Zombies and creepy babies: The standout video games at E3
The annual E3 conference, at which video game developers hype their new products for the next couple years, wrapped up this week in Los Angeles and offered little in the way of innovation or surprise. It did offer up a lot of sequels, remakes, zombies and -- in the case of the PlayStation 4 upgrade of 1998's "Resident Evil 2" -- a remake of a zombie sequel. Why are there so many zombie games?!
Most of the games on display have a built-in audience; I would have bought "Kingdom Hearts III" and "Shadow of the Tomb Raider" whether Square Enix showed new footage at E3 or not. (They did. They look fabulous.) Five other games stand out from the hundreds of trailers we saw this week. They are:
• "The Last of Us II" (PlayStation 4) -- Sony's betting the farm on this one, presenting its first trailer to tech journos with a live performance by its Oscar-winning composer, Gustavo Santaolalla ("Brokeback Mountain"). That trailer opens with protagonist Ellie sharing a tender, passionate kiss with another woman ... then cuts to her stabbing some dude in the throat. This post-apocalyptic sequel promises more of the gameplay style that developer Naughty Dog gave us in its predecessor and "Uncharted 4: A Thief's End" -- duck and cover, shoot shoot shoot, rinse and repeat -- but with more gore and brutality. The visuals are undeniably amazing; the big questions are if the gameplay goes beyond burying a claw hammer in somebody's face, and if another story about the survivors of a zombie plague can be involving. (Also: When is it coming out? Sony isn't saying just yet.)
• "Super Smash Bros. Ultimate" (Nintendo Switch) -- In an age of secrecy and spoiler warnings and hype trains that stretch for years, Nintendo vomited forth seemingly everything about this latest installment of their beloved platform fighting game in a 25-minute video: Every character that's ever been in a "Smash Bros." game is coming back! Here are all the levels you can play! Here are their finishing moves! Here are two new characters you've always wanted (Daisy, from the "Super Mario" series, and "Metroid's" demonic dragon Ridley)! And it's coming this December!
• "Anthem" (Xbox One, PlayStation 4) -- EA's new sci-fi exploration game arrives in February with visuals that immediately bring James Cameron's "Avatar" to mind. A soldier in a robotic suit stomps and flies through a lush forest filled with alien creatures and creepy caves, and can seemingly choose to join missions with other online players anywhere on the map. It looks amazing -- and I hope it has a better launch than EA's last big sci-fi title, "Star Wars: Battlefront II." Last year's most-hyped game had to scrap its loot box system just before launch when it became clear that the players with the deepest pockets would dominate those unwilling to commit more than $59.99 to a multiplayer shooter.
• "Control" (PlayStation 4) -- We don't know much about this game past its two-minute announcement trailer, but what a trailer: A gunwielding hero throws objects around like a Jedi while running around a "Blade Runner"-esque cityscape that expands and swirls like something out of "Doctor Strange." Let's hope the gameplay is as awe-inspiring as the visuals.
• "Death Stranding" (PlayStation 4) -- After we are "treated" to what seems to be a camera moving down a birth canal to peek at a creepy baby, the extended trailer for the new offering from "Metal Gear Solid" creator Hideo Kojima shows off its motion-captured cast of Norman Reedus ("The Walking Dead"), Lea Seydoux ("Spectre") and Lindsay Wagner ("The Bionic Woman") in what looks to be an open-world stealth/exploration game. Reedus is seen traversing mountains, lakes and waterfalls in an environment reminiscent of the not-quite-earthly terrain in Ridley Scott's "Prometheus" and "Alien: Covenant." Seydoux pops a space maggot in her mouth and chews with delight. I don't know what the heck is happening in this game, but I know I want to play it.
• Sean Stangland is a Daily Herald multiplatform editor who is still obsessed with "Overwatch." Follow him on Twitter at @SeanStanglandDH.