Xbox E3 2018 Recap and Review

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The Conference

So what actually happened?

A whole lot. The Xbox guys said this was going to be their biggest E3 and they weren’t lying. Taking place in a new venue across the road from E3 HQ, in the Microsoft Theatre, Xbox started its keynote with a bang, with a teaser/graphics engine showpiece of Halo Infinite. However, not much was revealed about the game itself other than it being powered by the new Slipspace engine. The trailer has got many tongues wagging about it maybe going open world but we’ll have to wait to learn more. Then out came “Xbox Saviour” Phil Spencer to rapturous applause to talk Xbox, gaming and what’s coming in the keynote; 50 Games, 18 (console launch) Exclusives, and 15 world premiere trailers. It’s going to be a long one so let’s jump in.

We are treated to a new visually stunning trailer for Ori and the Will of the Wisps. The game looks incredible, somehow even more so than the original and the gameplay looks just as tough too. Next, it’s on to the latest from From Software (& Activision but don’t let that put you off) with their Samurai action game Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice. Coming from that developer you already know the quality and Sekiro looks to continue that prestigious line of amazing games. It was quite a shock to see it debut on the Xbox stage, not the last time that thought will occur either. Todd Howard from Bethesda made his way on to the stage next, to show off Fallout 76. Personally, I’ve never got into the series but for those that are, Fallout 76 is a prequel with a map 4 times the size of Fallout 4. Speaking of which Fallout 4 was announced as now joining Xbox Gamepass. ’76 looks very pretty and is apparently online only, which is a new take on the series, although that may annoy some purists.

A new Life is Strange game was announced called The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit and seems to be about a kid dealing with the loss of his mother while playing superheroes. It looks interesting and should definitely appeal to fans of the series, plus it’s free to download from June 26th. Next up was yet another trailer for Crackdown 3, this time doubling down on Terry Crews’ goodness and confirming the rumoured delay to February 2019. While the game still looks fun, yet another delay has me feeling that when it does finally release, will we still care? Hopefully, the delays are leading to an amazing finished product.

More news from Japan as previous PS4 exclusive title Nier: Automata is finally getting an Xbox release, 26th June 2018, including all previous DLC and enhancements for Xbox One X. Hopefully, the highly acclaimed game will get the support it deserves from the Xbox owning public. The latest story trailer for Metro Exodus is up next, continuing to impress with a graphic fidelity that I think will have many suspicious until they are it running on a console themselves.

Yet another trailer from the East on the Xbox stage now as Kingdom Hearts 3 shows off its brand new trailer and confirms its release on the Microsoft console. Showing off the Frozen world of Arendelle and plenty of combat. The team at Square Enix have certainly done their research as the game’s graphics match those of the animations they are mimicking almost flawlessly. More home grown software now as Sea of Thieves gets trotted out again at E3. Though this time in a humorous cartoon describing its two upcoming expansions Cursed Sails (coming July) & Forsaken Shores (September). The content mentioned sounds great with skeleton crewed ships entering the battle but the funny script of the trailer just made me want an NPC filled solo campaign all the more.

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As promised at the EA conference, Battlefield V makes an appearance at the Xbox keynote though it’s such a short video you have wonder why they even bothered. I’m guessing it’s to reaffirm that with CoD is still partnered with PS4, Battlefield V is still marketing with Microsoft’s console.

Now the conference is going up a gear with the absolutely astonishing trailer for Forza Horizon 4. The open world racer is set in a “patchwork quilt” version of Britain. Seasonal weather is the big thing this year and to be fair to developer Playground, it all looked bloody amazing. Xbox One X is also getting a 60fps mode this year too which will be music to the ears if racing fans. This is a series where you keep wondering “how are they gonna top that?”…and they always do. Releasing October 2nd and entering Gamepass on the same day.

Phil Spencer takes to the stage again to talk about exclusive games. A huge area of criticism for Xbox to be fair. Well, Phil calmed many fears by announcing not only increased investment in current franchises but also by making new ones. Microsoft announced the addition of 5 new development studios under its umbrella; a brand new studio in Santa Monica called The Initiative, Undead Labs (fresh off of State of Decay 2), Playground Games (who are making another open world game that isn’t Forza), Ninja Theory (yep the same team behind Hellblade, DMC & Enslaved) and Compulsion Games (creators of We Happy Few). Phil confirmed that the five studios will be given resources and, most importantly, creative freedom. This was the night’s mic drop moment and it was great to hear. Following on nicely from that was a brand new trailer of We Happy Few. Showing a much more structured and narrative based game than what was available in game preview. Although it feels like the game is taking forever to release, this is one title that does seem to be improving with each delay.

PUBG had to be in here somewhere and here it is with a short video showing a new map, war mode, some new equipment and then teasing a snow covered map coming in future. If you like PUBG and haven’t gone running to Fortnite, it seems the devs are finally getting some more frequent updates out now…but will they ever get it to run well? We can only hope.

Tales of Vesperia Definitive Edition arrives on Xbox with a wonderfully animated gameplay trailer, further increasing Japan’s presence (and importance) on the Xbox platform. It’s great to see the more variation in Xbox software catalog due to more international support.

Next up, The Division 2. An announcement trailer then full gameplay segment TD2 looks to be a huge improvement on an already decent original game. The Snowdrop engine is looking nicer than ever with an expansive but detailed world map of Washington. The keynote slows down a bit now, ironically with the topic of Fast Start. After talking about the success of Game Pass, head of engineering Ashley Speicher talks for what feels like hours about some clever tech jargon which means your games will be able to start early with installing. It’s a nice feature but they seemed to take the air out of the room a bit. She did, however, end on a highly by announcing The Division, Elder Scrolls Online and Fallout 4 are all entering game pass now, along with Xbox One X enhancements.

