Are you looking forward to Super Smash Bros. Ultimate on Nintendo Switch? How much do you want it? Do you love it enough to watch almost a half-hour of a detailed fighter parade, move demonstration, and an exhausting reel of changes from previous games? Good news! The Nintendo E3 2018 presentation was basically the Smash show.
Sony’s E3 2018 show was a bit odd. Not Ubisoft quirky, but just plain weird. First they put everyone in a makeshift church tent, and played some banjo for everyone. Then Naughty Dog premiered some gameplay from The Last of Us Part II. Once Ellie was done getting her Lara Croft murder spree on, Sony had the audience move out of the tent and into the regular auditorium for the rest of the show. While that was going on, an awkward panel of hosts at an ESPN-style desk showed off Call of Duty: Black Ops multiplayer maps remade in Black Ops 3 to promote Black Ops 4. There was an underwhelming trailer for Days Gone. Then, a gaggle of PlayStation VR stuff was played. At the end, Destiny 2: Forsaken got a vague teaser.
When the lights came up in the main auditorium, a puzzled crowd watched someone play a bamboo flute in front of a large screen showing videogame grass blowing in the wind. Thankfully, this was the prep for the Ghost of Tsushima gameplay trailer showcasing some violent samurai antics. We got a new Pirates of the Caribbean trailer for Kingdom Hearts III. Remedy Entertainment announced Control, which looks like the best parts of Quantum Break and Alan Wake combined. A rat discovered the remake of Resident Evil 2. Hideo Kojima’s super odd Death Stranding confused everyone with Norman Reedus acting like the walkabout delivery service, then CG young Lindsay Wagner busted in and really perplexed viewers. Finally, Marvel’s Spider-Man from Insomniac Games returned us to the normal world of AAA action videogames.
It was a nice try from Sony, but they’ll have to get some drum major pandas and dancing cartoon girls next year to outdo Ubisoft.
That wasn’t the weirdest thing. There was the intro from Just Dance 2019 with a truck dock as a backdrop. Joseph Gordon-Levitt pimped his media company Hit Record (pronounced like the verb “to record” and not the noun) that’s working with Ubisoft on Beyond Good & Evil 2. Elijah Wood then hyped his media company Spectrevision that’s partnering with Ubisoft on Transference. Starlink: Battle for Atlas is still a toys-to-life game, but on Nintendo Switch you can play with the Arwing from Star Fox. The cherry on top was when Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot brought Shigeru Miyamoto on stage to present a nifty model of the Arwing to him.
For Honor’s starter edition is completely free on PC through Uplay now, and Chinese combatants are coming in the Marching Fire expansion. Ubisoft also announced a new Trials game. Trials Rising is kicking off a beta soon. Finally, Skull & Bones, the multiplayer ship-to-ship pirate combat game got a neat cinematic trailer.
Skyrim is on everything! That’s the joke. Everyone has said it at least once since the third or fourth version of the game was announced. Skyrim VR, Skyrim Special Edition, Skyrim for Nintendo Switch, Skyrim, Skyrim, Skyrim. Bethesda joined the fun in their E3 show with the above video. Skyrim is on pagers, refrigerators, and Alexa now. Get it? But wait! Skyrim on Amazon Alexa is not just make believe. It’s real.
Microsoft spent all the money for their E3 2018 kickoff event. To be more accurate, they spent their money to purchase a bunch of studios and showed off 50 games for Xbox and Windows 10.
First, the reveals that were a given. There was a snippet of the next Master Chief game. It’s something called Halo Infinite and it involves dinosaurs and camping in the woods. Forza Horizon 4 goes to merry old England with dynamic seasons and a more massively multiplayer Crew-like structure. Crackdown 3 may be delayed to late 2019, but Terry Crews is still blowing things up in trailers that are looking more and more dated as we go. Sea of Thieves will be getting some much-needed content soon. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds continues its desperate hold on the system as an Xbox console exclusive. Gears 5 (that’s just “Gears 5” and not “Gears of War 5”) will feature Kait’s story in the Gears saga.
In more surprising news, there’s a mobile game bit of oddness coming called Gears POP! which is a collaboration with The Coalition and bobblehead manufacturer Funko POP! There’s also a Gears Tactics which looks to answer the burning question “What if Gears and XCOM had a baby?” (Funnily enough, there was a similar prototype concept back in 2014 that was eventually canceled.) Battletoads is a thing. Goofball Dante is back in Devil May Cry 5. We all got another painfully scripted play demo from Ubisoft, this time for The Division 2. Dying Light 2 features more parkour, melee, and zombies, but now you can supposedly influence the story with your choices.
Microsoft’s Phil Spencer announced the acquisition of Undead Labs, Playground Games, Ninja Theory, and Compulsion Games. The company is also starting The Initiative, another new in-house studio based out of Santa Monica.
Finally, this year’s “oh, and one more thing moment” was for CD Projekt RED’s Cyberpunk 2077.
If you watched the Electronic Arts “EA Play” E3 2018 event, congratulations for making it through a pretty bad show. Host Andrea Rene did her best to pluck up the proceedings, but between DICE apologizing for how they flubbed the launch of Battlefront II, to the audience applauding over the announcement that Battlefield V and Anthem wouldn’t have loot boxes, it was a dire affair. Also, for some reason, EA thought we’d like to watch a full live match of Command and Conquer: Rivals, the new mobile take on the beaten but not quite buried C&C franchise.
