When it comes to Microsoft I wear my heart on my sleeve; I’ve loved the platform since the beginning, and thinking of the pummelling it has taken in the court of public opinion this generation has a single green tear sliding down my cheek in 4K at 60fps. But every E3 is a chance at getting the good feeling going again, so what did Microsoft have to stoke the fires of hope this year?
We always knew the Master Chief would appear at this E3, but the brevity of his appearance was perhaps a bit of a surprise. It’s also not a numbered entry but does take place after the events of Halo 5. While it was only a brief glimpse, the visual style appears slightly different, and apparently is being built in a brand new engine designed by 343i called SlipSpace.
Ori and the Will o’ the Wisps
Where’s there’s a will, there’s a wisp, and the new Ori is looking mighty fine. It’s not exactly a AAA heavyweight, but it’s easily one of Microsoft’s more eagerly awaited exclusives. Get prepared to feel some time in 2019.
Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice
While SDT isn’t as catchy an acronym as YODO, FromSoftware’s new game looks mighty slick. It’s dripping with FromSoft’s signature style, with Bloodbornesque elements in a Japanese setting. We’ll definitely be fervently reading item descriptions to find out more about this intriguing new IP. Interestingly it’s published by Activision, so the chances of it having a battle royale mode with Call of Duty crossover are not zero. Onimusha Dark Souls should hit us early 2019.
Using music stolen from Kingsmen, Todd “It just works” Howard gave us a glimpse of Sweet Virginian Fallout 76 ahead of Bethesda’s presser. It was an odd choice given Bethesda’s presser was only a couple of hours later, and if you ask this humble journalist, a bit of a misstep. The vault is set to open November 14th of this year.
Life is Strange: The Adventures of Captain Spirit
A spinoff of the popular Life is Strange series will be available as a free download on June 29th. All aboard the feels train, this one is going to get heavy.
Microsoft are very keen to align this one with their platform, and for good reason. The continuation of Artyom’s story looks stunning. Be sure to check out the 4K trailer below on your 1080p laptop like I did.
I used to think that Terry Crews could save anything, but now I’m not so sure. Multiple delays continue to make this game a veritable factory of concern, but sometimes, hope is all we have. At the time of writing the game is slated for a February 2019 release.
Kingdom Hearts 3
Also no stranger to delays, Kingdom Hearts 3 has been given a solid release date of January 29th, and the E3 trailer showcases its leanings towards the Frozen universe, with splashes of Tangled for good measure. I’m excited, my eight-year-old daughter is excited, and the world is excited that this game will finally see the light of day.
Microsoft acquires five studios and gets the first party started
While it wasn’t accompanied by any game reveals, the announcement that Microsoft had acquired five development outfits to start churning out first-party titles was probably one of the most exciting tidbits of the conference for Team Green. Undead Labs (State of Decay series), Playground Games (Forza Horizon series) and Compulsion Games (We Happy Few) will join the exclusive Microsoft ranks, as well as a completely new studio called The Initiative. But perhaps the one that’ll get the most chins wagginng is their acquisition of Ninja Theory. Ninja Theory are a collective of masterful creators (with games like Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, Heavenly Sword and DmC: Devil May Cry on their resume), and I am dying to see what they’ll come up with under Microsoft’s banner. These acquisitions prove they are serious about getting a first-party mill happening, which has been a pillar of success for their rival Sony.
Although PUBG is losing players hand-over-fist to Fortnite, and plays like a blind sloth made of aged gouda on Xbox, Microsoft are still keen to wave the flag around. At the end of the day it’s just the new map Sanhok on Xbox One though (which is a big deal in the PUBG world as updates are rarer than hen’s teeth on the surface of the moon), and the crowd was politely apathetic about this one.
Gears of War gets mainline entry and spinoffs
It’s odd that Gears of War has only ever seen numbered entries with zero spinoffs, so I was glad to see Gears Tactics being teased. It’s a turn-based strategy game in the spirit of XCOM, and it looks rad. What’s decidedly less exciting is Gears POP!, which is a weird amalgam of Gears, Pop Vinyl and mobile gaming. What a great combination of ideas…moving right along. The mainline entry looks good, and hopefully spices up the story a bit by diving into Kait’s mother’s mysterious involvement with the Locust. There are also cool mutations of the DeeBees to fight. Colour us keen.