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From Game pass to ID@Xbox, a wonderful montage trailer of indie games is shown containing intriguing looking games like Outer Wilds, Afterparty, Fringe Wars, Below (when will it ever release?!), Waking, Super Meatboy Forever, Planet Alpha, Sable, The Wind Road, Generation Zero (which I’m hearing is like Left4Dead but with Robots, not Zombies) & Ashen. There’s even more in the trailer so I suggest you check it out. ID@Xbox has been a great success. In a time when studios seem to only want to back sequels, the Indie will always be there creating new ways to play.

Lara Croft makes her E3 showing as expected with a new Shadow of the Tomb Raider video. The game looks great but although I’m a huge fan of the series, I’m struggling to get hyped for this entry. Its more of the same, which should be a good thing, but for me something feels off. The first real disappointment of the night was the announcement on Session. Not because the new skateboarding game looked bad in any way but because for a brief second, I thought it was Skate 4…and it wasn’t….and now I’m sad. Fingers crossed Session plays well enough that well all be thinking…Skate Who?

The MMORPG Black Desert looked great for what it is, with its highly detailed world and cool character design, but it’s not my kind of game.

Capcom hits the crowd with a brilliant trailer for Devil May Cry 5 (Sorry Ninja Theory’s DMC, you’re out). The game looks to be everything you’d want from a Devil May Cry but better. Even game director Hideaki Itsuno says he’s convinced it’s the best game he’s ever made, and who are we to question that?

Cuphead is getting a new playable character (Ms. Chalice), a brand new Isle with new Bosses, weapons, and charms to use in its expansion “The Delicious Last Course”, or DLC for short. Cuphead was a true piece of gaming art when it arrived so the idea of getting more just feels with childlike joy. From one beautiful game buy a small team to another, the next game is Tunic. An isometric adventure that has shades of Zelda about it. It’s been developed by just one person which is unbelievable when you look at the quality on show. One to watch for sure.

Bandai Namco gives the world its first look at the anime crossover beat em up that is Jump Force. This game looks absolutely insane, with characters from Dragon Ball, Death Note, One Piece and Naruto battling in what seems to be fairly realistic environments. I cannot wait to find out more.

A detailed section on Dying Light 2 followed. Demonstrating the improved parkour traversing, environmental weapons, branching storylines and how your actions greatly affect the world around you. It was a very impressive showing and seems to be improving on everything the first game did which is exactly what you want from any sequel.

Speaking of sequels, the long awaited sequel to Battletoads was (barely) announced. No gameplay, no images, nothing but a title and a blurb. Bit annoying really but nice to know it’s coming. The trailer for Just Cause 4 was up next, with a stunning open world, crazy action and a very large tornado you’d be surprised to know that this trailer was lacking the humour of the previous game’s in the series but who knows, maybe by the time it releases on December 4th, Rico Rodriguez will have found his smile.

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The next sequence of events I can only assume was deliberate trolling by Rod Ferguson. The blood omen appears on the screen, the crowd goes nuts (“woo hoo a new Gears game!”), but then the omen is destroyed by a cute, bobble-headed Marcus Fenix. Ladies & Gentlemen I present to you the new mobile game Gears POP!, based on the Funko POP toyline (erm…okay) but that’s not all (oh thank god), we also have Gears Tactics, a kind of Xcom meets Gears title exclusive to PC (wait what? Exclusive to pc? That’s bs!). Oh and here’s a Gears 5 trailer. I’m not going to lie, I’m a huge fan of the Gears series, so this trailer was one of, if not the highlight, of the show for me. Hearing that Kait is the focus for this installment over JD Fenix makes total sense after how the last game ended. The graphics looked fantastic and with the new bio mechanical enemies, there looks to be a return to the horror vibe of the original game.

And there we go. Phil comes out a discusses the future of Xbox. Advancements in gaming AI, streaming console quality gaming on your device and the next Xbox is in development. The future looks bright for Xbox

What was shown?

One More Thing?

Did the Xbox E3 keynote just get hacked? Yep by CD Projekt Red and their new trailer for Cyberpunk 2077!

Verdict

I don’t think they could have done much better. All three of Xbox biggest franchises got a showing. They had other exclusives like Ori 2 & Crackdown 3, they showed that they have huge 3rd party support especially from Japan. They had plenty of world premiere trailers, yes many where for multiplats but those will be some of the most popular games of the year.

With yearly rumours of “Microsoft is going to sell the Xbox division” and “They’re so far behind Sony, they won’t even make another console”, the whole conference seemed to be about restoring faith in the Xbox brand. With studio acquisitions, awesome exclusive titles and continuing to improve and innovate its services with things like FastStart and chucking in more be names into the Game pass catalog, the message was Xbox isn’t going anywhere.

Plus ending their conference with what many (who’ve seen gameplay behind closed doors) are calling the game of E3 with Cyberpunk 2077 was genius. As you can tell, I thought Xbox did an amazing job and certainly lived up to the “biggest ever” hype train they were selling in the weeks leading up to it. Well Done to the Xbox team.

Xbox E3 2018 Conference

9.2

Gameplay

8.5/10

Reveals

9.0/10

Showcase

10.0/10

Cool

  • So many great games shown
  • They bought Ninja Theory!
  • Xbox finally understands the importance of exclusives

Not Cool

  • It's a shame more exclusives aren't ready to be shown yet
  • More details on Battletoads and Halo Infinite would have been nice