5 best and 5 worst things that happened at E3 2018

Another year, another E3. As with any year, there will be some constants, such as announcements of new games, hardware, and partnerships. However, there will also be curveballs — for better and for worse. Each time the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo rolls into town, people always have questions. Will a rumored game be announced? Will a fan-favorite franchise get a sequel? Where's Half-Life 3? These sorts of inquiries demand resolution — the kind E3 always delivers, though not always in the way fans hope. That's why we've constructed this list: to round up the highest and lowest points of the conference's 2018 happenings. Be it a franchise that didn't make it to this year's showfloor or a surprise announcement that we're over the moon about, all the best and worst moments of E3 2018 are down below, succinctly summarized to keep you in the loop on the most important hot-off-the-press E3 gaming news.

BEST: Unravel Two's debut

The first Unravel remains one of EA's only real endeavors in the field of non-corporate artistic expression, hence why the game was such a joy to play through. There were no microtransactions, or worn-to-death gameplay tropes, guns, or footballs. Unravel wasn't a watered-down game designed to sell to a broad audience and milk its players dry: it was a game built on earnest intentions, hoping to remind us games can still be vehicles for art. It was a beautifully moody little release with the financial backing of a company like EA, delivering unto us a heartwarming platformer with one of the most endearing protagonists in gaming history.

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that we were floored by the announcement of Unravel Two, a sequel that includes co-op functionality (though you can play as both characters at once by yourself, if you choose!) and more of the same gorgeous, heartbreaking adventure beats that made the first Unravel so memorable. And EA made sure this announcement would be as amazing as possible by declaring that the game would go on sale right after their conference! So, if you need a dose of unbearably cute, highly emotional, and unspeakably gorgeous platforming fun, check out Unravel Two — it's available now!

WORST: EA's Star Wars "content"

EA scored a ten-year exclusivity deal with Disney back in 2013, meaning they alone currently have the rights to make Star Wars games. Was this a smart move by Disney? No, not even remotely. And we've all paid the price for it since.

For proof of our claim, just see EA's 2018 E3 presentation, wherein the Star Wars segment was composed of a lame title announcement (literally just the title, not even an image of a logo) for Respawn's Jedi: Fallen Order, a game that's more than a year away; and a DLC announcement for the all-but-dead Battlefront II, that insulted fans with its weak single-player component and disrupted the entire industry due to its scandalous multiplayer loot-box shenanigans.

To reiterate, no footage of literally anything new was shown. We didn't get a basic CGI teaser trailer for the newly announced Jedi, or even a glimpse of footage at Battlefront II's Geonosis DLC. We can add another year of absolutely no good Star Wars news to EA's list of achievements.

BEST: Bethesda's whole E3 presentation

From start to finish, Bethesda's E3 presentation rocked — sometimes literally. They brought out Andrew WK for an overwhelmingly cheesy and magnificently cringey death metal performance, ahead of debuting Rage 2 (with added jokes about Walmart Canada), Doom Eternal, and a slew of other awesome announcements. Even Prey is getting some love from Bethesda, with some sick new moon-based DLC. Plus, the infamous Todd Howard showcased Fallout 76, which looks primed to bring multiplayer and, subsequently, nuclear insanity to what was once a relatively low-key single-player franchise.

Everything about this presentation, in Howard's own words, "just works." The quirky live stuff justified the point of having a live conference, the presenters' jokes and self-aware jabs were equal parts humble and humorous, the gaming content announcements were great, and the teases were spectacular. And, yes, when we say teases, we're referring to their last-minute announcement of The Elder Scrolls VI. Though The Elder Scrolls: Blades looks interesting, too! Heck, everything they announced looks interesting, and that's a pretty rare achievement for an E3 conference these days.

Though nothing positively mind-boggling came up (no surprise Dishonored sequel, unfortunately), the conference was akin to a well-rounded, home-cooked meal from your spouse: satisfying, filled with love, a little strange, and good for you.

