E3, despite what Big Gov't and morose games journalism wants you to believe, is still exciting and fun for the whole family--and it's back again! In just a few short weeks, all our favorite developers plus EA will be onstage (or on Skype or something, in Nintendo's case) to show off their latest salvo of delayed software and nervous promises. Last year was pretty quiet: we had a very low-key Sony conference after 2 straight years of blistering shocks and surprises, a Microsoft show dedicated to the XBOX1X, and the bookend of the Switch making its E3 debut. With the cycle of releases coming to a kind of crossroads, we're left with an uncertain summer-to-autumn lineup leading to what looks like a more relaxing pace than the apocalyptic motherlode of games we had in 2017. There's plenty of time to be surprised, even with a few leaks leaving the barge in advance--but I'm confident that 2018's conferences will surpass the whisper that was 2017.
THE USUAL SUSPECTS ARE AS FOLLOWS.
SONY: "THE FANTASTIC FOUR"
The Playstation conference, for all intents and purposes, has already been publicly primed to showcase Shadow of Tsushima, Spider-Man, Death Stranding, and Last of Us Part 2: Electric Boogaloo. We're at the end of the "cycle" for the PS4 in terms of God of War, Horizon, Yakuza, Nier, and Persona all finally touching land, so we should expect a new wave consisting of the 4 aforementioned titles alongside some surprises. We'll probably see more from Days Gone, the unfortunate zombie money sink that has been dragged along by its neck for years, even though it is getting pushed back to 2019. Sure, Sony could coast along and not say anything else, but there's little evidence to substantiate that; the last few years have been a series of knockouts and showstoppers for the PS4, so why stop stomping on the bloated face of the Xbox now? Sony has been on the money for the last three E3s, so there's little else I could say besides "enjoy whatever fucked up scenario Kojima shows off" and cross your fingers for a demo of whatever From Software is cooking up in their mealy-marrowed laboratories.
MICROSOFT: "LET'S SEE WHAT THIS MONSTER CAN DO, BESIDES PLAY PUBG POORLY"
Although the XBOX/1/X continues to turn a reasonable profit alongside the billion dollar Minecraft venture for MS, I've never been inclined to show interest in what they have on hand at E3. Scalebound was the closest I've ever been to saying "wow, might have to buy an Xbocks" and that game was eventually executed behind the curtains. What else is coming for the XBOX1X, strongest console on earth!? Well, PUBG upgrades, maybe. Halo? Crackdown 3 previews? Forza? After Sea of Thieves, a premier first-party game from Rareware, tanked like a ghostly galleon, the fellas from XBOX are likely going to need to work doubletime to contend with a PS4 that already has a heavy lead in the GOTY race with God Of War and a quartet of new shit that is dead to rights excellence. There better be, because this show is going to be two fucking hours. I'm not sure I have faith in the Xbox to provide me with an equal measure of entertainment on par with a fucking Marvel movie, but I'm here for it, and will probably be stuffing myself with too much nachos to care, so fuck it--bring forth the Microsoft Cinematic Universe. The powerful exclusives may not be there, but the ever-expansive backwards compatibility and free game services at least buoy the XBOX versus a continuously disappointing serving of PS Plus and PS Now games. Perhaps the key to an XBOX1X victory lies within the past, where the 360 had revolutionized online gaming. That's right, I'm calling it: Blinx the Cat returns this year.
BETHESDA: "SKYRIM IS NOW AVAILABLE FOR YOUR TEXAS INSTRUMENTS CALCULATOR"
Relatively a newborn on the E3 roster, Bethesda is still a huge player given its package of studios that pump out some of the best 1st person games on the market. While last year mainly shit out a bunch of VR crap and Fallout/Skyrim paid content, 2018 may be poised to deliver in a big way. RAGE 2, driven by a scorching-hot id Software and bolstered by the fellows in Avalanche, will be making an appearance after it was unceremoniously leaked via a Walmart ad or something. All evidence points to a Prey DLC expansion on the moon, which is excellent news considering it was one of the most underrated games of 2017. I'm banking on seeing Quake Champions, a game I'll never be able to run on my PC, while Pete Hines babbles on about VR bullshit and Gamer Tokens used to buy stupid Skyrim user-created content. I want Bethesda to REALLY surprise me this year, though. I want them to announce something earthshattering. Send Todd Howard to Mars. Make a turn-based tactics game with Dishonored assets. Put Fallout on the Switch. Do SOMETHING, Bethesda, that doesn't involve microtransactive horseshit or VR re-releases that sell for 59.99. It kills me that Bethesda genuinely has some of the best fucking developers in games history right now (Harvey Smith, Shinji Mikami, everyone at id, even Todd Howard) but they make dumb decisions all the time, especially with marketing and sending their non-reviewed products out to die. Though committed to churning out funds for Arkane and Tango Softworks to make crazy shit, Bethesda really needs to send itself off this year with a big bang.
