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E3 2017 – Xbox Press Conference Roundup

It’s E3 week ladies and gents and Microsoft has taken to the stage to finally announce the long-awaited Project Scorpio.

Xbox One X

Microsoft certainly didn’t hold back from the Project Scorpio announcement, instead, they opened the show with it. Xbox One X, nee Project Scorpio, is Microsoft’s entry into true 4K gaming and it looks to be doing everything right. Physically the console looks great, donning a matte black shell with sleek edges. Yet, somehow with all its power it’s still smaller than the Xbox One S. But, as my momma always told me, its whats inside that counts. And what’s inside I hear you ask? Flops, many many flops.

Xbox One X

We’ve heard time and time again of the famed 6 Teraflops but that didn’t stop Kareem Choudhry taking to the stage to cram the impressive tech into our eye holes for one last time. To be fair to Microsoft it is a big deal and the raw power of the console is genuinely impressive. 6 Teraflop GPU with clocked at 1.172GHz, 12GB GDDR5 RAM & 326GB/s of memory bandwidth. Now, I don’t class myself as being massively technically astute but them be some high specs! As expected it was also announced that all Xbox One games will work on Xbox One X. So too will the accessories.

Gamers can rest assured that this is merely an extension of the Xbox One rather than a replacement. It was also reiterated that older games will see a benefit and, by standard, run better on the Xbox One X. There was also a list of games announced which will release free updates, patching them for the true 4K experience. Games such as; Gears of War 4, Forza Horizon 3, The Witcher 3 and Fallout 4 to name a few. All of this equates to there actually being stuff to play on the Xbox One X when it releases on November 7th.

Xbox One X comparison Xbox One S

Not quite as forthcoming as the initial reveal, Phil did quietly mention the price at the end of the conference. The Xbox One X will be releasing for £449 ($499) which has divided opinion. Personally, this seems completely reasonable for the power and quality you’re getting with the Xbox One X. The console is clearly catering for the tech savvy and those that want the best experience from a home console. That being said it’s also a price that will put off first-time buyers or those that maybe wouldn’t appreciate the whole true 4K standpoint. In summary – a fair price for the tech but quite high for the average gamer.

But of course, a gaming powerhouse is nothing without games but fortunately, Microsoft delivered on that front too. Showcasing 42 games, 22 of which were ‘exclusive’.

Ultra true 4K HD realism

Grand reveal aside it was time to see the console in action and what better way to showcase that power than with a Forza game. E3 regular, Dan Greenawalt, took to the stage to unveil Forza Motorsport 7. The Forza series has always been a flagship for pushing the Xbox hardware and Forza Motorsport 7 isn’t falling short. The game features over 700 cars, a variety of mixed environment tracks, dynamic weather and day and night cycles. On top of that, it runs at 60fps in 4K.

Forza Motorsport 7 trailer

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Shortly following the Forza Motorsport 7 reveal was the surprise announcement of a new Metro game – Metro Exodus. The 5-minute trailer looked absolutely stunning with incredible attention and such an immersive atmosphere, particularly at the beginning of the trailer. All of the action was set to a remixed version of ‘In the House In a Heartbeat’, a song that I [insert expletive here] love, so there was that too. The Metro games nail immersion and Metro Exodus looks no different, hitting it completely out of the park. This time around, however, Metro will be in set in an open-world environment but it’s clear from the trailer that opening up the world isn’t going to detract from what makes the Metro games great.

Metro Exodus trailer

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The hard-hitting titles didn’t stop there either. Next up Assassin’s Creed Origins, the game that literally everyone knew about but also didn’t really know much about. Another 5-minute trailer was shown, this time focusing on the gameplay. As leaked by literally the entire World Assassin’s Creed Origins will be based in Egypt and focuses on the very beginnings of the Assassin’s order. The game has said to be reworked significantly from the previous titles offering up more RPG style elements. These were present in the trailer, in particular, character levelling up and progression alongside the ability to pick up better weapons from fallen foes. From the short snippet of gameplay, it’s clear that Assassin’s Creed Origins is still an Assasin’s Creed game but it does have a lick of something that sets it apart from the old titles. I guess they’ve nailed the brief then.

