Here’s the thing about E3: you don’t always get to play a lot of videogames. If you’re a videogame fan who reads the breathless coverage of the hot new games at E3 every year, you might not realize that many (perhaps even most) of those games aren’t playable for the people at the show, even for journalists who can book private appointments behind closed doors and off the show floor. That’s especially true for the highest profile big budget blockbusters; this year heavily buzzed about games like The Last of Us Part II, Fallout 76 and Cyberpunk 2077 (which apparently won almost every single award this E3) appeared exclusively as hands off demos and theater sessions. We might’ve seen a slice of a game in action (although there are reasons to think not every “in-game demo” is on the level, and might just be a studio employee twiddling their thumbs on a controller as a canned video runs on the screen), or gotten to look at an extended trailer that hasn’t been released to the public yet, but we don’t necessarily play every game that we wind up writing about after E3. That’s the way this business goes: E3 is about hype, and sometimes that hype is about games that nobody at E3 was even allowed to play.
We try to avoid feeding into that hype cycle here at Paste. That’s why we split our “best of E3” lists up into two pieces. The first one, which ran earlier this week, was explicitly about games that we actually played with our own hands. Until you’ve actually played a game, you shouldn’t be too confident in your opinions about it, so we’ll always prioritize games that we were able to play when we write about E3.
Now it’s time to look at the games we didn’t get to play this year. Again, it’s not because we didn’t want to play them, or didn’t try—these are games that weren’t playable at the show, but whose presentations or core concepts are so strong and interesting that we’re still looking forward to playing them. We cautiously dig them, at least enough to single them out in this here piece, but don’t want to get too bogged down in hyping anything up until we’ve actually gotten our hands on ‘em for real. So when you’re reading this thing, keep in mind all opinions are subject to change, and that we’re only talking about trailers or demos we didn’t get to play.—Garrett Martin
The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit
I think what I like best about the Life is Strange games is that they remind me that not all games have to be centered on combat. That’s a weird thing to say given how many nonviolent titles I play, but there’s something very comforting about just “being” in a Life is Strange game; from the lighting to the music to the cinematic direction, I find it quieting in a way that few other games are. This feeling is retained in the upcoming Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, a smaller standalone game set in the universe of Life is Strange. It stars a young boy with a big imagination, Chris, who lives out an elaborate fantasy world to escape his loneliness as he struggles with the loss of his mother and his father’s alcoholism. The mechanics, while altered slightly from the other two Life is Strange games, will be familiar to anyone who has played, and they now have a touching little spin that allows you to play along as Chris uses his imagined superhero powers to explore the world around him. The game, which will also provide little secrets and backstory details of the Life is Strange titles, comes out for free in June 26, on Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4.—Holly Green
Perhaps the most talked about game during E3, Cyberpunk 2077 got a lot of positive word of mouth as the show progressed. As the next game from CD Projekt Red, the makers of The Witcher, Cyberpunk 2077 probably had a lot of built-in hype, but its sci-fi sensibilities are also just too cool to ignore. Set in a dystopian metropolis in California, it layers traditional open world conventions with RPG elements (all with their futuristic spin, of course) to create a world that feels alive and dangerous. Sadly, while everything in the game from character classes to weaponry to a deeply customizable character creation and stat system appears to be well fleshed out and near completion, the release may still be a long ways off, with estimates putting the date near 2019 or 2020.—Holly Green
For this project, Kojima is working with a lot of creative folks whose experience is largely outside of the games industry, and in Death Stranding it shows. The world depicted in its E3 trailer is a breathtaking landscape beset by mossy crags and heavy rain, where ghostly invisible figures haunt and stalk the living. Norman Reedus plays protagonist Sam Bridges, a working class man who is swept up in a strange back and forth between this and the “real world,” and who may have lost a significant other due to the Timefall, a rain that ages anything it touches. Armed with a fetus in an artificial womb, he must evade and stealth his way through this hostile place in order to set things right.
In terms of visuals, narrative and gameplay, Death Stranding appears to have hit the holy trifecta. It’s as beautiful and intriguing as any big budget game I’ve seen in a long time. We’ll see how it all comes together when the game comes out on PlayStation 4, at a still-unknown date in the future.—Holly Green
As I wrote recently, it’s actually rather remarkable that Fallout 76 has yet to launch me into a full-on rage. As skeptic as I am (both with Bethesda’s creative direction with Fallout over the past few years and with Bethesda in general), it is hard not to get very excited and curious about some of the locations shown in the E3 presentation, both for their beauty and their story potential. Are we about to revisit D.C.? Looks like it. And in style too, with a purported “16x” the detail of the previous game, made with all new tools for weather, landscaping, lighting and rendering, and featuring six different regions with their own distinct challenges, enemies, flora, fauna and environments. I’m not as enthusiastic about the multiplayer and base building elements (and really Bethesda, you’re going to let the players drop bombs on other settlements…really?) but for the sake of learning more Fallout lore, I’ll do almost anything. Except play Fallout Shelter. Fallout 76 comes out on November 18, 2018, for PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.—Holly Green
There’s not a ton of information available on Generation Zero yet, but think: Left 4 Dead meets Horizon Zero Dawn. It’s a first person shooter, set in idyllic 1980s countryside Sweden, that appears to be team-based, set in a post-disaster world where robots have taken over and are the enemy.
