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The Rapid Reviews’ View – Inside Xbox / May 2020

Reading Time: 10 minutes

Finally, a real look at Series X gameplay. Microsoft have set the hardware standards for the next generation and Phil Spencer has spoken loudly about getting it right, straight from launch. The next, and most important step is showing people what games they can expect to play.

Given Sony’s relative quiet, Team Xbox have taken full advantage of the broadcasting space, showing off their new hardware with full breakdowns and tech specs.

Today, they promise ‘Xbox Series X Optimised’ gameplay footage from a wide range of third-party developers. We will naturally see more from Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and if we’re lucky, a more powered-up look at Cyberpunk 2077. Perhaps a few enhanced ports or some super-fast loading times in large, dense open worlds.

Ubisoft love a good old console launch, even propping up the ill-fated Wii U back in the day, but will we see the wonderfully stylised adventure game Gods and Monsters, some Watch Dogs Legion and another predictable pew-pew Rainbow Six title? Any exclusives?

Come join the ride with Chloe and Mike while we catalogue some of our reactions, thoughts and feelings on everything Xbox Series X (with a post-reaction editorial tidy-up of course).

Go!

Mike: Here we go, 4PM sharp. Live from a kitchen, with a nice Series X fridge meme. Classy.

Not to be outdone by these pesky third party devs, Microsoft are wasting no time in telling us that gameplay reveals from their first party team, collectively Xbox Game Studios, starts from July where we’ll see Halo and others.

Cue cheesy dramatic music. Oh damn, that ugly leaked X logo is legit.

Chloe: Not sure why people were hoping for first party when we were explicitly told we would be getting third party games! But at least we can get hyped for some first party reveals in July. I know a lot of people who will be dying to see Halo!

Hmm yes, not sure how I feel about that logo yet and a new start up screen is always going to take some getting used to.

Bright Memory Infinite

Mike: Some beautiful, smooth looking gunplay with astonishingly heavy weather effects and great lighting. This is looking nice, smooth traversal, a little Titanfall wall running. Swordplay, too. Shifting locations and enemy types suggest there might be a nice bit of time travelling going on by the looks of it or some clashing history/future themes. Very frantic… now we’re jumping into some DeLorean looking car for a driving sequence!


The game is Bright Memory Infinite from Playism, a single-person developer based in China. Exciting and impressive. One to look out for.

Chloe: Definitely impressed by this too! Slightly chaotic and surprising seeing a shift from guns to swords and knights, but this has me interested for sure. The switch between weapons is fluid, and it looks fantastic. I immediately thought it was a DeLorean too!

DIRT 5

Mike: There’s that ‘World Premier’ logo they love to lean on. And, why not? Codemasters now. Racing, obviously. This could be a look at their next gen take on Dirt in action? Again, laying the weather effects on thick. Looking great, where the diversity of locations is concerned. Yup, it’s Dirt 5. Can we see a section so it doesn’t look like we’re watching it on TV now? Inside the car? The HUD maybe? No? No.

Chloe: I can hear that E3 ‘World Premier’ announcement whenever I see those words. Not a huge fan of racing games, but I can see them trying to show off the graphics with both the cars and the environment. I agree though, seems like just a trailer rather than what the game will actually look like.

Scorn

Mike: Gross-looking alien cyber Lovecraft vibe here. This game is Scorn. Lots of pods and tubes and rum stuff going on in here. Suspect this is some form of horror game but I think it’s trying damn hard to gross us out. Is that, liquidised people juice? Not seeing any gameplay though…

Chloe: It definitely grossed me out! Blood and bones, squishy stuff, all at a very close look. Yes, again, not much gameplay, so I’m not too sure what the game will actually be about. Obviously horror and gore related, but who will we play as?

Chorus

Mike: Alright, so we’re still riding the sci-fi theme in this next effort. A character sporting a very Mass Effect-looking suit and we’re seeing what looks like it’s mostly space combat focused game. Pretty game but again, missing that gameplay we were promised. Chorus releasing 2021. I’m always down for a bit of space dog-fighting but, as sharp as this looks, it’s difficult to draw any conclusions.

60FPS is seemingly standardised across everything, as expected, so that’s something.

