E3 2018 is currently underway and all of the press conferences from the major publishers and hardware manufacturers recently wrapped up. For those that don’t know, E3 is one of the biggest events every year in the world of video games and sees the reveal of a lot of new games, demos of existing games, and an overwhelming level of hype. Every year I set aside time to take in most of the press conferences and today I’m going to give my reactions to the ones I watched. I will not be discussing every game that was shown in each conference, but rather just the stuff that caught my attention. Because I have a lot of scattered thoughts on each conference I’m going to present them in bullet-point format.
* This was a rough conference. For me it started becoming clear that EA’s presentation was going to be light on content during the Battlefield V presentation. We got a multiplayer trailer but not much else. Unsurprisingly, it was announced that Battlefield V will have a Battle Royale mode. Game developers and publishers are always chasing the latest trends and right now Battle Royale is the hot thing that everyone is trying to cash in on. I consider myself something of a lapsed Battlefield fan and was hoping what I’d see at EA’s conference would get me back on the bandwagon but at the end of the conference I still wasn’t hyped.
* In a very awkward moment, Vince Zampella, CEO of Respawn (the studio behind Titanfall 2) announced that the name of the Star Wars game his studio is working on is Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order. He mentioned that the game is set between Episodes 3 and 4 and you will be playing as a Jedi during the times when the last remaining Jedi are being hunted down. The game is coming out in late 2019 but we didn’t get a trailer, or even a logo for that matter. I’m guessing EA felt like they had to make some sort of announcement because this game has gone for so long with no substantial news surrounding it, but this should not have been part of the conference. Always wait until you actually have something to show, even if it’s only a logo or a five-second teaser trailer.
* Right after that we got some more announcements for Battlefront 2. I had enjoyed my short time with the first Battlefront and was planning on checking out Battlefront 2 but all the bad press surrounding the game’s loot boxes and progression system kept me away. I genuinely felt bad for the developer guy who had to come out on stage and concede that they had made some bad decisions, but I also applaud developers who admit their mistakes and try to make things right. A major content update is coming to Battlefront 2 that will be based on the Clone Wars era of Star Wars and include new hero characters and maps. I still intend on playing Battlefront 2 eventually but I’m glad I’ve not jumped in yet.
* Sports games had a large presence at EA’s conference. I personally don’t care about sports games, but I don’t fault EA for spotlighting them since tons of people play games like Madden, FIFA, and NBA Live, and they’re consequently a big part of EA’s gaming showcase.
* Strangely enough, the high points of EA’s conference were when they showed off two games from their EA Originals initiative. EA unfortunately has developed a reputation for being a soulless mega-corporation so it’s good to see them trying to fight that stereotype by working with smaller, independent developers. Unravel 2 was revealed, had a gameplay demonstration, and then it was announced that the game was finished and available now. I didn’t play the first Unravel and have no intention of getting Unravel 2, but it’s always cool when a game gets shadow-dropped. The second smaller game was Sea of Solitude. Visually, it reminds me a lot of Rime. The game stars a girl dealing with loneliness as she explores a submerged city. I might play this game but I’ll need to see more of it before making a decisions.
* EA’s conference wrapped up with Anthem, which is probably their most anticipated game at the moment. We first got a trailer and then a short sit-down interview with three of the game’s lead developers. While I personally like these sorts of interviews, E3 press conferences might not be the best place for them. An actual gameplay demo with the developers providing context via voiceover would have been more effective. At the very least, there was both concept art and small bits of gameplay playing on the screen behind the developers as they talked. After a few minutes we started getting some more concrete details on the game. The developers talked about the four suit classes, customizations, co-op play, and how there will be no loot boxes in the game that affect gameplay. Finally, after all that, we got a gameplay trailer that was a shortened version of the demo available for those attending E3. I would have preferred an actual extended gameplay demo but I guess I’ll take whatever I can get for this game. Anthem is scheduled to come out in February 2019, but I would not be surprised in the slightest if it gets delayed.
