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E3 2018 diary, day 1: Tombs raided, kingdoms hearted, feet blistered

Here’s what you missed from the first day of E3 2018, including Kingdom Hearts III, a velociraptor, a tractor, and a petrified Norman Reedus. 

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shadow of the tomb raider

Here’s what you missed from the first day of E3 2018, including Kingdom Hearts III, a velociraptor, a tractor, and a petrified Norman Reedus. 

We got off to an interesting start to the first day of E3 proper. Following a calorific breakfast at Denny’s to set us up for the day – and “please don’t put squirty cream on my pancakes” isn’t something you’re used to having to say as a British person – we settled down for the Nintendo Direct presentation. It went on about 20 minutes longer than we expected it to, and by a clear margin of about 25 minutes more in-depth Smash Bros. content than anyone really needed.

In our rush to get down to the convention centre following Nintendo’s baffling extended tutorial video, one of our party left his phone in the apartment. It wasn’t even 10.30am and our fellowship had already sundered, and while one turned back, the rest pressed on.

As we waited in line for the security check – and while some in the queue complained, we’d like to commend the organisation and the staff, keeping us all safe in that baking heat – we felt like we didn’t entirely fit in.

No matter, the doors were opening and we headed inside in earnest. The queues were somehow already enormous for everything, and we don’t entirely know how that happened. Still, at least it didn’t smell too bad. Yet.

Because we didn’t know for sure whether the wanderer would return with or without mobile phone, we set up camp in the media lounge, the agreed-upon rally point. Things… got a bit weird.

The wanderer returned, then we ate lunch at about 11am because there were only a finite number of lunch boxes in the media lounge, and we estimate around 9 billion games journos in the building. We were not remotely hungry after our Denny’s breakfast. We forced it down, like a feral cat who doesn’t know when their next meal is coming. Only one of the lunchboxes contained a water bottle. We were not prepared to share.

We found this round creature on the show floor.

Nobody was any the wiser who or what it was, or what it related to, but it was very cute and pleasingly spherical. It was on a very big stand that must have cost a lot of money, so were all the more surprised to have precisely zero idea what the game was. So we found out. For you. We provide a vital service.

The general public were allowed into the venue and we retreated upstairs to our first scheduled appointment to find it had not been scheduled. The third-party PR agency with whom we had made the booking had apparently not told the in-house PR folk we were coming. We’re not going to name names, but they very kindly agreed to accommodate us in a gap in our schedule tomorrow. Emails were sent to the third-party PR agency.

The very kind people at Rebellion were able to bump up our appointment to play Strange Brigade at very short notice, so we filled the gap with some barmy co-op shooting. We had a lot of fun playing it, with impressions to follow later. Rebellion also gave us additional water bottles, which saved one of our fellowship from certain death; either from thirst, or from touching the water fountains.

We had a short gap before our next appointment, so went and sat on the very plush carpet in front of a very big screen.

Jordan Voigt-Roberts had a bit of a chat with Hideo Kojima about Death Stranding and Metal Gear, while this stoic Norman Reedus mannequin watched in the background. The baby was even more creepy in person. We finished that video with still no idea what in the name of all that is good in the world Death Stranding is about.

Next we watched a video of the Resident Evil 2 Remake, along with some developer chat. Is it just us, or had everybody forgotten that was being done until the conference yesterday? Anyway, it looks to have been done rather beautifully, built in the same engine as Resident Evil VII, but with Resident Evil 4’s over-the-shoulder control scheme. Interestingly, the bit in the RPD Police Station where the dog first comes through the window? That didn’t happen. The developers were pleased to point out that they’ve moved some of the jump scares so people don’t know what’s coming, which we’re not entirely pleased about.

Also, it was very gory and it was being shown on a jumbotron screen in the middle of the show floor. We think that may have been a mistake, as some of it was really quite unpleasant.

Then the Resident Evil 2 video finished, and the next feature – on Justin Roiland’s new game, Trover Saves the Universe – was announced as up next. We (and all the other grown-ups) stood up to leave, as teenage boys and too-old man-children flocked to the screen like moths to a dumpster fire. It was like inadvertently finding yourself on the wrong subreddit, but realising your mistake before it got too unpleasant.

Also, there was a tractor.

Then we went off for several hours of appointments with Square Enix. Fair play to the mega-publisher: they were incredibly well-organised and everything went off without a hitch.

We saw Just Cause 4 – which is looking remarkable, by the way – and Life is Strange: The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit, and learn that we’re not the only ones who affectionately refer to it as Captain Underpants. Then we spent some quality time with Lara Croft in Shadow of the Tomb Raider. The Tomb Raider stand is also very impressive, and while it is a little old-hat to have a Lara Croft model posing with fans for photos, there’s also a genderbent male version (Larry Croft?) wearing a similarly skimpy tank top, so it’s all fair at least.

The Jurassic World stand is also quite impressive.

