As far as console launches go, this was one of Microsoft’s better ones, but there was a still an element of their old self knocking about, which we’ll get into later.
For any gamer who hasn’t been gaming under a rock for the last year or so, it was clear that the main agenda for Microsoft’s E3 Xbox conference would be the launch of Scorpio, dubbed the most powerful console in the world. And before Phil Spencer with his green branded Microsoft face (I do love him) even enters the stage, we’re greeted with the beast itself. Simply named Xbox One X. Personally I didn’t see that coming, but of course it makes sense for MS to remain under the Xbox branding for obvious reasons.
After the monstrosity of a launch for Xbox One, MS owed gamers this. Calling Xbox One the “All in one entertainment system” clearly set out their mass market views. They saw an Xbox One in every household concentrating more on media streaming services than they did on actual gaming. They were predictably pulled apart by the media and is probably where Sony’s last minute “For the Players” tagline came from.
But we forgive you Microsoft if you forgive us for the colourful words we called you after that launch. It’s obvious MS have changed their outlook completely. This conference was ironically FOR THE PLAYERS. It was an old school gaming conference, which spoke of exclusives, feedback from fans, as well as graphical improvements, a new console launch and helping the little man when it comes to development. Let’s get stuck in!
Firstly, let me remind you that most of the stuff we saw was short burst trailers, so obviously some of this overview will just be references and mainly my limited opinion on them.
After opening with the sexy swoosh console trailer, and the reveal of the Xbox One X we were given specifics on when our presence would be graced by it. November 7th 2017 alongside the tag that not only was it to be the most powerful console ever but also the smallest console ever (cute!). I think this was a fairly standard announcement, most of us would have known it was coming.
One thing I picked up on was the lack of green. Working in the gaming industry for a few years myself and directly with MS I might add, the green was always hammered into every piece of marketing there was; however this was completely omitted from the conference. A sleek black and white feel almost felt like a metaphor to MS changing their outlook on what their fans want. If this was intentional it was a nice touch. We get it, you’re sorry Spencer, I’ve said I love you.
We also found out from the Philminator (copyright) that everything would be backward compatible. This includes both games and accessories, which you should hope so if you’ve shelled out for an Xbox One S in the last few years, but nonetheless a great and needed feature. To confirm, this means all your old Xbox One games and controllers etc WILL work with the Xbox One X.
To show what the console was really made of, MS rolled out the only game that any Publisher uses to willy wave and that’s a racing game and of course Forza. Forza 7 to be precise. It was an extremely exciting trailer and despite not being a big fan of racing games myself, the detail had me edge of the seat throughout. In particular the weather looked amazing. Big storms and giant puddle splashed looked so organic it felt picture perfect at times.
The trailer was swiftly followed by a tag line which had me stop and say “Yeah, okay you’ve got me listening now Phil”, this was… “42 games and 22 exclusives”. A big statement.
For all the good that comes out of MS, they’re heavily critiqued for the amount of exclusives available on their platform, which Sony seems to clean up pretty well. So this was a welcome message and a needed one from Xbox.
Moving onto the games. The first trailer showed was seemed to be a mixture of gameplay and role play. To be honest I couldn’t figure it out myself but none the less it looked impressive.
It become clear quite quickly that this was Metro. Gritty, horror displaying a bumbling first person view of a guy working his way through a sewer whilst occasionally being attacked by giant rats, before escaping and coming face to face with an even bigger bear type rat, which he cleverly eludes before making a get away on a train.
One thing about Metro Exodus which was so impressive was the detail. At one point the character looked left and you saw a spider web, with an evading spider to boot. This sort of detail won’t be picked up by everyone when playing, so to add it in as such minute detail has to be applauded.
The trailer was followed by a 2018 release date.
Assassin’s Creed Origins
The next game had me raising a slight eyebrow but this is for personal opinion reasons. Assassin’s Creed Origins enter the field! Now I don’t know about anybody else but I’ve fallen out of love with the AC series since Revelations (Black Flag aside, which I loved). I must say, however, this seemed different, a welcomed kind of different.
Our hero is this time not only in an interesting setup, Ancient Egypt, but the goal is founding the Creed itself. Until now we knew very little about how the Creed was originally founded. We’ve seen lots of rebirths and dents to the hooded massive, but this sounds like it could be a very good setup for a good game.
We got to see gameplay, which looked largely very AC. Beautiful scenery, bumbling peasants on a large city, and horses galore. One thing I picked up on was a particular lack of HUD on screen. On precious ACs you’d be hounded by minimaps, quest logs, item wheels etc and would sometimes lack an understanding of where to look. This was different, the map bar at the top Fallout-esc seemed to work really well.
Largely gameplay seemed the same old Assassin’s Creed but there was a lot more stealth and a lot less action, which is great. A key call out feature was the deployment of the protagonist’s pet Eagle, who the player was able to take control of and recon the area marking enemies and treasure on the map. I could see this coming in handy for multiple entry points when needed.
