Zack Kotzer: Hello, my name is Zack. And with me here is Zach. We’re Zach/ks, and we agree on most things. Yet, despite our names and our stances, we are two different people! He is in Florida, and I, Canada. For this, the holy week that is E3, we will be the ambassadors of Kill Screen for people who are only half-paying attention to E3 (as if such a person could exist!) or did not spend all day staring at Twitter. I literally kicked a person out of my apartment who wanted to have sex all day so I could watch videogame keynotes. That felt like a test. These nerds better make it count.
Zach Budgor: We have the same name but do we have the same opinions? Stay tuned. I’ve got eight library books out right now, but I’m taking time out of my day to imbibe the heady brew E3 undoubtedly has on tap. At least I’m not being broiled in the oppressive open-world oven that is a Tampa summer. Let’s fucking DO THIS.
ZK: Zach, is it just me, or is shooting things getting dull? Am I desensitized? I see a shrieking flesh husk getting ripped up by a chainsaw and I only know it is fun, but don’t feel it. I feel like a robot trying to understand humans from afar.
ZB: Great start. There is a strange lack of joy here, for a game set in HELL and pits you against the gibbering hordes of Satan’s Children. It’s slick and they found a way to put melee kills in a Doom game, but there’s no danger to it, nothing that grabbed me. Doom used to be Slayer in the eighties—people got mad at Doom. Now it’s colorless and Hell looks like a sand castle and you can double-jump. I can’t help but be excited about shotgunning demons but right now it seems interesting in spite of itself. Maybe the true hell is playing a boring Doom game.
ZK: Like your first kiss being with someone who was dared to do it, I look at this and I just wish this was the first time. I think we’ve watered down videogames. During the multiplayer bit it felt like you could call it Halo or Crysis or Bomberman Zero and I’d say, “Yeah, that sounds about right.” Which is especially a bummer in a game that’s clearly trying to bring back the magic of the original, emphasis on mods and maps. Doom set the standards and must suffer the consequences of being influential. Otherwise, finally, a game where I can kill zombies with a shotgun. Maybe what we need is some spice, another John Romero’s head on a stick, and not as a hidden boss, but like, the main boss, or enemy. A modern AAA masterpiece that pits you against an impaled ponytail for 14 glorious hours.
ZB: Who’s doing the voice for the female character? I only ask because trusty, gruff voiceman Troy Baker has been enlisted to give life to our male protagonist, and it’s crazy that they’d let you elide all his hard work. Unless he voices the dog as well, in which case, Fallout 4 has my vote.
ZK: Dang, two game-long voiceover tracks—they put a lot of work into this. I’ll feel really bad playing it, every minute haunted by the ones I know the developers weren’t getting regular sleep. How can we be expected to appreciate all of this?
ZB: Following on your points about Doom—Fallout 4 is now embracing the good word of tower defense and crafting.
ZK: Which is at least an interesting use of THE STATE OF GAMES TODAY. And if it turns out I don’t give a shit about the elements that I’m sure months of human labor had gone into, I can always be true to the most honoured Bethesda tradition and go wayyyy off the rails, hanging with subway vampires and filling some forgotten room with every pilot light and slice of bread I can find.
ZB: Yeah, if nothing else, you can build your own house in this game, which means you can also fill it with bullshit items. And dog bones.
ZK: I’ll recreate Pee Wee’s Playhouse, staple a bunch of tchotchkes and chilli lights to the roof except in this setting you’ll just imagine it’s someone who has lost it in the apocalypse, and clings to his sanity by talking to chairs, globes and windows.
ZB: Zack has already preordered Fallout 4.
ZK: Wow, I guess it didn’t take me very long to do a 180 on this community-building thing. Maybe I shouldn’t think of it as a distraction from being a weirdo of the wasteland but an extension of it.
ZK: In the same way The Wizard was a really long, entertaining ad for Super Mario 3, the Nintendo World Championships was that for Mario Maker. A game for assholes, by assholes. I’m sold.
ZB: This looks great. They’re giving you the tools to do ridiculous shit like stack Bowsers in a tiny room and chart devious patterns of jumps up in the sky. It’s a gauntlet-maker, basically, and I can’t wait to see what awful configurations people come up with.
ZK: And it goes beyond what we’ve seen from even the cruel fan stuff. Oh, yeah, you can make a wall of saw blades that require you to glitch spin on a turtle shell for ten minutes, but did you put fireball beams inside those saw blades and then mount them on a moving aquatic ghost? No, no you didn’t. That’s why Nintendo’s here. They’re professionals.
Super Smash Bros
ZB: Super Smash Bros has become the toys you get with a Happy Meal.
