by Matthew Thompson
I haven’t found myself as excited this year in the lead up to E3 as I usually am. Part of that has just been being busy in real-life and not thinking about it as much as I once did. Part of it is me preferring to go into game experiences more blind these days. And part of it I think has to do with the diminished importance of the expo to publishers. Sony and Nintendo in particular have been announcing their games throughout the year as opposed to saving them for the E3 stage. So I guess I’m not expecting as many surprises as normal. But with less than a week to go, I find my anticipation for E3 rising and I’m here to do my usual mix of pre-show expectations, predictions and wishes. Here it goes!
Upon announcing their showcase at E3, Sony mentioned four upcoming games that will be a focus for them and they are all huge titles: Spider-man, Death Stranding, Ghosts of Tsushima, and The Last of Us Part II. With two prior appearances at E3, I’m not really looking to see more on Spider-man though I’m very excited to play it this September. I am curious to see how Death Stranding plays (assuming they even show gameplay), but as the rare gamer who didn’t really care much for the Metal Gear Solid series and Death Stranding striking me a bit as weird for the sake of being weird (which I hate), I can’t say it has me all that jazzed for its E3 showing. Ghosts of Tsushima is the perfect example of the kind of game I want to see more of at E3. A new IP from a developer I love that I know very little about. The original trailer looked fantastic and after the Sly and inFamous games, anything Sucker Punch does has my attention.
The Last of Us Part II is a little trickier. It is by far my most anticipated game on the horizon, Naughty Dog’s next game always is. And yet as I mentioned at the top of this post, I have been trying to go into games a bit more blind than I did in the older days. This is doubly true for story-driven linear games. This is triply true for Naughty Dog games (especially after they showed way too much of Uncharted 3 pre-release). On the other hand, one of my favorite parts of E3 is listening to developer interviews and hearing their passion for their projects. And of course as my favorite development studio, I like listening to no one more than Naughty Dog. It’s a bit of a conundrum. I suspect (or perhaps hope) with this being its first gameplay unveiling it will lean towards being a sort of meat-and-potatoes gameplay demo which would be more in line with what I’d want to see rather than some sort of spoilery action or story sequence. Anyway, I guess what I am trying to say is that I’m excited to see the next work from my favorite developers and the sequel to one of my all-time favorite games, but I’m going to try to not see too much!
As far as new announcements or surprises, it is hard to imagine what Sony could have in store. Their major internal studios all either have games announced already or have only recently released their last ones. Perhaps Sony Japan could have something in the works, but I’m guessing any big surprises would be collaborations with outside developers ala Spider-man. Perhaps From Software’s next game. I think my biggest, somewhat-realistic hope would be a new Sly Cooper game. They announced the animated series last year. Maybe we will get an update about that and a new game to launch alongside it. Of course, my biggest, completely unrealistic wish would be a new entry in my all-time favorite series: Jak and Daxter! The release of the PS2 games on PS4 last Fall must mean something right? Right!? Well, probably not. But if nothing else, E3 is good excuse for me to dream of seeing the dynamic duo again for a few days and I will be doing just that until after Sony’s conference comes and goes.
I’ve really enjoyed my Nintendo Switch. It had a stellar first year of software (even if it came at the cost of abandoning the Wii U in its final year… I’ll never stop grumbling about this *grumble grumble*). I suspect 2019 will be another excellent year for the young system. I’m not sure the 2018 line-up, which Nintendo intends to focus on at E3, looks as appealing to me personally. There is no arguing that Super Smash Bros. and Pokemon represent huge titles for Nintendo fans, but they aren’t favorites of mine. I’d assume Metroid Prime 4 and Bayonetta 3 are headed for 2019. The new Yoshi game is still one of my most anticipated games and my renewed love affair with Splatoon 2 multiplayer has me looking forward to the Octoling expansion more than ever, but at this point I think I just want release dates for them (though a final title for the Yoshi game would be nice too!).
As for possible surprise announcements, there are tons of Nintendo series I’d love to see make an appearance on the Switch. A 2D Zelda or Mario. Luigi’s Mansion. Animal Crossing. Mario Kart 9 or a new Diddy Kong Racing. The Mario + Luigi RPG series. And as I say just about any chance I get, I think Nintendo should make more spin-offs like Captain Toad for other series or characters to fill in gaps between the major tent pole releases. Of course, new IPs from Nintendo are always welcome. Splatoon was a big winner in that regard in recent years. This is normally where I’d wish for a new action/adventure IP in the vein of Zelda/Metroid from Retro Studios, but recent rumors have dashed my hopes a bit. I can’t say the idea of a Star Fox racing title has me very excited (though I’ll keep an open mind). More unfortunate is the suggestion that the other title they were working on – perhaps something more in line with my wishes or perhaps not – hasn’t really been going well. Regardless, I hope Nintendo has a few tricks up their sleeve (I personally would have no issue if they announced something for next year, but it sounds like they won’t be doing that).
