The annual E3 video game convention is a gamer’s paradise. This year’s model brought 70,000 insiders and fans to Los Angeles, California for three days of giveaways, tournaments and announcements, blowing minds (and eardrums) with over-the-top presentations of hundreds of cutting-edge games. Though it lacked headline-grabbing hardware news, the expo was jam-packed with impressive upcoming software for every platform under the sun. But some games show better than others. In no particular order, here are my favorite ten games from E3 2018.
CD Projekt Red has already established themselves as the master craftsmen of video games with their Witcher trilogy. The question remained, however, can a studio steeped in the tropes of medieval fantasy successfully make the transition to futuristic dystopia? And if the Cyberpunk 2077 trailer at the Xbox conference and the 50 minutes behind the scenes demo are any indication, the answer is a resounding yes. While the in-engine trailer hearkens back to how Rockstar introduces its games- a showing of the vibrant world and its colorful inhabitants, the gameplay demo available only to the journalists makes a bold statement. CDPR isn’t treading on familiar grounds, rather it wants to break new ones. Tons of character customization, their trademark stringed quests and choices, a breathtaking open world with a brand new first-person perspective- the Polish developers have set a higher bar than even their previous masterpiece. And I for one can’t wait to get my hands on the final product.
Resident Evil 2
Woe to any team that tries to remake a beloved game and doesn’t do it right. Thankfully, that doesn’t appear to be the case with Resident Evil 2, Capcom’s attempt at remaking the revered horror masterpiece. Incorporating a modern third-person camera from another critically hit entry Resident Evil 4, sharp visuals from a more recent Resident Evil 7 and a more fleshed-out story, the game still retains the classic horror elements along with its great multi-layered puzzles. Resident Evil 2 feels like the game in our memories, rather than that actual game. Which is just what a remake should be, of course.
Dying Light 2
Zombie-apocalypse vision Dying Light 2 is overhauling every system in the game from the lauded first game. Revamped choices and consequences will drastically change how the world reacts to players, with the story written by veteran narrative designer Chris Avellone. The free-flowing parkour movement and creative means of zombie-killing that people loved about the first game are all there with full force, but this time with an open world that reacts to your choices and alliances. I, however, am looking forward to the scariest part of the game, the nights- with faster and more vicious zombies that are relentless in their pursuit for you.
The Last of Us Part II
One would be hard-pressed to name a video game with more emotional resonance than the soulful, harrowing post-apocalyptic survival story of The Last of Us. Following it up seems like a Sisyphean task, but the talented team at Naughty Dog is more than up to the task if their E3 presentation during Sony’s press conference is any indication. The demo made my jaw physically drop with the much-improved gameplay, tense enemy encounters and probably the most ambitious character animations the gaming industry has ever seen. The masterful juxtaposition of the jolly opening scene and the brutal gameplay that followed makes me certain that creative director and writer Neil Druckmann has retained his mastery to switch tones organically from the first game. Starring Ellie at the forefront this time around, the game has added jump and crawl buttons and bigger and more vertically designed levels for some incredible gameplay moments. Safe to say, The Last of Us Part II has set its eyes to surpass the original in every way. And I expect nothing less.
Ghost of Tsushima
Sucker Punch Productions leaves the superpowered world of Infamous behind to travel back to 13th century Japan in a gorgeously rendered open-world adventure game that puts you in the well-worn armor and sandals of Jin Sakai, a samurai coming to grips with the fact that life as he knows it has come to an end. Based on the real-life Mongol invasion of Japan and, more specifically, Tsushima Island- this game is poised to win over the fans of the classic Samurai films and the Kurosawa enthusiasts. With stunning imagery of lush vistas and beautifully rendered combat, this game is an elegant, dazzling experience and looks like a promising new series that I can’t wait to explore.
Devil May Cry 5
After 10 years, director Hideaki Itsuno and the core team at Capcom have reunited to give us the “true” sequel to Devil May Cry 4. We return to Red Grave City, where a demonic invasion has begun. This event attracts Nero, the protagonist- the familiar face you might remember from Devil May Cry 4. Nero has lost his demonic arm, the source of his power. But fear not, the robotic replacement looks just as handy and stylishly cool. The combat and music give off that nostalgic vibes while the visuals have taken a hyper realistic approach. Capcom has recently been a on a role with their crowd-pleasing game lineup. But Devil May Cry 5 is surely the crown jewel of that accolade.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
At first glance, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice can be relegated to another FromSoftware production which draws too much from their already well established Soulsborne formula. But underneath, Sekiro tries to be much different from the bunch. Light stealth mechanics drawn from Tenchu, minimal RPG elements and more focus on swordplay than hacking and slashing makes the game a different beast altogether. Sekiro is set in Japan’s Sengoku period- a time of constant military conflict and social upheaval, but also drawing from Japanese myths and fantastical elements. This E3 didn’t have a shortage on Japan-set samurai action games, but Sekiro sets its own mark for sure.
Anthem had a tall order to live up to the last year’s ambitious reveal and on top of that, to break out of the EA stigma that has tainted the publisher’s reputation drastically. Bioware’s own Mass Effect Andromeda’s failure to make a splash coupled with EA’s Battlefront 2 microtransaction fiasco didn’t help as well. But after this year’s E3, I am much more confident in Bioware’s ability to give us a great game than I was before. The way the character’s Javelin exo suits feel is something quite special, as is the transition between flying and hovering and back again. There’s something really nice here, with Bioware nailing intuitive movement across, above and around an open world. More vertically designed levels give the players to maneuver and fly around in more creative ways and tackle enemy encounter accordingly. Taking queues from other shared world shooters and actions games like Destiny and Monster Hunter World, Anthem is shaping up to be a great time sink for those who want to play with friends in a fascinating world deeply rooted in rich lore and mysteries. While we’re busy asking “is this a true Bioware game?” the team itself has moved on and is confident about making a “new” type of Bioware game. Maybe it’s time for us fans to move along too.
Forza Horizon 4
At some point in the past couple of years, the playful, arcade-inflected “Forza Horizon” series passed up the hardcore “Forza Motorsport” simulation line as my favorite racing franchise. The next game puts the pedal to the metal by incorporating changing seasons into its open-world take on Great Britain; race in the snow during winter, across rainy puddles in spring, through sunny pastures and fields in summer and over leaf-filled roads in fall. A technical and mechanical showpiece for the Xbox One, it boasts a special gift for Xbox One X owners: an option to race at a blistering 60 fps. With the new McLaren Senna on its cover, Forza Horizon 4 seems to do the impossible again- to improve upon an already perfect formula. While other “shared-world games” have struggled with their identities and differentiating between the single and multiplayer elements, Forza Horizon 4 juggles those issues like a true master. The online to offline transition is seamless and it never kicks you out of your playing session. The online players outside your party can never grief you on the road. Overall, this iteration of the Forza Horizon franchise seems to keep its eyes on being the most robust and feature-heavy game in the series.
“A piano tune from Halo 3!”
“That was totally Master Chief but with the classic armor style!”
“Is that a Halo ring I see?!”
“Where is this buttery graphics coming from!”
Halo Infinite trailer is responsible for me to lose my voice during this E3 for all the screaming. A lifelong Halo fan, I can’t wait to see where 343 Industries is taking the Master Chief saga after their initial stumble during the first couple of years. After they took the franchise reigns from Bungie, it has not been a smooth sail. But responding heartily to fan feedback, Halo Infinite is being built from the ground up with a brand new SlipSpace Engine featuring all the things Halo fans love. After Halo 5: Guardians failed to excite the fan base, this is exactly the path 343i should follow to regain that trust and goodwill.