As the not-quite-E3 season of video game trailers comes to a close, Microsoft unveiled its biggest show of first-party force for its upcoming Xbox Series X console on Thursday. Hype began building for this event as soon as Microsoft confirmed plans to reveal Halo Infinite campaign gameplay, but the story was just as much about which new and familiar game series did (and didn’t) show up alongside Master Chief.
The event wasted no time getting to all things Halo, complete with a voiceover from the popular character Cortana narrating the reconstructing of the Master Chief armor set: “Liquid crystal cannot rise on its own.” Shortly after, we see Chief in a spaceship, piloted by the man who discovered Chief in last year’s cinematic trailer, as they argue about what to do next. “You’d still be out there if it wasn’t for me,” the man says. “I thought I was going home.”
“There won’t be a home if we don’t stop the Banished,” Chief replies. This detail is the first potential confirmation that a 4chan leak from last night was actually accurate, and the second indication came shortly after, once the reveal switched to live gameplay—and Chief is seen brandishing a grappling hook, which he uses to hook to a foe from a distance, zip directly into its face, and smack it with his fist. We also get a first glimpse ever at a Halo game with a built-in map, complete with marked mission locations—proving out years of rumors that Halo Infinite is likely an open-world adventure in the Halo-verse.
But otherwise, the demo sequence, which ran at an apparent 60fps, is everything you might hope for from a mainline Halo game: crafty AI that divides and conquers and an assortment of powerful weapons to beat them with (including at least one new UNSC rifle and one new alien-branded laser launcher). The demo concluded with the announcement of a release window of “Holiday 2020,” but nothing more specific than that just yet. (We were already warned that this event would not include release date info for the Xbox Series X.)
And if you’d like to know more about Halo Infinite, you’re in luck: I’ll be attending a special reveal event for the game behind closed virtual doors later today and will report back on my findings as soon as I’m able.
Every game shown will come to Game Pass
Xbox chief Phil Spencer confirmed that Halo Infinite, and every other game shown during the event, will debut as part of the paid Xbox Game Pass subscription service. Nearly all of the games shown are listed with Windows 10 versions, as well.
Forza Motorsport: No release window for this one, and Spencer described this as a “work-in-progress,” suggesting that the popular Xbox-exclusive racing series won’t launch alongside Xbox Series X this year. Instead, we were treated to a sizzle reel that Spencer insisted was made entirely of in-engine footage, and it was rich with glossy real-time reflection effects and polygon-rich racing cars on the firmer racetracks of the “Motorsport” fork, as opposed to the open-nature driving of Forza Horizon. And, wouldn’t you know it, this one does not appear to be slated to launch on base Xbox One consoles!
Fable: Confirming one of the worst-kept rumors in all of British gaming history, Microsoft finally took the wraps off of the simply named “Fable,” developed by the team at Playground Games (best known for the Forza Horizon series). This reveal came in the form of a silly pre-rendered video in which a pixie flies around with hopeful, optimistic music and narration—before being swallowed by a frog. No gameplay was shown, so the reveal simply appears to be a statement of intent for the series’ return since Peter Molyneux’s Lionhead Games shut down so many years ago.
State of Decay 3: This non-gameplay sequence saw a woman hunting a deer in a snowy landscape, only to discover the deer in question is infected with some sort of zombie-like overgrowth.
Everwild: Rare’s previously teased game received a cinematic sizzle reveal of cartoony, fantasy-hero characters doing apparently mystical stuff, like conducting a seance to bring a deer-like creature back to life.
Tell Me Why: Dontnod Entertainment, the team behind Life Is Strange, revealed a new narrative-driven story set in a small woodland town about two siblings. The game will launch first on Xbox consoles and Windows 10, its first chapter will arrive on August 27, and it’s clearly designed for current-gen machines.
Ori and the Will of the Wisps: We got confirmation that this previously released game will jump to 120fps refresh rates on Xbox Series X.
Avowed: Obsidian Entertainment teased its first Xbox-exclusive RPG after revealing previously announced fare, and the brief footage vaguely leans into obvious Skyrim-like inspirations.
Psychonauts 2: A trippy music-filled sequence (with Jack Black singing a new original song) showed the long-in-development game running at a crisp 60fps refresh, suggesting this is its Xbox Series X build. Sadly, however, this tease didn’t include any hint of a release date update.
STALKER 2, Warhammer 40,000: Darktide: Brief sizzle reels for each of these first-person follow-ups revolved around pre-rendered cut scenes, so it remains to be seen what’s to come for each.
Tetris Effect: Connected: This appears to be a “2.0” update to 2017’s stunning Tetris Effect, and it will remain an Xbox and Windows 10 exclusive for an undetermined period of time before coming to other platforms as a free update to the existing game. It adds the one thing I wanted in the original game: multiplayer, whether played locally or online. If you’ve never played this game in VR and have Game Pass Ultimate, rest assured, its Windows 10 version will include VR support.
The Gunk: Splatoon meets No Man’s Sky in this third-person adventure, which has you using a suction gun to clear evil goo and traverse a fantastically colored alien world.
Microsoft’s last attempt at an Xbox Series X gameplay reveal in May fell a bit flat, since it focused primarily on indie developers; its few “major” third-party entries consisted mostly of pre-rendered footage and unclear gameplay. Sony was keen to capitalize on this disappointment with a stunning June presentation of PlayStation 5 exclusives and reveals.
Listing image by Microsoft / 343 Industries