E3 2018 Recap: Microsoft Press Conference

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Microsoft was the second company to present their conference this year at E3. They’ve been boasting over the past couple weeks that this would be their biggest year yet, but did that actually end up being the case? Let’s discuss what was shown.


1.) Halo Infinite

Talk about opening with a heavy hitter. Microsoft kicked off their conference with the first look at Halo Infinite, the next installment in their most beloved exclusive franchise. The trailer served as more of a reveal for their new “Slipspace Engine” than the actual game, but that doesn’t change the fact that the entire theater cheered at the footage. Depicting breathtaking shots on a new Halo ringworld, the trailer shows off powerful new lighting, water, and texture effects that are highly benefiting from the extra power of the Xbox One X. The trailer goes on to include a group of marines walking through a large open environment, the reveal of the Master Chief himself watching from afar, and one long final shot of the landscape, complete with a Warthog barreling down a long stretch of road. I still need to play Halo 5, but I’m very excited to see what Infinite shapes up to be and hope we get to learn more details soon.

2.) Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori and the Blind Forest is one of those games I keep meaning to play, but always forget about. With the new trailer for the sequel, Will of the Wisps, I think it’s finally time to jump into the first game and get caught up. Ori and the Will of the Wisps looks equal parts charming and terrifying. Its bright and lush environments are gorgeous and look like a masterfully crafted cartoon, but there’s also a dark and foreboding undercurrent. I’m not sure what exactly the plot of the game is (it doesn’t have dialogue), but it would appear that you go on an adventure through a lush and diverse world encountering all sorts of monsters and obstacles on your way. I’m excited to get my hands on this one for sure, but I’m going to try to play through the previous game first.

3.) Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice

In what was easily one of the biggest highlights of the conference, From Software fully unveiled Sekiro, a game that was teased at The Game Awards last December. The feudal Japan setting was recently covered in Nioh, but From Software looks like they’re putting their own spin on it. The combat is very Souls like (which is to be expected since it’s the same developer), but there also seems to be a new focus on verticality, which could provide an entirely new approach to how you take out your enemies. One of things that really stood out to me was the addition of a grappling hook, allowing you to reach higher ground to stage an ambush, close the gap on enemies, or navigate the environment. There’s also a few shots that seem to depict stealth mechanics, which I’m always excited for. There’s a couple threads of a story, revolving around resurrection and finding your potentially kidnapped master, but it’s just vague enough to keep some of the details a mystery. The game looks very fast paced and chaotic and I can’t wait to play it when it launches in 2019.


4.) Fallout 76

We got our first look at Fallout 76 last week, but that wasn’t enough. Todd Howard came on stage to give the world a second look at the game, promising to see more at the Bethesda conference later on. We still didn’t see any gameplay, but the trailer did a good job at setting up the tone of the game. It’s going to be set as the earliest game in the timeline, taking place in the period where people are just beginning to explore the world after the bombs dropped and begin creating settlements and factions. It looks like it’s borrowing assets from Fallout 4, but we still don’t know enough about the game to be certain. Todd claims the game is four times bigger than Fallout 4, which is exciting, but it’s the shots of nature showing green grass and trees that surprised me the most. This is easily the most beautiful looking Fallout, so I’m very curious to see more of the game at Bethesda’s conference. It was also announced that, starting today, Fallout 4 is available as part of the Xbox Game Pass.

5.) Captain Spirit

Announced as part of the “Life is Strange Universe”, Captain Spirit follows the imaginative adventures of a young boy named Chris. Despite appearing like a game that celebrates the innocence of childhood imagination, I wouldn’t at all be surprised if this game ends up taking a few dark twists and turns. The two previous Life is Strange titles have dealt with complex and mature themes, so I imagine this game will follow suit. They seem to be hinting at a mystery involving his mother, which makes my mind spin in a hundred different directions, so I really hope we get a satisfying and emotional story with Captain Spirit. However, the coolest part about this reveal is that the game will be launching for free on June 26th for Xbox One, PC, and PlayStation 4. Who doesn’t love a free game?

6.) Crackdown 3

Depending on who you talk to, Crackdown 3 is viewed as a joke. We’ve seen it at multiple E3 conferences, it’s had periods where its progress has gone dark, and delays have made it seem like it’s not actually going to release. Well, we got another trailer this year that ended up being another montage of Terry Crews yelling and blowing shit up. I can’t quite place my finger on it, but something about this game just seems off. I don’t hate it, but I can’t exactly say it’s a game I’m eagerly anticipating either. Maybe it’s simply because I didn’t play the first two Crackdown games, but I feel no excitement for this game in the slightest. I still hope the game comes out and that it’s a good one, but I don’t think I’ll be playing it. The game is scheduled to release sometime in February 2019, so here’s to hoping it doesn’t get another delay.


