E3 2018: Microsoft Press Brief Recap

E3 2018: Microsoft Press Brief Recap

by June 11, 2018

The Xbox had a lot to prove.

It was Microsoft’s chance to prove themselves at E3 2018. Though the Xbox One has been chugging along respectably, it was beginning to feel like there wasn’t much reason to buy the console these days. Many of the Xbox-exclusive games, like Platinum’s Scalebound, had been canceled or, like Crackdown 3, have languished in development hell for the better part of this generation. And so, Microsoft doubled down on what they’ve been known for: Halo, Gears of War, and Forza.

The briefing opened with a peek at Halo Infinite, the next Halo game. No gameplay footage was shown; simply an engine demonstration showing vast open spaces and alien wildlife. It’s not clear what type of game Halo Infinite will be, simply that it is the next Halo game and it will once again involve the continued adventures of Master Chief. In an interview with Youtube Live, Marketing General Manager Aaron Greenberg said: “This is the next Halo game. Think of this as moving from the numbering to let’s do something completely different.” Though Halo has always been known for its sandbox combat, this could be an expansion on that concept. Or it could just be another “live services” game like Destiny, The Division and Anthem.

The briefing continued with a look at Ori and the Will of the Wisps, a sequel to the Xbox One launch title Ori and the Blind Forest. Known for its rich, detailed, worlds and beautiful 2D animation, Will of the Wisps picks up right where Blind Forest left off, with Ori raising a baby owl while simultaneously facing the forest’s newest threat. The “Metroidvania” exploratory gameplay from the first Ori returns, with the new Owl friend possibly offering new abilities (or at the very least, a call to action for Ori). It releases next year on Xbox One and PC.

Next up in the rush of teasers and trailers was a look at From Software’s next game, a pseudo-spiritual-successor to Bloodborne titled Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Published by Activision, Shadows Die Twice takes From Software’s Dark Souls and Bloodborne design philosophy in to feudal Japan, where you play as a cursed ronin samurai called Sekiro. Gameplay looks considerably faster than even Bloodborne, which is sometimes considered to be From Software’s fastest and most newbie-friendly game. Still, Shadows Die Twice is undeniably a From Software game, featuring what has become their signature look and feel. It is also releasing in 2019 on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC.

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Bethesda’s Todd Howard took the stage to talk a little more about the recently-announced Fallout 76. Rumors had been swirling about what exactly Fallout 76 was; Kotaku’s Jason Schrier tweeted that those looking for a traditional singleplayer Fallout game would be “disappointed,” later clarifying in an article that he had heard it was some type of online multiplayer survival game similar to Rust or Ark: Survival Evolved. Howard didn’t clarify anything about Fallout 76, merely plugging Bethesda’s own briefing later that night and touting that Fallout 76 will feature the largest open world ever seen in a Fallout game — a full four-times the size of Fallout 4’s.

Next was a teaser at Dontnod’s sequel to Life is Strange, with The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit. More than just a trailer, Captain Spirit will be a free-to-download playable prologue to the next season of Life is Strange, where you play as a young boy named Chris as he pretends to be a superhero, going on Calvin-&-Hobbes-like adventures inside his own vivid imagination. Dontnod is intentionally being coy as to how this will tie in to the new season, not even really commenting on whether or not it will continue the adventures of Max Caufield or Chloe Price. It’s more likely the next season of Life is Strange will involve a brand new cast of characters, as a post from Dontnod clarifies “Life is Strange is an entire universe of storytelling founded upon relatable characters facing real world issues, but always with ‘a twist of the strange’ and we have many more stories we want to tell.” The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit will be free to download on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC starting June 28th.

Crackdown 3 made an appearance at the briefing, featuring another trailer of Terry Crews shouting and reveling in the game’s over-the-top mass destruction. Originally billed as a justification of “the infinite power of cloud computing,” Crackdown 3 was supposed to let players topple entire skyscrapers in their duty as a futuristic supercop. Since then, the game seems to have been handed off to Sumo Digital and scaled back a bit, but it still looks like an explosive good time. More importantly, the trailer also confirms Crackdown 3’s latest delay; after finally intending to be released this year, it has been pushed back yet again to February 2019. Hopefully it sticks the landing this time.

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Also on offer will be a version of NieR: Automata for the Xbox One, which surprisingly did not launch with the Playstation 4 and PC versions last year. Nier: Automata Become as Gods Edition for the Xbox One launches later this month, serving as a bonus edition of the game, package with all of the existing DLC and Xbox One X enhancements like improved performance and 4K video output. It’ll be out in a couple weeks.

