E3 Xbox Review: Taking small steps towards a brighter future

Craig examines the Xbox E3 2018 press conference with a critical eye on the future in our E3 Xbox Review.

It’s clear that Microsoft are in a strange position right now. It’s too late to save face for this generation, yet we’re too far away to start promoting and pushing towards the new console war; all of which resulted in the press conference that we got. For Xbox One owners, it was a case of nothing for the immediate future but hope when looking to 2019 and beyond.

Halo Infinite showed a glimpse at the future of the franchise, Gears 5 looked beautifully scripted with a real sense of personality and vision, and Battletoads came from left-field to fill the Banjo hole I was desperately hoping would come.

The reveal of Halo Infinite also confirms that the previous Halo trilogy has essentially been killed, with Microsoft affirming shortly after the conference that Infinite is the future of the franchise. On the surface, it looks more akin to the original vision for Halo before Bungie was coerced by Microsoft to launch on the Xbox. Back then, it was a third-person title and it’s something we might look back on as there were an awful lot of similarities between that original vision and the teaser trailer for Halo Infinite – that’s for another day though.

Getting back to the conference, apart from Battletoads – and we still don’t know how big a deal that might be – Microsoft leaned into its existing franchises that have been regurgitated again and again over the years. Halo, Forza and Gears. Sure, Microsoft’s purchases of Undead Labs, Ninja Theory and Playground Games (rumoured to be working on the new Fable, which we didn’t see here) should help them to fill first-party holes moving forward but it’s left a bad taste in the mouth for Xbox One owners looking to the immediate future. This year’s biggest release is Forza Horizon 4 and that’s about it. Xbox’s Marketing Manager Aaron Greenberg even admitted as much when interviewed by Geoff Keighley after the show, awkwardly dancing around Keighley’s questioning of a lack of exclusives for this holiday by leaning on the “fantastic” line-up provided by third-party publishers – all of which will also be coming to PlayStation 4.

A multitude of third-party titles swarmed the Xbox press conference, with Devil May Cry 5, Shadow of the Tomb Raider, Anime fight-em-up Jump Force and the ultra-cool re-reveal of Cyberpunk 2077 all being easy on the eye. Again though, it’s not much of a win for Microsoft when you can play all these games on another console.

The present might be awkward for Microsoft but the future is far from bleak. The aforementioned Gears and Halo titles look intriguing, especially in the case of the latter as it could be the jolt back to life it needs. The purchase of the previously mentioned developers, as well as Microsoft’s brand new The Initiative studio, gives hope that new IPs are on the way.

Talk of streaming services, the continued evolution of Game Pass and even the mention of a new console (codenamed Scarlett) are all indicators that Microsoft are playing the long game here. It’s likely that upon the next generation’s start in two years time, Microsoft will be armed to the teeth with a whole host of new titles from their newly acquired studios, a great catalogue of Game Pass games, an extensive ability to deliver backwards compatibility and potentially, the chance to play your Xbox games from a plethora of devices. They’re not quite there yet but Phil Spencer’s grand plan is starting to make sense.

View the major trailers from Microsoft’s E3 Press Conference below:

Cyberpunk 2077

Gears 5, Gears Tactics and Gears POP

Forza Horizon 4

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