E3 2019 is done and dusted. It wasn’t the best of year’s for the conference but we’ve done our best to figure out what we think were the five best and worst moments from this year’s E3.
The Best: Seeing the Doom Slayer on his day off
We’ve all surely stopped to have a think about what the ISTP-type Doom Slayer does with his day off, right? Does he like to find a cosy spot on Mars to kick back with a book or does he spend the day doing a bit of life admin and clearing up all the demon corpses from the last couple of days? Apparently, it’s neither. Instead, the Doom Slayer enjoys going to Bethesda shows in casual attire, sitting there and quietly judging his competition.
Who knew that the image of some random guy sporting the new classic combination of Doom Slayer helmet with a shirt was exactly what this year’s E3 needed? I didn’t and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to look at the Doom Slayer the same way again. The image has somewhat punctured that all-business exterior he used to have, and now he feels like that Darth Vader meter maid bit from Family Guy.
The Best: Deathloop shows Arkane still has more to give us
There are few things that get me legitimately excited in games now but when Arkane Studios has something to show, it’s usually worth your attention. The reveal of Deathloop was no different and while there wasn’t much insight into the game other than a plot which involves all manner of temporal fuckery, the tease of the game’s plot branching out because of the polarised perspectives of our two – as yet unnamed – protagonists, and a promised return to Arkane’s wonderfully freeing “play your way” style, it’s easy to let yourself get excited about a fresh new idea from the Dishonored folks.
The Best: Keanu Reeves (obviously)
How could we have a list of the best E3 bits and not have Keanu Reeves rocking up on stage, shouting “Cyberpunk,” being called breathtaking, and being the one to announce Cyberpunk’s release date, and not have him in our “Best Bits” from E3 2019!?
Along with making an appearance Keanu Reeves, perhaps best known for his role as Jack Fenton in 1986’s Babes in Toyland, it seems that Keanu will also be making a pretty worthwhile cameo in CD Projekt Red’s next outing, with reports suggesting that he’ll be a supporting protagonist in the game. Hopefully, that means we’ll all get a fair bit of time to stare at his glorious beard when Cyberpunk 2077 releases in 2020.
The Best: Nintendo manages to make the most of E3
Conferences were pretty iffy this year but we’ll get on to that a bit later. There were only one or two that managed to take full advantage of this most magical time of the year (I say, through gritted teeth) but Nintendo was one of the few to do things right. Drawing things out a little longer than last year, Nintendo dropped some bombs in the final moments of the Direct conference, announcing a sequel to Legend of Zelda Breath of the Wild following full reveals of Luigi’s Mansion 3 and Animal Crossing New Horizons, Nintendo’s was one of the few conferences to bring out every last bit of its A-Game.
Sure, we had to sit through Yoshiaki Koizumi and Doug Bowser putting on a skit that seemed like your dad and uncle were acting out a presentation that’d “crack that dynamic youth market” but Nintendo nonetheless left a lot of people’s jaw dropped by the end of things.
The Best: Devolver Digital wins E3 (again)
There were two things I was keen on watching at this year’s E3: Microsoft and Devolver Digital. If you’ve watched Devolver’s last two conferences then you’ll know exactly why – they’re fucking weird. Last year we saw Nina Struthers get gunned down on stage after a mess of other ridiculousness happened so 2019 had a fair bit to live up to.
Taking inspiration from the growing popularity of Direct shows, we got to see our first Devolver Direct, of course, it wasn’t as simple as the indie publisher just putting on a normal show. Instead, the Direct was hosted in Nina Struthers’ mind as she battled against being turned into a happy-clappy presenter which eventually began glitching out trailers while the mistiming of live shows reared its head as the monster from Phobia Game Studio’s Carrion burst through the stomach of Zane Stults, the “vice president of grey market distribution.” That all happened after Nina ripped out the throat of Devolver’s “youthful exuberance supervisor,” Fresh Wilson and the reveal of Devolver’s bootleg collection of games. I bloody love Devolver Digital and the chuckles I got from watching that at four in the morning was well worth the sleep deprived state I’ve been in this whole week.
The Worst: Pace and time continuum
Live shows are difficult, I can’t even begin to comprehend the logistics involved in the planning of some conferences but I think it’s fair to say that the majority of conferences this year had a hard time figuring out how to round things off. Microsoft gave us an extended trailer for Halo Infinite and while it was great to see the game for more than 30 seconds, it felt like an uneven way to round things off without any extra details on the game. Ubisoft decided to bring an end to things with a reveal of a brand new IP in Gods & Monsters, a gamble that served more to confuse than excite, and Bethesda’s show – which was a mixed bag at best – was never going to be seen as a big hitter without an update on Elder Scrolls.
