My Thoughts on the E3 2017 Microsoft Press Conference

Microsoft put on their annual E3 press conference this past Sunday, which just so happened to be one of the most anticipated conferences of the show. With a brand new lineup of games, as well as the official reveal of the newest piece of Xbox hardware, expectations were high and wild. Thankfully, Microsoft delivered.

The biggest piece of news from their show came in the form of the Xbox One X.
Delivering native 4K resolution, UHD Blu-Ray payback, and backwards compatibility across all generations of Xbox (a feature that will be coming to all models of the Xbox One), the announced $499 price tag is a fair price for what the system offers. While no games will be releasing exclusively for the One X, all Xbox One games will perform better on the new console.

Now, with the hardware news out of the way… let’s get to the games!

1.) Forza Motorsport 7

What better game to show off the visual fidelity of the Xbox One X than Forza?
The Forza franchise has long been know for its cutting edge graphics, so it’s no surprise that Forza Motorsport 7 looks stunning on the new hardware. Running in native 4K resolution with a silky smooth 60fps, it’s simply one of the most technically gorgeous games to grace any platform. Everything from the sand drifting across the track, the rain splattering on the cars, and the beautiful sunsets make this a beautiful game to behold. Along with the announcement that the game will have over 700 cars for players to drive, Porsche revealed their brand new 911 GT2 RS live on stage. Although I’m not a big car guy, there was no denying that it was a slick and badass ride. If car racing is your jam, then make sure to check out Forza Motorsport 7 when it launches later this fall.

2.) Metro: Exodus

As a huge fan of the Metro franchise, the reveal trailer for this game was one of my high points of the show. The first two games introduced a world destroyed by nuclear war. With the surface uninhabitable, humanity turned to the underground tunnels of Russia for survival. Tense stealth segments, frantic gunfights, showdowns with radiated monsters, and a large emphasis on resource management created a special place in my heart for Metro. With Exodus, the series looks to be shaking things up from the first two games. While the trailer still shows a few minutes of underground skulking and combat, things become more interesting when the main character reaches the surface and shows a world full of bright light and growing plant life. This trailer left me with more questions than answers, but I can’t wait to play this game for myself when it releases sometime next year.

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3.) Assassin’s Creed: Origins

Although my experience with Assassin’s Creed is limited (I’ve only played the original and Black Flag), I’m actually pretty excited for Origins. Taking the story further back than it has ever gone, Origins transports players to Egypt for the forming of the guild of assassins. What I love most about Assassin’s Cred is the simple act of exploration. In Origins, the world of Egypt looks like it’s begging you to uncover its secrets. From the long open deserts, to the villages and temples, I can’t wait to lose myself in this world. Did I mention that the trailer even shows you sliding down the side of a pyramid? If that’s not exciting, I don’t know what is. I’m hoping to check this game out when it launches on October 27th.

4.) Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds

Practically an overnight sensation, Player Unknown’s Battleground is currently one of the most played games on Steam and one of the most streamed games on Twitch, for good reason. It’s a frantic game where 100 players enter the battlefield and only one walks away. I don’t possess a computer strong enough to run the game, but from what I’ve seen and read about it online, it’s looks pretty damn fun. The stories coming out of this game about close calls, unfortunate mistakes, and alliances that end in betrayal have never ceased to entertain me. Although it’s exclusively coming to the Xbox One for an unspecified amount of time, the game will eventually be making its way to the PlayStation 4. If you’re a highly competitive player or looking for something to create unforgettable stories with, you can’t do much better than this.

5.) Deep Rock Galactic

One of the smaller games from the show, Deep Rock Galactic is a sci-fi mining game with small dwarves, big guns, and hordes of alien bugs. The trailer has a large emphasis on mining different ores from deep dark caves, but the final moments depict a large showdown between the dwarves and the creatures that creep in the dark. While little is made clear about the actual gameplay mechanics, I think it looks like something that would be worth spending a couple of hours with to figure out. It’s scheduled to release early 2018, but I hope we don’t have to wait that long to find out more about it.

