The final dispatch from E3 2019

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Another E3 is over. The show gave us new consoles — some powerful, others retro-inspiredcustomizable controllers and many, many video games. Final Fantasy VII Remake? Yep. The upcoming Avengers game? Of course. A sequel to the Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild? Oh yeah, that happened too. Did we mention there were loads of celebrity appearances, too, including Keanu Reeves, Jon Bernthal and Rob McElhenney? It was pretty wild. If, somehow, you missed all of the announcements and trailer-packed press conferences, fear not — we’ve got a super-quick recap video to bring you up to speed. If, however, you prefer words to moving pictures, head here for all of our coverage from the show. We’ll see you next year!

Catch up on all the latest news from E3 2019 here!

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'Fall Guys' is a mini-game battle royale with up to 100 jelly-bean dudes

Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is what happens when indie developers watch too much reality TV. The new title from Mediatonic takes some of the most ridiculous network game-show obstacles courses, throws in some squishy alien creatures, and puts it all online. So far, Fall Guys features a “race through the right doors” mini game, a round where players have to steal and keep their tails, and a furious run up a mountainside filled with spinning and rolling obstacles. It’s all incredibly cheerful, for a fiercely competitive game.

The plan is to support around 30 mini games and up to 100 players at once, eliminating those at the bottom of the heap after each round. Mediatonic may even throw in some Twitch integration down the line, allowing viewers to select items and courses, or join games en masse with their favorite streamers.

Fall Guys is slated to hit PC and PlayStation 4 in 2020. It’s a special game for Mediatonic, as the British studio makes the bulk of its money building licensed products, such as Gears Pop!, Fantastic Beasts: Cases from the Wizarding World and Fable Fortune. It’s also the studio behind the high-definition remake of Hatoful Boyfriend, the best pigeon-dating simulator in existence.

Catch up on all the latest news from E3 2019 here!

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Jessica has a BA in journalism and she’s written for online outlets since 2008, with four years as senior reporter at Joystiq. She specializes in covering video games, and she strives to tell human stories within the broader tech industry. Jessica is also a sci-fi novelist with a completed manuscript floating through the mysterious ether of potential publishers.

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In 'John Wick Hex,' time is the most precious commodity

“John always double-taps.”

Mike Bithell, the creator of John Wick Hex, is showing off the game for the first time at E3 2019, in a mirrored room at the Hotel Figueroa that feels ripped right out of The Continental. In his game, every time a player chooses to shoot, the miniature version of John Wick fires two rounds, because, after all, John always double-taps in the movies.

He also manages his ammo meticulously, counting his shots and fully emptying a magazine before reloading. So, that’s how it works in John Wick Hex, too — players have 15 bullets, and if they reload before firing them all, those leftover rounds are lost forever. Even the way John moves in the game, viewed from top-down in a saturated, comic-book style, comes from working directly with the films’ stunt coordinator, JoJo Eusebio.

“There’s a move in the game where you’re pushing people around. There’s never a shot in the movie where anyone actually does that, because in a movie, a five-meter push-back isn’t the most interesting. But in a game, it makes sense. And working out how to make that work in a John Wick game was interesting — literally turning to JoJo with cubes moving around and saying, ‘We need something for that.’ And him saying, ‘Stand up, let’s go.'”

John Wick Hex

John Wick Hex is a top-down strategy title on a hexagonal grid, though it ditches the genre’s expected mechanic of turn-based combat. Instead, John Wick Hex is all about time management. John’s moves are broken down by the millisecond, as are his enemies’, and players pick his next action by comparing his projected time with the coming attacks from sneaky foes creeping around corners. A series of bars stretch vertically across the top of the screen, displaying the time information for each on-screen character in a manner that should be familiar to anyone who’s edited video or multiple audio tracks.

The end result is a stylish and smooth tactical experience with a rich array of actions to take at any given moment. Crouching, for instance, allows John Wick to roll and steadies his gun, boosting his chances of landing a shot. Alongside health and ammo bars, there’s a Focus meter that allows players to parry incoming shots; it runs down as things get hectic, tempting players to spend some time — the most important commodity in John Wick Hex — replenishing it in the middle of a fight.

John Wick Hex

The millisecond-based twist on the strategy formula stemmed from a conversation with executives at Lionsgate, the studio behind the John Wick films. Bithell was showing off an early, turn-based version of the game to producer Jason Constantine, who asked, “Why is John Wick waiting his turn?”

“I literally was in a big Hollywood conference room and I was bringing up videos of other strategy games, going, ‘This is the genre, this is how it works,'” Bithell said. “And then just this moment of horror — I bet it crossed my face but it definitely was inside me — just like, ‘I’m an idiot.'”

John Wick Hex doesn’t have an official release date just yet, but it’s heading exclusively to the Epic Games Store before hitting other platforms, including consoles.

Catch up on all the latest news from E3 2019 here!

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Jessica has a BA in journalism and she’s written for online outlets since 2008, with four years as senior reporter at Joystiq. She specializes in covering video games, and she strives to tell human stories within the broader tech industry. Jessica is also a sci-fi novelist with a completed manuscript floating through the mysterious ether of potential publishers.


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'Empire of Sin' looks like a new-school 'Mob Rule'

It’s been 20 years since Mob Rule, the organized crime real-time strategy game. Despite a few efforts like Omerta – City of Gangsters, Gangsters 2: Vendetta and Gangland in the years since, there hasn’t been a true successor in the Mafia-meets-strategy genre.

