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They should make a video game about my Journey through the 2019 Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3). For the 23rd time, I bounced around like a lemming, or a pinball, between the cavernous South Hall and West Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center.
More than 200 game companies showed off wares, and I rolled over a few feet as I once again took my journalism gear around in a backpack on wheels. I walked about 33.2 miles in the past seven days in search of the best games of E3. I made it to most of the major press events, ate too many hot dogs, and waited in a lot of lines despite my geriatric state. I went to more than 60 appointments and events, and I published 53 stories in the last seven days.
I still have more to write.
I have to say I’m worried about this show. Sony sat out. Activision Blizzard had no games on the floor. Microsoft moved out of the convention center to the Microsoft Theater at LA Live. And Electronic Arts staged its EA Play event in Hollywood. These were selfish moves by companies that should have supported the show and made it more interesting for gamers — 15,000 of whom paid money to wait in line for hours to see their favorite games. It was a betrayal, and the gaps on the show floor were noticeable.
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I came up with 14 favorite games of E3 2019, but without Sony there, it was like going to the Olympics when some big nation was sitting it out. I hope those big companies will come back, or others like Google and Amazon will take their place, because that’s the responsible thing to do. United, E3 stands. Divided, it falls.
That’s my rant for the show. But I was still able to find a lot of games that I liked. And I saw a lot of dear friends that I have always seen at this show. That makes it worth it, even if I had to endure seeing a lot of energy drink companies among the booths.
Here’s the list. It’s worth noting that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare is not on this list, because of my concerns about its violence. And here’s my picks from last year.
Hands-down, this remains the most ambitious game of the show. The attention to detail was pretty amazing. I watched a helicopter launch an attack in the distance against a target in a high rise as my car approached a faction that occupied one of the drab parts of a futuristic city. You can fulfill your mission in a lethal way or do it without violence.
The best thing I can say about this world is that it truly makes you feel immersed in another place, sort of like the worlds of Red Dead Redemption 2 or Grand Theft Auto V. And it should be funny with Keanu Reeves as one of the stars.
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Electronic Arts’ Respawn Entertainment struck a fine balance with this game. It is an accessible title for the Star Wars masses, but it also requires some skill that you acquire through a lot of gameplay. Part of the demo went on-rails, where you play Padawan Cal Ketsis, a surviving Jedi. He deftly hijacks an Imperial Walker.
Then he traverses a big environment, runs on walls, stabs giant spiders with well-timed hits, and then gets in lightsaber battles where he has to take measured, well-timed swings to take down skillful opponents. It is “thoughtful combat.” You can block, take a swing, use “Force push,” evade, jump, or use the environment against enemies.
I was delighted by the destructible environment that Square Enix’s Crystal Dynamics showed in a scene that took place on a ruined Golden Gate Bridge. The Hulk was bouncing around and smashing enemies by pulling out concrete sections of the bridge and lobbing it.
It was a bit weird to see this version of The Avengers with unknown character faces, since Square Enix did not secure the rights to the famous actors’ faces for the game. You can switch among the four different heroes, who line up with the four-player co-op system.
Doom Eternal is going to be an enjoyable bloodfest. It’s far more violent than Call of Duty, but it is a goofy, fanciful kind of violence. It is pure fantasy, and you get a certain joy from using an over-the-top weapon to take out demons from hell in a splatter zone.
I saw this game working on Google Stadia, and it was fine except for one or two slight interaction delays during 35 minutes of gameplay.
In this version of the Nazi-shooting series, you play Sophia and Jessica, the twin daughters of BJ Blazkowicz, the hero of many previous Wolfenstein games. The story takes place 19 years after The New Colossus.
I enjoyed the chatter between the two twin sisters. They set off to Paris in search of their father, and they are hilarious in their impulsive behavior in combat. The co-op play is exciting. You can give a “pep talk” to your teammate by pressing a button, which gives your partner some extra ammo or armor.
I feel this one has potential with its intriguing storyline, and its continuation of a fascinating universe where the Nazis won World War II.
Dying Light 2
I’ve always like the premise of this survival-horror game where you can roam an open world that is filled with dangerous zombies. By day, they’re slow. But at night, the undead come alive and will chase you down. I saw a mission in a dark theater where your job was to secure a water supply for a settlement. You have to use stealth to get into a water facility and then make a critical decision about whom to trust. The consequences are grave. It was an exciting demo, full of fast action. And it makes you think about the choice you have to make that means life or death.
