Xbox brought the heat to E3 this year. The biggest surprise for me was that they didn’t show their full hand and end their action packed games showcase with a montage of titles we know/assume are coming in the future.
Can you image if they ended with a rapid fire logos for ‘FABLE’ ‘ELDER SCROLLS’ ‘HELLBLADE’ ‘EVERWILD’ ‘CHORUS’ ‘AVOWED’ ‘DRAGON AGE’ ‘STATE OF DECAY’ ‘ MASS EFFECT’ ‘PERFECT DARK’! Still, the fact is that Xbox has jam packed the gaming calendar for the foreseeable future. Here are my personal 5 highlights from what was shown at the Xbox/Bethesda Games Showcase
5. Forza Horizon 5 looks better than I thought possible.
Usually a jaw dropping racing title is included in a console launch lineup to showcase the capabilities of the new hardware. When it was announced that a title from the critically acclaimed Forza series wouldn’t make the Xbox Series X/S launch window some were disappointed, while others welcomed the delay.
In a way, Forza Motorsport and the open-world companion series Forza Horizon are victims of their own success. While the games review extremely well, they have set the bar so high so often that it’s hard to catch gamers attention. Like many I’ve questioned how much of a graphical leap we would see this generation. I wondered if Forza had any more visual tricks up its sleeve and if it would be worth the wait.
Enter Forza Horizon 5, set in Mexico and “the largest and most diverse open-world” in the series to date. I’m not a technical guru, so I can’t explain what “photogrammetry” is, but it’s safe to say that developer Playground Games has somehow managed to step up their game yet again with incredibly realistic graphics. If you haven’t already, do yourself a solid and watch the gameplay demo in 4k 60fps. Forza is exciting again and is giving us a glimpse of what the Series X machine is capable of.
4. Hades coming to Xbox GamePass!
Xbox GamePass is hands-down the crown jewel of the Xbox ecosystem. Not a week goes by without the subscription service making news with it’s massive library of titles. The quantity of games coupled with the price-point is by any objective measure an incredible value.
Still, if nay-sayers have any argument against Xbox GamePass it’s that the quality of titles falls short. The dismissive ‘Xbox has no games’ hate has given way to ‘Xbox has no games I want to play.’
I jumped out of my seat at the announcement that multiple Game of the Year Award winner Hades would be coming to Xbox GamePass August 12th. This absolute gem coming to the service was undoubtedly a showcase highlight.
Seemingly endless parenting responsibilities (see diaper duty) kept me from this fantastic roguelike when it came to Switch and PC last year. This absolute gem coming to the service was undoubtedly a showcase highlight..
3. Atomic Heart steals the show!
I first caught wind of developer Mundfish’s adventure/first person shooter Atomic Heart back in 2018. The first trailer blew me away with it’s amazing graphics, odd Soviet alternate-history setting, and twisted future robotic enemies. The game gave off strong Bioshock and Fallout vibes, yet somehow it felt unique and refreshing in every way.
I began to spread the word to anyone who would listen that this game should be kept on their radar. Then came a long drought of info, even though the game showed well years ago apparently it still needed to cook, and oh my has it been worth the wait.
The new Atomic Heart trailer once again showed off its wonderful odd atmosphere, fantastic graphics, creepy enemies, and you guessed it, the revelation that it would launch on Xbox GamePass. Mark my words this is going to be a critically acclaimed Game of the Year contender that is going to give whatever might be coming next from the Bioshock franchise a run for its money.
2. Starfield finally revealed as definitely an Xbox Exclusive.
Bethesda’s Sci-Fi RPG Starfield is another game that went dark after being teased way back in 2018. Since then the hype, mystery, and exclusivity debate reached a fever pitch. While some wondered if Microsoft’s acquisition of Zenimax for $7.5 billion dollars meant that it would keep future Bethesda games exclusive to the Xbox ecosystem I never had a doubt.
Disappointingly after all this time the showcase gave a glimpse of the game only via a pre-rendered teaser trailer. Still it was neat to get a hint at the story beats, potential scope, and the game’s “NASA punk” aesthetic.
I’m a fan of ‘hard sci-fi’ and the hints that the game would stay somewhat grounded while also taking liberties to create a grand and immersive game has me very excited to see more. Here’s hoping that the Bethesda money spent by Microsoft ends up being well spent.
1. Halo Infinite looks way better now, and Cortana is back, kind of.
Halo Infinite debuted last year with meme-worthy graphical hiccups and a back to basics saturated simple sheen look many die hard fans revolted. In one of the most shocking delays in gaming history the newest Halo would not launch with the Series X/S consoles as originally planned.
I personally didn’t take issue with the look of Halo Infinite. In my opinion the game looked decent, 343 had a good track record so far with delivering solid Halo multiplayer. The issue for me was that the campaigns have been a mixed bag and the story has devolved into a boring convoluted mess.
I feel the best aspect of the series is the relationship between Master Chief and Cortana. Over a decades worth of games we saw a largely silent and stoic super soldier befriend a digital companion A.I. Somehow by the end of Halo 4 we witnessed a very emotional exchange between two characters that had been humanized within a sci-fi first person shooter series.
In Halo 5: Guardians Cortana somewhat returned as a corrupted villain, but also somehow side-lined for a cat and mouse rival plot, and then somehow ultimately lost in the obscurity of a piss-poor script .
I had hope that Halo Infinite would make sense of Halo 5 and maybe bring back Cortana for some closure. Instead the brute Escharum was featured along with the Banished an enemy faction from the spin-off game Halo Wars 2. While I’m sure this pleased fans of the Halo universe extended lore found in books and spin-offs I didn’t find this new rival compelling at all.
After the long delay Halo Infinite showed up to the showcase with a new look that seems to have been received well. We were treated to a peak at the free-to-play multiplayer via a very hype pitch perfect trailer followed by a deep dive the following day.
On the campaign side an A.I. of the same type (and look) as Cortana made an appearance and hinted that the Halo Infinite story would in fact seek to answer the question of what happened to OG Cortana between Halo 5 and this new game. Is she alive or deleted? Is this new A.I. supposed to take Cortana’s place in Master Chief’s helmet and in our hearts? Only time will tell, and I can’t wait.
I personally give the Xbox & Bethesda Games Showcase an A- what did you think? Watch the recap below if you missed it!