E3 Week 2019: My Highlights from the Microsoft Press Conference

I guess, seeing as how I did this last year, I might as well go again and pluck my highlights from the major press conferences at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. Y’know, if feels like the biggest discourse surround E3 these days is is continued relevance.

For most of us, who’ll never go to E3 personally, the show is these press conferences. Sure a few more stories come out of the show floor itself after the fact, but for the most part, it’s the pure spectacle of the hour and half stage show where we get our real information. And entertainment.

I’m not here to discuss the relevance of the show though, I’m here to still enjoy it while it lasts. And there’s a lot to cover here, so I’ll dive in. Bear in mind that I’m only planning on talking about the things that piqued my interests personally.

The Outer Worlds

Last year, Microsoft took the time to announce they’d acquired a bucket load of new studios to make games for them. They’d been lagging behind Sony in a major way when it came to their console exclusives, and so the move to take in a bunch of studios made sense, one of which was Obsidian.

Neon Punk Pink seems to be a popular aesthetic right now, and The Outer Wilds is just one more example of it. A game that looks it combines Borderlands with Fallout (a game Obsidian know too well) and sets it on the wild frontier of colonial space.

The Game itself looks cool. A first person shooter that seems to combine elements of the two game I just mentioned with some Ratchet and Clank style weapon wackiness including shrink rays and gravity guns.

I’m intrigued. It’s out in October and like most of the games here, it’s going to be coming to Gme Pass. So only excuse for not playing it is time.

 

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

I loved Ori and the Blind Forest, and this game is no surprise, as it was already spoken about previously. However, it was nice to be reminded of what a hauntingly beautiful this game this seems to be. I’m kind of bummed they didn’t show anything more than we already know. Just some gameplay snippets out of context.

It kind of made me realise how different these types of video game announcements have become over the years. There was a time where people would stand upon a stage and list a bullet point list of the changes, additions and features of a video game. And while I am interested in those things for Ori, it would have been a bore and taken the momentum out of the show.

It’s odd, I feel like these marketing teams are getting more savvy about showing us what we need rather than what we want during these conferences. What I did want though was this game in 2019. But it appears I’m going to have to wait till next February to get my hand on this one.

 

Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order

It’s been too long since we’ve had a great Star Wars game. So I am more than excited to play what looks like a spiritual successor to the Force Unleashed being made by Respawn; a developer who I’ve got nothing but time for.

We’ve got snippets of story and gameplay here, and as you’d expect from something based on Star Wars, it looks like a visual masterclass. It might be a little a little cheap to simply draw straight comparisons between this and the Force Unleashed, but they’re both third person action games that made use of lightsaber combat and force powers.

Plus, I loved the first Force Unleashed. And cannot wait to play this when it comes out in November.

And it looks like it has some direct connection to Rogue One as Forest Whitaker shows up as Saw Gerrera during the trailer. I just love Star Wars, can I say anything else other than I’m happy this is coming out?

 

Blair Witch

This was a surprise. When I was watching this trailer for a first person horror game featuring camcorders, I couldn’t help but think of the Blair Witch Project. A movie I appreciate more than I like.

Boy was I surprised when that logo popped up. I don’t normally find myself attracted to horror, but with Resident Evil 7 doing something very similar very effectively recently. It got my attention.

 

Cyberpunk 2077

Okay, here we go. So, if you listen to E3 veterans talk about the show, and how it’s changed over the past decade and a half, you’ll hear people talk about “old E3”, a time in which, to put it bluntly, shit was crazy.

From this point on, this show starts to evoke some old E3 weirdness. Although, not till after a new cinematic trailer for Cyberpunk 2077. I was already sold on this game, it has a real strong aesthetic. Not to mention it looks to be a graphical powerhouse of a game.

A was already really buzzing about this game, and that was before the reveal at the end of the trailer when Keanu Reeves crouched into view. And if to make sure their gut punch worked, they only went and brought Keanu out on stage himself.

I, like many people, am in the throws of a Keanu love affair. So seeing him come out on the stage and banter with the crowd in a charmingly awkward fashion was absolutely delightful. He even looked like he got a kick out of it, announcing an April 2020 release.

Can’t wait.

 

Microsoft Flight Simulator

I have never cared about games like American Truck Simulator, nor really had much interest in flight sims. The meticulous nature of recreating the skill and methods of actually piloting a craft such as this comes across as stressful more than meditative or satisfying as some may find it.

But I had to point this one out because, aside from the fact that they’re making another Microsoft Flight Simulator, the environments are recreated using satellite images to render the world in 4K, and it looks absolutely stunning.

If there’s a baby mode in this game, I’d seriously be interested in playing it simply to fly over a Google maps version of the world in a game and just appreciate it all.

 

Dragon Ball Z: Kakarot

I know this is supposed to be a positive list, highlighting things I enjoyed about this conference. But man, this game doesn’t look great to me.

We have truly been spoiled by Dragon Ball Fighterz, because looking at this game, which seems to be a prettier Tenkaichi, I still don’t think it looks anywhere near as good.

