The most surprising thing about this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo — now in its 21st year — is just how lacking in surprise it was overall. There was no mic drop on the level of last year’s Xbox One backwards compatibility announcement or the legendary $399 PS4 reveal from Sony back in 2013. Still, even an uninspired E3 brings a number of great games and surprises with it, with the following being the announcements and events that really threw up for a loop.
10. Batman: Arkham VR
The fact that we’re getting a brand new game in the Batman Arkham series is hardly shocking. As one of Warner Bros’ most successful gaming franchises, it makes sense that the publisher would want to keep making these games as long as they can. Still, we didn’t think we’d be seeing a new Arkham game this soon, let alone a VR game made by Rocksteady, who many expected were done with the franchise. Although only a brief cinematic trailer was shown at Sony’s press conference (the game is a PlayStation VR exclusive), it was more than enough to peak every Bat fan’s interest. If a trailer advertising Batman in virtual reality while also featuring a Mark Hamill Joker voiceover can’t sell someone on a game, nothing can
9. Resident Evil 7 In VR
Capcom’s announcement of Resident Evil 7’s existence certainly didn’t come as a shock. After all, the company has been hinting that they’re working on a new Resident Evil all year (it’s no coincidence that they’re releasing remastered editions of past entries in the series throughout 2016). We also knew that whatever the next Resident Evil turned out to be, it would be a pretty big departure from what came before, as Resident Evil 6 was not received well by critics or fans alike.
Still, we can’t say we expected a first-person Resident Evil that’s also playable in VR, but when you think about it, this is pretty much the perfect design to try and restore the series to its survival horror route. The game is scheduled for a January 24, 2017 release but if you’re skeptical about the game’s new direction, you can try it out for yourself, as a demo is currently available on the PlayStation Store.
8. Kojima’s New Game
You gotta hand it to Hideo Kojima: he sure knows how to captivate an audience. The legendary Metal Gear game designer has had a rocky year or so, but he’s now running a new studio and working away on a new PlayStation game. Naturally, this means that he would make for a great addition to Sony’s PlayStation press conference, but considering he hasn’t only been working for them for months, not years, no one would have expected him to have anything to share from his new game. Yeah, about that …
Kojima walked out on stage like a boss and showed off his new game, Death Stranding, starring none other than Norman Reedus, who had previously teamed up with Kojima on the cancelled Silent Hills project. We don’t know anything about the game other than that it’s weird and features Reedus on a beach somewhere, but that’s all Sony really needed to drop one of the biggest surprises of the show on everyone. Kojima may not be able to work on Metal Gear anymore, but his Death Stranding trailer showed that whatever his next game is, it’s going to be worth paying attention to.
7. EA’s Lack Of Mass Effect: Andromeda Content
There is a definite art to making a game announcement: announce it too early and you run the risk of people getting sick of seeing it / waiting around for it; announce it too late and you may not have enough time to drum up hype to convince people to buy it. Mass Effect: Andromeda definitely falls into the latter camp after this year’s E3, as EA completely bungled showing off the game by barely having anything to show. EA got a pass for this same thing last year, as it was really the first time we were seeing anything concrete about the game, so no one had any expectation of seeing more than a brief trailer.
And while EA technically showed off more of Mass Effect; Andromeda this time out, it simply wasn’t enough. This is one of the biggest franchises in EA’s lineup and all fans got was another tease and a bunch of promises about what the game will eventually deliver. Evidently, EA is not a proponent of the show-don’t-tell philosophy of game announcements and now we’re left twiddling our thumbs until they decide to finally show us some real details about Mass Effect: Andromeda.
6. All The Leaks
Leaked information is a pretty common occurnce in the games industry (just look at how Sony and Microsoft failed to keep the lid on their new consoles) but this year’s E3 seemed plagued by more leaks than usual. In typical EA fashion, the company had a pretty lackluster news conference, but this year, they weren’t totally to blame. Titanfall 2 was supposed to be the central pillar of EA’s presentation, but the game’s single player trailer leaked prior to the event, ruining the publisher’s biggest surprise.
