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Player 2 Vs The Xbox First-Party Showcase

Player 2 Vs The Xbox First Party Showcase

After a somewhat disappointing first showing several months ago, Xbox has once again returned to the next-gen plate to focus on the first party works coming out of Xbox Game Studios. As it turns out we got a little bit more than that, but join P2 editors Matt Hewson and Paul James as the duo go head-to-head with the big event, dissecting the good and the bad in the process.

Halo Infinite

Paul: God. How good is Halo looking?! Sure, some up-close screenshots that have emerged in the hours since the event have made the game look a little less flattering, but to see it in action was something else. The flow of the combat, the size of the map, the hookshot, all of it, it was wonderful. I’ve not been the biggest Halo guy over the journey, and as many know, the franchise has had a turbulent generation, but it seems that based upon this demo, 343i has identified the core nuggets of what makes Halo shine, and have pulled them all together to create a really exciting gameplay experience. I can’t wait to get into it at launch.

Matt: I am excited. It seems that Infinite won’t be a fully open world, but a series of big open maps connected together, which in my mind suits the game a bit more. I thought it ran like a dream and the combat looked fantastic. Of course, as with all Halo titles, a lot will hang on the story and 343 will be desperate not to balls that up like they did with 5. I have to be honest though, for me, Halo is a bit like Pizza… well you know the joke. 

State of Decay 3

Paul: I’m not a crazy State of Decay person, but I do appreciate what people like about the previous titles. Undead Labs did a great job of disguising this third entry until the last minute and I must say, I liked the atmosphere they were building. It might be worthwhile taking this one for a spin to see if they grab my interest this time around

Matt: I am a State of Decay guy, very much so and I can’t wait to see more of it. This was a game I wasn’t expecting to see. I loved both one and two but I have to admit, Undead Labs need to get it right at launch this time. I respect their dedication and commitment to post-game support (the Juggernaut update for State of Decay 2 is fantastic) but they have been at this long enough now that excuses are starting to wear thin. Apart from that small caveat, I am all in. 

Forza Motorsport

Paul: Not Motorsport 8 , and after 3 years, no launch this year (seemingly). What’s going on over at Turn 10? I’m no racing guy, and that’s not going to change but it seems to be a big whiff for Xbox to not have a new Forza title at launch. I guess that explains what’s going on with Xbox leaning into Dirt 5 recently. Seems that might be the premiere, debut next-gen racer. Great for them, not so for Forza or Gran Turismo.

Matt: This is probably the biggest surprise of the show for me. No Forza at launch? I have to think it has been a victim of Covid 19 and MS has had to delay it til next year. What was shown was pretty sexy and I think RTX tech is going to do wonders for racing games so I am interested to see the final product and do some burnouts around Mt Panorama once again. 

Everwild

Paul: I love the look of Everwild, but I’m growing increasingly frustrated by the fact that I don’t know what it is. What am I doing? What are my moment-to-moment interactions going to look like? What’s the goal? The final destination? With two stunning trailers, Rare have told us absolutely nothing, and it’s high time that changed

Matt: Looks stunning, I get the feeling it is going to be an (possibly co-op) adventure game along the lines of Breath of the Wild, but I can’t say that for sure. I think we can expect to see more of this one later this year, but for now, I am happy to see Rare making games that are clearly full of passion once again. 

Tell Me Why?

Paul: DontNod’s games just don’t grab me tonally for whatever reason, and Tell Me Why seems to fit the bill in the same way. I’ll try it out, and I hope to be wrong, but I just can’t get excited for this one. Was thrilled though that this trailer erred away from the trans-gender emphasis of the debut trailer. I’m thrilled to see that level of representation in the game, and hope that we see more in the future as well, but it felt as though that’s all the debut trailer wanted to talk about. This latest take shows us that there’s more to the story than just that one component.

Matt: Look, I think Dontnod’s adventure games are excellent examples of a genre that doesn’t really appeal to me. Being a (very) old gamer, adventure games for me are the point and click staples of the Sierra and Lucasarts era. But these games have a dedicated audience and they are excellent storytelling devices and I expect no less from Tell Me Why. 

Ori & The Will Of The Wisps

Paul: I love Ori, it’s one of my games of the year, in a year loaded with top tier titles, but a 120FPS bump, alongside a launch window next-gen upgrade isn’t going to get me replaying Ori in November (?). It’s great to see the game getting plenty of TLC, but the timing won’t suit me personally. 

Matt: I still haven’t had a chance to play Will of the Wisps yet, so I guess I am holding off for the fancy pants version now. Might be a good game to dive into during the Christmas break. 

The Outer Worlds

Paul: Still haven’t started the game, but I’ve been meaning to! New DLC has been on the cards for a while now, and it’s good to see that it’s finally on the way. One of these days I’ll take it for a spin, and the DLC too!

