Microsoft’s Xbox team took to Twitch on Thursday morning to announce a cavalcade of new games and console exclusives for the Xbox Series X, as part of a new Xbox Games Showcase. This included a new look at gameplay from Halo Infinite, the debut of a long-rumored new game in the Fable series, another big RPG from Obsidian Entertainment, and an assortment of trailers showcasing what Microsoft’s Sarah Bond called “the broadest variety of games ever” on an Xbox platform.
Unlike some of the past hype over Microsoft’s new Xbox, which is still planned to come out at an unspecified date later this year, this broadcast was entirely about games that will be (at least initially) exclusive to the Xbox platform. This includes several independent productions and an assortment of titles from Microsoft-owned partner studios. All of the games being shown are also planned to be placed on the Xbox Game Pass service, allowing subscribers to play them at launch for no additional cost.
To some extent, today’s Games Showcase can be seen as a reaction to Sony’s successful PlayStation 5 reveal in June, which it called the Future of Gaming, and which was punctuated by multiple seismic game debuts. While the Showcase wasn’t quite as explosive – it’s hard to compete with a new Spider-Man game – it did quietly emphasize a broad assortment of original titles.
The Showcase began with several minutes of gameplay footage from Halo Infinite, the star of the show and the Xbox Series X’s planned “killer app.” Following a crash landing on a brand-new Halo, the Master Chief was called upon to fight through a small army of Covenant soldiers in order to disable several anti-aircraft batteries.
The footage seemed chosen to be deliberately reminiscent of the original 2001 Halo: Combat Evolved. We’re back playing as the Master Chief, working largely alone, on a Halo ringworld with a mountain biome, fighting Covenant troops like Grunts, Elites, and Brutes with plasma grenades and an overpowered pistol. While there were a couple of new features to be seen, like new weapons and a helpful grappling hook built into the Chief’s right gauntlet, the entire experience seemed designed for maximum nostalgia value. It’s as if the series is coming full circle.
However, 343 Industries’ Chris Lee came online to say that Infinite features “the most ambitious campaign we’ve ever created at 343,” with a new Halo ringworld that we can explore at will. We won’t get a look at Infinite‘s multiplayer mode until later on this year.
Obsidian Entertainment, the creators of Fallout: New Vegas, also announced Avowed, a new first-person fantasy RPG built from the ground up for the new Xbox. Microsoft’s Matt Booty calls Avowed “Obsidian at their best,” although no details beyond the trailer were shown.
The show ended with a very short cinematic trailer for a new Fable, from Playground Games, but did little more than confirm its existence. The trailer, showing a beautiful fairy cavorting in the wilderness before being suddenly eaten by a frog, displayed that the trademark black humor of the Fable games will be on deck for the new one. This would be the first new mainline Fable game since 2010, although no release date or gameplay footage has been revealed.
One big surprise from the Showcase was that Destiny 2 is coming to the Xbox Game Pass in September. Subscribers will gain access to all the current expansions for Destiny 2, including last year’s Shadowkeep and the forthcoming Beyond Light, on November 10th. Bungie, headquartered in Bellevue, Wash., was the original developer on the Halo series before going independent in 2015.
Other announcements from the Showcase included:
- Undead Labs’s State of Decay 3 made its world premiere with a short animated trailer, where a hunter tracks a bleeding animal into the woods and encounters a mutated, undead deer.
- Turn 10 Studios is already in development on a new entry in the Forza Motorsport series.
- Rare Studios, from Twycross, England, showed a new trailer for Everwild, a magical adventure game. Louise O’Connor, executive producer, describes the game as “a place to be eternal,” and offered thanks to what she says is a very positive community that’s already risen around the game.
- A new version of Tetris Effect, Connected, is coming to Xbox Series X at the end of the year. This appears to be a cooperative version of the classic puzzle game, featuring several players collaborating on a single wide screen.
- A new trailer debuted for Dontnod’s Tell Me Why, an investigative adventure game from the makers of the hit game Life is Strange. A young transgender man and his twin sister return to their childhood home in an attempt to figure out the mystery surrounding the death of their mother.
- Moon Studios is working on a new version of Ori and the Will of the Wisps for Xbox Series X that will run at 4K HDR and 120 FPS. The upgrade will arrive to current owners of the game on XSX via Smart Delivery later this year.
- Obsidian Entertainment’s hit CRPG The Outer Worlds is getting a new story campaign, Peril on Gorgon, on September 9th.
- Obsidian’s Grounded, a multiplayer action game featuring shrunk-down kids navigating the hidden dangers of an ordinary backyard, is coming out on July 28th. Its tagline is “Go big, or never go home.”
- A new independent studio headquartered in London, Interior/Night, is creating its debut game for XSX. As Dusk Falls is an “interactive drama” set in the southwestern US. Two kids, caught in the middle of a botched gas station robbery, reconnect as adults.
- Ninja Theory’s Hellblade 2, the sequel to 2015’s BAFTA-winning psychological action game, is officially set in Iceland. A behind-the-scenes development diary, regarding the studio’s location scouting for the game, is now available on Ninja Theory’s YouTube channel.
- A new trailer for Psychonauts 2 debuted, featuring Jack Black on vocals as part of a psychedelic music video. This marks the reunion of Black with Double Fine’s Tim Schafer, following their collaboration on the cult 2009 game Brutal Legend. It’s further suggestive that Black will be involved in some way with Psychonauts 2.
- Console exclusives for the Xbox Series X include STALKER 2, Warhammer 40K: Darktide, The Gunk (from the creators of Steamworld), The Medium, New Genesis: Phantasy Star Online 2, The Medium (a horror game that features a soundtrack by famous Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka), and a newly-announced single-player campaign for the South Korean online shooter Crossfire X.
- Several currently-available Xbox exclusives, including Gears 5, Sea of Thieves, and Forza Horizon 4, will be automatically upgraded to Xbox Series X standards on launch via Smart Delivery.
As today’s Showcase presentation was specifically focused on games and the announcements thereof, no further information was revealed regarding the Series X itself, such as its starting price or planned release date. The repeated emphasis on the Xbox Game Pass, and confirmation that every game in today’s Showcase will be part of it, did suggest Microsoft is continuing with its previous strategy in this generation of hardware. It’s not asking you to buy a new $60-70 game three times a year; now it wants you to maintain a subscription for $15 a month.
Several major Microsoft studios were notably absent from this Showcase, such as inXile and World’s Edge. This was noted at the end of the show, and Microsoft has said there’ll be more to share from its other partners later in the year.
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