By Julian Benson and Matt Wales
Here we go! Microsoft kicks things off by having a video of a load of its upcoming games broken down into ethereal digital dust. It looks snazzy but, c’mon, you don’t want that in the living room.
Phil Spencer marches on stage to tell us about the Xbox One X, the final name for Project Scorpio. I was hoping for something a little more exciting. A nice, simple Xbox Scorpio would have been nice. Our Phil is soon joined by Kareem Choudhry who is mostly here to say a bunch of large numbers at the audience, who clap and whoop like there’s no tomorrow. “12gb GDDR5 memory,” he says. The crowd goes wild.
Xbox One X will be out on November 7th, and it'll cost £449 in the UK.
Onto the games, and first up is an old favourite: Forza Motorsport 7. Old favourite because, back in 2015, Microsoft lowered a car from the ceiling and spent loads of time talking about Drivatars rather than the game itself. This year there’s no Drivatar talk but Microsoft sticks to form by talking about a new Porsche instead of the game. It didn't come down from the ceiling, which made us sad.
Microsoft gets the show back on track (lol car joke) in short order, by showing off some in-game footage and explaining that in Forza 7 puddles will grow dynamically and cars will rattle. Truly the future of driving is here.
At this point, Spencer announces that the focus of the show is games, games, games. They've got 42 games to show off in total — which brings a cry of despair from us in our Skype chat — 22 of which will be console exclusives on the Xbox One.
As we settle down to wear our fingers to bloody nubs, we're introduced to 4A Games' new Metro game: Exodus. It looks very pretty, with grander open world segments than we’re used to seeing in the series.
We go straight from Metro Exodus to Ubisoft, with Microsoft finally putting an end to all the rumours: Assassin's Creed: Origins is real. It is, as has been heavily rumoured ad infinitum, set in Ancient Egypt, and it looks very bloody pretty indeed. We get a nice little mood-setting cinematic trailer, and a rather meatier slab of gameplay, feature eagles and many delightful hippos.
And on we go! The massively successful Playerunknown’s Battlegrounds battle royale thingy is coming to the Xbox One family later this year - just the ticket if you’re in the mood for violent, 100-person mayhem.
From there we go into a wonderful looking co-op shooter from Coffee Stain, the team behind Sanctum and Goat Simulator. It's called Deep Rock Galactic and it looks a little like Starship Troopers' famous fort defence scene if it were set in a voxel world.
And then some zombies in State of Decay 2. We get a nice long gameplay look that covers pretty much everything you could hope for, including driving, building, and some post-apocalyptic chat.
Christ, these games are coming thick and fast, more than our poor fingers can handle. Next up is The Darwin Project, it’s a last man standing shooter with a cartoonish edge.
Okay, so this isn’t the most exciting thing in the world, but as a massive Minecraft fan, I’m thrilled that cross-play is coming to the game this summer. According to Mojang, players will be able to mingle across mobile, console, windows 10 and VR, and there will be player-created content sharing too. There’s also a special fancy new look for Minecraft on Xbox One X in the form of an upcoming 4K graphics pack.
Black Desert a very good-looking MMO that's been picking up attention on PC, and will soon be making the jump over to Xbox One.
Now, this is just getting silly, the game trailers are barely 40 seconds long, with no gap. There’s no way we can possible cover—
The Last Night is clearly inspired by Blade Runner, with flying cars, neon lights, and a grim dirty looking city.
Before we can even begin to parse all that though, it's onto The Artful Escape which looks like the sleeve cover of a psychedelic prog rock band was made into a game.
Sea of Thieves gameplay footage now. It still looks bloody gorgeous and seems to tick all the right boxes as far as high-seas-faring piratical high-jinx goes. Delightfully, our look at the game this year is focussing heavily on on-land action, and treasure hunting in gloomy, mysterious caves - a refreshing change from the spirited sailing we’ve seen in recent years. The on-land stuff looks evocative, with ancient treasures and mysterious traps, just the kind of thing this wannabe pirate has been hoping for.
Tacoma gets a brief teaser of a trailer, just long enough to announced that it’s coming out on August 2nd.
Oh and here's something we've been waiting hoping to hear forever: Cuphead finally has a release date. It's coming out on September 29th, so not too long before we can get our hands on this stylish platformer.
Crackdown 3 has come back from its long hiatus to remind us all that it still exists but I was surprised that Microsoft didn’t show off any of the game's destruction tech. That’s what sold it when it was first announced back in 2015. On stage today, where it could have been a great advert for the Scorpio’s power, it was oddly absent.
Now, thankfully for our fingers, we get a bit of respite, in the form of a brisk trailer bundling up a whole bunch of forthcoming indie games, featuring the likes of Osiris: New Dawn, Brawlout, Ooblets, Dark Light, Strange Brigade, River Bond, Hello Neighbour, and Conan Exiles. Plus many, many more that go too fast for our eyeballs to see.
Ashen is a new third-person action adventure that looks rather splendid. It's got a beautiful minimalist art style and some truly eye-catching animation. I couldn't really tell you what it's about, save that the trailer had spooky spiders, violent cave spelunking and a big man-thing - but those are still some good things to have.
Life is Strange: Before the Storm now. It’s our first look at the game that isn’t Life is Strange 2, and it’s a prequel to the thing what's gone before. Based on the trailer, we can expect another beautifully moody slice of low-key adventure action.
Ori and the Blind Forest is getting a sequel: Ori and the Will of Wisps. It’s oh-so-gorgeous and the new trailer is accompanied by a live piano performance on-stage to really drive home that excellent music.
Phil Spencer is back to announce that original Xbox titles will soon be backwards compatible on Xbox One. He’s drawing special attention to Crimson Skies — the real best game on Xbox, as we all secretly know — which will run better and look prettier when it comes to Xbox One. That could be the best news of the show for me.
Also there are 4K updates to Resident Evil 7, Final Fantasy 15, Ghost Recon Wildlands incoming too, among other games.
The Xbox One S will be getting a price drop down to $200 and the Xbox One X will be $499 come its November release (that's £449 in the UK), which makes the dinky-fied version of the Xbox One a cheap starting device. Of course, with the Xbox One X on the way, would it be worth picking up the (now) underpowered console?
The final game of the show — thank the #contentGods — is Anthem, the new open world third-person shooter from Bioware. It looks utterly gorgeous, drawing gasps of surprise from us in the group Skype chat at multiple points, in particular when one player seems to jump from a clifftop to jetpack down into a tropical forest, or all done seamlessly and beautifully.
In summary, that was a solid show from Microsoft, some games to be excited about, and not just ones from the biggest developers. The new name for Scorpio is a little pants but Microsoft doesn’t exactly have form when it comes to exciting product names. It would have been nice to see Microsoft dwell more on what makes the X stand out from other consoles besides 4K graphics. After all, what does the power of the console really let developers do if they constrained to the power of the old version of the Xbox One? Also, anyone else notice how there was no mention of VR?