E3 2019: Microsoft Xbox Briefing Impressions

I woke up at 6AM AEST to watch the Microsoft Xbox E3 2019 briefing and I felt a little indifferent after it ended. There were some moments I was like, “yeah this is going to be awesome”, and then there were moments like “next game please”. Frankly it was not their best showcase (for me anyway). I watched it again before writing this blog post and took notes down as the event progressed so I could at least have some references and ideas to go off. You can watch the VOD here (I have time stamped it to the start of the event so you don’t have to sit through 25 minutes of a countdown timer).

Xbox Game Pass is king

The biggest take away from the entire Xbox event IMO was that Xbox Game Pass is going to be such an attractive offering to gamers on Xbox and now on PC that it would be foolish to not consider the subscription service, especially that for a limited time it is $1 for the Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription. Nearly every single game that was announced or shown was going to be available at launch of Xbox Game Pass, which is fantastic news. Not only that but with their new Xbox Game Pass Ultimate subscription at $15.95 AUD per month you get your standard Xbox Game Pass, Xbox Live Gold and Xbox Game Pass for PC. I’ve just subscribed to the ultimate service as it is too good to not use. Well done to Microsoft for offering such an enticing and worthwhile bundle. Using this service I have bought less games but I have played more games, and even games that I had held out on or was hesitant to pick up such as Homefront: The Revolution and Vampyr.

The future of Xbox

The new Xbox console was also teased, code-named Project Scarlett. With four times the power of the current Xbox One X, it is going to be one beast of a machine. It appears the focus for the new Xbox console is to have games play faster/smoother, load quicker, while also look amazing (obviously). As a gamer you should be excited by this. As Phil Spencer said, “The new Xbox has been designed, built and optimized for one thing and one thing only, gaming…”. Unfortunately we need to wait until Holiday 2020 but on the bright side I am going to have the time to save up for the console and any game I want when it comes out.

There was also a very brief mention of Project xCloud but there was not mention of the network specifics or how it will function or even how much it will cost, so we will need to wait and see for that. There is also a new console streaming service that will be available too, where your own personal console can be setup as your own personal xCloud server so that you can play your games anywhere you want which is cool.

I already have an Xbox Elite controller, but version two of the controller is going to be coming out soon. From what they showcased in the trailer (you can see that here) it looks like that they listened to the gamers and have made some really good improvements like fully wrapped grips, adjustable-tension thumbsticks, and more. Having Bluetooth connectivity is a bonus as is the USB-C connection, but I am not entirely sold on the internal battery which from the looks of it is not removable. Many people have said the first iteration of the controller was poorly built and did not withstand the use from long gaming sessions; I have not had problems with my and the grips, etc. are all still going strong.

So many games

When Microsoft said that they were bringing games to the show, they really meant it. There was a crazy amount of games that they showed but there was only a handful of games that really appealed to me from either the cinematic trailer or the gameplay trailer. A quick rundown of the games that interest me included:

  • The Outer World – I was a fan of Fallout New Vegas, and to be able to play an RPG from the creators of New Vegas is going to be great. Plus it is going to be available on Xbox Game Pass at launch.
  • Ori and the Will of the Wisps – as someone who is not interested in platformers too much, the original game was absolutely outstanding and difficult. This looks to be much of the same and will also be on Xbox Game Pass at launch. However it looks like the game will be coming out early 2020.
  • Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order – you can check out my breakdown of the gameplay shown at EA Play 2019 here, but the CGI trailer looked decent. However being a single player action game, the replayability does not look very high.
  • Blair Witch – horror, atmospheric and thriller games are some of my favourite. This looked to be right up my alley and gameplay-wise appears to play closely like the Outlast series. I am interested in seeing more of this and as a bonus it is an Xbox Game Pass title.
  • Cyberpunk 2077 – nothing more needs to be said about this game. It will be GOTY. CD Projekt Red are one of the best developers out there. They know how to make fantastic looking RPGs and worlds that are fully immersive. This game looks no different, but we will need to wait until 2020 for this title too 😦
  • Age of Empires 2 Definitive Edition – more Age of Empires is always a good thing. As an RTS fan, and a fan of the series I will be playing this game when it launches and it is going to be on Xbox Game Pass.
  • 12 Minutes – this game has me intrigued. It is not a game that would normally interest me. I’ll keep an eye on this game and when it goes on sale I’ll probably pick this up and give it a play.
  • Gears 5 – I absolutely cannot wait to get my hands on this title. Everytime I see this game I get more and more excited. The new Escape game mode looked absolutely crazy and is going to be a blast playing with two other mates. The story looks like it is also going to go places where other Gears games have not gone. Releasing in September 2019 on Xbox Game Pass makes this a no brainer.
  • Halo Infinite – it has been too long between main Halo games. The last big Halo game came out at the end of 2015, Halo 5: Guardians. Halo Infinite is going to be a launch title in 2020 for the new Xbox console. 343 Industries went forward with the campaign in Halo 4 and then took great steps forward with multiplayer in Halo 5. All they need to do is now have both packaged together, but I am not sure they can do this; fingers crossed. I have high hopes for the game and it launching through Xbox Game Pass along a brand new console might be what the 18 year old franchise needs.

