With all of the different showcases done and dusted, now seems as good a time as any to talk about the games and announcements that stood out to me the most. Between EA, Xbox, Bethesda, Square Enix, Ubisoft, PlayStation, and Nintendo, there’s plenty to be excited about in 2018 and beyond, and I initially planned on running down each of their respective showings. That’s a lot of fucking work, though, so here are my 10 personal favorites instead! Laziness!
But first, I wanted to applaud the Xbox conference as a whole.
Microsoft has been under heavy fire lately for their lack of quality console exclusives. While it’s absurd to assume the console has “nothing to play,” it’s hard to argue that they’ve either not had much to offer that you couldn’t play elsewhere, or the really good exclusive stuff is just too few and far between — made even more apparent when you consider how well both Sony and Nintendo are doing right now, in comparison.
Thier presentation this year was said to include 50 different games, with 18 of them being exclusive to the Xbox and 15 being world premiers. And in their ongoing commitment to support Xbox and deliver new exclusive experiences to their consumers, they’ve opened up a new Santa Monica-based first-party studio called The Initiative and acquired four new development studios in Undead Labs (State of Decay), Playground Games (Forza Horizon), Compulsion Games (We Happy Few), and Ninja Theory (Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Devil may Cry, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West). Adding five new first-party studios to their lineup, especially the incredibly talented folks at Ninja Theory, is bound to strengthen and diversify the Xbox’s brand of exclusive content. It’ll be a while before any of them are ready to show off anything, but I can’t wait to see where Xbox is at in the next two or three years. It may be a little barren until then, but I’m sure it’ll be worth the wait.
On the games front, the Xbox conference was chock full of rapid-fire announcements and trailers. They also elaborated on their stellar Game Pass subscription by immediately adding The Elder Scrolls Online, Fallout 4, and Tom Clancy’s The Division, and confirming Halo: The Master Chief Collection for later in the year — along with Forza Horizon 4 appearing day and date alongside its retail release on October 2nd. It was not only their best E3 presentation in company history but possibly the best presentation I’ve had the pleasure of watching as a whole — not in terms of what was shown, exactly, but the pacing, variety, and excitement were unmatched.
Honorable mention: Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition
Tales of Vesperia is a phenomenal JRPG and widely regarded as one of the best entries in the long-running Tales series. Tales of Vesperia has been stranded on the Xbox 360 (where it’s still not available on Xbox One via backwards compatibility) for ten years, despite releasing on PS3 in its native Japan. Fans have been hounding Bandai Namco for a localization ever since, and later this year they’ll finally have their wish granted. It’s a really cool game with a great look and story, and I look forward to revisiting this new definitive release this winter.
The question now, though, is do I continue purchasing Tales games on the PS4 or do I finally break away and grab it on the Nintendo Switch? Having it on the go seems ideal, but some of these cross-platform releases don’t always perform very well in handheld mode on Nintendo’s hybrid console (which is its main selling point).
#10. Beyond Good & Evil 2
I really enjoyed Beyond Good & Evil when I played through the HD remaster last year on Xbox One (via Xbox 360 backwards compatibility), so I guess it’s perfect timing that Ubisoft has begun discussing their work on the upcoming sequel — something fans of the game have been asking for since 2003. Fifteen years later, the oddly titled Beyond Good & Evil 2 is confirmed to be a prequel, contain a vast open world to explore, and allow players to experience it cooperatively with a friend. Last year Ubisoft showed a GC trailer that introduced some of the game’s new characters, but this year we were given a peek at actual gameplay. It all looks amazing.
What didn’t sit well with me, though, is their decision to crowdsource labor. Using actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s HitRecord initiative, Ubisoft wants fans to create art, music, story, and more, in hopes of adding it to the game. At first, this “working for exposure” bullshit really caught me off guard. However, it was later revealed (after the show) that HitRecord does, in fact, pay their contributors. It still feels a tad weird, since HitRecord is budgeting $50,000 to distribute across all of their approved artists. According to composer 2Mellow, this is less than the average salary of one AAA studio employee — made even harder to swallow when WayPoint’s Patrick Klepek pointed out that Ubisoft recorded record profits last year, with more than $2 billion in sales. If anyone can afford to actually pay people for their hard work, it’s them — so why bother crowdsourcing?
Despite the sour taste this left in my mouth, I was initially awed by the game’s trailer and gameplay reveal.