NINTENDO: "WE SNAP OUR FINGERS, AND HALF OF OUR INVENTORY DISAPPEARS"
The king triumphant and fresh off 100 GOTY awards for its sparse yet beautiful Zelda launch, Nintendo is set to once again broadcast its own Direct at the tail-end of E3. Unlike most of the other presentations, Nintendo has made it clear that this Direct will focus on 2018 offerings; not surprising, given how the company operates within a sphere that likes to hold back on anything that's too far into the future. I don't think we'll be seing Metroid Prime or Bayonetta just yet--but I won't discount further looks into Travis Strikes Again, a Pokemon title, or the virtually-guaranteed Fire Emblem that Nintendo's fiscal reports keep gassing on about. What does intruige me is that something as big as Monster Hunter was tossed ahead as an announcement in May. A money-plundering release like Monster Hunter isn't even in the 2018 E3 Direct? What could be in store for us, then? Nintendo's schedule after this summer is practically empty, leading me to believe Fire Emblem, Smash Bros, and 1 or 2 other new titles will be finding their way to the holiday season. Smash Bros will of course be the premiere title, but with all the weird and wonderful ports we're getting lately (The World Ends With You, Mark of the Ninja) I have to wonder what else will be "perfect for the Switch." I'm going out on a limb and saying Vanquish is next, from good friend Platinum. As for the rest? I can't even pretend to know what Nintendo could do. Is Star Fox Grand Prix real? Will a Virtual Console happen? What is Retro and Next Level working on!? The ball is in Nintendo's court to continue the white-hot momentum for this splendidly succeessful hybrid console.
And no, I do not think Mother 3 will appear.
SQUARE-ENIX: "FINAL FANTASY 7 WILL BE RELEASED IN 2022"
Squeenix could roll out just two things at their special video presentation and call it a day:
1) Release date for Kingdom Hearts 3
2) Release date for Part 1 of the FF7 Remake.
I'm not really privy to what else Squeenix is up to, besides infinite DLC for FF15 and perhaps showing off more footage of the beautiful Octopath Traveler. Free of Hitman and devoid of Deus Ex, Squeenix's new weirdo game on the plate is actually an Avengers-themed venture, though I don't know if we should expect any early news about it. What I would bank on, however, is a Life is Strange-related newsflash, and some kind of Dissidia Duodecim Peacecorps Nebulacrum Final Fantasy spinoff whateverthefuck game being shown off. There's something called Outriders, which could be anything from a racing game to a dating sim? Squeenix is weird like that. With their subsidiary studios either busy as fuck or decimated, it's hard to predict what Squeenix has in store for the next year or so. Expect delays!
UBISOFT: "FLOW MY TEARS, THE TOM CLANCY WEPT"
The Developer As A Service, Ubisoft had a pretty good year in 2018: shoring up their finances with the stupid dogshit of Wildlands while cultivating a new IP in the grand Kingdom Battle tactics RPG for Switch. Additionally, service was bolstered within the scope of The Division, For Honor, and even Siege--which was a feat unto itself, since only Blizzard works this hard anymore to keep multiplayer affairs breathing for more than a release window. On top of that, Ubisoft quietly released what was probably their best Assassin's Creed game since AC2 with Origins, though it was crushed to death by the open-world twosome of Horizon and Zelda. After both a Far Cry and an AC game out on the streets, look for Big Ubi to capitalize the goodwill on Beyond Good and Evil 2 as well as a possible Splinter Cell revival. We'll probably get a good look at the Donkey Kong DLC for Kingdom Battle as well as a new season of For Honor on the way. Ubisoft has turned into a much better company over the last year and a half, so anything involving improvement on their existing IPs is a net gain for everyone, unless it's another fucking Watchdogs game.