Skate 4 Sessions
While it wasn’t quite the Skate sequel that the Twitch chat was crying out for (they were almost as keen for that as they were for Despacito Battle Royale), it’s a Microsoft exclusive game that centres around the thrills of the four-wheeled plank. It looks like it’s erring more on the more realistic Skate side of things as opposed to the more arcadey Tony Hawks series, and it will be interesting to see how this one turns out.
More Multiplat Madness
Several huge AAA games got some announcements on Microsoft’s stage. Anime mashup fighting game Jump Force (extremely odd name but why not?) was revealed, as well as a very tasty looking sequel to Dying Light. Having learnt zero lessons from criticisms surrounding cringy forced banter, Ubisoft’s The Division 2 (Devision Too? – not sure of the spelling here) gameplay was revealed with cringy forced banter. Given The Division has picked up its game considerably post-release, the sequel should be set to hit hard March 15th next year. My personal pick for most exciting multiplat announcement was Devil May Cry 5. It’s set to release next year and will continue the tail of Nero, with some of the whitest hair in gaming and a jaw so square you could use it as a ruler. Nice.
Just Cause 4 also got an official reveal, and a Tales of Vesperia remaster is also coming. Continuing their close relationship with Squeenix and the Tomb Raider series, Microsoft also gave Shadow of the Tomb Raider a fait bit of airtime, with a lengthy story trailer showing the iconic Lara Croft walking the dark path and inadvertently causing some wanton destruction.
An underwhelming trailer for Battlefield V also popped up but was soon forgotten in the hubbub.
Exclusives Big and Small
A bunch of ID@Xbox titles got a sizzle reel, and one particular title that we saw last year, Tunic, got a bit more of a spotlight. The isometric adventure game looks very interesting indeed, and it’s good to see Microsoft’s support for smaller titles on their platforms.
The brilliant pain and frustration simulator Cuphead is also set to get some sweet looking DLC in the form of The Delicious Last Course. It’ll feature a new playable character named Ms Chalice, as well as new weapons and of course, bosses. I’ll admit that I’m afraid as I am elated to jump back into the crockery-based nightmare.
As expected, a new entry in the exclusive AAA heavy-hitter Forza series was announced in the form of Forza Horizons 4. Rumour had it that it would be a drift-heavy game set in Japan, and it turns these rumours were only about 10000 kilometres off the mark, as the game is actually set in Britain. More forced multiplayer banter had me seriously contemplating a change.org petition to have it outlawed. Please. Stop.
The unreasonably difficult Battletoads looks to be revitalised as an Xbox exclusive. No gameplay shown, but the reboot by Dlala Studios is coming in 2019.
After the longest time, MMORPG Black Desert Online will finally get a beta in Spring of this year on Xbox One. On PC the game had a mixed but generally positive reception (two years or so ago), so it may be a nice little exclusive RPG for the Xbox brand.
Microsoft wanted to go out with a bang, and the hotly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077 was an apt choice in some regards, and a poor one in others. While people have been clamouring for any details on CD Projekt Red’s ambitious new project, and the trailer was certainly tasty in the extreme, you’d think they’d want to close with one of their exclusives rather than a multiplat, but this is the bind that Microsoft finds themselves in at the moment.
A new console
Big Phil Spencer sneakily but officially revealed that the hardware division were working on a new Xbox (perhaps called the Xbox Three). While we probably could have guessed this, it’s nice to know that somewhere out there a brand new beast is being built, even if we don’t have any concrete details.
While I was watching the conference I felt that while Microsoft had an awesome focus on the games, however they perhaps diluted their exclusive content with too much multiplatform content, and as such slightly devalued the former. Still, it’s clear there’s a solid commitment to expanding their first-party repertoire, and by all accounts Microsoft are not giving up the fight anytime soon.