E3 2019 is over, and what did we learn? Well, March and April of 2020 are going to be an absolute embarrassment of riches. Four of our favorite games from this show are due to release during that two-month timespan, including heavy hitters like Dying Light 2 and Cyberpunk 2077.
Indeed, our favorite games of E3 2019 are more predictable than usual I think. Whether it’s because these games stood that far above the rest this year or because there’s less to choose from, the end result is the same. Comparing beforehand, my stalwart editor Brad Chacos and I had pretty much the exact same list.
It’s that kind of year though, and I’m not going to complain about 10 games so incredible-looking they eclipse all others. That’s at least 10 games I’m looking forward to playing in the next year or two. If you’re looking for a wider look at the show’s biggest reveals, be sure to check out our roundup of the 41 must-see PC game trailers of E3 2019. These games were the best of the best though. Without further ado…
The Outer Worlds
“The Outer Worlds feels even more like Fallout: New Vegas than I expected.” That’s our headline, and that should tell you all you need to know about why we’re excited. Obsidian’s essentially created a spiritual successor sans-license, with a V.A.T.S. stand-in (Tactical Time Dilation) and the same sort of humor Fallout is known for. But in space!
It’s hard to know how long The Outer Worlds will be or how deep an experience, but our 30-minute demo made it look like one of the most promising games releasing this fall, especially for fans of old-school RPGs, skill checks, and branching quests. Uh…so that’s me, then.
Watch Dogs Legion
I liked Watch Dogs 2—a lot, actually!—but I wouldn’t have expected Watch Dogs Legion to end up on our E3 favorites list. It’s wildly ambitious though. No doubt you’ve already heard about Ubisoft’s “Play As Anyone” tech, which allows you to recruit any character in the game to DedSec’s cause, and then play through the story as them. Want to recruit all the guards at Scotland Yard? You can do that, or stage an uprising from a dance club, or assemble a crack team of grandmas.
Obviously I chose the last option, and it was fascinating to play some fairly standard Watch Dogs missions as an old woman who could barely run or climb, but was very talented at using the word “Buggered.” I have high hopes for the story as well, given the dystopian look of this post-Brexit London. It took an entire console generation, but it looks like Ubisoft might finally capitalize on the promise of that original Watch Dogs demo.
Cyberpunk 2077 was our favorite demo at E3 2018, and no surprise it appears on the list this year as well. We’ve already written an in-depth account of this year’s hour-long demo, but CD Projekt once again took us through a mission with no clear winners, and highlighted how the mission might change for Netrunners versus more combat-focused characters. Oh, and it also focused on Keanu Reeves’s character “Johnny Silverhand” of course.
I’ll say this, Cyberpunk 2077 looks more and more like an unofficial Johnny Mnemonic sequel every time we see it, and I am into it. Most surprising is the fact it’s due out in April 2020, before the new consoles arrive. I’m amazed it’s that close, and even more amazed it’ll apparently run on an Xbox One/PlayStation 4. Even my beefy GeForce GTX 1080 Ti-equipped PC is already sweating over the prospect of running this game’s luscious open world.
I love Planet Coaster, I love builder games, more generally, and I love animals. My excitement for Planet Zoo really boils down to those three components. Our behind-closed-doors demo focused on the Savannah biome, with large open areas for the various giraffes, cheetahs, wildebeest, chimpanzees, and so on that called this zoo home. And to be honest, I could’ve spent an hour just watching the animals walk around and feed.
Frontier highlighted some of the management and construction features as well though. You’ll be educating your visitors, not simply displaying animals. Staff Paths return from Frontier’s Jurassic World game, and you’ll need to balance the animal’s needs with the zoo’s theme park facade. And expediting that, you’ll have access to Frontier’s amazing construction tools again. Make the best zoo imaginable, or a hellish nightmare where all the animals escape. Your choice.
Dying Light 2
Another returning entry, Dying Light 2 impressed us last year with its ambitious branching storyline. Techland promised we’d not only change our own fate but the city’s, affecting which faction controlled certain districts, and in turn what rules were in effect, what items were sold, and so on.
But for 2019 they brought an even more ambitious demo. Every two or three minutes a binary choice popped up, and pressing left or right on the analog stick affecting how the entire mission played out. Stay with your dying friend or chase the escaping attackers? Kill the driver or spare him? And this culminated in the final choice, which saw an entire district of the city emerge from underwater, giving us a new area to explore—and a new zombie type to combat in the process.
