Despite being an incredibly cynical person, I am capable of getting all hyped up for future releases and game announcements. I generally enjoy E3; so many things are announced that there’ll be at least a few things I’m interested in. Last year Wolfenstein 2 won the day for me, and I expected this year to offer a few treats to sink my speculative teeth into. What I didn’t expect was what we actually got: more good looking games than I know what to do with, genuine surprises and existing games being demoed to double down the already established interest. Narrowing that E3 down to five games has not been easy, so believe me when I say that these five are something special.
Firstly, honourable mentions:
DOOM Eternal (and Wolfenstein Newblood)
The night of the Bethesda conference I tweeted about how I hoped they’d announce a new DOOM, so imagine my joyful surprise when they did just that. Alongside a new Wolfenstein starring the next generation of the Blazkowicz family, Bethesda clearly have no intention of slowing down the twin FPS juggernauts in their possession. They’re only getting honourable mentions because they had teaser trailers with no gameplay, so there’s nothing to go on other than a brief outline of the protagonists and setting (Wolfenstein) and the fact that it exists (DOOM). Still, happy to see them both returning.
Same thing here: a very brief teaser trailer culminating in a logo and the first game’s beautifully soothing main theme. I’m glad Nioh got a sequel and I’m looking forward to playing it, but I’ve not got anything to go on.
This year’s trailer actually provided some more tangible footholds. Norman Reedus is a courier who traverses massive, empty landscapes on rather lonely looking deliveries of large crates. Lea Seydoux is also a courier, who appears before Reedus as a helpful NPC, who offers advice before leaving and telling Reedus that the “Timefall fast forwards everything it touches”. The invisible monsters whose handprints and sort of sludge-based drowning attack were seen in the previous trailer turn up, and can be seen as humanoid ghosts with long umbilical cords aiming towards the sky, and they can be detected and snuck past thanks to that tank-baby powered antenna thing that Reedus has. Despite all this, it only gets an honourable mention because despite other people’s willingness to be swept up in the tide of “WHAT DOES IT MEAN? NO IDEA BUT I’M DESPERATE TO PLAY IT AND FIND OUT”, to me it doesn’t make any sense devoid of context, and I know it’s been robbed of that context deliberately for trailers. I’m sure it’ll all make sense once I actually sit down and play the game, and I’m looking forward to doing so, as a big fan of Kojima’s work, but until then it’s just an interesting but nonsensical series of cryptic images. Also Norman Reedus hiking.
Now for the main event:
5: The Last of Us Part II
I’m coming around to this whole Last of Us sequel idea. Back when talks of a sequel first cropped up I was adamant that the original remain untouched. It had told its story beautifully and apart from a prequel I felt any re-visitations would spoil it. While I remain a tad wary and cautious, I am generally on board now, thanks to the PS conference’s opening trailer. After a cutscene that felt like something out of Uncharted, where a now adult Ellie makes out with her girlfriend Dina at some kind of communal dance, there’s an extended gameplay sequence in which Ellie takes on what appears to be the cult seen in the previous trailer. At first I thought the literal cry of “WOLF!” when Ellie is spotted was just a creepy cult thing, but they then refer to Ellie as such to one another, so they’ve apparently encountered her before and judging by their behaviour here, it didn’t go well for them. Gameplay wise it was definitely familiar- stealth, shooting and brutal, teeth-shattering hand-to-hand violence (violence is a better word for it than “combat”), but it seemed more fluid this time around, and tied into story elements. The cultists react to Ellie’s presence, they search for her when she’s hiding under a car, during a fight in a shop one of them throws her through a glass panel; just little touches that blend the gameplay and story without having to stop anything. It looks good, I like Ellie as a grown-up using what Joel taught her (there’s a nice touch where she grabs a hostage and grunts “C’mere!” like Joel used to), I like that her sexuality as established in Left Behind is an evidenced part of her character rather than just being paid lip service (I promise you I do not intend that pun), and the cutscene direction and storytelling call to mind Uncharted 4, which itself took cues from TLOU. I eagerly await more footage and/or details.
4: Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
I adore AC Origins, I think it was exactly what the series needed and I loved it from start to finish. I had a slight sense of trepidation with the leaked reveal of this, the next game in said series, because I assumed a one year development cycle. Turns out I needn’t have worried, because they’ve clearly used the three year dev cycle to great effect; what was shown off looks like Origins but with some cool new things layered on top, with a general goal of leaning in to the RPG elements. Dialogue options are here now, as are romance options, there are two characters available to play, a man and a woman, who are Spartan mercenaries on a journey to become a hero to all of Greece in the Sparta/Athens war. What they showed off at the Ubisoft conference was a game that uses the best title in the entire series as a base to build an action RPG: same combat, same levelling system and gear, but with more to do in terms of character interactions. I’m hoping it pays off; I certainly didn’t see anything that would lead me to believe otherwise at this point.