The next year will be interesting, with many of the games announced coming through Xbox Game Pass and playable in 2020 they will most likely be playable on the current generation of Xbox and next generation of Xbox consoles. Bring on 2020!

E3 2019: The Sims 4 and Battlefield V Stream Impressions

Originally I was going to have two separate blog posts for The Sims 4 and Battlefield V streams, but after watching the streams I felt that from what both announced it would be better to have a single write up. There was absolutely no way that I would be able to write up two meaningful blog posts.

The Sims 4

It will be 20 years of The Sims franchise this year. I cannot believe it has been that long, and I have been there from the start. So congratulations are in order for the franchise that keeps on giving; thanks EA and Maxis on such a fun franchise to play.

Just a very brief breakdown of what is coming this year:

  • The Sims 4 Island Living (new expansion pack)
    • Will be releasing at the end of June.
    • Brand new island world with an active volcano.
    • Plenty of new Create-A-Sim (CAS) and Build/Buy items that are inspired by real world Polynesian cultures.
    • Mermaids – something that looked interesting.
    • Dolphins – great to see some more animals in the game with interactions included.
    • New island interactions – from using aqua zips to snorkeling.
    • New Conservationist career.
    • New small odd jobs including being a lifeguard, diving instructor, etc.
    • Plus much more.
  • The Sims 4 Realm of Magic (new game pack)
    • Will be released in the Fall of 2019 (unless it is delayed and pushed out)
    • More information about this pack will be detailed later on in the year 😦
  • The Sims 4 Moschino (new stuff pack)
    • Will be released later in the year.
    • New Freelance Fashion Photographer career.
    • Primarily a CAS focused pack with new items to make your sims look fashionable.

If there was one thing that I could say about this particular stream; there was not many announcements but within each announcement there were a number of new items that needed mentioning. The brand new expansion pack alone has so many new items it would be crazy to list them all. I am super excited for this one though. Some of the features that I am looking forward to include the new world that has an active volcano (that can shoot lava bombs into the world – perhaps there will be a new death method in the game?), all the new interactions with the world including entering and exiting the world’s water (great addition to make the world feel more lifelike and real), and all the new interactions that can happen with the world and the items such as sunbathing, snorkeling, etc.

So I think what Maxis has done is give what every Sim fan out there wants. There is a little bit of everything for everyone; from the individuals who want to create some amazing worlds and buildings, to the individuals who want to craft interesting and fun stories with all the new world and item interactions. Good job here, I was super satisfied with what they showcased.

You can check out the stream using this link.

Battlefield V

I knew going in that it would be a map reveal, but I was very disappointed in what maps got revealed. As someone who was an avid Battlefield player, I think DICE really have missed the mark with Battlefield V. What did get announced was for the next two chapters in the game, chapters 4 and 5 (coming in the next several months).

There is a new map set in Greece and that does not look like it is going to be a fun map to play on. It looks absolutely gorgeous but as they showcased the map it looked like it was going to be one with many choke points and be a pain in the ass to take capture points. The focus of that map looked primarily infantry as well (something I am not a fan of in Battlefield especially with the majority playing the recon/sniper class).

There is a new North Africa map that also got announced. This to me felt like an absolute cop out of a new map as it was taken from the war stories mode and reworked for multiplayer. All the Africa maps that have been in any recently developed Battlefield game have been absolutely trash and are by far the worst maps on the rotation. The only positive from this is that there is a good focus on vehicle combat due to the scale of the map.