7.) NieR: Automata BECOME AS GODS Edition

Apparently a lot of people are excited about this one, but I don’t get it. I just finished NieR: Automata on PS4 this past week and found it to to be the most overrated game of 2017. The BECOME AS GODS edition bundles in all previously released DLC and uses the extra power of the Xbox One X to run the game in 4K at 60fps. Xbox fans who wanted to play this game will now be able to, but I don’t think it’s worth spending the time or money. Those willing to take the plunge can pick it up June 26th, 2018.

8.) Metro Exodus

As someone who fully enjoyed the first two Metro games, Exodus has been on my radar since it was revealed last year. Unfortunately, this trailer left a lot to be desired. It relies heavily on a religious man yelling about heretics, and cuts between scenes too quickly, making it hard to appreciate what’s on screen without slowing down the trailer or constantly pausing. I have full faith that the game itself will be great, but this trailer doesn’t show it off the way it deserves. There are a cool few shots showing weapon customization and having fun killing mutated beasts, but it’s hidden behind a poor editing job that makes the game look poor. Metro Exodus releases on February 22nd, 2019 and I’m really hoping we get a better look at the game before then.

9.) Kingdom Hearts III

I’ll admit, it was weird to see Kingdom Hearts on Microsoft’s stage, but I’ll take whatever I can get of it at this point. Although it was great to see more of Sora, Donald, and Goofy, I couldn’t help but feel that this trailer wasn’t ready to be shown. The game itself looks gorgeous and absolutely magical to play, but audio issues were extremely noticeable. The trailer is missing nearly all of its sound effects, the music is too loud, and the voice work sounds poorly mixed. On the plus side, seeing more of the Frozen, Tangled, and Monster Inc. worlds was fun, but it’s pretty much all we’ve seen across the multiple trailers released so far. I was hoping for at least one huge new world reveal, but they’r probably saving it for their own conference. We did see the return of the Gummi Ship, which is either a positive or negative depending on who you talk to. The game launches on January 29th, 2019 and you better believe I’ll be picking up a copy.


10.) Sea of Thieves DLC

Two new DLC packs are coming to Sea of Thieves and we got a fun little trailer to reveal them. The trailer shows a pirate making his way to a small island housing a mysterious little shack. It’s revealed to be owned by a shopkeeper to whom he’s trying to sell a precious red orb. This spurs a mini monologue about a forsaken land, cursed seas, and skeleton pirate armies. Of course, the pirate cares nothing about this and only wants his coin. How typical. It’s just a silly little trailer, but fans of the game can look forward to the Cursed Sails DLC releasing in July with the Forsaken Shores DLC following later in September.

11.) Battlefield V

Oh man, what a disappointment. We had a small look at the multiplayer component of Battlefield V during EA’s conference, but we were promised an extended look at the single-player during this one. I don’t know what EA’s definition of extended is, but a minute long trailer that’s nearly identical to the previous one is not a good answer. I still have no real idea what the campaign of Battlefield V is going to be like, so I think it’s safe to say this trailer was a flop. I could always just wait until it releases in October to find out, but I can’t exactly say they’ve given me a good reason to.

12.) Forza Horizon 4

I’m not a big racing guy, so I don’t have much to say about this one. I would say that it’s a very beautiful game, but that’s just to be expected from Forza. There is some really cool stuff involving a dynamic weather system that open up different paths depending on the season, but I don’t think this is a game I’ll be spending any time with when it launches later this fall on October 2nd.

13.) New Studios

One of the biggest complaints hurled towards Microsoft is that they don’t have the amount or the quality of first-party studios as their biggest competitor, Sony. Well, they’ve finally decided to take some steps in the right direction. They announced the forming of a new studio called The Initiation, but they also announced the acquisition of multiple studios. Undead Labs, Playground Games, Compulsion Games, and Ninja Theory are now exclusive to the Xbox family. With Ninja Theory especially, Microsoft is potentially setting up a roster of powerful studios to make enticing exclusives for their platform. It should be very interesting to see what games came out of these studios in the near future.


14.) We Happy Few

This was honestly one of my biggest surprises of the show. We Happy Few first premiered at E3 back in 2015, presenting a strange world centered around a drug called Joy. It looked incredibly weird and unique and had the internet interested and hungry for more. Well, as more information and an early beta revealed, it ended up being a lackluster survival game the failed to excite as much as its first trailer. The team behind the game decided to delay it and work on building a more fleshed out story and it seems like that was the right call. We Happy Few now looks more like the weird game it was originally presented as and now I can’t wait to check it out for myself. If you’re intrigued by this weird world too, you can play it for yourself when it launches on August 10th, 2018.