3: Resident Evil 2 Remake
What a difference eight hours of sleep can make. When I saw the trailer for this live, I hated it. Visually it was nothing much, and combined with the new character designs made me arrive at the conclusion that it looked worse than Darkside Chronicles’ RE2 chapters. Generally speaking I thought it looked like a rushed hack job, too much action, dodgy tone; wasn’t into it at all. Then, having slept, seen more screenshots, re-watched the trailers and seen the seventeen minute gameplay video, I’ve done a complete 180. The R.P.D. station feels familiar but definitely redesigned, because it’s a proper remake that makes changes rather than a remaster offering a graphical overhaul. Marvin Branagh’s up and about and given more natural dialogue (and a cute note for Leon about using the names of his fellow officers to unlock his desk), helping Leon out and then hanging around a triage set up in the main hall, complete with medical curtains. The wings are now locked with shutters, structural damage means the pouring rain is coating the halls, the place looks fantastic. One officer has tried to negotiate the station’s puzzles and has drawn a way out in his notebook, which Leon grabs when said officer gets ripped in half. Leon has a knife now, used to escape grapples, he aims over the shoulder like Resi 4, but he can move and use a torch in his other hand. The game’s clearly taken cues from Resi 7, in its U.I, inventory, environment interaction, and the more general sense of progression (also present in 4) of “You need to find this key item, go explore this wing of the building and you’ll end up with it”. Also there’s gunpowder now, used to craft different ammo types like in Resi 3. Really my only issue is how dark it is: it looks like it could be disorientating and not in a good way. Presumably that can be changed though, and they’re just demoing it in default brightness. The game looks fantastic, like a proper remake handled with care, taking cues from the superb Resi 7 and doing the original game justice. I was completely wrong with my first impression, I’m fully hyped and completely on board. My only worry now is if they’ll be using any of the original score, which remains excellent. Time will tell I suppose.
2: Devil May Cry 5
A silver medal so strong it could blot out the sun and so, so close to the gold. See I heard this was coming, both in the form of a rather detailed leak a while back, and them registering the name “Devil May Cry 5” just before E3, but I didn’t expect a full gameplay trailer. So first off Nero has a robot arm that does all manner of combat-related things, and alongside the sassy Southern lady who made it work for Dante’s Devil May Cry business, in a van with a neon sign depicting the company name bolted to the side. Cool enemy designs, Nero with a robot arm but still packing Red Queen and Blue Rose, same over the top sense of style and what looks to be fluid, satisfying combat: it’s a new DMC, baby. As much as I love DmC and its grimy, punk take on the series and its characters, I’m more than happy to have another entry in the main run eleven years after the last one, and were it not for the next game on this list this would be my game of the show by a country mile. Eagle-eyed people on twitter think Vergil might be making a more than welcome return (having died in the original, only to become rather popular through prequel stories), and Dante makes an appearance at the end, looking a bit rough and ready in the new art style, as does Nero (seen above). I love Devil May Cry, I love the look of this one, just let me play it already.
Also, Nero turns his arm into a missile, rides it like a skateboard and does a pop shove it. I’ve missed this series.
1: Hitman 2
Not actually announced at a conference, but given two trailers, as well as gameplay at E3 I haven’t watched so as not to spoil myself. It’s more of that same 2016 Hitman goodness but not episodic, from what I’ve seen. The trailers showed off the Miami level, in which 47 is tasked to kill a race driver and her brother/husband (same last name), and can do so mid-race multiple ways; something I never knew I wanted in a Hitman game. Not much more to say really, it just looks like more Hitman but released all at once, and despite the almost unanimously strong showing across the board at E3, more Hitman is exactly what I need. It’s not flashy, I haven’t been looping the trailer like I have with DMC5, but it’s as close as E3 got to a sure bet for me, with as little room for doubt as possible, and that’s enough to make it my best of show.
So that’s it then: stupendously strong showing at E3 this year, so many games I could have put on this list, but these five stood above the rest and I can’t wait to play them all.
By James Lambert
P.S. Western release date for Like a Hokuto, or as it’s called here “Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise” and Cory Barlog announcing on twitter mid-PS conference that God of War is getting New Game Plus: icing on the E3 cake.