The most surprising leak has to go to Microsoft though, primarily because it’s unprecedented in E3 history for a company’s entire press conference details to leak a half hour before the show begins. Of course, consumers certainly didn’t mind getting this information early, but knowing these things ahead of time certainly made both EA and Microsoft’s conferences much less interesting to watch as a result.
5. New God of War
Coming into E3, everyone knew that Sony was going to reveal a new God of War game, thanks in large part to some leaked artwork from a few months back that revealed that franchise’s Greek Mythology stylings were being swapped out for Norse. Even armed with that knowledge though, it was tough to be truly prepared for the new direction God of War is taking with its next game.
While the gameplay demo for the new God of War confirmed a Norse Mythology setting, it depicted a game that barely resembles previous entries in the series. Heavily inspired by titles such as the Last of Us and the Tomb Raider reboot, the biggest surprise of God of War isn’t its new brand of third-person action gameplay, it’s the reimagined character design of series protagonist Kratos, who not only has a son, but appears to be an actual human being this time out, as opposed to a one dimensional rage monster. Color us much more than intrigued for this one!
4. Crash Bandicoot Is Back!
Rumors of some kind of Crash Bandicoot revival have been circulating for awhile now, but no one was holding out much hope that the unofficial PlayStation mascot of the 90s would actually make a comeback. Apparently, Sony should never be counted out for injecting a nice dose of nostalgia into their press conferences, as they revealed that everyone’s favorite oddly-proportioned marsupial would not only be appearing as a character in the next Skylanders game, but that the first three Crash games (AKA the good ones) are being remastered from the ground up for PlayStation 4. Sony didn’t reveal their plans for the character beyond that, but one would assume that if the remastered collection (which currently has no release date) sells well enough, an actual new game may be in the cards.
3. Microsoft Talking About Project Scorpio
Heading into this year’s E3, we already had a good idea of what Microsoft and Sony’s big plans would be, thanks to reports from a few months back that both companies are working on more powerful versions of the Xbox One and PS4, respectively. When it comes to Microsoft, we knew that their new Xbox One was codenamed Project Scorpio and that’s about it, but when they opened their press conference by unveling a slimmer version of the current Xbox One model, it seemed very unlikely that they would be revealing anything about Scorpio. After all, what company would be shortsighted enough to undermine one product by announcing that a better version of the same thing is coming out a year later? Microsoft, as it turns out, who now have three separate Xbox One models in the pipeline to confuse the consumer base and make them more likely to pick up a PS4 or gaming PC instead (something that they are already doing in droves).
2. Sony NOT Talking About PS4 Neo
Just days before E3 began, president and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment Andrew House confirmed that Sony is working on a “high-end” PS4 but that they wouldn’t be showcasing the new model — rumored to be called the PS4 Neo — at E3. So why then is it a surprise that Sony didn’t say anything about the Neo? Well, for one thing, Microsoft showed their hand in their own press conference earlier in the day, so one would assume that Sony might then have been more willing to at least make reference to the new hardware, even if they had nothing prepared to show off.
Also, E3 is pretty much the place to make hardware announcements, so even though House said that they wouldn’t be talking about it … they could have totally talked about it. Still, Sony deserves some recognition for their restraint this E3, as they pretty much acted like the Neo and Scorpio didn’t exist and decided to just talk about games.
1. What Didn’t Get Announced
Although getting days worth of exciting gaming news is a great experience for any gamer, every E3 inevitably ends with the sad realization that at least half a dozen of the things you actually wanted to see didn’t happen. E3 2016 is no exception, as there are a number of expected, or at least hoped for, game announcements that we didn’t get. Ubisoft again made no mention of Beyond Good and Evil 2, we didn’t see or hear anything about a new Bioshock game; Bethesda’s Todd Howard crushed all of our spirits when he admitted that Elder Scrolls VI is a long ways off. And for this writer in particular, the lack of a new Prince of Persia or Red Dead Redemption announcement cuts particularly deep.
Come to think of it, the biggest surprise of this year’s E3 may have been that it really didn’t have that many, as actual bomb drop game announcements were few and far between. On the bright side, there are about a dozen more big industry events between now and then end of the year, so there’s always another opportunity for a big surprise right around the corner.