The latest instalment of Inside Xbox (7th May 2020) finally offered us a glimpse of Xbox Series X gameplay. After months of being battered by geeky technical stats, we could see for ourselves what all the numbers actually mean.
The presentation started with an intro from Aaron Greenberg, Xbox’s game marketing head honcho, who in one scene was wearing a Master Chief helmet. It left me pondering if we would actually see Halo Infinite Gameplay, despite every part of my brain telling me not to be so bloody daft. Surely they wouldn’t be that cruel? It turns out that actually they would.
Anyway, we heard about Smart Delivery early on too, which essentially offers you current and next-gen versions of a game with a single purchase. Therefore you can be assured you are getting the optimum version of the game you want, for the platform you are gaming on. It’s a nice touch, but not quite as groundbreaking as all the fuss may make you think. If Microsoft weren’t running two consoles alongside each other, and forging ahead with the Xbox Series X only, then you would be getting the best version of each game anyway. Right?
Xbox are clearly proud of their Xbox Game Studios collaboration, and there’s no doubt there are some intriguing-looking games on the horizon coming from many talented developers. We got to see a decent line-up in terms of quantity, but not a lot of big hitters. There is nothing wrong with this in theory, however when launching a new console it seems a risky strategy. What about the first party releases? Exactly what is Microsoft bringing to the table here? A long standing criticism of Xbox versus PlayStation is the lack of exclusives, in other words killer apps for the hardware. So far, I’ve not been convinced Xbox has enough to tip the scales.
Sure, we’re getting Halo Infinite, but where is it? Ever since E3 last year I’ve been convinced the Xbox Series X would be launching at the end of 2020 with Halo Infinite as a launch title. This seems to be the case, but the lack of information is starting to concern me greatly. What better way for the series to get back in touch with its roots (which 343 Industries have claimed it is aiming to do) than to mirror the original’s job of launching a new console? It needs to happen.
However, there were some juicy nuggets of new information to get excited about. The big reveal was an exclusive look at some Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla gameplay. It came across a lot like a cinematic trailer, but was reportedly directly from Xbox Series X gameplay. The game looks to be building on the success of its older relatives, which is no bad thing. However, with this being available on multiple platforms when it launches, it didn’t really leave me thinking “Yes. That’s the reason why I’ll buy an Xbox Series X”.
There was also some hype around the amount of developers working on Xbox One games. Again, in principle this is great news, however it all depends on just what games it is they are working on. As for the biggest games due for release on the console, it looks like we’re having to wait until July for some more concrete information, and even as I’m typing this I’m not feeling overwhelmingly confident that all our prayers will be answered.
So how good did the Xbox Series X gameplay actually look? Well, it’s always hard to tell by just watching. If I’m honest, I wasn’t blown away, and some games definitely looked better than others. Take Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2 for example, which unfortunately looked like a Sims DLC pack that the PS3 could handle with ease. Whereas DIRT 5 and Assassin’s Creed: Valhalla looked much better, but not hugely ahead of the current generation. In fact, it’s clear the leaps between generations are getting shorter. This is another reason why the games themselves are so important, not just how good they look or how fast they run.
Throughout the presentation it was clear that tech specs and graphics are the main selling point for the Xbox Series X, as opposed to the games, despite what the team may claim. We got to see a fair few, albeit all third party, titles, which says it all really. It’s a risky strategy, and one which has not paid dividends in the past. It makes me pretty nervous that the next generation will tell the same story, giving the PS5 the opportunity to get the jump on Xbox Series X.
If one word could sum up my position right now, it would be “nervous”. It’s not too late by any means, and the Xbox Series X is no doubt an impressive bit of kit. Games are always good, and it seems there are plenty coming. However, we need more reasons why Xbox Series X is the way to go come the end of the year. For me there is much work to be done before that becomes a clear choice.
So, will the Xbox reign supreme in the battle for the ninth generation? It’s still far too early to say. If you look at the amount of questions I’m asking in this piece, that will give you some indication of where I am at. Let’s just say I won’t be betting on it anytime soon.