Matt: I am a big fan of The Outer Worlds, I really dug the writing and general setting of the game, despite it having a few issues in other areas. So I am more than keen to dive back into more of Obsidian’s black humour and generally sold RPGing. 

Grounded

Paul: The more I see and hear of Grounded the more positive I feel about it, and the sense of humour displayed in this trailer to poke fun of itself by comparing it to Cyberpunk, was perhaps the deal sealer. Early access is close, so I’m keen to take it for a spin.

Matt: The more I see of this game, the more I am interested in it. There could be a lot of fun to be had in this Honey I Shrunk the Kids survival game. Early access starts next week so we won’t have to wait too long to find out. I think this could be very similar to Sea of Thieves in that if you have dedicated group that plays on a regular basis you will have all the fun in the world, but single players may find it a struggle. 

Avowed

Paul: Probably my highlight of the show. It’s going to be a ways off with Obsidian still juggling Outer Worlds and Grounded, but this is the next big premiere experience, and I can’t wait to see more. It looks and feels like Skyrim, and with TES VI still likely half a decade away (or more!) this could fill that hole in my heart and potentially send some massive reverberations through the Bethesda Game Studios team. Todd Howard felt a disturbance in the force this past 24 hours.

Matt: Obsidian does Skyrim. I am down. Sure it is probably 18 months at least away but I think it was smart of Xbox to let people know it was coming. My biggest hope here is that Obsidian doesn’t just stick to fantasy tropes and does some interesting things with the setting as they did with Pillars and Tyranny. Doing that would go a long way to avoiding the inevitable Elder Scrolls comparisons. 

As Dusk Falls

Paul: I’ll need more for my interest to pique. The presentation of the trailer simply didn’t grab my interest, but that’s not to say it can’t, I’ll just need to see more before I can form a solid opinion of the game

Matt: Another Adventure game, this time from a new studio. It looks like it will be told in a sort of interactive comic book format. Interesting but I need to see more before I judge it.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II

Paul: There seems to be a lot of disappointment regarding the lack of Hellblade at the showcase. Ninja Theory is a super small team and took an extremely long time to realise the original game. Microsoft money or not, Hellblade II was always going to be a ways off still, and if I have any disappointment, it stems from the fact that Xbox went off early with this one.

Matt: This was probably my biggest disappointment for the show. We only got the tiniest bits of info on the game. I know it is probably a Xmas 2021 release, but I hunger for more Senua. 

Psychonauts 2

Paul: Great personality here, Jack Black was awesome, the game is shaping up well and I’m keen to get my hands on the game in 2021… If only we didn’t have to wait so long!

Matt: Probably the trailer that spoke to me the most during the show. Loved it and it seems that all the things I love from the original game are back plus we now have Jack Black, so how can it go wrong. For me, Psychonauts is the most underrated title from the entire Xbox/PS2 era so I am super excited that I am getting more of this trademark Double Fine weirdness. 

Destiny 2

Paul: I think I’m about done with Destiny at this point. They’re great shooters mechanically, but there’s just too much being added in between core entries for me to care anymore. It seems like Bungie is firing on all cylinders now that they’ve broken free of Activision, but it’ll require a third core entry for me to even consider coming back at this point

Matt: A big get for Gamepass and Xbox. It seems that Activision was the driving force behind the PS4/Destiny deals because Bungie has seemingly jumped back towards Microsoft for preference. The base game and all current DLC is coming to Gamepass, along with a sexy 4K version for the series X. A smart move for both Microsoft and for Bungie it would seem. 

S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2

Paul: I honestly know nothing about S.T.A.L.K.E.R, other than the fact that it’s a very popular PC title. I was impressed by the trailer though, so I’m keen to do a bit of digging now and see what it’s all about.

Matt: I loved S.T.A.L.K.E.R on PC so I am here for this. Not much to show off except the iconic Chernobyl and Pripyat locations. Keen to see how this comes together and if it can compete with Metro for my favourite post-nuclear Russian FPS title. Obviously still a ways away though. 

Warhammer Darktide

Paul: I’m not a Warhammer guy, so yay for those who are into that sort of thing but once the bells started ringing in my head, I tuned out.

Matt: Left 4 Dead Warhammer. If that sentence excites you then yay. For the rest of us, I think there are so many options in this genre now it is hard to get excited. 

Tetris Effect Connected

Paul: This is a really cool addition to an already fantastic game. Glad to hear that the original versions will be getting updates to eventually addon this new content, but until then this is an awesome get for Xbox and a must-buy for Series X owners.

