Microsoft Unveils Smaller, Fully-Loaded System Sans Landmark Exclusive – Day 2 saw the reveal of the much-anticipated system Microsoft dubbed, “The Most Powerful Console Ever Made” as the Xbox One X. As I sat there in the green glow, surrounded by fellow gamers, feeling the pulse-pounding music and effects blasting through the stereos, while they unveiled the system, I immediately wanted one. However, once all the pomp and circumstance was over, it was easy to come back to Earth and realize that there just weren’t any titles to give gamers a reason to spend $500. They started with Forza, and the 2018 Porsche 911 Turbo, which was absolutely stunning, but not a ground-breaking title. Then, Phil Spencer took the stage to announce that 42 titles would be shown and 22 would be exclusives.
While technically true, that number is a bit misleading. Most gamers at home would hear that number and think, “I’m about to see 42 big-budget AAA games.” when in reality it’s about 80% low-budget indie games and a handful of big titles. That’s not to say the low-budget indie games wouldn’t be amazing. There were plenty I was impressed with like the Blade Runner-esque, The Last Night, The Darwin Project, and PlayerUnknown’s 100-player battle royale. The problem is, these aren’t games that sell a $500 system, that’s basically just another tech update.
I absolutely loved seeing a new Dragon Ball Z Fighter, Rare’s Sea of Thieves, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, Crackdown 3, the new Ori, Minecraft’s stunning update, and EA’s Anthem, but there just wasn’t that exclusive title that made me want to race to Amazon and pre-order an Xbox One X.
Xbox Systems Go Old School – One of the highlights of the Microsoft conference was the updated Backwards Compatibility. Previously, Microsoft added a bunch of Xbox 360 games, and now they’re adding Original Xbox games, which is pretty amazing. My nostalgia meter went through the roof on that one. Microsoft has had their fair share of exclusive IP issues, but giving the fans what they want has never been an issue.
Xbox Best of Show – While I loved EA’s answer to Destiny, in Anthem, I have to give the nod to Rare’s Sea of Thieves. They really impressed me with their showing. The last few years, they’ve made out the game to be very light-hearted, this time we actually got to see the drama, the intrigue, everything that I’d want from a pirate game. I have been waiting for this title since I played it last year and it looks like we’re really close to playing it!
Bethesda Gives a Ton of Updates, but Only Two Titles – The most wonderful and frustrating thing about Bethesda is their philosophy of only announcing titles gamers will get this year. Last year, they made the exception with Prey and Quake Champions, which are 2017 titles. It’s fantastic because it gives gamers the excitement of knowing it won’t be long until they’re diving into their favorite worlds, both new and old. The frustrating part is when they refuse to reveal what they’re working on, like say a new Elder Scrolls, because it’s not ready yet. Love it or hate it, that’s the Bethesda way and we shouldn’t want them to change.
This year, Bethesda opened by giving us an update on Bethesda VR, Elder Scrolls Online, Elder Scrolls Legends, Dishonored DLC, and Quake Champions in the most adorable cartoon ever. No matter what your feelings of Bethesda are, the one thing that you have to respect is their level of commitment to update their established games to allow gamers to continue to enjoy the experience.
As for their new reveals, Bethesda brought back two oldies but goodies with The Evil Within 2 and Wolfenstein 2. I remember playing The Evil Within 1, in the dark…at 1am, and let me just say, that series is the stuff of nightmares. From what we saw with The Evil Within 2, it doesn’t look like the nightmares will be ending anytime soon. The Cinematic parts were breathtaking and the gameplay was just as beautiful and intense as I remember it. Get ready for a whole lot of nope!
As for Wolfenstein 2…
Bethesda Best of Show – Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus was absolutely incredible to see. We knew it was coming, after seeing the Amazon leak, but no one could’ve predicted how amazing the trailer and gameplay would be. This is going to be the game to play this year.
One More for the Road – Bethesda loves their parties. Last year, they threw a great Blink 182 concert for all of their attendees. This year, they created an entire wonderland, dubbed Bethesdaland, showcasing all of their games in fantastic little booths, with tons of collectible memorabilia. After the presentation was over, Bethesda brought in The Chainsmokers and turned the entire event into one giant EDM party. Gamers, developers, programmers, everyone rubbed shoulders and danced together as The Chainsmokers put on an amazing show and confetti rained down. If you ever go to LA for E3, make sure you get into Bethesda’s party. They spare no expense for their games and their fans.
The Xbox One X is a disappointment – It’s built into the title. The Xbox One X isn’t the Xbox “two”, it’s a subsidiary addition a la PS4 Pro. It’s 4k, and it rocks some beastly specs, but will they ever be taken advantage of? This represents an awkward 1/3rd step (if that) towards next gen, but the difference is only subtly noticeable, and at $499 its market is looking pretty niche. If the market and the technical leap are this small, will developers care to build their games from the ground up to take advantage of its specs? I don’t plan on a purchase.
Microsoft builds their press conference around Xbox One X – The entire press conference had Xbox One X as its throughline. Game trailers/announcements were typically followed up with by a reminder: The Xbox One X is the best & most powerful system to play them on. This was to be repeated ad nauseum throughout the show. But upon realizing the insignificance the Xbox One X represents, you also realize it’s a tenuous platform to be carrying the whole conference. Microsoft had to take it this serious, and hype it this much, to sell any units, and I imagine it will help them in that regard, but it proved to be a dull
Lots of games, minimal exclusives – The Microsoft Conference boasted some 40+ game announcements, 22 of which were console/Windows 10 exclusives. Those numbers ended up being somewhat misleading, as they were almost entirely indie games. But they still proved a fun, fat, surplus to become acquainted with. Rare’s Sea Of Thieves is the sole, “big” game, they’ve got going for them at this point, and it’s a good one, but not enough to remedy an exclusive roster that’s looking severely starved. Closing the show on Bioware’s technically impressive looking Anthem, a triple A title that is not Xbox-Exclusive, says enough on its own of this issue.
Xbox Best Of Show – Sea Of Thieves. It looks so fun. The slow pace of the gunplay is a refresher, the versatility in cooperative gameplay options is a blast. It’s from Rare, it’s light in tone and incredibly adorable.
Bethesda, mostly review, some surprises – Bethesda went mostly as expected. They reviewed a lot of the games they’d already released, Skyrim, Dishonored, Fallout, Doom, etc… But they surprised with some pretty cool variations on those. Fallout in VR!? Doom in VR? They’re happening, and I’m stoked to see how well they’re executed. Wolfenstein 2 was predictably revealed, and looks as spectacular as I’d hope (and will play on the showfloor), and Evil Within 2 was the less likely reveal, but it happened, albeit with less gameplay than the former. I’m a huge fan of the underrated original. I’m hyped.
But the party… Bethesda served free Bethesda themed food and booze before AND after the show, which is a clever way of accruing new fans and crowd excitement. Shots were served in skull glasses that caught fire Doom Style, Beer was served in Elder Scroll’s Mugs, a Wolfenstein Themed Diner served In N Out and Strawberry Milkshakes, The Evil Within 2’s creepy art display offered champagne with a rose petal, a Fallout trading outpost labeled “GAS” served booze, balloon artists made Bethesda themed swords, characters, and hats, rum-based cocktails and candy bags were served in a Prey themed space dome, and a ferris wheel allowed you to overlook it all… Oh, and Chainsmokers played to a crowd of awkward dancing gamers. That’s scratching the surface. There was much more. It was utter indulgence, and a blast.
Bethesda Best Of Show – The party. But Wolfenstein 2 puts up a pretty good fight.