E3 2017 proved to be something of a musical affair, with every company trying to out-do the others in audio superiority. Microsoft had a mournful piano solo to accompany the reveal of Ori and the Will of the Wisps. Ubisoft had a drumline. EA also had a drumline. Sony kicked their Press Conference off with a bizarre melody of Indian music and light projections on a waterfall. And halfway through its show, an android introduced the trailer for Detroit: Become Human with the voice of an angel.
Usually, you can add the question, “who won E3,” to this aural bombardment. And just as often, it is a question without an answer. But what about this year? Let’s find out.
The first rule of putting on a good show is to start with a bang. You want to get the audience excited. Unfortunately, a drumline introducing the Story Mode in Madden NFL 18 did not exactly set the world on fire. EA could have led with Star Wars: Battlefront II or Need For Speed: Payback, both of which looked silky smooth, but these had been shown long before E3, and apart from a cameo from John Boyega, the publisher very little new to say.
On the plus side, EA showed two original games. The first was A Way Out from Josef Fares, the director of the brilliant Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Inspired by Prison Break, the co-op game is played in a constant split-screen mode, as two convicts work together to escape the prison they find themselves in, and survive together on the run.
Somewhere in between all this, EA sandwiched in a teaser trailer for BioWare’s latest game, Anthem, but in order to get a proper sense of it, you had to watch the Microsoft presentation. Given how mixed the reaction was to the much-anticipated Mass Effect: Andromeda, EA may have wanted to flaunt the game a bit more on their own stage.
Bethesda’s show was pretty late in the evening, as the company invited guests to BethesdaLand, a horrifying amusement park of sorts. Sequel after sequel was announced, such as Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, starring Rosario Dawson’s Billie Lurk character as she hunts the dimension-jumping Outsider. The Evil With 2 was announced with a disturbing-as-hell trailer. And two of Bethesda’s most recent games, Fallout 4 and Doom, are receiving the VR treatment, but the publisher’s biggest announcement of the night was that Nintendo Switch players could wield the Master Sword in Skyrim.
I’m just kidding, of course. The biggest announcement was the surprise trailer for Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus. Not only did it perfectly capture the gory humour of the original with its live-action adverts, but the game looks unbelievably good. The fact that B.J. Blazkowicz is somehow returning only adds to the anticipation.
Nintendo gave up doing a live presentation at E3 long ago, instead broadcasting a special Nintendo Direct, so kudos to Ubisoft for bring out Shigeru Miyamoto on stage to pose alongside Yves Guillemot while announcing Mario + Rabbits Kingdom Battle. Although it had been leaked earlier, I don’t think anyone quite expected the cutesy XCOM-esque strategy game that was shown.
Ubisoft also finally showed the much touted return of Assassin’s Creed, in time to celebrate the series’ tenth anniversary. Assassin’s Creed Origins casts players back to ancient Egypt, where you can crawl over the great pyramids and discover the origins of the brotherhood of Assassins.
One the most intriguing surprises throughout the whole of E3 was Starlink: Battle for Atlas, which will allow Ubisoft to enter the collectibles market with a space exploration game. Players will collect a base ship and then reconfigure it in real life, with those changes reflected in the game. Given the gap in the market left by the demise of Disney Infinity, it makes perfect sense, and the ships mean that the game might appeal to players of all ages.
Ubisoft then managed to out-rare Rare with the surprise announcement of Skull and Bones. It would be easy to write the game off as an expansion of the sea-faring sections of Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, but it looks much, much more. Expect a shared open world that can be explored alone, or with a fleet of fellow pirates. There is plenty of room for two pirate games though, especially as Rare’s Sea of Thieves appears to be a quirkier, quintessentially British game. Pirate ships were not the only vehicles Ubisoft is taking to the water. A previously-announced sequel to The Crew takes the game in a fresh new direction, with races in boats, bikes, and bi-planes.
Then came the best mic drop of the entire E3. The trailer for Beyond Good & Evil 2 dropped to rapturous applause, and well deserved it was. The prequel had one of the slickest trailers of the show, introducing a new generation to a world that first appeared nearly 15 years ago. The cinematics were crafted with amazing skill and direction, with the movement zooms made famous in Battlestar Galactica furthering the excitement. If the game looks half as good as this, everyone will be scrambling to join the Space Money program.
Microsoft ditched the shiny Scorpio logo in favour of a retread of the Xbox One name, and unveiled the Xbox One X during their Press Conference. This should have been Microsoft’s moment, but Microsoft is setting itself up to suffer the same issues Nintendo had when it released the Wii U (even though the Xbox One X isn’t technically a “new” console). There is a compelling argument that by carrying on the Wii brand, Nintendo did not make its new machine as distinctive as it should have been. And Microsoft now has the Xbox One, the Xbox One S, and the similar-sounding Xbox One X. Then there was the price. New consoles are predominantly expensive when they first launch, but the problem here is that the Xbox One X is not a new console. Sure, it’s a pretty serious upgrade, but it’s $100 more expensive than Sony’s upgraded PlayStation 4 Pro.
