Unlike any of the other shows at E3, the PC Gaming Show isn’t hosted by a colossal company spending millions to get the world excited about their products. It is simple, fast paced and filled with a ridiculously large number of games – but that isn’t necessarily a positive.
Rather than showcasing a few games with a glitzy trailer, an on-stage showcase and then some gameplay, we were shown a trailer (often just a series of gameplay clips) a brief on-stage interview, and then onto the next.
Most AAA PC franchises gave the show a miss, at most showing an advert – not even a proper trailer per se – with Anno 1800 being a notable exception. There were a few large multiplatform games, but mostly small independent games.
There were some truly beautiful games on show, from the black and white Paris of Night Call and the serene deserts in Sable. There were also some questionable ideas too like Insomniac’s VR exploration game. The idea looked excellent; you play an android gardener and explore your world, replacing your parts with ones you find in the environment. However, a VR version sounds vomit inducing, with jumping and climbing over surfaces proving enough to make me feel disorientated just in the demo they showed! I hope to be proven wrong, but VR has worked best in vehicle-based games or ones where you are static.
There were many games that seemed unoriginal and cynically produced, disappointing but completely unsurprising in the age of Steam distribution and it being quicker and easier to make games than ever. Presented were 3 battle royale games, 2 taxi based narrative games and 1 game that seemed to be a 3D version of the extremely popular Factorio. This is the problem with having games from everywhere shown all in one conference. There is more likelihood of repetition and companies abusing the conference, using it as just an easy way to show an advert for a new release, as Jurassic World Evolution was guilty of. It seems so cynical to put that little effort into your time at the show, when other developers actually came to speak about their game and took pride in their work.
One advantage that this show had over other conferences was an abundance of games that simply looked silly and fun. From all of the bizarre ailments in Two Point Hospital, the genuinely hilarious trailer for Rapture Rejects and of course Maneater, a game where you are effectively Jaws, patrolling the Florida coast eating any humans you come across. How well it holds up as a game is yet to be seen, but it’s a brilliantly daft and instantly attractive concept. On another level of madness was Sega’s showing. All their releases port from other devices, but this collection of Japanese titles looked like incredible fun nevertheless. The Yakuza games have the most varied gameplay to be found and they showcased two of them, Kiwami and 0.
Despite all the madness, we still saw some generic-looking games, such as Overkill’s The Walking Dead which looked like a bland zombie shooter with with a single interesting feature; the name slapped onto the cover. Star Citizen was shown again before its eventual release. Just Cause 4 misjudged it’s showcase, making a fun-looking game in an excellent series sound incredibly tedious by spending too much time talking about the new engine and all the improvements that came with it. I know PC gamers like the tech specs of a game, but it felt noticeably of place amongst all the small games who were pitching it as a game, rather than as a technology.
Finally, I have to say it’s sad that this event only happens because of sponsorship, and that the sponsorship comes from outside of people making games. Interrupting a run of tens of games to talk about HDR monitors crushes any momentum and interest it had generated up until that point. When the Duck mascot for a cake brand appeared I just rolled my eyes and thought – ‘that just takes the biscuit.’.
Overall there were some excellent games shown, and this provided a platform for some true artistry that would otherwise have been missed. However, it is necessary to filter the good from the bland, rather than relying on the showcase to do that for you.
Image: Anno 1800 / Blue Byte