E3 has always been Christmas for gamers, with plenty of good releases that fill you with surprise and wonder, as well as a fair handful of bad releases, the ones that make you question how the marketing directors keep their jobs. Now, I can imagine most people have heard about some of the better releases like Cyberpunk 2079, Doom Eternal and Watch Dogs Legion, and that’s why I wanted to focus on the less thrilling events that transpired during E3, so let’s get right into it.
Stepping up to the plate first is the announcement of more human NPCs and a battle royale mode in Fallout 76, which was somehow met with a great deal of applause. Let me elaborate, when your audience is applauding you for having more human NPCs in a game, it speaks volumes about the already poor quality of your game, especially given the past controversy that has followed Fallout 76. So, to suddenly hear the applause for such a simple addition to an already very broken game is saddening to say the least. What would have been better is an announcement that they were going to actually make the game playable, as opposed to adding a battle royale mode and a few human NPCs. All-in-all, it’s a depressing feat in itself.
Now I like to consider myself a man of finer things, those finer things being binge watching Always Sunny In Philadelphia and learning bird law. However, I was by no means anticipating Rob McElhenney (Mac) coming onto the stage in all his muscle-bound glory and revealing a new show during the Ubisoft conference. Despite possessing the same charm and charisma as his acting role, it seems that gaming fans were not thrilled by the announcement due to it being a show as opposed to a game. The show itself is focused around the life of game developers and features the likes of Community’s Danny Pudi and Always Sunny In Philadelphia’s David Hornsby. The response from gaming fans is expected given E3’s predominant focus on gaming as opposed to any other media, regardless of if they relate to a game. Regrettably, Rob’s charm couldn’t win the fans over.
And with that unfortunate tale told, I shift my cynicism towards the blatant cash grabs of E3. Now by cash grabs I’m not referring to the classic triple A titles with horrific micro-transactions - looking at you EA. Thankfully, this E3 dodged that matter only to swerve into the oncoming truck that is mobile game releases, which are notorious for their micro-transactions and supposedly ‘free’ price tag. Just like the degradation of the Command and Conquer series to a mobile game, another IP received the same treatment, Commander Keen, originally a classic on the MS-DOS in 1990, the once sacred childhood memories have now been desecrated with its return as a mobile game. Now I understand that a mobile game on its own is perfectly fine, however, more than likely micro-transactions will be applied to this game in another blatant cash grab. So for those who were gaming back when it was initially released, get ready to play it again with none of the original vintage pleasantries and all of the cash grabbing mechanics that come with the modern age; fingers crossed that it doesn’t turn into a raging dumpster fire.
Speaking of blatant cash grabs, another mobile game to unpleasantly surprise fans is the very much undesired pop vinyl mobile game featuring Gears of War. Honestly, I don’t know what was going through their minds when they made this but it was most likely dollar signs at this point, but at least they announced another Gears game rather than what they did to Sam Fisher (from the Splinter Cell franchise). What happened to Sam Fisher, you ask? Well I want you to imagine this - you’re a hardcore Splinter Cell fan and have been waiting for another addition to the series since its last release in 2013, suddenly a news notification appears on your phone with the text “Splinter Cell’s Sam Fisher returns…” your eyes lighten up only to realise that he’s now an add-on character in a new Tom Clancy mobile game. So, long story short, fans were, as you would imagine, very disappointed with the news as their Wetwork hero returned only in mobile game form instead of an actual triple A title; something which developers thought adequate to boast at E3 as opposed to announce it any other point in the year where the spotlight wouldn’t be as near as bright, nor focused.
Developers of Shenmue 3 should have taken that advice when they abruptly announced to their Kickstart funders that they were now being funded by Sony and that the game was also going to be an epic store exclusive. Refusing to offer refunds to said Kickstart funders, they claimed that their money was used to show interest in the game as opposed to fully fund a new entry to the series. With blatant dishonesty also being shown by the fact that Shenmue 3 already has a Steam Store page, yet the developers have now gone back on their word to crowdfunders with its exclusivity to the Epic Store. Here’s hoping that the refunds eventually come through.
What may not be received particularly well are reboots of the Battletoads and Contra series which both look fairly awful, to say the least. Having seen better days, the Battletoads reboot features Rash, Pimple, and Zits in cartoonish form, the game looks like it plays similar to the originals, but by no means does it catch its aesthetic. Contra, on the other hand, plays very differently from its predecessors and looks nothing like it, bearing the name of Contra in ™ fashion, it appears to be a blatant cash grab.
All in all, E3 could have gone a lot worse and, even then, it was made up for by some absolutely brilliant releases, but what truly won my heart was the Devolver conference, which took jabs at multiple companies and even going so far as to release a new game which is a bootleg collection of its other games. Presenting itself in a cinematic fashion that continued on from its previous conference in 2018, Devolver, came across as comedic but not cringey (looking at you Anthem conference, dear God that was painful to watch). With new horizons being sailed towards in the gaming industry, I’m looking forward to see what comes of it.