E3 2017, Microsoft — 4K, Innovative, Immersive, Other Buzzowords

Again, apologies for the amazing lateness (I’m like two weeks late on this!). Stuff comes up, comics needed to be read, Mr. Robot episodes needed to be watched. Anyway, here are my thoughts on Microsoft’s 2017 E3 conference. Minor releases and the like are at the bottom.

Microsoft opened with a way-too-long pre-rendered trailer for the Xbox One X (formerly known as the Scorpio), and yes that is indeed its name. I can practically see the XxSephir0thxX! Also, it sounds remarkably similar to the Xbox One S. Like, one sound away from being the same thing. Anyway, the trailer featured a chick who looks like a discount Laura Bailey ‘inside’ the system, then lots of angles on the console. Also, there was tons of push for 4K which started here, and I don’t care about it because I don’t own a 4K TV. Also, pushing ‘Mixer’, which is apparently a Microsoft-owned Twitch. I’ve never heard of it, so I’m guessing nobody uses it. Anyway, the console has specs that I don’t know anything about. But the guy did say ‘teraflops’! It also has a 4K blu-ray drive, which is important, given the PS4 Pro doesn’t have one of these. Also, all prior Xbone peripherals and such will work with the XboneX (oh my god, the name can get worse…), which… no shit, it’s not a new generation of console. It’s also apparently the smallest Xbox ever, explaining why they couldn’t call it the Xbox One XL or something. Who cares about the size?! I’m currently buying new furniture and even I don’t care about the size! So yeah, there you go, new console. I probably won’t get it.

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The first game reveal was Forza Motorsport 7. I only care about the Forza Horizon games, so this doesn’t really matter to me. But Microsoft seemed to think their viewership cares about cars, because they unveiled the new Porsche 911 GT2 RS. Yes, it is indeed… a car. I don’t care about cars. Also, the 911? It’s pronounced like 9/11, by the way. Um… okay. They then got two professional drivers to play the game, because… they really don’t know their audience, I guess. Though you could tell these were professional racers, given they completely avoided doing stupid manoeuvres like pitting and ramming opponents or unnecessary drifts. One of them also sounded super uninterested. The entire thing was also peppered with buzz words and all I could see was that the same is pretty, which isn’t a big accomplishment for a modern racing game. The weather effects look good, though.

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Next up was Metro Exodus. I’ve always wanted to play the Metro games, but the creepy crawlies scare me. Fuck spiders, dammit! But this game looks great, with visually interesting enemies with complex behaviours, and I’ve always loved the lack of UI in the Metro series. It’s so immersive, and the world is cool enough that you want to be immersed in it. Plus, I love that the era of grey and brown is over, and now even post-apocalyptic games can have some decent colour in them. The gameplay featured some cool movement, like sliding down a steep hill, and the return of the gas mask. There was also a crossbow, which has bolts that you can retrieve from dead enemies. That’s some nice survival stuff, without veering too far into games like DayZ. There was also a cool boss fight with a giant mutated bear, which has the player taking down the bear by forcing it to a ledge and then using an explosive bolt on it. Different ammo types for bows and crossbows is always a good thing, because I get to pretend to be Hawkeye. Metro Exodus is due for release in 2018.

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Assassin’s Creed Origins was then shown off, though it’s apparently the most leaked game in history. I’m not keen on the setting, since Egypt is just a really common setting and I don’t picture much interesting stuff being done witht he setting. What I’m saying is just give me Japan already, Ubisoft! Anyway, the trailer also featured a giant snake, so they’re probably veering more into fantasy. I’ve got mixed feelings about that, but Syndicate played fast and loose with history anyway. The protagonist is Bayek, and Egyptian farmer, and the game features the foundation of the Assassin order. The gameplay was… a Ubisoft game. Open-world, you have a drone (it’s an eagle… but it’s a drone, c’mon) and you can be loud or stealthy. The parkour is the same post-Unity stuff, but features the return of trees and I swear they basically lifted the animations directly from the post-III games. There was a cool moment where leaping off a tree and aiming the bow slowed down time, which is nice for my inner Hawkeye. There’s also more focus on loot, which seemingly have three slots for abilities. I doubt they’ll matter, just like the stats in all non-gun weapons in Assassin’s Creed games. Though given the new combat, I’m not so sure. The combat looked for focused on dodging, like in The Witcher, with Bayek being able to dash sideways in combat. Plus, enemies seem more able to take hits. There’s also an ability that allows you to, I think, either lock-on to enemies and use a first-person homing arrow or outright control an arrow you shoot. The game doesn’t interest me, but I’ll probably buy it when it’s on sale. Assassin’s Creed Origins is due for release October 27, 2017.

