Well, folks, we’re on our last recap and review for 2018, this time focusing on Microsoft. If you missed any of my previous coverage over the past couple of weeks, you can catch up with these links: Bethesda/EA, Sony, Ubisoft, Nintendo.
Just like last year, Microsoft continues to find itself in a position behind Sony, and even losing attention to Nintendo’s powerhouse console, Switch. To make matters worse, Sony just launched God of War nearly a month prior to unbelievable critical and commercial praise, while Microsoft’s two 2018 first party titles State of Decay 2 and Sea of Thieves didn’t quite live up to the hype.
Still, Microsoft continues to evolve its services, offering unprecedented features like Game Pass, which gives players a ton of games to play for just 10 bucks a month. Not only that, the company received a boost during E3 when it was revealed that Sony locked PS4 players from using their Epic account on other systems for Fortnite, like the Switch. Another bonus point to Microsoft on that one.
Still, I feel like Microsoft has nailed its press conference. They’ve pretty much mastered the idea of quick announcements, keeping the show moving, and keeping fans on the edge of their seats. The same rang true for 2018, though this year Microsoft managed to unleash surprise after surprise.
In the end, though, how did Microsoft do? Let’s Discuss.
Kicking off the show was Master Chief, though it wasn’t what many people were likely suspecting. Instead of getting a whole new demo and massive reveal, Halo: Infinite was announced only through a teaser trailer. Still, it’s a solid way to open the show, using your most iconic character to get people excited for what’s to come.
Keeping the pace moving, Ori and the Will of the Wisps appeared next in another vibrant trailer mixing cutscenes with actual gameplay. If you enjoyed the 2D platformer, you’re likely going to love this one as well.
The next reveal was a big surprise as FROM Software’s newest game, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, was finally shown off after its previous teaser back in 2017. While it still has that Dark SOuls feel, the game ditches the Medieval theme and instead takes players into a world inspired by Asian culture including Samurai and big swords. The protagonist also has new tools at his disposal including a grappling hook, which leads to all sorts of new possibi8lities for traversal and combat.
We also got a surprise visit from Todd Howard, who was on hand to show off a new trailer for Fallout: 76 for the very first time. It was equally surprising due to the fact that Bethesda was scheduled to hold their own press conference later that day, with many expecting to see it there as well. With the focus on multiplayer and rebuilding society, I’m still not sure how I feel about this latest Fallout game. I’ll keep an open mind, but I’m definitely not as excited as I have been for past games.
If you’re into the Life is Strange franchise and world that Dontnod has created, they have a free game coming this summer called The Awesome Adventures of Captain Spirit.
Crackdown 3, a game I suspected to be featured heavily at E3 was only shown off in a new trailer. It gave us plenty of gameplay to sink our teeth into including the frenetic energy of Terry Crews. It wasn’t enough to really make a judgment on, in my opinion, but at first glance, it certainly looks like Crackdown. The game was recently delayed into February 2019, so expect to see more of this one later this year, perhaps as early as GamesCom.
Metro Exodus and Nier Automata showed off new trailers, with the later bringing all existing DLC with it for players who haven’t yet experience it on PS4 or PC. Metro Exodus continues to look really good and even showed off new content like weapon customization and zip lines.
In a surprise reveal, Kingdom Hearts 3 showed off a new trailer centered on the world of Frozen. I’m not a Kingdom Hearts guy, but I can imagine that this was a big deal for the legions of fans out there. Curiously enough, the trailer didn’t contain any sound effects in the back half of the trailer, a trend which continued for the game into the Sony and Square Enix press conferences as well.
Sea of Thieves and Battlefield 5 showed off really brief trailers with the former teasing the next expansions and the later showing off some of its single-player content centered in WW2 Norway.
The big on-stage demo was given to PlayGround Games who both revealed and showed off Forza Horizon 4. For this game, players will be driving through the roads and countrysides of the United Kingdom, but the real start of the show was the dynamic weather and changing seasons which will have an impact on gameplay. Imagine seeing a lake in the summer, only to be able to drive over it when it’s frozen over in the winter. As expected, this racing title is another visual stunner.
Arguably, the biggest news came after the demo, when Microsoft revealed that it is investing in first party, noting that exclusives are incredibly important. Not only has the company created a new Santa Monica studio called The Initiative with Darrell Gallagher leading, but it also acquired studios: Playground Games, Undead Labs, Compulsion Games, and Ninja Theory. This is going to be huge going forward.
Two new trailers followed the big announcement including PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and a definitive edition for Tales of Vesperia.
In advance of Ubisoft’s press conference the next day, The Division 2 was officially revealed with a brand new cinematic infographic trailer as well as a lengthy gameplay demo. Absolutely loved everything I saw, and I was surprised Microsoft was given so much to work with. As we know, Ubisoft had plenty more to discuss the next day.
Following that, Microsoft brought out more Xbox Game Pass games, even revealing that Forza Horizon 4 is also coming. A bunch of new titles were also revealed as well as a new sizzle reel for ID@Xbox.
Lara Croft showed up next with a new gameplay focused trailer for Shadow of the Tomb Raider, fans were treated to
Skate 4 a new skateboarding game called Session, and then Black Desert Online announced an upcoming Xbox One beta.
Another massive surprise was up next as Nero showed up alongside Devil May Cry 5. Capcom seems to be picking up where DMC4 left off, basically ignoring Ninja Theory’s previous work with DmC: Devil May Cry. Longtime fans should be happy, and I’ll admit, the trailer was pretty outstanding.
In another surprise move, Cuphead is getting DLC called Delicious Last Course. Get it? D.L.C.
In other announcements, Microsoft next showed off a cute looking game called Tunic, there’s a new anime crossover game coming called JumpForce, and Dying Light 2 is a real thing with plenty more parkour. Battletoads was also teased for a return in 2019, and Just Cause 4 is bringing back crazy, destruction filled moments at the end of 2018.
As many fans hoped, Gears was up next, but the company did the ultimate fake out by first announcing a spin-off game called Gears Pop! based on Funko Pop characters. Then, rubbing more salt in the wound, they showed off, what I’ll admit, is a pretty cool tactical Gears mobile game. But the real reason why we were gathered was for Gears 5. The gameplay trailer focused on Kait Diaz, who is setting out on her own to figure out what’s going on with her family and the visions she’s been having. While Marcus Fenix approves, his son JD does not as it goes against the mission. Clearly, tensions are going to boil over.
But that’s not all! In a very fun, very Ubisoft thing to do, Phil Spencer was interrupted by a trailer for none other than Cyberpunk 2077. Originally announced back in 2012, it’s been a very long time since we were given anything regarding this title, but based on the footage, it was well worth it. Though the demo was locked behind closed doors, people were losing their minds at how good the game looked. Hopefully, we’ll be seeing actual gameplay from it soon.
For me personally, I felt like Microsoft won this press conference. You could tell they had been listening to their community and fans and delivered with exciting new announcements and upcoming things to be excited about. I loved their commitment to first party with those studio acquisitions, and having a new studio located in Santa Monica, near Sony’s hub is only going to lead to healthy competition.
While many of their reveals and announcements were for games that will ultimately become multiplatform titles, the fact that Microsoft was able to reveal these games speaks volumes. Or perhaps speaks to their deep pockets. Either way, games like Devil May Cry 5 and even FROM Software’s latest are huge gets and certainly pumped up the crowd.
Sure, Microsoft is playing the long game as many of these exciting announcements likely won’t bear fruit for a few years, but it’s always nice seeing a company willing to appease and please fans. I’m excited for the future of Xbox.