E3 Expectations: Microsoft

Coming from a lackluster presentation last year that had a lot of games, but not very meaningful exclusives, Microsoft hopes to show to the industry that they are working on their first-party library. According to rumors, Microsoft might have some tricks up their sleeves, and we can hope to see a few exciting announcements.

Halo 6

Halo 5

It’s been almost 3 years since the release of Halo 5: Guardians and it appears to be the perfect time to announce the next iteration of Microsoft’s flagship franchise. The third main title of the series released by 343 Industries is surrounded by mystery and some uncertainty.

While Halo 5’s multiplayer was one of the best in the series, the campaign left a lot to be desired, something that really felt out of character in a franchise revered by its rich story. The silence surrounding Halo 6 has been very interesting, as there’s no idea on which approach Microsoft will take or if it will work as a reboot or as a sequel.

On Sunday we will find out what the future of the franchise holds. I would guess we will at least see a teaser trailer, but that will mean it won’t come out this year, if it comes out in 2018 I’d say that the conference will begin with a trailer and end with a gameplay.

Gears of War Spin-off

Gears

There are many talks about a Gears of War 5 announcement, but it seems too early to start talking about it, Gears 4 was released less than 2 years ago. Announcing a spin-off, however, could work extremely well, as Microsoft did with the Forza series, that grew with the release of the Horizon sub-series.

It could expand the franchise, avoid fatigue in the series and provide more time for The Coalition to work on the main titles. For a while has been rumored a survival horror game in the world of Gears, and it could become Microsoft’s main Fall product. I’d guess we’ll see a gameplay and it will come out in November.

Forza Horizon 4

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This is the safest bet in the entire conference since Forza became an annual franchise. The surprising fact about it was that the Horizon series surpassed the Motorsport series both critically and commercially. Given the huge success of Horizon 3, we can expect for Horizon 4 to be even bigger and hopefully better.

There are rumors regarding a Japanese or English setting, with Japan appearing as a clear preference from fans. We can expect an extended gameplay and a possible September release date.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Ori and the will of the wisps

After Ori and the Blind Forest’s critical and commercial success, its sequel was announced in last year’s conference with a beautiful trailer. We’ll probably see another trailer and a release date, I’d say in August so it won’t be buried by bigger releases in September. It could be released as part of Microsoft’s Fall schedule, but it doesn’t have the size to compete with AAA titles.

Crackdown 3

Crackdown 3

After another delay, Crackdown 3 will have a defining moment at E3. A franchise that isn’t big enough to create hype on its own, it will need to have an exciting showing to regain some traction, generate expectation around the project. We should see an extended gameplay with some major improvements and a bigger focus on Terry Crews’ character.

The Last Night

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The most interesting game from last year’s conference, The Last Night is due to appear again, and we should see another trailer and finally a release date. I think it will either come out in this Summer or Earlier 2019.

Below

Below

Announced in 2013, Below has been through a rocky development, to the point it was delayed indefinitely in 2016. But it has resurged this year and we will probably get a release date on it. Given how long the game has been talked about, I think it might be available after the conference, or in July.

Ashen

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Revealed in 2015, Ashen is another indie exclusive with a long development cycle. Its unique design style and Souls-like battle system have garnered a lot of interest. Due to its slated 2018 release date, I believe it will come out in early August or early September.

Studio Gobo’s Exclusive

Studio Gobo

A partnership that was announced a while ago still remains a mystery, as we know absolutely nothing about it. If we look at their background, they mainly worked on the Disney Infinity series, but also in For Honor and F1 2012. If I had to guess, I’d say that they are working on a new Banjo game, possibly Conker, given their history.

Bohemia Interactive’s Project

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Hinted by a tweet from the composer of the project, we might have a reveal on Sunday. Their project should be another exclusive and a shooter based on the studio’s history. It already has a tagline “What if Humanity Falls” and the studio has retweeted an Xbox tweet talking about Inside Xbox on Monday, almost confirming the announcement.

Cyberpunk 2077

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One of the most awaited games of the last few years, CD Projekt Red’s next major RPG is expected to make its debut on this E3. Since they have a past with Microsoft, it will probably appear on their stage. The fact that they can show it on the X gives it more credence, as it would make sense to show it running on the most powerful console available. It will probably have a huge gameplay demo and it should come out in 2019.

Splinter Cell

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A rumor that has been going on for years but that this year appears to finally turn into a reality. The fact that Sam Fisher made an appearance on Ghost Recon: Wildlands and Michael Ironside’s interview at Inside Xbox where he hinted about a possible new title seems to corroborate the idea of an announcement.