Personal Rating: 4 out of 10. EA had some good games but the conference could have been much better. There were lots of missed opportunities and at times the conference was kind of boring. Too much talking, not enough showing. Maybe EA wanted to go first this year because they knew they didn’t have a strong show in the works.
* The Xbox conference opened with a teaser trailer for Halo Infinite. The environmental footage looks great, but after the debacle of Halo 5’s singleplayer campaign I’m not going to get hyped until we get concrete details on the game, particularly whether or not they bring back split-screen co-op.
* Xbox CEO Phil Spencer came out at the several points in the conference and once again was radiating the confidence and charisma that Xbox needs to catch up with PlayStation. Years ago the Xbox One got off to a bad start but ever since Phil Spencer took over he’s been slowly getting Xbox back on track. Years from now he will probably be viewed in a similar way that PlayStation fans view former CEO Jack Tretton.
* Phil Spencer certainly had good reason to be confident—Xbox had a ton of games to show at the conference. Not all of the games shown were of my taste, but there was definitely something for everyone.
* One of the trailers shown was for Kingdom Hearts 3. The world of Frozen is coming to Kingdom Hearts, which is something most people had already predicted awhile ago, but more interesting for me was the fact that this was the first trailer I had seen for the game with the characters speaking in English. The trailer strangely had bits of audio missing and I’m not sure if that was intentional or just a technical issue with the stream I was watching.
* Another trailer was for Battlefield V. I’m still waiting on a singleplayer campaign demo.
* Later we got a trailer for, and then a gameplay demonstration of, Forza Horizon 4. Driving games like Forza are normally not up my alley but they have incredibly good graphics and I sometimes think about giving them a try.
* One of the biggest pieces of news from the Xbox conference related to the studios that Microsoft owns. A new studio called The Initiative has been formed, and Microsoft has purchased four other independent studios, namely Undead Labs, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, and Compulsion Games. Xbox has long been at a major disadvantaged compared to PlayStation in terms of the first-party studios on its roster and this is a big step toward them evening the playing field. One thing I am curious to know, however, is why Ninja Theory agreed to be acquired. When I watched the developer documentaries for their last game, Hellblade, them seemed quite happy to be an independent studio.
* Not long after the news about the studios we got a reveal trailer for The Division 2. I liked The Division and I’m sure this sequel will be great, but one thing the gaming community has learned over the years is to be skeptical of reveal trailers of games made by Ubisoft.
* Another game revealed was Devil May Cry 5. What I found interesting is that everyone is pretending like Ninja Theory’s reboot of the series never happened. Personally, I liked Ninja Theory’s game and I thought it was very unfairly hated on.
* In a rare moment of hilarity (at least for me) the fans of Gears of War were temporarily trolled with the reveal of two new Gears of War games that weren’t mainline entries in the series. Instead there was a trailer for Gears Pop!, a mobile game with characters that look like Funko Pop! toys. Right after that a strategy game called Gears Tactics was announced for PC. I’m sure those two games will find some sort of audience, but they’re not what Gears fans really want and an internet riot might have broken out if the reveal of Gears of War 5 hadn’t immediately followed that moment.
* Closed with trailer for Cyberpunk 2077. I’ve never played the games from CD Projekt Red but I know that this game is a really big deal and will probably be a Game of the Year contender when it eventually comes out.
Personal Rating: 9 out of 10. Lots of stuff shown, very little time wasted. Not as much actual gameplay as I would have like, but still very good overall and a massive improvement over the EA conference. This actually might be one of the best conferences Xbox has ever had.
* I honestly can’t remember the last time I was interested in a Bethesda game and I feel kinda of guilty about this. Bethesda makes highly rated games, but for whatever reason none of them ever grab my attention. This year I again watched the Bethesda conference and yet again it came to a close without a single game looking like it’d be something I’d be interested in. What did stand out to me, however, was that really weird musical number that opened up the conference and the absolutely hilarious fake trailer for Skyrim: Very Special Edition.
Personal Rating: 5.5 out of 10. There were no games in the conference for me, but as a conference it was still half decent, aside from some awkward moments.