Overall it was impressive. Enough to make me commit to buying a copy? I’m not sure, but enough to keep my interest heightened.
Assassin’s Creed Origins is due for release 27th October 2017.
Player Unknowns Battlegrounds
Admittedly not a game I know much about but the announcement of it coming to Xbox led to a cheer from the crowd. An open world co-op shooter to be released on Xbox late 2017.
State of Decay 2
This has been one of my most anticipated releases for a long time and the trailer seemed to deliver in what I wanted to see.
I know my Bearded Robot counterpart Danny loved the first State of Decay and whilst I can see why, I was so disappointed with the lack of co-op promised. State of Decay 2 changes everything. An open world post apocalyptic zombie game where you can travel with friends and other random player survivors eluding the ever growing community of zombies out to kill you.
One thing the first game was brilliant for was its attention to survival and its base building and fortifying. Couple this with me being able to run around with friends scheduling scavenge runs and base plans, we’re onto a winner.
This is a game to watch in my opinion and I can’t wait to see more. We do however have to wait until Spring 2018.
Around the middle of the conference there was honourable mentions for exciting looking games such as The Darwin Project, Dragonball Fighter Z, Deep Rock Galactic, The Last Night, The Artful Escape, CodeVein and Cuphead. A solid looking mixture of adventure games, platformers, beat ’em ups and sidescrollers.
One particular game I loved the look of was Super Lucky’s Tale. It reminded me a lot of Spyro and Croc which were games I loved as a kid, so definitely something I’d love to give a look at when it releases.
Minecraft is also getting a sexy new update in the form of DLC, which includes cross-play across mobile, PC and Console, a whole load of new maps, skins and a Super Duper Graphics Pack (their words not mine), which does look stunning.
Sea of Thieves
Another anticipated game of mine is Sea of Thieves. An open world pirate game which sees you play on large maps with friends or co-op randoms, owning and being part of a crew for your ship. The objective is the explore, find treasure, hunt caverns on land or shipwrecks underwater, whilst avoiding (or initiating) battle with other players forming their own pirate crew.
It’s got a very cartoony feel to it and reminds me of WoW in many ways, just on a smaller scale.
I particularly loved the underwater sections and the music shown in the gameplay trailer. This game looks a lot of fun and due for release early 2018.
Crackdown 3 and Shadow of War showed gameplay we’d pretty much seen already, so there wasn’t much new for us to see as far as gameplay went which wasn’t already in the public domain before the event.
Despite this, Shadow of War is one to watch. The first game Shadow of Mordor was brilliant and one of the most underrated games of that console generation. If you’re a fan of Lord of the Rings or strategy RPGs, this is for you.
Crackdown comes out with the launch of Xbox One X Nov 7th and Shadow of War October 10th.
Before the last big treat we were given 3 big announcements. To massive applauds from the crowd, Spencer revealed that they’d be launching Xbox backward compatibility across the Xbox console family. To confirm this is access to original Xbox titles from the console that started it all for Xbox, so a big announcement indeed.
There was also the reveal of FREE 4K updates to select games when migrating to Xbox One X and finally the price reveal.
The Xbox One X will set you back a whopping $499. Quite how that translates to pounds is yet to be seen but wow, a hefty price as expected. Six pay days until launch people…
Lastly Microsoft revealed their new exclusive IP called Anthem using the Frostbite engine. Some may have seen details about this leaked over the last few months and what it delivered was an exciting looking mech shooter where you take to a big open world with what seemed up to 4 player co-op.
Made by Bioware you could see similarities to old Mass Effect fighting and also a hint of destiny to it as well.
The exo-suits work by your character are adaptable to play-style depending on whether you’re an all guns blazing and covering support type of person. They also give you awesome looking superhuman abilities as well.
The dynamic weather looks amazing and the detail of the game in 4K is simply stunning. This is a game to watch out for and I’m sure lots more details are yet to come given the release isn’t until 2018.
Overall I enjoyed the conference a lot and definitely felt like this was a step in the right direction for MS. One disappointment was the lack of a VR accessory which would rival what the PS4 is currently offering. What this means for Xbox VR isn’t clear, but if VR truly is the next best thing (which I’m not sure about) then I’d expect details to emerge before launch.
The conference closed with an Xbox logo. No Xbox 360, Xbox One, Xbox One S or even Xbox One X, simply Xbox. This probably shows their focus is on the Xbox family as a whole, but the cynic in me suggests that it won’t be long until the One and One S are dumped and the focus purely turns to Xbox One X. Exactly the same thing happened with the transition from 360 to One.
Let me me know your thoughts in the comments or on social. Did I miss anything which you particularly loved? Or was anything omitted which you wanted to see?