#9. Death Stranding
Although we got our first glimpse at actual gameplay during the PlayStation showcase, I still have no fucking idea what’s going on in Hideo Kojima’s latest project. And I think that’s the main draw, here. I’ve played a lot of video games over the last 31 years and being surprised is a rarity nowadays.
Do we deliver packages as Norman Reedus, stealthily avoiding weird shadow creatures? Is there combat? From what we saw, my guess is that people can transfer their memories to a clone of themselves in the unfortunate event that they’re killed off by the invisible creatures. These things, indicated by handprints in the dirt, rapidly age anything in their immediate vicinity (shown by the plants growing and dying along their pathway), so maybe they’ll rapidly age the clone in the process of murdering the current version of Norman Reedus? If this is the case, when players die they don’t respawn, but rather enter the body of the next clone — then eat the weird worm thing to grow another clone inside of their body.
I don’t know. I really, really don’t. But I’m definitely intrigued and can’t wait to be disappointed alongside everyone else whenever Sony decides to stop handing this guy blank checks.
#8. Ori and the Will of the Wisps
Ori and the Blind Forest is one of the most beautiful and emotionally draining games I’ve ever played, but it’s been long enough that I think I’m ready for more. Ori and the Will of the Wisps was revealed during the Xbox showcase and aims to expand upon the original by granting Ori a handful of new abilities while still delivering a fantastical 2D environment to explore. I’m not sure if it’ll follow the same metroidvania formula as the original game, but man… Will of the Wisps looks incredible.
#7. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
From Software’s newest project, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, still appears rooted in the developer’s iconic Soulslike combat, but they’re doing away with the RPG and multiplayer mechanics in favor of delivering a challenging, single-player action game.
At the start of the trailer, our “hero” is severed from one of his arms and awakens to find a grappling hook-like arm installed in its place. As is the case with other FromSoft games, dying seems to play a significant role in both the gameplay and narrative, as the hunched over NPC explains to the newly revived player character that it “looks like death is not your fate just yet,” and that their “death won’t come easily” again when they’re slain by a monster later in the trailer.
In an interesting turn of events, Sekiro is being published by Activision, which immediately caused me to assume that this was a new game in the Tenchu universe (before the name was revealed). I still got Tenchu vibes, though, with the game’s focus on stealth and fancy traversal via grappling hook. The combat looks great, the game itself has an awesome look, and I can’t wait to get my shit pushed in whenever Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice releases on Xbox One, PS4, and PC.
I’m not a big superhero guy when it comes to video games, but there’s something about Insomniac’s Spider-Man that’s undeniably eye-catching. Perhaps it’s knowing what the studio is capable of, having played their criminally underappreciated Xbox One exclusive Sunset Overdrive that was also heavily rooted in fancy locomotion? Either way, the new gameplay trailer shown during the PlayStation showcase seamlessly blended cinematic action with player-controlled combat and web-swinging segments, and the end result was jaw-dropping.
Combat seems to be inspired by Rocksteady’s Batman games, which is fine, but Insomniac adds a Spider-Man-like flair by allowing players to utilize a variety of web abilities. Unlike the Dark Knight, Spider-Man swiftly flips and flies between enemies and clearly has a more agile approach to hand-to-hand combat. The entire trailer is a feast for the eyes, but it’s Insomniac’s web-based traversal and flashy combat that’s really bringing this non-Spider-Man fan around.
Remedy practically invented the stylish shooter with Max Payne back in 2001. They went on to develop one of the Xbox 360’s finest exclusives in the Stephen King-inspired Alan Wake, and blended their brand of futuristic shooting drama with live television in the Xbox One exclusive Quantum Break. Now free of Xbox’s exclusivity, Remedy premiered their latest project — the futuristic sci-fi shooter Control — during the PlayStation showcase, making it their first appearance on a PlayStation platform since 2003. And it looks quite promising.
Gameplay wise, it shares a lot in common with Quantum Break; the leading lady can use special powers to manipulate the environment, grabbing and hurling objects or using them to shield herself from harm. Both games use the same Northlight engine, so it makes sense. The narrative director at Remedy gave more detailed information during a Giant Bomb at Nite interview, confirming that you control a character who works for a sort of supernatural FBI group and that you’ll be exploring a building known as The Oldest House — a towering structure that appears normal on the outside, but far, far bigger once entered. The building’s innards shift throughout the game, which is said to have metroidvania-style exploration. As Giant Bomb’s Alex Navarro explained in a separate interview, the Oldest House has been overrun by a type of supernatural “menace” called The Hiss, to which the game’s hero, Jesse Faden (played by Courtney Hope), is sent to investigate.