6.) State of Decay 2

I know that the majority of people are suffering from zombie fatigue, but I don’t think I’ll ever grow bored of mowing down wave after wave of the undead. I didn’t play State of Decay (the woes of only having a PlayStation and a low-end laptop), but I was always intrigued by the clips I’ve seen and stories I’ve heard about it. Will prettier visuals, new zombie types, and alliance/base building be enough to make me purchase an Xbox or upgrade my PC? Probably not, but the game looks fun regardless.

7.) The Darwin Project

There’s no easy way around it, so I’ll just say it… this was one of the weirdest reveals this year. The Darwin Project is a free-for-all multiplayer game that sort of resembles The Hunger Games. The trailer shows a forest where a group of contestants are fighting to the death, but things got weird when an announcer took to the stage to shout cast the match. He definitely had a lot of energy, but his sudden introduction combined with the short snippet of gameplay to create a moment that was just a little too awkward. I actually like the art style of the game, but I’m going to need to see more of this (without the announcer) before I can decide how I really feel about it.

8.) Minecraft

I shouldn’t have to explain Minecraft. If you’re spending the time to read a recap about a video game trade show, you’re probably already familiar with one of the most popular games ever released. This was more of a “oh, hey… look at the new additions to Minecraft!” moment than a game reveal, but it’s still worth mentioning. Minecraft is getting 4K support for the Xbox One X, a “Super Duper Graphics Pack” that will make the game look even better, and cross-play for the mobile, PC, and console versions of the game. I never got into Minecraft, but I think allowing everyone to play together regardless of platform is well worth applauding.

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9.) Dragon Ball Fighter Z

Despite the innumerable amount of Dragon Ball games that have released over the years, I’d be hard-pressed to think of one that captures the look of the show quite like Dragon Ball Fighter Z. Although cel-shaded visuals have been used in several other Dragon Ball games, everything on display for this entry looks far superior. Not only are the colors more vibrant, but the actual animation looks much more fluid and fantastic than other games set in this franchise. From laser beams and transformations, to Goku’s iconic Kamehameha, the action looks just as beautiful as it does deadly. While I still want to know about the full roster of characters, whether or not there’s a story mode, and if I’ll be able to punch Krillin in his dumb bald head, one thing is for certain. I can’t wait to play this game when it launches sometime next year.

10.) Black Desert

Black Desert is a previously PC exclusive “sandbox MMO” where you can explore a gigantic world full of monsters, treasure, and adventure. The trailer shown gave very little knowledge of what to expect (the first half is just shots of the environments and characters), so it’s hard for me to decide if this looks like it’s worth playing. The clips of combat shown make the game look considerably faster and more action oriented than other MMO’s I’ve tried, but I don’t think that’s enough to make me want to jump in and play it for myself.  For short, I’ll probably be skipping this one.

11.) The Last Night

I have no idea what exactly is going on in this game, but it has one of the most gorgeous aesthetics I’ve ever seen. The Last Night is a sci-fi game set in a futuristic neon city, complete with sights and sounds that look like they could have been pulled out of Blade Runner. The trailer shown didn’t give any clues as to what the story of this game may be, so this is definitely going to be one worth keeping an eye on.

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12.) The Artful Escape 

I’ve never taken psychedelic drugs, but I have seen the trailer for The Artful Escape, which is pretty much the same thing. According to the official website, The Artful Escape is a game about “great expectations, famous folk singers, lingering shadows, space Gods, hallucinogens, individuality, reptile shops, and wild imaginations.” As absolutely bonkers as the game looks and sounds, there’s a sense of beauty about it that’s practically unrivaled. I have so many questions about this game, but it looks like I’m going to have to wait until closer to release to get those details. As for said release date, that remains a mystery, especially since the trailer ends with a message saying “Coming when it’s damn ready.”

