All Hail Game Pass!
Arguably the biggest fish in the 2021 E3 pond, all eyes were on yesterday morning’s Xbox presentation, with fans eager to see what games Microsoft would bring to the table, especially from its shiny new acquisition Bethesda. Now, while the showcase didn’t quite have a big ‘oh, fuck!’ moment, it was a damn solid showing, with 30-titles shown off, from AAA games like Halo Infinite and Starfield to smaller experiences in Somerville and Replaced. Moreover, with almost every game presented to be available via Game Pass in one way or another, Xbox masterfully set up the next few years of its ecosystem.
So don’t worry if you weren’t up at the ungodly hour of 3 am on Monday morning and missed the showcase. Let me give you my thoughts on everything I saw.
November 11th, 2022
Starting the show on a solid foot, Xbox answered one of the biggest questions floating around gaming spheres – will Bethesda’s Starfield be an Xbox exclusive? – with a definitive yes. The trailer itself was more a tone-setter, with no plot details given aside from the name of the company you’ll be working for/with, Constellation, the last space-faring organisation. I mean, we also saw a cool rocket ship, but that isn’t shocking new information. Being said, I did really like the grounded realism of the ship design, in contrast to the slick retro-futurism seen in other Bethesda titles. We also had a brief glimpse of mech suits, settlements (I swear to god, I will launch Preston Garvey into the sun if I see him!) and some planets. Now, I was already sold on the idea of a space exploration game, so the new trailer didn’t move the needle much for me, but the reveal date was a pleasant surprise. I’m very excited to learn more about Bethesda’s first ‘new universe’ in 25 years in the months to come.
S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2: Heart of Chernobyl
April 22nd, 2022.
Now I have never played a STALKER game, and while my usual go-to European post-apocalyptic pessimism shooter of choice is Metro, I must say this trailer hooked me in for one reason. Atmosphere.
While Chernobyl isn’t the happiest place on earth, even without the titular Stalkers, uhh… stalking around every corner, many games have struggled to make Soviet-era design interesting or invited a sense of exploration. I mean, I get it, guys, you like concrete. But in S.T.A.L.K.E.R 2, the environments are beautiful in their decay. The destruction, rot and overgrowth add a level of depth to the world I wouldn’t usually expect from a game like this, and it’s drawing me in. There is life in the decay, and it is absolutely haunting, especially in 4K. Also, navigating fields of invisible black holes by throwing bolts in front of you and avoiding areas that suck them into oblivion looks damn cool!
Back 4 Blood
October 12th, 2021
Without mentioning the 10-minute long Warner Bros. showcase that further delved into Back 4 Blood (that I regret staying up for), the trailer during the Xbox presentation was actually pretty solid. As will come up a few times during this article, co-op shooters aren’t really my bag, but the new Swarm PvP which lets players take on the roles of survivors or zombies, seems pretty interesting.
Well, this didn’t give us much to go on. Avalanche Studios is working on a game that one may deduce is about contraband. There may be a truck and a red box involved? That’s all I can say.
Jack Sparrow is coming to Sea of Thieves: A Pirate’s Life.
June 22nd, 2021
In a crossover that seems simultaneously both perfect and years too late, Jack Sparrow and his ragtag crew of mateys from Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean will be making their way into Rare’s Sea of Thieves. Along with a bunch of recognisable faces, both friend and tentacle-faced foe, the Pirate’s Life crossover will introduce five new Tall Tales, new ships, new enemies and a host of new areas to explore.
Yakuza Like a Dragon
Yakuza Like a Dragon is now on Game Pass. Like, right now. Go and download it.
October 22nd, 2021
Just a few days following its initial reveal, we have had a deeper look into the new multiplayer-only Battlefield 2042 from DICE. If you saw that initial trailer, you’ll know the game is leaning hard into over the top action, and this deeper dive took that up another notch. Massive firefights, real-time weather events, including a goddamn sandstorm, and heaps of new vehicles zipping across land, sea and air in maps big enough to support 128-players. Battlefield 2042 is going to be fucking bonkers.
Annapurna’s 12 Minutes, a narrative thriller with a killer cast including Daisy Ridley, James McAvoy and Willem Dafoe, finally got a release date and oh boy, am I keen to give this a go. In part just to see how it handles the subject matter. You play as a man stuck in a time-loop, constantly reliving the moment a man enters your house, accuses your wife of murder and beats you to death. The loop restarts every real-world 12 minutes, and you’ll need to piece together elements of the story each time to navigate your way out of the loop. Heavy.