All of that converging on a possible sequel and his return to the character for good. Given the series history on Xbox consoles, it would make sense if the title debuted on Microsoft’s stage. Not necessarily a gameplay, but at least a teaser trailer, with a gameplay demo on Ubisoft’s stage.

Anthem

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Having its gameplay debut on Microsoft’s stage last year, it is expected that Anthem will make another appearance. Maybe with a trailer focused on the story, but another gameplay would be welcomed, even though they might not want another huge sci-fi title on stage. The announcement of a beta exclusive to the console could also happen.

Kingdom Hearts III

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This may be a long shot, but since it’s the first title to come to the Xbox consoles, it would be interesting to see a trailer or a gameplay on Microsoft’s conference. If it happens I believe they would also announce the release of all the remakes to the Xbox One.

Sea of Thieves

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Their main bet in the first semester, Sea of Thieves had a successful release but was heavily criticized by its lack of content. I think they will release a trailer talking about future DLC for the game, highlighting the expansions that have been announced and their expected release timetable.

Shadow of the Tomb Raider

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The sequel to Rise of the Tomb Raider, Shadow won’t be an exclusive as the previous title of the series was, but I believe it will make an appearance on Microsoft’s stage. It will probably be its gameplay debut, highlighting the changes on the gameplay side and the stunning graphics.

New Studios

Playground Games

They will probably use some time to address their first-party woes, and I think they’ll bring Matt Booty to talk about investments on new studios. Playground’s purchase should be announced and the opening of new ones.

Assassin’s Creed Odyssey

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After Assassin’s Creed Origins’ incredible success last year, a new entry in the series wasn’t expected. However, Ubisoft surprised us with Odyssey, that will take us into ancient Greece, and if rumors are correct, will go even deeper on RPG mechanics. A gameplay demo should be expected and a release date, either Fall 2018 or early 2019.

Game Pass

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It should be a celebratory moment, talking about how successful it has been and the overwhelming reception. New games should be announced, especially their first-party games. Forza Motorsport 7, Horizon 3, Cuphead and other should come to the service this year.

My crazy guess is that they will announce that AAA third-party titles will be available on release. If I had to guess I’d say Shadow of the Tomb Raider and Splinter Cell will be the first titles to adhere to that.

Changes to Xbox Live Subscription

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The backbone of the Xbox division, Xbox Live Gold has been supporting the console and has been working as a great subscription service. But I believe that they will announce an evolution of the service, that they will create a premium option combining it with Game Pass. You will be able to access both services for a single price, it makes sense as Microsoft looks into converging their products and focus on becoming a service led company.

Battlefield V

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Their partnership with the Battlefield franchise has been very successful and it should receive a special attention. We should see an extended gameplay demo of the campaign and they should mention the fact that all DLC will come first to Xbox consoles.

ID @ Xbox

ID @ Xbox

Some titles of the program may appear on stage with quick gameplay demos, and I believe we’ll see a trailer that will focus on some of the best titles to come.

Japanese Titles

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Like last year, new Japanese titles should take the stage in order to confirm their focus on the Japanese market. I think the release of Nier Automata and Nioh will be announced.

Avengers Game

Avengers

Announced earlier last year, Crystal Dynamics’ Avengers title has been radio silent in the past year. This would be an interesting time to finally show it to the world, especially because Square Enix will have a conference this year. I would only expect a teaser, a gameplay demo would be little unlikely, but I hope I’m wrong.

Rocksteady

Rocksteady

Heavily rumored as a Superman game, Rocksteady’s new title has been greatly anticipated since the release of Batman Arkham Knight. I believe it should appear on Microsoft’s stage given Sony’s exclusive Spider-Man game. I don’t think Sony would want for another hero game to steal Spider-Man’s thunder. A gameplay demo and a release date in 2019 should be expected.

Project Dark

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This sounds more like wishful thinking, but this has been a rumor for the past few years and it would be a lovely surprise. It’s a franchise that would work really well on current consoles, with a modern gameplay. I don’t think it’s being worked by Coalition but I think they are assisting on the project if it’s real.

Banjo-Kazooie Anniversary

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It’s been 20 years since the release of the original Banjo-Kazooie and it would be a great time to release a remaster all of the titles. It could also work as a way to hype the release of a new entry in the franchise.

Features

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A part of the show that should be boring but that has brought some great news in the past few years. This year I think it won’t be as explosive as backward compatibility but I think mouse and keyboard compatibility, avatars, wishlist and a refund policy will come to the console this year.

 

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E3 Expectations: EA

Another E3 has come around and that brings many expectations and many leaks, as we apparently know the vast majority of games that will be shown. However, some surprises are bound to happen, with some conferences shrouded in mystery, such as Microsoft’s. Let’s begin talking about EA, that will kick things off once again, and even though it didn’t look that exciting at first, some possibilities arose that could be very interesting.

