At E3 2018 one game conspicuously stood out from the pack: Control. Remedy Entertainment, the makers of Max Payne and Alan Wake, has announced a brand new sci-fi / horror title set within an apartment building with a constantly shifting interior. This is not what sets it apart from the pack however. What truly sets it apart is the fact that the game stars a female protagonist, and yet its reveal trailer did not make a huge song and dance about this fact. Maybe Remedy’s marketing department simply did not get the memo that this year was all about the conspicuous shoehorning of female protagonists, but until we receive evidence to the contrary Remedy deserve to be afforded the benefit of the doubt. Sam Lake probably had a cool idea for a female protagonist, and so they went with that.
Every other major title featuring a female protagonist that was announced at this year’s E3, did so in a conspicuously smug way – as though the concept of having a female protagonist were their original creation! It was conspicuously ideological, but not ideological in a way that seeks to persuade and bridge the divide between positions. Rather, they were ideological in a way that is deliberately divisive, and designed to BTFO the half of the audience that they disagree with.
Really though, female protagonists are not a new concept. Samus Aran is a towering figure among Nintendo fans, Jill Valentine is this author’s favourite Resident Evil character (and she makes one hell of a sandwich), Aya Brea was compelling enough that interest in Parasite Eve has survived two mediocre sequels, and despite the various shortcomings of Final Fantasy X-2 one has never met a person that did not think that Yuna was a huge upgrade to Tidus. Female protagonists have always been with us, and they have made for some of the most compelling characters in gaming – but there is a huge difference between female characters and female-shaped virtue signals, and that difference was in stark evidence at this year’s E3.
On paper Sony should have had a good E3 conference. In fact, after Sony’s conference was cut into individual videos it made for some damn entertaining content. That being said, Sony’s conference when taken as a whole was one of the worst, mostly due to an extremely poor beginning. Sony’s conference began in a church with a guy playing a banjo. The first game up was The Last of Us 2, so the banjo music was theme appropriate. The banjo transitioned into game footage, and here is where things started falling apart. The footage that Naughty Dog chose to open with was one of the ugliest kisses ever committed to screen. It was a lesbian kiss, but that is almost beside the point of its ugliness. The Hollywood kiss exists for a reason – that being that natural human kiss is not the most attractive sight to a third party observer. Naughty Dog delivered an extremely realistic kiss, and it went on for far too long, to the extent that one begins to feel like a voyeur for watching. Beyond that, Ellie’s new gall pal is a singularly ugly creature who asks Ellie to sniff her before before the kiss. Naughty Dog wanted to eliminate any possibility that the male gaze could find something to enjoy here.
The smelly lesbian kiss was not even the biggest problem that Naughty Dog’s presentation posed to Sony’s overall event. Naughty Dog held their presentation in a church, because holding a disgusting lesbian kiss in a church is transgressive and subversive – but the problem was that Sony had picked a different venue for their show. Thus, following Naughty Dog’s event there was essentially fourteen minutes of dead air while the audience was relocated from the church to Sony’s theater for the remainder of the presentation.
Once Sony’s presentation got going again back at the theater they had booked out, the remainder of the event was actually very good. Next up was Ghost of Tsushima, which looks fucking awesome. The segment started with some prime cultural appropriation committed by a gaijin playing a reed flute, and culminated with awesome samurai action. If this author was ignorant of the game and then someone suggested that it was being developed by Capcom’s Onimusha team, then one would have little reason to doubt them. It is actually being developed by Western studio Sucker Punch though. This marked the first time that footage for the game has been shown.
Next up was the reveal of Control, which looks great, and has already been mentioned at length. This was followed by the first footage of the Resident Evil 2 remake, which was comprised entirely of cutscenes, and looked fucking awesome. One’s anticipation for the game dropped precipitously following the presentation when Capcom actually showed off the title and it was revealed that the game is set entirely in the dark. To be fair this author seems to be literally the only person on the internet who has an issue with this, but the original Resident Evil 2 was not set entirely in the dark, and nor have any of the other games been set entirely in the darkness. To each their own.
Next up the first ‘gameplay’ for Death Stranding was shown, and one is using the term ‘gameplay’ here in the most trollish way possible. The ‘gameplay’ here consisted entirely of slow walking through drab environments. If Death Stranding has anything to get hype for, then it was not in evidence here. Finally Nioh 2 was announced, and it was more Nioh for anyone who cannot get enough of off-brand Dark Souls.
Nintendo’s conference lacked forced poz, so they almost win E3 by default due to the fact that they did not attempt to run off one half of the audience. That being said, there were significant problems with Nintendo’s conference. Going into E3 we knew that the Switch only really had Smash and Pokemon Let’s Go leading into the Christmas season, and Nintendo’s E3 showing did nothing to bolster this line-up. Fully one half of their conference was also given over to Smash Bros., and this is made all the more perplexing due to the fact that it is very clearly just a Wii U port. Also, there was something really fucked up going on with Reggie’s mouth. It was weird.
In terms of cool new game announcements, Marvelous’ mecha action game Daemon X Machina looks fucking awesome. Fire Emblem: Three Houses was also announced. It looked to nicely expand the Fire Emblem formula, and players are now free to run around and explore their own castles. Hopefully this release is not being handled by the censorious cunts at Treehouse. Nintendo revealed that on September 14 their expansion Xenoblade Chronicles 2: Torna ~ The Golden Country will be hitting the Switch, which is great for season pass holders. Switch owners will also be able to pick up the title at retail, and it really does look to be a full-blooded expansion in the best sense of the word. Finally, there is a new demo available for Octopath Traveler right now. Players will be able to play the first three chapters of each character’s story ahead of the game’s July 13 release, and then have that progress directly carry through to the full game.
E3: Announcement Summary
– Tower of Babel
– Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
– Nioh 2
– Gears of War 5
– Devil May Cry 5
– Daemon X Machina
– Fire Emblem: Three Houses
– Metal Wolf Chaos
– Fallout 76
– Wolfenstein Youngblood
– Rage 2
– Battletoads (Sort of)
– Starfield (sort of)
– The Elder Scrolls VI (sort of)
Overall impressions are that E3 2018 was an absolute shitshow. Looking at an itemised account of what happened though, and it does not seem all that bad. Even if one excludes every single pozzed E3 announcement, we are still left with a nice little handful of newly announced games, which beats E3 2017. It really goes to show that when the presentation is lacking then everything else seems lacking too, even when it is not. We have a better pile of announcements this year, but the professionalism of E3 2017 far outclassed this year’s showing.