Microsoft have been accused in the past to be too focused on selling their games division as a multimedia experience platform first and for games second. That image has been dying of late and it looks to be positively eviscerated with their 2021 E3 showing.
There really was nothing but games on display at their show, a huge range that is unlikely to have left anyone without at least some anticipation for something. There may not have been much shown of some of those, but just the mention of them should be enticing enough. It certainly put Ubisoft to shame and with Sony MIA this year, it only leaves Nintendo to possibly upstage them.
This show also saw the first time for the Microsoft show to be combined with Bethesda’s, following their recent merger. This certainly injected even more life into proceedings and gave the selection a much-needed boost to the diverse games on offer.
And, as has been the case in recent Microsoft press events, Xbox Game Pass took centre stage and Microsoft were not shy in telling us about all of these games that we will be able to play as part of their subscription service. 27 of the 30 featured games would be coming to the service. It continues to be the best deal in gaming, whilst also being slightly terrifying in some of the potential directions that it might decide to take.
No way that I will be able to cover everything that was shown, but here are some of the highlights:
It has been much anticipated for a long time and it seemed likely that it put in a showing at this event. Previously, we had juts seen a planet and panning down to the title. We don’t really get much more of a flavour from this and it still remains very much a teaser. However, we do see the world we are seeing is relatively realistic and is likely to be in the not too distant future, during early days of space travel. There is also a robot companion of some sort.
To see Bethesda doing something new, rather than their stables of Elder Scrolls and Fallout is exciting, and personally is more interesting to me than those other series. Too little is known to get that excited though and we are still a way off, with the 11th November 2022 announced as the release date.
STALKER 2: Heart of Chernobyl
The Stalker series has always been massively ambitious and it has often struggled to really live up to them. The first game was much delayed and went through a lot of development woes and it was released to fair amount of acclaim, but it was still a very buggy game. It was very much ahead of its time, even though it took a long time to make, it’s A-Life AI system that saw creatures and rival Stalkers roaming the land and having encounters completely independent of the player is still something we barely see in games. Most of those systems worked half the time and when they did the game was a joy, but often things would fall over a bit. The third game managed to get things mostly right, but it felt like the series had became fairly niche by that point and it isn’t surprising that it disappeared for quite some time.
This fourth game in the series (despite the 2 in the title), got quite an extensive showing. It looks like they have upped the narrative ante, with plenty of dialogue being shown. The character models and animation far exceeds the original, so good to see it is being put to good use, as we watch fire side stories being told. Hopefully, we still have the non-linear and emergent gameplay that the series has previously shown, especially considering as this will need to differentiate itself from the Metro 2033 games.
Graphically it looked fantastic and still drips that fallout scenary of the original game. The dark lab as the player is haunted by a squid faced creature is haunting and the lightening riddled metal tower is… striking.
We also get a glimpse of the anomalies from the original game. These made the environment almost as much as a threat as the creatures and enemy stalkers and to see them in their next-gen ray traced glory is quite something.
28th April 2022 is the date for this one. Looking forward to getting back to the Zone.
Some more Battlefield 6 was shown off, after last weeks announcements. We get to see actual gameplay this time around and it continues the trend we saw previously of looking like a real sequel to 4.
The action is as hectic as you expect… except for a brief pause in a lift, where we get to see on the fly weapon customisation. We also get to see some of the much talked about weather effects with the massive hurricane causing a sandstorm. It really did look like quite something, as it pulled vehicles into its centre.
Really though, it just looked like more Battlefield, which is no bad thing in my book. Whether it will win back the fans they lost from Battlefield V (and to some extent 1) is still to be seen, but it is clear they are tailoring their marketing at them as much as possible.
We will be getting back on the battlefield on 22nd October 2021.
Pretty much the same as the other trailers we have seen, but I can’t imagine there is a huge amount more to say about this. I’m still massively intrigued by it though and look forward to it every time they show it off.
The cast is great (Daisy Ridley, James McAvoy and Willem Defoe), the look striking and the concept is intriguing. This is a time loop game, in which you play through the same 12 minutes of a couple’s life. Making different choices will see the 12 minutes playing out differently each time and I assume your goal will be to discover how to escape the loop. I don’t much about the actual plot, beyond what we have seen in trailers, but it seems there is a birthday, a police raid and likely some murder.
It will depend on how well the plot holds up as to whether this will be good or not, but I’ve been anticipating this one for quite some time. I will finally be able to get stuck in the loop on the 19th August 2021.
