Keanu fucking Reeves
Xbox kicked off a round of E3 presentations last night with an impressive volume of games and whilst it highlighted that there’s certainly no shame in owning an Xbox One, it fell fairly flat. This was, unfortunately, out of Xbox’s hands as it suffered a major case of ‘fake-spoiler-hype’. There were so many wild theories and supposed leaks leading up the conference that everything which followed felt standard. But that’s not to say Xbox E3 2019 conference wasn’t a success. There was an incredible amount of content shown – 60 games, 14 of which from Microsoft Studios, 34 coming to Game Pass and the hint at the future of Xbox is incredibly exciting.
If you missed the conference you can check it out in its entirety here:
But if you’ve not got 90 minutes to kill, here’s a quick rundown of what was shown.
The Xbox E3 2019 Conference started like any other, showcasing a number of games coming to the Xbox One. We got treated to more footage from Ori & The Will of the Wisps which, may I say, looks absolutely stunning. A trailer for Ninja Theories new 4v4 Brawler – Bleeding Edge – was also shown and it bears a similar style to Overwatch but focuses on melee combat. A surprise highlight of mine was the reveal of a new Blair Witch game which looks suitably pants-shittingly scary. Further footage for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was also shown, followed shortly by arguably the highlight of the evening: Keanu Reeves rocking up in Cyberpunk and on-stage. Cyberpunk 2077 is out this April.
Indie games took to the stage yet again, showcasing a vast array of different styles and type of game. I’d argue that the indie titles shown off were more interesting than the AAA titles, especially 12 minutes – a time-looping interactive thriller which, quite frankly, looks great!
Game Pass was a huge focus of this years E3 and it’s further advertised as one genuinely most impressive services available for console owners (and now PC). Xbox owners can now purchase Game Pass Ultimate – a bundle of Game Pass for Xbox, Game Pass for PC and Xbox Live Gold for $14.99/£10.99 per month. It was further reiterated that all first-party games will release, day one, on Game Pass with the overall library expanding by 34 (as I said above).
A bunch more Xbox games were shown off next including a brand-new LEGO Star Wars game which covers all 9 films in the Skywalker Saga. Wasteland 3 looked batshit crazy, new State of Decay 2 DLC is coming to Game Pass and Elden Ring – the new game from George R. R. Martin and FROMSOFTWARE – got a teaser trailer. Phantasy Star Online is finally coming to consoles in the west, first on Xbox One. CrossfireX, an incredibly popular PC game (apparently), is also coming to Xbox next year and the trailer didn’t give much away other than you can play as beardy men who use finger guns. I probably misread that.
And it wasn’t just Xbox owners that were treated to some fresh new content. PC gamers finally go to see footage of Age of Empires II: Definitive Edition and Microsoft’s Flight Simulator. Both games are outputting at 4K with Flight Sim making use of Azure to render some incredibly realistic landscapes. AOE has undergone some audio enhancements with all new sound effects and features a brand new campaign. It was originally rumoured to come to Xbox One with keyboard and mouse support but nothing was mentioned during the presser so I’m assuming this is a no go.
Project xCloud finally got a release date – October 2019 – and we finally got a bit more information regarding this service, although details were still quite scarce. Project xCloud will allow you to stream any Xbox game to any device using either a Microsoft’s servers or your own console as a streaming hub. It was specified which devices would support this but I’m sure we’ll find out soon, especially with the imminent release date.
First-party games obviously got their fair share of stage presence. The rumoured LEGO Forza Horizon 4 expansion was officially revealed – Forza Horizon 4 LEGO Speed Champions – and it’s as fun as you’d expect. You can get behind the wheel of both LEGO and “real-life” cars and run amok in a LEGO playground completely separate to the game’s main map. If past Forza Horizon expansions are anything to go by, this will be a treat! It’s also out this week!! Minecraft Dungeons – a new Diabloesque co-op game was also shown and sports the Minecraft aesthetic whilst shifting to an isometric point of view.
Gears 5 obviously took front and centre and it’s been officially announced to release on September 10th this year. Gears 5 will have a whole new multiplayer experience, due to be unveiled later on in the year. What was shown, however, was a brand-new 3-player co-op game mode which looks to be a mix between Horde mode and something akin to a raid in MMOs and RPGs.
We also got to finally see Battletoads in action and it looks to be sticking true to its roots as a 2d side scrolling beat em up. The rage-inducing tunnels are also making a comeback, albeit in an over-the-shoulder 3rd person perspective. I’m sure they’ll still manage to cause enough rage for gamers to smash their controllers. Speaking of which.
The Xbox Elite Controller Series 2 was finally shown off and sports a number of welcomed changes. The thumbsticks now have adjustable tension to allow for more precise control. The triggers also have adjustable hair-trigger points allowing you to feather the trigger to spew out a barrage of bullets in your favourite shooting game (I’m free for marketing if you’re interested). The controller’s grips are now fully encased in a fancy rubberised material, meaning your wotsits crumbs will really get stuck in there. The Xbox Elite Series 2 also has Bluetooth connectivity and an internal battery with charger nested in its case. It releases November this year.
Arguably the most exciting part of the conference was when Phil took to the stage to announce in all but name and looks, the next Xbox – Project Scarlett. Project Scarlett is the codename for the next generation Xbox console and it doesn’t look like it’s holding any punches. 120fps, 8k, hardware-accelerated ray-tracing and an SSD to boot. It’s also compatible with 4 generations of Xbox games, with the last three running better on the console. The emphasis was on load times and the aim here is to eliminate them completely. It’s also worth noting that the console will be powerful enough to output at 8k or 120fps but I’d imagine this wouldn’t be in unison. Instead, I’d suspect we’ll be seeing a solid 4k60 as standard which is by no means a poor show.
Between xCloud, Scarlett and Game Pass, the future for Xbox is looking incredibly exciting. Comparisons will ultimately be made between Scarlett and the already-announced PS5 which boasts a more or less identical spec but it’s hard to ignore the value of Game Pass and the flexibility of xCloud sitting alongside the powerhouse of Scarlett. But Scarlett is nothing without its games and fortunately, one of the launch titles was also announced – Halo Infinite. We finally got to see some footage from Halo Infinite, outside of the tech demo which was shown last year. Whether this was a scene from the game or merely another pre-rendered showcase of the engine remains to be seen but it looked absolutely incredible. If Scarlett is capable of rendering that quality in-game, we’re in for a treat.