During a decidedly light E3 2021, Xbox and Bethesda came through swinging, bringing their best E3 presentation for years. The show included around 31 games, with many of them coming to Xbox Game Pass on the day of their release. It seems Xbox’s strategy is finally paying off as Xbox has proved that there has never been a better time to invest in their ecosystem. But, because there was so much news to digest, we’ve compiled the best bits from the showcase just in case you missed them (or forgot about them).
Forza Horizon 5
Forza Horizon 5 releases November 9th 2021 on Xbox Series X|S, PC and Xbox One, but it still undeniably looks like a next-gen experience. If anyone needed convincing that Playground Games are absolute wizards, FH5’s demo should seal the deal.
The open-world of Mexico looks more detailed, dense and awe-inspiring than ever and the series continues to retain the cultural authenticity of the places it visits. Horizon has always scratched the itch of wanting to visit a place and this time around it seems they’ll get closer to giving us a photorealistic holiday than ever before.
Outside of how phenomenal it looks, we can also be confident in how well FH5 will play. Playground has been Xbox’s most consistent studio for almost a decade and Horizon 5 marks their first title built from the ground up as a first-party studio, giving them more insight and support than ever.
Playground have already showcased a campaign, traditional races, open-world exploration, multiplayer modes, a battle royale mode and a track creation mode. If they can at least match the content from Forza Horizon 4, then players can look forward to a big game on the horizon.
Overall, Forza Horizon takes our top spot because of the studio’s pedigree, an incredible debut and its proximity to release. Forza Horizon 5 feels like an imminent, tangible release and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.
Xbox still doesn’t want to commit to a firm release date for their next Halo epic, which would be worrying if it wasn’t for an amazing showing at this show. 343’s presentation of Halo Infinite was split into two parts: campaign and multiplayer.
Their campaign segment remained brief, teasing the open-ring Halo, story tidbits and the state of Master Chief. It was not what I would have expected to see from the campaign but it was enough to assuage many concerns about 343’s past work.
Firstly, Infinite looks beautiful, completely erasing the memory of last year’s technically incomplete demo. The narrative also seems more intent on continuing Chief’s personal journey from Halo 4 as 343 try to crack Chief’s stoic exterior.
However, the true highlight of Infinite’s showing was the incredibly well-edited multiplayer trailer, looking like a return to form for the franchise. Halo 4 took the series down the CoD road and Halo 5 introduced advanced mobility that made competitive multiplayer too sweaty for casual players. Infinite brings back the series’ heavy emphasis on physics, a vast sandbox and a rush to grab the power weapons, vehicles and Spartan abilities.
I can’t wait to lose hours in Halo Infinite’s multiplayer when it launches during the Holiday 2021 period.
We love indies here at TheXboxHub so we couldn’t let Somerville (just down in 4th place) be our only inclusion on the list, especially when indies carried so much of the show. So, let’s run through some of them.
Hades – in my opinion the best game of 2020 – comes to Xbox and debuts on Game Pass on August 13th 2021. It’s a roguelike that perfectly marries its narrative, progression and gameplay. Every run plays differently and every run pushes the story forward.
REPLACED was a stunning, pixel-art, action game, set in what looks like a dystopian cyberpunk world. Slime Rancher 2 made a surprise appearance and looks like the most adorable game ever made. I jest, but if it’s anything like the first title, it’ll be a cathartic, cute and satisfying farming game.
Finally, Eiyuden Chronicle got trailers for two games. If you’re unfamiliar, these titles come from the original creators of the influential Suikoden series. Eiyuden Chronicle promises to be a spiritual successor after the Kickstarter surpassed all types of expectations.
Sommerville is a 2.5D indie game from the ex-developers of Inside and Limbo. Details are scarce but it’s already clear from Sommerville’s first trailer that the atmospheric storytelling and oppressive tone is carried over from Inside.
Sommerville’s announcement centres around a family stuck in a kind of alien invasion. It seems that players will follow one or more of the family members at any point in the game as they try to run, hide and survive.
Gameplay-wise, Sommerville seems to follow the same kind of puzzle/platformer elements as Inside, with perhaps more of an emphasis on cinematic set-pieces. Another interesting gameplay tidbit from the trailer is that our characters are always traveling from the right side of the screen, to the left. This actively breaks the genre convention of left-to-right for almost every game on a 2D landscape from Super Mario, to Inside. Who knows what that could mean for the game’s gameplay and story, but it will be something to pay attention to when the game launches in 2022.
Redfall + Starfield
I’m pairing Redfall and Starfield together because they have a lot in common. They’re both slated to be the first Xbox exclusive Bethesda games in 2022. They’re both shrouded in mystery since we have no actual gameplay footage. And it’s easier to talk about them under one headline, so let’s go!
Redfall is Arkane Austin’s (the Prey 2017 team) next game. We know that it’s a slight departure for the studio since it’s their first open-world game, their first co-op game and the first game the studio has put out with tongue-and-cheek humour that is so overt.
The trailer shows us four different characters hunting some classic vampires. There are definitely some gameplay details that we can wrench out of Redfall’s CG trailer. Arkane’s supernatural abilities are back and this time it seems like all four of the characters have their own unique skill-set that can interact with the others’. We’ll need to wait to see if Redfall is more Left 4 Dead or more of a co-op Dishonored.
Starfield is also another enigma. We know it’s Bethesda Game Studio’s (Fallout and Skyrim) next big RPG, we know it’s in space and we know you can customise your own character. Apart from that details are scarce. There are no real hints as to whether Starfield will be a hard or soft sci-fi universe. Bethesda has talked about how they have revamped their entire engine to be able to even create Starfield, so here’s hoping the game can deliver on its promises when it releases on 11/11/22 – a date we can all understand regardless of where we live.
Double Fine’s sequel to their cult-classic platformer has been 16 years in the making and it finally has a release date of August 25th 2021. This isn’t just headline news because of how long it’s taken though. Psychonauts 2 marks Double Fine’s first release as an Xbox Game Studio, so we’ll finally get to see what the genius minds over at the studio can do with some Microsoft money.
More than that, the original game is beloved for a reason. Yes, it’s fun, creative and sometimes trippy. Yes, the writing is funny and charming. But, at its heart, the original Psychonauts had something to say and it did it in an incredibly unique way. Clearly its message stuck with players almost two decades after its launch.
Director and studio head, Tim Schafer, has promised Psychonauts 2 will be a bigger, darker game than its predecessor and this is the thing that makes me most excited for it. Psychonauts’ original message already resonated with me so I can’t wait to see how Schafer’s visionary mind might be able to pull on my heartstrings (yes, I like to cry at games and movies that no one else finds sad.) The original recently hit Game Pass, so if you’re willing to look past some wrinkles, give it a try.
So, the Xbox and Bethesda Games Showcase at E3 2021 was pretty much a hit, with a host of great games detailed and dated. But what were your standout moments? Let us know about them in the comments below.