Teased at E3 last year, this year Metro Exodus shows us real gameplay. This time you’re traveling by train, looking for survivors and scavenging for resources in a post-apocalyptic European wasteland ravaged by a nuclear winter. Metro has always been known for its punishing difficulty and rich visual presentation, both of which seem to be preserved here. Whereas Fallout always maintained its RPG roots, the Metro games were always more straight up shooters, albeit ones with strict ammo conservation. Metro Exodus also releases in February of next year for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC.

Kingdom Hearts III will mark that franchise’s first-ever debut on the Xbox platform, and the trailer shown at Microsoft’s briefing features visuals that look shockingly close to big-screen cinematic counterparts like Frozen and Tangled. KH3 has been a very, very long time coming, and it’s hard to believe it’s releasing at all, let alone on Xbox. Despite Square-Enix swearing up and down that the game would release this year, it, like Crackdown 3, has been delayed to 2019. But given that it’s January 2019, that’s almost like it still released in 2018, right?

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Sea of Thieves made another in what could be many more appearances to come, teasing future content updates for Rare’s open-world, multiplayer pirate adventure game. The Hungering Deep just released for the game, adding a new quest line, new musical instruments, and a brand new Megalodon boss to fight. The next pair of updates promise new islands to visit, as well as roaming enemy ships captained by undead skeletons. Sea of Thieves: Cursed Sails drops in July, whereas Sea of Thieves: Forsaken Shores releases in September.

Battlefield V gets its cursory mention, though really, not much is said or shown of EA’s upcoming World War 2 shooter, a theme EA itself seems to be embracing for a lot of their games nowadays.

We’re then treated to yet another Forza Horizon game, the fourth of which, whose big new claim to fame this time is a more dynamic weather system. Horizon 3 dipped its toe in to this pool with a little bit of rain falling on the Australian rainforests, but Horizon 4 promises cooler temperatures and a forecast of ice and snow added to the mix as you race through multiple seasons in Great Britian. New social features also make it easier to group up with other players you find in Horizon 4’s always-online open world. It releases on Xbox One and PC in October.

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Acknowledging that maybe Microsoft’s offerings have been a little thin in the last couple years, Phil Spencer took to the stage to announce new Microsoft developer studios like The Initiative and the acquisitions of Undead Labs, Playground Games, Ninja Theory and Compulsion Games. These five teams will be working towards building a more robust software catalog for the Xbox going forward.

Compulsion Games, of course, is made up of former Bioshock developers who are working on We Happy Few, a dystopian alternate-future game where the populace is enslaved by a mind-altering drug known as “Joy.” It was originally crowdfunded as a survival game many years ago, but a lot of noise was made when Gearbox picked the game up to publish it, adding depth to its story and changing its feel pretty significantly. Even though Microsoft just bought Compulsion Games, We Happy Few is still slated to release on Xbox One, as well as Playstation 4 and PC this August.

New updates for the Xbox One version of PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds were teased, with the new Sanhok map and the PC version’s “War” mode slated to launch later this year. Another new map, featuring snow, was also teased. Footage was clearly of the PC version, as the console version of PUBG is known to have severe performance and graphical issues. Nothing was said addressing these problems.

Bandai-Namco will release Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition on Xbox One this year. The original 2008 version of Tales of Vesperia featured DLC that never released outside of Japan; “Definitive Edition” includes and localizes that content for the first time in the West. New music, new characters and more are promised in what has been said by some to be the best of the Tales games. Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition comes to Xbox One, Playstation 4, Switch and PC this Winter.

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A trailer plus gameplay footage for The Division 2 promises tales of a corrupt government inciting a modern-day civil war, themes Ubisoft has approached with other games in the past but has yet to fully deliver on. Expect another pseudo-MMO “live service” game to keep you on the hook as you and your friends shoot up more janitors, security guards and looters — this time in a Washington D.C. ravaged by the original game’s viral outbreak. It releases on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC in March 2019.

Improvements come to Xbox Game Pass. In addition to many Microsoft games hitting the company’s “Netflix for Games” service day-and-date with retail, Game Pass will boast improved boot times and new games like Fallout 4, Elder Scrolls Online, and The Division.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider will solidify the fate of Lara Croft, as she becomes instrumental to an ancient prophecy after removing a ceremonial knife from its sacred altar. Expect more tombs to raid as Lara turns in to The Predator, camouflaging herself with mud to sneak past — or stealth kill — those who would try to stop her from fulfilling her role in what may very well be the apocalypse. Then again, considering that these games are set up as prequels to the rest of the Tomb Raider franchise, it’s a given that the world probably doesn’t end. Shadow of the Tomb Raider releases in September for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC.

For those of you disappointed by a lack of any Skate-related announcement at EA’s briefing yesterday, Microsoft revealed Session, a game by some of the former team that brought you Skate. Unsurprisingly, Session looks exactly like you’d expect a Skate 4 to appear, with physics-driven dual-analog skateboarding and a handheld camera look. Session was Kickstarted a little over six months ago, and the game is clearly still in an early state, given the lack of a release date.