EA: "WE ARE SO SORRY"
Jesus Christ. Fucking EA, where to begin? After a wink and a nod about how "we got a lot of criticism for Battlefront" last year, EA proceeded to become embroiled in one of the bigger controversies of 2017 with Battlefront 2's bullshit lootboxes and fucked up parity-breaking multiplayer. Not that EA cares, because how could they? At the end of the day, they made money. Will critical consensus even have a hand in improving EA? With Mass Effect dead for the foreseeable future and Dead Space ripped in peace, I have even less to care about in regards to this year's presentation/apology. There's only so many times EA can say sorry about fucking up before I just take their show as the cue for a bathroom break. Unlike Destiny 2 and its spiral into boredom, I was lucky enough to avoid both Andromeda and Battlefied 2 after trying them out briefly. What's next? Anthem? The real deal after Andromeda got shuttled into an airlock for dead? Maybe it'll be good??? All I can say here is good luck with your Iron Man game, EA--and don't overplay your hand with preorder bullshit.
MISC. NOTES AND THOUGHTS
There are a few bits and bytes that don't really belong in any specific presentation (as of yet) but I thought I'd mention these games anyway:
13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim: It's been an eternity since I saw this awesome new Vanillaware title, which will be the first game from the developer set in "modern" times (and by modern I mean "huge fucking mechs piloted by schoolgirls.") It seems this bizarre game pops up once a year at a trade show, like a silver fox, and then it vanishes into the tall grass once more. I just want a fucking release date, guys. I JUST WANT A FUCKING RELEASE DATE.
Devil May Cry 5: Gee, I wonder what Itsuno has been working on all these years? It's almost the worst kept secret in history by now but we've all assumed that Devil May Cry is ready for its big return, especially since everything else not named Monster Hunter has been fucked up by Capcom. Maybe we've all been huffing farts for the past year or so but I choose to believe that DMC5 is very real and it will make its debut at E3 2018.
Resident Evil 2 Remake: Okay, I lied, Monster Hunter isn't the only thing Capcom somehow succeeds at, since RE7 was such a great experience--but knowing Capcom, this was probably by accident. Quite possibly one of the finest games of its generation and runner for best in the series, Resident Evil 2 was selected for an ambitious remake project on the scale of the famous first REmake way back in 2015. It's been 3 years and we're owed at least a preview of things to come, and it'd be a fitting thing to do given that it has been 2 years since the shocking RE7 reveal at E3 2016.
Star Fox Grand Prix: I think I mentioned this earlier but I'd like to put it here as well. It's just such a weird goddamn idea but the more details emerge, the more I'm okay with it. Star Fox has been a series of failed gimmicks and halfbrained ideas since Star Fox 64, and there's just no market for a big Nintendo-driven shooter. The only way to drag Star Fox back into the light is under a gutsy new mix of genres, so why not make it a crossover with the F-Zero we'll never get at this rate? Mario Kart has the racing genre cornered already, meaning it'll take a bit more than hyperspeed highways to get people on board. Maybe this leak is bullshit but I kind of hope it turns out to be the "Kingdom Battle" of the conference and surprises everyone.
It's embarrassing to know my only large review of the year so far is fucking Far Cry 5, which wasn't a bad game by any means but won't likely crack my Top Ten at year's end. I have a Monster Hunter World review languishing in a notepad that I need to finish, and enough time has passed that I should get to a God Of War writeup. (Spoilers: I loved it and it's excellent). I've mostly been working/doing my serious literary shit so unfortunately the games stuff takes a backseat for now. Not much else has been on my plate in a slow games year thus far, though I still need to get Yakuza 6. Ports like Bayonetta 2 and Tropical Freeze are currently on my Switch, as well. But more importantly, I've had "free" games occupying my time, and by free I mean "emulation." Gamecube was the only Nintendo system I never owned, so I'm catching up on that generation and playing my first Paper Mario game ever. I'm told Thousand Year Door is the best of the 3 original games, so that's where I'm at now between rounds in Soul Calibur 2.
I'll be taking a day off for the Monday of E3 as usual because I'm a tremendous nerd but hey, it's E3, fuck it--I love this hobby and it's sort of mostly ok, for most of the time, in terms of community--so let's all HAVE A FEAST of laughs and gasps when it comes to be.
Amazing and topical!