As I settled down in front of Mixer at 9pm on Sunday night, accompanied by a mere 133,000 others to view the Xbox at E3 2019 presentation, little did I suspect what I was about to see. From announcements about the next generation of Xbox hardware to more than 60 new games that were announced, after it was over and done I was left with a pleasant kind of afterglow. While I would have liked to have seen possibly fewer games but in greater detail, the lack of actual gameplay hasn’t stopped me from getting ridiculously excited about the games out later in 2019 and beyond. What I have done here then, for nothing more than your reading pleasure, is to cull my personal top six moments of the 97 minute stream, to look in-depth at the 6 things Microsoft nailed with their Xbox at E3 2019 presentation. And believe me, it has been a lot harder than I thought it was going to be. So without further ado, lets’ dive in…
1) Project Scarlett
There can only be one entry that tops the list of hype from the Xbox at E3 2019 conference, and that is the official announcement that Microsoft are working on the next generation of Xbox hardware.
Codenamed Project Scarlett, and coming with a list of features as long as your arm, the specs and potential for this machine are truly mind blowing. Reportedly four times as powerful as the Xbox One X (current holder of the World’s Most Powerful Console title shall we not forget), with graphics at 120 frames per second and 8K quality being touted, along with next gen ray tracing (nope, me neither) it sounds like an absolute beast of a machine.
With a custom designed processor in association with AMD, and being able to leverage the built in SSD to provide extra Virtual Ram, they claim that loading screens as we know them will be eliminated. These are bold claims indeed!
If Xbox gets this right, with the amount of power at its disposal, and the power of its hardware, the next generation might just belong to Xbox. With promised game streaming services and the new Project xCloud, that basically turns your Xbox into an Xcloud server, things are looking up. Details are sketchy about these two things, but who wouldn’t want a cloud server in their home?
Another interesting thing that Phil Spencer had to say, after his standing ovation when he walked out, was that they had listened to us, the gamers. The new Xbox will be about games and only games, none of this media centre nonsense that hamstrung the launch of the Xbox One. Add into this the message of inclusivity, of one big happy family of gamers playing cross platform and sharing the worlds, and the future does look very bright for the Xbox brand.
Finally, in this section, Halo Infinite was shown, running on the new hardware. It looked like a movie; the characters breath smoking in the freezing air, and when Master Chief was fished out of space and patched up, his movements were as silky as kittens fur. The scenery looked amazing, even though it was just a small spaceship (a Pelican), but the vista in space looking out of the window was breathtaking.
If this is how games are going to look in the future, then you can certainly count me in! A release date of “Holiday 2020”, means I’m about to start saving up for this new generation.
2) Gears of War 5
We’ve known for some time that Gears 5 is coming, with the emphasis on Kait’s storyline. When Rod Ferguson from the Coalition appeared on stage, it was to reveal that the release date for the game will be September 10th 2019, and that the campaign will be the biggest to date.
Subscribers to the newly announced Xbox Game Pass Ultimate will be able to play it four days early, and in July there will be a tech test beta for their new game type in PvP called Arcade. No more details were forthcoming about this game mode, but there was talk of the new Horde mode, which is bound to be great because let’s face it, horde mode always is!
Another new game type they revealed was called Escape, where 3 players infiltrate a Swarm Hive, plant a bomb, and then have to get out. Showcasing new enemy types, like Swarm infected Shepherds, the gameplay seems to be very much on the run and gun end of the spectrum, with people having to clear rooms and move on before a green gas caught them up. Designed for couch co-op, according to Rod, this looks like it is going to add another layer to the Gears gameplay cake. Add to this the ability to create your own Hives to test your friends and I can see this being a lot of fun.
And finally, just when you thought Gears couldn’t get any cooler, it was revealed that if you pre-order the game, you can play as the T-800 Terminator, complete with a Lancer. My jaw dropped by this point, and I may have been making small squeaking noises!
3) Cyberpunk 2077
As soon as the CD Projekt Red logo appeared on the screen, the auditorium erupted. Cyberpunk 2077 was a very popular choice with the people there, and seeing it in action, it’s clear to see why.
