and CD Projekt Red’s Witcher 3 was one of those games. I don’t care how long it takes to come out, their next game is definitely a day-one purchase.

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