With Microsoft’s performance last year being semi-lackluster, combined with all of the tensions they’ve made with their audience from stupid decisions culminating in their YouTube channel’s recent push towards basically sectioning all gamers off into groups, it’s safe to say that my expectations are a bit low for this year’s E3 conference. Having last-minute leaks about Project Scorpio, now being coined the Xbox One X, being released on social media by Geoff Keighley probably doesn’t help matters. However, this time around, you could tell something changed with Microsoft, because their presentation game had been upped considerably for 2017.

The conference opened with a video showing the timeline of screen resolutions as used by notable titles from the Xbox library, from original to One. Upon reaching 4K, we got the reveal of the Xbox One X with the tagline “Feel True Power” and rendering several Microsoft franchise titles to demonstrate how it would look, followed by dropping the release date of November 11, 2017. Afterwards, they refreshed us all on the specs that were discussed for Project Scorpio last year, and threw in some new additions – for starters, the Xbox One X is now able to play 4K Blu-Ray DVDs, and is entirely backwards-compatible with accessories and games all the way back to the original Xbox One, including shortened loading times for those games. The Scorpio Engine processor they made to power all of this is so intense that, in order to keep it from overheating, each unit has a server cooling system installed by default. Additionally, it’s so economical in resources that it’s simultaneously the smallest and most powerful Xbox ever made.

To start showing this off, Microsoft premiered “Forza Motorsport 7“, and simultaneously announced the newest Porsche car – the 2018 Porsche 911 GT2 RS – as available to see for the first time in the world at E3, and as the flagship car for this series entry. Additionally, they had actual racers showing off both how the car performs in-game and the natural weather effects of the game, all in true native 4K at 60FPS without a single drop. After announcing FM7 as an Xbox Play Anywhere title, they announced that there would be a total of 42 games shown off at the conference, 22 of which are Xbox One Exclusives. Right after this, we were shown the newest title in the critically acclaimed Metro series, “Metro Exodus“, and with that a new addition to the world – clean outdoor air. With some time having passed after the events of Last Light, the surface world has slowly become somewhat habitable again… though not without dangers such as giant mutated bears. As the surface starts getting slowly reclaimed, we were given a release timeframe of within 2018.

Next we were thrust into the leaked-days-before “Assassin’s Creed: Origins“, the newest title in the series promising to tell the origin story of the Brotherhood of Assassins both by exploring 3000 years’ worth of Egyptian history and encountering supernatural beings of Egyptian mythology. Playing as the last of the Medjay, named Bayek, you and your companion eagle Senu work to fight the corruption taking hold in the Egyptian empire. To accomplish this, new assassination techniques and equipment have been added to the game, such as loot drops with equipment rarity (a first in the series) and manually-guided arrows. After showing off a successful killing of a target, we were given a release date of October 27, 2017.

After this, Microsoft announced that they were partnering with Mixer to handle streaming for the Xbox One X., and almost to go hand-in-hand with this, wound up announcing Playerunknown’s “Battlegrounds” coming to Xbox One with a patch allowing 4K compatibility. We were then shown more trailers for Xbox One exclusives, such as the team-focused mining-shooting co-op FPS that is “Deep Rock Galactic“, the zombie survival sequel “State of Decay 2”, and a strange game called “The Darwin Project” which was… very oddly combining survival and eSports in aesthetic (honestly, it’s very hard to think of what this game should be). After all this, we received a big update regarding “Minecraft” – not only would there be more content coming in through the Community Marketplace, but it was officially announced that all versions of Minecraft across all platforms will have online integrated into global community-run servers, along with a 4K resolution update called the SUPER DUPER GRAPHICS PACK!!

We were then flung into the world premiere trailer for the leaked “Dragon Ball Fighter Z“, promising intense 3v3 2.5D fighting action with destructible backgrounds, ranging from Z all the way into Super! And immediately following that was the announcement of the popular MMO “Black Desert” being brought exclusively to Xbox One for the X’s launch, and then we got more indie titles, starting with the Flashback-esque retro-style 2D/3D hybrid “The Last Night“, followed by what seemed to be a platforming/rhythm game hybrid called “The Artful Escape“, only to be hit with the trailer for the vampiric hack-n-slasher “Code Vein“, which looks freaking awesome!