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Devil May Cry 5 may have been one of the worst-kept secrets currently in the game industry. Various actors and developers have been winking at its existence for a long time, and it finally showed its face at Microsoft’s briefing. DMC5 completely ignores Ninja Theory’s controversial DmC: Devil May Cry from 2013, instead continuing the story of Dante and Nero from Devil May Cry 4 (“DMC IS BACK!” exclaims Capcom’s Hideaki Itsuno on stage, followed by terms like “true sequel” and “We hear you.”). It releases next year.

Cuphead is receiving some DLC, adding new levels and a new playable character to the mix: Miss Chalice. Details are thin what exactly Miss Chalice’s new abilities will bring to the table, but what is known is that this “Delicious Last Course” DLC will be exclusive to Xbox One and PC — leaving Playstation 4 Cuphead fans out in the cold. It also releases next year.

It’s hard not to get classic 2D Zelda vibes from Finji’s Tunic, a game about a cute fox in a familiar green tunic that finds a sword and must go on a dungeon-delving adventure. What makes Tunic interesting is a commitment to building mystery through language, with all of the text in the trailer being written in an unknown fantasy text. What’s it say? Learning that answer will undoubtedly be part of the fun.

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Jump Force is the latest in the “Jump” series of games, dating all the way back to Jump Superstars on the Nintendo DS. In it, many of Shonen Jump’s most prolific anime and manga franchises come together to duke it out, this time in a 3D arena brawler reminiscent of Dragon Ball Xenoverse. Goku, Frieza, Naruto, Luffy and even Light from Death Note are all shown in the trailer, and if past games are anything to go by, there will be a vast roster of other heroes and villains to choose from. It releases next year for Xbox One and Playstation 4.

Dying Light 2 continues the story of what happens to the world after a zombie outbreak. Stop me if you’ve heard this before: man is the real monster, and the world descends in to a violence as lawlessness reigns supreme. Fortunately, this time, you’ve got some sick parkour moves to help you out-maneuver human and undead alike. This game boasts the involvement of Chris Avellone, thought to be one of the best narrative writers in gaming today, so the story will likely be very strong at the very least.

After years of jokes, teasers, cameos and more, Battletoads appears to be finally making a return. No gameplay footage is shown, but promises of couch co-op and 4K hand-drawn graphics are made with tongue firmly lodged in cheek. Whatever that is, it’ll hit some time next year.

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Weather is also the major new addition to Just Cause 4, which aims to bring back the crazy, over-the-top fun this series is known for. Many were lukewarm on Just Cause 3, a game that came at a weird time for the industry. Rumors swirled about its free-to-play monetization systems, and while the game did not ship with those, they may have negatively impacted how the game was developed regardless. Just Cause 4 is a chance to return to form, adding in tornadoes and other extreme weather to the mix. It releases on Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC this December.

Gears of War makes a comeback in a way not many people may have expected, with Gears Pop! Featuring long-time franchise favorites like Marcus Fenix, Pop! capitalizes on the popularity (heh) of the Funko Pop line of series, with smaller, cuter characters. Gears Pop! is apparently a mobile game of some sort, though details on what it plays like are scarce. Will it be a shooter? A city-builder? One wonders. (Or doesn’t, really.)

Long-time Gears of War fans don’t have much to worry about, as a brand-new traditional Gears of War 5 game was also debuted, featuring a female protagonist exploring a snowy wasteland and facing new foes. The typical features are in tow, with co-op and multiplayer, plus promises of 4K at 60fps on Xbox One X. Gears of War 5 launches next year for Xbox One and PC.

Microsoft’s briefing ended with an exclusive trailer for CD Projekt Red’s Cyberpunk 2077, a game that was announced probably five years ago at this point. Based on the tabletop roleplaying game Cyberpunk 2020, 2077 is the first anyone’s seen of CDPR’s Cyberpunk game since that teaser trailer all those years ago. Though still no gameplay footage was shown, it featured an incredibly striking vision of a future many of us may live to see in our lifetimes. Densely compacted urban centers, extensive body modifications, and futuristic supercars are all on offer. We will presumably see more next year.

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For a company that initially seemed like it had so little on its plate, Microsoft turned out to have a respectable showing this year. Though, as has become their mantra, there aren’t a lot of reasons to actually own an Xbox One — everything shown here today, even the exclusives, can be played on a PC, assuming you’ve kept up to date with hardware upgrades. But to be perfectly honest with you, I won’t complain; I spent a lot of money building a gaming PC for a reason, and I think a lot of us out there are more than happy we aren’t required to spend another $300+ on a big box for the living room. What really matters are the games, and as it turns out, there are plenty in the pipeline, no matter where they ultimately end up landing.