Recap: Xbox Games Showcase
No business, no prices, and no devices. That was Microsoft’s mission this Thursday morning at their Xbox Games Showcase.
Rewind back to 2013 and the goal was very different, an “all in one” box. TV, streaming, games, movies, music, and apps all in the same place. That was a great idea for an entertainment device/gaming console as long as it had great games. For the PS4 and Xbox One generation, Sony wiped the floor with Micro’s Soft lineup of console exclusives. The boxing scorecards for last-gen are closer than some might admit, but PlayStation is the clear winner in almost every measurable way.
Flashforward to now and you have a very different Xbox with a laser focus on the future. Their new vision, led by Microsoft’s vice-president of Gaming Phil Spencer, includes Game Pass, xCloud, Smart Delivery, and a lot of new games coming to Xbox Series X.
Let’s take a look and some of the announcements:
The Hype of Halo
Every part of Xbox starts and stops with Spartan 177. He is the beginning and end to every line of their code. After weeks of lead-in, preamble, box art, and social media snippets, the steady drip has finally paid off. Halo Infinite is an open-world game with new guns, a grappling hooks, potential side quests, and even upgrades! Yes, like God of War before it, this is the reboot we needed. 167 days after humanity and the Chief lost, we cut to our still-unnamed pilot (BroHammer) and Sierra 117 as they crash land on the mysterious Zeta Halo. Some questions arise from this exciting departure. With upgrades and an open world does that mean co-op is dead? How could this game be for two to four players when everyone is building their own Master Chief? The obvious take away from the footage is that the game looks phenomenal. The controller isn’t in our hands for this demo and yet somehow the game still feels right. The sprint mechanic seemed slower and a little more grounded. There was no clamber, thruster jet boosts, or slide dashes. Here’s hoping the game has lost the upgraded mobility from Halo 5 altogether. Multiplayer will be revealed at a later date but the footage shown is very promising if it carries over to the competitive suite. As hype as the gameplay was, there was a seamless transition from cutscene to the game. The Halsey VO segment was goosebump-inducing and it is easy to guess that we’ll see her and the Halo Wars crew in this campaign.
Old Friends Return
The return of Jack Black at the top of the Psychonauts section made me think for just a moment that I was getting a Brutal Legends sequel. Those dreams were quickly dashed by a truly trippy Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band styled trailer for my beloved Psychonauts 2. December 3, 2015, was the announcement date for this game. Double Fine missed their 2018 release estimate, and like a jilted lover, I want to scream at them for not giving us a date today. That was a killer song, and it was included in an even better brain level, but give us the date Tim Schafer its time. We need it. Other returns include original Xbox pal Bungie bringing the Destiny 2 expansions to Game Pass (what a deal), and an Inside Xbox from May standing tall above the competition. Revealed back in May, The Medium had an interesting horror tone, but you didn’t leave that first reveal blown away. I’m pleased to report that developer Bloober Team has created the most innovative game of the showcase. Bringing an impressive two worlds approach to the horror genre that is sure to delight and terrify many.
Most Powerful Moments
When it comes to Series X surprises there weren’t many, Microsoft’s creed for first-party games on Game Pass day one is an awesome commitment, but a well-known one. Obsidian’s Avowed has been heavily rumored for a while and now we have a name coupled with a short announcement trailer. The talent behind the scenes of Obsidian’s next RPG is exciting because they made the best Fallout game (don’t @ me), but this game like our next highlight looks years away. Crowd favorite Fable makes its long-awaited return, but just like the last title, it was largely rumored and leaked. If the only thing you can show with your “one last thing” closing game is an all CG trailer, then the fans will be waiting a while for this one. It appears none of the new or returning IPs will launch imminently. Even Everwild, a year after its public announcement is still as mysterious as ever. What is the gameplay? Is it a survival-focused Sea of Thieves, but this time in the woods? It looks beautiful, sure, breathtaking even, but that’s all we know. In addition to the the hype of Halo Infinite and the incredible mood of the Psychonauts 2 trailer, the best moments of this showcase were the comical writing in Grounded’s self-deprecating trailer and a preshow Sega announcement. Not to be forgotten, ID@Xbox showed some exciting games coming to consoles on Xbox. Echo Generation, Sable, Tunic, The Artful Escape, 12 Minutes, and Song of Iron are exciting and diverse titles from many genres.
The launch lineup looks strong, and with Game Pass it only gets better. Add that to xCloud’s play anywhere approach and a killer app like HaloInfinite at launch, and you’ve got yourself a compelling console. This launch year could very well come down to Spidey vs. Spartan 117. Do you want to swing around as Miles Morales or are you more compelled by an open world Halo, and Microsoft many offers? We didn’t see Halo’s multiplayer, Gears (too soon), Banjo (a pipe dream), Battletoads (where is this game), or The Initiative’s AAAA title. This showcase was nowhere near bad, but it was not the home run they needed to knock PlayStation off-balance. Xbox smartly delivered a solid double, and this is not the final round.
When it comes to the scorecards, Sony still has more to offer, but there is still much more to come from both of these companies. Dates, prices, and more exclusives.. Today’s show was supposed to be all about the games, but the real star was the subscription service, the Xbox Game Pass Showcase.