In sports gaming, there was the usual roster updates and gloss. FIFA 19 has a partnership with the UEFA Champions League. Madden 19, with some voice help from Michael Kenneth Williams, looked suitably Madden. NBA Live 19 is pushing harder into the management space with its Build Your Squad gameplay. Then, when things seemed to be going fine, EA trotted out Young Kiv, the current Madden champion, to mumble his way through some clumsy bro-justification for missing his own graduation to play more Madden.
There were a couple of bright spots. Unravel Two showcased some co-op side-scrolling puzzle jumping. The pitch for Sea of Solitude, an adventure through a young woman’s discovery of loneliness, seemed like the most German art game ever. Vince Zampella of Respawn announced Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, before disappearing in a puff of awkwardness.
EA CEO Andrew Wilson traded in his supervillain suit for a cozy casual outfit and declared that streaming and subscription are where the company thinks things are going. To that end, he announced Origin Access Premier, another level to Origin Access (presumably costing more) that adds brand new games to their current subscription service. He then cackled madly and flew away in a rocket made of recycled loot boxes.
Whenever a teacher is giving a lecture in a movie, you can bet the subject of the lecture is relevant to the movie. No writer or director worth his salt is going to have someone droning on in front of a class about something irrelevant. Here is the opportunity to invoke something erudite from literature or physics or biology. But during the couple of classroom scenes in Hereditary, I didn’t quite understand what writer/director Ari Aster was getting at with specific references to Greek tragedies. He had yet to show me what he was doing.
Wreckfest, formally known as “New Car Game” from Bugbear Entertainment and THQ Nordic, is coming out of early access. It’s been 10 years since Bugbear gave us a FlatOut game, so their welcome return to demolition derby gaming is a badly needed shot in the arm of the racing genre. There’s a lot of satisfaction in racing cleanly and maintaining a neat line on the ribbon, but there’s also something beautiful about smashing the heck out of some Detroit steel. Flying tires, ripped bumpers, and shattered glass winking in the sunlight have a poetry that rivals a sweet drift.
Wreckfest officially launches on Steam on June 14th. PlayStation 4 and Xbox players will have to wait until November 20th.
The second half of the “Han Solo season” is coming to Star Wars: Battlefront II on June 12th. To celebrate the marketing synergy of the game and the movie Solo: A Star Wars Story, DICE is adding a map based on the Coaxium Mine of Kessel, skins for young Han and Lando, and another version of the Millenium Falcon. We get it. It’s an iconic ship that is idelibly linked in most people’s minds with Han Solo, plus the prequel design is nifty. Did we really need a third Falcon in this game? How about the cool new TIE/rb with the heavy cannon pod? Or how about that janky Imperial Hauler with its exposed scaffold and dual crane arms? You could’ve even gone with the zippy swoops the Cloud-Rider gang uses! Nope. We get another Falcon.
In 2005, Mark Healey, working for Lionhead as an artist at the time, got the mad idea to use his programming skills to marry rope physics code to kung fu fighters. Then he wrapped the whole thing up with footage from an ultra low-budget chop-socky film he had made with his friends. The result was Rag Doll Kung Fu, a goofy indie game that implausibly wound up as the first non-Valve developed game to be offered on Steam. People Make Games interviewed some of the folks involved, and the story is a mix of luck, good timing, and a lost wallet.
Healey left Lionhead in 2006 and founded Media Molecule with Alex Evans, David Smith, and Kareem Ettouney. Rag Doll Kung Fu continues to sell on Steam, but new versions were made for PlayStation and iOS. Steam published 7,672 games in 2017.
Please read these four selections from Cultist Simulator. After you read them, there will be a short quiz.
“It enters the world one limb at a time, questing like a serpent, cawing like a crow, throbbing like a vein. It will cuddle close against my leg, if I let it, and afterwards I will have to dispose of my shoes.”
“In the forest where the moon couldn’t go, the boughs of the trees were woven together like bandages or lovers.”
“His face is creased by so many wrinkles that his features lie buried amid shadowy pockets of skin. Still, the dwarf’s well-practiced habits have left telltale tracks of a welcoming rictus across his visage.”
“In the display cases of the impossible museum, I always see an apple white as snow and hard as marble. A golden beetle in a stern box. A coy geometry awaiting my touch. A black envelope bursting with spring. A brass opera-box for instruments of record and measure. A storm in a tin. I always wake before I see the aisle’s end.”
Preorders are now officially open for Red Dead Redemption 2. Among the dizzying array of virtual bits and bobs and physical gewgaws available, is the War Horse, the infamously powerful equine from the first game. Like the current offer, the War Horse was a preorder incentive. It was also hands-down the absolute best horse in Red Dead Redemption. It had three times the health of any normal horse available to the player, and it tied the next best horses for speed and stamina. In fact, it was the only horse that had enough health to withstand a mountain lion attack. Beyond satisfying the completionist urge, there was no reason to own any other horse in the game. We don’t know how horse stats will work in Red Dead Redemption 2, or where the War Horse will sit in the rankings, but giddayup for the only horse that comes close to Roach.
It’s been a while since I’ve rooted around in an actual Pathfinder Adventure Card Game box. Four and a half years, to be exact. Oh, I’ve played plenty since then. Obsidian’s videogame version is a spot-on transliteration that’s arguably better than the tabletop version for how it streamlines out all the fussing with cards, and dice, and rules exceptions, and cards, and cards, and table space, and more cards, and cards that have to be kept just so, and cards, and looking up the rules, and also a whole bunch of cards. On the PC, all that stuff purrs quietly under the hood while you flip virtual cards, and huck virtual dice, and level up your characters as smoothly as if you were playing Diablo.
I say this videogame version is arguably better. But the operative word is “arguably”. Continue reading →