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E3 and Summer Game Fest 2021 recap: The best, worst and most boring

E3 and Summer Game Fest 2021 recap: The best, worst and most boring
(Image credit: Mohammad Tabari)

Video game summer started off strong, with the full gameplay reveal of Elden Ring at Summer Game Fest 2021, and ended with a bang at Nintendo Direct 2021 with yet another full gameplay reveal of The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel.

However, most of what was shown between the two reveals left a lot to be desired. It wasn’t the most exciting event, but there were a few titles and conferences that caught our eye and stood out among the rubbish.

Here’s everything we loved and hated from the long list of video game summer presentations from Summer Game Fest 2021 and E3 2021.

Elden Ring

E3 and Summer Game Fest 2021 recap: The best, worst and most boring

(Image credit: Bandai Namco)

Fans have been desperate for more of Elden Ring since the game was revealed during Xbox E3 2019. Bayonetta 3 fans have  waited for more than three years, and the hype for FromSoftware’s latest game is unmatched; it got so bad that fans built fictional bosses on the r/Eldenring subreddit, and nearly every gaming event throughout these past two years has had people screaming for Elden Ring to appear.

Finally, the long wait is over. Geoff Keighley freed himself (and everyone else in the world) from hype prison by revealing one of the most highly anticipated games in development. We were cordially invited to “brandish the Elden Ring,” and simultaneously threatened to have our flames extinguished by a very large, very scary man.

Not only has this two-year buildup been intense, but Elden Ring delivered. FromSoftware’s vision for an open-world evolution of Dark Souls looks brilliant, with the natural feel of the environments meshing beautifully with the darker, more grotesque enemy designs. And as far as the combat goes, it seems like the greatest aspects of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice’s swift verticality and Dark Souls’ hefty brutality are present. Elden Ring is truly the culmination of FromSoftware’s excellent work throughout this past decade, and it seems like it has a solid chance at securing my game of the year when it launches this January.

— Mohammad Tabari

See our full Elden Ring coverage.

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild sequel

E3 and Summer Game Fest 2021 recap: The best, worst and most boring

(Image credit: Nintendo)

While its name remains shrouded in mystery, we finally got a look at the sequel to Breath of the Wild at E3 2021. There’s no game in recent years that I’ve poured more hours into than BotW and while that is, in part, due to my then five-year-old overwriting my save about 60 hours into the game, I wasn’t that devastated as it meant I got to play more BotW. It was a system seller for the Switch in a way that we haven’t seen on PS5 or Xbox Series X, the near universal answer to what game you should get with the Switch. Nintendo managed to reinvent a 35-year old series as an open-world game that still somehow felt completely faithful to what had come before it.

That puts an unbelievable pressure to put on its sequel. While brief, the teaser trailer gave us a few clues as to how it will look to rise to that challenge. Unsurprisingly, Nintendo is not looking to reinvent things yet again; the sequel to BotW looks to be more of what everyone loved in the original, with new abilities and weapons along with a stronger aerial focus bringing additional dimension to the game. In a lesser game, that may come across as a criticism, but this feels like precisely the right move for this sequel. Bring on Ganondorf, bring on the phasing through walls, and bring on that awesome flamethrower arm cannon. 2022 can’t get here soon enough and if the BotW sequel arrives alongside the new Nintendo Switch, then all the better.

— Sean Riley

See our full Breath of the Wild Sequel coverage.

Halo Infinite Multiplayer

E3 and Summer Game Fest 2021 recap: The best, worst and most boring

(Image credit: Xbox)

I said it once and I’ll say it again, Halo Infinite's multiplayer is the most ambitious Xbox and PC experience. We already knew Halo Infinite’s multiplayer was going to be its own free-to-play game, but we didn’t get to see the quality of gameplay until E3. Halo looks exactly like Halo, except better. There’s typically a catch when a game is free, but the developers are banking on people purchasing Battle Passes for cosmetics. The best part is that they never go away even after you buy them.

One of the largest franchises is going free-to-play, so this in and of itself is a remarkable occasion. And since Xbox and PC players can sync up seamlessly, Halo Infinite Multiplayer is more than likely going to blow up on day one. As long as the developers are consistent with post-launch updates, this could be one of the few multiplayer games I continue playing long into the future.

— Rami Tabari

See our full Halo Infinite's multiplayer coverage.

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy

E3 and Summer Game Fest 2021 recap: The best, worst and most boring

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy was one hell of a surprise. I was blown away by the world design, character models and dialogue choices revealed throughout the demo. However, my excitement was quickly soured by the gameplay reveal. To put it plainly, it does not look fun. The gameplay is reminiscent of Marvel’s Avengers, which is a problem because Marvel’s Avengers was boring.

Everything seemed polished, but the gameplay itself looks like a clunky live-service game, which is a problem when we’re talking about a single-player game. The enemies looked like health sponges and the combat looked too arcadey, like there’s no weight to any of the actions the player was committing. Additionally, the game breaks immersion by stopping after a fight just to gain experience. I hope it’s not as bad as it looks because the story seems interesting. I’m just not going to slug through boring gameplay to experience it.

— Rami Tabari

See our full Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy coverage.

Battlefield 2042

E3 and Summer Game Fest 2021 recap: The best, worst and most boring

(Image credit: Dice)

You can breathe now. Because if you were like me, you probably forgot to as you watched the high-energy, destruction-filled Battlefield 2042 gameplay trailer that debuted at the Xbox/Bethesda E3 conference. Where do I even start? DICE took the cinematic trailer it showed leading up to E3 and revealed how the bizarre stunts, deadly weather events and gigantic maps were part of actual gameplay. 