13.) Code Vein

Code Vein looks like an anime version of Dark Souls, which I didn’t even know I wanted until now. The same brutal dance of evasion and carefully timed strikes that fans of Dark Souls love is present, but the anime aesthetic looks like it’ll do a good job of making this game stand out on its own. The reaction to this game online seems to be a little mixed, so it’s going to be interesting to see what people think when the game is actually finished. It’s scheduled to come out in 2018, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

14.) Sea of Thieves

This is probably the number one game that I’m most jealous about not coming to PlayStation. Sea of Thieves is a multiplayer pirate sandbox where you can explore islands, hunt for treasure, and take to the open seas for strategic ship combat. I can see this becoming an absolute hit, but that’s totally dependent on people actually playing it with their friends. Some of the new features shown in this trailer came in the form of skeleton enemies (a must for any pirate game), underwater ship wrecks, and the ability to shoot yourself out of a cannon to board an enemy boat from the air. I think the game looks like a whole bunch of fun and it’s one of the games making me consider purchasing an Xbox One.

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15.) Tacoma

Tacoma is the next project by Fullbright, who you may know from 2013’s wonderful Gone Home. In Tacoma, you’ve boarded the eponymous station in order to find out what happened to its missing crew. As you explore the different rooms and areas of the ship, you’ll encounter 3D holograms of the crew and learn more about their lives and personalities. What happened to the station? Where are all of the people? As a huge fan of Gone Home, I can’t wait to find out the answers to these questions when Tacoma launches on August 2nd.

16.) Super Lucky’s Tale

The first Lucky’s Tale was a 3D platformer designed for the Oculus Rift early last year, but things are changing for the sequel. For starters, it’s going to play like a traditional 3D platformer, meaning it won’t support VR. I imagine the VR exclusivity hindered sales, so making it playable on a regular screen is a wise move. It’s also releasing on console as well as PC, which is always nice. I found what was shown of Super Lucky’s Tale to be incredibly charming and jolly. From the way the main character looks and traverses the world (he’s a cute little fox), to the actual level design and characters you encounter, I think Super Lucky’s Tale has a lot going for it. However, I thought the same thing about Yooka-Laylee which launched a few months back and I ended up highly disliking the final game. I wish for the best for Super Lucky’s Tale and I hope that it’s a fun and polished game when it launches on November 7th.

17.) Cuphead

Despite seeing this game for three E3’s in a row, I’m always impressed by how cool it looks. Taking inspiration from the cartoons of the 1930’s, Cuphead has one of the most distinct visual styles I’ve ever seen. People always try to brag about certain games looking exactly like a cartoon, but they rarely (if ever) do. With the exception of South Park: The Stick of Truth, this is the first game I’ve seen that undoubtedly looks like you’re playing a cartoon. Everything from the distinct hand-drawn art style of the 1930’s, the grainy quality of old film, and memorable jazz inspired soundtrack make Cuphead a game that shouldn’t be missed. Originally designed to be a giant boss rush, Cuphead now has more traditional platform levels to round out the experience. As for its release, I count myself lucky. It comes out on September 29th, which just so happens to be my birthday!

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18.) Crackdown 3

Crackdown has always been about giving you the tools and powers to feel like an unstoppable force. Unfortunately, as fun as that may be, Crackdown 3 doesn’t look like it’s taking any risks or shaking up the formula. The new trailer shown starts of with a live action skit of Terry Crews standing atop a building and talking about you being a badass. After the initial laugh of seeing Terry Crews fades off, you realize the skit goes on longer than it needs to. The actual gameplay shown definitely looks like it’s on stronger hardware, but the action looks almost identical to past games. I don’t hate Crackdown, but I don’t really like it either, so I’m probably going to sit this one out when it launches on November 7th.

19.) ID@Xbox Sizzle Reel

ID@Xbox is a program for independent developers to self-publish their games on Xbox One and PC. There’s a boat load of games coming out via this program, so instead of writing about each one and losing my sanity in the process, I’ve just included the sizzle reel for your own viewing enjoyment.

20.) Ashen

Ashen is an action-RPG where light has faded and unspeakable horrors lurk in the shadows. There are strong vibes that echo Dark Souls, but there seems to be a heavier emphasis on co-operation. Being able to tackle a dark and dangerous world with a friend sounds great, especially if this game ends up being a difficult one. There’s some really cool things going on with the art design of this game, but one thing that I find a little odd is that none of the characters have faces. This obviously doesn’t impact the gameplay in any way, so I’m still intrigued. No release date has been given, but this is definitely one I’m going to be keeping an eye on.

