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The E3 Bulletin: Tuesday

Sci-fi! Spencer! Sadness!

God bless Ubisoft. God save Yves Guillemot. All hail the mad, plucky French company with nothing but an infinite number of studios and vast reserves of cash to plough into doing E3 in the grand traditional style: daft showcases, huge games, and things that make you feel sincerely adoring of this pastime we spend so much on. Rabbids! Mario! Tears! Licenced Music! Astonishing visions! Toys! Fan service! And, yes, an awful lot of pre-rendered footage and vanishingly small amounts of actual gameplay but shush with your cynicism, there, you'll scare the fairies away.

Monday did not dawn so brightly. The first day of E3 week is now the third day of E3, and having been awake all night for the Bethesda conference it felt like the seventh. Pleasingly, the PC Gaming Show didn't exacerbate the sensation as it normally does, moving at a decent clip through a lineup of genuinely interesting, none-more-PC titles that got young Bratt's heart all a-flutter.

We got the promised XCOM 2 DLC, the latest game from Klei, a new look at Mount and Blade 2: Bannerlord and the newly-renamed Tunic (formerly known as Secret Legend). Host Day9 handled things well, the most toe-curling corporate stuff happened in the Intel-brand pre-show that nobody watched, and we got crowd-pleasers in the form of mantling in PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds and the return of the OG Age of Empires.

There was a short break before the Ubiverse broke through into our own reality, which was filled with the first set of interviews and off-message stories as people started talking to press without the aid of a teleprompter. After the conspicious absence of VR from Microsoft's showcase. (Phil Spencer told the BBC that it's focusing on mixed reality, which is a polite way of saying he doesn't want it to all go a bit HD-DVD.) Assorted Microsoft spokespersons further clarified that it's "proud" that Xbox One X costs so much, that it's Sony's fault that Minecraft isn't cross-play on Playstation.

You can now buy one of history's ugliest controllers, or follow Bertie and make your own (in the UK). The Witcher 3 is getting hi-def patches after all.

We rolled up to Ubisoft expecting gentle disappointment due to the previously confirmed absence of host Aisha Tyler, but were immediately blown away by Miyamoto bursting through the back door with a stylised Nerf gun to debut the new Rabbids X Mario game. The man is pure joy in human form, and his gleeful enthusiasm had the audience rapt and the game director in tears at the sheer moment of it all.

Thus moved, we were then immediately flummoxed by the game itself. Mario with Rabbids, and guns, and XCOM of all things sounds like the end result of a brainstorming session gone wrong, with ideas piled on top of each other until the combination made sense, but it looks... actually good? It's out in August, too, which means we're suddenly in the position where Switch has a new game per month.

The games lineup was the usual mix of predictable sequels (Assassin's Creed, Far Cry 5, Just Dance) unpredictable sequels (The Crew 2 adds planes and boats, but not any reason to exist) and WTF-worthy asides. Having made a big show of giving Assassin's Creed a year off to rediscover its magic, Ubisoft then gave us an unfortunate glimpse at the sausage factory by showing off new features cribbed from Far Cry Primal, and an entire game - Skull and Bones - lifted wholesale from the Assassin's Creed parts bin. Still, everybody loved the pirate bits of AC4 and we will not complain at their return.

At other end of the rationality spectrum Starlink takes Ubisoft into toys-to-life maybe eighteen months after everybody else gave up, which suggests either blind optimism or sunk cost fallacy, and it wasn't clear if Elijah Wood-fronted VR curio Transference was even a game. Then there was the triumphant finale: finally, Beyond Good and Evil is back, albeit in the form of a fully-rended cinematic short that looked like a Fifth Element fan film. Michel Ancel got on stage and started tearing up too. It was a really lovely reveal that energised all present, and we're not even going to talk about the fact that there's no real indication that the game exists or ever will do. Yves will take care of us, have faith.

The Sony conference was less uplifting, focusing as it did on grim perseverance rather than cross-dressing rabbits. Sony ruined the sleep patterns of the UK team still further by bursting into life half an hour early while we were still swigging whiskey and playing Mario Kart: a release "window" for GT Sport, Housemarque's latest, Super Hot VR and the news that PSX is back in Anaheim on 9th December.

Then things finally swung into life with some wittering about TV and a live band in front of an on-stage waterfall, which felt less like a Hot New Exclusives and more like a mid-tier Vegas casino. Then actual Uncharted gameplay started but the audio didn't, leaving us to amuse ourselves by playing Tom Cruise outtakes over the stream.

Once things finally got going it was a weirdly underwhelming experience: Days Gone confirmed zombie bears as one of this year's recurring motifs but, crowd physics aside, it didn't look all that interesting: all brutal melee takedowns and gruff post-apocalyptic stabbing.

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Monster Hunter World offered brutal melee takedowns on dinosaurs and thus was much better. Marvel vs Capcom briefly excited with the realisation that Marvel has some much weirder characters on the go now, with Rocket Raccoon vs Mega Man clearly the fight of the century. CoD WW2 sure looked like WW2 only shinier, the Destiny 2 trailer didn't reveal anything all that exciting, the Shadow of the Colossus remake looks lovely but really, the original did too. The most interesting addition was probably the mobile-based Hidden Agenda, although it seems unlikely to beat Subterfuge as the most effective way to lose friends with a video game.

VR filled the gap where Vita once was - although we did get Undertale on Vita so it's not technically dead - and an extended look at Spider-Man was an acceptable finale despite an excess of quick-time events.

Nothing there that you'd call a real stinker - although discovering that David Cage is trying to address slavery in Detroit: Become Human does suggest we're in for some awkward conversations later on - but after Microsoft resorted to Dragon Ball Z to plug the gaps in its conference we'd hoped for a more emphatic riposte. Still, given that Sony's sat on a massive sales lead, you can't blame it for parking the bus.

It's all fine, though, because today it's Nintendo's turn and it can't put a foot wrong at the moment. Oh, and the show actually opens - don't forget, everything so far has just been the preview. We'll be back tomorrow, with the benefit of proper sleep, to round up everything from the show floor.

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