Anthem (Electronic Arts; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
An expansive third-person action game set on foreign planets, Anthem rides the coattails of Destiny, The Division and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Wildlands, and promises wide multiplayer support that will continue long after it launches . At first glance it looks a lot like Destiny, with four players in mech exosuits blasting away at space creatures with rifles, pulse cannons, grenades and missiles. There’s a touch of Horizon Zero Dawn in some of the dino-shaped mechs, Monster Hunter in the lush, dramatic environment and wildlife and Halo in the enemies and weapon design. In combat, Anthem recalls Titanfall, as you transition from hovering, to dodging, landing, sprinting and swimming, experimenting with the weighty arsenal of weapons. Developer BioWare is known for great stories: we’ve seen none of that aspect of Anthem yet, but it feels great to play.
Release: 22 February 2019
Cyberpunk 2077 (CD Projekt Red; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
The trailer suggests a fun, colourful, 1980s-inspired take on cyberpunk, but in reality Cyberpunk 2077 is gritty, featuring a lot of nudity, violence, swearing and drugs. The tone will turn off some: developer CD Projekt has gone with the grimiest interpretation of cyberpunk imaginable, creating a city beset by crime, corruption, corporate violence and poverty. It’s a first-person game, both during fights with a gun in your hand and in the city, talking and exploring. This is an intelligent and ambitious developer, so we can be sure there will be more to Cyberpunk 2077 than blood, swears and cyborg arms.
Dreams (Media Molecule; PS4)
Dreams is best described as a creative tool disguised as a video game. But while Media Molecule’s first game, LittleBigPlanet, let you create 2D platforming levels, the studio’s ambitious follow-up gives you enough tools and freedom to make everything from open-world adventure games to animated movies. Characters, locations, stories and puzzles can be designed from scratch or built from hundreds of templates – or you can just enjoy the experiences provided by the studio. We sat with co-founder Alex Evans and used the intuitive drag-and-drop interface to build a moving platform puzzle, adding a synth-pop soundtrack on top. It was the most relaxing and joyous 30 minutes we spent at the show.
Dying Light 2 (Techland; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Zombie-apocalypse vision Dying Light 2 is overhauling every system in the game, claimed lead designer Tymon Smektala at E3, and not just the free-flowing parkour movement and creative means of zombie-killing that people loved about the 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. Side with a brutal peacekeeping force trying to gain influence in the city, for instance, and survival will be easier for you – but its harsh brand of peace will disrupt the lives of other survivors. At E3, developer Techland only showed what happens during the day, when the wandering infected are weaker and easy to manage. But the nights, said Smektala, will be even scarier than before.
Forza Horizon 4 (Microsoft; PC, Xbox One)
There is something wonderful about seeing a modern, visually cutting-edge video game set in your home country. For Forza Horizon 4, the team at Playground Games travelled around Britain, distilling its most beautiful driving environments into a series of fictionalised locations, capturing everything from the rugged beauty of the Lake District to the quaint charm of a Cotswold village. We saw sheep scattering along misty hillside routes, the sun glinting in the windows of thatched cottages and rain pooling on mountain tracks. This will be the first Forza to include dynamic rolling seasons – each lasting a real-time week and greatly affecting handling and visibility conditions – and there is something poetic about this feature arriving here, in the country of endless weather chats.
Release: 2 October 2018
The Last of Us Part 2 (Sony; PS4)
Surely the most discussed trailer at E3, Sony’s first in-game footage from this long-awaited sequel showed us both Ellie’s relationship with another survivor, Dina, and a brutal section of gameplay in which she slaughters a gang of hostile survivors in an overgrown car park. The shocking juxtaposition between Ellie and Dina’s kiss in a peaceful church hall and the graphic scene of violence was too much for some viewers, who saw it as an attempt to appease conventional gamers alienated by the LGBT+ narrative perspective. But the presentation showed developer Naughty Dog’s ability to invest its games with human relationships and emotions, which should ensure this sequel is more than just another postapocalyptic tale of death and sacrifice.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps (Microsoft; PC, Xbox One)
The world is not short of whimsical platformers set in forests, but Ori and the Will of the Wisps is the most sumptuous looking and most fun to play. Running and jumping around in nature is enjoyable by itself, and is complemented by fluid combat against forest beasties, abilities that open up more of the woods to explore and extraordinary attention to detail: wind moves the leaves, grass and sand, the lighting is beautiful and the animation is silky smooth.
Rage 2 (Bethesda; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
It is yet another postapocalyptic shooter, but this collaboration between id Software, the granddaddy of first-person shooter games, and Just Cause creator Avalanche Studios was an unexpected hit at E3. A demo of the open-world action adventure had players blasting through an abandoned space port, taking out waves of punk rock gang members with hefty weapons and devastating special powers. It’s fast, brash and unapologetically gory, immediately reminding us of the underrated classic Bulletstorm. It was an enticing glimpse and we haven’t even seen the vehicular combat, where you will be able to face off against convoys of huge enemy trucks. As Avalanche also made the decent Mad Max tie-in, this element should prove equally exhilarating.