I saw this one in a private trailer showing in the Microsoft suite during E3. Following the presentation, I asked about the other two games that Avalanche Studios is working on now, Just Cause 4 and Rage 2, and asked how they plan, in light of all the open world games out there, to differentiate themselves on a perhaps oversaturated market. The reply was basically, well we’re really good at open world games so we’re not too worried about it. Confidence noted, Avalanche.—Holly Green
Ghost of Tsushima
Sucker Punch talked a lot about the efforts they’re taking to remain respectful of Japanese culture in their historically-influenced medieval Japan action game; part of that was because the journalists in our closed-door session asked questions about that, and part of it might be because of the poor job the studio did researching Native culture for their last game, Infamous Second Son. The demo didn’t give much context for the game’s story, other than that it involves the first Mongol invasion of Japan, but it did show off some gorgeous depictions of the island of Tsushima, and revealed a particularly bloody style of hack-’n’-slash action that sees Tsushima’s last surviving samurai resort to dishonorable stealth tactics to survive. If you ever hear writers complain about how an E3 demo gives very little idea of how it will actually feel to play a game, they’re talking about demos much like Ghost of Tsushima’s from this year: despite watching two developers play and talk their way through a 20-minute slice of action, I still have no idea what playing it will be like. It might look good, but until we know more, keep all expectations in check.—Garrett Martin
Just Cause 4
I gotta say, Just Cause 4 is my kind of chaos. The grappling hook, the parachute, the wingsuit, the destructible environments, standing on top of cars and shooting big guns and now, a weather system that includes blizzards and tornadoes? It sounds (and looked, during my E3 trailer viewing) like pandemonium—the good kind. I don’t think I’ve personally seen a game as over the top since Saints Row IV. On the technical side of things, Just Cause 4 will be built by Avalanche Studios with a new version of their Apex engine, with improved animations and, most importantly, better AI, addressing one of the biggest complaints of Just Cause 3. The game is scheduled for release on PlayStation 4, PC, and Xbox One on December 4, 2018.—Holly Green
The Last of Us Part II
Remember how people at Sony’s press conference got to sit in a big room and watch that Last of Us Part II trailer up on a big screen? Well, later that week people got to sit in a different room and watch that same footage on a much smaller screen. (They were sitting closer to the smaller screen, though, so the size difference wasn’t that dramatic, and anyway, you’re not here to read about screens or how relative size works or anything like that, so let’s just move on.) But yeah: the hoedown, the kiss, the absolutely brutal action, the (maybe unnecessarily?) graphic violence—we saw it all again in private before getting to pose a few questions to various Naughty Dog designers and writers. We learned nothing new about the game, but seeing that footage again, and remembering how much the first game grabbed hold of us five years ago, has us more than interested in the sequel.—Garrett Martin
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
From Software bucks the expectations with its new game for Activision, which eschews the methodical Souls / Bloodborne style of combat associated with the studio for something a little faster and more arcade-like. At least that’s how it appears after a hands off demo we watched at E3. The developer manning the controller made a point of showing how crucial motion is to the game, and not the kind of patient defensive rolls and dodges familiar from Dark Souls, but long, fast, sweeping arcs on a grappling hook that made me think of Sony’s upcoming Spider-Man game. It might be faster-paced but it doesn’t necessarily seem easier than a Souls game—the demo showed off a fight with a pack of villains that seemed like a challenge for the player, although you always have to wonder how canned or scripted these kinds of demos are. And it ended with a glimpse of a massive flying snake soaring through a canyon and coiling above the player, in a jolt of that mythological weirdness that From is known for. Sekiro looks like an intentional change of pace for From, which makes it one of the more intriguing games we saw at E3.—Garrett Martin
Sea of Solitude
I can forgive the hack move of scoring a trailer to a sad, huskily voiced lady’s cover of a much older song (how many people today know Waylon’s “I Tremble For You,” anyway?), if only because everything else that happens in the trailer promises something weird and unique. It’s been a few years since this game was announced, but E3 was its debut as an “EA Original,” and the E3 trailer is the longest, deepest look we’ve gotten at it yet. With its apparent dream logic and the potent metaphor of a sunken city, Sea of Solitude might have some narrative depth to it, and that’s a major reason we’re looking forward to playing this one when it comes out in 2019.—Garrett Martin
Garrett Martin edits Paste’s comedy and games sections. He’s on Twitter @grmartin.
Holly Green is the assistant editor of Paste Games and a reporter and semiprofessional photographer. She is also the author of Fry Scores: An Unofficial Guide To Video Game Grub. You can find her work at Gamasutra, Polygon, Unwinnable, and other videogame news publications.