E3 is under way, though of course, it’s the pre-show conferences where all the hype is built up. There’s been ups and downs, confusion and genuine surprises, but as it’s 2018, here’s a rundown of my 18 choice selections from the show.
Of all the platform holders, Xbox may have been the biggest highlight, showcasing 50 titles, with many world premieres, even if that just means you can still play them on another platform anyway. But it seems telling that compared to other years, it generally feels like a good year for games regardless which hardware you own.
A special mention should be given to SEGA for confirming localisations of some fan favourites, including Team Yakuza’s Fist of the North Star: Lost Paradise as well as the Persona rhythm game spin-offs, while PC players are finally going to get Yakuza 0 and Yakuza Kiwami. Kudos also to Devolver Digital for yet another outrageous parody presentation, which nonetheless managed to contain genuine game announcements, including a localisation of pre-Souls FromSoftware’s US mech curio for the original Xbox, Metal Wolf Chaos. But I’ve opted not to include those in this list, as these are essentially localisations and re-releases.
Also, while tons of people were blown away by Beyond Good and Evil 2 at Ubisoft’s event, I’m also wary of highlighting any game that’s essentially a CGI trailer – plus that goodwill felt a bit deflated when they started talking crowdsourcing some of the game world’s assets via Hollywood actor and director Joseph Gordon Levitt’s HitRECord company (that Ubisoft have only earmarked a budget of a mere $50,000 – surely the salary of just one individual when you consider that big studios must have teams of artists – doesn’t sound so promising).
But let’s not dwell on the downers, let’s bring the HYPE!
18. Starlink: Battle for Atlas (Ubisoft Toronto)
It’s either brave or foolish to continue the toys-to-life genre when everyone else has pretty much packed it in, yet Ubisoft’s sci-fi action adventure makes it exciting by letting you pilot spaceships where their physical models sit on top of your controller, and modular parts means you can customise them with different weapons and upgrades on the fly. Starlink is out on October 16th for PS4, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch, though it feels most at home on the latter, mainly thanks to the new announcement that Fox McCloud of Star Fox is a playable character – and the starter kit even comes with an Arwing!
17. Forza Horizon 4 (Playground Games)
Forza may be considered the best driving game of this generation, but I’ve never really cared for it, and I wasn’t expecting that having its Horizon spin-off set in Blighty would change my mind. But this really does look like a beauty, offering a seamless open-world social driving experience across the most picturesque locales on the British Isles, from the very green countrysides to Scottish castles, though it’s the real-time seasonal weather that really changes up everything, not just in how it looks (which is stunning) but how it plays. Best of all, it’s going to be available on the Xbox Game Pass when it launches on October 4th. All the talks of Brexit make this country a real joke, but I can’t think of a more escapist game for it.
16. Maneater (Blindside Studios)
Just an absolutely inspired idea, an action ‘SharkPG’ – say no more. If this E3 proved anything, it’s that gamers still like to revel in expressing man’s inhumanity to man. But OK, what if you were a man-eating shark instead? Fair game. Swim around the US gulf coast and feed on unsuspecting swimmers and divers, which will in turn level you up to evolve into an even more fearsome shark. I knew those folks behind Killing Floor were twisted, but this is just next-level genius. There’s no date for it yet but it’s coming to PC.
15. The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit (Dontnod Entertainment)
While we have a while to wait until Life is Strange 2 is officially announced, Dontnod have this completely free game to tide us over, set over the course of a Saturday morning in the life of young boy playing superheroes with himself. Mostly it’s the use of a Sufjan Stevens song that has me immediately hooked, but whatever choices and interactions that happen during this playthrough, you’ll also be able to carry its outcomes over to the proper sequel. It’s just a shame Dontnod didn’t tell us anything more about what that follow-up is meant to be. Nonetheless, look out for Captain Spirit later on June 26th for PS4, Xbox One and PC.
14. Déraciné (FromSoftware)
Coming after the bizarre artsy yet mostly violent Playstation Showcase, we finally get to see the VR game FromSoftware has been working on, and no, it’s not another Soulsborne. The trailer itself doesn’t say much but looking up a blurb we can learn that the player is essentially playing a ghost that’s been summoned into the lives of a group of students in a boarding school, no doubt full of its own mysteries and intrigue. It’s a fascinating direction for VR to go, considering how the tech isn’t immersive enough that you often find yourself acting more like a disembodied poltergeist anyway, hence why PSVR games like Moss and the upcoming Ghost Giant have also got an intriguing set-up. Of course, it’s still early stages but I’m definitely fascinated to learn more of what FromSoft is up to in its post-Souls world.
