GAX Gabs: The Great E3 2019 Roundtable
Kenneth: To give an analogy, most of the gaming reveals at E3 2019 can be likened to a canyon, in the sense that you’re either on one side of the opinion chasm or the other.
From gaping at “breathtaking” reveals and “discount art styles” to heated arguments over the National Pokédex (or rather the lack of it), the sheer lack of area for compromise means there’s a lot to discuss as well.
So, without further ado and in no order of merit, let’s check in with the team on this year’s juiciest titles.
Kenneth: Arguably the most “breathtaking” title at E3 2019, Cyberpunk 2077 owes a great deal of its success to its excellent marketing (and by extension, Keanu Reeves as well). That said, nothing is ever perfect, and there seems to be a lot this dystopian masterpiece is hiding behind its confident facade.
Ade: I’m surprised they’re still keeping gameplay demos behind closed doors, but perhaps that’s just how the industry is headed when pundits and fans express disappointment at games not living up to their E3 likeness (the perils of game dev). As much as I love the cyberpunk genre and the cinematics so far, I’ll try to temper my expectations.
Tim: Cyberpunk by itself is such a fascinating and undermined genre in video games. So having a triple-A game being made in that genre by the same people who made The Witcher 3 is absolutely a no-brainer win for me. The cinematic trailer they released didn’t quite impress me – but does it even matter? Keanu Reeves is in this. Of course I’m going to love it!
Wei Song: Shut up and take my money. I have The Witcher 3 on both PC and consoles — that is how much I support CD Projekt Red. They, as a company, have proven themselves to be one that is worth supporting. They listen to their fans, they make consistently good games and they do not have microtransactions in their single player games. The E3 reveal just made me want to give them my money all the more.
Further reading: Cyberpunk 2077 stars Keanu Reeves for more vengeance fuel
Kenneth: Reception-wise, Square Enix’s Avengers title is facing a rather bleak outlook. While most of the debate was centred around the game’s unfamiliar and inauthentic design, there were other considerations that people didn’t exactly understand, or like, for that matter.
Tim: In theory, an Avengers game could be fantastic. Controlling Iron Man in an open world with cutting-edge graphics is the dream. This game has a lot going for it, from a great cast including Troy Baker, Nolan North and Laura Bailey. The only thing holding it back is how uncanny valley the characters look. If Crystal Dynamics had gone their own way with character designs, this writeup might be different, but they stuck with the MCU designs and now the Avengers just look like a 5-year-old me tried to draw them from memory.
Wei Song: Putting aside how weird looking the characters were, the lack of gameplay showcase made it hard to determine if it is a game worth keeping an eye out for. The fact that they mentioned how it will be supported after launch with content makes it suspiciously sound like live-service game.
Further reading: Crystal Dynamics’ Marvel’s Avengers assembles in May 2020
Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order
Kenneth: Established franchises, such as Star Wars in this case, are almost always solid foundations for game development. However, the keyword here is “almost”, so has EA once again produced the short lightsaber?
Ade: EA definitely can’t risk another Star Wars disappointment, not after earning the ire of Disney with their infamous loot box shenanigans. So they’re now pivoting to single-player with a studio that unexpectedly delivered an excellent campaign in Titanfall 2. Honestly, it feels like they’re going to have to capture lightning in a bottle if they want to satisfy disgruntled fans at this point.
Tim: I’m perhaps part of the minority here who thinks the gameplay we were shown looks really exciting! It was pretty janky and slow-moving, sure, but I’m confident Respawn will finetune things before release. Their excellent work in Titanfall 2, combined with the fluid gameplay just recently in Apex Legends makes me want to believe this game will be great. What I’m most excited for though, is seeing new planets and creatures!
Further reading: Here’s a first look at Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order gameplay
Ade: The Xbox poster chief is back and he’s ready to give us Scarlett. We can already expect great things on the graphical front, but fans are predictably more testy over gameplay and lore as 343 Industries struggle to take charge of the IP. I want the studio to rise up to the challenge and deliver something phenomenal, but we just need to learn more at this point.