I’m really interested to see how people react to Double Fine’s sequel to 2005’s Psychonauts. Will the game’s cult following help push this to a broader audience, or will new demographics bounce off the brain-bending zaniness? I, for one, am on the fence. I think it looks fun, but just a bit too much for me. Plus, on stream (twitch.tv/storymodeaus) I said the main character looks like a reject from the film, Antz. So now I can’t look at screenshots. Sorry, Psychonauts
Ah, Fallout 76. Certainly, a game that happened. Bethesda is still working hard to fix the overall user experience and bring all new content to the MMO. A new quest, Steel Reign, drops July 7th this year and will let you choose sides to ‘decide the fate of the Brotherhood’. A new expedition, The Pitt, due for release in 2022, will revisit Fallout 3’s Pittsburg.
Elder Scrolls Online
June 15th, 2021
I swear every E3, a new massive expansion or change is introduced to Elder Scrolls Online, yet I have not met anyone who plays it. Perhaps the upcoming The Elder Scrolls Online: Console Enhanced edition will change that? The new edition will add performance and fidelity modes as well as improved draw distances and load times.
LOOK AT THESE ADORABLE LITTLE CRITTERS! CROCO! A CAT WITH A CROSSBOW! SO FLUFFY! SO CUTE!
It’s Gang Beasts with cute animals, and it’s coming to consoles. Let’s go!!!
August 13th, 2021
Bless the horny gods! Hades, one of the best games I have ever played, is making its way to console! Now you can kick back on the couch, feet up with a glass of wine and escape the depths on a big screen, just like Dionysus would want you to. Despite not being available via Game Pass, I implore you to give this one a go when it drops in a few months. And don’t fear Sony fans; PlayStation has confirmed that Hades will be coming to PS4 and PS5, also on August 13th.
One of my hidden gems of the showcase. As I have mentioned in numerous articles and podcasts, Playdead’s Inside is a game that has had a lasting effect on me. Somerville may ring that same bell with a similar tone and style, albeit an alien invasion rather than Inside’s claustrophobic body-horror. The parallels between Somerville and games like Inside and Limbo is no accident; Somerville is the debut game from Jumpship, a new studio headed by Playdead co-founder Dino Patti.
Maybe it’s because I am not invested in the world of Halo, but this section of the showcase didn’t hit in the way I expected it to. That’s not to say it wasn’t good for the hardcore Halo fans, who were losing their minds all over social media; it just didn’t do much to draw in new players. That being said, I am a big fan of Xbox pushing the fact that the multiplayer content will be free-to-play. We also had a look at a re-worked version of the classic Blood Gulch map and a brief story trailer that sets the scene for a dramatic Cortana rescue. But still no firm release date, sadly.
Diablo 2 Resurrected
September 23rd, 2021
60fps, boosted visuals, cross-progression and 8-player co-op? Keelan may have his wish granted here – I think I will play my first Diablo game!
Plague Tale Requiem
Look, did I need to see a booming tidal wave of writhing vermin that early in the morning? No. Of course, fucking not. It was gross. Beyond Amicitia and Hugo still sneaking around a plague-riddled France, the trailer didn’t really give us much in the way of new story beats or gameplay changes. More rats than ever, though.
Far Cry 6
October 7th, 2021
You’d think with the countless Far Cry 6 trailers and deep-dives we have seen over the last few months, Ubisoft would be out of new content to show off, but in a pleasant surprise, we got to check out some stealth gameplay. The regular melee takedowns, snipers and bows are all back and look fantastic. Is it possible for me to be even more sold on this game? We also got a glimpse at the newest addition to the Fangs for Hire roster, a spike-collared rooster aka Punk Rooster aka Punk Cock.
Slime Rancher 2
Those mushy little cuties are back in Monomi Park’s Slime Rancher 2! While not looking too different to the original, we see many new slimes based on various animals and a much rich and full world to explore.
If my hope is correct, Shredders will be to the SSX series what Skate was to Tony Hawk Pro Skater, an overall more chill and technical realisation of the sport. As someone who loves snowboarding despite being trash as it, here’s hoping the Shredders delivers me some wish fulfilment.