ZK: I guess that makes Blastball the apple slices.
ZK: Dogs and a female protagonist? Oh ho, the internet likes.
ZB: I think this looks cool. That’s not much of a take, is it?
Dark Souls III
ZB: Very little of Dark Souls III shown off here, but all I needed to see was “Developed by From Software, Inc” and all my concerns—too soon after Bloodborne, don’t ruin this with annualization—evaporated. I’m easy. Does the giant golem imply Shadow of the Colossus-style boss fights? We will know soon, with this, the third and final entry in the Souls series. Time to wrap up that story we all completely understand! It is, as people suspected, directed by Hidetaka Miyazaki, which must mean Bloodborne was like his weekend gig or something.
ZK: Damn Zach do you turn down free fruit smoothie coupons too?
ZB: Good God I don’t know what I’ve just seen but it struck me as real futuristic. A woman was chased through a tabletop recreation of Minecraft by a man wearing a visor, while another man filmed it all on a massive camera rig. Is this porn?
ZK: Figuratively, not yet. Literally, give it a few months. This seemed uncannily like that clip from The Adventures of Mark Twain where they meet Lucifer and he just hangs out in a void of the universe, creating civilization and humanity on a bored whim, but then starts killing their cattle with lightning bolts, watching them war with each other, then drowns them in natural disasters as they all scream in terror. Soon that’ll be us. Boy videogames are fun!
Sea of Thieves
ZK: They really missed the mark on that pirate game Sea of Thieves. How can you coattail all of your previous classics and move on without naming your new high seas adventure Scurvy-McBooty? Anyway, I hope there’s a void in the menu interface where all the Donkey Kong Countrys should be, a grey void and a small slip of paper which reads, “Your nostalgia will save no one.”
ZB: I have nothing to add here except that the Rare montage was sadly lacking in Jet Force Gemini.
Gears of War 4
ZB: I couldn’t see a single thing in this trailer, but what I could make out looked like a Resident Evil game with even burlier men (this guy’s ballooned-up physique takes up like a third of the screen, like a human letterbox), or a chainsawier riff on The Last of Us.
ZK: That’s because his flashlight died, Zach. This kind of felt like a tech demo in a hype reel’s clothing. All of that gusty deadly storm was a weird murderous spectacle. Lightning! Debris! Dynamic cloud effects! But I guess it’s good to bundle your messages. I don’t know how much there would be to say about a new Gears of War game alone. You’ll have chainsaws, and monsters to chainsaw. They’ll sure be there, those froggy beasts, to saw like the husky alpha you are.
ZB: This looks … earnest, but at least it is not a sequel. The presenter is demonstrably nervous, which suggests he is a “human being,” similar to the charmingly excitable woman during the Hololens bit earlier. EA followed this heartfelt yarn platformer game with a man in a zombie suit prancing onstage to “Danger Zone” (the second appearance of said track this E3).
ZK: Did every major videogame company start an Etsy or something? Can’t wait for Square to announce Googley-Eyed Sand-Filled Sequin Frog’s Amazing Quest tomorrow. This is what people will someday think an “indie games” is: A bunch of children gathering around making paper dolls with glue and popsicle sticks to sell at their school’s craft fair.
ZB: The Etsyfication of videogames, anyone?
ZK: Hot takes like that are why we pay you the big bucks.
ZB: More scorching takes from the Kill Screen hivemind:
“The Of Monsters and Men of videogames.”
“It’s probably time to revisit the commodification of the term “indie,” because it’s increasingly just meaning ‘popsicle sticks and violins.’”
Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
ZB: I fucking love Mirror’s Edge and over long, concentrated hours I nested myself within its off-kilter systems until the spots where they rubbed at odd angles bred not frustration but beauty … ahem, so, the idea of an open-world version of that sounds terrible.
ZK: Uh oh, are we about to disagree about something? Open-world sounds like the game it should have been the first time around… W… What do we do now?
ZB: What drove this game were the compact memorization challenges, like each level was its own extended movement puzzle. Can an open-world sustain that? I envision this going the Assassin’s Creed route (collect 7 pages from the Pristine Utopia handbook!) and that displeases me. I’ll take 5 tight hours over 30 bloated ones.
ZB: Lord, but this man was born to present a medieval combat videogame. Do you think there’s a slender, deadly sword concealed within that cane? I’m all for more games with meaty, detailed hand-to-hand throwdowns, though, and this looks delightfully methodical and brutal. Up with violence, friends. “Knights!” the man yelled, as he left the stage, presumably off to attend a Slough Feg show. Maybe it was “Nice!” but really…why would it not be “Knights!”