Chloe: Again, more like a trailer. I’m up for trying any sci-fi game, but space combat and flying is not my forte. Does look very good visually, so for someone with an OG Xbox One, I’m more than ready for an upgrade and excited to play in 60FPS.

Madden 21

Mike: Ah, sports game. I have no idea who this dude is. Cue long history reel about Madden. Buckle up, it’s about to get boring! Can’t wait to see how their ray-traced blades of grass are looking. There you go Madden fans, a teeny tiny clip of Madden 21.

Every developer under the sun us working on Series X stuff. Apparently. Well, yeah, we’ll see. Show me the JRPGs!

Chloe: I’m not a sports fan, and even less a fan of sports games. Yeah, no clue who he is either. I guess it’s cool for lifelong fans of the game to see how far it’s come, but feel like it was more focused on the history reel as you said, without much about Madden 21 itself.

Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2

Mike: Now we’re watching an interesting view into some people doing… well, pretty mundane people stuff, lots of daft preamble following by… a bit of neck biting! It’s Vampire 2 in the bloody flesh. Lovely gory rendition of Seattle. But man, this combat looks good. Lots of powers and bats flying about. Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines 2. Not a new reveal but there was a glimpse of what we can expect and it’s looking tasty.

Chloe: I have no previous knowledge of this game, but damn it looks cool! I’ve never played any games about vampires, so I’m loving the look of all these powers and the whole atmosphere of a dark Seattle. The game play reminded me of Infamous Second Son, which I watched my brother play, purely because of the city environment and use of powers.

Call of the Sea

Mike: This looks pretty. Colourful tropical environments. Throwing in lots of weather effects, as is tonight’s theme. Call of the Sea looks like a fun island exploration game.

Chloe: Definitely my kind of game. Bright environments and seems to be based on narrative, plus exploration like you said. Looking forward to finding out a bit more about this game! It gives me Draugen vibes, which I reviewed for the site.

The Ascent


Mike: Cyberpunk (not the game) looking alien world here. Grimy Blade Runner feels. Looks to be an isometric run and gun shooter. The Ascent. Ripe for coop that one. Interesting world with some fun alien race designs.

Sci-fi fans have had a lot to chew on so far, that’s for sure!

Chloe: Not my type of game with its POV but I agree, I like the look of the alien races and seems like there will be some humour in it. I feel like a lot of people will be interested in it.

The Medium

Mike: Now we’ve moved on to a horror title – weather effects in full flow – winds breaking up walls, lots of snow, very creepy. They’ve brought the Silent Hill composer on board (nice) and now we’re seeing some in-game scenes. Third person survival horror, lots of shifting environments. This is psychological horror, The Medium, coming ‘Holiday’ 2020 and looks very Silent Hill. Definitely a highlight.

Chloe: The Medium has shown off the most impressive visuals for me so far. I am a massive wimp when it comes to horror games so I’m not sure if I’ll be picking this up. But it stands out among this catalogue of games for sure.

Scarlet Nexus

Mike: Here we go, it’s Bamco. Let’s see that Japanese flavour. Some rather unique-looking mutant beasts being sliced up by an anime swordsman with very tidy hair. Lots of spinning swords. I’m digging this. Looks like an inner-city Sword Art Online, meets EDF, meets God Eater, complete with giant bosses. A bit disconcerting that Scarlet Nexus, running on Unreal Engine, appears to be dropping a lot of frames in this footage though. Can’t see that being the case on full Series X release though, surely.

Chloe: Interesting looking enemies, which for some reason made me think of it being another sci-fi game, so I was surprised to see an anime protagonist rush on the scene. Very nice swordplay here. I think this will pique the interest of a lot of JRPG fans, and I knew you’d like this one, Mike!

Second Extinction

Mike: Earth has fallen and now you need to join a militant squad to shoot some… dinosaurs! Nice. Second Extinction: Reclaim Earth looks to be a squad-based shooter with some Turok-style action thrown in for good measure. Difficult to get a feel for exactly what’s involved beyond shooting dinosaurs.

Chloe: Yep, all I got from this was zombie-like hordes of dinos are bombarding you; shoot them all! An interesting take on a shooter, crazy enough to make me want to see more about it.

