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Commentary Video Games

The best and worst of E3 2018

Commentary: Now that gaming's biggest show of the year is over, it's time to mark the scorecard.

Josh Miller/CNET

Game over: E3 2018 is officially done, and we have no more extra lives.

We're not going to recount the gaming week that was; every shred of detail from Fallout 76 to Super Mario Party can be found right here. But now that we've had some time to digest the news, the gamers of CNET -- whether they were at the show in Los Angeles or watching from afar -- have weighed in with their opinion on the highlights and lowlights of the show.

The Best

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate

In case you can't tell from our giant guide or our New York office getting a case of Smash-itus, Smash Bros. Ultimate has pretty much everyone psyched for the next entry in the franchise. Sure, you could say just adding every single thing from every single Smash game into one title isn't the most creatively inspired approach, but it's Smash. On the Switch. With at least 65 characters and 75 stages. What's not to love? -- Morgan Little

Cyberpunk 2077 stole the show… and my heart

cyberpunk

CD Projekt Red

I enjoyed The Witcher 3 and had long been keen to see how CD Projekt Red would adjust from swords and sorcery to the cyberpunk aesthetic. The Cyberpunk 2077 trailer shown at Microsoft's conference, from the filthy soundtrack, to the bold colours, the voiceover -- they just nailed it. I'm so looking forward to seeing the same high quality of writing in a game with science fiction elements, in a world built by masters of their craft. Cannot wait for this game. -- Mark Serrels

Star Fox gives us a reason to buy StarLink

ubisoft-starfox-starlink-nintendoswitch

Ubisoft

OK, Starlink always looked cool, but if you were on the fence about another toys-to-life game, the surprise introduction of adding Star Fox to the game exclusively on Nintendo Switch could have been just what you needed to push you over the edge -- and it was also one of the show's first surprise moments. -- Sean Buckley

Elder Scrolls: Blades lets you play with one hand

blades

Bethesda/Screenshot by CNET

In a brilliantly simple move, Bethesda made me do something I've never done before: Give a crap about an Elder Scrolls game. Not only is Elder Scrolls Blades coming to iPhones and Android phones later this year, it's designed from the ground up to include a portrait mode that will let you play the game vertically, with just one hand. Freeing up your other hand for other things. In my case, it will be rocking a newborn to sleep while I explore dungeons and level up my character. Feel free to choose on your own what you do with your free hand. -- Eric Franklin

Trials is back!

Before E3 I was quietly hoping for three things: A new Skate, a Bloodborne sequel and a new Trials game. I didn't get Skate (although Session looks pretty cool), I didn't get Bloodborne 2 (but From Software's Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice might be even better!)

But I did get my new Trials game. Thank the good lord.

Trials Rising looks like everything I'd hoped for. This series is one of my personal all-time favourites. The announcement of this game was a real highlight for me. -- Mark Serrels

Anthem finally figures out how to do jetpacks right

Flying a spaceship or even a plane in a video game is something we've had pretty well figured out since the 8-bit days. Flying a person, not so much. It turns out to be pretty difficult to smoothly transition from controlling an avatar running on the ground to one soaring through the air. 

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Capcom's Dark Void (2010) is a great example of just how tough this can be. Anthem, from Bioware, does it better than any game I've seen before, thanks to extensive testing and tweaking. Here's the real key: simple but separate modes for hovering and flying, and a simple stick-click move to get back on the ground. -- Dan Ackerman

Sega <3 PC

I know, I shouldn't be so excited for a port of a remake of a 12-year PS2 game, but damn: Yakuza is coming to PC, meaning I can finally introduce the series to friends who don't own a PlayStation. What, you've never played it either? 

Epic fisticuffs, karaoke mini games and an incredibly detailed microcosm of Tokyo await you. Valkyria Chronicles 4 is coming to PC too. Now we just need Sega to convince subsidiary Atlus to bring Persona to Windows as well. -- Sean Hollister

Death Stranding stays delightfully weird

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4:18

Surely at some point, Hideo Kojima and Norman Reedus will have to release a game. Or at least a release date. Or something. But realistically, I love Kojima's game trailers almost as much as his games, and I'm perfectly happy to stay in suspense as long as he's willing to keep producing batshit crazy music videos. Don't @ me. -- Sean Hollister

The Worst

Sony's continued crossplay blocking

Fortnite plays on the Switch and PS4 players will remain separated, at least as long as Sony's decision to prevent rival consoles from entering their online ecosystem holds out. Players have also voiced outrage over their inability to log into Fortnite accounts made on the PS4 via the Switch version of the game. -- Morgan Little

Waluigi's short shrift in Super Smash Bros.