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State of Decay 2 was next. I never played the original, but it’s a zombie survival game focused on the management of resources and characters, along with some basic moral choices. That stuff is honestly the most interesting part of the zombie genre — you can have your big horde shootouts every now and then, but those things are what make the genre good! The trailer showed some of that, but mostly focused on the really boring looking combat. It doesn’t help thatt he game doesn’t have that much production value, so all the scenes that were supposed to be big and epic looked instead like machinima. The game is due for release in Spring of 2018

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Minecraft brought some apparently known presenter Lydia Winters up, who wore a really unflattering shirt and reminded me way too much of condescending Play School hosts. Though given Minecraft’s audience, that makes sense. It also meant she was talking incredibly slow and dead inside… she said “super-duper” for fucks sake! The game is getting 4K — because I’m sure that was super important to players — and godrays. And it’s called the Super-Duper Graphics Pack… ugh.

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Dragon Ball Fighter Z Dragon Ball FigherZ (really?!) was next, with a game that, while capturing the character designs very well, just doesn’t get the aesthetic of the franchise right. The way action was directed, the more Guilty Gear-esque energy blasts and auras, all of it just didn’t feel very Dragon Ball. Regardless, it’s a Dragon Ball Z 2D fighting game… with a name that seems to scream “we are running out of name ideas”. While I’m trying to get back into Dragon Ball, I don’t care about the games. It’s due out in early 2018.

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The Last Night was next and it has a really cool art style. Some really good lighting an interesting environments gives it such a unique looks, while still making it seem very cyberpunk. There was also some great graphical fidelity shown off — which was surprising given the otherwise minimalist art style — and the game does some nice things with its water effects, such as good use of reflections in creating its cyberpunk world along with neat distortion effects on the “lens”. While not much was shown of the game, this looks very, very interesting. The Last Night is due for release in 2018. Also, I’d just like to mention the controversy that came about afterwards, and my thoughts are basically that your beliefs influence your art, but your beliefs changing and thus changing the direction of your art is fine. If anything, it can make your art more interesting. He shouldn’t be persecuted for his former beliefs in 2014, this isn’t politics. If you don’t know what this is about, then Google it.

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Another great indie game was The Artful Escape, which also has a neat art style. The characters appear to be 2D and made of fabric or paper, but the environments are 3D, and the game has some truly psychedelic visuals and some high-concept stuff, like using an electric guitar to somehow assist in platforming. It just looks so cool and unique, never mind how it might tie in to the game mechanically. Definitely on my radar. It’s due for release “when it’s damn ready“.

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Code Vein was next. The combat looks very Souls-esque, albeit more button mash-y, and the music reminded me very much of Kingdom Hearts. The designs overall felt very edgelord, with tons of bandages, claws, half-masks and a black and red colour scheme. However, the environments showed some variety. I’m not excited ro tia t all, but it looks alright if you’re into anime-looking games. Code Vein is due in 2018.