And there is a very large Fortnite Battle Royale party bus in the convention centre, which is admittedly very cool but we have questions as to why anyone at Epic thought there was any need to spend even a single penny trying to push what is already the biggest game on the planet.

We rounded off the evening by playing the Toy Story world demo of Kingdom Hearts III, and now, for the first time in forever, we finally believe the game is coming out. We joked about it with the man on the Square Enix stand. He laughed, politely, but said they don’t like to talk about it. We didn’t push it.

We’ll have detailed impressions of all the games we saw today at E3 2018 over the next few days, but for now, we’re going to drink some wine and type up some notes. We hear everyone else is out at parties, but we’re far too professional (read: old and in need of sleep and prone to hangovers) for that. See you tomorrow, nerds.


More from E3 2018

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Tom is an itinerant freelance technology writer who found a home as an Editor with Thumbsticks. Powered by coffee, RPGs, and local co-op.

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Hello Games announces No Man’s Sky Origins update

No Man’s Sky is the gift that keeps on giving, from a team we don’t even deserve.

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No Mans Sky book covers
Hello Games / Thumbsticks

No Man’s Sky is the gift that keeps on giving, from a team we don’t even deserve.

Did you know that the procedurally-generated aesthetic for No Man’s Sky was based on pulpy, 70s science fiction novel covers?

(We did know, but it’s still fun to watch the video in the post linked above. For all of its “bazillion of procedurally generated planets” pitch, the aesthetic and the atmosphere of No Man’s Sky are still some of its biggest selling points, especially with the very scary Desolation update from a couple of months ago.)

As the free content updates kept coming for No Man’s Sky, each with its own science fiction cover, it built up a bigger picture: a “shelf” of those pulpy sci-fi book covers.

But when Sean Murray, of Hello Games, tweeted a picture of all the covers together following the Desolation update, it did not escape people’s notice that there was only “room” for one more cover left on that artificial bookshelf of pulpy book covers:

And with the No Man’s Sky Origins update set to be revealed next week, people have been worried that might be the last update we see for the game. The final space on the bookshelf will be filled, as it were.

But according to the blog post announcing Origins, “This update will be another small step in a longer journey.”

Perhaps Hello Games isn’t quite done with No Man’s Sky just yet.


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Play three cool games for free on Xbox One this weekend

This week’s lineup of Xbox One Free Play Days titles takes players to the high seas, a world destroyed by war, and a creature-infested Louisiana.

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Sea of Thieves - Xbox One

This week’s lineup of Xbox One Free Play Days titles takes players to the high seas, a world destroyed by war, and, erm, Louisiana.

Shiver me timbers, Sea of Thieves is free to play on Xbox One this weekend. Rare’s online pirate adventure was somewhat cooly received on release, but who’s cool now? A treasure chest of content and gameplay updates has helped build a thriving community of shipmates, most of whom are welcoming to new deckhands. Nonetheless, take care, there’s always someone waiting to steal a Bilge Rat Doubloon or two when your back is turned.

Players should also keep their wits about them in Hunt: Showdown, the popular PvP first-person hunting game from Crytek. Up to 12 players must venture into the dangerous swamps of Louisiana. Your task is to retrieve a bounty from a vicious creature, but once you have that bounty, friends become foes, and you become the target. Hi-jinks ensue.

Finally, Warhammer: Chaosbane is moderately fun hack-and-slash action RPG from EKO Software. If the phrase “fighting battles in the sewers of Nuln” gets your blood pumping, this game is probably for you.

All three games are playable for free until midnight on Sunday for Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass Ultimate members. As always, any earned achievements and save states carry over into purchased copies of each game. Here’s the lowdown on this week’s related digital discounts.

Xbox One Free Play Days Discounts

Hunt: Showdown

  • Standard Edition – 60% off
  • Master Hunter Edition – 50% off

Warhammer: Chaosbane

  • Standard Edition – 65% off
  • Deluxe Edition – 65% off
  • Magnus Edition – 70% off

Sea of Thieves

  • Standard Edition – 50% off

Bookmark our sales and freebies pages for the latest video game promotions. You can also follow Thumbsticks on Flipboard, Facebook, Google News, and Twitter for daily gaming news updates

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Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

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Surprise! The Long Dark is out now on Nintendo Switch

Another Nintendo Direct, another raft of surprise Nintendo Switch releases. One of today’s picks is The Long Dark.

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The Long Dark Nintendo Switch
Hinterland / Thumbsticks

Another Nintendo Direct, another raft of surprise Nintendo Switch releases. One of today’s picks is The Long Dark.

Nintendo has developed a habit of doing the old “and it’s available on the eShop right now” trick during its Direct presentations. In a summer of interminable video press conferences and wall-to-wall Geoff Keighley and 15-minute trailers for games we won’t see again for a couple of years, it’s a lovely little trait, an instant dopamine hit.

And Nintendo used it again, a few times, during its September 2020 Nintendo Direct Mini Partner Showcase. There were games we knew were coming at some point, like Hades, and games we didn’t, like Ori and the Will of the Wisps. But they were still a nice surprise.

