Jedi: Fallen Order hands-on: Finally, a solid EA Star Wars game⁠—is that enough?

Jedi: Fallen Order hands-on: Finally, a solid EA Star Wars game⁠—is that enough?

LOS ANGELES⁠—How much is a solid single-player Star Wars adventure game from EA worth in 2019?

That answer might have been different six years ago, when EA’s brand-new investment in the Star Wars universe had everyone wondering how epic its games would turn out. Since then, one huge project sputtered, then was outright canceled, while two Star Wars Battlefront reboots ranged from so-so to alarming.

Hence, at this point, you may breathe a sigh of relief to learn that this November’s Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order not only exists but feels quite good, based on my hands-on gameplay session at last week’s E3. Or you may yawn while wondering where the heck your Knights of the Old Republiccaliber Star Wars adventure is. After my tests, I think both of those responses are valid.

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E3 2019 in photos: Gooigi, crazy arcade machines, and a DOOM museum

E3 2019 in photos: Gooigi, crazy arcade machines, and a DOOM museum

LOS ANGELES—If you couldn’t or didn’t make it to E3 2019, you’re not the only one. Anecdotal evidence suggests this was the most poorly attended E3 in some time (though its organizers at the ESA insist that this E3 had only 3,000 fewer attendees than 2018’s jam-packed affair), owing perhaps to Sony’s no-show or the abundance of live-streamed options for enjoying the event at your own home.

That being said, we attended, and Ars Technica came back from Los Angeles with plenty to show for it. In addition to a few more hands-on previews coming (which will build upon the best-of E3 2019 list we already filed), we took our cameras out at both the official E3 halls and nearby events (Xbox Fan Fest, EA Play).

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Final Fantasy VII Remake hands-on: Already feels like the one for jaded JRPG fans

Final Fantasy VII Remake hands-on: Already feels like the one for jaded JRPG fans

LOS ANGELES—I have not seen or played enough of Final Fantasy VII Remake to confirm exactly how the game will play out when it launches on PlayStation 4 consoles in March 2020. What I can say so far, at least, is that I’m far from a Final Fantasy or JRPG apologist, and yet 1.5 hours with the game’s E3 2019 debut has me absolutely excited.

Really, I’m shocked to admit that. Yet familiar elements, new combat, and incredible polish across the presentation and dialogue have me convinced that I’ll be a day-one FFVIIR player, no matter how good, weird, or poor the final game turns out to be. Thus, I’m here to talk about why I feel that way—and what remains to be confirmed or explained about this ambitious, murky, “first in an undetermined series” return to Square Enix’s glory days.

Weighing in for a legitimate brawl

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The best games, demos, and tech of E3 2019

The best games, demos, and tech of E3 2019

C’mon, how can you deny Keanu? (credit: Xbox / Microsoft)

LOS ANGELES—There’s no getting around it: Walking through the Los Angeles Convention Center for 2019’s Electronic Entertainment Expo felt weird. This year’s new Sony-sized hole compounded the fact that Xbox and EA held events elsewhere (and Activision, once again, didn’t really show up).

As a result, this year’s E3 was the most thinly attended iteration we’ve seen in years—but that was by no means the fault of the games on offer. We left E3 2019 impressed by a variety of games old and new. While we’re still working through a backlog of hands-on impressions, the Ars gaming braintrust is already ready to name its favorite games of the show—all of which were games shown with real, live gameplay. Admittedly, narrow preview builds mean devs could still be fooling us with some smoke and mirrors—this is E3, land of unfinished

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Atari’s new VCS isn’t a console, but it isn’t quite a computer either

Atari’s new VCS isn’t a console, but it isn’t quite a computer either

LOS ANGELES—At E3 meetings this week, Atari finally showed off playable, near-final prototypes of its long-delayed, then heavily crowdfunded VCS, its modernized homage to the original Atari Video Computer System (aka the 2600). Obviously, there was a lot of discussion of what the system—which starts at $250 in a package without controllers—actually is at this point. But there was just as much focus on what it is not.

