The Doublejump Crew discusses the highs and lows from E3 2018
We don’t call the Electronic Entertainment Expo the Gaming Christmas™ for nothing. This year’s event set the Internet alight with more than 100 games to discuss over the four days, and it read like a gamer’s wishlist with highlights including a massive Kingdom Hearts III presence, a new Fallout, a new role-playing IP from Bethesda, a new Devil May Cry, the biggest Super Smash Bros. title ever and a whole lot of surprises to boot. With that in mind, and with all of our news coverage in the rear-view mirror, the Doublejump Staff took a seat to discuss the good, the bad and the ugly from E3 2018. Strap yourself in and enjoy the read!
HIT: Kingdom Hearts III’s massive presence
This list would be incomplete without mentioning the presence that Kingdom Hearts III had at this year’s show. Having already aroused plenty of excitement by announcing the release date a few days earlier at its Live Orchestra event, Square Enix went on to show not just one, but three trailers – at the Microsoft and Sony conferences and of course its own showcase – each containing different scenes. The trailers showed us two new worlds (Frozen and Pirates of the Caribbean), alongside new characters (Ratatouille) and returning ones (Axel, Kairi, Dark Riku, Ienzo, Luxord and Larxene, among others). What surely struck the biggest chord with all hardcore Kingdom Hearts fans, though, was that scene at the end of the first trailer.
Is it really too late, Aqua?
HIT: The surprise that was Jump Force
It really was an impressive and unexpected shock to see that, just a few months after Dragon Ball FighterZ’s release, Bandai Namco is ready to bless our consoles with yet another anime-based fighting title. I’m talking, of course, about Jump Force. The premise sounds promising: a bunch of anime heroes all somehow thrown into our world and teaming up to find their way back home. I can definitely get behind this. I mean, sure, watching anime characters beating the crap out of each other just because is good, but it can get old very easily… I need a reason.
Credit must be given where it’s due, as well: those graphics look simply amazing. One would think that Goku or Naruto would look terrible in a 3D environment yet, somehow, Bandai Namco pulled it off. Of course, the part that everyone is hyped about is how open the roster is, considering the huge number of manga that stem from Weekly Shōnen Jump. If developer Spike Chunsoft really wanted to, it could easily add characters from a near-endless list of anime including Bleach, Code Geass, Hunter x Hunter, and that’s really cool to think about. As for my pick, I’d say the game needs more Madara Uchiha.
HIT: Fallout 76’s promise
Fallout has always been one of those series that I love more for the universe and world-building than the actual gameplay, and Fallout 76 promises to deliver more of the same… In an entirely new style of game. Setting Fallout 76 so much earlier in the series’ timeline means that it’s going to be very different to what we’ve seen before from the series, and I’m excited to see what came before the wasteland. The trailers look promising, the idea of a multiplayer Fallout game is intriguing, and I’m really looking forward to exploring that universe in a totally different way.
MISS: Fallout 76’s multiplayer focus
While I appreciate Bethesda trying something new with the series, I’m really not sure that multiplayer is the right option for Fallout. The Fallout games are supposed to feel empty and abandoned, and now I’m supposed to run around it with a full group of people? Because of this, Fallout 76 feels paradoxical: not even Bethesda seems sure of what it’s actually supposed to be, whether it’s cooperative or competitive, or how many players will be on the same server as you. Right now, Fallout 76 seems like a great idea that hasn’t been fully thought through, as evidenced by the baffling inclusion of both base-building and player-controlled nuclear warheads.
It’s like Bethesda has learned nothing from Fallout.
HIT: Devolver Digital’s press conference
Once again, Devolver Digital was on hand to act as court jester to the gaming industry. A twenty-minute salvo of scathing satire and inspired lunacy, we got to witness a merciless skewering the escalating asininity of the big boys’ press conferences.
As if that wasn’t enough, Devolver actually had games to announce this time around: SCUM, My Friend Pedro (Which looks like John Woo made a 2D de-make of Max Payne on a red cordial bender), and From Software’s Metal Wolf Chaos. The fact that I wouldn’t have been the least bit surprised if these all turned out to be satirical fake games actually makes me more excited for them. Devolver is just as committed to publishing games as insanely idiosyncratic as its PR, which in a games industry so obsessed with projecting the illusion of artistry while making its product as safe and anodyne as possible, is a downright blessing.
The only other moment this E3 to approach the heights of surreal comedy Devolver reached at its conference was the great Andrew W.K. befuddling Bethesda’s audience shitless.
Which brings us neatly to…
MISS: Bethesda’s Starfield No-Sell
I mean, I get it, Bethesda. Starfield’s only the third original RPG IP you’ve come up with in the last couple of decades: who cares, right? And sci-fi RPGs? They’re a dime a dozen. And you’ve only spent two years working on this thing. What’s that? It was an ‘announcement’? We’ve already known for ages that this was in the pipeline.
So sure, just give us a logo and the image of a space station, then sweep it aside like an embarrassing relative so we can get an equally-underwhelming Elder Scrolls teaser. It’s not like anyone’s really interested in, may I repeat, your first new RPG property in two decades. It’s not like we just suffered what felt like three years of awkwardly ribbing the tall Rage 2 viking bloke, to get to this.
