By Steven Petite
For the second year in a row, Bethesda demonstrated the right way to showcase current and upcoming products effectively. First impressions are very important, and Bethesda kicked off the show with a clever command prompt reveal of Quake Champions. It was only a short teaser with no actual gameplay footage, but when Tim Willits of id Software came out on stage and talked about unlocked frame rate and an emphasis on competitive arena combat, I knew that Quake was a title to look forward to. After the rebirth of Wolfenstein and the recent reincarnation of Doom, Bethesda has quietly become one of the best, if not the best, publisher of first person shooters. So it’s safe to say that, whenever Quake launches, it will be nothing short of great.
A big rumor leading up to their showing was that The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim was receiving the re-master treatment, and that has now been confirmed and wow, it looks damn beautiful. It will be out on the final Tuesday of October, joining Titanfall 2.
Bethesda’s conference was universally sound. Other companies should take note of how they handle already released games at E3. A slew of free content is coming to Doom, major updates are on the horizon for Elder Scrolls Online, and Fallout 4 is getting some interesting new tools in the Wasteland Workshop.
On top of their regular console and PC output, Bethesda touched on mobile, offering new details and a story trailer for their upcoming Elder Scrolls strategy card game, Legends. While it still doesn’t appear to be too different from Hearthstone, they are putting a lot of development hours and thought into their version of card battles. It shows.
But the most interesting announcements were ones that were truly unexpected. Both Fallout 4 and Doom are coming to VR, the former confirmed for HTC Vive in 2017. Essentially, these are the first major (traditional) games to be introduced for VR, and that says a lot about the confidence that massive studios like Bethesda have in the emerging technology.
Fallout 4 VR is a revelatory discovery, but in my opinion it was decidedly upstaged by the reveal of a franchise that has been, by all intents and purposes, dead for almost a decade. Like Wolfenstein, Doom, and Quake, Bethesda is unearthing another heralded shooter, Prey.
The original Prey came out in 2006 after a tortured eleven year development cycle dating back to 1995. The game was critically acclaimed and beloved by gamers, and in 2008 Prey 2 was announced. Bethesda acquired the franchise in 2009 and after that, Prey 2 vanished. Every year around this time there are murmurs about Prey resurfacing, and those whispers have led to persistent silence from the publisher. Its official cancellation was confirmed at PAX Australia in 2014 which wasn’t much of surprise to anyone given the five-year absence of new information.
Against all odds, the trailer for the re-imagining of Prey opened with, “Good morning, Morgan. Today is Monday March 15th, 2032.” And then it repeated, again and again like Groundhog Day, each time showing the vibrant visuals of a man waking from bed and getting ready to start his day. As the scene evolves, fluorescent colors and bright lights eventually transform into the dark abyss of space on a ship filled with ambiance and ominous shadow creatures.
To be honest, I had no idea this was the reveal of Prey until the logo at the end of the clip, partially because Prey has been so far removed from my brain to recall its existence on the spot, but mostly for the reason that Prey looks to have taken on a new skin. Part horror, part narrative exploration, Prey appears to borrow from Arkane Studios other project, Dishonored 2, and the results are impressive so far.
The final lengthy portion of the showcase was dedicated to the sequel to the 2012 surprise hit, Dishonored. It’s great to see a game with a female lead. Set fifteen years after the events of the original, Emily Kaldwin is a shining example of the female characters that we so desperately need in the games industry. Corvo Attano is playable again, but honestly, I will only think of playing as him in a second playthrough, and I would hope that others do the same.
In the end, though, I keep going back to Prey and Quake. Bethesda is quickly turning into a studio that knows how to bring back known franchises in effective and compelling ways. This was a showing that impressed from start to finish, and somehow, Bethesda seemed to outdo their stellar performance from last year. I look for them to do it again next year, and this time, I fully expect them to do it. That’s just the kind of marquee company that they continue to present themselves as.