For years, people were clamouring for E3’s game conferences to quit the embarrassing attempts at courting mainstream coverage, me chief among them. It’s stupid, its silly and it makes us video gamers look like kindergarteners playing with finger paints. I clamoured for legitimacy in my keynotes loudly, with a bullhorn. Sometime around 2016, publishers listened. They quit the skits and stuck to trailers, gameplay demos and developers divulging details.
And I made a very important self-realisation that 90-straight minutes of nothing but video games is drop dead boring. I need the gaffes, the goofs, the variety acts that I can rip apart on twitter and make fun of with my friends. So do the publishers. After all, the only bad publicity is no publicity and nothing will get your conference trending like making a meme out of it.
Thank god then for all-singing, all-dancing, Ubisoft. They brought the crazy. They taught panda bears to dance, their developers did their own stunts and they kidnapped Shigeru Miyamoto. I’m now furiously tweeting how much I hated it and thought this time could have been used to announce a Splinter Cell game that doesn’t exist! Thank you Ubisoft!
Just Dance 2019
Behold the Dancing Pandas!
Beyond Good & Evil 2
This was how they should have announced the game in the first place. Tangible shots of both Pey’j and Jade mean that the fans are scratching their heads far less about whether their stories will be resolved. However, the last time we heard that this game existed it was supposed to be a prequel. Now we have visibly older versions of the characters from the first game. How will the timelines be untangled? Ubisoft keeps us on our toes with this one. Joseph Gordon Levitt was on hand too to tell us of the collaboration between B:G&E2 and his company HitRecord. Ubisoft have faced criticism for this move because it essentially means they will be crowdsourcing art assets, and probably saving money on what will no doubt be much cheaper labour than hiring freelancers directly. Personally though? I think this is a genius move, even it if is Machiavellian. Everyone I’ve known who loves the original game has either reams of poetry in their archives, an Instagram with thousands of artistic snaps or a library full of doodled-in notebooks. It may be exploitative, but there will be plenty of fans desperate to see their sketches in the final product.
Trials just gets crazier and crazier each year, and I think after crashing and burning out on the first one, I might finally be ready to dive back in. Their biggest game to date, the trailer ups the ante for all the hilarious and jaw-dropping ways you can fail miserably on these OTT courses. Mega props though to Creative Director, Antti Ilvessuo, who during the conference crashed through his own podium and then claimed to be the Prime Minister of Finland.
The Division 2
The big news for the second instalment of The Division is that for the first year at least, all the DLC will be free. Three episodes of content are planned to hit in the game’s first year and they will all feature new quests, new areas and new loot. It looks like publishers are finally getting the picture when it comes to ‘live services’. The second biggest thing is that there will finally be Raids in The Division series, something players have been crying out for in a game like this since the first game’s release over two years ago.
Nintendo continues to pop up in and around Ubisoft’s games, with Donkey Kong getting his own DLC in Mario – which was also announced through song, thank you very much Grant Kirkhope. Also, Starlink: Battle For Atlas, Ubisoft’s sci-fi dogfight, toys-to-life game which lets you take your action figure star ships and fly with them in virtual space sounds like the kind of thing that is right up Nintendo’s alley. That’s why they let Fox McCloud in as one of the characters. They even paid Shigeru Miyamoto to turn up so they could give him his own little miniature ships.
Skull & Bones
Skull & Bones’ trailer starts off with a boatload of cinematics. Makes me think that this game will be the fully-fledged pirate adventure I wanted, not just a naval combat simulator. They get me every time. It’s clear now that this game is essentially trying to be a photorealistic version of Sea of Thieves. Hopefully, they’ve been taking notes on that game’s content problem and will be looking to find more substantial ways of giving their players a good time.
As we come to cameo three of the night, it’s clear Ubisoft are the last of the publishers interested in giving us a proper conference. Elijah Wood is here to make me curse ‘big video games’ for giving us all these awkward celebrity moments, god bless him. He’s here to talk about his film studio’s new project, psychological thriller Transference. Described as a locked room mystery within a deranged mind, this FMV horror puts you in the shoes of a child and adding in an unstable father to the mix, upping the vulnerability stakes quite nicely. This could be The Shining for videogames.
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Every year, Ubisoft like to finish off with a showstopper. That tradition started with Watch Dogs and that honour has been given to such games as The Division, Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Steep. This year, it went to Assassin’s Creed Odyssey. A game that would have been a complete surprise if it hadn’t been leaked in a head-thuddingly dumb way as so many of these E3 announcements tend to do. Looking very much like Assassin’s Creed Origins, I’d imagine that to get games out at this scale only 12 months apart, it would involve quite a lot of asset and data sharing to move that quickly through development. This Assassin’s Creed looks as much of the spotlight stealer that Origins was, a huge, Witcher like RPG with incredible writing, voice acting and animation, held up by a robust stealth system and thrilling combat. The dialogue options seem a bit 2009 but innovation is hard I suppose on a yearly cycle as we seem to doing again. Even so, after years in the mire, Assassin’s Creed is again finding itself in a golden age of adventure.
As unpopular as this is to say. I bloody loved it. I loved ever panda bear, every musical interlude, every cringe-worthy celeb cameo, but I especially liked how good the games looked. The new Beyond Good & Evil content gave me much more confidence in the project, Trials looks to pull me back in again and Assassin’s Creed looks better than it ever has done. The best conference of E3 by far.