E3 2017 Round Up and Thoughts: Microsoft

This was it; after 4 years of being on the backfoot, Microsoft were about to lay into Sony and claim a major victory in the current gen console war. For the first time this generation they, and only they, had new hardware to show off and it is “the most powerful console ever made” – this was Microsoft’s year, and they got their press conference on an absolute flier!

The show reel for their new console was actually very good; it mixed TV style advertisement with brief glimpses of games running on the system and while they were Forza, Halo and Gears of War; it didn’t stop me getting excited. Then they announced the name, the Xbox One X and my heart sank a little, that’s a horrific name and a serious misstep from Microsoft in my opinion – it tells the consumer nothing about the console itself and it sounds far too close to Xbox One S for comfort.

Then they gave us all the details, the specs are suitably high-end, it is capable of running native 4K in 60fps (although only Forza was shown doing this), it is fully BC with the Xbox One (as you’d expect), 35 One games will receive an “Xbox One X enhancement patch” and original Xbox games will be joining the BC program, although only a handful of selected titles, starting with Crimson Skies.

They told us that the Xbox One X is their smallest ever console and then we finally got a price and release date; it launches at £449 on the 7th of November.

Once they got the hardware out-of-the-way Microsoft told us that they had 42 new games of which “over half” were Xbox exclusives; what they didn’t say was that they were stretching the word “exclusive” to its very limit and they were mostly “Xbox One launch exclusive” which roughly translates as “we stopped this appearing on PS4 at the same time”. It was the messaging that held this conference back at almost every level; but I’ll get into that in my closing thoughts…

Forza 7 was debuted and it look absolutely amazing, running at a native 4K and 60fps it was the epitome of what Microsoft has to offer on their new flagship console and it did not disappoint – everything about it was stunningly beautiful and smooth as butter! Anyone who complains that it wasn’t impressive because “Forza has always been gorgeous” is completely missing the point; it’s a flagship franchise and racing games have been used to display a new console’s raw power since time began – so shut up haters, it looked awesome!

Somehow though Microsoft found a way to kill all their momentum and make this segment ridiculously boring by spending a solid 5-10 minutes talking about Porsche and, for some reason, unveiling the new 911 (spoiler alert: it looks exactly the same as the last one). It was unnecessary and it killed any excitement I had for the One X because I had to wait too long to see another game – another way in which Microsoft have not learned that their stage shows are at their weakest when they have men in suits on stage self-indulgently talking shite.

Even though it’s not an exclusive, Anthem was the standout AAA game of the show for me though. It’s from Bioware and looks like Destiny and Xenoblade Chronicles had a love child – it featured absolutely stunning graphics, but with that weird Bioware facial animation system that looks as realistic as an episode of Sooty and Sweep. The game is a shooter in which everyone wears a ‘Javelin’ suit and uses their superhuman abilities on alien planets; which up to 4 player co-op it should be a corker! Again though there was a real negative here, EA decided that to really sell this game we needed some scripted, unnatural and embarrassing “voice chat” as the demo played. This is never good but here it was truly, monumentally shite because the actors sounded like they couldn’t give a fuck – I’ve never heard such wooden voice acting ever – not even in Resident Evil. Embarrassing for a game with bucket loads of potential.

Metro Exodus was another game that looked incredible – it showed truly different gameplay to what the franchise has done before; somewhat open world with massive enemies and cinematic set pieces all happening at once. Again it showed the potential of the console and while it’s not an exclusive (it was just a world premiere) it got me excited to see what 4A games are going to achieve with their latest title!

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is a console exclusive though and it looked grand – it’s another Battle Royale game and it’s nothing particularly brilliant. Expect its serviceable gameplay “late 2017.Minecraft was picked to show off the power of the Xbox One X for some reason and it looked…exactly the same as it’s always looked. It will feature cross-platform play though with mobile, VR, PC and Switch and will launch the “super-duper graphics pack” this autumn.

Next up were two massive disappointments for me personally Crackdown 3 and Sea of Thieves – Crackdown in particular was the biggest disappointment of the show; it looks absolutely terrible, there is nothing here that looks remotely interesting. It is a franchise that ran out of steam after the first in my opinion and this “showcase” highlighted nothing but how soulless it is as a game – they have seemingly saw fit in removing the games big USP, the damage, from the single player campaign and as a result it looks exactly like the second. Even the multiplayer they showed off was soulless and bland – this is a game that I wish they never bothered with; there is nothing here to get remotely excited by.

Sea of Thieves looks slightly more promising although that’s not saying a lot; it has a lot of cool things going on; the water effects are incredible, there’s treasure hunting, exploration, combat and trading. However the combat is generic first-person and lacks any real feedback (from what I’ve seen) and the whole package is wrapped up in a terrible art style – it truly is a 3rd rate Wind Waker style; imagine if Nintendo used a cartoon aesthetic and removed all the character and charm – that’s this game. The best thing about this trailer was the comical voice over; I just don’t think this is going to usher in a new era for Rare – it looks meh.

Lots more happened which I’m gonna quickly go over because this is a monster article:

• Cuphead looks very good and has finally got a release date of 29th September

• Shadow of war looks great too

• Assassin’s Creed Origins looks awesome

• ORI and the Will of the Wisp looks incredible

• Lucky’s Tale looks incredible

• Artful Escape looks awesome as well

• The Darwin Project looks meh, and has seemingly been “inspired” by Battleborne (oh dear…)

My Closing thoughts

Microsoft did what they had to do, they brought the games. The games shown; while mostly not to my taste, do appeal to quite a wide demographic and most of what was shown will undoubtedly have big audiences looking forward to them and most will be successful.

However for me they made several bad decisions – first and most obviously they spent far too long on segments that were dull and/or pointless and they chose some very strange games to make their Xbox One X look appealing. As great as ORI, Lucky’s Tale, Cuphead etc look they are not the types of games that demand the “most powerful console ever” and many of the AAA games that did look incredible are multiplatform. Basically Microsoft have chosen games here based on Marketing deals and exclusivity rather than the games that will sell people on the One X – and this was a stupid move. In my opinion the only thing that this conference achieved was making the One S look an appetising prospect for those of us who are yet to buy into the “Xbox One Family” this gen.

While I don’t think Microsoft have done enough to stem the PS4 tide that has washed them away this generation – this was good show that was every bit as strong as Sony’s. Well done MS!

8/10

 

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