E3 2019 Recap
I’m passionate for games again.
E3 2019 is underway, and it hasn’t exactly gone as planned. Many conferences have prioritized CGI teasers that are likely not remotely indicative of the experience the actual game will provide, as well as featuring many updates for pre-existing titles. Games that seemed certain by many people to be there, such as installments in the Splinter Cell, Metroid, and Batman franchises were completely absent. Sony wasn’t even there. However, for some odd reason, at the end of the final day of press conferences, I was filled with a reinvigorated passion for gaming (and a growing fear for how I’m going to pay for it).
Microsoft opened their conference with The Outer Worlds, Obsidian’s upcoming sci-fi RPG. While I was already interested in the game due to Obsidian’s involvement alone, the newest trailer really hammered home the fact that The Outer Worlds is going to include many of the same things that made Fallout: New Vegas so much better than other games in its genre, or even series. Where Fallout 4 pushed the player on a very specific plotline that didn’t allow much room to role play, Fallout: New Vegas dropped you into a wild new world and let you make it your own. Luckily, The Outer Worlds seems committed to delivering the same variety of choice. Hopefully Obsidian’s newest RPG won’t handle as poorly as previous Fallout titles, seeing as it isn’t using Bethesda’s engine.
While The Outer Worlds was easily the highlight of the Microsoft conference for me, it wasn’t the only interesting game they provided a glimpse into. The current generation has been largely boring in terms of first-party Xbox games, but it’s clear that Microsoft isn’t content with continuing this trend as we approach the next console generation. The two stand-out first-party Xbox titles, in my opinion, were Battletoads and Bleeding Edge. While I honestly expected the new Battletoads game to be 3D, I’m perfectly satisfied with the series returning to its sidescroller roots. The new aesthetic, similar to that of Saturday morning cartoons, is perfectly in line with the tone of Battletoads. Bleeding Edge, a new IP from Ninja Theory. In direct contrast with Ninja Theory’s last game, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, a dark, cinematic, single-player game, Bleeding Edge is a 4v4 online brawler with a colorful aesthetic and an irreverent tone. While we don’t know anything about the universe this takes place in, the character designs are very similar to the styles seen in games like Overwatch. If Ninja Theory and Microsoft play their cards right, I can see Bleeding Edge characters becoming very popular as well.
Bethesda’s conference was very underwhelming. Between Todd Howard’s snarky non-apology for Fallout 76, a focus on mobile titles, and an abundance of CGI trailers, I was ready to count this conference as one of the weakest in a long time. However, that all changed with the reintroduction of two extremely interesting shooters: Wolfenstein: Youngblood and Doom Eternal. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus was my favorite game of 2017, even edging out genre-defining hits like The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The story told in that game is by far the most entertaining and gripping story I’ve ever experienced in a game. It is proof that a game can be exhilirating to play and still include a phenomenal cinematic narrative. Wolfenstein: Youngblood seems poised to capture that feeling once again, now with the added wrinkles of co-op multiplayer and nonlinear level design. While I’m slightly disappointed to see such a massive time jump and new protagonists, I have faith that we will see BJ’s exploits during that era in a potential Wolfenstein III. I can’t wait to reenter the enthralling world of Wolfenstein once more, this time with a friend by my side.
Bethesda’s other saving grace, Doom Eternal, was arguable even more impressive. If 2016’s Doom was high-octane action cranked to 11, Doom Eternal must be cranked to 21. The campaign promises an even crazier rampage through swarms of demons as the unstoppable Doomguy tries to fix yet another catastrophic failure the UAC is responsible for. This time, Hell hasn’t just been let loose onto the surface of Mars. In Doom Eternal, Doomguy must fight demons on Earth. As amazing as this sounds, it was pretty much a given that any follow-up to 2016’s Doom would have a stellar campaign. What is actually shocking to me is how interested I am in the game’s multiplayer. Doom Eternal will introduce a mode called Battlemode. Battlemode is a 2v1 PvP mode where one player, playing as Doomguy, goes head to head with two other players, playing as demons. So far they’ve shown off the Revenant and the Mancubus as playable demons, and the mode is very clearly influenced by fighting games. It even has a narrator eerily similar to Mortal Kombat‘s signature narrator, further fueling the flames of speculation that Doomguy may soon be included as a DLC fighter in Mortal Kombat 11.
Similar to Bethesda’s conference, Ubisoft spent too much time on updates to games that are already out, making for a very uninteresting conference. Luckily, the most interesting game they showed, Watch_Dogs: Legion, was one of the first games they showed and it looks very good. When I first heard rumor of the “play as any NPC” mechanic, I was wary. However, this new installment seems to still have much of the charm of Watch_Dogs 2, and looks very deep from a gameplay perspective. The leap forward in time and adoption of a cyberpunk-lite aesthetic will do well to give the series more of an identity of its own. While I’m still cautious, due to the lack of a traditional protagonist, I’m excited to see more from this game.
Square Enix’s conference surprised me. I only watched it to see Marvel’s Avengers, but I left the conference mostly impressed by Final Fantasy VII Remake. I’ll admit that I haven’t played the original game, despite its place in the classic gaming canon. However, I was completely sold on the game by the demo shown. The stunning graphics, charismatic cast, and riveting action all seem set to provide a thoroughly enjoyable experience, and I can’t wait to finally play this game.
Last and certainly not least was Nintendo’s conference. I don’t know if I’ve ever finished watching a single press conference and felt as much glee as I did by the end of Nintendo’s. Announcement after announcement, I became more and more excited. From Link’s Awakening, Pokemon Sword and Shield, Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3, Super Mario Maker 2, Dragon Quest XI S, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Luigi’s Mansion 3, and of course the DLC for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, Nintendo outlined details for their already announced stable of games for the majority of their conference. While this would normally make for a boring conference, Nintendo made sure to save some of their best stuff for E3. I was excited the whole way through, and even became sold on games like Dragon Quest XI S that I’d likely have otherwise never thought about. I’ll probably write an entire article just about my thoughts on this conference at some point soon, but suffice it to say, my jaw was on the floor for the reveal of Banjo-Kazooie in Smash, and it somehow dropped even lower for the reveal of the upcoming sequel to Breath of the Wild.
Overall, I think E3 is dying. More and more companies continue to pull out, or begin to adopt year-round announcement schedules. This year in particular felt off, almost like the calm before the storm next year will undoubtedly be. In a decade’s time, who knows what E3 will be like, or if it will exist at all? I certainly don’t. However, I do know that a select set of announcements at 2019’s E3 has revitalized my interest in gaming, and in speaking critically about gaming, in a way I didn’t think was possible. I am more than ready to cover the ever-evolving gaming landscape for as long as I can, no matter what it turns into.