13. Daemon X Machina (Marvelous Entertainment)
While a fairly safe (daresay weak) showing from Nintendo, they sure had something unexpected to kick off their E3 Direct. A Bayonetta 3 trailer was probably too much wishful thinking but this Marvelous hi-octane teaser involving mechs, missiles and metal is the next best thing. Full of style and a lot of of pedigree – including Armored Core producer Kenichiro Tsukuda, Macross creator Shoji Kawamori and manga artist Yusuke Kozaki, whose work includes the last mainline Fire Emblem games. Expected in 2019, I can’t wait to find out more.
12. Ghost of Tsushima (Sucker Punch Productions)
I’m a sucker for Japanese games, though less so when it’s not made by a Japanese developer, so I did go in cautiously when it was announced this open world samurai epic set in feudal Japan during the first Mongol invasion was from Infamous creators Sucker Punch. But the first deep look at gameplay looks absolutely magnificent, with a stunning visual palette, leaves falling around you while your samurai blade swiftly cuts down foes. News that there’ll also be an option to play with Japanese audio and subtitles for added authenticity is also a welcome touch. Just how far long we have to wait for this is another matter however, and hopefully it’s not just going to be Horizon but in Japan.
11. Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Bandai Namco/Sora)
Anyone hoping for news on a new Animal Crossing, Bayonetta 3 or that rumoured Star Fox revival (not counting the awesome Starlink crossover) were disappointed to find out that Nintendo were indeed going to focus on the new Smash in their E3 Direct. And for the hardcore Smash fans, that meant a thorough 25-minute breakdown of the new entry. So it’s not a port, but with nowhere else to go, Ultimate is essentially its Greatest Hits moment, pulling in every single fighter from the entire Smash series (yes, that means Ice Climbers are back, but so is every version of Link, and even Solid Snake!) as well as all the stages, while every fighter also has been updated with their own unique visual or mechanical quirk. There are a couple new additions, like Daisy as an ‘echo fighter’ as well as Samus’ longtime nemesis Ridley and of course Splatoon‘s Inklings as were shown in the teaser earlier this year. No news on what (if any) single-player content will be included but either way, this will be a huge roster to smash out the end of the year when Smash Bros Ultimate launches for the Switch on December 7th.
10. Kingdom Hearts 3 (Square Enix)
Nope, I haven’t played Kingdom Hearts or its ‘remixes’ or ‘prologues’ and all the lore just sounds off-putting as hell, but every time I see more of its spiky-haired protagonist, along with Donald Duck and Goofy, appearing in another Disney franchise, it’s hard to be cynical. Frozen made its debut on the Xbox stage (which unfortunately got re-used in Square Enix’s own lacklustre video presentation) but the Playstation showcase also showed our heroes appearing in a more photo-realistic setting with Captain Jack Sparrow and his crew in Pirates of the Caribbean. We’ve seen more pirates in games this year (including Ubisoft’s stage) but this definitely looked the most fun. Kingdom Hearts 3 launches on January 29th 2019 for PS4 and Xbox One, though it looks like PS4 will be the choice platform if you want to play the entire series.
9. Sable (Shedworks)
With so many publishers throwing absurd amounts of money to promote their games at E3, it’s hard for any indies to stand out unless you’re fortunate to be picked for a spot on a platform holder’s stage. Despite only getting a few seconds screen time on the Xbox stage, Sable got its proper debut during the PC Gaming show, and boy, does it look gorgeous. With a cel-shaded aesthetic reminiscent of the works of Moebius, the vast desert your character speeds around on a hover bike immediately evokes an incredible atmosphere, also helped by a dreamy hypnotic soundtrack composed by Michelle Zauner Japanese Breakfast. With Meg Jayanth (80 Days) also writing this coming-of-age story, I absolutely can’t wait to find out more.
8. Fire Emblem: Three Houses (Intelligent Systems)
Nintendo may have been mostly a Smash fest, but my personal highlight was the official reveal of the next Fire Emblem. Graduating from the 3DS’ pixel art map and 3D character model transitions, the turn-based strategy RPG looks properly souped up for the Switch, and seems to even take a leaf from Koei Tecmo’s Fire Emblem Warriors – so that when the game zooms in on the action of the battlefield, we see that your characters are fighting with an entourage of infantry. It’s unfortunately not due until Spring 2019 but I can’t wait to see more – though let’s just hope the titular three warring houses that will feature doesn’t mean it’s going to be split into three separate games like they did with Fates.