I can't remember the last time the Battlefield franchise had built so much hype, and for good reason. From what we've seen, 2042 could be the first true demonstration of what is capable on PS5 and Xbox Series X, even more so than Halo Infinite or Ratchet and Clank: A Rift Apart. It starts with the 128-player battles taking place on maps that are larger than we've ever seen before. Add destructive environments, extreme weather events and futuristic weapons and vehicles, and Battlefield 2042 is on track to be the most frenetic, action-filled thrillride we've seen from the long-running franchise. 

— Phillip Tracy

See our full Battlefield 2042 coverage.

House of Ashes

E3 and Summer Game Fest 2021 recap: The best, worst and most boring

(Image credit: Dark Pictures)

Have you ever anxiously waited for a crush to text you, and when you finally hear a "ding," you're disappointed that it's not who you expected? It's not that you dislike the sender, but they dashed your hopes. House of Ashes, unfortunately, is the "unwanted text" of Bandai Namco’s E3 2021 showcase. Most viewers tuned in hoping for more Elden Ring updates (as well as some news on popular anime titles), but all we got was House of Ashes — and that's it!

Don't get us wrong; HoA looks badass. It's the latest installment of The Dark Pictures Anthology; it looks spooky and bone-chilling as soldiers find themselves trapped underground after an earthquake. Still, I'm skeptical. Interactive visual novels are not my cup of tea. Plus, Ashley Tisdale is voicing a character named Rachel in the game. When was the last time she was in anything good?

— Kimberly Gedeon

See our full Bandai Namco E3 2021 coverage.

Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands

E3 and Summer Game Fest 2021 recap: The best, worst and most boring

(Image credit: Gearbox)

If you’re somehow still addicted to the cel-shaded madness and polarizing humor of Borderlands, I have no doubt you were amped when Tiny Tina shouted “roll for initiative” during the big Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands reveal. The trailer dropped some big names, including Andy Samberg, Wanda Sykes, and Will Arnett, giving me a shred of hope the jokes won’t be as cringy in Gearbox’s upcoming D&D-style high-fantasy looter shooter.

If it’s anything like the accomplished Tiny Tina's Assault on Dragon Keep DLC, fans of the bonkers Borderlands universe have good reason to be excited. As we now know, players will be able to create their very own character from scratch to battle against wyverns, goblins, and the Dragon Lord himself. When the announcement dropped, the hype was real, especially knowing Gearbox had plenty of time to show off more at its E3 showcase.

Oh, what a fool I was. Following the highs of Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands came what might be the worst E3 showcase in the history of the convention — and that’s saying a lot. For 30 straight minutes, we got a behind-the-scenes “tour” of the Borderlands movie from CEO Randy Pitchford without any teaser footage of the upcoming blockbuster, and a recap of everything previously announced. Oh, and an ongoing quip about “Gearbox University.” My fingers are crossed tight that Gearbox purposely delivered a lackluster presentation to leave more time to work on Tiny Tina’s Wonderlands instead.

Darragh Murphy

See our full Gearbox E3 Showcase coverage.

Forza Horizon 5

E3 and Summer Game Fest 2021 recap: The best, worst and most boring

(Image credit: Xbox)

What the hell?! The last thing I was expecting at Xbox’s conference was to see Forza Horizon 5. Not only was it revealed, but Forza Horizon 5 has a November 9, 2021 release date. Keep in mind that Playground Games are the same developers working on Fable, which is what we thought we were going to see at Xbox’s conference. Clearly, Xbox pulled one over on us, and that’s a great thing. It means Xbox won’t just have Halo Infinite this holiday season, but it’ll also release Forza Horizon 5.

Oh, and it looks ridiculously gorgeous. The latest Horizon title takes you across Mexico in the largest open-world environment the franchise has visited. You’ll weave through jungles, drive through accurately recreated towns and cities, and even loop around dangerous volcanoes. There was a camera still of said volcano, and I was convinced that I was looking at real life. These are the same people set to make Fable, so I already know that the revival of the comical fantasy series is in good hands.

— Rami Tabari

See our full Forza Horizon 5 coverage.

Strangers of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin

E3 and Summer Game Fest 2021 recap: The best, worst and most boring

(Image credit: Square Enix)

Strangers of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin was leaked before Square Enix’s E3, and with this leak came the information that Team Ninja would be tackling the world of the very first Final Fantasy with some Dark Souls inspiration. For these two weeks before the event, I was excited to see what the game would be like, but my expectations plummeted when the trailer was shown. Final Fantasy Origin has graphical fidelity equal to that of an early PS3 game, and the faded, colorless aesthetic is ugly as all hell.

It was difficult to hype myself up, but Square Enix released a PS5-only demo shortly after the reveal. I tried it as soon as possible to see if it would be worth buying, and to my shock, Final Fantasy Origins is better than I anticipated.

It balances careful defensive timing with satisfying hack-n-slash combat, and its progression system does a great job at implementing what made Nioh work, along with new ideas surrounding the series’ classic Job systems. If you have a PS5, it’s worth trying out; sure, it's visually unpleasant, but it’s a lot of fun.

— Mohammad Tabari

See our full Strangers of Paradise Final Fantasy Origin impressions.