* Devolver Digital is a smaller publisher that I normally don’t pay attention to, however I figured I’d check their show out just to see what I’ve been missing. Rather than do a standard E3 presentation, Devolver released a 20-minute parody conference making fun of both E3 press conferences and recent trends in gaming. The show was surprisingly funny, though it was also full of profanity and a few acts of cartoonish gratuitous violence, so it’s definitely for mature audiences only.
Personal Rating: 100,000,000 out of 10.
* Clocking in at a mere 30 minutes, Square Enix’s showcase was the shortest of all the E3 presentations I watched (aside from Devolver Digital’s parody conference). Forgoing an actual press conference, Square released a pre-recorded video highlighting some of their upcoming games. This probably was the right decision, seeing as how they didn’t have a ton of games to show.
* Leading off Square’s lineup was Shadow of the Tomb Raider. I really liked the Tomb Raider reboot from a few years ago and this game looks cool, but I still haven’t gotten around to playing Rise of the Tomb Raider.
* A new game was teased called The Quiet Man. I have no idea what this game is about, other than that it appears to be set in New York City.
* Kingdom Hearts 3 closed out the showcase with a trailer that was mostly the same as the one we saw at the Xbox conference, but with some new footage. As much as I enjoy trailers for this game, it seemed a reasonable assumption to think that we’d also get some sort of gameplay demo in the Square presentation, but apparently I was wrong.
Personal Rating: 6.0 out of 10. Square didn’t have a lot of content, but I give them credit for a short, tight presentation that didn’t waste any time. EA and Bethesda would have done well to do something similar.
* Oh, Ubisoft, don’t ever stop being weird. At this point the song and dance number you use to open up your conference each year has become strangely endearing.
* We saw a bit more of Beyond Good & Evil 2. The game footage shown looks good, but I’m a bit concerned about what it sounds like the developers are doing with some of the game’s art and music. I could be wrong, but it seemed like they were going to crowdsource game assets from fans, which I suppose is ok if fans know what they’re doing and get proper credit for their work, but something about this still seems shady.
* The Division 2 got a cinematic trailer and some more news about its DLC plan. Three episodic DLC packs will come out after launch all will be free. I was going to be playing this game anyways, so this is just icing on the cake for me.
* The legendary Shigeru Miyamoto once again graced the Ubisoft conference. In the past Nintendo has been very protective of their property but more recently they’ve been willing to let Ubisoft use certain Nintendo characters in their games.
* For Honor is getting a new mode and a new faction. Similar to Rainbow Six: Siege, I have to give credit to Ubisoft for supporting this game for so long after launch. I have no intention of playing For Honor’s multiplayer, but I do want to work through its singleplayer campaign and this new expansion will apparently come with new singleplayer content, so I’ll wait until after it comes out to try the game.
* Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey was the final game shown, and as we already knew (due to leaks) the game is set in Ancient Greece. New features include selecting your gender at the start of the game and dialogue trees. I do hope there’s a secret mod that allows your character to shout, “This is Sparta!” every time you kick someone off a ledge.
* Ubisoft again closed their conference by bringing all the developers from the various games up on stage. I’m personally a big fan of this because it gives the people who make games a proper recognition at one of gaming’s biggest events.
Personal Rating: 7.5 out of 10. Ubisoft had a good variety of big and small games and again showed their knack for putting on a creative show. My main complaint with Ubisoft it that their conference was too long.
* This year PlayStation won the award for the most unique choice of venues for an E3 conference. Opting to hold the first part of their conference in a tent modeled to look like an old wooden church on the inside, they definitely telegraphed the fact that this year’s conference would be a little different. Fewer games were going to be shown but more time would be given to the games that got highlighted.
* After a short banjo performance of the theme from The Last of Us, (TLOU) we got to see a cutscene from The Last of Us, Part 2 along with some gameplay. TLOU was a brutal game and the sequel has upped the brutality significantly. Don’t watch that demo if you have a weak stomach. We also saw some new game mechanics, like going prone and hiding under cars.