Resident Evil 2 Remake (Capcom; PC, PS4, XBOX)
The 1998 sequel to Capcom’s classic is arguably one of the greatest survival horror games. Following rookie cop Leon Kennedy and college student Claire Redfield as they seek refuge from a zombie outbreak in the abandoned Raccoon City police HQ, it juggles suspense, puzzles and monsters with sadistic purpose. Retaining the plot and characters, the remake remodels the environment, swaps a few familiar elements around and adds to the backstory, but, most noticeably, it drops the third-person view and awkward “tank” controls for an over-the-shoulder camera and a more physically capable avatar. However, through our tense play-through of an early scene when Leon first enters the police station, it’s clear the characters still move slowly and every encounter is riven with danger. The spirit of this classic game remains intact and we want more.
Release: 25 January 2019
Skull & Bones (Ubisoft; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Swooping into an ocean ruled by Rare’s Sea of Thieves, Ubisoft’s pirate battle simulator builds on the naval combat seen in Assassin’s Creed IV and promises single-player missions. multiplayer naval battles and an open world to fight through. In the E3 demo, players could choose from three ships – a slow tank-like beast loaded with heavy weapons, a more stealthy long-distance attack vessel and an all-rounder – before joining four other participants on a mission to sink computer-controlled merchant ships carrying ivory. Battles are intense and reasonably tactical, with cannons, rockets and the ability to ram other vessels all coming into play, alongside sailing techniques. There is none of the island exploration or comedic grog-drinking found in Rare’s game, but those looking for a seafaring take on the open-world survival shooter will be caught up in the adventure.
Release: Autumn 2018
Super Smash Bros Ultimate (Nintendo; Switch)
Super Smash Bros is the rare game that manages to draw in a huge audience of casual players with its cast of recognisable Nintendo characters (and special guests such as Sonic and Solid Snake) and fuel a thriving competitive scene of professional players who obsess over every frame. Ultimate will feature every single character from the series’ 20-year history and a few new ones, plus items, stages and cameos from even the most obscure games that Nintendo has ever made. It’s fast and fun, and will be perfect for playing with friends on the Switch.
Release: 7 December
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey (Ubisoft; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Set in ancient Greece, this story-driven historical action game looks glorious: the sun shines down on beautiful Greek islands, seas and architecture. For the first time you can play as either a male or female main character – a Spartan – in a time replete with interesting characters, myths and conflicts. Odyssey feels more like a role-playing game than other Assassin’s Creed games: you have more control over what your character says and does (and whom they romance), beyond which buildings they climb and who feels the sharp edge of their sword. There was a lot of challenging violence in the big games of this year’s E3 and, by comparison, Odyssey feels more like an old adventure novel.
Release: 5 October
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice (FromSoftware; PC, PS4, Xbox One)
A new game from FromSoftware and Hidetaka Miyazaki – the studio and director behind Dark Souls, one of the best games of a generation – is always going to generate excitement. Sekiro is set in a nightmare version of Sengoku-period Japan: you play a samurai with a missing arm, clashing swords with both humans and beasts, jumping and grappling around the place like a ninja. It is the atmosphere of fantastical Japan and the heart-stopping immediacy of the sword-fighting that stayed with us after seeing Sekiro at E3.
Ghost of Tsushima (Sucker Punch; PS4)
You wait years for a game set in medieval Japan, then two come along at once. Developer Sucker Punch’s game is a homage to beautiful samurai films: there is immense space and beauty in its shots, framed to take in the landscape as much as the katana-clashing action. A one-on-one duel under red maple trees, the leaves swirling around the combatants’ feet, was among the most visually stunning things we have seen in a video game. It tells a story set during the Mongol invasion of 1274. It is voiced both in English and Japanese, proving authenticity is important to the developer.
A nervous developer coming on-stage during Electronic Arts’s conference to announce Sea of Solitude, a thoughtful-looking game about loneliness, was one of the highlights of the show. Concrete Genie, about a boy whose graffiti comes to life, is moving along nicely: we had a good time hiding from bullies on rooftops and painting friendly monsters. Trials Rising, an infuriating and compelling game about racing motorbikes over absurd obstacle courses, gave us the biggest laughs. Déraciné, another FromSoftware game, is an intriguing virtual-reality fairy story; Tetris Effect, meanwhile, reimagines the classic game for VR and made us feel like we desperately needed a glass of water. Swinging around in Spider-Man felt freeing and ever so slightly vertigo-inducing. The Division 2 dropped us into a post-pandemic Washington with three other people and had us shooting up gangs of goons, and we enjoyed playing a second world war soldier in Battlefield V’s bombastic, large-scale Nordic battle. Tunic, a peaceful adventure game about a little fox whose softly drawn, winding landscapes hark back toward the isometic adventure puzzlers of the Spectrum era, and The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, a tale about a lonely boy who loves superheroes, were welcome palate cleansers after so much blockbuster action.