Gaming

Microsoft E3 2017 Conference – Safe But Not Memorable

From the unveiling of the Xbox One X to the game-filled line-up, Screen Critics reviews Microsoft’s E3 2017 Conference. Has the X left its mark on us?

Microsoft came out swinging with the reveal of the Xbox One X and games galore at E3 2017. Was it enough to get Microsoft back in the race?

Microsoft took to the stage to unveil Project Scorpio, now dubbed the Xbox One X, but more importantly, Microsoft came out with the games. Not all the titles were hits, but Microsoft found a certain rhythm that they have been lacking for the past couple of years.

They led with what we all knew was coming, the Xbox One X , their new, high-powered console. Microsoft did a great job of explaining the power of the X, while not droning on about specs for too long. They clearly took some notes from the PS4 Pro reveal conference and kept the reveal smooth, despite price being notably absent at the outset. To show off the X’s power, Forza Motorsport 7 was revealed with a 4K trailer, which was presumably beautiful, but without a 4K screen, the game looked like any other racer and was unfortunately weak. That was one sexy Porsche though, really lit up E3 2017.

Next up was Metro: Exodus with an eerie, visually stunning gameplay demo, which was a much better demonstration of X’s power than Forza. With a release window of 2018, expect that title to remain a ways out. Afterwards, Assassin’s Creed: Origins, one of the leakiest games from this year, was finally unveiled officially, with more complex mechanics than ever seen in the series and some less than smooth animations. One of the biggest surprises came from PlayerUnkown’s Battlegrounds, which will be an Xbox console exclusive alongside the Xbox One X on November 7th. Battlegrounds marks a huge get for Microsoft, showing their renewed commitment to bringing the games that gamers want.

Microsoft then took that momentum and threw it away with a streak of weak games, starting with the announcement of the very forgettable Deep Rock: Galactic. A weak trailer for State of Decay 2 that was too long while simultaneously vague, along with an early 2018 release date showed Microsoft doesn’t consider it the AAA title fans thought they did. A second battle royale game, which paled in comparison to Battlegrounds, was revealed with an awkward shout caster commentating the game for roughly 30 seconds, was titled The Darwin Project, and rounded out the weak announcements.

Minecraft got some quality of life updates, specifically 4K support and cross play between all platforms, which is a major step for gaming as a whole and an affirmation that Microsoft wants to do right by fans. DragonBall Fighter Z took the fighting game in a 2D direction, which to the untamed eye appeared standard fare, but our DragonBall fans on Screen Critics staff were blown away by the title. At the time of writing, with only EA and Microsoft having presented, Fighter Z is the Game of Show for two of our writers. Black Desert fills a MMO niche that Xbox had been missing, featuring some stylish action combat and character customization, but with no release date. Kind of missing the point of showing off games at E3 2017.

The conference then took an artsy swing with The Last Night, a stunning pixel game with cinematic elements and a Fifth Element setting, which was my personal favorite from the show. Continuing on the stylized trend was Annapurna’s first game, The Artful Escape, which looks like an incredibly cerebral, hipster rock show. It’s currently unclear what type of game it will be, but it will be interesting to learn more “when it’s damn ready”.

A short trailer for the still solid CodeVein, a vampire JRPG from Namco Bandai, then preceded an extended look at Sea of Thieves from Rare. The demo expanded on what players can do in the game universe, but still didn’t answer the questions of why these activities are important to the game and how it will all be fun. Our writers agree that Sea of Thieves appears to be lacking in lasting power. Tacoma, Fullbright’s follow up to Gone Home, was shown in a new trailer and given a release date of August 2 as an Xbox timed exclusive. Also given a release date of September 29 was Cuphead in a short trailer. Jury is still out on the quality of the platforming, but the trailer did show some promise. Super Lucky’s Tale, a 3D platformer is making the jump from Oculus to Xbox One on November 7th alongside the One X, but today’s trailer has been met with lukewarm reception.

Crackdown 3, now staring Terry Crews, was shown off with even more adrenaline pumping hype and was given the November 7th release date as well. Afterwards, Annapurna’s second game, Ashen, was unveiled with a trailer that was reminiscent of Dark Souls and Absolver. Ashen has potential, but is still too early to even postulate about. A rumored prequel to Life is Strange was confirmed with the subtitle Before the Storm with the first episode coming out in early August.

Middle Earth: Shadow of War got an extended demo on-stage, but failed to show anything particularly new or different from the reveal content. The title will still likely be strong, but the showing was on the weaker side. A sequel to the beloved platformer Ori and the Blind Forest, titled Ori and the Will of the Wisps, was shown after being leaked only hours earlier. Will of the Wisps looks to capture the same depressive tone of the first, so expect more of the same Ori goodness, but don’t hold your breath, as no release information was given.

Phil Spencer came back out on to the E3 2017 stage to talk more about Xbox as a brand and announced backwards compatibility for original Xbox games, garnering rapturous applause from the audience. Furthermore, 5 first party Xbox One titles were revealed to be receiving 4K patches and a promise that many third party games would receive similar patches. Spencer hit fans with the bad news, that Xbox One X would cost a whopping $499.

To close out the E3 2017 conference, Anthem, Bioware’s new IP which was revealed at EA’s conference, got its gameplay debut. The game looks technically stunning and has an immense amount of potential, especially given Bioware’s pedigree, but in a lot of ways, the game looks like an amalgamation of many AAA titles from this generation, like Destiny and Titanfall. The thematic overlap has left some of our writers feeling over saturated with game’s of Anthem‘s nature. Only time will tell what sets Anthem apart, if anything.

Final Thoughts: Microsoft set a competitive bar for E3 2017, but was unable to set the world on fire. Xbox One X is undoubtedly the most powerful console, but Microsoft made it clear that it is more of a premium product and couldn’t sell it to the every man. Where Xbox really shinned was in the games, as they showed Sony that they too, can focus on the software, even at a conference with new hardware. Overall, Microsoft had very few missteps, but it’s hard to excuse the ones they made, like a $500 price point or a weak launch lineup for their new flagship console. I wasn’t convinced to buy a One X, but I’m giving a One S a serious consider now. I wonder if that was part of their long term goal at E3 2017?

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