The E3 Bulletin: Monday
Forza! Anthem! Nazis! The joy of X!
Once again we are doing daily E3 bulletins from show, posted every morning UK time. Here's what you missed over the weekend.
It's been another year and E3 still isn't dead, despite the pundits' proclamations. Instead it has morphed and spread, changing from a tightly-crammed few days of conferences into a rolling week-long slog of events and livestreams and endless, endless Content, to be consumed ceaselessly until the end of civilisation. The public are officially allowed in this year, and early indications are that a) all the exhibitors got a memo saying they had to talk up The Players, and b) the merch stand is expecting people to be impossibly hype just to be there.
The merch at this year's E3 is just impossibly lame. pic.twitter.com/JqT6zM16ce- Ben Hanson (@yozetty) June 11, 2017
EA set the tone two days early and miles away from E3 itself, with its EA Live event coming from a Creator Cave that looked like a battery farm for YouTubers, relentlessly creating Content while awkward conversations about dynamic gameplay were conducted behind them. The conversations were largely conducted by other, more famous YouTubers, who displayed varying degrees of fluency and a steely dedication to hype of the sort that even dedicated marketeers struggle with.
The games lineup was predictable and predictably good. The new Need for Speed is trying to do story, again, and the story is The Fast and Furious, again. Nice slo-mo crashes though. FIFA 18 continues the Journey, and the Switch version is actually pretty good. Madden is getting a The Journey-style story mode, NBA Live 18 is getting... something, and Battlefield 1 is getting some new DLC set in Russia. We got our first closeup shot of somebody being knifed to death, so E3 had definitely begun.
The first big hit was Battlefront 2 has a proper-singleplayer mode - seemingly at the direct request of John Boyega - along with everything else that everybody wanted in the first game, including an absence of season pass (although expect microtransactions to make up the difference). This news was spoiled slightly by its being debuted in a 30-minute multiplayer match with shoutcaster commentary. Everybody brightened up considerably at the sight of first Boyega, who displayed enthusiasm and genuine star quality, and then Battlefront 2 actress Janina Gavankar, who was similarly charismatic and filled the sass void left by Ubisoft not being hosted by Aisha Tyler. The shoutcasters just couldn't compete.
Congratulations to [TEAM]! pic.twitter.com/kJR2GaE0Zm- Chris Bratt (@bratterz) June 10, 2017
EA's Designated Indie Game this year was another highlight: A Way Out is a co-op release from Josef Fares, frontman for Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. Fares had a great time demoing it and Tom had a good time playing it. Proceedings ended with a glimpse of Bioware's new game, now called Anthem, and a note to come back for Microsoft's conference to see it properly. So we did.
Not to be outdone in the whooping enthusiast stakes, Microsoft kitted out its crew of cheerleaders with terrible T-shirts ahead of the proper debut of the console formerly known as Xbox Scorpio. It must have provided a lot of energy drink too, given the extended, cacophonous hooting that greeted every sentence as execs recited an unfathomable spec list that sounded like the back of one of those early-2000s graphics card boxes with chrome-finish demons on the front.
Talk of world records and liquid cooling left us in no doubt as to the capability and the show had a recurrent theme of POWER, although it missed the opportunity to badge its frontman as Phil "The Power" Spencer. The tiny size of the thing is sincerely amazing, as is the fact it's called Xbox One X. Credit to Microsoft for coming up with a SKU that abbreviates to XBOX, at least.
this crowd is really into teraflops- OutsideXbox (@OutsideXbox) June 11, 2017
Daft name aside, it clearly has the promised tech prowess which means it's a bit of a shame that the show opened with Forza Motorsport, a game whose shininess stopped being readily perceptible by the human eye three games ago, and whose party piece this time round is the exclusive debut of a new Porsche. The problem with this is that famously, every Porsche looks the same, so this is just another Porsche with a bodykit. Unfortunately this turned out to be a recurring theme of the show, which contained quite a few games you've already played but with 4K go-faster stripes appended.
The genuine surprise was Metro Exodus, which looked spectacular and moves from rancid sewers to an open world, although both remain filled with horrible mutants. It was followed by Assassin's Creed Origins, which looks like the usual Ubi parts-bin combination but with Destiny-style weapon levelling, and Middle-Earth: Shadow of War, which introduces newer and much chattier orcs. The grand finale was the proper look at Bioware's new game Anthem, which on closer inspection appears to be an odd combination of Destiny, Titanfall and Avatar.
The intervening hour was relentlessly action-packed, tearing through game footage with nary a pause for breath - but it was heavy on PC games and light on novelty, giving the impression that having built the world's most powerful console Microsoft is struggling to find people to do anything with it. Black Desert Online, Dragon Ball Z and Ashen are fine games but not really show-off fodder for £450 console. Minecraft 4K still looks a lot like Minecraft, although the new version has cross-platform play as long as you aren't on Playstation.
Still, given Microsoft's historic missteps it would be churlish to argue with too many games, and Spencer didn't put a foot wrong. PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds is a great signing and it was good to see the Life Is Strange prequel Before The Storm too. There were some very strong-looking indie games, with recurring heroes Tacoma and Cuphead (now with an actual release date) joined by new and exciting The Artful Escape and The Last Night. More baffling was the bit where a bearded man yelled at a game that is apparently called The Darwin Project, and squirrel game that looked like it was by Rare but wasn't.
In terms of Actual Exclusives we had State of Decay 2, Sea of Thieves, Ori and the Will of the Wisps and Crackdown 3, the latter improved by Terry Crews shouting about it and worsened by the realisation that he's only in the trailer, not the game. It looked like destruction isn't in the game either, although we were subsequently assured that's not the case. Out in November, too.
Spencer then managed to repeat a previous party trick by announcing backwards compatibility again, this time for OG Xbox titles, which means you can now play Xbox one games on Xbox One. That means Crimson Skies in the first instance, although further games have to be ported over one by one so they might never make it to Sudeki.
A very strong showing but not an earth-shaking one, then, and once again it leaves Sony with a bit too much room to sweep in dominate. We managed a few hours' sleep and then it was time for Bethesda, which had had its thunder more comprehensively stolen with the previous leaks of Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus and Evil Within 2 via the great E3 tradition of leaked retail listings.
Even if that hadn't happened it would still have been a rather underwhelming show, zipping past in 30 minutes and mostly covering things we'd seen already - after a deeply weird opening montage of the dev teams' children. The biggest news was a new standalone Dishonored game about killing the Outsider, which looks like overgrown DLC - we're not complaining - and will be out in September. Evil Within 2 got the first "weird cover of classic pop song" of E3 (sorry Ubisoft) although there wasn't really much in the way of gameplay.
We were reminded of the Morrowind expansion for the Elder Scrolls Online, which looks a lot better now than it did at launch, and there's a Skyrim expansion for Elder Scrolls Legends. Doom VR and Fallout 4 VR are full games now, and there's a big Quake Champions, er, Championship at QuakeCon. You can buy mods for Skyrim and Fallout - although confusingly, not sell them. Finally, Wolfenstein 2 received a long, gloriously mad trailer that supercut period TV footage, cinematics selected seemingly at random and grand Nazi-slaying gunplay. A must-buy, basically, and it's out in September too.
Proceedings then rolled right into Devolver's conference which was a baffling pre-recorded fever dream, and we're far too tired to make sense of it so we're calling the weekend done. Come back tonight for Sony, or tomorrow morning for the Monday roundup.