Image from Techradar
Another E3 has passed into history and again, it left me wanting.
Yeah, there were things worth showing at this year’s conference. It would’ve been even better had more of what was introduced to the public eye had gameplay attached to the product. Cool, stylish CG trailers aren’t bad, sometimes they can do a great job of setting up the ideas and imagination of what the end product will be like. But too many of the E3 announcements, ranging from games to even an upcoming console were insistent on “tell and suggest” rather than “show and amaze”.
I give some lenience in that it’s possible that a game isn’t developed fully enough to actually show the product in any build. It does bring up the enduring question of E3’s necessity to exist. Sometimes, a company has to rely on fluff and needless filler because they just don’t have enough worthwhile to demonstrate by early June of any given year.
Sony’s absence has been both praised and criticized. On the one hand, it was Sony’s admission that they did not have enough new to show at the conference this year. They especially didn’t think that their next console, the PS5, was ready for any extensive coverage. Not even to the vague levels of Microsoft’s Project Scarlett, the working title for whatever the fourth Xbox will be called.
That explains their surprising liberal allowance of leaks and confirmation about the device before E3, like its lightning fast load times for PS4 hardware and a welcome commitment to backwards compatibility, at least for this generation. I would prefer if the PS5 became an all-encompassing library of games from their two decade plus collection, but perhaps that is indeed under way as I speak.
I do wish Sony had shown up, as there was a decent complement of things they could have further extrapolated on. More footage of Kojima’s bizarrely interesting Death Stranding, with the pre-E3 eight minute trailer strongly implying future looks at the extent of gameplay Kojima has been avoiding showing. That its release date is several days shy of my early November birthday seems all the more reason.
There’s also The Last of Us Part II, which is shaping up to be an “end of generation event” style game like its remarkable predecessor and based on what I’ve seen, would benefit from the PS5’s promising upgrades. Ghost of Tsushima, Sucker Punch’s ode to 13th century Japan is also an intriguing exclusive that I want to see more of and will also likely get the cross generational treatment. Considering the next console’s backwards compatible nature, perhaps that’s why those games, including Death Stranding, are standing to be released as big PS4 games so close to its end. Like these titles on the Playstation 4? You’ll love them on the 5!
But now, on to what was actually present at E3 this year, and the titles that I care to recall any interest in for the foreseeable future.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Image from the Verge
A lone, young Jedi tries to survive and fight the evil Galactic Empire in a gameplay experience that seems tight, if not the most amazing thing that it could’ve come across. Respawn, makers of Titanfall and the original Call of Duty games, want to make you feel like a Jedi, though swift and punishing encounters, making you utilize your use of the lightsaber and the Force. It’s linear design isn’t so bad, but I wonder if there will be enough to the combat and variety in using the force to make it a rewarding experience than just the first go through. The setting, of the Jedi purge between episodes 3 and 4 is ever ripe for possibilities. The tactical and careful approach to playing the titular Jedi is the most promising aspect so far. It does help separate from earlier Jedi simulators like The Force Unleashed and Jedi Knight of yore. Will the force be strong with it? Probably more so likely than with The Rise of Skywalker a month after.
The Outer Worlds
Image from Gamecrate
Speaking of original creators of a major franchise working on something new, Obsidian Entertainment, consisting of the people behind the original Fallout games of the 90s, are back for a spiritual successor of their post-apocalypse classics. Outer Worlds seems to be a mixture of Borderlands and well, modern day Fallout in the visual aesthetic. It does feel like “turn of the century”, as in 19th to 20th century, America set in the edges of the galaxy in a distant future. Corporate control of the frontier clashes with the fundamental individualism that makes up the frontier mindset and you get to play someone who can take that rugged trait of choice to be good, bad and psychopathically ugly, as the trailer promises. Nothing new was really shown but it does promise to be more of the same from the Fallout creators but with a wholly new setting and hopefully some new tricks.
Image from Destructoid
It feels strange to call CD Projekt Red’s next game, based on the boardgame Cyberpunk 2020, one of the most anticipated games for myself. For most other people, it’s a no brainer choice, as their acclaimed work on the Witcher series, based on the Polish novels you have likely never read, has made them big stars in the industry. I’m one of those outliers who is not a fan of the Witcher series. I have never played the first one, could never finish the second and while I did manage to finish the third, never found it as rewarding and fulfilling as so many others. Take it as me never being the most invested in a story that I couldn’t fully understand, a wonky combat system that felt both too simple and yet too complex and that my playing of the third game on PS4 never seemed the optimum way to enjoy the game. These are PC games first and the developers would instantly second that. Now that I have a supposedly high end laptop PC, maybe my opinion of the series will brighten.