It looks incredible, and like Cyberpunk I’m amazed it’s due out next April, before the console generation changeover. It barely seems possible.
Baldur’s Gate III
It’s been a week since we found out about Baldur’s Gate III and I’m still riding high. Nearly two decades after Baldur’s Gate II we’re finally getting a sequel, and it’s developed by Divinity: Original Sin studio Larian, and it involves a Mind Flayer invasion. It’s the best-case scenario as far as I’m concerned, especially since it’s being based off modern Dungeons & Dragons and not the THAC0-ridden version used by the Infinity Engine games.
There aren’t many details on this one yet, and I don’t expect it to release in 2019 even if it was announced at Google’s Stadia showcase as a “launch window” title. An early-to-mid-2020 release seems possible though, and I can’t wait to see more.
John Wick Hex
John Wick Hex is the coolest licensed game I’ve played in…forever.
Mike Bithell and Co. are calling it a “Timeline Strategy Game,” a brand-new genre. Every action John Wick takes requires a certain amount of time, and the same goes for his enemies. You’re vying for the upper hand, using quick actions to incapacitate one enemy and then shooting another, returning to the first to finish him off, and hoping you don’t get overwhelmed by the third running in from the doorway. Time pauses after every action, so you have plenty of time to think it over—but it’s even more fun if you act on instinct, keeping the game in pseudo-real time and getting into the flow of it.
Personally I think the most obvious touchstone is Superhot, in that your goal is to kill a lot of people without getting overwhelmed, and the only way to do so is to carefully manipulate the time mechanics. But then…it’s not really Superhot either. Rarely do we see a brand-new type of game demoed at E3, and John Wick Hex is a way more interesting adaptation than some generic John Wick shooter could ever be.
Forza Horizon 4: Lego Speed Champions
“Forza’s Lego expansion is the most charming game at E3,” I tweeted after my demo on Sunday—and I stand by it. Planet Zoo gives Lego Speed Champions a run for its money, but I’d still give the edge to Forza. It’s the same arcade racing we loved in Forza Horizon 4, but blocky. The cars are made of Lego, the environments are made of Lego, and even the post-race celebrations are Lego. The demo race also took us through a few themed environments, including a pirate zone and a haunted forest.
It’s cute, and perhaps even better than Forza Horizon 3’s Hot Wheels expansion. Best of all, it’s available right now. I’m looking forward to playing this for my post-E3 wind-down this weekend.
Doom Eternal is “More Doom” and that’s all I needed. I didn’t need a single trailer, I didn’t need a single demo. As soon as Bethesda said id was creating a follow-up to the glorious 2016 reboot, I was on-board.
Of course trailers and demos don’t hurt, and what we’ve seen of Doom Eternal looks like it’ll be one of 2019’s standout releases. It’s fast and frenetic and in your face, same as the previous entry. But now it’s all of those things in what looks like more ambitious levels, with more of the society-gone-to-hell look, mixing familiar landmarks with demonic influences. And I never expected to say this, but I’m curious about the story as well. 2016’s Doom was great at satirizing corporate influences and building the Doomslayer into a weird demigod of vengeance, and it looks like Doom Eternal will lean even further into those ideas.
Our E3 demo was more of the same, showcasing another early mission and the various ways it could play out—betraying your contract, murdering or sparing the target, fighting your way through The Jungle or taking the stealthy route. There are a lot of choices to be made, just as you’d expect from a follow-up to the original Bloodlines. And while our demo still looked a bit janky, the promise of this sequel is enough to win my heart. The characters are instantly memorable, be it the ethereal Elfi or the skulking Slugg, and the spot-on recreation of Seattle landmarks is breathtaking.
Here’s 20 minutes of gameplay capture from our E3 2019 demo:
This is another early-2020 release, which along with Watch Dogs, Cyberpunk, and Dying Light 2 means you’d better get a sick note from a hospital, not just your local primary care doctor. Next year’s shaping up to be one of those 1998-caliber years people talk about forever, and that’s before the new consoles launch. E3 might be in its death throes, but it sure chose a great year to go out on.
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Hayden writes about games for PCWorld and doubles as the resident Zork enthusiast.