After years of trying to convince everyone that the Xbox was more than just a gaming console Microsoft appear to have changed their mind. Today at their briefing a torrent of games were unleashed with 60 titles shown off with details about the platform’s future and hardware announcements peppered throughout.
The games shown varied wildly. From franchise favourites to heart warming indies and everything in-between the near two hour presentation was a cornucopia of gaming treats, overshadowed by a single celebrity’s appearance in what is sadly not an Xbox exclusive game.
I am of course speaking about the announcement that Keanu Reeves will be making an appearance in the highly anticipated Cyberpunk 2077. Along with a release date (April 2020) Reeves came on stage to introduce a new trailer for the game playing the role as charismatically unfamiliar, as to not give away any details on his true involvement in the game.
On the first party front, Gears 5 made an appearance as did the first real look at a trailer for Halo Infinite, although that too was shy on much information. Forza Horizon announced a new Lego expansion that seemingly mashed together two worlds that no one thought they wanted but judging by the crowd’s reaction at Microsoft Theatre, everyone thinks is awesome!
Minecraft was probably the biggest “whaaaat?” moment from the first party deck. A new action-adventure, almost RPG style version of the popular title is coming called Minecraft Dungeons. The new game, which is coming to every console, PC & Switch, puts you and up to 3 of your pals into a new underworld adventure game the likes of Diablo.
Hardware wise we were always going to get an update on the new console, codenamed Project Scarlett. Details were fairly scarce though an has Microsoft playing it cool as they essentially told us they’re doing similar things in the SSD space as Sony as well as providing a nice little video about how they hate loading times and are building their new console for gaming specifically.
The little details we did gleam reinforce that. They’re working with AMD using their Zen 2 Navi tech allowing the console to render content up to 8K and push 120fps, most likely at a lower res. The new SSD tech being added will reduce loading times by around 40% and they consider the new console to be more than 4 times more powerful than the current Xbox One X.
Microsoft at least confirmed a release date for Scarlett, letting us know it’ll be in our hands next Christmas, but pricing, dates and its final name will likely have to wait until next year’s E3 briefing.
For my mind the console “announcement” was eclipsed by the new Elite 2 controller when it comes to hardware. Unexpected the Elite controller has been taken to the next level with more adjustments, better connectivity and a larger battery capacity that allows up to 40 hours of gameplay. The new controller is available to pre-order now and is shipping this coming November.
In other news to come out of the show. Tim Shaffer took to the stage to announce that Double Fine would be landing under the wing of Microsoft Game Studios now and that Psychonauts 2 would be their first title published under them.
The news doesn’t change the game’s already announced publishing platforms, which includes Mac, PC, Xbox, PS4 & Switch, but it could very well mean a change in availability for new titles in the future. The shift also means the game is likely to be included as a part of Microsoft’s incredible Xbox Game Pass platform that’s continuing to grow and bolster in popularity.
Speaking of Game Pass, a new “Ultimate” version was announced, which encompasses both the Xbox and PC versions as well as includes your subscription fee for Xbox Live Gold. At just A$15.95/month you get access to an incredible range of first and third party titles on both platforms in what MS are making truly incredible value.
Project xCloud was mentioned at around the same time, it’s going into beta later in the year, but we don’t have word on availability in Australia as yet and its likely not included but Game Pass will play a large hand in title availability for the platform. With that said though, they did announce that you’d be able to turn your own Xbox into a xCloud server, meaning any titles you own already could be streamed from your home Xbox to your xCloud device anywhere. Essentially turning it into a far better version of the PS4’s Remote Play feature.
With too many games to go through one by one, I’ll leave you with a selection of trailers I found particularly interesting beyond the MS tentpoles. Xbox did a lot right this year, but then the stage was essentially theirs alone to dominate. They’ve come a long way in showing their dedication to gamers and made a series of acquisitions under the Microsoft Game Studios brand that reinforces their commitment. I’m excited to see what comes next!