ZK: Do you have any Deadliest Warrior DVDs laying around? My ass he wasn’t one of the “experts” they had on there throwing a spear at a slab of ballistic gel.
ZB: That is exactly the itch this game is going to scratch.
ZK: Maybe he was just there to juxtapose the previous speaker, who looked and spoke like Peter MacNicol in Ghostbusters 2.
ZB: Is the person talking about “good loot” a character in the game? Or is this scripted in-game chat? I’m only confused because I’ve never had voice chat this productive.
ZK: It’s gotta be part of the script. There’s no real world where someone describes an AI as “aggro” out loud.
ZB: These two are getting mad at each other. Someone should step in.
ZK: That’s the thing about the future, Zach, [lights cigarette] no such thing as friends.
ZB: Well, at least there’s loot.
ZK: I guess they are hoping this is the anti-Destiny, which just loops us back to every other videogame.
Just Dance 2016
ZB: Jason Derulo definitely is a dude who needs his auto-tune. Ubisoft, if nothing else, deserve kudos for consistently putting Aisha Tyler onstage, realizing the necessity of charisma when doling out game trailers and release dates. I don’t know that she’s elevating the material, necessarily, but she sure is trying.
ZK: If you put the E3 livestreams and the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade broadcast side-by-side you might not be able to tell them apart.
Rainbow Six Siege
ZB: Angela Bassett in … another game about lethal pandemics!
ZK: With a hint of that fear-culture ISIS touch.
ZB: “Borders and protocols are irrelevant” when putting together your team! So make sure to accessorize your white guys with plenty of hoodies and gas masks! Go fucking crazy!
ZK: It’s not like they’re completely without contemporary touches. One of them had a big long beard.
ZB: Did I see the word “TERROHUNT” onscreen? Men are squatting onstage now like cooks taking a smoke break out back of the kitchen, crouching low amid the grease and bread crusts and roaches. I love these constructive team-building visions of multiplayer utopia we are repeatedly being presented with. “Good job guys.” “Nice work.” “Those cookies you brought in yesterday were just fantastic.”
ZK: “You made a real difference.” “Your friendships are earnest.” “It wasn’t your fault.”
ZB: I am intrigued by the small scale of this game. Granted, these guys are playing with such attention to detail that they may as well be actual SWAT members, but it seems to foster pretty tactical play. Could this be our Assault on Precinct 13?
ZK: For the record, my squad name also happens to be Genevieve Forget.
Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate
ZK: Of course that guy looks hot, Aisha, he’s wearing a three-piece steampunk suit and a leather coat in Los Angeles in June.
ZB: I missed the start of this to make a sandwich, and I thought it was The Order. But no, it is the latest installment in the series seemingly everyone is tired of, Assassin’s Creed: Cockney Edition. “Try the bitter. It’s actually quite drinkable,” the protagonist says from under his damnable hood. That’s some fuckin’ deadly patter, bruv!
ZK: A Victorian Assassin’s Creed feels more inevitable than exciting. Can’t wait for me n me blokes ‘eadin’ out to the ol’ cobblestone lookin’ fer a stab.
Ghost Recon: Something
ZB: “We like to surprise you with new ideas. But we really like to surprise you by revolutionizing our franchises,” says Yves Guillemot, introducing a game where men in camo pants perform stealth kills and shoot other men in the head—but with more cocaine than usual.
ZK: Can’t put Juarez in the title and just make your video game sort of Mexican.
ZK: NEVER MIND this isn’t that at all!
ZB: I went Call of Juarez, Army of Two, and never even thought about Ghost Recon. Looks like I was, indeed, surprised. Does Ubisoft own Kane & Lynch? Cause that was also a contender.
ZK: “We like new ideas, but we also like to dredge up established franchises whose names have been recycled so many times they no longer hold any specific value. Here’s a game that could be any game, but it’s a game called Ghoul School.”
ZB: I doubt anyone in the world could’ve guessed what this was without that title card.
ZB: That’s us done for the day. I’m exhausted just from sifting through all these videogames! Imagine being at this goddamn thing. Imagine being in that room, with the endless percussive gunshots and the litany of promises. It’s gotta be like a Jucifer concert where you forgot your earplugs. Night!
ZK: I’m going to stay up to watch Sony’s to see if we all cut off our fingers to honour old gods to get The Last Guardian for nothing.
Our second day of E3 roundups will go live tomorrow. In the meantime, read our more measured coverage of Cuphead, Tacoma, Ashen, Dishonored 2, and Doom, or experience a taste of that E3 delirium yourself.