Assassin’s Creed Origins trailer

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Quickfire round

After spending a bit of time showing off the impressive 4K lineup the conference shifted it up a gear, bombarding viewers with an onslaught of game trailers. It’s also worth noting that the majority of these games will also be taking advantage of the Xbox One X’s 4K. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds was first out the gate announcing its arrival on Xbox One in November. Finally, the game that everyone is playing on PC is coming to console. PlayerUnkown’s Battlegrounds will ship on Xbox One with all the updates that are currently being worked on, or scheduled for, the PC version and a 4K update will also be available for download on release date.

PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds trailer

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If Dwarves, Minecraft and No Man’s Sky had a love child Deep Rock Galactic would be it. The four-player co-op game sets players out on a journey to harvest planets of their valuable resources, all whilst trying to stop the hordes of the planet’s hostile inhabitants.

Deep Rock Galactic trailer

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Next up was a bit of a longer affair, a gameplay trailer for State of Decay 2. The trailer did a great job of showcasing what to expect from State of Decay 2, some would arguably say that’s the main point of a trailer. Everything that made the original great looks to return, and some. Also, like the original, it looks a little janky but that’s all part of its charm. There is no doubt, though, that graphically the game does looks much improved.

State of Decay 2 trailer

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Just as I thought this conference was going cringe-free a chap takes to the stage and begins hooting and hollering at the action of The Darwin Project. In true over the top eSports commentary style, the narrator over-egged the game action pudding but the game still looks pretty cool. The Darwin Project seeks to bring small scale Battle Royale gameplay to the Xbox and does so whilst wrapped a Smite style voile.

The Darwin Project trailer

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Minecraft then made an appearance dropping the announcement of a shared universe across most gaming platforms. That’s right, Minecraft will be supporting cross-platform gameplay and it looks like you’ll also be able to share your World’s across devices too. In keeping with the Xbox One X’s, true 4K mantra, there will also be an update for Minecraft coming later this year. The update will bump up the resolution to 4K but also comes with some extra graphical upgrades including redesigned textures and better lighting.

Minecraft trailer

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It was now time for Phil to show off some different games, i.e. ones that aren’t the mainstream usuals you’d expect from an Xbox conference. Dragon Ball FighterZ kicked off this segment and it looks absolutely ridiculous, in a good way. I literally didn’t know what was happening on screen. Initially, I put this down to knowing nothing about Dragon Ball Z but ultimately I think it’s down to the game just being nuts. I really want to play.

Dragon Ball FighterZ trailer

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Next up was Black Desert, an MMO that has been out on PC for a few years now. The gameplay looked great, again in 4K, and has the over the top fight style you come to expect from this genre of game. Not a lot else was announced about the game but if I were to sum it up it would be Elder Scrolls X Anime, like the whole of anime. It is worth pointing out that I don’t read/watch anime so take that with a bucket o’salt. And, I mean, the game is already out so I could’ve researched this bit better. Moving on.

Black Desert trailer

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The next two titles can definitely be crowned “Most stylish game” although there are two of them so they’ll need to fight it out amongst themselves. The Last Night is a 2.5D 16-bit 3d game with neon stuff in it. I mean, it’s difficult to explain in text but visually this game looks the nuts. It’s also reeks of Bladerunner which certainly adds to the appeal. The Artful Escape, however, is a little more grounded in traditional art style but once the trailer kicks off, shit gets real. It’s the most glam rock game I’ve ever seen, on account of there not being many of them around. It does, however, look insanely fun and over the top.