#4. Devil May Cry 5
I’m in the extreme minority that, when it comes to the Devil May Cry series, I prefer Ninja Theory’s reboot over the core entries. Don’t get me wrong — I really liked 1 and 3. But I’m a big fan of Ninja Theory’s world design and aesthetic. I’m happy that Devil May Cry is back, but a little bummed that it’s not in their hands anymore (though not surprised, given the lackluster sales). However, Devil May Cry 5 certainly looks more in line with the reboot than any of the core games.
Either way, this was a great trailer that not only featured rad music and fancy CG cutscenes, but also showcased some rather impressive graphics alongside actual gameplay. I need this game in my life.
#3. Resident Evil 2
Resident Evil 2 was absolutely incredible back on the original PlayStation, featuring two simultaneous storylines and unparalleled atmosphere (until Silent Hill released the following year). Due to the success of the Resident Evil Remake (Remake), Capcom became interested in giving the original PS1 sequel similar treatment. It’s been years since then and we were finally given a glimpse during the PlayStation showcase.
All I can say is “holy shit.” Capcom has rebuilt Resident Evil 2 from the ground up, but similar to the original’s remake back on the Gamecube it remains mostly faithful to the source material — at least in terms of world design. Gone are the tank controls and static camera angles, in favor of a Resident Evil 4 over-the-shoulder point of view and the introduction of a reinforcement mechanic that allows Leon and Claire to board up windows in order to prevent additional zombies from entering unwantedly.
The trailer shown during the PlayStation showcase was fine, but a far superior version (embedded above) was released by Capcom shortly after that showed a ton of gameplay from Leon’s perspective. As far as third-party, cross-platform games go, Resident Evil 2 stole the show and I can’t wait until January to vacation in Raccoon City.
#2. Ghost of Tsushima
It’s been four years since Sucker Punch released Infamous: Second Son and its stand-alone First Light chapter, and thankfully they’ve decided to put a hold on that series in favor of bringing us a brand new single-player experience in Ghost of Tsushima. Although we were introduced to the open-world samurai action game last October during Paris Games Week, it wasn’t until Sony’s E3 showcase that we were shown actual gameplay.
Given the series Sucker Punch has become known for, I’m not surprised that Ghost of Tsushima is an open-world game, but it’s clearly more grounded than Infamous’ superhero approach. You play as Jin Sakai, one of the last living samurai on the island of Tsushima (between Japan and Korea) during the Mongol invasion of Japan in 1274. According to IGN’s Jonathon Dornbush and developer Sucker Punch, Jin must move beyond the samurai traditions and master a new fighting style — the Way of the Ghost — in order to wage “unconventional war for the freedom of Japan.”
The gameplay that was shown featured brutal stealth kills, light platforming, and up-close swordplay, but I’m not sure how deep the game’s combat system is. From what I saw, it appears that Jin can enter different combat stances and cut down enemies with methodical strikes (a la Bushido Blade) and fatal ground attacks. There were a few basic hack-and-slash fights shown as well, but it’s hard to tell without playing it myself just how this Way of the Ghost differs from the traditional battle style displayed in the trailer.
#1. The Last of Us: Part II
The Last of Us celebrates its 5th anniversary this year and when I think back to the PlayStation 3, it’s the game for me that defined the console generation. Needless to say, I’m super excited for the upcoming sequel — even without a new trailer. But man, what a trailer it was.
What begins with what the internet has affectionately referred to as “That Kiss,” eventually transitions to a brutal scenario full of violence, exploration, and extended glimpses into the game’s mechanical changes. The Last of Us had a hard-hitting story that portrayed humanity’s monstrous tendencies on equal footing with the game’s actual monsters. Thus far, the sequel has yet to show the original game’s monsters (the Clickers), instead focusing on groups of humans fighting for survival.
The folks at Naughty Dog are unrivaled when it comes to character animations, and everything from the way Ellie’s nose bent while kissing to the way her body reacted to various points of impact during combat was nothing short of extraordinary. Some may (understandably) question the game’s level of violence on display, and I understand not everyone enjoyed the original, but it’s one of my favorite games of all time and I absolutely live for Sony’s brand of narrative-heavy action games. This trailer was miles beyond everything else shown at E3.
What about you, folks? See anything you like this year?