My other big question for the Switch is that of third-party support. Leaks have outed some big games (ie. Fortnite) likely coming to Nintendo’s hybrid, but I’m curious to see if the system will see any big hitters from third-parties arriving on Switch day and date with PS4 and Xbox One. That would be a sign of publishers’ larger commitment to the system. And will we see anything unique like last year’s Mario + Rabbids? That game was a surprise highlight of 2017 for me and I’d love to see more worthwhile exclusive software like that hitting the Switch in the future, whether they be wholly original games or odd collaborations that leverage existing Nintendo properties in new ways like Kingdom Battle did.
As someone’s main or only console, the Xbox One will likely keep you plenty busy, but as someone who plays all his third-party games elsewhere, it has become a streaming box for my bedroom at the best of times and unhooked in favor of moving one of my other consoles there for a bit at the worst. I want to be excited for something on my Xbox One, but I’m having a tough time lately. They don’t have those top-shelf first-party teams where you are dying to know what they are working on next like the other two console manufacturers do. Sure, I will play the next Halo and Gears of War entries (I am wondering what this alleged Gears spin-off is that might make an appearance next week) and E3 will no doubt feature the next Forza, but I’m looking for something else from them too. I don’t know what that is, but Phil Spencer has touted the importance of first-party development in recent years and I hope we see that bear fruit next week.
Beyond that, I really enjoy Microsoft’s conferences for getting my first look at big third-party titles and appealing indie games whether they be exclusive or not. I can’t wait to get my hands on Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Microsoft’s indie sizzle reel always brings some new gems to my attention. I expect my two most wanted games from third-party publishers to make a showing at MS’s presser as well though I will jump into those titles more specifically in the section below.
While I may be the least excited about the Microsoft briefing at E3, I also know the least about what they have in store for the future. Taking the glass half full viewpoint, perhaps that means they have the most to reveal. We’ll see soon enough.
There are a slew of new third-party games, both confirmed and rumored, that I’m keen to get a peek at. At the top of my list are Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Cyberpunk 2077. My love for the Tomb Raider series is well-known and while I was a bit lukewarm on the 2013 reboot, I was rather taken by its sequel Rise of the Tomb Raider. I don’t expect Shadow to re-invent things during the final part of this trilogy, but I do want to see how they might evolve the current formula especially with a new developer at the helm. The talk of higher difficulty, more in-depth tombs and a greater emphasis on swimming (this is the rare series where I like swimming!) has all sounded great to me so far. As for Cyberpunk 2077, I have no idea what to really expect or if this is a game I will even be into. But The Witcher 3 remains my favorite RPG and I want to see what CDPR’s next game will look like. The fact that I am so in the dark on it just makes its likely appearance at E3 that much more exciting.
Of all the rumored-but-not-actually-announced games that might make an appearance at E3, Splinter Cell definitely tops my wish list. Blacklist was a criminally underrated title that seemed to get lost in the shuffle of the transition from 7th to 8th gen. It did a great job of blending the action-movie stylings of Conviction into a more stealth-driven affair reminiscent of the earlier games in the series. I can’t believe it has been five years since it came out. I really hope E3 brings us our first look at Sam Fisher’s next outing. I’d also love some details on what is next for Life is Strange. I really enjoyed both entries in the series so far and the next game from original developer Dontnod is expected to be a fresh start for the series. New characters, new setting and maybe something new along the lines of the first’s time manipulation too? A tease of what Life is Strange has in store for gamers next would certainly be welcome.
This barely scratches the surface of what third-parties could have to show at the event. Crystal Dynamics’ Avengers game. Whatever Rocksteady is working on. Devil May Cry 5. Beyond Good & Evil 2. Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey. Anthem. A new Crash Bandicoot game (this is clearly on the horizon, but I’m unsure if they would wait until after the Spyro trilogy releases to announce that). And then whatever unexpected surprises await us that I couldn’t possibly predict.
Well, that is surely enough pre-E3 rambling from me. What games are you most looking forward to seeing at E3? What game do you most wish would be announced? Let me know in the comments below. Also, thanks for anyone who stopped by to check out this post. Life has gotten in the way of my blogging the past couple months, but I plan (or hope) to be back to semi-regular posting going forward. Along with my usual post-E3 reaction article, I have some other stuff in the works for both games and television including a look back at the best new TV series of the year so far and what I’ve been playing since I’ve been on hiatus. So be on the lookout for those soon. As always, thanks for reading!