The Last Night trailer

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The Artful Escape trailer

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Pirates didn’t just steal the treasure, they stole the show

Then came the sea, the beautiful, beautiful sea. It’s no secret that Rare has become somewhat less Rare of late. The team were focused on pushing out Kinect shovelware for the 360 era and most of the veteran devs left to form Playtonic. But then, a beacon of light shone just two years ago when it was announced that Rare were working on a new game, a proper game – Sea of Thieves.

Sea of Thieves returned once again to the Xbox stage with a 10-minute gameplay trailer packed to the brim with all things nice. The 10-minute trailer was narrated throughout and fortunately lends reassurance that Rare have still got that great sense of humour. Humour is always an interesting avenue at game conferences but the Sea of Thieves trailer absolutely nailed it, it was genuinely funny. Arse kissing aside the game itself is still looking great. The cartoon-esque art style fits perfectly with this type of game and there must be some kind of witchcraft at play when it comes to the water in the game. Seriously, the water is incredible.

Sea of Thieves has been in closed beta for a while now but to the general public, there hasn’t been much info released into what you actually do in the game. Fortunately, the trailer helps in this regard, showing off the various situations you and your crew can get into. With the trailer highlighting exploration as the main source of entertainment. The player begins by diving into the sea, discovering a shipwreck and scouring the sodden woodwork for bits of treasure. The returned cargo reveals a treasure map with a series of riddles that once followed leads the crew to a cave. Here the crew has to band together in order to secure the mother lode of treasure whilst holding back the hordes of fallen pirates before them. This venture ultimately ends in a sea battle between two large vessels in which the player launches themselves from a cannon to attack the enemy ship.

From start to finish I was encapsulated by the Sea of Thieves trailer. Yet, I can sense that this won’t be a game for everyone. Sea of Thieves is wholly focused on the “do what you like” type of gameplay which certainly won’t appeal to everyone. But with 4-player co-op in an open-world against other players you’d find it hard not to enjoy. In fact, Sea of Thieves just looks like fun. Remember fun, kids?

Sea of Thieves E3 2017 gameplay walkthrough

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Quickfire round 2

After the big Sea of Thieves segment, it was time to showcase a bunch of other titles, namely indie games. A trailer for Tacoma didn’t really allude to what the game is actually about but certainly cast a feeling of intrigue. Shortly followed by this was a trailer for Super Lucky’s Tale, a 3D platformer akin to Yooka Laylee and the like. You may have heard of Lucky’s Tale before, as originally it was a launch title for the Oculus Rift but this is its first venture onto the console scene. Cuphead also made a reappearance but this time it has a release date!! Cuphead is actually coming out, it’s a real thing. September 29th, mark your calendars.

Tacoma trailer

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Super Lucky’s Tale trailer

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Cuphead trailer

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Nestled between the indie games was a trailer for Crackdown 3, a game that we’ve not really heard of for a while since the big “Cloud Computing” furore. Strangely, though, the trailer didn’t really showcase a huge amount. I was expecting a big song and dance about the mass destructible environments and how Xbox One X will make it look that ever sweeter. Instead, we got Terry Crews shouting for a minute followed by a montage of single player action shots. Don’t get me wrong, what was shown looked fine, but I was certainly expecting a bit more.

Crackdown 3 trailer

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ID@Xbox then made a resurgence with a montage [insert link to Team America here] showcasing the breadth of titles we can expect to see coming to the Xbox family over the next year, or so. There were some familiar faces within the montage but it was a great way to showcase the variety of upcoming content. Then, the eye of Xbox Sauron shifted its gaze upon Ashen, an action-adventure game set in a land covered in Ash. This too looked incredibly stylised and had an intriguing air about it, I’m a sucker for mystery. It was also riddled with darkness, but literally and metaphorically, with hideous creatures lurking in the explorable caverns.