7. Death Stranding (Kojima Productions)
After so many bizarre teasers, surely this is the year we finally see Kojima’s next ambitious opus in action with proper gameplay. The good news is we got some of that with Norman Reedus’ protagonist Sam wandering vast wasteland environments wearing the biggest most uncomfortable-looking backpack in the world. But if you thought that was going to tell you just what kind of game Death Stranding is going to be… nope, still don’t have a clue. The latest trailer does however reveal two new female characters, played by French actress Léa Seydoux and Lindsay Wagner, most famous for her starring role in 70s sci-fi show The Bionic Woman. I think we should however be glad that it’s not another stealth game relying on violent action to entice its audience. I look forward to all the nerdy breakdown analysis to follow.
6. Afterparty (Night School Studio)
The creators of Oxenfree delivered one of the most exciting game pitches with Afterparty, which sees you playing two best friends Milo and Lola, who find themselves dead and in Hell on the eve of their college graduation and decide to go on a bar crawl in the underworld to outdrink Satan in a bid to win back their souls. And thanks to this demo, I’m more than sold that it’ll work as a great character story-driven game, featuring similarly fluid dialogue as seen in Oxenfree, and of course a bunch of boozing mechanics, including playing Beer Pong with a demon. Afterparty is coming to PC and Xbox One in 2019, and confirmed for the latter’s Game Pass.
5. Cyberpunk 2077 (CD Projekt Red)
After a stunning show for Xbox, there couldn’t be a better way to end its conference than a world premiere of the long anticipated Cyberpunk 2077. While we don’t see any gameplay (although everything you see is apparently rendered in-engine), it feels very much like cyperpunk role-playing game we’ve all dreamed of. Since its reveal, CD Projekt Red have confirmed that it’s a first-person RPG with FPS elements, giving you complete freedom in character creation and classes, to fully immerse you in a cyberpunk life as high-tech augmented or decadent as you can imagine, so perhaps the GTA comparisons aren’t bad at all. All I can say is this trailer, soundtracked by the aptly named DJ Hyper, has me suitably pumped. No news on a release yet but expect it on PC, Xbox One and PS4.
4. Devil May Cry 5 (Capcom)
“Bang, bang, pull my Devil Trigger.” Oh yeah, Capcom done good. While Dante has less of a presence (save for speeding towards us at the end on a motorbike), all eyes are on Nero, rocking up with a robot arm (that he can even ride on?!) with the kind of SSSensational swagger that makes me think of the totally unappreciated DmC. Looking drop dead gorgeous on the new RE Engine, now that the series is back in Capcom’s hands, let’s hope Devil May 5 does the business when it releases on PS4, Xbox One and PC in Spring 2019.
3. The Last of Us: Part II (Naughty Dog)
A bizarre and perhaps indulgent way to start Playstation’s E3 showcase in a church barn replicating the setting where our first gameplay look of The Last Of Us: Part II begins. But it’s an apt mood setter as we see Ellie in a more relaxed environment, hanging out with other teenagers, dancing and sharing a kiss (yes, if you missed the Left Behind DLC or trying to pretend otherwise, Ellie is gay – get over it). Of course, it’s not long before we get into the actual gameplay, which is less warmth, more viciously brutal, though stealth and crafting retains a core part of combat too. Either way, this demo feels like Naughty Dog confident and uncompromising in the story it wants to tell – let’s just hope we don’t have to wait too long for it.
2. Resident Evil 2 Remake (Capcom)
Bad news, still no sign of Final Fantasy VII Remake. Good news, an even better remake surprised E3. Capcom had been quietly at work but the remake of Resident Evil 2 is finally here, and it looks just as terrifying as you hoped. Faithfully recreating Raccoon City at the start of the zombie outbreak, we’re once again in the shoes of rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy and Claire Redfield, with an over-the-shoulder perspective first pioneered in Resident Evil 4 (aka still the best Resident Evil game, or indeed one of the all-time greats) replacing the original’s fixed camera and pre-rendered backdrops, though the classic puzzles that seem so confounding in a police station remain. The best part is that it’s coming out much sooner than expected, January 25th 2019 on PS4, Xbox One and PC. Oh, the horror!
1. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (FromSoftware)
While other developers chase for that Souls-like formula, FromSoftware appear to have truly broken away from it. Forget Souls, bonfires, invasions, co-op, or even RPG progression, this is an action adventure that has you playing a one-armed shinobi on a quest for vengeance, equipped with a prosthetic arm that can be customised with all kinds of tools, notably a grapple-hook for traversing high places. Even death and combat, though it looks set to include challenging enemies and huge set-piece bosses, seem to have new all-new mechanics, with “clashing of swords” being the key theme. Partnering with Activision is a surprise choice but I have every confidence that Miyazaki, confirmed as the game’s director, can do it again. Look out for Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice when it releases for PS4, Xbox One and PC in early 2019.