21.) Life is Strange: Before the Storm

The first Life is Strange is one of the best experiences I’ve had with a game in years, so I’m obviously excited about this prequel. While not a full on new game (this one will only be three episodes long), Before the Storm is centered around Chloe, who was one of the lead characters in the first Life is Strange. Together with her friend Max, they set out to find a missing girl named Rachel, who was a close friend to Chloe. In Before the Storm, we’re taken to a time before Rachel goes missing, giving us a glimpse at the relationship between these two girls. There’s still some questions I have left over from the first game, so I’m hoping to receive some answers in Before the Storm. The first episode comes out on August 31, which I’ve already marked in my calendar.

22.) Middle-Earth: Shadow of War 

Although I thought the Nemesis system of Middle-Earth: Shadow of Mordor was excellent in the way it allowed you to create rivals out of the enemy orcs, I thought the rest of the game was relatively average. With the sequel, Shadow of War, things look much more exciting. The Nemesis system has been reworked to create all sorts of new personal stories. Making enemies submit and join your army and then taking that army to storm castles and outposts sounds really cool. Of course, you can still piss off orcs and make personal enemies out of them. I’m also excited to see the new game expand to areas outside of Mordor, which should help add some variety to the game. However, my biggest takeaway is how great the dialogue is. I don’t recall the first game being funny, but I was genuinely laughing at some of the writing in this extended gameplay trailer. One enemy in particular throws excellent quips and jokes around after the main character makes him submit and join his side. I’m still not completely sold on this one yet, but what I’ve seen definitely looks like a step up from the previous game.

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23.) Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Although I didn’t play 2015’s Ori and Blind Forest, I found myself impressed by it’s visual design. Ori was a stunning game that used bright and beautiful colors to create its world. I don’t know enough about Ori’s first adventure to compare it to the trailer for Will of the Wisps, but the gorgeous colors once again take center stage. I think the game looks beautiful and I want to try it out, but I’ll most likely wait until I play through The Blind Forest before doing so.

24.) Original Xbox Backwards Compatibility

Easily one of the best announcements from the show, the Xbox One is receiving backwards compatibility with the original Xbox. This might not seem like a big deal to some people, but this means that the Xbox One will now be compatible with every generation of Xbox. This means that games purchased as far back as 2001 will be playable on a modern console. While the full list of compatible games hasn’t been revealed yet, they announced that the first game receiving support is Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge, which is a cult-classic in the Xbox family. I think this is one of the most exciting reveals of the show and I love that Microsoft is unifying their legacy of games to preserve them for the future.

25.) Anthem

Microsoft closed out their show with the first look at gameplay in Anthem, the new IP from BioWare. Despite the massive backlash received over Mass Effect: Andromeda, I have to say that Anthem looks impressive. In the world of Anthem, players pilot customizable exosuits called Javelins. Within the first couple of minutes we see players soaring through the air in their exosuits, flying around a gorgeous lush jungle. It’s not too much longer until we see the first enemy type, which happens to be a giant monster who pummels prey with his fists. Instead of taking it on, the player flies away and completely ignores. We see a few more types of enemies (mainly robots) and then we get our first look at the combat. You can fight with firearms, perform ground pounds with your fist, and we even see an exosuit equipped with a mortar at one point. After a brief fight sequence, a huge storm comes in and starts causing destruction in the jungle. The players try to run from the storm before winding up at its source, a gigantic rift in the middle of the sky. Of course, fearing no danger, the players fly directly at the source, which is exactly when the trailer cuts out. What I’ve seen of Anthem looks incredible and I can’t wait to learn more about it. There isn’t an exact release date at the moment, but the game is scheduled to launch sometime in 2018.

FINAL VERDICT

I think Microsoft had one of the strongest press conferences this year. Introducing a more powerful version of their console to the Xbox family, along with a constant stream of interesting looking games, made for a show that was a lot of fun to watch. I don’t know if I’ll drop $499 on the One X, but this show made me really want an Xbox for the first time in years.

– Zack Burrows

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