ID@Xbox E3 2017 montage

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Ashen trailer

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Then came a double tap of emotion. Life is Strange and a brand new Ori game. Right, I’m going to come clean. I’ve not yet played Life is Strange nor Ori and the Blind Forest. Yes, I can sense your seething tempers. So now that a sequel/prequel is announced it’s the perfect time to jump in, right? Both games looked great, in particular, Ori and the Will of the Wisps which was accompanied by a live piano rendition just to add more feels. Even though my ignorant self could truly appreciate these announcements, I know for a fact these two will have a strong backing when they release.

Life is Strange: Before the Storm trailer

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Ori and the Will of the Wisps trailer

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Shadow of Phwoar

Yes, I’ve used that pun before, but the game looks awesome! The 7-minute video of Shadow of War showcased the improved recruitment and army building mechanics, and it was riddled with humour to boot. Another genuinely funny video, what’s happening?! Middle Earth: Shadow of War is another of Xbox One X’s flagship 4K titles and you can see why. There’s so much detail packed into this game it’s almost criminal. Visuals aside the core game looks like a ridiculous amount of fun. The trailer showed off a fight between two Orcs, one of which doesn’t get away so lightly. Quickly the player, Talion, jumps into the action and with the power of Celebrimbor recruits the beast for his own personal army. Cut to a few minutes later and we lay witness to the siege of a nearby fort, inhabited by a two-headed Orc, by an entire army recruited by yourself. There wasn’t really anything we haven’t already seen in the trailer, just more of it, but I’m happy with that.

Middle Earth: Shadow of War trailer

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Exit Music for a Conference

Then came the encore, the final hoorah. The final announcement was actually teased the night before during EA’s conference but we were now witnessing actual gameplay of Anthem. Turns out Bioware has been secretly working on a brand new IP called Anthem which resembles a Destiny Titanfall mashup. I mean, that sounds like a great combo, right?

Whilst all the games that followed Assassin’s Creed had Xbox One X enhancements for 4K, none of them felt all that “wow”. The Anthem showed up. The trailer begins in first-person and you’re introduced to a character who needs your help. Navigating the small market showed off the incredible detail, from the stalls to the characters that stood in the player’s path. But it wasn’t until the player suited up that the game truly felt awe inspiring. The player entered the ExoSuit (Javelin) and ventured out beyond the wall. The Vista set before the player was equally as stunning as the attention to detail in the marketplace before. Then, the jump. The band of players soared through the skies, navigating through caves and snaking through forest growth.

The world feels alive. It’s vast with fauna and flora. Animals scurry into the undergrowth once startled by the player’s presence. The storms feel vicious, intoxicating, trailing up the plantation, tossing it to and fro. All of this sums up to a world that is begging to be explored, something that is key for this type of game. The only thing marring this beauty that lay before was the god-awful faux dialogue. Stop doing it! No one talks like that IRL! You shits!! Ahem, sorry. Shit parlance aside Anthem has truly piqued my interest, least not because it’s helmed by Bioware.

Anthem Official Gameplay trailer

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That’s a wrap

And that was that, 90+ minutes of pure content. It was clear going in that Microsoft needed to bring their A game this year and I genuinely can’t fault them. They’ve showcased an incredible amount of quality content. Not only that but the usual suspects were nowhere to be seen which opened up the stage to a variety of different and genuinely interesting games. There was an influx of indie-like games and of course some titles that would appeal to markets where Xbox isn’t quite as popular. We wanted games, Microsoft showed games. Many, many games. However.

That all said and done this was Microsoft’s chance to really sell the Xbox One X and I can’t help but feel like it fell a bit flat. There’s no denying that the console can output visually incredible games, that was showcased with Forza Motorsport 7, Metro and Anthem. The thing is a beast and it’s reasonably priced for its makeup. The 4K support for games, both upcoming and already released, is something to be praised. But with all these positivities there still wasn’t enough for me personally, an Xbox One owner with no 4K TV, to warrant a purchase of the new console. Still, this shouldn’t tarnish what was otherwise a sterling performance from Microsoft and it’s great that they’ve finally announced Project Scorpio. I’m already looking forward to next year’s E3.

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