The highs and lows of E3 2018

THE HIGHS

Samuel Roberts: Elder Scrolls 6 is real

I consider this a good E3, in that there's a mix of games that feel real and that I'll be able to play in the near future, and some that are exciting but impossibly far away. Elder Scrolls 6 isn't even the next game Bethesda Game Studios is making—it's the third game in line, after Starfield and Fallout 76, so by the time I'm playing it, I'll likely have a head full of grey hair (and hopefully a dog). Nonetheless, I think every E3 needs something like that to stir the excitement for the long term. 

You could argue that both Starfield and ES6 do this for PC players. I would speculate Bethesda announced both to reassure people that Fallout 76 doesn't mark a point-of-no-return for Bethesda away from single-player games. We now have what's probably close to a decade of speculation ahead of us. Where is Elder Scrolls 6 set? We did our best to try and figure that out.  

James Davenport: I shall study the blade

2019 is going to be one hell of a year for spilling the guts of grotesque, demonic swordsmen. First up, we have Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, the next game from From Software, aka my real parents. At first, I was worried it’d be a Souls-like with 1500s Sengoku facepaint, but based on Steven’s hands-off demo, Sekiro sounds like anything but. There’s a dedicated jump button, no RPG systems, a combat system based on poise, and when you die, you can just get back up. And somehow, it’s still designed to be challenging. 

But if that proves not Soulsy enough, Nioh 2 was also announced. While we know far less about it, chances are we’ll still be spinning swords, stabbing demons, and collecting loot, also during the Sengoku period. For something a little more realistic-but-still-totally-not, Sucker Punch’s Ghost of Tsushima is a gorgeous (console only, I know) take on 1200s Japan with some slick swordplay. My dad may have told me no for nearly a decade running whenever I asked if I could buy the katana off the ramshackle cart parked behind the state fair, but now he can’t stop me.

Tom Senior: Feeling lucky, punk?

I’m trying not to get too excited about this because all we’ve seen is a snazzy pre-rendered cutscene that probably won’t ‘be representative of the final game. However, there is a lot of buzz for the behind-closed-doors Cyberpunk 2077 demo, which actually showed some driving, shooting and stim-huffing action that ought to be more representative of the final product.

I’m very excited that a studio is finally trying to make the big futuristic city game. Technology hasn’t quite allowed for it yet, though we catch glimpses in the Deus Ex reboots and narrow, linear games like Remember Me. CD Projekt RED is boldly claiming that this is the one. The devs say it’s going to be dense, and tall, and full of warring gang factions. The first-person perspective suits a dense city of narrow walkways and intricate neon-lit interiors, though apparently we will get to hop in a car and drive around Night City as well. Is it too good to be true?

Jody Macgregor: Bethesda's musical choices

I didn't even realize until people started pointing it out on social media that the audience looked bored during Andrew W.K.'s performance. Whatever. Those people cheer for release dates, what do they know about fun? I was so into it I barely saw them. I'm not that interested in Rage 2 but the Party God was a perfect match for it.

I'm much more into Prey, and pairing its Mooncrash DLC trailer with 'Spin Me Round' by Dead Or Alive was another perfect match. Thank god it was the 1985 original too, not some half-speed cover version abomination, all minor-key and "haunting" until halfway through when it goes Full Mumford: "You spin me round (stomp), hey! Just like a record (clap), hey!" Bethesda spared us that, and I thank them for it.

Wes Fenlon: Halo Infinite is coming to PC, and so is change

I don't expect to play Halo Infinite for a long time. I think that game is still two years away, judging by its trailer, which Microsoft plainly said was more of a tech demo for a new engine than anything. And that trailer didn't get me particularly pumped for Halo Infinite, because we still know almost nothing about the game. But the message the trailer delivered, alongside the trailer for Gears 5, was a much-needed rethinking of two series that have made unsatisfying half-steps over the years to evolve while pleasing the fanbase who want more of what they loved in the first place.

Halo Infinite's emphasis on environment, wide open spaces, and Master Chief's original Halo: Combat Evolved helmet design all hint at the more open-ended, exploratory first game. Bungie managed to create an incredibly compelling universe with very little direct storytelling, and over the years the Halo game stories have gotten more conventional and more boring. The art style also veered into overdesigned sci-fi, which was shiny and cool but more generic as a result. I hope Halo Infinite can recapture that Halo magic again, and that doesn't mean it needs to make the weapons fire exactly the same, or dial back the movement speed, or try to recreate old Halo. It needs to understand what made those first games so special—the mystery, the tone, the sandbox design that made those environments so fun to play through again and again—and figure out how to do that, 20 years later. 

Samuel Roberts: Dante lives!

Between the Resident Evil 2 remake (I'll get to that) and Devil May Cry 5, Capcom spent this E3 morphing back into the publisher I was obsessed with throughout the '90s and up to the late '00s. Devil May Cry 5 was a particularly nice surprise: the odds are stacked against single-player games that aren't set in an open world with billions of icons to tick off these days, and yet this looks like a pretty faithful sequel, with three playable characters to boot. 

The only question is, will I still be able to play a Devil May Cry game without my hands cramping up? The last one was released when I was in my early twenties, and now my hands can't keep with my brain in trying to visualise combos on-screen. I'll need a lot of ice water and breaks to get through DMC5, but I'm excited it exists. 

Samuel Roberts: Resi 2 lives!

