With E3 canceled and video games more popular than ever because of the coronavirus pandemic, companies have been put in an interesting spot. They have to make hype-inducing announcements without the benefit of an audience or major gathering.
Nintendo has mastered this with its Nintendo Direct and Microsoft is taking a turn at it with its Inside Xbox episodes. The recent one titled “Xbox 20/20” showed off gameplay and announcements of upcoming games for the Xbox Series X. Thirteen games were mentioned in the program. Here are my first impressions, final thoughts and random observations from the presentation.
First impressions: The weather effects remind me of a “Battlefield” game and I was even more surprised when I saw a car that looked like a DeLorean. It made me think of “Back to the Future” and “Ready Player One.” In fact, I assumed with all the anachronistic images that this was a “Ready Player One” game.Final thoughts: Described as sci-fi shooter set in 2036, “Bright Memory: Infinite” looks like it will capitalize on that “Ready Player One” vibe with elements such as a time-traveling spaceship, time displaced samurai and wormholes.Random observation: Where does the gun go when the sword comes out?
First impressions: The Xbox Series X lineup needs a racing game and it looks Codemasters will fill it. The game has a “Motorstorm” vibe going on with the racing on a frozen river and muddy tracks, but this looks like more of a sim than an arcade racer.Final thoughts: The “DiRT” games have been decent though a little confusing in format. It seems to go between a full-on simulation rally game and arcade racer. From the sound of it, “DiRT 5” will take on a more divergent path with an emphasis on a story-based campaign starring the like of voice actors Troy Baker and Nolan North.Random observation: The transition from day to night is intriguing. It makes me wonder if “DiRT 5” will have long-form races with those same transitions and weather effects.
First impressions: This trailer looks like an “Aliens” game but it’s focused on the “Prometheus” monsters. In actuality, it’s a game that borrows heavily from the influential H.R. Giger. Final thoughts: The first-person horror adventure game looks super atmospheric. I will play this with the lights because it looks so scary. It’s described as “nonlinear nightmare of interconnected spaces” with each location having puzzles, characters and story. The news release also says players will have skills and weapons.Random observation: This game will give everyone nightmares.
First impressions: Coming off “Scorn,” this dark space-combat shooter looks like lollipop and rainbows. The space combat looks promising with players having a degree of freedom. The dark part of this space combat game comes from the atmosphere and the protagonist. Nara is an ex-cultist and she pilots a sentient ship called Forsaken. With all that red, the world likes a Sith Lord’s wet dream.Final thoughts: “Chorus” definitely has a distinct perspective. It sounds like this will be a redemption story as Nara tries to take down the cult that created her. There hasn’t been a great space combat sim in a few years with the most promising one — “Eve: Valkyrie” — released for virtual reality devices.Random observation: I wonder if players will control Nara during the scenes outside the ship or if this is all going to be a cut-scenes. I’m pulling for player control. Games such as “No Man’s Sky” do that.
First impressions: Oh hey, it’s Patrick Mahomes.Final thought:Oh yeah, I hate Patrick Mahomes. The Madden curse couldn’t even stop him from winning the Super Bowl.Random observation The lighting looks gorgeous and man the detail on that pylon cam stands out.
First impressions: I immediately knew what game this was after previewing “Bloodlines 2” more than a year ago. . The choice of music and the imagery are nice in the way they conflict. The game seems to have more personality compared to the last time I saw it. The world looks more fleshed out.Final thoughts:This is one of the more intriguing games coming out for the Xbox One Series X. I would describe it as “Dishonored” with vampires as players are given a world, plenty of problems and distinct powers that offer solutions. Because this was scheduled to come out on the current generation of systems, I worry about the technological differences holding back what the game can do.Random observation: Vampires dance a lot like John Travolta.
First impressions:Is this a sequel to “Close to the Sun”? The game has that feel to it along with the female protagonist. They both seem to take place around the same time period give or take three decades.Final thoughts: Mention mysterious island and puzzles and I immediately think of “Myst.” “Call of the Sea” will obvious be more visceral as the protagonist, Norah, searches for her husband in the South Pacific. I just hope that the puzzles are well-crafted and not too obtuse.Random observation: Does Norah turn into a mermaid? She was swimming with clawlike fins for hands.
First impressions:This looks Cyberpunky, but it has more aliens. The visuals are gorgeous but how much can this team do with a top-down perspective. I wonder if it controls like a twinstick shooter.Final thoughts: On second thought, this game looks more like “Diablo 3” set in a sci-fi universe. The action RPG element sounds intriguing for the setting along with the four-player co-op. One of the selling points of the game is the destructive environments and how that impacts combat. The developers mentioned the famous lobby scene in “The Matrix.”Random observation: It looks as though “The Ascent” will have some slight puzzle elements where teammates will have to open doors for each other.
First impressions: Whenever I see pregnancies and fetuses now, I think of “Death Stranding.” Thank you Hideo Kojima! Although the game has that imagery, it looked more like Shinji Mikami’s “Evil Within” series. That’s a survival-horror franchise that has steadily gotten better.Final thoughts: The Xbox One Series X seems to be heavy on the horror games. “The Medium” focuses on the title character Marianne, who has visions and interacts with spirit world. For a title developed in Poland, the game has a Japanese feel to it. The score by “Silent Hill” composer Akira Yamaoka adds to that vibe.Random observation: I wonder if the setting is influenced by Krakow. The place where Marianne is kneeling looks like the Tower of St. Mary’s Church.
First impressions: For a second, I assumed this was a prequel to “Code Vein.” The monsters appear creepy with memorable designs while the protagonist looks like a hero from a Shonen anime. The way the creatures moved made me think of this epic Hayao Miyazki’s takedown.Final thoughts:Because this is developed by former members of the “Tales” teams, I wonder how much action the combat will have in this Japanese role-playing game. If the developers cribbed notes from what Square Enix did on the “Final Fantasy VII Remake,” this could be better than what I was expecting.Random observration: Because this is a Bandai Namco title, I wonder if it will get the anime treatment similar to “God Eater.” The way the story is set up it seems that way.
First impressions: There can never be enough dinosaur games and this title proves that. Although it reminds me of “Ark: Survival Evolved,” this title by Systemic Reaction appears to be much different. It’s also built under the supervision of Avalanche Studios Group, makers of the “Just Cause” franchise.Final thoughts: “Second Extinction” looks to carve a niche for itself with a three-player co-op experience. It seems fast-paced but challenging as mutated dinosaurs swarm over players. That it gives it a “Serious Sam” sort of feel, and like that game, I like how the developers don’t take the subject mater too seriously.Random observation: Deep down inside, I want a “Turok” cerebral bore weapon in this game.
First impressions:I’ve seen parts of this the trailer before and I wasn’t surprised by the beginning. The rest of the trailer is another story with the over-the-top action, including the nuking from orbit.Final thought:This is one of the rare entries that doesn’t have Kiryu as the main character and the developers seem to be taking a different approach with the inclusion of RPG mechanics.Random observation: If Sega just released the rest of the series on Xbox consoles, I can achieve my dream of playing through the franchise from “Yakuza 0” to this current one on one console. Yes, I know you can do that on PlayStation 4.
First impressions:This is the first time we’ll see gameplay footage for highly anticipated game. It was also the linchpin for the presentation.Final thoughts:Unfortunately, not much gameplay footage was shown, but we did see that Eivor will have customizable tattoos. The environments are more detailed and the gameplay showed off some nice lighting effects. Stonehenge is also confirmed for the game.Random observation:Instead of an eagle or other bird of prey, Eivor has a raven, which fits with the whole Viking lore.