The four best 2019 games we played at E3


You play as Jesse Faden who, traumatised and filled with guilt after inadvertently unleashing an otherworldly power as a child, has spent her adult life tracking down the super-secret Federal Bureau of Control. But on the day she finally locates its headquarters — a shifting brutalist structure in New York called The Oldest House — an unexpected turn of events involving a violent invasion of interdimensional beings known as The Hiss means Jesse is declared the FBC’s new director.

She’s armed with a weapon that can shift forms just as easily as the building does, meaning you can switch between modes (i.e. from pistol to shotgun) at the press of a button. But she also gains a new superhero-like power every time she encounters certain items in The Oldest House.

The mission I played was a little way into the game, and Jesse already had the satisfying “launch” power. Holding a button sends an object from the environment (a filing cabinet, chair, fire extinguisher, anything) hurtling towards Jesse’s hand, where she can hold it telekentically before launching it at an enemy. If there are no objects around, she merely tears a chunk of concrete from the wall. Combined with the gun’s flexibility and limitless ammo, and other powers such as a dash and short-range telekenetic blast, it all makes for distinctive, fluid and exciting gun fights.

Developer Remedy is known for its characteristically Finnish sense of surrealism (see Max Payne, Alan Wake, Quantum Break), and it works so well with the cosmic horror vibe in Control. Possessed FBC agents hang in mid-air waiting for The Hiss to take over their bodies and attack, while the alien presence also appears to have strange effects on your visual perception.

I love that Jesse, as with Alan Wake, feels like a regular person in extraordinary circumstances rather than your standard action hero badass, but there’s certainly more to her story than we’ve seen so far.

Control is out August 27 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.

Revitalising an oft-forgotten classic

A Game Boy favourite has been given a total graphical overhaul for 2019.

A Game Boy favourite has been given a total graphical overhaul for 2019.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is a 1993 Game Boy game beloved by many but all too easy to sweep under the rug when considering the series’ larger history. It’s a strange, funny, wonderful game with smart puzzles and a pleasantly disconcerting story, but it’s also a quarter of a century old and hobbled by the technological limitations of Nintendo’s humble two-button, monochrome handheld system.

This year’s remake, then, has a delicate balancing act to perform. How to keep everything that was great about the original, while adding some modern comforts and giving it all a refreshed look and feel?

The most obvious change is to the graphical style, with the new Link’s Awakening is rendered in an absolutely stunning plastic miniature aesthetic. A tilt shift overhead camera perspective also adds to the impression that you’re peering down into a tiny world of shiny, adorable people and things.

It’s a style that manages to capture both the spirit of Link’s Awakening’s look and the design of the illustrations in the original game’s art and manual. The toy-like characters also tangibly evoke the playful essence of the Game Boy itself. It’s a perfect choice.

I only played the first 15 minutes of the game at E3, but it was enough to discern the general philosophy of the updates here. To my eye, the layout of the starting town and adjacent beach was identical to the original game, and the writing in the characters’ speech bubbles was as I remembered as well.

The big difference is that the overworld is fully widescreen now, but venturing down into the dungeons I found the screen was protracted to maintain the original layouts and puzzles. You can also, thankfully, now equip multiple items at a time while still having access to your sword, shield and other core utilities. But overall this appears to be the original game’s content presented with extras and a new style, rather than a total reimagining.

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening is out September 20 for Switch

When the going gets tough, the tough get Gooigi

This time Luigi's trapped in a massive haunted hotel.

This time Luigi’s trapped in a massive haunted hotel.

It may not be anywhere near Super Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Pokemon or even Donkey Kong Country when it comes to Nintendo series people go nuts for, but you’d be making a big mistake if you slept on a new Luigi’s Mansion.

What the series lacks in cultural cachet it more than makes up for in personality, from the quirky presentation and offbeat characters to the incredible atmospheric music, and Luigi’s Mansion 3 seems like no exception.

This time it’s a hotel in which Mario’s braver brother finds himself caught. The whole crew was apparently trying to get some R&R but now something’s gone wrong, the place is filled to the brim with ghouls and it’s up to Luigi (as always) to save their butts when he could be running for the hills. Each floor is a different theme, but it all fits together like dollhouse / puzzle box hybrid.

No other game plays like Luigi’s Mansion. You explore room to diorama-style room using a vacuum to interact with objects, uncovering cash, secrets and g-g-g-g-ghosts. The sterling animation and attention to detail of prior games returns here, and I love seeing Luigi’s confident mustachioed face shiver into a terrified grimace whenever he enters a room you haven’t yet cleansed.

The E3 demo showed off some cool new mechanics, such as the ability to shoot a plunger to pull objects, slam ghosts violently to lower their health while you’re vaccing them up, or even deploy “Gooigi”, a slimy clone that can get to places the fleshy original can’t reach.

Luigi’s Mansion 3 is out some time this year on Switch.

Everlasting hell is fine by me

Despite the heavy metal looks and sounds, Doom Eternal is a delight.

Despite the heavy metal looks and sounds, Doom Eternal is a delight.

The last Doom was something of a reset for the series, returning to the kind of fast, frenetic, colourful action on which the original made its name. And everything that that game did, Doom Eternal does bigger.

Ripping and tearing at high speed feels as great as ever, and you’re never encouraged to stop doing either thanks to a circular system that rewards you with resources for getting up close and personal with demons.

The Doom Slayer not only has a chainsaw and a bevy of guns this time, but a blade and a shoulder-mounted flamethrower too. The platforming sections, which were some of the weaker parts of the 2016 game, have been tightened up a bit thanks to a new double-jump and the ability to cling to and scale certain walls. Gun modifications have also been expanded, and include the never-not-fun meathook on the super shotgun that can let you zoom towards an attached enemy.

Despite the hellspawn and gore, what I played of Doom Eternal was a fun, empowering and self-aware time that’s unapologetic in its video gaminess, with floating and glowing extra life icons and enemies that shoot out health upgrades and other powerups when they die. In a sense, it has a lot more in common with old-school arcade games than it does many modern first-person shooters.

The story also seems bigger and dumber this time around, and the Slayer’s single-mindedness and violent disdain for anything other than killing demons will no doubt serve as a frequent source of levity.

Doom Eternal is out November 22 for PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and, in the US, Stadia.

The author travelled to Los Angeles as a guest of Microsoft.

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