WORST: Microsoft's first-party "lineup"

Microsoft, yet again, fails to impress with its first-party "lineup," if you're generous enough to call it that. As of E3, Microsoft has only a single major first-party release on the docket for 2018: Forza Horizon 4. And, as far as other derivative sequels go, they announced Halo Infinite and Gears 5, the former of which has next to no info attached to it and the latter of which is slated for next year. Crackdown 3 is also slated for next year, unfortunately, as a result of Microsoft delaying that game … again. Ugh. Beyond those games and two strange Gears spin-offs, Microsoft had little else of any major value on their E3 2018 first-party slate.

One might argue Microsoft made a massive first-party splash with their announcement of multiple studio acquisitions, but we're skeptical, at best. Remember all the great content Rareware made, post-Microsoft acquisition? Neither do we. And given how many first-party games Microsoft has killed off mid-development, we believe it doesn't matter how many studios they have, if they're unable to get any finished products to store shelves.

Maybe those aforementioned acquisitions will lead to a more impressive Microsoft presentation at next year's E3. Still, that doesn't fix the fact that this year's showcase disappointed, big time.

BEST: Just Cause 4

Just Cause 4's got it all: Rico Rodriguez, grenade launchers, a sprawling open world — what's not to love? Oh, and let's not forget the main sales pitch: Just Cause 4 has weather. Extreme weather. While a lot of games can tout some snazzy environmental effects, JC4 is claiming its weather is a literal game changer, capable of altering landscapes and messing with physics. This means that if a tornado comes by Rico's neighborhood, it's going to churn up buildings, cars, cattle, you name it.

And it's going to affect how Rico moves. As Square Enix showed in their video preview, a tornado can suck Rico up and fling him as far as the eye can see, meaning players will have to be cautious of mother nature as they play through the game. We got a glimpse of sand storms, thunderstorms and even blizzards, all of which will change how Just Cause 4's gameplay flows on a moment-to-moment basis. Though we'll have to wait a while to try the game out firsthand, it sure looks like a lot of fun, based on the preview.

WORST: Square Enix's shoddy showreel

Square Enix's sub-thirty-minute showreel was pretty weak, frankly. Though it started off nicely enough with a solid Shadow of the Tomb Raider preview and an even more exciting Just Cause 4 sneak peek, things quickly dissolved: beyond those two games, almost everything was either a trailer we'd already seen at an earlier E3 event, or a brief CGI teaser for something far, far away. Both Babylon's Fall and The Quiet Man debuted with vague proof-of-concept trailers featuring little to no context backing them up, which killed any intrigue they might otherwise have generated. And then there were the bevy of Square Enix previews which weren't even new to the Square Enix conference itself, including the Kingdom Hearts III and The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit trailers. Beyond that, the rest of the painfully short showreel was raw filler, like the Nier: Automata Xbox One port announcement (which, again, was shown off at Microsoft's event the day prior). 

As if all of that wasn't underwhelming enough, Square Enix made sure to leave us hungry, neglecting to show off even a glimpse of the most important game in their entire upcoming lineup: the Avengers project they've been quietly toiling away on for a few years. No gameplay, or concept art, or even a freaking logo of the mysterious Avengers game was shown, leaving us to keep on wondering what that video game will look like, if it ever gets publicly unveiled by the tight-lipped dungeon masters at Square.

BEST: Ubisoft's dedicated support

Ubisoft's making the people who bought their games proud, which is a marked (and nice) change from the days of Assassin's Creed: Unity. Now when people buy a Ubisoft product, they're practically guaranteed a game with a long lifespan and lots of dedicated support from the developers. For a great example of this, check out their E3 presentation, which brought up a trio of games that have been out in the wild for quite some time, but are still fresh in the publisher's mind. This included Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six: Siege, which is now inexplicably getting its own e-sports documentary, courtesy of Ubisoft. And, of course, the game is still receiving free quarterly DLC updates, which feature new operators and, occasionally, new maps. All this, for a game that came out at the end of 2015.

