If Microsoft seemed set on one thing in particular this year, it was addressing their problem of having hardware but no the games to make it worthwhile. Their E3 conference certainly aimed to remedy this, as it showed us game after game (42 in total!) with little to no fluff in between. Additionally, they also revealed that Project Scorpio, their supercharged upgrade to the Xbox One is now officially called Xbox One X. It was a good conference overall, and left us with an awful lot to talk about.
Microsoft kicked things off with the reveal of the Xbox One X. They announced that everything that works on the normal Xbox One will work here to, and will take advantage of the sizable power upgrade. Then they went on about the specs and how it is the ‘most powerful’ console yet, while also emphasizing the 4k resolution that they want to target with it. It’s almost the smallest Xbox One yet, because everybody was totally crying out for that. All in all, Microsoft delivered on what was predicted by Scorpio rumours, so they now have a substantial competitor to the PS4 pro. It will cost $499 at launch. Xbox classic backward compatibility is also forthcoming.
After quickly flouting the power of the Xbox one X, Microsoft got straight on with showing us game trailers. First up, Forza Motorsport 7 was announced, along with the promise that Xbox One X would be able to handle the game with 4K resolution at a consistent 60 frames per second. While this is impressive, and perhaps sets a precedent for console gaming, one must remember that track-based racing games like Forza are considerably less complicated than other high-fidelity genres, so we shouldn’t expect to see this occuring on every Xbox X enhanced title. Forza 7 releases October 3, 2017.
Next up, a sequel to 4A’s Metro: Last Light was announced as Metro: Exodus. The brief demo showcased stunning visuals and series-first open world gameplay, taking place above the ground in a wide open, vibrant green space. As usual, there was plenty of shooting, plenty of monsters and bucket loads of atmosphere. While it was announced at Microsoft’s conference, the game is also coming to Playstation 4 and PC, and looks to up the scale but retain the atmosphere of its predecessors. Metro: Exodus releases in 2018.
Onto the totally-not-leaked-or-foreseen latest edition to the Assassin’s Creed franchise, entitled Assassin’s Creed Origins. As was reported from multiple different sources, the game is set in ancient Egypt, and offers a number of RPG elements that have clearly been inspired by The Witcher 3. As usual, the art design for the game’s city is absolutely on point, offering a vibrant and very hot looking take on urban Egypt. Ubisoft appear to have also applied the lessons they learned with Watch Dogs 2, as they are clearly trying to offer the same diversity of approaches to situations. Oh, and Eagle Vision now involves controlling and actual eagle. So that’s pretty cool. All in all, it looks like the series has had a much needed shake up in its short hiatus. Assassin’s Creed Origins launches October 27, 2017.
After a sustained burst of big annoucements, things slowed down momentarily. Early access game Playunknown’s Battlegrounds has been secured by Microsoft for an Xbox release, as has Deeprock Galactic. State of Decay 2 was announced, and looked every bit a generic open world zombie shooter, so didn’t really grab my attention.
Next was a brief trailer for the Darwin Project, which mostly appeared to involve a man shouting at the audience while the game was played behind him. After that, cross-play functionality for Minecraft was announced, because people do still play that game, and now want to play it together, I guess? Oh and they’ve added some shaders to the Xbox version as well as 4K support on the Xbox X. Because when you want to show a console’s power off, Minecraft is totally the game to do that with?
Following this there were some other trailers for titles such as Dragon Ball Fighter Z and Black Desert Online. Honestly, there were so many that they’re difficult to cover at length. Next we moved onto the indie-platformer part of the night, as trailers for The Last Night, The Artful Escape and an Ori and the Blind Forest sequel dropped. Of all these games boasted pretty aesthetics, lovely music and bags of atmosphere. They speak for themselves, frankly, so do check them out below:
After these, Microsoft moved onto to showing off a more substantial demo for Sea of Thieves. It seems to have a lot more features now, such as underwater looting, sharks, mundane looking ground combat and the ability to fire yourself from to ship to ship using cannons. The demo showed off a lot, as a party hunted treasure on an island before making an escape and battling at sea. It looks like a really fun pirate simulator, and more importantly, a really fun game for online co-op. Definitely one to keep an eye on! Sea of Thieves launches sometime in 2018.
Another big announcement next: Super Lucky’s Tale, a follow up to the Oculus Rift title that launched last year. This incarnation of the franchise offers a third person platformer set in the same cheery and colourful worlds of the first game. It launches on November 7 this year.
After much delay, old disney styled platformer Cuphead has a release date of September 29th. It’s looking as gorgeous as ever. Crackdown 3 also returned this year, but seemingly without the impressive destruction tech that was showcased upon its announcement. Instead we got live action Terry Crews and a game that looks all too similar to Saints Row in its trailer. Perhaps the plans for the cloud processing power fell through? In any case, Crackdown 3 is set for launch on November 7, 2017.
A follow up season to Life is Strange was shown off with a trailer. It’s called ‘Before the Storm’ and appears to follow Chloe, the friend of the protagonist in the first game. It will presumably fill in her mysterious backstory, and I’m more than up for returning to that world after the strong impression the original left. Before the Storm’s first episode launches August 31, 2017.
Next up, a Shadow of War gameplay demo! This time around, emphasis was put on showing off the enhanced Nemesis system, namely the character aspect of it. The orcs on show were spouting individualized monologues in a clear development of the tech that drove its predecessor, Shadow of Mordor. Best of all was an Orc whose personality completely shifted from menacing to witty, when his mind was controlled by the player. It seems as though the word in mind for this sequel is expansion, as the same mechanics receive large developments and the gameworld is made more diverse. As someone who adored the first game, I’m looking forward to seeing how this sequel turns out. Shadow of War hits shelves on 10 October, 2017.
Finally we recieved our first proper glimpse at Anthem, the new Bioware IP which was teased at the EA play conference. It looks to be an open-world, co-op experience which has you and your friends leading expeditions beyond the walls of Fort Tarsis, venturing into the lush yet savage and mysterious world beyond. The game’s core mechanics seem to involve the use of customisable exosuits, allowing you to chop and change abilities to suit certain playstyles. They also let you fly around like Iron Man, which in an open world game, sure sounds like a neat way to get around. Also on show was a variety of enemy types, from untamed beasts to swathes of alien looking troopers. From this trailer, it appears that Anthem is perhaps EA’s answer to Destiny. In any case, it looks like great fun. I just hope it can deliver on the same narrative strengths that Bioware are typically praised for. A full release date is still a long way off, but EA are aiming for 2018.
Overall, Microsoft’s conference was a very strong one. They didn’t mess about with showy presentation or over the top gimmicks. While the list of actual console exclusives is surprisingly thin, games were very much at the centre of everything they had to announcehere, which seems proof enough that they are listening.