15.) PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds – New Content

A short trailer was shown for PUBG that announced new maps and modes coming to the game later this winter, but didn’t provide any further details. The trailer also reflects on where the game has come from, but since I haven’t played the game I’m not entirely sure which parts are old or new. If you’re a fan of the game, it’s worth checking out the trailer to get an idea of what’s coming later this year.

16.) Tales of Vesperia: Definitive Edition

My first Tales games was Berseria, which released early in 2017. I loved the game and though it had a terrific story, memorable characters, and a solid combat system. Vesperia is the one that I’ve heard a majority of fans declare as the best in the franchise, but not having an Xbox 360 meant I had no way of playing it. Now with the updated Definitive Edition, I’m looking forward to finally being able to see why it’s so highly regarded. It also includes content that never made it anywhere outside of the original Japanese version, so returning fans have a few surprises in store. The game launches later this winter and it’s definitely on my “to play” radar.


17.) The Division 2

The first Division seemed to be one of those games where you either loved it or hated it, with almost no middle ground. A huge complaint I remember being raised against it was that enemies took a frustratingly long time to take down, which thankfully doesn’t seem to be the case with the sequel. Set in Washington D.C. during the summer (a departure from the cold winter streets of New York in the first game) The Division 2 looks like a fun shooter with jolly co-operation. Sure, there’s some annoying fake team chatter in the gameplay trailer, but I think the game itself looks like good fun. Running around a broken down city with your friends, collecting loot, and taking out bad guys? Sign me up! If I don’t need to play the first game to follow the story of the sequel, then I might look into it when it comes out on March 15th, 2019.

18.) Xbox Game Pass

Short but sweet, they had a section of the conference devoted to talking up their Game Pass service, which allows subscribers access to over 100 games to play. There was a vague reveal of “Fast Start” technology, which sounds like it lets players jump into games faster, but it was the announcement of more games coming to the service that they tried to sell hard. The Master Chief Collection, The Division, The Elder Scrolls Online: Tamriel Unlimited, and Fallout 4 are all now available through the program. They also announced that Forza Horizon 4 and Crackdown 3 will be coming to the service at launch, but since they’ve already said in the past that all console exclusive games will be part of Game Pass, I didn’t find that announcement surprising in the slightest.

19.) Shadow of the Tomb Raider

This trailer was marketed as the first gameplay reveal, but I spent the entirety of the trailer wondering what was actual gameplay and what was scripted in a cutscene. There’s also some really weird confusion going on with Lara’s face, which I swear changes throughout the trailer. I do feel like it gives a better idea of what the story is about, but it still leaves just enough hidden in the shadows (see what I did there?) to remain exciting and engaging in the final game. I played through the first two games in this reboot trilogy and loved them, so I’m looking forward to seeing its conclusion when the game launches on September 14th, 2019.


20.) Session

Session fooled everyone with its reveal, because it totally seemed like it was Skate 4. From the music choice, camera angles, and overall tone of the trailer, Skate fans were excited to see the return of the franchise. However, it turned out to not be Skate 4 and instead be a new IP called Session. Hopefully this game will still provide fans with the skateboarding fix they’ve been dying for.

21.) Black Desert 

I don’t have too much to say about this one. Black Desert is a fairly popular MMO on PC, but until now it hasn’t touched console. Now that it’s coming to the Xbox One, players can enjoy the fast paced action MMO in 4K. There’s no release date announced at the moment, but you can currently register for the beta which will take place later this fall.

22.) Devil May Cry V

This was one of the most fun trailers of the conference. Fans of the franchise have been dying for a sequel to the original timeline after the reboot was considered a flop, so I feel really happy for them. The trailer is very tongue-in-cheek with fun quips being thrown while demons get shot, hacked, and slashed into bits. There’s a ton of great shots of gameplay and I think the game is going to be a complete blast to play. There isn’t an exact release date, but the window is Spring 2019.


23.) Cuphead: The Delicious Last Course DLC

I still haven’t finished Cuphead, but I respect the hell out of it. The classic cartoon aesthetic, the cheery music, and the challenging gameplay all make for a delightfully good time. Although there’s no actual gameplay in this new trailer, the new DLC is boasting a new isle, new bosses, new weapons, and new charms. The Delicious Last Course is scheduled to release sometime in 2019.

24.) Tunic

Tunic is an adorable action adventure game about a small fox armed with a sword and shield. The trailer shown gave us a brief glimpse at the world, the combat mechanics, and possibly a bit of story? It looks like it’s going to be a game without dialogue or text, so there’s still a lot that remains to be seen. There’s also no release date attached to the game yet, so I guess we’re just going to have and keep an eye out for it.

