E3 2021's Prettiest Game Might Be This ’80s-Inspired Platformer

Replaced features gorgeous art and side-scrolling combat straight out of John Wick

Gif: Coatsink

It’s called E3 2021 not because 2021 is the year most calendars are set to but because video game publishers have released approximately 2,021 trailers over the past 72 hours. Given the sheer number of short clips, some show-stealers naturally fall through the cracks. One of the coolest in recent days—provided you haven’t caught it yet—was a brief spot for Replaced, which popped up yesterday during Microsoft’s Xbox digital showcase.

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First, the music. I’ve tried Shazam. I’ve tried the little microphone in “OK Google.” I’ve tried asking reps from Coatsink, the game’s publisher. (They have not yet responded.) Please, if you know what song shows up in the first half of the announcement trailer, let me know! [Update: 6/15/2021, 11:30 a.m. ET: Representatives for Coatsink say the music was made in-house.]

But the tunes aren’t the only draw. Pretty much everything about Replaced registers a five out of five “holy shit”s on the This Game Looks Awesome scale. It’s a cinematic action platformer. It features a paint-by-numbers cyberpunk setting. (Look, I’m a sucker for those.) The art speaks for itself. Combat looks smooth, what with its John Wick-like mixture of punching and shooting. Between the fighting, no shortage of platforming set-pieces—like, best of all, a train level!

Read More: Every Game Should Have A Train Level

And get a load of the premise: You play as R.E.A.C.H., an artificial intelligence stuffed inside a human flesh-body against your will. In Replaced’s fiction, the nuclear bomb tests of the ‘40s went awry, essentially reducing the country to rubble. The game starts in that alternate-history version of the 1980s, when a corporation has claimed dominion over the country and established a megalopolis but still, for some reason, allowed neon and synth rock to flourish.

If nothing else, you’ve gotta give it up for the wordplay. A blog post describing the game’s ‘80s-inspired bona fides with this line: “In Replaced, you get a glimpse into that world, where ‘Sweet Dreams’ are for the sleeping and you ‘Stopped Believin’ a long time ago…”

Replaced is yet another instance of a smaller game stealing the show this year. Over the past two Saturdays, Guerrilla Collective has showcased around 80 smaller games that would’ve otherwise flown under the radar. This weekend further featured the annual Wholesome Direct, which itself spotlights chiller fare. All of those presentations have played home to some of the most intriguing games on the horizon, at least of those shown at E3 2021. It’s cool to see some pop up between the Halos and Forzas on the stage of splashier pressers. And it’s nice that Replaced actually managed to show up in Microsoft’s big show.

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“There are always a couple of new [lesser-known] games, as we prep for the showcase, that really pop as something unique and different,” Xbox boss Phil Spencer said on Twitter. “For me this year Replaced was that game. Really compelling vibe for this game and proud to have it in the show.”

Replaced, which is slated to appear in the Game Pass library, will land on Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC in [cries] 2022.

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DISCUSSION

By
TemetNosce

This really reminded me of something I honestly think a lot when I run into games like this - namely that I’d like to see these kinds of aesthetics outside of sidescrollers. It seems like the medium keeps getting some of the best aesthetically designed games, while particularly the bigger games in gaming are frequently bland.