Yakuza: Like a Dragon

Mike: Yakuza! Woo! We’re in Kamorocho for sure, no Kiryu this time though, as we know. This is, of course, Yakuza Like a Dragon, already launched in Japan earlier in the year with fancy new RPG combat system. Now we’re seeing Ichi with his cool as hell afro – what’s this? A launch title on Series X (with release on One and PC too). Yakuza’s off-the-wall madness continues.

Chloe: Never played Yakuza, but know of its big fan base so a lot will be excited to see this, particularly being a launch title. Maybe this will convince some people who are undecided to go for the Xbox Series X.

Assassin’s Creed Valhalla

Mike: And to round it off, it’s some Assassin’s Creed Valhalla footage. Yeah, yeah, blah, blah set pieces. There’s in-engine stuff shown but it’s still carefully shot set pieces of longships and some lovely English and Norwegian landscapes. Let’s see some action! Don’t get me wrong, the idea of seeing the end of the Viking era where we get English Castle sieges is an enticing one, but come on, show us the gameplay! There’s a lot of talk about duel wielding, progression systems etc. This all sounds very iterative on the Odyssey formula, so that’s just fine. And waiting for the proper gameplay portion… wait, that’s it? Well that was disappointing! Nice lighting. And weather.

Chloe: I am very excited for this. I have been on and off with Assassin’s Creed, not playing every one of the titles, but I enjoyed Origins. I am loving this era as a fan of almost fantastical cultures such as Vikings, and can’t wait to explore both English and Norwegian environments. But I agree, it’s not much different from what we’ve seen in the recent trailer. Of course, it looks amazing, but only a taste and I’m hungry for me! I’m intrigued to see who our protagonists will be, and the crow as the ‘eagle’ looks awesome. Vikings are just cool.

Development Chatter

Back to Dirt 5 now – talk of the real-world locations, changing seasons a la Forza Horizon 4. Lots of different colour palettes and yes, weather! This looks very nice and we’re seeing some lovely set pieces. But I want to see a lap from behind the vehicle, as it would be played. Career mode includes real world sponsors and Troy Baker is on the voicing team, as is Nolan North as your nemesis. So, what’s specific to Series X? 60fps with option for 120hz and ‘almost instantaneous’ loading.

More on the The Medium now from the developers directly. Talking of themes about sacrificing family for pursuit of personal interests and others, including how that manifests as a freakish nightmare world. Akira Yamaoka of Silent Hill 2 fame – a game which unsurprisingly, is noted as the main reference for the atmospheric vibe – is teaming up with their own composer. Connecting visions to real world via lots of transforming scenes, yeah, looking very Silent Hill. Set in late 80s Poland late (hence the beautiful snow and architecture) where the spirit world represented the mass censorship of the time. Human anger, urges, secrets are reflected in the spirit world. To be fair the visuals really look to capture these ideas perfectly.

Talking up the hardware as I’m sure is required for their longer time slot, they’re basically saying Series X allows for smooth travel between worlds and levels without loading and frame drops. Tell that to Bandai Namco!

All Xbox Games Studios will have Smart Delivery – a massive, if expected, boon.

The Takeaway

Mike: Too many cinematic looking scenes – none of the ‘gameplay’.

Honestly, it was nice to see some new and often intriguing titles revealed and, if the event was originally framed as such, I think I would have come away more impressed.

However, we were promised gameplay and, while we had in-engine shots running on simulated Series X hardware, there was little by way of boots-on-the-ground gameplay footage to be found.

The cross-buy initiative, Smart Delivery is fantastic for consumers – the example used here, buy it on Xbox One, own it across both platforms and can switch between.

Roll on July, I say!

Chloe: Agreed, going in with the expectation that we would be seeing gameplay and then seeing…not a lot of gameplay, hit a bit harder than if we’d have known it was more reveal or trailer based.

Smart Delivery is a smart (heh) move, as a common gaming problem is having to re-buy games for the next console, that is, if it’s not backwards compatible. This takes it to the next level, and I think is something Xbox have done incredibly well, with the inclusion of Game Pass too. Will this convince some fans on the fence?

It was exciting to see some new titles, though I am definitely looking forward to what July brings!

What did you make of the event? Let me @2DMike3D or @WriteBluesAway know on Twitter or comment below!

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