25.) Jump Force

Jump Force looks like a game I would have made in middle school. It’s a giant crossover fighting game with characters from One Piece, Dragon Ball, and Naruto. I’m sure we’ll see more character from other franchises later, but what we have now is an insane mashup of anime proportions. I’m not typically huge on fighting games, but if I can throw a Kamehameha at Naruto, then I’m all in.


26.) Dying Light 2

Parkour and zombies is a match made in heaven, so it’s great to see Dying Light get a sequel. Keeping in line with the majority of trailers in this conference, our look at Dying Light 2 was short. The lion’s share of the trailer is a bunch of shots of a rundown city buckling under the weight of the zombie outbreak, but there’s a couple seconds of gameplay in the middle showing off some of the parkour and combat elements. There wasn’t enough to write extensively about it, but there was enough to get me interested. There sadly wasn’t any announcement of a release date, so it looks like we’re going to have to wait for more information to come out.

27.) Battletoads

I almost thought this was a joke, but it’s apparently real. Zero gameplay or footage shown, but a trailer with a black background and text promised body morphing genre mash-ups, 3 player couch co-op, and 4K hand-drawn 2.5D graphics. It’s a fun announcement, but a bad trailer. The release window is simply 2019, so who know when we’ll actually get a real look at the game.

28.) Just Cause 4

Just Cause is back with more wingsuits, explosions and… tornadoes? The reveal trailer was brief and focused more on setting up the tone, but I can imagine this game being bonkers with the possibility to create all kinds of chaos. The game is scheduled to release on December 4th, 2019, so look forward to exploring another giant open-world and destroying everything in your path later this year.


29.) Gears POP!

This is one of the most surprising game reveals of the show. Not because it looks great, but because I honestly don’t know who was asking for it. Gears of War is crossing over with Funko POP to create a game for mobile devices, but I have no idea why. No gameplay, and no idea what the game itself is, but I genuinely laughed from the absurdity of it. A lot of people seem to be upset over the reveal, but my curiosity is getting the better of me and I actually want to check out the game when it launches sometime in 2019.

30.) Gears Tactics

This was a very brief glimpse, but one that seemed like a great idea. Tactics is a new Gears of War game done in the style of XCOM and it looks like a great fit for the franchise. There’s no release date yet, and not enough gameplay to get a full grasp on it, but I’m looking forward to seeing how this project comes together.

31.) Gears 5

They ended the Gears block of the conference by giving everyone what they really wanted, Gears 5. As someone who didn’t play Gears of War 4, I’m not sure exactly what’s going on in this game, but the new character Kait appears to be the main protagonist. She’s starting to have strange visions and fearing that they’re responsible for the tragedies happening around her. The game will be centered on her trying to unravel what her visions mean and preventing them for harming anyone else. A second trailer followed directly after showing gameplay and I think it looks very smooth and intense. I haven’t played Gears in years, but this trailer made me want to get an Xbox and catch up on the past games I’ve missed.

32.) AI, Cloud Streaming, and New Hardware

Microsoft ended their conference by discussing the future for the company. They’re hard at work making advancements in AI in order to make more realistic and ground breaking video games, working on making a more reliable form of game streaming, and getting things in place for their next console. This is exciting news, but it was quickly overshadowed by…


33.) Cyberpunk 2077

Right in the middle of the final speech of the conference, the lights cut out and a hacking effect appeared on screen, leading into the new trailer for Cyberpunk 2077. CD PROJEKT RED proved with The Witcher 3 that they’re one of the best teams in the entire industry, so everyone has been holding their breaths to see what they release next. We’ve known about this game for a couple of years now, and even seen a CG trailer at a previous E3, but this was out first extended look at that universe. Unlike most pieces of cyberpunk media, the trailer for 2077 is bright and colorful instead of dark and rainy. There’s just so much going on in this trailer that it’s hard to take it all in at once. There’s no gameplay, but it introduces the main character and the world in an incredible fashion. Cyberpunk 2077 is currently my game of the show and while there’s no release date attached to the game, I’ll be there for it as soon as it launches.

FINAL SCORE: 8/10

Microsoft delivered a powerful conference full of new reveals, further looks at games we already knew about, and tons of little surprises. They’re doing their best to convince people that Xbox is the best platform to play on, with the acquiring of multiple studios proving just how serious they are. Unfortunately, there were multiple trailers that I felt were too short or didn’t give enough information. Regardless, I’ve walked away from this conference with excitement for several games and while most of the heavy hitters I’m eyeing will also be available on PS4, I’m considering getting an Xbox One X to experience them in full 4K glory.

– Zack Burrows

 

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2 thoughts on “E3 2018 Recap: Microsoft Press Conference

  1. Gears Pop! was a highlite for me. It just looks so ridiculous and I can’t wait.

    Liked by 1 person

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