The original Psychonauts was filled to the brim with great ideas. One level saw you chasing a conspiracy obsessed milkman, another would be running away from a neon bull and then you would be jumping around a meat circus. This trailer looked like it would contain just as many unique levels and ever changing gameplay.
Hopefully this time around they will be able to get the platforming bits right, which were mediocre at best in the original game. Perhaps we will also see a little more interesting combat.
I don’t think that matters too much though, just as long as it manages to capture the writing and imagination of the glory days of Double Fine, which has been a little absent in more recent years.
We won’t have too long to wait either, as this one is dropping on the 25th August this year.
What really stands out about this game is the incredible fidelity of it. I’m still not entirely sure if it is all a big lie, as it doesn’t seem quite possibly that a game made by a fairly unknown studio would look quite so good.
Not only are the graphics impressive, but it also has wild art style. I’m not sure if it entirely works or if it will just end up being a complete mess of ideas, but I’m interested to see it in action. Whether it will actually turn out to be a good game or if it will be a fairly standard shooter is still to be seen.
No release date is shown on this yet, so don’t how long we will have to wait until we find out.
This E3 just can’t stop showing off the insane quality of art that is coming from the smaller studios at the moment.
The trailer doesn’t give too much away as to what this will actually be, but the style oozes cool. This is a strange mix of pixel art and 3d. It looks stunning and not quite like anything I’ve ever seen.
It appears to be a futuristic world, likely with some sort of dystopian threat. There is a bit of combat shown off as well as some platforming, mixed in with some sad walking to the right (breaking from tradition set by Limbo, it is grown man walking left not a boy). All looks solid.
But it is that art style that really stands out and I want to see more of it.
Just 2022 listed on this, but hopefully won’t be too late in the year before we get to stare at more of it.
Age of Empires 4
It feels like a long time since we have seen a trad strategy game. Iron Harvest 1920+ last year was quite good fun, but very much like playing Company of Heroes. Besides that, it feels like the last one was the rubbish Dawn of War 3.
Relic should hopefully make up with past mistakes with this grand looking new entry in the classic series. On the face of things, it does look like a modern update of Age of Empires 2, but I have no doubt that Relic will bring their experience to inject a bunch of new ideas to format. Plus, if it does end up just being AoE2 with nicer graphics and UI for the modern player I could see it being plenty enough.
We will cavalry charge into this on 28th October.
The Outer Worlds 2
A fun pointless trailer that takes the piss out of pointless trailers. The first Outer Worlds had a good sense of humour and this seems to be continuing with that.
The announce says that the only thing they have finished is the title and no date is given, so I assume we are in for quite a wait to see this finished.
I quite enjoyed the first game, so more is welcome. I did come away from it feeling that this surely should be the end of this style of game though. The static characters standing around waiting to give you quests and the very static world(s), besides when you do something to make a scripted change. Hopefully, they will look to make something that is a little more organic and not just so centred around the player.
Forza Horizon 5
I’m not particularly into racing games, although I don’t mind dipping into them from time to time. They are a genre that sells the potential for new consoles though and Horizon 5 seems to be no different in that respect.
The game looks stunning, from the shiny cars to the realistic terrains that they are racing through. The Mexico looks really gorgeous and varied. Not only that though, it looks like the devs are really look at how they can push next gen outside of just graphics, looking at incorporating seamless multiplayer features and AI controlled elements that learn how you play.
Playground Games are living up to their name by creating a real sandbox of a racing game. I’ve always heard good things about previous games in the series, but not checked them out myself. May have to take a look at what other entries have done.
This will be screeching into the fast lane on 9th November 2021.
Another game from Arkane is always something to celebrate and it came as a bit of a surprise to me at the end. With us still waiting on Deathloop later this year, I was not expecting to see anything else.
It is just a cinematic trailer, but has enough to be intriguing. Vampires are certainly something we don’t get to see that often in games and it seems to be unique interpretation of them. There is an emphasis on characters here and I’m assuming we are looking at a sort of Left 4 Dead style of co-op game where we will have the same characters that will interject with bits of dialogue as we play through.
There is also some sort of robot dog thing too.
Putting their skills of immersive sims into a multiplayer environment will be interesting to see how well it works. If they can inject that kind of gameplay into a co-op experience than I am certainly all on board for that.
We will need to wait to take a bite ourselves though, with Summer 2022 as the release.