I played a lot of the two Xenoverse games, and they both just burned me out on this type of arena style fighter. Plus, I’ve played through the Dragon Ball Z story so many times at this point that I don’t need to do it again. It’s cool to see Dragon Ball highlighted on the E3 stage again, but it’s not for me chaps.

 

Gears 5

Welcome to some prime “old E3” weirdness. We get a pretty extended look at the near Gears game without actually learning a fat bunch about what’s going to make the game justify its continuation.

After showing a very odd trailer that shows nothing but Kait’s face wigging out, the camera zooms into the stage itself to reveal a hive looking set in which three WWE superstars were sat playing the new multiplayer mode for the game: Escape.

The new mode gets a cinematic which seems to imply the mode it a three man mode in which players need to rush through an area, not falling to the enemies, but also keeping pace of the VX nerve gas that is slowly rushing after them.

It’s fine and all, but I’ve never really come to Gears for the multiplayer modes, I was hoping to learn more about the story. Something they don’t bring up at all, despite the game being given a September release.

Oh, but to top off the weirdness, they announce some kind of cross brand deal with Terminator at the end… I literally found myself saying “What the hell is going on”, out loud after this segment, truly bizarre.

 

Borderlands

I’m buying this game regardless. I don’t think I’d be a stretch to say Borderlands 2 is one of my favourite games, maybe ever. So there’s very little to dissuade me from getting this one day one. And in terms of Borderlands 3, they didn’t actually show anything we didn’t already know. We meet the four classes again, and got a snippet about the story.

The more exciting news in the immediate future is that the Handsome Collection is now free with Game Pass, and there is a new story expansion for Borderlands 2 called “Commander Lilith and the fight for Sanctuary”. A free expansion which works to bridge the gap between the two games.

I hardly need an excuse to go back and play Borderlands 2 again, but this is one I welcome with arms spread wide. It’s cool that they did this, and reminds me of the really late DLC for the first Left 4 Dead that linked the stories between it and the sequel, which was already out at that point.

I know people like to give Randy Pitchford shit, justifiably so, but I love how these games really seem to keep their momentum going, despite the decade since the relase of Borderlands 2.

 

“Project Scarlet”

This was the show I was really hoping Microsoft would pull out all the stops and actually get one over on Sony considering that Sony pulled out of this show entirely. Not that I’m interested in taking sides, but it just seemed like a prime time for us to learn about whatever Microsoft have cooking up next.

When Phil Spencer got up on the stage to talk about the cloud and a next generation console, I had high hopes. In the end, we didn’t learn a fat lot of anything about it. At least, nothing meaningful to me. I might have missed a bit. Because, as glorious as this streaming future is supposed to be, my garbage internet could hardly keep up with streaming this conference, let alone a game in 4K.

We pretty much learned that this new console will be more powerful than the previous one (duh) and will load much quicker (duh). They didn’t really show anything to get excited about, no images, not even a name.

They slated for a release in the holiday of 2020, which seems about right. But honestly, I’m bummed they didn’t give us anything real to dig our fingers into. We all knew they were making a new console, and this announcement didn’t really amount to much more than a few buzzwords and a confirmation that they were making it.

A little disappointed if I’m honest.

 

Halo Infinite

So are they going to call the new Xbox the Xbox Infinite? Because they went and said that the new Halo is going to be coming out with the new console. It’d be some classic, Nintendo style in brand marketing.

In terms of this Halo teaser, they showed little, mostly a cinematic trailer that showed time had passed and Chief was floating in space somewhere. So yeah. The talk that this might be a move away from the traditional style of single player campaign was not addressed, and amounted to: New Halo: late 2020.

 

Overall thoughts on the Conference

This being the first conference, it’s difficult to gauge right at this moment. There was certainly a lot for Microsoft to shout about in terms of the number of new studios they’ve brought under their wing. Even announcing Double Fine being brought in during this very conference.

Despite all of this though, the platform still feels like it lacks and hard hitting exclusives. That might end up always being the case, considering the inherent link between their console and PC gaming.

Classically, when you think of Xbox, you think of Gears of War, Forza and Halo. Two of those three had pretty lack-lustre showings in terms of actual information, and to top it off, the announcement of the new console was a great big dud in my opinion.

The conference as a whole though was fun. For the most part, people just want to see games and let them do the talking, rather than people on a stage, and once again, Microsoft delivers in that department. There were a ton of games on display, far more than I’ve spoken about here. And on the whole, there are a lot of games I am really looking forward to getting my hands on.

And thanks to Xbox Game Pass, most of them are readily available to me. It’s weird, I’d say this was a very good conference overall, but approaching it from the mentality of an “Xbox brand warrior”, there wasn’t much to shout about. I’m not that bummed through, the further away we get from console wars mentality the better.


 

why not check out my thoughts on the other shows while you’re here:

Bethesda’s Press Conference

Ubisoft’s Press Conference

Square Enix’s Press Conference

The E3 Nintendo Direct

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