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Rocky Mountain Gamer: Summer releases missing energy, electricity as E3 fizzles

Expo canceled its event for third year

“Gotham Knights” will have Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl and the Red Hood protecting Gotham. (Courtesy photo)
“Gotham Knights” will have Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl and the Red Hood protecting Gotham. (Courtesy photo)

Summer means game announcements.

And up until the age of COVID, this came from the massive industry show, E3, which was canceled for the third year in a row, including the virtual event. For the last few years, gamers have relied on company announcements that were relegated to scattered online events, failing to deliver the same electricity as years past.

There’s nothing like having 75,000 people gather in one place to amp up the energy — something sorely lacking this year.

That’s not to say there weren’t some good announcements, and some exciting footage for things we already knew about, but this year, the spark was weak.

Sony kicked off the festivities with a “State of Play” event, but instead of featuring new first-party games, it mainly focused on third-party releases and upcoming VR games.

The standout announcement belonged to Capcom’s “Resident Evil 4” remake. The most acclaimed of the early “Resident Evil” games, fans have been calling for a remake for years. Their wish comes true on March 24, 2023, and early footage looks spectacular.

“Resident Evil 4” remake hits shelves on March 24, 2023. (Courtesy photo)

Capcom continued to wow the audience with the first footage of “Street Fighter 6.” Taking advantage of the PS5’s power, the graphics shine, showing never before seen details in Chun-Li’s thighs and Ryu’s hairstyle. If the buttery-smooth animations are any indication, fighting enthusiasts can expect a game that’s not just pretty, but fast and exciting to play.

“Horizon: Forbidden West” still leads my nominees for Game of the Year. The immersive adventure features both the best story and best gameplay coming from a new-gen console. It was nice that Sony dropped some additional features for its hit, including a New Game+ mode for replays, along with an Ultra Hard mode.

The company also showed the first footage for “Horizon: Call of the Mountain” for PSVR2. Instead of Aloy, players will assume the role of a male Carja warrior named Ryas, in a spinoff featuring lots of archery and climbing.

Sony did end its presentation on a high note with the first gameplay footage from “Final Fantasy 16,” as well as reveling a Summer 2023 release date. Series’ fans gave the trailer a big thumbs up, thanks to the display of familiar summons which now look better than ever before.

An enhanced version of "The Last of Us
An enhanced version of “The Last of Us” is due out in September. (Courtesy photo)

Other trailers were shown, but no real surprises emerged. Interestingly, it wasn’t until a few days later during Summer Game Festival when Sony announced an enhanced version of “The Last of Us” (now labeled part one) for the PS5. Reconstructed from the ground up, it looks spectacular and is due out in September.

Speaking of Summer Game Fest, a summer celebration from the team behind the Video Game Awards, there were shockingly few announcements.

New footage of previously announced games dominated the presentation. The upcoming action/strategy game, “Marvel’s Midnight Suns,” showed off its “X-Com”-style gameplay and announced the inclusion of Spider-Man as a playable character, and an Oct. 7 release date.

“Marvel’s Midnight Suns” will include Spider-Man as a playable character and hits shelves on Oct. 7. (Courtesy photo)

Also looking good, “Gotham Knights,” from WB Games, imagines a world without Batman where Robin, Nightwing, Batgirl and the Red Hood must protect Gotham in his stead. The open-world action-RPG still doesn’t have a release date but is expected in 2022.

The biggest surprise came from a sequel some 30 years in the making. “Flashback 2” brings modern mechanics to a retro-style, 2D side-scrolling action-adventure game.

“Flashback 2” is a sequel some 30 years in the making. (Courtesy photo)

The biggest surprise was undoubtedly “Aliens: Dark Descent,” though not much was shown. Familiar Marines vs. Xenomorphs gameplay is guaranteed, and it seems to somehow tie-in with the “Aliens” movie, but other than some fancy animation and a 2023 release date, not much else is known.

There were other games, but nothing that really stood out, which seems to be the theme of the presentations so far this summer. Not many new game announcements, and among those nothing headline worthy. Lots of looks at previously announced games, with a few release dates or windows to look forward to.

Because game development cycles take several years (at least) we could be looking at a gap stemming from the pandemic, but regardless of the reason, it feels very strange.

Expected updates to games like “God of War: Ragnarok” (still due in 2022 at this point) and “Spider-Man 2” were nowhere to be found, and at this point there hasn’t been any big first-party announcements.

Next time we will take a look at Microsoft/Bethesda and Nintendo (assuming they finally have an event) and see if things get any more exciting.