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Sea of Thieves got another showing, and this time didn’t have obnoxious Let’s Play commentary! Instead they got a Scottish guy to narrate it and it was really charming, with some nice self-awareness to it all. The gameplay looks… eh. There’s some decent systems in play, especially when it comes to the ship itself, but on islands and inside dungeons, the game just seems incredibly simplistic. The combat is very simple, with what you’d expect from a gun that you reload after every shot, and you just loot and craft things. The ship combat looks much better, however. The gameplay was also obviously edited together, so I can picture lots of boring sailing as well. Sea of Thieves looks very much like a “make your own fun” game. Don’t get me wrong, it looks nice and those water physics are gorgeous, but I can’t see it appealing for very long, especially if building structures and the like isn’t involved. Also, it seems aimed at a younger audience, and that’s probably its biggest fanbase so far given that #SeaOfTheives was more prominent than #SeaOfThieves during the conference. “‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c'”, guys! Sea of Thieves is due for release in early 2018.

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Super Lucky’s Tale is a platformer very much in the spirit of Banjo and Kazooie. The main character looks like Tails from Sonic but with only one tail and, well, brown. The art style is cure and I like the world so far. It’s got some adorable designs going on. It shifts between 3D and 2D, which is always nice. It’s due for release on November 7, 2017.

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Crackdown 3 opened with Terry Crews shouting at me and I very much enjoyed that. I actually enjoyed it more than the gameplay, which just seems like a more boring Saints Row IV. Like, even the texture quality. It has loads of orbs to collect, you have superpowers and very underwhelming weapons and is drenched in neon colours. It has some decent destruction going on, but beyond that, it just looks like Saints Row IV and I probably won’t play it. It’s coming out November 7, 2017.

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Ashen opened with some insanely generic narration. But it has a neat dark, minimalist, kind of wood dole aesthetic. But it has really gross spiders, so I probably can’t play it. It has two men going through some neat environments with some horrific shadow beasts and monsters out to kill them, and the enemy designs seem to be very varied, with lots of different sources of inspiration. I’ll definitely watch someone play it, at the very least. It got no release date.

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Life is Strange: Before the Storm was next. It’s a three episode prequel to Life Is Strange. It focuses on a pre-blue hair Chloe Price. I think Chloe’s spirit animal is a crow or something, based on this. I don’t know, I haven’t finished the original game yet. Anyway, we at least see that her dad’s death is in the game. It seems like the focus of the game will be the bond between Chloe and Rachael. Apparently it won’t have any time-travel mechanics, which was sort of important to how the original played. Also, it’s a prequel, so I’m not sure how it will make your choices feel relevant. Also, I don’t like Chloe. She feel;s like every edgy trait possible in this character meant to appeal to edgy teens and people who never got over their high school crush. I might get to this if I ever finish Life Is Strange. The first episode will be released 31 August 2017.

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Middle-Earth: Shadow of War was next. I think the first game was incredibly overrated. This game looks like more fo the same, albeit with a much, much more diverse colour palette. Instead of everything being brown, everything is bright and colourful. The game in general is a lot less rough around the edges, with even Talion looking notably less rugged. The game seems to also have taken on some humour, which is nice. The world itself has been opened up to include other locations, which I know nothing about because I’ve only seen the movies. The animation looked kind of unrefined, with tons of awkward moments and clipping. The gameplay itself is largely unchanged, except now you can recruit followers. Pretty much the only thing that stood out to me was the orc Bruz, who was really charming surprisingly. Other than that, I don’t really care about this game either. Shadow of War is due for release on October 10, 2017.

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Ori and the Will of the Wisps was next. They got a pianist to do the soundtrack live, which was nice. The art style is as gorgeous as ever, but seemingly swapped out blue for orange, with some excellent lighting and environments. There were non-orange moments, and at the very least, the designers clearly understand tone and cinematography. I haven’t finished the first game, and it’s been somewhat spoiled for me, but I’m looking forward to this game. It has a neat aesthetic, the designers clearly understand visual storytelling, and the music is excellent. It didn’t get a release date, but that just means I’ll probably have enough time to finish the first game.

