In other news, Halo still looks like Halo. Which, to be honest, I’m kind of here for. I’ve never been a huge Halo player… the single player is fun, but the multiplayer only latched me on modes like SWAT and King of the Hill. With today’s Microsoft Game Showcase, which still didn’t feature a ton of actual gameplay videos (which, honestly, I don’t care that much about), we have a good idea both on what Microsoft is bringing to the table and what their strategy going into the next generation is.
Watching through the whole stream, you can see that Microsoft is charting a much different course than Sony is for the next generation. Throughout the videos and teasers and even the gameplay, one thing that felt kind of obvious is that not that much of this really feels “next gen.” The reason for that, which we’ve seen coming for awhile, is that we’ve hit a point where the advancement from console generation to generation is less and less stark. The jump from PS One to PS2 was gigantic (especially when you mix in the Dreamcast and Xbox in there). The jump from PS2 to PS3 wasn’t as big, but still pretty stark, while the jump from Xbox to Xbox 360 was as big as the previous generation. Moving from 360 and PS3 to Xbox One and PS4… it was even smaller.
Yes, PS4 games look better than PS3 ones… eventually. They didn’t when the console first launched with precisely nothing of note to play on it. We’ve gotten games like Spider-Man, God of War, Last of Us Part 2, and many others that have pressed the technology to go as far (on the Xbox side, games like Forza and Gears of War equally push the amazing envelope). The jump though, was smaller than you probably remember. It’s easy to see it if you put a game against the last console, but just play through an old 360 or PS3 game and they’re just fine.
Microsoft seems to understand that the jump between generations is going to be smaller… which is why they’re positioning game pass, cross-play, and cross-generation upgrades as part of what they offer. They’re playing a slow ramp-up of the console, instead of a blitz to get it, and making sure that the Xbox seemingly has something for everyone. Sony is going to continue to have the best IPs and exclusives at their disposal, but if history is any indication, those are years off from being available… and may not be enough to justify the jump.
Microsoft is giving more with Game Pass, where you can play it on your Xbox One, upgrade to the Series X, or play it on the PC. That feels brilliant, and more than anything, offers a whole ton of value, to the consumer and to developers. The games may not have the flash that the others do, but I know looking forward to the next couple of years, I’ll likely play my Xbox Series X more than a PS5. Anyway… on to the games! Because there was a lot of them; they also hinted that there’s more to come, because they didn’t hit all of the studios coming up.
A lot of the things being announced were games that have been available elsewhere, but are finally coming to Xbox, or getting new versions. The most important thing, though, is that everything in the showcase, first and third party, are coming to Game Pass as well as for purchase. So things like Dragon Quest XI S, Destiny 2, and others are going to open up to a full audience.
Okay, there was one game that grabbed me, immediately, even though it was mostly a reveal trailer and very little gameplay: Avowed by Obsidian games. Obsidian is one of my all-time favorite developers that has consistently been shafted by studios they worked for. Since being acquired by Microsoft, it feels like they’ve been given freedom to make what they want. They gave us my favorite game of last year, The Outer Worlds (which is also getting a pair of story DLC packs), which proved Obsidian could make a better Fallout game than Bethesda can. I suppose that shouldn’t be surprising, given that they already made a better Fallout game than Bethesda ever did, despite being screwed over, shorted, cheated, and robbed by Bethesda to do it. So now they’re going to make a better Elder Scrolls game. And I am here for it.
In one of the weirder trailers, we get a Jack Black Music video to reveal Psychonauts 2. One of the cool things that you’ll notice for some of these games, with studios Microsoft has acquired, is that they’re still planning to launch on the systems that were announced.
They did drop a “one more thing” reveal at the end, which I know that a lot of people are going to go nuts about, and confirmed a rumor that a new Fable game is in the works. I wonder what a Fable game that’s not mired by the BS that consistently flows from Peter Molyneux’s mouth would be like. Curiously, it’s being worked on by Playground games, who is better known for the fantastic Forza Horizon games. They’ve never made a non-racing game so far as I know, but they’re a capable developer that can write a good story.
A few other Xbox exclusive-ish titles were in the mix as well… though all of them are also seemingly coming to PC, and not just locked to Game Pass. State of Decay 3 was officially announced, and that’s about all I can tell you about it. I’m not huge into survival horror games, but I know some people that just love this series.
There were a couple of other reveals that shined a light on things we didn’t really know about, or things that were a surprise, like Remedy’s CrossFireX. It’s a military shooter based on a Free-to-Play multiplayer game released on windows 13 years ago. It wasn’t big in the states, but was a big hit in Asia. This is the single-player story mode, spun off into it’s own thing, so… that’s a thing.
Another in the realm of old games brought back was shown with S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, the sequel to a game just as old as CrossFire, and was cancelled back in 2014. There’s very little to go on, but it’s another survival horror game.
Another interesting reveal was a Warhammer 40k game, Darktide. You’d think something based on Warhammer would be an instant-hit in the video game space, but the games have mostly been pretty bad. Space Marine was a really underrated FPS that had some jank controls, but other than that, it’s been somewhat… yeah. The most interesting thing here is that the troops are seemingly Imperial Guard, not Space Marines, sent to fight Chaos forces and presumably about to be eaten.
Changing gears, a visually unique trailer that really threw a curveball on what it was belongs to Tetris Effect: Connected, the multiplayer expansion for the PS4 and Windows audio game that came out back in 2018. More than that, it’s a timed exclusive on Xbox, which would presume to marry the multiplayer model we saw on the Switch’s Tetris 99 with the unique gameplay of Tetris Effect.
Okay, Grounded clearly had some fun making the trailer. Opening up with talking about waiting for the biggest game of the year, Cyberpunk 2077, and how the studio behind it, Obsidian, “makers of games nothing like this,” it relied on some deprecating humor. Ultimately, it looks like Honey I Shrunk the Kids, the game, and comes off as unique and kind of fun.
There were a lot of other new games, like The Gunk from the creators of Steamworld. I own Steamworld, I’ve heard great things… but haven’t gotten around to playing it.
The Medium, a psychological horror game with an interesting technology called “Dual-Reality rendering.” Horror isn’t my bag, but it looks unique, and that shouldn’t be dismissed.
Rare is getting into making games that aren’t boring pirate games, with Everwild – Eternals, which has a unique and frankly beautiful art style. No idea what it’s about, but it’s great to see Rare getting back to making games not called Sea of Thieves.
What looks to be an interactive story game, As Dusk Falls, looks interesting, if vaguely “GTA Load Screen” inspired. One of the great things about what Microsoft does, more than Sony and even Nintendo, is shining a spotlight and marketing indie and small studio games.
Forza Motorsports, without a number now, apparently (it should be 8), made a showing. I’ve always preferred Horizon over the more simulator-oriented big brother, but it’s still often the best-looking game on the console. It didn’t show any gameplay, but everything was rendered in engine… so I’d expect gameplay would be close to that. Expect 4K, HDR, and whatever else the console can throw at it.
They ended the show telling us that there’s a lot more to show off. Ninja Theory showed up to talk about Hellblade 2, but there wasn’t anything to show off. The Coalition, devs behind the Gears of War series, didn’t have anything. inExile is prepping for Wasteland 3 next month, but they didn’t have a next gen version to show, I guess? Compulsion Games, maker of the absolutely terrible We Happy Few, wasn’t there either, and there’s no word on what their next game will be. Whatever The Initiative is working on remains under wraps, and World’s Edge continues to be anyone’s guess.