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E3 2019

Xbox’s E3 2019 Briefing Was Disappointingly Conservative

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Microsoft is the only platform holder at E3 2019 to have a live press conference, after Sony decided to skip the show. This year was the chance for Microsoft to show the world what is in store for Xbox’s future and bask in glory in the absence of its main competitor. Did Microsoft deliver at E3 2019? Yes… and no.

Phil Spencer tweeted that the conference would show 14 Xbox Studios games, which admittedly sounds like a lot, but many speculated that the wording was loose, meaning that DLC for existing games would fall under that umbrella. Turns out, that was exactly the case. Forza Horizon 4 was announced to be getting a ‘LEGO Speed Champions’ expansion, as well as State of Decay 2 receiving a new expansion called ‘Heartland’. Additionally, The Outer Worlds was the first trailer shown during the conference, a multiplatform game. Since Obsidian Entertainment is now part of Xbox Game Studios, that trailer certainly seemed to count as one of the 14. I am sure many people were hoping that Xbox would reveal more original IP.

The Outer Worlds - E3 2019 Trailer 1-52 screenshot

The Outer Worlds

The only newly announced Xbox Game Studios IP was Bleeding Edge, which had already leaked a few days before the press conference. Many players were impressed by Ninja Theory’s previous game, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and were expecting a single-player, narrative-driven experience from the studio again, especially since Microsoft’s portfolio of first-party titles lacks such. While Rahni Tucker and Dom Matthews from Ninja Theory emphasized the point that this game was in development before Microsoft’s acquisition, that did not stop hot takes about how the company negatively influenced the studio by creating another multiplayer, games-as-a-service title. However, Microsoft did announce the acquisition of a new studio, Double Fine Productions, the team behind Psychonauts 2. Now, Microsoft has more studios under its belt than Sony, but, after a while, Microsoft needs to slow down the shopping spree and show us what these studios are capable of. Otherwise, what is the point of these acquisitions?

Another disappointing aspect of Xbox’s conference was the lack of gameplay. While we did receive gameplay trailers for Ori and the Will of the Wisps and the energetic Battletoads, none of the games actually had people playing them. Moreover, Microsoft only showed a cinematic trailer for its biggest release this year: Gears 5. Ironically, this trailer had less gameplay than its reveal trailer last year at E3 2018, which is baffling considering that the game releases in three months. In addition, much of the third-party support in Xbox’s conference came in form of cinematic trailers for games such as Cyberpunk 2077 (though that Keanu Reaves cameo was amazing), Dying Light 2, and Star Wars: Jedi Fallen Order. Admittedly, the conference had some nice surprises, such as Phantasy Star Online 2 finally releasing in the United States (sorry, Europe), and Remedy Entertainment bringing CrossFireX to Xbox first. While not Microsoft’s fault, unfortunately, announcements such as Tales of Arise, Borderlands 2’s DLC, and George R. R. Martin and Hidetaki Miyazaki’s game Elden Ring, were leaked ahead of time, spoiling the reveals.

Halo Infinite E3 2019

Halo Infinite

However, on the hardware and services side, Xbox seems to be faring better. Microsoft announced Xbox Game Pass for PC, as well as a killer subscription in Game Pass Ultimate. Microsoft also detailed more about its console streaming plans, in which the Xbox One will be the player’s personal and free xCloud server. Players will be able to use Microsoft’s hybrid cloud service in October. Microsoft also provided information about its next generation console, emphasizing its purpose of playing games, which is an opposite approach to the original Xbox One’s reveal that focused mostly on entertainment and TV. The next generation console was officially revealed as Project Scarlett and will support 8K resolution, up to 120fps, ray-tracing, and variable refresh rate. The next generation box will also support all four generations of Xbox consoles, which highlights Microsoft’s already impressive commitment to backwards compatibility. While only presenting another, albeit, impressive cinematic trailer, Halo Infinite will launch alongside Project Scarlett in holiday 2020.

