The moment most of the gaming world was waiting for finally arrived. Xbox showed off over an hour of upcoming titles from across 9 of their 15 studios. Microsoft really needed to hit this event out of the park proving they can deliver high quality titles that can silence the doubt of the last few years. So how did they do? Well, we all have some thoughts…
The Medium – By far the greatest thing at the Xbox showcase was something we’d already seen before and that is The Medium from Bloober Team. They’re not being shy here whatsoever about making a spiritual successor to Silent Hill, and you know what? That’s totally fine with me. The Medium is such an exciting game and I hope they can recapture the chills and horrific wonder of Konami’s long dormant franchise.
Halo Infinite – While I’m not surprised by what was shown of Halo, I have to say that I’m incredibly disappointed. To be perfectly transparent, I am not a fan of this series, which is why in 2018 when John, Nick and I sat in the Microsoft theater and saw the debut teaser for Halo Infinite I was stunned and excited. The promise of something so new and different, even the title “Infinite” implies a new direction and unlimited possibilities. What was shown at the games showcase was so pedestrian Halo I couldn’t even believe it. You could swap out any scene from any Halo game I’ve ever played and it would look exactly like what I saw here. So completely underwhelming and disappointing.
While not a bad showing, I was shocked at how little Microsoft seemed to reach out to the consumer on the fence or weighing their options. We saw sequels to established franchises, we saw revisits to games which had already been revealed, and very little in the vein of big reveals. The Fable reveal was such a non-factor it reminded me of the Elder Scrolls announcement a few years back. A shot of a castle, a logo and that’s it. Nothing to get someone excited unless they already have a foot in the door.
I don’t think this was a bad showcase. But if you weren’t interested in Series X already, there just wasn’t anything here to tip the scales anymore than they already have (or haven’t) been.
Fable – We are getting a new Fable!!!
I was so ready to be disappointed that another Fable wasn’t going to be announced but they show really saved the best for last. Playground Games knows how to get the most out of the hardware so no matter what Fable is going to look incredible but the overall tone and humor of the trailer made it look exactly like what I have come to love about the Fable series. This is the game that will sell me on having Xbox in my home again.
Halo Infinite – This was arguably what most people were excited to see. Everything leading up to the event was Halo related, the released the box art the day before the show and opened with it and it looked fine…I guess. It looked exactly like a Halo game except with 100% more grappling hook. I don’t think it looks particularly next gen in any way. The art style made everything look like it was the Megablocks version of a Halo game.
I found a few things that either got me excited or at least piqued my interest a bit. Rare always delivers bright, and stunning worlds so I’m very interested to see more about Everwild. Psychonauts is one of my favorite games of all time so of course seeing a trailer for that as well as the reunion of Tim Shafer and Jack Black was going to be my highlight (before Fable anyway).
Obsidian showed what looks like an attempt at their own version of Elder Scrolls and since they made the only great Fallout game I’m looking forward to seeing them one up Bethseda once again. Everything else about the show kinda felt underwhelming, graphically, artistically or premise wise. I’m not sold on the Xbox series X as a unit yet, but I really am coming around on the Xbox ecosystem as a whole. If I can get the titles I want with the current gen then they have me hooked on Game Pass.
Exomecha – The highlight of the day for Xbox came in Geoff Keighley’s Game Awards Pre-Show that debuted a few nice announcements including EXOMECHA a free-to-play online competitive first-person shooter. The
trailer featured flashy action and lots of explosions. In the short minute long trailer (that I assume is alpha gameplay) we saw multiple vehicles including a hulking spider tank, large mechs fighting with swords, and a fire breathing metal dragon. I’m in.
Avowed – A short teaser trailer was all I needed to sell me on this game. We weren’t shown much but a big budget RPG from Obsidian Entertainment that bears a striking resemblance to Elder Scrolls first person combat is more than enough to earn it a top spot on my most anticipated list.
Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II – Being one of the first console exclusives announced for the Xbox Series X I was certain that Hellblade would make a second appearance at the games showcase, and this time with gameplay to show off the new Unreal 5 game engine. I was wrong. Hellblade was absent and we still don’t have word on if the title is coming at launch or during the launch window. Is this a sign that the game is further out than anyone would like to let on?