Holy shit, just give us a damn release date already! At least this time, we saw some gameplay and not just another CG tone teasers. Atomic Hearts’ mind-altering, inter-dimensional anomalies and creepy dead-eyed robotic mannequins had me sold the moment I saw it so many years ago. I have seen a few people describe it as ‘Fallout: Mother Russia’, and if that doesn’t get you interested, I don’t know what will.
Some games just ooze cool, and Replaced is the perfect embodiment of that. This trailer put on a leather jacket, flicked its perfect hair from its eyes, jumped on a motorbike and rode into the sunset. The 2.5D sidescroller sees us take control of R.E.A.C.H, an AI trapped inside a human body, desperate to get out and willing to absolutely destroy anyone who gets in its way.
June 30th, 2021
Obsidian’s Grounded will be getting a substantial new update in just a few weeks. Shroom and Gloom will introduce more building options, insectoid pets and a GODDAMN HORRIFIC LOOKING SPIDER-QUEEN KNOWN AS THE BROODMOTHER! Seriously, the spiders in this game as terrifying.
If you log on to Among Us today, you’ll notice a bevy of new features, including 15 player lobbies that include three murder-hungry Imposters. This is on top of the new maps, modes, and roles revealed during Summer Game Fest.
Eiyuden Chronicle Rising
Do Rabbit & Bear Studios have a visually beautiful game on their hands? Yes. Am I going to play it? No. But, if the idea of a side-scrolling town builder that serves as a prequel to the upcoming Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes tickles your fancy, you’d be over the moon for this. I just hope I never have to attempt to pronounce the word ‘Eiyuden’ on the podcast.
My ears pricked up when I thought the voice in the trailer was that of my favourite tall angel, Gwendoline Christie (it’s not), but after that, Neon Giant’s debut title, a cyberpunk RPG shooter, didn’t really draw me in.
Age of Empires 4
October 28th, 2021
Now that was a neat looking trailer, combining real-life environments with in-game graphics and showing off the Joan of Arc campaign…arc. Guess it’s time to book in some annual leave for October.
Outer Worlds 2
The very self-aware trailer didn’t do anything other than confirming the existence of the follow up to 2019’s action RPG, Outer Worlds. Fingers crossed, the next-gen entry will bring the gameplay and world up to par with the brilliant dialogue of the original.
Microsoft Flight Simulator
July 27th, 2021
The awe-inspiring, jet-setting meditation of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator will be coming to console later next month. Hopefully, this means better PC support for those dopey-fingered plebs like myself who prefer using a controller. In addition, we got a brief glimpse of the Top Gun: Maverick DLC coming down the track, coinciding with the release of a movie that I, too, forgot existed.
Forza Horizon 5
Jaw-dropping. Stunning. How can I adequately explain how much of a Forza simp this trailer turned me into? I don’t even like cars!
Taking to the streets, beaches and lush forests of Mexico, Playground Games are calling Forza Horizon 5’s new setting the “largest, most fun, and most beautiful” location in the history of the series. I cannot stress how much of an understatement ‘beautiful’ is. The realistic details in each car, road and environmental element come together to give us a peek at the raw power in the Xbox Series X. In addition, the game will include a range of new vehicles for the rev heads out there, including the AMG Project 1 Forza Edition, returning battle royale, The Eliminator, and the new Pinata Pop mode. Players will also have a chance to create their own modes or test ones made by the Forza community with the new Game Lab tool. Forza Horizon 5 looks seriously special.
Wrapping up the show with a bit of a surprise was Arkane Austin’s slick new co-op vampire-shooter, Redfall. I’m a bit tired of co-op shooters as of late, with the genre becoming quite flooded, but when the team behind Prey and Dishonoured are behind it, it certainly piques my interest. Looking more like a hero-shooter, Redfall will see squads take on human enemies and hordes of undead nasties led by long-limbed vampires (2021, the year of the big lady vampire!), with players using guns and magic to defend themselves. Some of the abilities really caught my eye here, like a ghostly elevator that can help you escape to higher ground, a bad-ass sniper-eye, and a massive AOE attack made using an…umbrella? Despite all the stylish cinematics, my biggest takeaway was the characters. Each crew member has a distinct personality, with some clashing in amusing ways and each seeming to bring their own playstyle to proceedings. If Arkane can land the dialogue and character interactions come mid-next year, I will be first in line to send some blood-suckers back to hell.