HIT: Marvel’s Spider-Man remaining a highlight
With a rock-solid slate of titles already announced, Sony knew that it didn’t need to bring a huge bag of tricks at this year’s conference, but Marvel’s Spider-Man stole the show anyway. The mission’s worth of gameplay and post-conference feature were enough to quell any doubts fans may have had about the game based on the IP’s shaky history. Its gameplay mechanics – while similar to the Batman: Arkham series – are nothing to scoff at, the visuals and the game’s live, sprawling, open-world New York City are mind-bogglingly good, and we learned that the game will feature the entire Sinister Six; what we’ve seen so far is promising enough that I can see it being a system-seller like God of War, and it’s left plenty of fans – including this one – eagerly awaiting its September 7 release.
MISS: Nintendo’s lack of inspiring games
Yes, this is likely to be an unpopular opinion, but the E3 2018 Nintendo Direct was frankly boring. I understand that Nintendo wanted to focus on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, but I just can’t shake that sense of disappointment. The Japanese giant has been scorching hot over the past year, but compared to the incredible list of announcements at last year’s event this one just fell flat on its face. There was no follow-up to Yoshi or Metroid – two of the most anticipated titles from last year’s event – the Pokémon: Let’s Go, Pikachu! and Let’s Go, Eevee! Gameplay was a little less exciting given that it was only announced the week before, and the presentation just didn’t have the same wow-factor.
Of course, after a year where Nintendo has flown out of the gates with the Switch, it’s perfectly reasonable that this was my fault for setting the bar too high, but leaning an entire presentation almost-completely on one title was a little underwhelming.
HIT: Ubisoft showing its entire team some love
With plenty of heart and emotion to go alongside fantastic showings from titles like Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Beyond Good & Evil 2, Tom Clancy’s The Division 2 and Starlink: Battle for Atlas, it’s hard to go past Ubisoft for the best conference of E3 2018. The French giant showed that it’s committed to producing – and working with developers on – games as an art form; a welcome departure from the money-grabbing tactics that have befallen the medium in this generation.
More touching and more special than that, however, was the way that the company’s CEO, Yves Guillemot, chose to round out its conference. By bringing his entire team (presenters and otherwise) onto the stage and taking a moment to thank the public for its support, Guillemot gave his teams from around the world a face (or group thereof), expressing that Ubisoft as a company sees itself as far more than just the sum of its parts. It also showed a humility that many companies either forget or simply don’t want to show: the humility to understand that developers and publishers need the public, not the other way around.
MISS: EA’s lack of effort
While presentations like Ubisoft’s and Devolver Digital’s brought the love and fun to the E3 stage respectively, it was unfortunate to see EA really miss the mark this year. Despite having the stage, the host and a couple of guest appearances; the show came across as though it was thrown together at the last minute. There was nothing special about any of the announcements EA and its studios made, the trailers and demos they chose to show were rudimentary at best with no real highlights, and the sole on-stage demo (no, the Anthem panel doesn’t count) was for the wrong game entirely… It just wasn’t a good way to kick off the weekend.
HIT: Dying Light 2’s narrative focus
Dying Light 2 is a sequel I’m not sure I’ve seen before: a sequel that confronts the previous game’s most obvious, glaring weakness head-on and turns it into a central feature. Isn’t that kind of nuts?
In Dying Light 2’s case, it’s the story and writing. I didn’t play much of the first game but I can tell you I mostly hated its story. It’s the mediocre sort that you can’t avoid at all, and it just bogs down the whole game. Now, Techland is blowing that up to build something entirely new: now set in the ‘Modern Dark Ages’ years after the events of the original, with player choice that has a tangible impact on not just the narrative but the world itself.
Honestly, the ‘Modern Dark Ages’ in the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse is enough to get me on board – sounds dope – but a big story focus, patching up the first game’s real weak point, alongside the already-strong gameplay, is very exciting.
MISS: What is Death Stranding, anyway?
Look, I didn’t hate this year’s trailer. It was intriguing, but after years of teasing an abstract supernatural-sci-fi blend with obtuse trailers that seem more dedicated to confusing the audience than compelling, based on the promise of something visionary and innovative from one of the few household-name game developers with a blank cheque from Sony to make whatever they want, Death Stranding’s first in-game trailer was a let-down. It barely hints at how it even plays, let alone justifies why we should care about the game outside Kojima’s involvement and all these pretty actor faces.
It’s early days, though. We’ve seen next to nothing of the full game, which I’m sure will be a good one, but at this E3, Death Stranding was a personal disappointment.
HIT: Dead or Alive 6, a new identity for the series
Team Ninja unveiled the latest game in the Dead or Alive franchise at E3, and it looks like the series is going to be toning down the game’s infamous sexually-charged nature. For example, lead character Kasumi’s default outfit consists of a body suit that covers her entire frame, instead of her traditional outfit which was prone to showing off her butt. This has raised a bit of controversy among the franchise’s loyal fans, but aside from that, the game looks incredibly crisp and definitely the most solid fighting game to come out of E3 this year. Fatal Rush and Break Gauge are new gameplay elements which will shake things up and possibly bridge the skill gap between newcomers and series veterans. Just promise me one thing, Team Ninja: don’t release over $1,000 worth of costume packs, please.