Matt: Multiplayer Tetris Effect. Honestly, do you need to say more? The only thing I wonder is, does the competitive nature of multiplayer counter the zen feeling that became almost central to the original Tetris Effect. Either way, it is a launch title for the Series X and even if it wasn’t on Game Pass it would probably be a day one buy for me. 

The Gunk

Paul: I love Image & Form and their Steamworld games, with the most recent title (Steamworld Quest) even getting me into a sub-genre that I previously couldn’t stand in card-based RPGs, but I must say I wasn’t’ immediately taken by what I saw of The Gunk. Maybe upon repeat viewings and seeing the game in action my tone will change, but right now I’m on the fence.

Matt: Image and Form with their first non-Steamworld title. I am excited for this, I have loved everything Image and Form have ever released and I know Paul is an even bigger fan. I really liked the artstyle they are going for here and it looks to have a big dose of personality to boot. I am tipping this will be a must play. 

The Medium

Paul: This game looks to be super spooky and that’s cool. I’m not a fan for that reason, because in spite of all Matt’s work to get me into horror games via Resident Evil, the floodgates still haven’t completely opened for me just yet. I’ll leave this one to those who are braver than I.

Matt: Getting SERIOUS Silent Hill vibes off this one and that can only be a good thing. This looks to be super polished and the twin realities, while not a new concept (BRING BACK SOUL REAVER) is a marvellous way to present both horror and the ensuing puzzles. I am watching this one closely because it could be a real winner. 

Phantasy Star Online 2

Paul: I’m a sucker for JRPGs, but PSO2 isn’t ticking the boxes I’m looking for. It’s pretty generic looking, and the online component is an issue I’ll forever have with it, so good luck to those excited by this, and I’ll be happy for you if it all works out.

Matt: That sure did look like the most generic of generic JRPGs getting around right? It needs to show me more than that to get me interested but I am guessing that fans ate it up. 

Crossfire X

Paul: It’s the Remedy component that has me so excited for Crossfire X. I couldn’t care less about the multiplayer, but a Remedy campaign instantly gets the game on my watch list. A tight, 6-8 hour shooter is good every now and then, and I reckon that’s exactly what this campaign will be

Matt: I am not against a flashy COD style single-player campaign, especially if it is put together well. The fact that Remedy is handling the SP duties on this one makes me hopeful that this will be exactly that. Remedy knows how to tell a story and having played the multiplayer beta of this, I know the gunplay is snappy and engaging. It isn’t my most anticipated title, but it is one I am watching with a keen eye. 

Fable

Paul: IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME! It’s no secret to anyone that Fable was in development at Playground. What surprised me is how far into development it is; that’s to say that it isn’t deep into development at all. Those rumours have swirled for at least 2-3 years now so I would have assumed that we’d get more than a CG Teaser. Not to be and we’ll need to keep waiting but here’s hoping the doors get blown off of this one soon.

Matt: The world’s worst kept secret (apart from everything in development at Ubisoft) has finally been confirmed. Just a tease, but a tease is enough at this point. I am not sure but it sounded a bit like Sir Ian McKellen doing the narration of the trailer. But it is clear this is a reboot of the franchise, going back to the traditional (if warped in a Monty Python kind of way) fantasy setting as opposed to the Victorian England setting of Fable 3. 

Closing Thoughts

Paul: No dates, and (outside of the tent poles) no announcements that really shook the ground, unlike what PlayStation managed means that Xbox has improved considerably but still plays bridesmaid to Sony in the lead up to next-gen. My other concern pertains to Gamepass. It’s undoubtedly the best deal in games, and today proved that, but it makes the new console almost completely unnecessary to me. I have an Xbox One, and a solid, though not outstanding desktop that will allow me to play anything of prominence on the platform without owning it. Everything else I can get with PlayStation or Nintendo. Sony is forcing our hands and Xbox is leaving a boatload of sales on the table. Gamepass is huge but can’t carry the giant on its own, they need to incentivise me to buy the console too, and right now, I’m just not feeling the need. That will change, but as far as remaining competitive with PlayStation is concerned, they’re a long way behind in that area 

Matt: I think the show suffered many of the same problems that Sony showing did, in that there wasn’t a lot of firm dates and some of this stuff is miles away, but at the same time I think this is a wonderfully diverse line up of titles that caters for just about every type of gamer out there. That diversity was to be expected with the developers that Microsoft purchased, as almost all of them are known for their offbeat and slightly quirky titles. I am beginning to feel the COVID has had a real effect on launch lineups for both systems now because, where we stand now, the PS5 has a smaller Spider-Man and Xbox has Halo. I can’t imagine either company wanted to be that thin at launch. I think Xbox may gain a little traction here though with their excellent backwards compatibility, Smart Delivery and, of course, Gamepass, so early adopters should still find themselves with plenty to play while waiting for the releases to catch up.