Anthem

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Their biggest bet in the last few years, Anthem is their new IP that represents their entry in the Game as a Service market. Bioware helms the project with the comeback of Casey Hudson to the studio and in spite of the rich background they have, many doubts circle the project.

Questions about Bioware’s ability to create enough content to keep the game alive, if they will successfully combine a significant story, create an exciting world, and bring great mechanics to a mainly multiplayer experience. Something that neither Destiny nor The Division managed to do.

Andromeda’s failure also created uncertainty about the studios’ current state, as stories regarding its troubled development surfaced as well as about what could happen if Anthem fails, given EA’s track record of closing studios. We can expect to see a trailer at EA’s conference and a large gameplay chunk at Microsoft’s.

Battlefield V

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Not many surprises should happen here, as Battlefield’s return to WWII after many years looks great. We might see a little bit of the campaign, but we’ll probably see more of the multiplayer, that like Battlefront last year, will probably have a live match after the conference. We should see some new mechanics in action. The most unexpected thing that could be announced would be a battle royale mode.

Sports

 

As it always happens, there will be a section of the show dedicated to sports. We should hear about new mechanics, more ultimate team, and story modes. Alex Hunter should make a comeback in FIFA 19, Devin Wade and Colt Cruise will start their career in Madden NFL 19 and NBA Live should see an improvement after a good iteration.

Respawn’s Star Wars

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After Battlefront II’s debacle, some good publicity around EA’s partnership with Star Wars would be welcomed and the announcement of Respawn’s Star Wars would absolutely help. Directed by Stig Asmussen, that directed God of War III, the project has been in development for quite some time and should be about time to announce it to the world.

There aren’t many details about the game, as it remains a secret. No details if it will be single or multiplayer focused, but on Saturday that should change, as hinted by Vince Zampella, head of the studio, on Twitter.

Skate 4 or Reboot?

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This long-requested comeback might actually happen this year, given some strange coincidences that occurred recently. The servers, that have long been dormant, were switched on in the week of E3. Maybe it’s nothing, but the company has been in need of good publicity and announcing the return of a beloved franchise wouldn’t hurt them.

Unravel 2

Unravel

The first title of the EA Originals initiative, Unravel was a great debut for the program and as we know a sequel has been in production for more than 2 years now. We could expect a teaser trailer, maybe even some gameplay.

EA Access

EA Access

EA Access has proved to be a successful endeavor of EA, but since the launch of Game Pass, it feels like it needs to go through some changes and improvements. Need for Speed Payback and FIFA 18 both appear to have been released on the vault, but we should expect for the announcements on Saturday and more on what’s to come, such as backward compatible titles and dates for other releases.

Dragon Age and Motive’s title

These are long shots, but there’s always the possibility that it could happen, probably as teaser trailers. Since Dragon Age Inquisition we haven’t heard a lot about the future of the franchise, even though having 2 projects of the same studio in the same conference wouldn’t make a lot of sense, a teaser could serve to entice fans. When it comes to Motive, we only know that they developed Battlefront 2’s campaign, but not much about their project. It probably won’t appear as it risks overshadowing Anthem, but we might hear something about it.

 

 

E3 Highlights

E3 has come and gone, and despite not having as many announcements or incredible moments as the previous years, it was a great show. And here I’ll talk about my favorite games that were part of the conferences.

A Way Out

Sometimes a new project comes with real innovation, and this is a perfect example of that. We always hear about innovation on games, but we rarely see it, and A Way Out brings it to not only storytelling but to gameplay as well. A couch co-op game in which you control two inmates willing to escape from prison.

The difference is that each player will control a different character at the same time with different perspectives, and ways to push the story forward. Creating scenarios that could be played in several ways, with each character having personalities that could make a situation easier or harder to deal with. It’s great to see EA bringing an experience with such an unusual approach to the market.

Anthem

Speaking of EA, here’s a demonstration of their range. From an indie game like A Way Out, to a colossus called Anthem, a huge AAA project from Bioware. Closing Microsoft’s conference, Anthem, a Destiny with an apparent bigger focus on story, impressed everybody with an incredible demo, showing what Bioware’s main team had been working on for years now.

The graphics looked simply breathtaking, to the point it was too beautiful to believe sometimes, we’ll hardly see it looking like that on consoles. What was very surprising was how easily the game could change from a jetpack, to ground combat, to water without hiccups or meaningful changes. They claim it will be released next year, let’s hope.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

A prequel to the franchise, Assassins Creed Origins looked to show how the franchise would shape up after taking a year off. And from what we could see, it looks like a soft reboot, telling the story behind the beginning of the brotherhood in ancient Egypt, a setting that allowed the team to make some interesting changes.