I was surprised to see this title from Ninja Theory, the studio (which Microsoft acquired) that made Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. It is a co-op game where four players face off against four others. It has a crazy environment that is similar to the style of Borderlands.
It fuses third-person action combat with competitive online team gaming. It was extremely well balanced, and my team lost a 500-point match by just one point. You can choose among goofy characters that seem like they came out of Mad Max. The combat is quick, and you can ride a hoverboard to get to the action quickly. You can mod your character and help your teammates survive, all the while trying to evade environmental obstacles like a train rushing through the map.
The game is in development for Xbox One, Windows 10 PC and Xbox Game Pass as an Xbox Play Anywhere title.
Clap Trap is back and so is the crazy world of Pandora. But this time, you get to go off-world to places that include one that looks like a Louisiana bayou. That helps release the creative juices of the artists. The guns are the stars of the show in this loot shooter, and you have some quality villains, bosses, and plenty of goofy enemy characters to shoot down. The combat feels good.
Gearbox is investing an enormous amount of work into this title, and it looks pretty solid, with little details like being able to buy guns from a store that reflect what your friends have done in other games. I have high expectations for this game, but it has to set itself apart from the earlier titles.
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout
This was a cute non-violent battle royale game at Devolver Digital’s trailer lot outside of E3. You join a group of 100 players and participate in mini games, like trying to bash through doors (where only one door of five will open for you). I loved how it involved skillful play that comes down to the wire in exciting matches. Each time, more of the players are weeded out, and only one can win. It’s a nice change of pace in the battle royale genre.
Watch Dogs: Legion
Ubisoft has come up with a cool innovation for the third installment of the Watch Dog series. This game is set in London, and you can choose any non-player character to be the “hero” of the Dedsec insurgency against the authorities. But not everyone will just join you. You have to convince them that Dedsec is a worthy cause. That involves favors. I had to destroy a database on an individual before I was able to recruit a former spy to my side.
I played through a mission where I was able to use stealth to hack doors, take out cameras, take over drones, and shoot my way out of a guarded data center. I would prefer to have memorable main characters, but in this case, it might be OK to have thousands of such characters, so long as the stories don’t become repetititive.
Through the Darkest of Times
This game is like a simple board game, with static and stark comic book-style art. But it is very moving because of its subject matter. You have to help operate the resistance to Adolf Hitler as he rises to power and cracks down on the Jewish community.
You have to balance the fear of getting caught by the totalitarian regime and a sense of duty to take risks that will somehow weaken the Nazi grip on power. You have to maintain the morale of your cell in order to keep the resistance going. And it is scary to have the Gestapo knock on your door and arrest you.
After the Fall
Vertigo Games’ Arizona Sunshine was one of the bright spots of consumer virtual reality games. The whole category has been slow to take off, but Vertigo found a way to create a zombie game that worked well in VR. Now it is making After the Fall, a more ambitious four-player co-op title where you have to fight off swarms of zombies.
It’s a bit like Left 4 Dead, only in VR. You have to do a lot of shooting just to keep the bodies from piling up everywhere. If every game were like this one in this category, I wouldn’t worry about the future of VR.
This game is a great combination of turn-based strategy and real-time combat. It’s like the action in Combat Mission, where you take turns moving and hoping that you won’t get taken down while the enemy moves too.
It combines futuristic sci-fi weaponry like mechs with modern-day combat units like tanks and infantry squads. But it has a twist.
The combat units have the benefit of sophisticated artificial intelligence. This can predict what the enemy units are going to do. If you slide the timeline forward, you can see what those enemies will do and when they are likely to fire. That helps you plan countermeasures and make more intelligent moves.
This kind of predictive combat technology helps the Phantom Brigade survive, despite being outnumbered and outgunned.
Call of Duty: Mobile
While I dinged Modern Warfare for its violence, this title is a lot tamer. And it is actually quite fun to play. I won one match at my demo and came in third in the second one. This game is reconstructing a bunch of favorite maps like Nuketown, Crash, and Hijacked. The maps are faithful to the originals, and I found it was easy to control the movement and then fire with the right hand. I think it will be a great way for players to entertain themselves during short breaks.
These worthy titles include Sea of Solitude, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild 2, Halo Infinite, Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Breakpoint, John Wick: Hex, and 12 Minutes.
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