Wei Song: It’s been so long since the last Halo game that I wonder if Master Chief still holds the same charisma as he once did so many years ago. Halo was a forerunner (see what I did there) for shooters in its day. Hopefully, Halo: Infinite can live up to its legacy and shake up the FPS genre.
“Breath of the Wild 2”
Kenneth: The Legend of Zelda franchise is one that’s stood the test of time and continues to thrive even in the face of cutting-edge games, so it goes without saying that this was Nintendo’s insurance for E3. On that note, let’s see what the Japanese giant’s “get out of jail free” card could potentially offer.
Tim: I’m still making it through Breath of the Wild ever so slowly and here comes Nintendo, dropping a sequel on me. Still, I couldn’t be more excited. This is technically my first real Zelda game (after Spirit Tracks), and knowing a continuation is coming, set in the same world with the same characters, just fills me with joy.
Final Fantasy VII Remake
Ade: With Kingdom Hearts III out the door, all hands on deck are busy working on what seems like the most anticipated remake in gaming history. We’ve got a new trailer which looks great (silly uproars aside), though I’m concerned over its scope. The game will still be in multiple parts, and now Square Enix claims they aren’t even sure just how many there will be in total? Sure, content creation and delivery will be faster once the “base game” is out, as with FFXV, but it still feels like an overly-ambitious project they’re too deep to back out of.
Tim: I’ve never actually played Final Fantasy VII before, but Square Enix’s showing this E3 absolutely sold it to me. The game looks gorgeous, the combat looks interesting and fluid, and everything just looks so massive in scope and story. I daresay this will be the game to attract a whole bunch of newcomers to the Final Fantasy series as a whole, so the developers have a lot to live up to right now.
Wei Song: TIFA!! I’m really diggin her new look and the game looks pretty amazing as a Crisis Core and classic FF7 fan. All hype aside, the scope is definitely an issue as Ade has mentioned. The first part, which only covers the Midgard portion of the game, is already going to be two Blu-ray discs’ worth of “content” — that content being graphic textures if we are going to be real. They have yet to show us what the open world map will be like, which is worrying as the original takes place mostly on the overworld.
Further reading: Final Fantasy VII Remake details and Tifa reveal
Ade: Hidetaka Miyazaki working off George R. R. Martin’s original material sounds metal as hell. The Soulsborne/Sekiro director creates amazing work when inspired, so I’m sure we’re all curious to see what he crafts while collaborating with another visionary. A larger world, mounted combat and “no fixed main character”? Yes, yes and yes.
Wei Song: Again, shut up and take my money. The draw of George R. R. Martin being part of the story is kinda superfluous for me. FromSoftware makes brutal games and I love them. That is really all the reason I need to be excited that they are making something new.
Watch Dogs: Legion
Kenneth: You can be anybody you want to be — Ubisoft took the oft-quoted mantra and made it tangible in the form of Watch Dogs: Legion. It’s one of the more hyped-up releases at this year’s conference and offers immensely exciting potential. However, will it live up to Ubisoft’s lofty expectations?
Ade: They’re definitely trying to break new ground with Legion, though I wonder how much of that would actually translate to fun or meaningful gameplay. Don’t get me wrong: I love the idea and what they’re trying to accomplish, but if all I see is a bunch of bodies to swap between rather than characters I’m rooting for, then… eh. (Shrugs.)
Tim: Honestly, this game reminds me way too much of No Man’s Sky, in that everything about it sounds way too good to be true. It’ll be groundbreaking if it keeps all its promises, but what about the story? Even if all these gimmicks and new mechanics turn out well, will it actually have a good story worth playing through? There’s a lot of questions here, but fortunately Watch Dogs: Legion still has time to answer them.
Ade: So… Gears 5 launches in September, right? Don’t you think we saw awful little of it at E3? It’s one of the biggest Xbox exclusives, and while I can understand they’re trying to keep a lid on the rest of the story, it sure would be nice to see some more gameplay. It’s cool to get a new co-op mode and all, but I hope the middling presence is just due to The Coalition hunkering down for release.
Pokémon Sword and Shield
Kenneth: The latest additions to the Pokémon family were plagued by arguments, petitions and what-have-you over the lack of a National Pokédex, and yet it’s the second most pre-ordered game at E3 2019. A curious phenomenon indeed — let’s see what the team thinks.
