Microsoft finally put on its big first-party game showcase today, the E3 replacement show we’ve been waiting for. It certainly didn’t disappoint, insofar as we did see games that will be available for the Xbox Series X when it comes out later this year.
That’s a wrap on #XboxGamesShowcase:
🌍 10 World Premieres
🚀 22 Console Launch Exclusives
🎮 Every game shown will launch in @XboxGamePass or free to play
💪The best line up of next-gen games on the world’s most powerful consolehttps://t.co/Ejuef09xNt
— Xbox (@Xbox) July 23, 2020
It was good to see so many different games represented on the new console — and Microsoft certainly showed more than the tidbits at the third-party event earlier this year. But which ones stood out? The point of shows like these, after all, is to make you want to buy the console so that you can play these games. There were a variety of games on offer, and many we’d be happy to get our hands on.
Here they are, in no particular order, the games shown at today’s show that look the most interesting and promise that the Series X will be a contender when it hits the market this holiday season alongside the PS5.
This is the easy one, the game that was given the longest exposure out of anything at the show. And why shouldn’t it? Halo is Microsoft’s flagship, and having a new one to accompany the Series X is natural. The graphics look sharp and clean, if a bit limited given they were being livestreamed and probably weren’t reflective of the sort of frames per second we’ll be seeing on the console itself. But if you want to see what a next-generation upgrade to this series looks like, Microsoft delivered.
— Halo (@Halo) July 23, 2020
While I’m no eagle-eyed Halo fan, I can definitely spot a few differences to the gameplay this time around. Most noticeably, Master Chief is sporting a grappling hook this time around. Also, I don’t know about you, but I’m living for the sass that the pilot character tosses at Master Chief at the beginning of the demo was the only moment during the whole show I cracked an actual grin.
Everwild was here standing in as the “pretty” Xbox exclusive on offer (a position formerly held by the likes of Ori & the Blind Forest). The gameplay trailer was a little lacking when it came to telling us what we could actually do — but it seemed to imply we, as a member of the tribe shown in the trailer, will be able to shape the world around us by manipulating the magic in the flora and fauna.
"Our world has a rhythm. We all sense it, but only a few truly feel it."
— Rare Ltd. (@RareLtd) July 23, 2020
I have noticed, with the likes of PS5’s Kena & the Bridge of Spirits, that the consoles are leaning into more animated film-style graphics, as opposed to the more usual emphasis on 4K realness. In Everwild’s case, it’s a welcome breath of air. Also, it’s made by Rare, the legendary company behind Sea of Thieves and basically the SNES generation’s entire childhood. I trust Rare to deliver something substantive and the trailers we’ve seen leave no doubt in my mind the game is stunning.
It’s been several years since we saw hide nor hair of the sequel to the legendary action-adventure game Psychonauts. Originally, developers Double Fine planned to finance the game via the crowdfunding site Fig — luckily, Microsoft swooped in just as that money appeared to be running out. There’s been a longstanding joke that Microsoft is making up for passing on the first game as an Xbox exclusive back in the day. And while I doubt that was the company’s true motivation, let’s just say that if it was, it was a smart one.
It's trippy, occasionally musical.. and a whole lot more! Explore strange mental worlds and meet cool characters (like this mysterious stranger voiced by Jack Black) in Psychonauts 2. Releasing next year on Xbox One/Series X and other platforms! pic.twitter.com/PhKwqwUFP2
— Double Fine (@DoubleFine) July 23, 2020
This event is where we finally got a look at Psychonauts 2 and what we saw was a joy. Besides the fact that Double Fine managed to convince Jack Black to sing in a studio on camera to augment the footage, the game itself looks like more of the same bizarre, cartoonish melodrama that made the original so distinctive.
The show was replete with trailers that are designed to stir speculation but don’t actually show anything — see for example, the new Fable game’s teaser that shows a dead-eyed frog inhaling a fairy). But the one that was most intriguing, in my opinion, was this thus-far-unheard-of RPG. I speculated pre-event that, while I’d like to see the new game Obsidian has been working on, I suspected we were more likely to see Grounded, the multiplayer survival game it’d already announced. Imagine my surprise when we saw both.
Obsidian Entertainment's next epic, first-person RPG set in the fantasy world of Eora. pic.twitter.com/htN8dMlKQ1
— Obsidian (@Obsidian) July 23, 2020
To be clear, the only things we thus far know about Avowed is that it’s an Obsidian RPG, and that it appears to be fantasy/magic-based. However, that’s already enough for people to start calling it the next Skyrim. Frankly I see nothing wrong with a good, old-fashioned first-person role-playing on the latest console. Gotta keep in touch with our D&D roots after all. And since I enjoyed Outer Worlds, I want to see what Obsidian’s going to do on the new console.
Tell Me Why
This game isn’t so much an entry because of what it’ll do for the console — Dontnod’s latest adventure doesn’t look particularly graphically taxing. However, it does highlight the variety of games that’ll be available on Series X — it’s not going to be all first-person shooters or RPGs. PlayStation did the same thing when it showed that dinosaur visual novel during its presentation (and wow, there’s a sentence I didn’t think I’d be writing today).
The only way to move forward is to keep looking back.
✨Chapter 1: August 27
✨Chapter 2: September 3
✨Chapter 3: September 10 pic.twitter.com/rM8kfNxuc3
— Tell Me Why 🏳️⚧️ (@TellMeWhyGame) July 23, 2020
Tell Me Why doesn’t appear to be related to Dontnod’s most popular work to date, Life is Strange. But it’s the same sort of schtick — familial drama, possibly paranormal powers, and attractive young people emoting sadly at the player. I’m not saying that to be snarky, either — that worked in Life is Strange. And considering that it’s one of two games that’s definitely going to be out at the same time the new console is released (the other being Halo Infinite), we know we’ll be getting it sooner rather than later.
Honorable mention: The Medium
While we don’t know yet how it’ll work, the main conceit behind The Medium is a character existing on two different planes. Essentially the game loads two locations simultaneously, and you control a character in each of them. I’m probably not making it sound terribly interesting, and to be fair there’s more than a small influence of Silent Hill in the trailer, but it definitely looks fit to test the new console’s processing power.
“Silent Hi– what’s that? We’re not allowed to call it that? Oh, um… The Medium, everyone!”#XboxGamesShowcase
— Rachel Kaser (@rachelkaser) July 23, 2020
We didn’t see too much of it, but I admit I’m a bit curious as to what The Medium will look like when it’s time to play it, and if it lives up to the promise in the trailer.
Have a different take on any of these games? Any of the other trailers catch your eye? Drop me a line on Twitter @rachelkaser and let me know!