We sat down with some of the region’s leading games journalists to get their highs and lows of this year’s E3.
There’s little doubt that E3 2018 brought with it some incredible reveals and experiences, with Xbox taking the top spot as the winner of this year’s E3 and Bethesda coming in as a close second. Without a doubt, Xbox put on one of the best briefings that knocked the socks off attendees and viewers alike with a showcase of 52 different titles, including 18 console launch exclusives and 15 world premieres. That, and the announcement of Microsoft doubling its game development studios, the reveal that all new release first party titles will be made immediately available on the Xbox Game Pass service on release day, as well as more details on the Xbox Adaptive Controller illustrated Xbox’s commitment to all gamers, solidifying the company as putting its community first and looking well ahead into the future of gaming.
While the big players such as Xbox and PlayStation did their console gaming briefings and shows exceptionally well, their PC gaming counterpart felt a little lacking this year. The PC Gaming Show is one that takes place during E3 but sits almost as a completely separate event. With last year’s show being sponsored by Intel, with reveals and interviews that truly screamed ‘PC Master Race’, this year’s show was dull. The show was essentially comprised of just trailers of games and very brief interviews with their developers that didn’t quite muster up much hype or excitement, in my personal opinion. Granted, this year’s show didn’t have the backing of the PC gaming powerhouse that is Intel, so perhaps we’ll have to cut the team behind this year’s show a bit of slack.
The Show Floor: After the mess that was last year’s public and business integration, E3 organisers quickly realised they needed to separate the herds, if you will. And this year that worked a treat. Moving around the show floor was a breeze and it felt, mostly, like they also didn’t ‘oversell’ public access to the event. Moreover, a number of publishers like Ubisoft moved their business side of the event (ie “booth bookings”) to the meeting rooms section of the Convention Centre in the upstairs mezzanine, which helped immeasurably with appointment management. Microsoft’s switch to the newly named Microsoft Theatre at LA Live was excellent for their pre-show, but due to enhanced security at the Convention Centre, it became more difficult to leave for appointments, despite them being just across the road. Ideally next year they bring back a presence on the show floor, but keep their pre-show at the Microsoft Theatre. And if you take that last anecdote and replace Microsoft with EA, only EA being in West Hollywood, which is a nightmare to get to when EVERYTHING else is happening in Downtown LA… well, I’m sure the picture is easily painted.
Pre-Show Pressers: As mentioned above, Microsoft’s shift to LA Live was an excellent move. Ubisoft maintained tradition by sticking to the Orpheum which is still a wonderful event, and again, EA hosting theirs in West Hollywood, but frustratingly on the Saturday when most of us arrive and are tired/jet-lagged made it annoying. Bethesda’s event was equally close, while Sony’s was easy enough to get to, but left us all a bit miffed at the drawn-out format, having to stand, walk, sit and not really have a lot of commentary around some of the amazing games they did show.
Overall: “The state of the game”, which is a phrase often used to describe sporting codes season-to-season, for gaming this year, based on how E3 on the whole played out, is in good nick. The quality of games on show, from those releasing this year such as Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Forza Horizon 4 and Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (among others), nestled against an exciting three-to-four years ahead with Cyberpunk 2077, Beyond Good and Evil 2, Dying Light 2, Ghost of Tsushima and the Last of Us II, equally among others, means we’re definitely in a creative, technical and polish renaissance.
The domination of the likes of Call of Duty and Battlefield is slowly waning in favour of expanded horizons across myriad concepts not specifically multiplayer-driven (unless you include “Battle Royale”). Where single-player games, open-world games, shared-world games, portable games, VR and more all have an exciting and fervent supporter-base. Ideas are being realised because of the growth in technology, and Indies are equally standing up and being taken notice of through various pathways either on PC, or across the Big Three consoles.
Truly, this is a fantastic time to be a gamer. And this year’s E3 — regardless of your platform or brand of choice — highlighted this through quality over quantity, and an emphasis on a diverse and creative-driven future. The next few E3s are going to even more exciting, in this veteran’s opinion.
Good: Improved Organisation
Last year E3 was borderline unmanageable for press. The event was opened to the public for the first time with little thought given to industry and media working the show. This year was a marked improvement. Aisles between booths were wider allowing better flow of people, entrance times were staggered, and more publishers took advantage of the upstairs meeting rooms – a shift to a Gamescom-like approach, with clear public and press areas, that E3 will inevitably head towards.
Bad: “BCD demos” that are just repeats of press conference demos
This year saw the return of proper, meaty behind-closed-doors demos featuring game content not instantly available online, making these demos actually worth covering as press. Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Cyberpunk 2077, and Control all featured extensive new playthroughs, a key part of why these games were the talk of the show. But, this fact made it even more noticeable when a publisher just ran through the press conference demo in exactly the same way (while holding a controller and pretending the demo is live). There’s zero reason for this to happen anymore, and it’s a waste of both journalists’ and the publishers’ time.
Sounding like a broken record at this point, I am sure, but Cyberpunk 2077 was far and away the best game I got to see at E3 2018. Not only was the world entertaining and the characters interesting, the amount of times the decision selected was just one of many, left me thinking, just how many times can I play through this game. What I saw, for the 50 minutes that the demo ran for, was not only impressive from a gameplay point of view, but not seeing a single loading screen, well that was just incredible and when you add all the little touches in, it left me wanting more, made it easily the best game I saw at E3, of course, now comes the hard part, waiting for it to be released.