With extreme body modification as a theme, our protagonist is shown trying to broker the sale of a chip, when it all goes wrong. Utilising very cool looking blades coming out of his arms, he slices up a large goon, before his augments are controlled by a woman with some sort of hacking module installed. Maybe? Waking in the desert, he is approached by none other than Keanu Reeves, who then appeared on the stage to rapturous applause. Keanu is going to be in the game, playing an ally from what I could see, but you never know with this type of game.
It looks amazing, as we’ve come to expect from this developer, and the seedy neon cities straight out of Bladerunner look very cool indeed. With a release date of 16th April 2020, next year is shaping up to be a very expensive one indeed.
4) Borderlands 3
I know this isn’t just an Xbox announcement, but the trailer that was shown for Borderlands 3 just blew me away.
With Lilith not being a siren any more, and with a host of new and returning characters, this looks like it’s going to be Borderlands turned up to 11. Claptrap was there, as was Sir Hammerlock, along with new guys Moxe the gunner, who can summon a giant mech to lay down ridiculous amounts of fire, and another new guy named Zane Flynt, the Operative, Amara a Siren and FL4K, the beast master, they are tasked with breaking a cult of Vault worshippers, and we have to Shoot! Loot! or as they put it, Shloot! our way across the new environments, including rumours of new planets.
Hopefully fan fave characters like Tina and Moxxi will return, as it won’t be Borderlands without them.
Oh, and just as a throwaway, Randy mentioned that they have put together a new, free DLC for Borderlands 2 that sets the story arc for the third game. Called Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary, and with the Handsome Collection now being available on Gamepass, the scene is set for a return to the second game!
Borderlands 3 has been given a release date of 13th September, so not long to wait.
5) Double Fine Studios
Tim Schafer appeared to say that DoubleFine are now part of Microsoft Game Studios, and that he has been working on another title – a little something called Psychonauts 2. The trailer was as bonkers as the first game, out on the OG Xbox, and the acquisition of the studio by Microsoft points to a bright future for first party games coming.
There’s not much to currently say about this, except that Schafer is a respected developer and he will bring a new perspective to first party games. Without question.
6) The cop out (sorry!)
For the sixth entry in my list, there’s just too much to choose from. I saw so many games that I want to play right now, the best I can do is list a few.
The new Ori game looks as amazing as the first, seeing him facing off against giant spiders and wolves in the trailer, while still keeping the fluid rewarding gameplay that captured me the first time around. Obsidian’s new game, The Outer Worlds, looks like Dishonored in space, with a similar first person viewpoint, graphical style and an intriguing branching storyline, depending on how you play.
Minecraft dungeons is a four player version of Minecraft, in a Diablo/Gauntlet style, and if it is done properly, could be amazing, while the Star Wars games featured a lot, including Jedi: Fallen Oder, which looked very promising, with fluid combat and amazing looking graphics. There is also the new LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga featuring all nine films in one game, which should be interesting.
Further to that Blair Witch looks very scary indeed, much like the film, while 12 Minutes looks like a Groundhog Day kind of interactive thriller, with a strong story that came through a short trailer. And of course, the Battletoads are back, still looking retro but promising three player couch co-op, and a new Dragonball action RPG was announced, but it all looked a bit confusing for me. But hey, if you like a bit of DB then I’m sure that Project Z will be superb.
We also have George R. R. Martin working with FromSoftware on Elden Ring, which was briefly revealed, and Bandai Namco have a new anime style RPG – Tales of Arise – to offer, which looked very good when running.
Best of all though? Forza Horizon 4 is having a new LEGO based expansion called LEGO Champions of Speed, where you can do all the traditional Forza Horizon 4 things, but in a cool LEGO car. This was advertised by having a life size model of a McLaren Senna on stage, made entirely of tiny plastic bricks, which was unbelievable. And better still is that it’ll be here any day now – possibly even by the time you are reading this.
So, there we go then, my 6 top moments from Microsoft and what they delivered with Xbox at E3 2019. It would have been easy to just say “all of it” for the best bits, but I’ve picked out my top moments, while there are some I’ve left out, like Game Pass Ultimate, because I feel there isn’t enough information given to make a choice about whether it’s really worth it or not. Many other games were shown, and all impressed in some way, and with Game Pass for PC and more games joining the Xbox service, the future is bright. But what did you guys think of the conference? Happy to look to the future like me? Or do your thoughts run the other end of the gaming spectrum? Let us know in the comments!