E3 2019 was different than past years’ conferences, with several large publishers absent from the show and a larger focus on live service games with ongoing content like The Division 2 and Destiny. Several companies had secret games they planned to unveil for the first time during their press conferences, but information about them leaked beforehand — a recurring theme leading into the big week. Not every big announcement or revelation was spoiled, and a few managed to make us audibly gasp. These are the biggest surprises of E3 2019.
Keanu Reeves stars in Cyberpunk 2077
Cyberpunk 2077 is shaping up to be a monumental video game when it releases next year, and even before its appearance at the Xbox press conference, we were pretty confident it would succeed. But in the final moments, Keanu Reeves was revealed to be a supporting character, and the actor appeared on the stage to reveal the game’s release date and pump up the crowd. His quick response to a fan calling him “breathtaking” is among the highlights of E3 2019 (though we wish people would stop yelling during the conferences), and it got the conference off to an excellent start.
Double Fine joins Xbox Game Studios
Tim Schafer’s Double Fine Productions has been one of the most creative game developers in the industry for nearly two decades, and much of this creativity seemed to come from the studio’s independence. This is why it was so surprising to learn that Double Fine had been acquired by Microsoft and would join its Xbox Game Studios family. Psychonauts 2 will still release for all planned platforms, and Schafer said the decision actually means his studio will not constantly have to pitch its games to publishers, But we never thought we’d see him answer to “the man.”
Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
It’s not every day that a Lego game gives us pause, but that’s what happened when Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga was revealed at E3 2019. The game bundles together the stories from every main Star Wars film to date, including the upcoming Rise of Skywalker, and turns it into a single video game that will release next year. This is the best-case scenario for Lego Star Wars fans. The game is shaping up to be an excellent mix of action and classic physical comedy.
Use your Xbox as a streaming server
We knew that Microsoft would have news on Project xCloud during its E3 press conference, but we didn’t anticipate just how much freedom it would give players. Soon, anyone with an Xbox console and a game collection will be able to use their system as a game server, with the ability to stream to their mobile device when they’re not home. This can be done without paying a subscription fee, and every single game you own on your Xbox will be available to stream. It’s similar to how Remote Play works on PlayStation 4, but it’s better late than never!
Arkane Studios was assisting MachineGames with the development of Wolfenstein: Youngblood, due to release in July, so we weren’t anticipating the studio would have anything ready for E3 2019. That wasn’t the case, however, as the studio’s Lyon, France, location revealed a science-fiction/action-adventure game called Deathloop. It follows two assassins battling each other in a cycle of death, and its eerie setting feels like it draws influence from the studio’s own Dishonored games. It doesn’t have a release date yet, but it got us excited during a fairly middling Bethesda show.
Not every surprise from E3 2019 was a good one. Bethesda revealed a rebooted version of Commander Keen designed as a free-to-play game for mobile, and it looks horrendous. Blending card-based strategy with a Saturday morning cartoon look, it likely could have worked with an original IP, but the game bears so little resemblance to the original games that it’s a hard pill for fans to swallow.
Play as a grandma in Watch Dogs Legion
Shortly before E3 2019, news leaked that Ubisoft’s third Watch Dogs game would not be a standard sequel, but rather a radical reimagining in what an open-world action-adventure game could be. To that end, Ubisoft Toronto is allowing you to play as literally anyone you see in the game. We thought this sounded impressive, but when the demonstration revealed that you could control a master hacker grandmother who also happens to be skilled with a silenced pistol, we knew we were in for a very good time.
Final Fantasy VII Remake might actually work
Final Fantasy VII Remake was announced several years ago during Sony’s press conference at E3, and the game has gone through a tumultuous development that included a change in the team making it. When Square Enix showed it at its press conference this year, however, it blew away our expectations. The first release for the title will take place solely in Midgar, but its combat system blends real-time action with classic strategy and menu elements to create a perfect hybrid of old and new. Even those who didn’t care about the original should pay very close attention.
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel
The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild released just two years ago, but Nintendo was ready to announce a sequel – kind of – during its E3 Nintendo Direct event. The game doesn’t have a title yet, but it looks to be a direct sequel rather than a mere “successor.” It looks like we might even get a chance to play as Zelda this time around, as the trailer shows her wearing clothing very similar to Link’s. With a new threat to face and a changing world, the game has us very excited.
Banjo-Kazooie in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
The Banjo-Kazooie franchise is owned by Microsoft, but that isn’t stopping Nintendo from including the titular characters in Super Smash Bros. Ultimate as DLC. Announced with a tease that made it appear to actually be a joke, Banjo-Kazooie will be available in the game this fall and combine elements of ranged and melee characters.
Contra: Rogue Corps
Konami hasn’t released a new Contra game in several years, and the franchise appeared to be dead – or at least dormant. That proved to be false, however, as Contra: Rogue Corps was announced during the E3 Nintendo Direct. The game blends elements of third-person shooters with arcade-style run-and-gun action, and its irreverent sense of humor feels like a perfect fit for the series. Even better was the Castlevania Anniversary Collection released today, giving new players the chance to try out nearly every main title in the series’ long legacy.