Ade: I mean, it’s Pokémon — it’ll take a drastic upset for the fans to retaliate with poor sales. I think the excitement for a long-awaited generational leap and new mechanics (Raids!) outweigh the inability to bring our old pals over. Besides, it’s best to set expectations now, lest Game Freak suffer in future versions.
Tim: Pokémon is a super weird franchise to me. It stopped impressing me after I saw Castelia City in all of its breathtaking glory for the first time, and yet I’ll always pick it up entry-after-entry, no questions asked. It’s Pokémon! However, I was really hoping the series would take a true generational leap when it arrived on the Switch. It didn’t. ‘The Wild Area’ is as close as we’re getting to anything like that — unless the game has a few more tricks up its sleeve?
Wei Song: I’m an old guard, I stopped playing Pokémon after Gold/Silver. However, Pokémon is a cultural identity now and for all the complaints, people are going to lap it up.
Further reading: Nintendo Treehouse: Live shows off more Sword and Shield
Kenneth: Apart from making Ikumi Nakamura an overnight Internet sweetheart, the GhostWire: Tokyo presentation also gave us an unorthodox and rather cryptic glimpse into the game. What gives, Bethesda?
Ade: I’ll just echo what has already been said: Ikumi Nakamura brought a measure of authentic enthusiasm to what is normally a dry carousel of executives praising their games and/or platforms. We may not have seen any shred of gameplay for GhostWire, but the gorgeous cinematic speaks plenty about the visual treatment promised by this concept-artist-turned-director.
Tim: Evil Within and its sequel were such fantastic horror games in their own right, so I expect GhostWire: Tokyo to bring a similarly unique twist to the horror genre. From its description, we’ll be doing a lot less fighting, than uncovering conspiracies and seeking out the truth. It sounds really fresh and interesting, and I expect no less from Tango Gameworks. Here’s hoping for more gameplay soon!
Tim: The Doomguy is back, ripping and tearing until it is done. From the (amazing) gameplay we’ve seen thus far, our beloved Marine is getting a whole bunch of upgrades in this sequel — from a grappling meathook to a flamethrower sitting on his shoulder. Id Software teased tons of new exotic locations in the story, including but possibly not limited to earth, hell and heaven itself. I can’t tell which I’m more excited for: the game itself, or the amazing soundtrack by Mick Gordon that will surely accompany it.
Ade: What I love about the new Doom is its ability to bridge old-school FPS gameplay with modern technical expectations, and they do it so bleeding well! And now we’re getting a meathook and a flamethrower? Where do I sign up?
Destroy All Humans!
Tim: “Ich will” Cryptosporidium-137 says, flying in his spaceship. “Ich will,” he says, picking up a cow and throwing it at an innocent barbecuer. “Ich will,” he says, jetpacking into our lives once again, after so long. Destroy All Humans is like GTA with aliens, mixed with a whole bunch of crass parody. It was everything to a much younger me, and it’s just the best feeling to know this series is coming back with a graphical facelift.
Ade: Some buried franchises you don’t expect a remake. FF7? Yeah it’s mind-boggling, but fans have been asking for years. Destroy All Humans? I think you’d only see those requests buried deep inside forums and publisher inboxes. Not that I mind, though, because I welcome our new alien overlords with wide, open arms. The game was great on PS2; I’d expect it to be just as fun for PS4.
Best of E3 2019: Games
Winner — Cyberpunk 2077
The GAX team is excited for a wide variety of games coming out of E3, but what we’re all most enthused about, unanimously, shouldn’t come as a surprise. The reasons were many: a love of the genre and the close involvement of its source material’s creator; the general confidence and goodwill towards developers CD Projekt RED; or simply the showmanship of their presentation (for what is E3 but a massive stage and lights)? Of course, all the coverage of its new closed-door demo helped, too.
Having said that, there were plenty of other announcements and updates that were near and dear to our individual hearts. Their inclusion in the above list should serve as an initial list, and we can’t wait to get our hands on them to see if they live up to the promise.