With E3 over for one more year, it is time to begin the dissections. What games surprised, what impressed and what disappointed? With that in mind, Player 2’s Matt Hewson and Paul James sat down to go through what they took out of E3 2018 and what they can’t wait to play in the months to come.
Player 2 VS E3 2018
Matt: So another year down and it was a solid year, but it lacked some of the surprises from the past right?
Paul: We can thank Walmart for that in part, but yes, E3 2018 was one of those rare years where the “megaton” wasn’t dropped. We got some announcements that will keep us excited for many years to come (Elders Scrolls VI), we got some meaty demos for games that we can expect to see in the next 12 months or so (The Last of Us Part II) and some “and you can buy it now” types (Unravel Two). There’s plenty to keep me quite happy, but the surprises were largely missing. Was there a particular conference that struck you in as the best on show?
Matt: If I had to pick a conference of the show it would have to be Microsoft’s, but only by the smallest of margins. It was a conference that, to me, showed that things are on the up over at Xbox HQ. It felt very much like this year was the sort of thing Phil Spencer has working towards for a few years with the high ups at Microsoft and they have finally given him the go ahead. While 2018 is still bare for them, with Forza Horizon 4 being the only major title getting a release, 2019 and beyond is looking great and Xbox’s future seems to look the best it has for years. It was great to see, not only for Xbox fans, but gaming in general. Sony, Ubi and Bethesda all had solid showings but most of their games didn’t have release dates and that always makes me a bit cautious. I need a date to get the hype train started. What about you? What showing excited you most?
Paul: I don’t need a release date to get my hypometer going, but I must agree that Microsoft produced the best conference of the lot. They gave us games we’d not been expecting or expecting to see elsewhere as well as tighter release windows, then on top of that, they dropped those big announcements for games a little further on the horizon. Had it not been for that “Oh My God” (Funko Gears….ughhh) type of announcement, they would’ve constructed the perfect E3 conference… and Cyberpunk was a pretty incredible way to put an exclamation mark on their showing. Was there a particular conference, or aspect of multiple conferences that had the opposite impact?
Matt: It is a split decision for me, both EA and Square had pretty poor showings. EA for their stubborn refusal to show anything besides Battlefield and sport and Square Enix because we had basically seen everything they had to show at the MS conference the night before. That isn’t to say they didn’t have good stuff on show, EA had Anthem and Sea of Solitude which both look fantastic and Square had teases for two brand new titles, but overall they both lacked anything to set them apart or even justify the expense of holding an E3 conference.
Paul: Square really dropped the ball for me. They blew most of their big names and reveals in other conferences and then opted not to dive deeper into the games they still had up their sleeves. Sure, they may not have had Avengers or DQ Builders 2 ready, but they could’ve done a deep dive on Dragon Quest XI, perhaps some substantial gameplay for Kingdom Hearts III, or even tell us a bit more about their two new IP. They had a golden opportunity and opted not to take advantage of it. A blown opportunity for me. Nintendo also underwhelmed, with Smash masking a severe lack of content on show.
Matt: Ahh Nintendo. They just do their own thing anyway. It wouldn’t surprise me if they did a surprise Direct next week and announce 15 new games. They march to the beat of their own drum. What about the games themselves? Well for mine It is a toss up between Ghosts of Tsushima and Dying Light 2. Ghosts is looking jaw-droppingly stunning and Dying Light 2 seems to be taking the very solid foundations of the first game and adding some truly cool consequence and world building. Looks amazing. What about you Paul?
Paul: My love of Naughty Dog is well known and The Last of Us Part II took my breath away, Cyberpunk 2077’s trailer was impressive and apparently the gameplay is even more so but focusing on games that people could actually play at the event, I was most impressed by Spider-Man, Anthem, Smash Bros and Assassins Creed: Odyssey. What each of those games showed was exceptional and according to those lucky enough to go hands-on with each of them, it seems as though that wasn’t just a product of clever editing. Were there any games that really didn’t strike a chord with you?
Matt: Skull and Bones. Not because it looked bad per se, I am just not sure there is a whole game in the concept and nothing they showed alleviate those fears. I hope I am wrong because I loved the ship combat in Black Flag, but I am still not sure there is enough there. Props to Ubisoft for giving it a red hot go though because I think they are just about the only AAA publisher that would take a chance on something like this.
Paul: Ubisoft also produced the goods (?) for me in this area. Both Trials and Starlink ruffled my feathers, the former I think largely bothered me due to its delivery, that was an appalling segment of their conference and left a sour taste in my mouth that no amount of “we added multiplayer!” could correct. As for Starlink, it may be exceptional but I think Ubi has gotten on the toys-to-life bandwagon far too late – no amount of Star Fox for Switch fans can save this one.
Matt: Alright let’s wind this up with our biggest surprise. For me, it was the whole Xbox conference, but mainly the announcement of the 5 new studios coming under the Xbox brand. Chief among those, Ninja Theory, a company both of us have a deep love for. If Microsoft can give Ninja Theory a free reign and the stability the company has lacked in the past, my god, the sky is the limit. Is it sad that Ninja Theory is no longer going to be making games for other consoles? Well sure, but I think it was a deal made in heaven for both Xbox and Ninja Theory so I think even the most die-hard of PS fans should be able to respect that.
Paul: I too was probably most surprised by the Ninja Theory reveal, but secondary to that was the openness from both Xbox’s Phil Spencer and Bethesda’s Todd Howard to talk next-gen. Both were especially forthcoming with this fact and whilst you’d have to be crazy to suggest that the next-gen systems weren’t in development, the fact that we’re now talking about them suggests that we may only be 12 months away from either knowing they exist… or knowing a release date. Either way, it’s set the stage for an incredibly intriguing E3 2019.
Matt: So what we are left with is the fact that while E3 2018 wasn’t as chock full of surprises as we would have liked, it wasn’t exactly a bad showing either. There were tonnes of great games on show and some truly exciting titles coming our way. Agree?
Paul: We’ve seen stronger E3’s but 2018 still needs to get a big tick from me.