Likely surprising many people, but Forza Horizon 4 is my worst game of the show, the developers at Playground Games have been crowing the mantra that ‘Seasons change everything’ but from what has been publicly shown and playable, that is just not the case. Being able to see the same location in multiple looks and have it impact the gameplay, could be fun, but they have already done that before as in Horizon 3, you could not take the Centenario through the Blizzard Mountain DLC, without getting stuck or worse. The series has already delivered multiple weather types now and for now, Horizon 4 just seems to be doubling down on that feature and honestly, how is Britain a better location than Australia.
Compared to last year – which was my first E3 – I was offered some huge opportunities from various publishers that left me with a wider breadth of quality content this time around. Bethesda, Ubisoft and Microsoft were the standouts here, mainly because the appointments were well organised and booked far enough in advance to give me a clear picture of what my schedule looked like before I hit the ground.
This all boiled down to a more organised week with guaranteed quality content, rather than having to wade through a number of BCD sessions that can sometimes, unfortunately, end up being a waste of time.
I should also mention that upon expecting an absolute shitfight with the heightened security checks this year, I never found myself waiting more than 5 minutes to get in. Seriously impressed by this.
Like I mentioned above, some BCD sessions just turn out to be a bit of a bummer, but The Last of Us Part II appointment really let me down this year. Don’t get me wrong, the game looks unbelievable and I can’t wait to play it, but after setting side an hour to see more, I was left watching the exact same demo that was played during the briefing with no extra comment or commentary throughout. I gained absolutely nothing from being there and had I known that, I would have attended something else.
I get that it’s an obvious one, but gamers were the main winners at this year’s E3. Many people both at E3, and around the world claimed that this was the best E3 in history and it’s definitely true. Looking back at the games that I played and got to see behind closed doors, there wasn’t a single one that I wouldn’t be interested in playing at launch.
The next 18 months are going to be great for our industry and there’s never been a better time to be a gamer. Whilst the last 18 months have been mostly about hardware with Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony all releasing new iterations of their consoles, the next 18 months should be fully about games.
Everything about E3 this year felt smooth, so if I was to nit-pick at something, it’d be the security.
Security was a mess this year and it was largely due to Microsoft opting to go to another location. I never managed to get into the Microsoft Theatre without an issue, whether it be being 30 minutes late to the Microsoft press conference, or just being told that I didn’t have the right credentials enter the event (every single time).
At the same time, it was comforting to know that security was tight, but when you’re trying to make appointments, it’s definitely a little bit stressful.
What impressed me the most: Games, games and more games! E3 2018 saw a shift away from announcements about tie-in TV shows or even 4K resolution — instead, we saw a renewed focus on games themselves and the experiences they seek to provide. I couldn’t be happier.
This is the first year that every single title that I got to see – in either a hands-on or hands-off capacity — was at the very least promising. Most games were utterly jaw-dropping, offering completely new experiences like Sony’s Dreams or Ubisoft’s Transcendence, or exciting new IP like Activision’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, or exciting new innovations to existing franchises like Microsoft’s Forza Horizon 3 or Square Enix’s Shadow of the Tomb Raider.
CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077, Remedy’s Control and Capcom’s Resident Evil 2 were in a class all to themselves, easily my top three games of show. And don’t ask me which one I liked more – they’re all my favourite!
What I was disappointed with: I think Sony’s revamped press briefing was a bit overindulgent – specifically, making the world wait while journalists were shuffled from one briefing room to another. That said, I really appreciated the detailed deep dives that were offered as a result of the new program. If some release dates had been attached to those games, I would have been over the moon!
Moreover, I couldn’t justify the time to make my way over to EA Play and see titles like Anthem as it was located too far away from downtown LA and E3 2018 itself. It’s bad enough that Microsoft has decided to abandon the halls of the Los Angeles Convention Centre, but at least a walk to Microsoft Centre from LACC only took five to ten minutes.
Leaving E3 Expo this year I definitely felt like it was the best E3 that I’ve been to over the past 9 years that I’ve covered video games. Once all the conferences were finished it was hard to look back at them and think about who actually ‘won’, because I think all the major publishers did such a fantastic job with the content that they showed off.
We’ve got titles coming out like The Last of Us Part II, Spider-Man, Fallout 76, Ghost of Tsushima, Forza Horizon 4, Just Cause 4, Super Smash Bros Ultimate, Rage 2, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Dreams, The Division 2, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, Beyond Good and Evil 2, Control, Dying Light 2, Cyberpunk 2077, and the list goes on – but that’s also without Red Dead Redemption 2 showing up on somebody’s stage. It’s going to be a fun time to be into video games over the next few years and this E3 was a standout event where we got to take a look at just a few of them.
There weren’t really any bad moments that I had at E3 this year, so for me this is a bit of a nitpick. The PlayStation Media Showcase started off weird, which was disappointing because Sony have been absolutely nailing their presentation over the last few years. After being stuck in a jam-packed line for 15 minutes we were eventually herded into a tent which was made up as a church. I managed to get a decent spot up the front which was directly behind the handful of seats that they had to offer. As the showcase starts Gustavo Santaolalla, the composer for The Last of Us Part II is brought out on stage to perform his music from the game. He sits down and begins to play, unfortunately it was difficult to hear because the hundreds of people standing behind me were talking, they just couldn’t see him or anything that was happening on the stage.
Eventually they kick off The Last of Us Part II gameplay demo; on the screen which was behind Gustavo – that for some reason they didn’t use during his performance. After the demo is done they then begin to move everyone from the church into another larger tent which takes another 15 minutes – but this time everyone gets a seat! This was my only gripe with the PlayStation Media Showcase, everything from then on was amazing. We saw some great games, and the after-show event was awesome. It’s an interesting idea to try and give the people at these conferences an added experience – as apposed to just staying at their hotel and watching the live stream. Unfortunately, the start of the experience just wasn’t executed in the best way.