Then there was The Long Dark, the brilliant, wintry survival epic from Hinterland Games. That, too, got a surprise launch on the Nintendo Switch today. This is a lovely turn of events for a couple of reasons:

  1. The Long Dark is really rather good.
  2. The last we heard, the game’s performance on Switch was quite poor, so it’s excellent that it’s now in a state good enough to release.

There’s also an excellent launch trailer to mark the occasion:

Meanwhile, Hinterland head honcho and The Long Dark director Raph van Lierop took to Twitter to address some players’ confusion that, uncharacteristically, the trailer wasn’t particularly bleak.

We’re looking to heading out into the wilderness and playing The Long Dark later this year. You know, when it gets really cold.


Check out everything else announced in this month’s Nintendo Direct, or follow Thumbsticks on FlipboardFacebookGoogle News, and Twitter.

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Prepare for Watch Dogs: Legion with this Epic freebie

Watch Dogs: Legion is out in a month, which means you have just enough time to play through its fantastic predecessor.

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Watch Dogs 2 - Marcus Holloway
Ubisoft

Watch Dogs: Legion is out in a month, which means you have just enough time to play through its fantastic predecessor.

In Ubisoft’s upcoming open-world game Watch Dogs: Legion, you can play as anyone. In this week’s Epic Games Store freebie, Watch Dogs 2, you play as a very specific person who I like an awful lot. Marcus Holloway, the game’s protagonist, is a genuinely likable, cool, chill dude. He’s also one of the few Black leads in video games.

The game around Marcus is also very cool. Set in modern day San Francisco, Watch Dogs 2 is a slice of sunshine-y fun that hands you a tonne of cool hacker superpowers. If you want to know more, I wrote about it as one of the best (and least realistic) hacking video games on the market here.

The Other Freebies

Also free: Football Manager 2020. This one ain’t for Yanks, like me; it’s about the other kind of football. From my experience playing the sport as a 10-year-old, managing a football team mostly involves keeping the team stocked with Capri Suns and helping them choose a cool name. Our uniforms were blue and white and we called ourselves the Blizzards. Very cool stuff. The beautiful game, indeed.

And, the final freebie is an indie platformer called Stick It to the Man, which has a cool pop-up book aesthetic. Worth a look for the low, low price of free.

And, here’s your friendly reminder that all five episodes of 3 Out of 10 are still free. I’ve played the first two episodes of the “interactive sitcom” about life at the world’s worst game developer and I’m becoming increasingly invested in the story. The minigames have a surprisingly good hit-to-miss ratio, as well.

All of this is free until next Thursday when Roller Coaster Tycoon 3: Complete Edition will be up for grabs.


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Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

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The future of VR is wireless as Facebook goes all in on the Oculus Quest 2

With specifics for the Oculus Quest 2 finally here, it’s also been revealed that the PC-only Oculus Rift headsets will be discontinued in 2021.

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Oculus Quest 2
Facebook / Oculus

RIP Oculus Rift.

With specifics for the Oculus Quest 2 finally here, it’s also been revealed that the PC-only Oculus Rift headsets will be discontinued in 2021. Sales of the original Quest will also cease. It’s another clarifying move in Facebook’s vision for the future of VR. It comes alongside the recent announcement that a Facebook account will be required to use any Oculus headset by 2023. Indeed, a Facebook account is required to use the Quest 2.

Facebook has reassured users that they will continue to support PC VR via Quest and Oculus Link. The Rift platform of PC software certainly isn’t facing a shut down any time soon.

That said, Facebook seems to be betting big on wireless, mobile experiences being the key to VR reaching mass audience appeal. Whilst the Quest 2 does fold both the wireless and PC-fidelity VR worlds into one headset with a fibre-optic Oculus Link cable – available to preorder separately – it’s telling that this cable isn’t included with the headset itself.

Other USB-C cables should be capable of the PC tethering too via Oculus Link but might provide an inferior performance. Either way, Quest 2 users will be able to access games on the Rift platform that haven’t been adapted especially for its wireless capabilities. These include highly-acclaimed releases like Asgard’s Wrath, The Walking Dead: Saints and Sinners, and Lone Echo. It seems a shame this is slightly deemphasised.

The Quest 2 is launching on October 10 and undercuts the original Quest significantly with a price tag of £299. Despite this, it boasts better specs all-round: a higher resolution of 1832 x 1920 pixels per eye, higher refresh rate support of  72 Hz (and 90 Hz promised via software update), a Qualcomm Snapdragon XR2 processor, and 6 GB RAM. Other features like controller-less navigation bring back Kinect memories.

It’s a major shift towards affordable VR and many early reviews signal very positive impressions. Equally, not everyone is sold on the new VR system.


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Enjoyed this article?

Found it interesting, entertaining, useful, or informative? Maybe it even saved you some money. That's great to hear! Sadly, independent publishing is struggling worse than ever, and Thumbsticks is no exception. So please, if you can afford to, consider supporting us via Patreon or buying us a coffee.

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