The annual ritual of sacrifice that addles the brains of game journalists around the world is at hand. The Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), the big game trade show in Los Angeles, gets started on Saturday and runs all next week. I’ll be going, making use of as many of my tips for survival as I can, in search of the next generation of cool gaming experiences.
Many of them, I fear, have already been revealed. That helps me plan my week, but it stings a little because, like everybody else, I really want to be surprised by what I find at E3. For the 200 companies showing off more than 3,250 products, it’s going to be a big battle for attention. Not just for the 50,000 professionals and 15,000 consumers attending, but for the 2.6 billion gamers around the world who are going to be watching E3 from afar, said Mike Gallagher, CEO of the Entertainment Software Association (which puts on E3), in an interview.
Gallagher said that more than 70 of the products at E3 this year have never been revealed before. But, thanks to leaks by Walmart Canada (I’ve never seen a better accidental investigative journalism outfit) and others, we’ve seen one big title after another leak. Gallagher believes much of it is intentional, as the jockeying for attention starts well ahead of E3. I’ve seen some of these games already, but I’m going to go on a death march at E3 to see one after another, up close, and I’ll play them if I can. I just want to know which ones are deserving.
What I am most interested in seeing are games with ambition to be great, like the Uncharted series, The Last of Us, or God of War. If you look into the passion and struggle that went into making these games great, you’ll see eye to eye with me about what I want to see from the games coming this year.
We’ll see how much impact Fortnite and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds have had on the rest of the industry, which may come to E3 with a bunch of battle royale clones. I’m not expecting any of those clones to impress me. If anything, Fortnite will be trying to make a big impression — or a broad cultural impact — on everyone through its pro-celebrity esports tournament and a giant party in the Los Angeles Coliseum on Tuesday night.
I’m going to miss EA Play this year on Saturday, but I’ll be watching from afar. At EA, I’m most interested in hearing the buzz around Battlefield V and the sci-fi game Anthem. These two games look like they’ve got potential to be blockbusters.
On Sunday at Microsoft, I’ll be looking forward to the rumored Gears of War 5. Gears of War 4 left me feeling a little disappointed, as its tone descended into something kind of ridiculous. I may see more, like maybe a glimpse of Halo 6, but picture looks pretty dark right now as to what Microsoft’s big games will be. I’m a little worried about them, as their line-up has been thin. State of Decay 2 was disappointing.
Bethesda has usually been the best about keeping secrets, but it fell victim to the Walmart Canada leak, with news about Rage 2 leaking. I always liked the original Rage of 2011, with its boomerang beheader and its insane characters, but the ending was disappointing. A lot of people felt like it was derivative from the Mad Max series, which is a fair criticism. But it had that rare combination of exciting car combat and first-person shooter gameplay.
And of course, I’m quite intrigued by this Fallout 76 game that Bethesda has been teasing. I’ve been impressed with the ever-rising quality of Bethesda’s games, and I’ve got confidence that this team can make something great.
Among the third parties, I’m very impressed with Square Enix’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider, which looks quite spectacular, and Kingdom Hearts 3, which is going to dazzle Disney, Pixar, and Square Enix fans. Activision will try to convince us that the single-player campaign isn’t really necessary in Call of Duty: Black Ops 4. I’m sure its multiplayer will be great, but single-player provides me with motivation. 4A Games’ Metro Exodus might take us on a good journey, and I hope this team can bring the game home.
At Ubisoft on Monday, I am very interested in seeing what they’re doing with Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2, Skull & Bones, and Beyond Good and Evil 2. Each one of these titles sounds like Ubisoft will apply its massive 10,000-strong development team and delivering Triple-A polish. Let’s just hope that none of these titles is being rushed out the door. Now that Vivendi isn’t breathing down Ubisoft’s neck and Tencent has become its white knight, Ubisoft should have plenty of resolve to be patient.
Sony has impressed me the most with releases like God of War and Detroit: Become Human this year, and it has the most titles that I’m looking forward to. The company will show Marvel’s Spider-Man, The Last of Us Part 2, Days Gone, Dreams, and Ghost of Tsushima. All of them have the potential to be blockbusters, but we have no guarantee all will debut this year. In fact, Days Gone is coming in 2019.
But based on what Sony has shipped so far, I have the most confidence that it will cook these games until they are like delicious Gordon Ramsay’s scrambled eggs. I have my own biases here. The Last of Us is my favorite game of all time, not because of the brutal one-on-one combat that made every death a struggle. It was because the writing and the characters were so well done. I have very high expectations for the sequel.
On Tuesday, I hope Nintendo can give us some surprises beyond Super Smash Bros. for the Switch and some new Pokemon games. I have renewed confidence in the company’s ability to come up with great games and create an ecosystem on top of the Switch that will benefit a wide array of third parties.
Of course, the game that I have the highest expectations for, Rockstar’s Red Dead Redemption 2, isn’t expected to be at that the show at all. The original Red Dead Redemption was an epic Wild West game with a compelling story about John Marsden. Red Dead Redemption 2 is setting up another interesting tale about Arthur Morgan and the Van Der Linde robber gang.
For my own tastes, I’m also excited about Total War: Three Kingdoms, the new game from Sega’s Creative Assembly that is coming in 2019. While I may sound critical, all of the Triple-A game companies are doing what I expect and want them to do. They’re working on potential blockbusters and swinging for the fences.
I also enjoyed a preview of Echo Combat, the new zero-gravity multiplayer combat game for the Oculus Rift and Touch. It gives me hope that virtual reality could eventually become a great games platform.
If I’m disappointed about anything, it’s about the lack of presence of what I call the “accidental game platforms.” Sony, Nintendo, and Microsoft are the intentional game platform companies. If Apple, Google, Facebook, and Amazon woke up and brought some firepower to bear on games and on E3, then they could disrupt this market and make it ultra competitive. Those companies should step up with technologies such as cloud gaming, and if they do, E3 will live up to everyone’s expectations.