First off, representatives wanted to stress that, despite outward appearances, this is not just a retro “mini” console along the lines of the NES Classic Edition or the recently announced TurboGrafx-16 Mini (or even the long-running Atari Flashback line). Yes, the VCS will come with a collection of classic games in the “Atari Vault,” and Atari will also sell classic 2600 ROMs that work

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Stadia’s E3 Doom Eternal demo made me a cloud gaming believer

Stadia’s E3 Doom Eternal demo made me a cloud gaming believer

LOS ANGELES—Since Google’s Project Stream beta test in October and the company’s March announcement of the full Stadia platform, one question has loomed large over the service: will it actually work well enough for fast-paced, reflex-intensive games? After playing a demo of Doom Eternal for about half an hour Wednesday, I’m ready to say that the answer to that question seems to be yes—at least in Google’s controlled testing conditions.

Google invited me out to its downtown LA YouTube Gaming creator’s space—away from the Internet-congested E3 show floor—to try out the latest build of Stadia. My demo was running locally on a Pixelbook with the Chrome browser, connected to a TV via HDMI, and remotely to data centers over

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Minecraft Dungeons hands-on: A shameless Diablo clone—and better for it

Minecraft Dungeons hands-on: A shameless Diablo clone—and better for it

Enlarge / Gather some friends, kill some mobs, get some loot. (credit: Mojang / Xbox Game Studios)

LOS ANGELES—The years between Diablo II and Diablo III were ripe with isometric, dungeon-action clones, all trying to feed gamers’ next-gen hunger for click-and-loot adventures. That era has long passed, but now that I’ve played Minecraft Dungeons, I wish I could go back in time and drop Mojang’s very solid Diablo-like game into that late-’00s fray.

There’s really no getting around it: this is Diablo through a Minecraft prism. The 20-person team behind this Windows 10, Xbox One, Switch, and PS4 game admits as much, calling Blizzard’s legendary series “one source of inspiration, certainly.” But after name-dropping other modern co-op games like Vermintide and Left 4 Dead, the Mojang developers at E3 2019 made one point emphatic to Ars Technica: “We want to make sure this is Minecraft.”

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Konami announces plug-and-play TurboGrafx-16 Mini

Konami announces plug-and-play TurboGrafx-16 Mini

Konami may well have earned the “most surprising announcement of E3” trophy with Tuesday’ night’s unexpected reveal of the TurboGrafx-16 Mini (known as the PC Engine Mini in Japan and the PC Engine Core Grafx Mini in Europe).

Price and release date were not announced, but Konami did reveal six games for the US and European editions of the plug-and-play HDMI system, with more to be announced in the future:

  • R-Type
  • New Adventure Island
  • Ninja Spirit
  • Ys Book I & II
  • Dungeon Explorer
  • Alien Crush

The Japanese edition has a somewhat distinct list of announced games thus far, including well-remembered classics like Super Star Soldier, PC Kid (a.k.a. Bonk’s Adventure), and Castlevania: Rondo of Blood (later ported to the SNES and Dracula X). Versions of these games may be coming for other regions, but they have yet to be announced. Japan and Europe also get a different

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Switch Zelda sequel, Animal Crossing headline Nintendo’s E3 event

Switch Zelda sequel, Animal Crossing headline Nintendo’s E3 event

LOS ANGELES—Nintendo announced during a Nintendo Direct presentation Tuesday morning that a sequel to The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild is now in development. No release date or target window was announced.

A short teaser trailer for the game showed Zelda and Link exploring a dark cave together, lit only by torchlight, in an art style that seemed extremely similar to the Breath of the Wild engine. That suggests the possibility of a two-player mode for the upcoming sequel, though Nintendo offered absolutely nothing in the way of gameplay details. The teaser also included a zombie-style creature that turned his head with a violent cracking sound, seemingly in response to their presence.

Nintendo also announced a slight

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After 8Chan-gate, THQN unveils stirring anti-Nazi game set in 1930s Germany

After 8Chan-gate, THQN unveils stirring anti-Nazi game set in 1930s Germany

SANTA MONICA—If you’d asked me ahead of E3 2019 which publisher I expected to surprise me the most this year, I wouldn’t have answered “THQ Nordic.” Austrian publisher Nordic changed its name in 2016 after acquiring a significant slate of defunct THQ assets, and the company has since been soldiering forward with remasters and re-releases of familiar franchises.

While this year’s showing isn’t up to the likes of more established publishers, their E3 2019 slate isn’t so bad—especially thanks to one what-the-heck game from an entirely new IP.

This year sees the company land with a few more remasters, particularly from the Destroy All Humans! and Spongebob Squarepants game series. But the company’s really impressive E3 2019 material comes in the form of three brand-new games playable on the show floor. Two of these are sequels: Darksiders Genesis, a two-player, top-down twist on the adventure series, and Desperados III

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