Another year, another E3. This time it was online only, which definitely suits my personal preference. I’ve been advocating for pre-recorded E3 presentations since Nintendo started doing them years ago. I have to admit, while there is no emotion from any sort of crowd response, it does cut down on 99% of the cringey moments, because nothing except disaster should be expected out of middle-aged nerds with zero charisma presenting in front of a live audience. I usually go into E3 with low expectations, but my expectations were even lower than usual because I’m sure the pandemic has disrupted a lot of these game’s development cycles. I’m going to run down all the conferences and give a grade to each one, so here we go.
Ubisoft at E3 is like that one weird uncle in your family that only shows up randomly at family reunions. Sometimes he’s really cool and lets you sneak a beer, most of the time he just gets hammered and complains about how everything is “too political” now; or alternatively starts dancing embarrassingly. This year, Ubisoft was not bringing the sweet taste of forbidden alcohol in the form of Rayman, Splinter Cell or Prince of Persia, but instead, their usual shit that nobody truly cares about. They showed Rainbow Six Extraction, which is a weird tactical rogue-like spinoff of the popular Rainbow 6 Siege with most of the same characters and gameplay, except now you’re fighting aliens. Now I’m not too familiar with the Tom Clancy universe, but I can’t imagine that aliens fit in alongside his usual pro-America gun wank games. We get it Far Cry, you’re a game with charismatic villains who make self-aggrandizing speeches. Find a new schtick. The big game was the sequel to Mario + Rabbids Kingdom Battle which looks cool but I will never play because Rabbids is to the Rayman franchise what esophageal cancer is to an expensive meal. The final reveal was for an Avatar game. As in James Cameron’s Avatar, which has to be the most successful franchise that has only ever done 1 thing of note that nobody even looks back fondly on anymore. Overall, it was a waste of my life and I would have rather spent that time looking at cute Korean girls on Instagram- 2/10
Devolver Digital’s constant attempts to try to satirize the video game industry fall flatter and flatter every year, and at this point, they’ve reached the comedic level of a Reddit comments section, except I think most Reddit users understand the concept of subtlety better. On the actual games front, there were a few cool titles. I especially liked the Kurosawa-esque Trek to Yomi and Wizard with a Gun which is an isometric strategy game type thing. Shadow Warrior 3 and Inscryption are also interesting reveals. That being said, I feel like every Devolver game I ever see makes me say “That seems cool. I will never think about it ever again.” Overall, not a bad conference, but nothing that really floored me either- 6/10
I know every company wants to feel like they’re big enough to justify having their own E3 conference, and I’m sure in Randy Pitchford’s head, Gearbox is this massive, critically acclaimed and beloved studio on the level of a Nintendo or Rockstar. But in reality, they’re little more than a developer who has one franchise people actually like, and everything else they’ve ever made has been a huge flop. When you have so little to show that you rehash the same JPEG of the Homeworld 3 title two separate times and then spend 10 minutes interviewing Kevin Hart while he tries to desperately thinking of a reason why the upcoming Borderlands movie will be good, you probably should have just shown this shit at one of the other conferences. Plus, every moment that Randy Pitchford is on screen, I get the violent urge to punch him in the face. – 1/10
Who likes cinematic trailers that show us fuck all!? I’m so tired of these conferences where we have no idea what the game is because they show no gameplay. That Contraband thing they showed is like the ultimate escalation of this idea. It could literally be anything from a racing game to a Kenny Loggins dating sim. Starfield was shown, but nothing of any value was to gain from what they showed so why bother other than to remind us that a game that used to be on all platforms is now just on Xbox because fuck you. Aside from that, there were some cool games shown like Slime Rancher 2, Stalker and Outer Worlds 2. The highlight for me was Eiyuden Chronicle which is a new RPG from the developers of Suikoden II which is one of my favorite JRPGs ever made. All that being said, there was still too much of an overabundance of FPS games, and as an addendum to that, what the fuck is the sudden obsession with 4 player co-op shooters? Are they just hedging their bets and hoping that somebody is dumb enough to buy four copies for them and their friends? I mean, you finally have a sugar daddy whose entire console revolves around a service that no longer puts emphasis on sales numbers and you decide to make a multiplayer shooter over Prey 2 Arkane? Overall, I don’t think the conference was bad, it probably had something for everyone, but again, nothing really wowed me. – 6/10
Out of all the 3rd party developers, I was most excited for Square-Enix because there’s a high chance they can show at least one thing I’m interested in. Unfortunately, they spent about 2/3rds of the show on a Guardians of the Galaxy game. I’m tired of super hero shit, I’m tired of MCU quipping and for the love of fuck, if you can’t use the likeness of the actors in the Marvel films, then make the game more stylized because having to see character models that are almost there but not quite is just jarring and uncanny valley. I get that it’s hypocritical to complain about all the multiplayer games and also to whine when there are single player games, but I also have the distinct standard that the single player games don’t also look like complete dogshit. The interesting looking Platinum game, Babylon’s Fall was shown in more detail, and it got announced as a live service game because I hadn’t been kicked in the nuts enough that day and deserved it. Why the hell is Platinum of all studios, a company that aside from a few lower budget titles has an excellent track record, making games as a service garbage? I guess if you present yourself as a gun for hire long enough, eventually somebody is going to hire you to commit war crimes. The crowning achievement of this shitshow was the announcement of Final Fantasies 1-6 being remastered for PC and Mobile. Not in a collection mind, but sold individually because fuck you. The thing is, all of these games except for V and VI have already had complete remakes for other systems, and unless all the features of those games are included, then why even bother? Maybe it isn’t a completely futile exercise though, perhaps while going over the games that made them who they are today, Square was able to look in the mirror and ruminate on what once made them so special. Provided that the sight of their own reflection doesn’t turn them to stone. – 1/10
I didn’t expect much of anything out of Capcom seeing as they essentially came out and said that they were really only showing off games that were coming in the near future, but just because you can have an E3 conference doesn’t mean you should, and I struggle to see a reason why these couldn’t have just been shown on YouTube or something since this was essentially saying “These games that were coming out soon are still coming out.” I’m interested in Ace Attorney and Monster Hunter Stories 2, but to have most of the show be an in-depth gameplay look at a visual novel was a bold choice to say the least. – 2/10
Nintendo is the wild card of every E3. They generally don’t take themselves seriously and at least tend to show games that are coming out in the near future with some amount of gameplay, but some years they don’t really add much, and seeing as Sony told E3 to go fuck itself because they’re building a cool kids club for just them and their buddies, there’s added pressure on Nintendo to carry the event. This year, I would say they were the only company that genuinely showed something unexpected. I didn’t expect anything Warioware, Fatal Frame or Advanced Wars related to be shown at all, even if the latter two are just a port and a remake. Shin Megami Tensei V looked good, although I can already see Gen Zers who have only played Persona 5 thinking that the game is ripping it off. There was no news on Metroid Prime 4 which was disappointing, but there was a new 2D Metroid announced; Metroid Dread which looks cool. They showed a bit more of the new Zelda game, and by a bit more, I mean literally 1 new feature and that’s it. Of course, there’s always the ports for games that everybody stopped caring about 6 years ago and Bayonetta 3 is still nowhere to be seen, probably because Platinum has 15 other projects they have to finish first. Then of course they had to talk about the new Smash character, which makes my eyes glaze over with unbridled efficiency, but I’m sure somebody on Twitter is sending out death threats before they all fuck off back to Melee. All and all, not the best conference ever, but they were the only ones who announced anything even remotely unexpected. They were the best in a year where the bar was so low that you’d snap your back if you tried to limbo under it. – 7/10