It doesn’t hurt at all that Cyberpunk 2077 looks really interesting in playing outside of the Polish studio’s earlier work. It looks and based on the gameplay I’ve seen, like their own obsessively detailed take on sci-fi RPGs like Deus Ex. I like the genre and style of choose your own adventure from those other games and I will credit CD Projekt Red in that when it came to The Witcher 3, there was genuine change of narrative and character arcs based on the choices you made. Going from controlling just grey haired hunk Geralt to heavily customizable V, giving Mass Effect’s customization system a run for its money, I can’t wait to explore and conquer Night City as my custom built protagonist. That I can do it alongside Keanu Reeves is just… excellent. It might also be the best way next year to really see how strong my PC is. If I’m going to play Cyberpunk, it’s going to be the way the studio prefers. Yes, the game was shown off at a conference for Xbox, but it was also for Windows, so there.
Image from Variety
An indie game shown at Microsoft’s conference managed to be more interesting than most shown. The concept of a time loop messing your life up is nothing new(Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow), but for a video game it’s quite promising. A poor guy finds himself circling through a rather dire twelve minutes of his life and tries to find the solution to a break in and possible death of himself and his wife. The variety of ways this scenario can play out seem dauntingly high and to avoid the staleness of possibly beating the scenario on the first or early try, perhaps there are multiple win states. Perhaps some “lose states” also count as beating the experience. While it was shown off as cutscenes with no playable interaction from a top down perspective, I have faith that what you can do as the poor guy will be rewarding in the complexities that can come from a small, even claustrophobic setting.
Way to the Woods
Image from Inverse
Indie games, likely out of limited budget, often have games without voice-acting. The minimalist approach to storytelling, letting the visuals and your actions in these artistically remarkable virtual lands, be the exposition. Way to the Woods has you play a deer mother(or father) escorting their child, where else, back to the woods. It’s shaping up to be a colorful, linear journey home, with puzzles, strange encounters and sights to see. Nothing groundbreaking, but nothing underwhelming at least in what they’re offering.
Image from Digital Spy
I’m still not a Halo fan, even after placing the next gen entry onto this list. I’m hoping having the majority of the series coming to PC, starting with prequel Halo Reach may entice re-evaluation on my part. Until then, Microsoft is hoping Halo Infinite can repeat the same magic that the original 2001 entry did: release as a console launch exclusive to help sell the new system. Very little of the actual gameplay has been shown off, in fact all that has been shown is what the in-engine game looks like and it does looks quite great, smooth as Master Chief’s armor itself. The announce trailer from the last E3 promised a much more open-ended if not open world Halo adventure, calling back to the original’s acclaimed versatility in how you could explore and traverse the still linear path on the humongous Halo ring floating in space. Like Nintendo’s Zelda: Breath of the Wild, going back to the design tenets of the beginning to ensure the future seems to be Microsoft’s play.
It’s a surprisingly humble and promising move that may make Halo more than just a competitor’s institution: once more, an industry pushing experience. These words come from one who hasn’t even been a fan nor much of a player, so you know something worthwhile is up. Maybe even a reason to buy Xbox’s next generation.
Xbox: Project Scarlett
Image by The Verge
There isn’t much to say about a console that wasn’t really shown. Yes, we saw footage of its in-engine capabilities which were reassuring with Halo Infinite, but it mostly came down to promises and positive speculations from the people developing it. Promises of 120 frame per second gameplay, a true lack of long loading screens, if any at all, the next step in gaming fidelity.
That all sounds nice and dandy, and will be doubly impressive if the end product manages to even come close to such high standards. Then again, I don’t know if high end PCs can actually muster such power and performance. I’ve been replaying Far Cry 4 on PC and while the performance is generally quite good, better than on the PS4, it hasn’t blown my socks off with consistency. Maybe its how my laptop is set up despite my best efforts to improve performance, but they’re still load screens for a game that is half a decade old now, though they’re much shorter than the console version.
Now, a next gen console like Project Scarlett, along with the PS5, wants to further reduce, maybe even eliminate the concept from games. Based on a demonstration of the PS5 running 2018 Spider-Man far faster and better than the PS4, I have absolute confidence that last or earlier generation games will run superior on these new systems. The Xbox One’s acclaimed backwards compatibility of earlier Xbox systems proved that older games like Red Dead Redemption did indeed work better. The question is: can the next generation line-up, from both Microsoft and Sony, play ball with what has been promised? I’m going to lean on “no”, but I will be very happy to proven wrong.
Due to the extent of things to cover, I’m splitting this review into more than one article. Stay tuned for Part Two.