E3 2017 is upon us! I’d like to say I’m covering the show from the floor again this year, but that’s not the case – opening the expo up to the public was just a little too much for me, and I’m not sure I could handle the crushing crowds, painful lines and stinky BO woes with another few thousand people around, many of whom aren’t going to be familiar with expo etiquette. Maybe I’ll give next year’s E3 a shot, but for this year’s extravaganza I’m just as content saving my time off for a trip to Disneyworld.
Still, and more importantly, you’re still getting coverage from seasoned vets; in particular, we’re going to talk about the various press conferences from the Big Three console makers, since that’s where the biggest products of the coming year are announced. First up: Microsoft!
First, let’s address the big question on everyone’s mind: what is Project Scorpio? Turns out it’s the Xbox One X, another iteration on the Xbox One brand that will coexist with the Xbox One S model we’ve had for almost a year now, and it’s launching on November 7 for a whopping $499. It’s a more powerful system, boasting six teraflops of graphical might that will boost the performance and fidelity of your games. Well, some of your games. Much like with Sony’s beefier PS4 Pro – a similar sort of mid-generation upgrade – the Xbox One X is going to work using upgrades provided by developers for older games, meaning that it can’t be guaranteed that every currently-released game will benefit; we can also expect many newer games to launch with support for the more powerful system.
As someone who predominately games on a high-end PC, the promise of more power from a console doesn’t really get my motor running – it’s still a console, after all. Still, the sizzle reels throughout the show were certainly impressive for what they were. The official reveal of Assassin’s Creed: Origins, for instance, highlighted both the game’s lovely graphics on Xbox One X as well as fresh takes on the AC formula, including a loot system and a scouting bird companion a la Far Cry.
Likewise, the reveal of a new Metro game in Metro: Exodus and a new Forza in Forza Motorsport 7 perked my ears up a bit even where the new console announcement might not have.
One of the E3 predictions I’d made with friends came true: we’re seeing streamer-bait smash hit PLAYERUNKNOWN’s Battlegrounds make its way to console as a Microsoft exclusive. A second prediction came true later when we got a look at The Darwin Project, which appears to be a AAA take on Battlegrounds’ battle royale action, though the loud and bombastic presentation didn’t make it especially clear. Either way, I’m calling it now: this isn’t the last we’ll see of AAA battle royale games, and in fact I think we’re in for a wave of me-too titles a la the MOBA and hero shooter crazes of the last few years.
Other heavy hitters included Crackdown 3, introduced in a trailer starring the manly intensity of Terry Crews. The footage looked great, but it’s going to take a lot to wipe away the stain left by the turd that was Crackdown 2. I’m less wary about Sea of Thieves, a co-op pirate-’em-up from Rare that looks like the perfect game to grab some friends and play while chatting it up in bad pirate accents on Discord.
I’m especially unwary about Anthem, Bioware’s new open-world looter-shooter IP featuring characters piloting exosuits and battling what appears to be a combination of hostile wildlife and aliens. It’s got plenty of Destiny-style vibes and showcased some pretty impressive graphics as characters flew about blasted foes and collected goodies. This is allegedly what the big boys at Bioware were working on while Mass Effect: Andromeda was handed off to a less experienced team; while I actually had a good time with Andromeda, I’m eager to see how the work on Anthem turned out.
We also had our usual spread of indie games and non-exclusives; highlights included Bandai-Namco’s Code Vein, a vampire-themed hack-and-slasher that’s had my attention since it was announced earlier this year, trippy platformer The Artful Escape and gorgeous faux-retro-cartoon shooter Cuphead. Also revealed was Ori and the Will of the Wisps, a sequel to 2015’s smash hit Ori and the Blind Forest; that was a solid, artistic title that came out without a lot of hype and ended up earning critical acclaim, so it’s not surprising that we’re seeing another entry.
So, bottom line: new console, sort of; I like the PS4 Pro but don’t think the enhancements are enough to make your average buyer open their wallets again, and I think the same thing might happen with the 4K-powered Xbox One X. Game-wise, I was especially taken in by Assasin’s Creed: Origins and Anthem, proving that I’m a sucker for this sort of open-world thing even years after they started becoming the norm, and generally speaking I thought there were plenty of titles to get hyped up for. As for the conference as a whole, I think it was one of Microsoft’s better offerings in the past few years, showcasing not just new hardware but a solid lineup of games and avoiding any of the faux pas of recent conferences like the disastrous Xbox One announcement.