MISS: Too much battle royale
From already established franchises to gimmicky spinoffs, there were no less than a dozen games announced at E3 that were either incorporating a battle royale mode into an existing game, or releasing one as a standalone title. Clearly piggybacking off Fortnite: Battle Royale and PLAYERUNKNOWN’S BATTLEGROUNDS’ success, a bunch of indie and AAA developers are trying to get a slice of the pie. The two big FPS blockbuster titles, Battlefield V and Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 will both feature a battle royale mode, with indie studios chiming in with their own spin on the genre, such as Fear the Wolves. It’s quickly becoming oversaturated and it doesn’t show much for how innovative developers can be.
HIT: Cyberpunk 2077’s mind-melting trailer
CD PROJEKT RED never fails to make its fan base happy, whether it be through stellar public relations or intricate game design. As such, when it released a new Cyberpunk 2077 trailer, it was safe to assume that pundits and game fans alike would be in for a treat, and the Polish developer delivered. A grimy, dystopian, open-world future dripping with ambience and aesthetic, painted with thick neon pinks and oranges amid a sea of grey. The action was beautifully scripted in time with the track DJ Hyper’s Spoiler, accenting each story beat with a thick drum and bass groove. Truly a sight to behold. You can check it out below; personally, I cannot wait to get this one in my hands.
MISS: Square Enix’s lackluster conference
With most of the events beginning at 2am or later, E3 was a massive slog for any Australian viewer – such as most of the Doublejump Crew – who wanted to watch it live. With that in mind, there is nothing more annoying than having to wait hours to watch something that was so boring, so disappointing and so blasé that you would’ve had a better time watching paint dry. Square Enix’s presenters were so lifeless, I assumed they were extras from Detroit: Become Human. The games shown were either subpar, boring, already spoiled by Steam (Just Cause 4) or already shown off in other conferences at the event. Yes, Square Enix publishes Kingdom Hearts. Whoop de do, we saw that at the Xbox E3 Conference. Final Fantasy XIV? That’s a 5 year old game. What is this, Bethesda? To cap it off, the only game that I personally saw any interest in (Octopath Traveller) got less airtime than it takes to just read its Wikipedia article.
HIT: Devil May Cry 5 is a thing
After the leaks we saw prior to the big week, to say that I was excited for a Devil May Cry 5 announcement – which came about during the stacked Microsoft E3 Conference – would be an understatement. I’m more than ready to see Dante and Nero return to the screens in all of their cheesy, hack-and-slash glory. In true Devil May Cry fashion, as well, it was easily one of the flashiest announcement trailers at the entire conference; loud music, fantastic graphics (thanks to the RE Engine that Capcom is also using for the Resident Evil 2 remake) and high-octane combat looks to be Devil May Cry 5’s M.O., and this fan couldn’t be happier about that.
MISS: A rather “safe” E3
A handful (if even that) of huge announcements notwithstanding, “safe” is about the best word to describe this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo as a whole. Whereas previous events have left me deeply concerned for my own financial wellbeing, this one left me feeling rather indifferent; there were very few surprises, very few risks and overall just very little to get too excited about, and most of those that did pique my interest (Kingdom Hearts III, Devil May Cry 5, DOOM: Eternal, Resident Evil 2, The Last of Us: Part II, Ghost of Tsushima and Marvel’s Spider-Man) were games that had already been announced. This was definitely a “safe” conference, and it definitely didn’t leave me feeling too satisfied.
HIT: FromSoftware returning with Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
Set in what appears to be Feudal Japan – with some supernatural twists – much like its contemporary Nioh, what at first appears to be a spiritual successor to the infamous Souls series quickly becomes its own unique beast. Featuring a voiced protagonist with a metal arm, a seemingly-larger focus on narrative, a grappling hook of sorts that adds some welcome verticality (and gives players more incentive to avoid “turtling”) and a February 2019 release date, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice looks like one to prepare the extra controllers for.
MISS: EA sullying the Command & Conquer name
It’s no secret that EA’s press conference was not the best (or even in the ballpark), and there was no greater insult in the boring, formulaic “event” than its announcement of Command & Conquer: Rivals. In a year where returning franchises were the big attraction, it was shocking to see that EA’s return to the beloved strategy franchise of yesteryear is a mobile title that looks so simple and so dumbed-down that it bears little to no resemblance to its predecessors. On top of that, the publisher decided to give that a live, on-stage gameplay demonstration that was too quick to get anything out of while also feeling too long due to the game’s lack of substance. Add that to the fact that it was barely recognisable as a Command & Conquer title, and this is arguably the biggest slap in a fan base’s collective face since, well, EA’s own Star Wars Battlefront.
With another E3 come and gone, it was refreshing to see the sheer amount of single-player titles that are in the works from studios around the world. These picks that we included here are just what caught our attention at this year’s show, but we would love to read about your personal hits and misses in the comments section below!