Overall, I enjoyed Microsoft’s E3 2019 conference, but I cannot lie and say it completely blew me away. Unfortunately, the rumored Fable 4 from Playground Games was nowhere to be seen, as many were hoping for the game to be revealed at the very end of the conference in a “one more thing” fashion. Understandably, Xbox Game Studios fully revealing what it is working on will take some time, as the majority of the acquisitions took place within the last year. However, we come back to the same excuse: “maybe next year.” Microsoft either seems not ready to show any new AAA exclusives or is holding back for a big blow out during E3 2020, when the company will most likely reveal the full details of Project Scarlett, its game line-up, and cloud services. Oh well, maybe next year!

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E3 2019

Biomutant is Vibrant, Unique, and a Hell of a Lot of Fun

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biomutant

THQ Nordic had a bevy of games available to play on the show floor at this year’s E3. While some attendees eagerly lined up to play Darksiders Genesis (as our own Michael Cripe did), others sought to finally get their hands on Experiment 101’s highly unique Biomutant for a hands-on, 30-minute demo. Thankfully, Biomutant’s E3 demo is more than enough proof that the will end up being something truly special.

After selecting their preferred language, players were given the option to recode their mutant’s DNA, serving as Biomutant’s version of a character customizer. The customization options were satisfying. A circle graph appears on the screen with five key skills the player must find their preferred balance between: strength, agility, intellect, charisma, and vitality. A sixth skill, luck, was also present, but it was not one that the player could influence from the circle graph. This graph not only influences the player’s mutant’s skills but it also directly changes the mutant’s appearance.

Other customization options included determining the mutant’s fur length and primary and secondary colors. Once these options were set, the demo thrusts the player into a mission that begins with riding a hot air balloon  while the narrator speaks of the excitement of an adventure. Enemies begin firing to bring down the hot air balloon and the player is dropped into the action.

Biomutant

The world of Biomutant immediately pops, as the colors were sharp and invoked thoughts of Ratchet &Clank with a slightly more comic-book style. The visuals reflected the conditions of the area, too, with vibrant reds representing intense heat being a memorable example. The first thing that stood out about this sequence was how great the combat felt. Similarly to Insomniac’s Spider-Man and Rocksteady’s Arkham series, sliding through an enemy’s legs while kicking, punching, and shooting felt tight and familiar. In some instances, the game slowed down when a knockout blow was dealt, which was a nice cinematic touch.

Progressing forward saw the player in an area with additional enemies with a larger, more intimidating foe acting as the main objective. This section introduced the Super Wushu attack, which varies depending on the equipped weapon. The most rewarding of these attacks was with the Klonk Fist which was obtained later in the demo. The Klonk Fist offered huge gauntlets that could pummel multiple enemies by mashing the action button.

The key to unlocking the Super Wushu attack involves stringing together combos which felt fairly easy to do. I do not recall ever losing my combo to an enemy attack, as I obtained the special attack fairly often. The combat allowed for those who wished to mash the melee or firing button but also rewards the players who are more tactical in their combos while mixing in shooting with melee attacks.

Biomutant

With the tutorial for the demo out the way, the game continues by having the player go to a different part of the planet. This new area showcased the vibrant greens and life that contrasted the overheated reds from the previous area. After some platforming, the demo descends the player down into the world where Gizmo the Greasemonkey resides.

Biomutant NPC dialogue is spoken by the narrator from the beginning of the demo while the player’s character makes vague sounds during the conversation. This exchange felt a bit underwhelming for the action-RPG as options did not hold any consequences for how the next section plays out and can be skipped without missing out on much of the story or mission objective.

After descending down and exiting an elevator shaft, the player enters a dark, oil-spilt area. The color palette here reflected the same pop to its visuals as the other sections. A mech suit, which was required to clean up the oil, controlled fine, though combat definitely felt better out of the mech suit than in it.

A final enemy awaited which served as the boss fight for the mission. This fight contained three phases with the enemy adding a new attack method from in the second. The third phase, however, took place inside the creature. After taking him down from the inside, the planet’s Tree of Life becomes more alive as indicating a reversal of destitute for the planet.

The demo confirmed the anticipation OnlySP had for Biomutant. The combat felt great and the visuals really popped. THQ Nordic and Experiment 101 may something special on their hands if the rest of the game plays as the demo did.

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