Beyond Rainbow Six: Siege, For Honor was also brought front and center during Ubisoft's showcase, and it was announced the game would be getting a new faction and new mode ahead of a massive new update, all for a niche title that's been out since February of 2017. No wonder the game's starting to have a small player base resurgence: if the devs keep treating the community well, more fans are bound to hop aboard.

Lastly, there was Mario+Rabbids, a game no one thought would get any sort of post-release attention. Yet here we are, with Ubisoft announcing Donkey Kong DLC for the game. What a time we live in! Good on Ubisoft for doing their customers right.

WORST: Shawn Layden and the end of the PS4

At Sony's E3 conference, the President and CEO of Sony Interactive Entertainment America, Shawn Layden, spit out some pretty unsavory quotes, such as: "don't come here expecting to have some big flashy new idea come out," and "I think the folks at home should be happy with what they're gonna get." Hot takes, Shawn! While he kept his tone in check, these comments reeked of Sony's condescending we-can-do-no-wrong bravado that the company's been famous for ever since the PS4 took off and left Xbox One in the dust (see Shawn Layden's classic quotes about why PS4 doesn't have backwards compatibility: "much requested, not actually used that much" and "[PS1 and PS2 games] looked ancient, like, why would anybody play this?" — because he knows every PS4 gamer's preferences better than they do). That quote about how we shouldn't expect new ideas is especially stinging, given how harshly the industry is stagnating and churning out derivative sequels. No, Shawn, we should come expecting new ideas. And you should bring more of them, next year.

Couple these quotes with the fact that Sony's only got a few big titles announced, only one of which is coming out this year, and it definitely feels like the PS4 is winding down in anticipation of a potential PS5 announcement next year. Either a few of the in-development titles will turn out to be PS5 launch titles in disguise, or they'll be the swan song of the PS4. Mark our words, though — this limited lineup and Shawn's comments are no coincidence.

BEST: The gang's all here for Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

Though Super Smash Bros. ultimately (heh) took up the bulk of Nintendo's E3 presentation, the lengthy segment wasn't without justification. After all, the game's director, Masahiro Sakurai, had a lot to show off. He talked about Super Smash Bros. Ultimate's tweaked fighting game mechanics, including directional air-dodging and limiters on ground-dodging. He showed off how Ultimate has revamped old characters, like giving Pac-Man and Sonic improved final smashes. And, most importantly, he showed off the game's new characters, including Ridley, a character many thought would never see the light of day in the Smash series. Yet here we are, with the space pirate dragon fully playable. Incredible.

Oh, and, as a nice little bonus feature, Sakurai and co. elected to include every single Smash fighter ever from the series' history in Ultimate, including Mewtwo, Solid Snake, Bayonetta, and many, many more. The fact that all these characters will be able to square off in Smash, now with 100% more Ridley, is absolutely astonishing.

WORST: The rest of Nintendo's presentation

Even with all the goodwill Nintendo earned thanks to its absolutely epic Super Smash Bros. Ultimate reveal, there's no denying that the rest of their presentation was painfully barebones. We received absolutely zero new Mario news, in regards to either Super Mario Odyssey DLC or a new Mario platformer. In fact, the only Mario-related content we got was a new Mario Party announcement, which isn't much of an announcement at all.

Beyond that, we got the expected Pokemon announcement, as well as the highly predictable Fortnite Switch port reveal. We also got a teaser for Daemon x Machina, a game that's a long ways off. Beyond that, though, there was no new Kirby news. Or Yoshi news. Or Zelda news. Or Metroid news.

That last one really, really stings, given how excited fans got when Nintendo announced last year that Metroid Prime 4 was in the works. Yet here we are, one year later, with absolutely zero new info beyond last year's logo reveal.