With a larger focus on the RPG aspect, Origins appears to be a lot more profound the previous titles of the franchise, something Unity tried to do before. Combat was revamped, taking notes from Dark Souls, with a slower pace, that requires players to think before attacking. The world looks beautiful, reactive, alive, the animations on the other side didn’t look like they were very improved. If they deliver on what they promised this could be not only an amazing AC game but an amazing game overall.

Far Cry 5

Beyond all the controversy surrounding it, Far Cry 5 has been getting a lot of attention for the changes that have been made. After Far Cry 4 and Primal’s underwhelming results, showing signs that the franchise seemed to exhaust its formula, Far Cry 5 feels like a real step forward, at least from what we’ve seen.

Instead of lush environments, Montana is the new setting, a change that can bring new gameplay experiences. The demo spotlighted the co-op experience, showing NPC options to assist you in your missions, as well as with other players. Like Assassin’s Creed Origins, the world around the player will react to your actions, assisting or fearing you. If the villain is great, and the new features work well, it can be a comeback.

Need for Speed Payback

The reboot was a good game that unfortunately didn’t really resonate with the fans of the franchise. The FMV cutscenes were criticized by many, personally, I found it strange and funny at times. When it came to gameplay, it was neither horrible nor incredible, the graphics were mesmerizing, on the border of becoming photorealistic. But the world felt lifeless, and the always online feature would punish those who wanted to play offline or that had an unreliable internet connection.

With all that baggage, I didn’t expect much from Payback, however, what we saw was a silly, fun, high-octane game with a heavy Fast and Furious atmosphere. And that can be a smart way to bring the franchise back, when it comes to simulators there are worthy competitors, Forza Horizon 3 was everything an arcade game needs to be. Feeling like a Burnout game with a story, charismatic characters, customization options and great gameplay can be what the franchise needed.

Marvel’s Spider-Man

Last year a trailer revealed an important exclusive for Sony, a Spider-Man game produced by Insomniac, and the hype train started. From that moment on, we heard nothing else about the project.

This year, an extended gameplay showed how the game runs, and in the end, it looks like an Arkham game with color. The combat resembles the Arkham series, but with flashier movements, a more acrobatic style. New York looks stunning, with traversal looking simple and loose. As we can expect from Spider-Man, there was a lot of bantering, jokes, a lighter tone. My only concern is with an excessive use of QTE’s, that if used wisely, only during action sequences can work very well, but if exaggerated can remind Resident Evil 6.

Sea of Thieves

At last, it looks like we finally know what Sea of Thieves is all about, after 2 years of demos that wouldn’t really show much. And despite being a little too long, the gameplay demo shown this year followed a crew on a mission, and it does look different, and fun.

Teamwork seems to be the best way to play it, as things can go bad quickly. Storms can affect the way the ship handles, special treasures can change gameplay, other crews can attack you. This might be the cause why the game won’t succeed, as it relies heavily on multiplayer, as we saw with Evolve, Battleborn. But Sea of Thieves looks like a much richer game than the examples above, with more things to do, a lot of features, and a unique style.

The Crew 2

This one was unexpected to me, when I saw that it was The Crew 2 I thought about checking my email or doing something else, I’m glad I didn’t do it. It appears to be another case of Ubisoft’s great improvement on the second title in a franchise. The first title was very underwhelming, wasting an immense potential. With The Crew 2, it looks like we’ll finally get what we were promised before.

Visually it is a lot superior to the first Crew, with New York looking amazing, the game also uses an effect that reminds Inception to change locations ocasionally. The fact that you can change from a car to a plane to a boat immediately is something we haven’t seen in a racing game, hopefully, it will be better implemented than it was in Steep. From an insipid title, we may get an alive one, much like the Watch Dogs to Watch Dogs 2 transition.

The Last Night

Sometimes a smaller game comes and steals the show, and The Last Night was one of those gems. An example that graphics aren’t everything, it has a special art style, pixel art, something I was tired of, in a futuristic cyberpunk world that looked like nothing else we saw this year. Whether it will be great we’re yet to see but it shows a lot of promise.

Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus

Crazier, more beautiful, with an improved story, an even bigger focus on the characters, that’s all that a sequel should have. And Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus looks like exactly that. The New Order was well-received but didn’t seem to explode as it should’ve, in part to some gameplay choices, in part to a very slow start in the campaign.

From what we’ve seen, MachineGames heard the criticisms and greatly improved on them. The story, that was very good in The New Order, appears to be even more interesting, bringing Nazis to America, making you fight them as part of the revolution. The characters are bizarre, the villain scary, if it is anything like the trailer it will be an amazing ride.

Those were my favorite games, did I forget one you liked? Comment.