Expectations were high for Microsoft‘s E3 event, since the Xbox still has a lot to prove after a year light on exclusive titles, especially compared to PlayStation. The Xbox & Bethesda Showcase didn’t have anything new to share about heavy hitters Fable, Avowed, Perfect Dark, or Hellblade, since they’re all still very early in development. But they had plenty of other games to show off over the 85-minute presentation.
At the start of the showcase, game director Todd Howard presented a cinematic teaser for Starfield, Bethesda’s next big Western RPG exclusive to the Xbox Series. Fans were undoubtedly hoping for more, so it was smart of Microsoft to get it out of the way quickly so that viewers could focus on everything else the Xbox showcase had to offer.
Next was first-person shooter S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl. It’s the first game in the series to release on console, so it could amass an entirely new audience when it launches April 28, 2022, as a timed exclusive on the Xbox Series. Plus, it comes Day 1 to the Xbox Game Pass subscription service.
Back 4 Blood, a spiritual successor to Valve’s Left 4 Dead games, received a new trailer on Xbox, showing off PvP for the first time. The game is still on track to release October 12. Like S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, Back 4 Blood will be a Day 1 Game Pass title.
Game Pass is a fantastic marketing tool, because every announcement that an exciting third-party game is coming to the service is a huge win for Xbox. Microsoft clearly understands that, given how many titles shown in the presentation are coming to service. They include:
- A Plague Tale: Requiem
- The Ascent
- Atomic Heart
- Twelve Minutes
- Eiyuden Chronicle
- Slime Rancher 2
- Twelve Minutes
- Yakuza: Like a Dragon
Immediately after the presentation, Microsoft shared a graphic of titles from the presentation coming to Game Pass over the course of 2021, reminding players of the incredible value of the service. Like every subscription, eventually its price is sure to rise, but gamers are certainly benefitting so far from the Xbox’s shift from selling games individually to bundling them together in a low-price sub.
The Xbox showcase included a trailer for Contraband, the upcoming first-party title from Avalanche Software, the studio best known for the Just Cause franchise.
Sea of Thieves is getting a surprising crossover with Pirates of the Caribbean with the appearance of Captain Jack Sparrow and Davey Jones. Bringing the world’s most favorite pirates into the mix seems like a good way to expand the live service title’s playerbase.
The Xbox port of Microsoft Flight Simulator received an official release date of July 27, plus the reveal of a free expansion tied to Top Gun: Mavericks.
Obsidian Entertainment showed up twice at the event. Up first was new content for Grounded, a.k.a. Honey, I Shrunk the Kids-as-a-service. The Shroom and Doom update arrives June 30. There was also a very self-aware trailer for The Outer Worlds 2 with a narrator admitting that Obsidian has barely begun development on the title, which makes sense considering the studio is busy with Avowed and the aforementioned Grounded.
Psychonauts 2 finally received a release date; the sequel to the Xbox classic arrives on August 25. Since the game was in development before Microsoft purchased Double Fine, it will be coming to both Xbox and PlayStation, but will be available Day 1 on Game Pass.
Bethesda did a quick run-through of updates to some of its older games:
- A next-gen update to Doom Eternal with improved visuals at 60 fps available June 29
- Fallout 76‘s Steel Reign update arrives July 7 and the newly announced Fallout 76 Expeditions: The Pitt is scheduled 2022
- 10 more Bethesda Games hit Xbox Game Pass today, including classic Fallout titles, Wolfenstein 2, and The Evil Within 2.
343 Industries debuted a new cinematic for the Halo Infinite campaign, but used the Xbox showcase primarily to show off Infinite‘s free, cross-platform multiplayer. The video that showed it off hit a lot of familiar notes for Halo fans, but that’s probably not a bad thing, since Halo’s multiplayer is reliably fun and should only be improved with next-gen performance and fidelity. Both the Halo Infinite campaign and multiplayer release in Holiday 2021.
Playground Games shared an in-engine trailer for Forza Horizon 5. The latest open world car sim is set in Mexico. Players travel through the country’s diverse environments, from rainforests to seaside towns to lush deserts. During the gameplay demo, developers discussed how the Xbox Series hardware make the 2021 title the most lifelike Forza experience yet. At the same time, it’s added multiplayer minigames, which lets you create your own gameplay experiences. Playground boasted that Forza Horizon 5 is the largest, most fun, most beautiful open world the team has ever built, and it’s hard to disagree based on the footage shown during the Xbox showcase.
To end the show, Microsoft debuted Redfall, the next title from Prey developer Arkane Austin. It stars a team of rebels that’s best described as Ghostbusters for vampires, using high-tech weapons to fight back against the undead. The game is exclusive to Xbox Series and arrives Summer 2022.