And shortly after that we were then treated to an update on Rare’s ambitious “Sea of Thieves“, allowing you to join other players and build your own crew through a shared world, swim to scavenge shipwrecks, escape deadly sharks, solve riddles to uncover massive islands filled with hidden areas and secret treasures guarded by many dangers, launch yourselves from ship cannons to serve as expert shortcuts, and engage in PvP ship and crew battles. It became quite obvious that Rare really wishes to capture the pirating feel from pop culture past and present, and they’re doing a fantastic job so far.

Next was a vague and uninformative for “Tacoma”, followed by the world premiere of another Xbox Play Anywhere title, the whimsical “Super Lucky’s Tale”. This game, in particular, feels like an amazing mix between Banjo-Kazooie and Super Mario Galaxy, allowing you to jump, climb, dig, and tail whip your way through loads of platforming and collecting challenges while coming across plenty of adorable critters along the way. We then got an update on “Cuphead”, now officially an Xbox Play Anywhere title due for release September 29, 2017. Right after that was the official retitling of the “Crackdown” game showcased last year, now called “Crackdown 3” and starring the magnificent ham that is Terry Crews as the new Agency Commander. The game basically promises to bring the best of both Crackdown titles and more, and it looks to very well fulfill that promise.

Up next was a showcase of the remaining majority of the promised 42 titles as part of the new [email protected] program, which is the latest iteration of Microsoft’s attempt to work with indie studios. As part of the program, they showed off another system exclusive title called “Ashen“, in which you fight through and explore a world being consumed by darkness to find and harness the light trapped within. Shortly after that, we were teased with the prequel to Life is Strange, the odd little Square Enix game with the odd cult following. Called Life is Strange: Before the Storm, the first three episodes were teased to be released starting August 2017. We were then given more info on the upcoming sequel, “Middle-Earth: Shadow of War“, focused on two new additions to the signature nemesis system. Domination allows you to convert nemeses to serve under your command and gives plenty of personality to those who follow you, and nemesis fortresses are challenges allowing you to assemble your army of converted nemeses to attack even stronger enemies and gain advantage over the reign of Sauron.

Right after the showcasing, we were given the trailer for an Xbox Play Anywhere sequel to “Ori and the Blind Forest“, one of the most beautiful and challenging indie titles out of there. Titled “Ori and the Will of the Wisps“, it looks to bring more of its world to us in all its glory. To further pull the rug out from under the audience, Microsoft then made the announcement that they were working on bringing original Xbox games into the Xbox Backwards-Compatibility program, including cult classic “Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge“, complete with upgraded visuals and full online functionality, all launching later this year. Additionally, select Xbox One titles would also be getting the free Xbox One X Enhanced patch, allowing full 4K compatibility to prepare for the X launch.

Last but not least, we had the teased carryover from the EA conference, “Anthem”. Playing as an explorer and hero called a “Freelancer”, you venture beyond the walls of humanity’s last city in a customizable exo-suit called a Javelin. With the Javelin, you are able to fly, run, swim, and blast your way through the world, exploring uncharted areas, obtaining more powerful gear through spontaneously-spawned world events, fighting through world-altering Shaper Storms, and ultimately working to find the truth behind the threat to humanity lurking within the far reaches of the world. You thankfully won’t have to do it all alone either, as you’re given the opportunity for co-op of up to four players with seamless drop-in and drop-out. This is clearly the showcasing of BioWare’s A-team studio (those of you fearing a repeat of “Mass Effect: Andromeda” won’t have to worry as that was handled by the C-team in Montreal), and looks to be the best thing that could possibly be associated with EA this year.

All in all, this year’s Microsoft conference was a much greater improvement over their performance at E3 last year. They put more focus on the games and what the new Xbox One X had in store for those games, and with that focus they pretty much knocked it out of the park. It wasn’t quite perfect due to the slow start with talking about specs yet again, but it’s hard to imagine how any of the remaining E3 2017 conferences could possibly top this one.

Robin Ek – Editor

Jim Meldrum
The Gaming Ground
Twitter: @nomuru2d

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