Along with these two maps there are a number of close quarter combat style maps which are designed for squad conquest coming out in August; again something that I don’t think Battlefield V really needs at the moment. I like squad conquest but there are more important issues to resolve. Operation Underground which is a “re-imagining” of Operation Metro and coming out in October; again this looked a little lazy to me.

DICE are also going to increase the maximum level cap to 500 from 50. I don’t see the point in doing this. Why have a level cap at all? The rewards that you get from reaching certain milestones after level 50 include company coins, new dog tags, icons, etc. To me it would make sense to remove the level cap completely and let people just continue to get rewards. In September they will also finally be having the ability to have private servers through private games; this should have been there from the start.

The only redeeming announcement was that in chapter 5 you will be able to play as the USA and Japan while fighting in the Pacific. Along with this will come new weapons and vehicles. Looking forward to that the most, unless DICE somehow mess that up too. Maybe the next Battlefield game will be worthwhile playing long term.

You can check out the stream using this link.

E3 2019: Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order Stream Impressions

I would not consider myself a die hard Star Wars fan, but I would consider myself a fan of Star Wars. I’ve watched most of the main Star Wars movies, played most of the Star Wars games and have read some Star Wars novels. So I would say that this game would be right up my alley.

I didn’t watch this stream live because I really didn’t want to disrupt my sleeping schedule just for E3 so it was one of the first streams I watched when I woke up. I am going to say the 15 minute or so gameplay footage they showed did not disappoint and if I did stay up to watch the stream I would have been okay with it overall. As the stream progressed I noted down some of the positive elements that stood out to me which include:

  • Single player action game only
    • This is good news to me (and probably other gamers out there too). Most of the Star Wars games that I have enjoyed playing have been single player only games such as Knights of the Old Republic, Jedi Outcast, etc.
  • Thoughtful” combat
    • It was mentioned that the combat was designed in a thoughtful way and it showed. From the enemy variety and placement, choice of using your lightsaber and force powers; it really was designed to have you think while fighting the enemy with many ways to go about completing the encounter.
    • The transitions between using your lightsaber and force powers looked fluid and smooth. Actually the entire gameplay was fluid and smooth.
    • At times there were “cinematic” moments while you were in combat such as when you were in the process of finishing off an enemy. The camera would pan around slightly, now I don’t know if this was done using one of the analog sticks or part of the game however.
  • Buttery Smooth Movement
    • As smooth as the combat was, so was the traversing and movement around the environment.
    • You can tell that this game took inspiration from Titanfall in regard to the wall running, clambering and climbing; it was made by the same developers.

You have a companion droid which looks to provide you with health when you are low (limited supply and you need to prompt for it, leaving you vulnerable) and it can unlock paths, provide you with Star Wars lore, and generally help you out to progress to the next area. Being an action game I know the focus will be on the combat and moment to moment set pieces, but I also really do hope that there are some puzzles in the game to break up the pace a little. We did not get any further information about the skill points and how they will be used or spent other than they can be used for force abilities. I would have liked to see that; will it be a skill tree? Or will it just be a “pick an ability” option?

If I was to be fairly critical of the game I noticed that it did not look the best or something coming out late 2019. I don’t know if it was the stream, but I was watching it at 1080P at 60 fps and for a 2019 game, graphically I had seen better looking games. It did not look bad but I would have expected some of the models and textures to look a little better. Some of the fire and smoke effects were also not the best I have seen. Lighting, shadows and the foliage were generally okay however. Having this quality shown is far better than having something look amazing and then when the game is released have it significantly downgraded, so kudos to Respawn here on that.

Maybe it was just me but the facial animations at the beginning of the gameplay along with how the character’s face was sitting looked a little off too. Now it was nowhere near as bad as Mass Effect Andromeda’s facial animations but it just did not look right. Being focused as a Jedi story I knew going in that you will not be choosing a force side, ie. light or dark. I don’t know why Greg would ask them this question. As someone who prefers the force abilities on the dark side and generally plays a Sith or dark Jedi I am a little disappointed but it is not a deal breaker. Perhaps I can choose to wield some of the dark side force abilities?

Overall from what I have seen so far of the game it looks like it is going to do well. There will be more shown at the Microsoft E3 2019 event which will be great and I will have a blog post about that whole event separately. Being a single player only game and because I buy all my games digitally now, it will be a game that I buy when it is on sale for at least 40% off; I don’t see it having much replay value (I could be surprised). If you want to check out the official Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order stream then use this link (I have timestamped it so that you don’t have to wait for the actual stream to start). Enjoy 🙂