In the end, it is going to come down to games. Microsoft took a leaf out of Sony’s playbook and unveiled a barrage of new games. BioWare’s new game, Anthem, was one of the highlights, a stunning cross between Destiny and Xenoblade Chronicles X. The new Javelin exo-suits are akin to Iron Man’s armour or Xenoblade’s Skells, but if there is one thing BioWare can do well, it is Action RPGs.
Despite plenty of AAA titles on display, like Forza Motorsport 7, Crackdown 3, and
Other games were less impressive. The Mario-esque Super Lucky’s Tale offers Xbox players a 3D platformer that appeared to be a carbon copy of Yooka-Laylee, while State of Decay 2 disappointed with awful animation that looked like it belonged on the original Xbox.
The second of the big three consolemakers continued its strategy from last year, barely pausing as it unleashed game after game. While there was a lot of substance to chew over, it felt like the company was treading old ground. God of War continues to look like an epic mythical version of The Last of Us, with Kratos’ relationship with his son grounding the story in between the epic action setpieces, battling ancient beasts from Norse mythology.
While The Last of Us Part II was notably absent, Days Gone filled the zombie gap, showing off more gameplay that concluded with a zombie bear. Likewise, Detroit: Become Human continues to impress with another trailer. How realistic did the opening android singer look?
One of the few surprises Sony showed was Monster Hunter: World, a new evolution for Capcom’s franchise. The trailer felt rushed and a little rough around the edges, but fans were not disappointed. There were far fewer remakes on show this year, but Shadow of the Colossus must be one of the most asked for. Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida has since clarified that this is not a remaster, but a remake of the original game. The Last Guardian was finally released last year after ten years, so revisiting the most impressive Ico title with high definition visuals is definitely worth a look. Here’s hoping that the frustrating controls also receive a makeover.
Sony tried, but ultimately failed, to out-do Ubisoft with its mic drop, showcasing an extended gameplay trailer for Spider-Man. The action looked like a spidey version of Batman: Arkham Asylum, but it was the inclusion of Miles Morales in the stinger that got comic book fans most excited. Here’s hoping that Insomniac includes the future Spider-Man in the game instead of as a glorified Easter Egg.
If there was one complaint about E3, it is the correlation between the length of the shows and the enjoyment one gets from watching them. Nintendo has not held a show at E3 for several years now, but it manages to achieve in half-an-hour what most of the other E3 exhibitors fail to do in double that time. With the Switch having reignited the company’s fortunes, the E3 Nintendo Direct broadcast featured a new boldness that showed how confident the company has grown in its strategy.
The highlight of the presentation was the extended look at Super Mario Odyssey, and Nintendo managed to communicate the rather complex game mechanics of Mario taking control of other characters and objects with a sense of clarity. Compare this to the overly-complicated controls that sucked the fun and enjoyment out of Star Fox Zero.
My personal highlight of the Nintendo show was the trailer for Xenoblade Chronicles 2. Although there seemed to be some issues with the English dialogue syncing with the characters, the game continues to look gorgeous, with its manga styled characters and storyline returning to the roots of the original game.
Unannounced games like Yoshi and Kirby will be welcome additions to the Switch, although they both look like they could have been ported over from the Wii U. They also casually dropped the fact that a proper Pokemon RPG is coming to the Switch, although nothing was actually shown.
This trend continued, with Nintendo managing to excite its audience more with a logo for Metroid Prime 4 than most games did with extended trailers. It shows a willingness to listen to what its fans want, and learn to deliver on those wishes. The company has since clarified that Retro Studios are NOT developing the latest Metroid Prime game, although it is being overseen by long-time series Producer Kensuke Tanabe. This begs the bigger question, if Retro are not involved in this, what in the name of Reggie Fils-Aime have they been working on for so long? Presumably we will find out in a future Nintendo Direct, but it would have been nice to at least be teased.
And the Winner Is… Ubsioft
Ubisoft managed to perfectly balance an extended look of what we already knew was coming, as well as pleasantly surprising with new and unexpected titles, but the Beyond Good & Evil 2 reveal sealed their victory. But no company disappointed, and at the end of the day, the real winners were the players. Whether you own a PlayStation 4, and Xbox, PC, or Switch, E3 2017 had tons of stunning new games to look forward to over the next couple of years.
Until next year!