* When TLOU Part 2 finished there was an odd intermission in the conference. Everyone got moved over to an adjacent tent where the rest of the conference took place and while they were moving we got a few members of the PlayStation blog killing time by talking about games on PlayStation. During the ten or so minutes where everyone was moving we got to see trailers for both Call of Duty Black Ops 4 and Destiny 2. I’m guessing the people at the conference missed those trailers and if I were one of them I wouldn’t be too happy about that.
* When the conference got going again we got to see gameplay of Ghost of Tsushima. The environments of Ghost of Tsushima look incredible but the character animations need to be smoothed a little. The game has multi-takedowns, similar to Batman: Arkham Knight. I loved the samurai showdown duel at the end of the demo.
* Before the Ghost of Tsushima footage started there was an odd moment of a white guy in old Japanese attire paying a Japanese flute on stage. I learned later that the guy playing the flute is actually a renowned composer and a student of a Japanese master flute player. Of course, the outrage mob didn’t care who he was and Twitter was briefly flooded with people screaming about cultural appropriation.
* The next game from Remedy Entertainment was teased. It is called Control and reminds me of their last game Quantum Break.
* There was a massive eruption in the crowd when the Resident Evil 2 remake trailer came on. I don’t care about Resident Evil games but I know this is a big deal for a lot of people.
* Yet another Kingdom Hearts 3 trailer was shown but this time it was revealed that Sora and the gang are returning to the Pirates of the Carribbean world. This trailer showed a lot of the same stuff we had seen in the first two trailers but the new material was really good. It looks like Sora can captain his own pirate ship and engage in naval battles.
* What can I say about Death Stranding? Kojima likes to make strange, enigmatic trailers and this was no exception. What is this game about again?
* Spider-Man closed out the conference with a great gameplay demo. Insomniac Games has nailed the movement of Spider-Man and this game looks more impressive each time it is shown.
* When Spider-Man finished up we again returned to the talking heads for some reason. For people at the conference it was clear that the conference was over, but for people like me watching online it wasn’t clear and I’d forgive anyone who was wondering if there was more of the conference yet to come.
Personal Rating: 8 out of 10. PlayStation had outstanding content that was dragged down by how they ran their conference. This could have been a 9.5 out of 10 or even a 10 out of 10 if they had done a “normal” conference. I applaud PlayStation for trying something new in having multiple venues for the conference, and it probably sounded good in concept, but it simply didn’t work in execution. The intermission killed the flow of the conference, and it also wasn’t clear when the conference had ended. Please don’t do this again next year PlatStation.
* As they’ve been doing for a while now, Nintendo published a prerecorded Nintendo Direct rather than have a traditional E3 conference. This year’s showcase was just over 40 minutes long. I’ve never been a Nintendo fan and the only Nintendo console I’ve ever owned was a Wii, so I can’t say that I’m overly familiar with the Switch’s current ecosystem. If I traveled more, had to commute by public transit, or was still in college I could see myself purchasing a Switch but for the foreseeable future I won’t be getting one.
* If I did own a Switch, however, one game that I’d definitely be buying would be Super Smash Brothers Ultimate, the new entry in the Smash Brothers series that took up half of the presentation. Every single character from previous Smash Brothers games will be in Ultimate, but as long as I can play as (the infinite gloriousness that is indisputably) Captain Falcon I’ll be happy.
* Gamecube controllers will be usable in Ultimate. I must be the only person who really did not like the Gamecube controller, because everyone I know who had a Gamecube swears that it’s the greatest controller ever.
Personal Rating: 6.0 out of 10. Like with Square Enix, Nintendo’s choice of doing a prerecorded program for E3 was the right one considering that they didn’t have a lot of games to talk about. The amount of time given to Smash Brothers Ultimate probably should have been cut by about 25% to 50%. This was an unusual case of a game getting too much substance in an E3 showcase.
Overall winner of the E3 2018 conferences: Xbox. Had PlayStation not bungled their presentation they would have won (in my mind) but they made a significant error and Xbox walks away with this year’s title belt.