Empire of Sin is aiming to inherit that position. It will launch in Spring 2020 on Switch, PS4, Xbox, PC and Mac with a mix of gang management simulation and turn-based tactical combat. In an E3 demo, the team from Romero Games played as Al Capone, who dons a pin-striped grey suit, chomps on a fat cigar and brandishes tommy guns in both hands. He lands in Chicago’s Little Italy with its moody streets and jazz-infused speakeasies.

“Most people know Capone as the 1930s big-shot mobster where he’s already created his empire,” said Ian O’Neill, associate game designer at Romero Games. “Very few people know the 1920s ‘Hey I just arrived in Chicago, I don’t have anything, I need to establish myself’ Capone.”


Paradox Interactive

There are six rackets to run, from casinos to brothels, and sometimes they have to be taken over by force. Fighting works similarly to XCOM — you move teammates around a grid, finding cover and spending action points judiciously. Incapacitated enemies can be “executed” which cues a brutal animation with blood coating the player’s camera — perhaps unsurprising when the creator of the original, gory Doom, John Romero, is on the team.

You can recruit up to 16 teammates — as lieutenants, soldiers, or an underboss — from a world of 60 characters. In each playthrough, they’ll have randomized relationships with each other as potential friends, enemies or lovers. That could affect how easily they can be recruited; if sent to fight their significant other they might refuse.

Another game element is the “sit-down,” which is essentially how diplomacy is conducted between gang heads. In this demo, it mostly consisted of choosing basic dialogue options resulting in a deal or a back alley shoot-out.


Paradox Interactive

Empire of Sin is not a story-driven game. While there are small missions, your only real goal is to take over Chicago’s various neighborhoods. Even the longest playthroughs won’t last longer than 10 hours. There are 14 characters to play as and half of them are historical figures like Stephanie St. Clair and Dean O’Banion.

Brenda Romero is the lead game designer on Empire of Sin, though she wasn’t at the E3 demo. “She’s wanted to make this game for 20 years,” said John Romero, her husband and the iconic co-founder of id Software. “What I bring is game development knowledge … but it’s basically however Brenda wants the game.”

Catch up on all the latest news from E3 2019 here!

All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Chris is associate features editor at Engadget focusing on in-depth stories about the cultural, societal, and artistic impacts of technology. Raised in the UK and Hong Kong, he has worked for the Columbia Journalism Review, Reuters, and the South China Morning Post.


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‘Shenmue 3’ is more Shenmue, for better and worse

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“Is this what I wanted?” I must have asked myself this question three, four, possibly five times during my 15-minute demo of Shenmue 3. The experience, to be clear, was definitively and unashamedly Shenmue. I steered the series’ protagonist, Ryo Hazuki, around a beautifully-crafted village filled with charming villagers and side-activities. I talked to people. I played a game of Lucky Hit, the notoriously tricky gambling game from Shenmue 2. I bought some colorful “gacha” toys from a capsule machine. I even practiced my martial arts at a nearby dojo. But I wasn’t happy.

To be clear, I love the narrative-driven adventures that Yu Suzuki crafted for the short-lived Sega Dreamcast. They had intriguing mysteries and a day-night cycle that forced you to slow down, chat with store owners and complete mundane but strangely satisfying tasks. The gameplay loop was unique and rewarded players who took the time to wander around and, over the course of several hours, familiarize themselves with the world.

Before my gameplay demo, I was worried that the third instalment — announced at E3 2015 and crowdfunded within seven hours on Kickstarter — would deviate from this intentionally slow and thoughtful formula. Open world game design has changed drastically in the last two decades, and I wondered if Suzuki would feel any pressure to simplify or streamline the Shenmue experience.

But that hasn’t happened. At first, I was smitten by how familiar everything was. I glanced at the in-game clock, browsed my capsule toy collection and then opened Ryo’s useful journal to check my progress in the story. Little had been changed and my first reaction was overwhelming relief.

Gallery: Shenmue 3 | 20 Photos

Within a few minutes, though, that happiness had morphed into concern. Many of the series’ problems, I realized, hadn’t been fixed. The voice acting was atrociously bad and the characters conveyed little emotion during cutscenes. Ryo looked at everyone with a dead-eyed stare that was excusable in the Dreamcast era but now looks creepy and uncomfortable. The hand-to-hand combat felt stiff and generally lifeless, too. I rattled off a few combos but was largely underwhelmed by how they looked on screen.

At the end of the demo, I put down the controller and realized that nothing had surprised me or surpassed my expectations. And that sucks. I’m grateful, of course, that Suzuki has been given the chance to continue Ryo’s story. And I appreciate that the legendary game designer hasn’t messed with the series’ structure and vision. I just wish everything had a little more polish and didn’t feel, well, quite so much like an old Dreamcast title.

For better and for worse, Shenmue 3 is more Shenmue.

Catch up on all the latest news from E3 2019 here!

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art, e32019, gaming, Shenmue III, shenmue3, TL19E3
All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission.

Nick Summers is a senior reporter, editor and photographer at Engadget. He studied multimedia journalism at Bournemouth University and holds an NCTJ certificate. Nick previously worked at The Next Web and FE Week, an education-focused newspaper in the UK.


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