Seriously, just make the poor guy a playable character. He's endured enough pain. -- Morgan Little

Command and Conquer: Rivals

Being a Command and Conquer fan is suffering. The real-time strategy series has been dormant since 2012's free-to-play browser title Command and Conquer: Tiberium Alliances, and the last full-fledged title was met with a middling response in 2010. So what did EA reveal to fans at E3? A free-to-play mobile game that was introduced via a lengthy, cringy staged esports presentation. You just have to look at the response on YouTube to gauge what fans are feeling about it. -- Morgan Little

Gears Pop

gears-pop

GameSpot

What an abomination. Funko Pop figurines are the absolute bottom feeders of pop culture. Honest to God, when Microsoft did that idiotic bait and switch with the announcement I wanted video games cancelled forever. Thankfully, Microsoft announced Gears 5 almost immediately afterwards and pulled me back from the brink. -- Mark Serrels

Days Gone might be DOA

days-gone-screen-03-horde-ps4-us-13jun16

Sony

I played about 25 minutes of the PS4-exclusive zombie game, and it didn't carry any of the weight it did when it first debuted a few years ago. It felt clunky and very run-of-the-mill -- not encouraging for a game that's just eight months out (Sony has locked in to a Feb. 22, 2019 release date). I've gone from really looking forward to this one to almost removing it from my radar altogether. -- Jeff Bakalar

The violence in some games is starting to feel cringe-worthy

People have been talking about the level of violence in games since the days of the Atari 2600. I've defended the industry for years on this front, citing artistic agency and the critically hailed violence of filmmakers like Quentin Tarantino and Takeshi Kitano. Something felt different this year at E3, and I think I've put my finger on it. First, we're living in a difficult social moment right now, where the threat of very real violence, especially in American schools, is coloring perceptions of games.

Second, the advanced graphics of current consoles and PCs makes the bloodletting as realistic as any Eli Roth film, which is a far cry from the more abstract violence in older games. And finally, being in the same room (or giant auditorium) with other E3 attendees, hearing them cheer wildly for each time Ellie lands a machete in someone's neck in The Last of Us Part 2 feels tone-deaf at best. -- Dan Ackerman

Split decision: Sony's press conference

Weird things can be great, and weird Sony is usually a wonderful thing at E3. But Sony's E3 press conference was... bad weird. The stretched-out immersive segments promoting games like The Last of Us Part 2 and Ghost of Tsushima amounted to needless window dressing (with banjo and flute performances that were instantly meme-ified). And yet, even with all that weirdness -- and audio problems on the stream -- there were precious few games unveiled that were anywhere near as experimental as the presentation itself. Where are the new Patapons? -- Scott Stein, who watched from his home in New Jersey

Here's my take: It sounds like nearly everyone who was actually at the PlayStation event loved it, while everyone who watched online hated it. Yes, the first moments were dubious. But once those of us on-site figured out what was going on -- that it was an immersive event during which attendees were shuttled between locations that corresponded to The Last of Us Part 2, Ghost of Tsushima, Spider-Man and Death Stranding -- it was a great way to make the "press event" more dynamic and experiential. -- Dan Ackerman, who was at the event in Los Angeles

Final thought: A rebuilding year for the games industry

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There are no two ways about it: Like a pro sports team retooling its roster in hopes of making it back to the playoffs the season after next, E3 2018 has a been a prototypical rebuilding year in terms of new software. Fallout 76 notwithstanding, the bulk of the really big games announced won't see the light of day before 2019 (or beyond) and considerably fewer were hands-on compared to previous years. That said, those hands-off demonstrations are a solid group of games to be excited for: Cyberpunk 2077, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, Control and Ghost of Tsushima all look very promising. -- Jeff Bakalar

E3 2018 coverage at GameSpot: Wall-to-wall coverage of the show from our sister site, GameSpot.

E3 2018 coverage at Giant Bomb: More commentary and news from E3, from our colleagues at Giant Bomb.