It just felt that this year’s E3 was emphatically short on surprises, with details having been leaked beforehand or big name titles just failing to make an appearance. E3 2019 definitely felt like everything was being set up for 2020 and hopefully, we’ll get a few more surprises next year.
The Worst: Splinter Cell and the other forgotten games
And speaking of games that were missing, there were more than a few we were hoping to see. And while the likes of Beyond Good and Evil 2, The Elder Scrolls 6, and The Last Night were a few that some of us may have been hoping to see, none of those absentees felt quite so cutting as the omission of a Splinter Cell game.
If you watched the Ubisoft show, you’ll know that Sam Fisher did make an appearance, starring alongside some other Tom Clancy characters in the upcoming mobile game Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad. Julian Gerighty, an Ubisoft creative director, joked that he was working on a new Splinter Cell game a while back and even though Ubisoft sent out an official statement explaining that no such game was in the works, having Sam Fisher return as a bit-part player will surely leave a sour taste in the mouth of many a player.
The Worst: Project Scarlett’s hardware jargon
Who doesn’t love a console reveal? It’s an exciting time when we begin counting our pennies and weighing up whether it’s worth buying it day one or holding out for a little while. That wasn’t quite the case with Microsft’s unveiling of the next-gen Project Scarlett, which still isn’t its real name. We didn’t get to see a shiny new black box and we didn’t get to see much in terms of games other than Halo Infinite. It’s worth keeping in mind that Scarlett will be backwards compatible which softens the blow of not seeing much in the way of gameplay a bit.
With no update on the name, price, or design, the unveiling of Project Scarlett was limited to the horrors of hardware talk. A slew of SSDs, RAM, processors, and being told that “loading screens are a thing,” all worked together to make the unveiling feel horribly stilted. Microsoft may have expected this reaction, deciding to follow it up with the Halo Infinite trailer but if anything, all the hardware talk only served to dull the reveal.
The Worst: Square’s doublespeak
Square Enix’s conference, similar to Bethesda’s, was a mixed bag. It certainly started and ended on a high, giving us an extended look at the Final Fantasy 7 Remake and the reveal of Marvel’s Avengers, both of which look fan-bloody-tastic.
Where it fell apart was Square’s unwillingness to be upfront about the state of these big name games. The Final Fantasy 7 Remake was reported to have been an episodic game a little while after it was first revealed but some of Square’s phrasing suggested that it would arrive as a complete game. Similarly, the Marvel’s Avengers presentation was happy to explain that players wouldn’t have to deal with play-to-win schemes or random loot boxes but the phrasing they used with “random” seems to avoid the point that there will be microtransactions in the game.
On the scale of things, it’s not a massive deal if we’re being honest. Episodic or not, the Final Fantasy 7 Remake is going to be ace and microtransactions, divisive as they are, have become an accepted part of games. I don’t understand why Square couldn’t just come out and say “hey, we’re making this pretty sweet game and even though it’s being released in gigantic segments, we think it’s gonna blow your socks off, pardon our French,” or “yep, you’ll be able to buy useless stuff in the game but you don’t need it.” Fair enough, it’s probably not marketing-friendly speech but at least it delivers that transparency Square seems to want to deliver instead of the strange doublespeak we got at times.
The Worst: The Bethesda shoutyman
It was the early hours of the morning. Sarah was covering Bethesda’s E3 show and I was hanging around in case things got too busy, and among the fairly placid show Bethesda pulled off, one man in the crowd seemed intent on being heard, the Bethesda Shoutyman, going out of his way to make people hate him.
Every comment, every reveal – I’m guessing even a sneeze from onstage – was greeted by a booming “WOO!” or “YEAH!” that would make you think Bethesda was opening up a Jurassic Park deal but with dragons instead of sitting through an announcement for an Elder Scrolls Blades update.
Eurogamer, being the sleuthy sleuths that they are, managed to track down Mr. Shouty, who told them that he wasn’t a corporate shill, just a big fan of Bethesda. A big Bethesda fan, who’d have guessed? I honestly don’t think it’s possible to feign such rage-inducing excitement on Mr. Shouty’s part but it does underline how much need there is for E3 2020 to have a soundproofed box area where loud and terrible people should be made to stand and woop there way through a conference without pissing me off in the early hours of a Tuesday.
And that’s it, our five best and worst bits from E3 2019. Why not tell us what your favourites were in the comments below or on Twitter or Facebook.