Halo Infinite – I’m a huge Halo fan. I was certain that no matter what I was shown that I would leave excited for the latest entry in the franchise. I was certain that Halo would be the flag-ship graphical powerhouse created to show off the capabilities of the Xbox Series X. I was wrong. The gameplay confirmed what the box-art teased. A return to a more vibrant style in the vein of Halo: Combat Evolved.
I’m a fan of the changes overall and some of vistas, lighting effects, and saturated explosions were…nice, but this was far from a jaw-dropper. If you told me this was a remaster of Halo: Combat Evolved I would have believed you. They played it real safe in the style department folks. There just wasn’t much new or exciting. We saw a cannon weapon (which could have been a variant of something we’ve seen in previous games) a one way shield (remember the bubble shield?!) and the new grappling hook that looked like they would be fun to use (hello new melee combo). The Brute enemies looked fresh in their cool red armor but other enemies did not. I can’t think of any standout aspect of the gameplay video and that is extremely sad.
Considering Microsoft had plenty of time to prepare for this important console launch pre-Covid I’m absolutely stunned that they didn’t have at least one or two remarkable titles. Nothing I saw graphically or technically screamed ‘next-gen’. I’ve heard some come to Microsoft’s defence reminding others that this isn’t the only announcement in the works before we finally get a price and option to pre-order. I’ll just go ahead an remind everyone of a few things: First, when the 3rd party announcement was judged by many as fairly underwhelming the defence was that 1st party was coming. Second, Xbox is coming from behind and the consensus was thai they needed to go big or go home with this new launch after ‘conceding’ the last generation to Playstation. Finally, you only get one chance to make a good first impression, not three.
Psychonauts 2 – I recently started playing Psychonauts and cannot believe it took me this long to try the game out. I have really enjoyed what I played. My complaint with the original is that it feels its age. Psychonauts 2 looks amazing, and should not feel old and clunky.
Hello Neighbor 2 – Honestly, this is not a game I care as much about, but my son is super excited. He has put a lot of hours into the first game, replaying it many times. I appreciate the puzzle aspects of the game and expect the second one to be good. Also, I cannot wait to see if they can make a story more dark than the first one.
Fable – People go ape shit over this franchise and it looks great. I’m looking forward to finally playing all the way through a Fable game.
Halo Infinite – I am not exactly sure what I was hoping for but this left me wanting more. It feels like every new addition to the series is the same with better graphics. I want the game to do something new and I don’t think it ever will.
I was underwhelmed with the presentation. Some good games were shown, and nothing looked bad. I think the problem is my expectations were set high and they did not meet them. I was really hoping for a new game that would just blow me away. Something I could not have seen coming. On a positive note, all the games during the actual presentation will be coming to Game Pass, continuing to make it the best deal in gaming.
Everwild – While we still don’t know how the gameplay works, we got a much better look at the world and themes of this stunning game. It’s one of the most visually impressive games I’ve seen in recent memory and helps to reaffirm that, alongside Sea of Thieves, Rare has finally returned to the glory days of old.
Tell Me Why – Dontnod has become one of those studios in recent years that you know is going to deliver something amazing (atleast this particular team in the studio). Both Life is Strange games have landed on my GOTY lists, and with this additional look at the game, I’m optimistic that they’ll be able to go 3 for 3. I also love that they announced release dates for all 3 chapters and they’re all coming in the next few months.
Missing Legacy IP – While I’m excited by the thought of a new Fable game from Playground, I was really hoping to see a return from either Perfect Dark or Banjo Kazooie. Both of those series have such renowned legacies that it’s hard to believe we won’t eventually see their return, just not this time.
My biggest question mark after the show was whether Halo Infinite will do enough to pull me back in. The game looks great and seems like a lot of fun, but it was never lackluster gameplay that made me leave the series behind, but a compelling story to go along with it, and we just haven’t seen enough to know if this game will delivery that.
This showcase was the culmination of years of work and planning, ending with a massive library of 1st party titles that offers something for everyone and let’s them easily stand alongside Sony and Nintendo. This and the fact that you’ll be able to play every single game shown as part of your Game Pass subscription is truly remarkable. Xbox is officially back in their prime.