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Anthem was the last game, and this time actually got shown off! I don’t know how much Microsoft paid to keep it away from the EA conference, but it must’ve been a lot. Anyway, the game looks fun. It’s very similar to Destiny, but with a much more interesting aesthetic. Everything looks a bit more thrown together, with much more cloth in the environment. It gives the game a nice look distinct from Destiny‘s generic clean sci-fi look. The main character shown was a woman in what was basically an Iron Man suit, albeit with Halo and Destiny-looking helmets. The player hub is this incredibly tall structure that you dive off and then use guided falling to traverse the environment, and you can also use your gets on the ground to get some speed. Also, some really neat looking underwater stuff. It looks incredibly fun, and with the co-op emphasis, I can see it being a ton of fun. Oh, but the fake co-op commentary was awful because it actually worked for a while. Some discount Jennifer Hale lady was talking like she was in the game, and I wouldn’t be surprised to find out she is actually in the game. Anyway, the combat is third-person shooting with some great weapon feedback, as well as some cool shoulder-mounted missile launchers. There’s also loot, because of course there is. And this all looks gorgeous, with some amazing graphical fidelity and stunning effects. I can’t say I’m not hyped for this game. It looks like Destiny if it was good beyond its shooting. With BioWare involved, I can definitely see this being a cool world to be in. Visually, it’s got some nice designs going for it, and in terms of graphical fidelity it’s just beautiful. The shooting and movement look top notch, my only concern being enemies turning into bullet sponges, which always happens in looter shooters. But man, this game looks great. I can’t wait to live out my Iron Man fantasies… well, my Batman Beyond fantasies, because Iron Man sucks. Now that is how you end your conference! Anthem is due for release in Q4 of 2018. 

The Rest:

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds got a moment, where they pushed it onto Mixer and revealed that it will be getting an Xbox One console-exclusive release in late 2017. I haven’t played the game and don’t really care about it. Deep Rock Galactic was also shown and looks like No Man’s Sky if it didn’t suck and actually had co-op, with some Minecraft thrown in for good measure. It’s got a kind of Starcraft space marine aesthetic combined with the No Man’s Sky look. The Darwin Project is Pixar-looking battle royale game. It had incredibly cringey shoutcasting with weirdly inserted Mixer product placement. I was not impressed. Black Desert is getting an Xbone release, and why ahsn’t anyone ever told me how beautiful this game looks?! Beyond the character models, I mean! Holy shit! Still probably won’t play it, but there. Also, it used to be called Black Desert Online, and I have no idea why they took the ‘Online’ out. Tacoma was also shown and is… something. Honestly, the trailer didn’t explain anything. It has a neat minimalist art style and some decent music. And I think it might be multiplayer and focused on living on a spaceship? Maybe? Whatever the case, it’s due for release on August 2 2017. Cuphead was briefly shown – -for those who don’t know, it’s a platformer in the same vein as Mega Man, but with a very strong classic cartoon (as in black and white Mickey Mouse) aesthetic — and actually has a release date now! It’s coming out September 29, 2017. Also, it’s now a Microsoft exclusive, and its tagline being “don’t deal with the devil” just became ironic as fuck. We got a spam of games in one trailer that showed very little and had no release dates. I have no strong feelings towards any of them aside from one that looked kinda decent. Also, apparently Conan Exiles has a giant cyclops in it, which looks kinda cool. Backwards compatibility was shown off a bit, most noticeably featuring backwards compatibility with the original Xbox. The program will launch later this year. They also announced $K 4K updates to games, and that they wouldn’t be charging for them. Um… I hope not. Though I found that ‘$K’ typo a bit fitting.

While Microsoft’s conference wasn’t anything amazing, or even surprising, there were some great games here. The Last NightThe Artful EscapeSuper Lucky’s Tale and Anthem are the games that I know I’ll be playing, and Life Is Strange: Before the Storm and Ori and the Will of the Wisps will probably be added to that list once I finish the original games. Overall, while this conference had some cringy moments, it definitely got me excited for some upcoming games… just not for the Xbox One platform, since I have a PC. Still, if you don’t, this would probably sell you on an Xbox One or XboneX… XxXbOnExXx. Sorry, had to do it.

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