The Resident Evil 2 remake looks nice and confident—less tongue-in-cheek than the original, and actually scary, but visually faithful enough to please fans of the original. That includes me. I am at the exact age where my nostalgia is being pandered to by big companies, and this is perhaps the best result of that. If only every '90s game could get this level of remake. 

The best part is, Tofu returns from the original version. For those that missed this element of the original, it was an entire mode where you played as a giant piece of tofu wearing Jill Valentine's beret, because why not?  

Andy Kelly: Forza comes to the UK

Surprisingly, the game that excited me most at this year's E3 was Forza Horizon 4. I love how Playground's racing series transplants that weighty, nuanced Forza handling into a vibrant open world, and Britain is an inspired setting. If you've ever driven through the Highlands, you'll know how stunning and dramatic the scenery is in parts of Scotland—especially around the Glencoe area. And I can't wait to see some of that scenery in a Forza game, along with, hopefully, places like the similarly beautiful Welsh valleys or Yorkshire Dales.

I like the sound of some of the new features too, especially the route creator. I'm into the idea of creating custom endurance races from the south of England, via Wales, and up to the far north of Scotland. And I love the idea of the seasons changing and transforming the atmosphere and driving conditions on the roads over time. I've enjoyed every Horizon so far, but the settings (Colorado and Australia) could feel a little samey at times. So getting to drive one of those promised 450 cars around a landscape as varied, gorgeous, and evocative (and, for me personally, familiar) as Britain sounds like a thrill. Roll on October.

Tyler Wilde: Bless the Ooblets 

Ooblets returned to the PC Gaming Show this year and of all the games shown at E3 it is the one I think about most. Please do not try to eat the Ooblets.   

Chris Livingston: Two players, one bike

Trials Rising co-op wasn't quite what I would have expected: it's better. Local co-op partners share a two-seater bike and hit the tracks, working in unison to fly and flip over jumps. It's a ridiculous amount of fun, and feels great when you and your partner lean together to perfectly land a jump, but almost more fun when you're at odds and it turns into an airborne wrestling match over the bike in mid-air. Depending on how competitive you are, Trials Rising co-op has the potential to be an hilarious blast or completely end friendships.

Chris Livingston: Metrosexual

Metro Exodus is looking good. I got to play about 30 minutes of it, and as a big Stalker fan it's great to see a portion of one of the open world areas. Not everything was working flawlessly in the demo, this being a pre-alpha, but the world looked amazing and bleak and I could have easily spent hours just sticking my nose into every last spot on the map. I was especially happy to see some mutated wolves flee from me after I shot one of them dead, and another instance where one of them circled me for a while without attacking: big shades of Stalker's mutant dogs and how unnerving they could be because they didn't have only one setting: attack. Enemies reacting differently in different situations

Austin Wood: Emotional developers 

E3 is always a bit forced and awkward, but it's also a rare opportunity for the thinking, feeling people who make games to share their passion with a huge audience. My favorite E3 moments are always the ones where developers tear up, smile uncontrollably, or otherwise go off-prompter—and E3 2018 didn't disappoint. 

The show itself was a bit thin, but it also brought us Sea of Solitude, a stunning game about exploration and loneliness. Developer Cornelia Geppert of Jo-Mei Games described Sea of Solitude as a deeply personal story born of one of the most painful times of her life, and she was noticeably anxious throughout her heartfelt presentation. It was genuine and sweet and I came away with a better understanding of where Geppert and Jo-Mei Games are coming from with Sea of Solitude. Then there was that amazing moment during Ubisoft's show where one of the Beyond Good & Evil 2 folks, not realizing her mic was still on, exclaimed "We nailed it! We nailed it!" Little moments like those give me the energy to endure E3's hype barrage.  

James Davenport: Why yes, I am ready for some football

OK, to hell with swords. E3 was actually all about everyone’s favorite inflatable: the football. Yes, the best thing to come out of E3 is Madden’s return to PC, and it works pretty well with a mouse and keyboard. I have fond memories of crowding around a chunky CRT with my brother playing through season after season with our underdog Dolphins on some archaic PC version of Madden surely lost to time. Why two Montana teens were massive fans of the Miami Dolphins, I’ll never know. Point is, Madden is a great football sim, and now I’ll be able to play it on one monitor while watching Fortnite streams on the other. Oh my god, what have I become? 

 Tim Clark: Back on my grind bullshit

Readers, I'm screwed. I went into E3 knowing I'd like the Destiny 2 stuff (which I did, a lot), but assuming the combat in Anthem would be a bit bum, and that I'd probably be able to pass on The Division 2 as well. Disaster! I really enjoyed my hands-on with all three, and now can't see anything but a hellscape in which I'm trying to grind three different looter-shooters simultaneously. 

The Division 2 hasn't reduced the bullet sponginess of its boss enemies, but they at least now respond more dynamically to being shot in specific bodily locations, and I really dug the new balmy Washington location. Over to Anthem, and I expected the flying would be janky, but it was actually instinctive and immediately fun. Also fun was immolating Kotaku's Jason Schreier due to a miscommunication about a very flammable barrel. 

As for Destiny 2, seeing Cayde-6 bow out at the hands of Uldren Sov in the opening story mission (which uses a different, more minor key cut scene to the recent trailer) was more of a gut punch than I expected. I'd kidded myself that because the series needs to lean harder into its grimdark lore, I was okay with the comic relief getting whacked. But seeing it happen stung. Clearly some fans agreed… 

So yeah, totally screwed. Perhaps I'll be struck by another debilitating bout of kidney stones and have to spend a few months raiding in bed. One can but hope.   

On the next page, the lowest lows of E3 2018...