After a tempered showing earlier in the year, Microsoft really brought out the big guns with its July Xbox Games Showcase, providing fans with a proper glimpse into the future of the platform.
With an overwhelming amount of console launch exclusives and world premieres that debuted during the hour, we’re here to cut through the fog and pin down five important things you might have missed from the Xbox Games Showcase.
Let us fill you in some of the finer details that emerged during Microsoft’s greatest showing yet for the Xbox Series X.
Halo Infinite has a grappling hook, new weapons, and a new villain
At the top of the hour Microsoft gave us our first look at Halo Infinite gameplay, and it appears to be an open-world game with a ton of objectives, set on a Halo ring world. The premise follows Master Chief as he crash lands on the planet with his pilot partner, only to find it has been overrun by The Banished, a splinter Covenant force introduced in Halo Wars 2.
According to the map screen, missions will be gated by difficulty and spread throughout the map – Master Chief will also be able to find and apply Upgrades to his new equipment such as the drop wall and the grappling hook, which he can use to platform and lob items at enemies. The trailer also introduced a new arsenal of guns (obviously). Some of the guns seen in the trailer include a powerful pistol called the Mangler and a mid-range rifle called the VK78 Commando.
The game will feature wildlife, run at 60 FPS and be several times larger than Halo 4 and 5. The new big bad is War Chief Escharum, leader of this ringworld’s Banished tribe, which itself is run by Atriox from Halo Wars 2. He also mentions another dangerous force known as The Harbinger… fans will most likely be unpicking who that is as we speak!
Obsidian is making its own Skyrim-killer, set in the Pillars Of Eternity universe
If you’ve been keeping up with Obsidian’s back catalogue, you might have played 2015’s Pillars of Eternity or 2018’s Pillars of Eternity 2, both being critically acclaimed isometric RPGs set in a rich world.
Well, Obsidian’s next game after The Outer Worlds finds itself in that universe once more, and fancies itself something of a Skyrim killer. You can note Avowed’s Elder Scrolls comparisons quickly due to the first-person perspective and dual-wielded melee and rune-based magic combat. It’s a looker, that’s for sure, but we wouldn’t hold out hope for it to be released around the launch of the new consoles, as this blockbuster exclusive looks like it’ll be in the oven for a few years yet.
Psychonauts 2 is coming in 2021 and will feature original songs from Jack Black
In what was certainly one of the most surreal and charming trailers of the showcase, we got yet another glimpse at Double Fine’s Psychonauts 2, a sequel to the 2005 cult classic platformer. The game’s release year was later revealed in an Xbox blog post after the show, slipping to 2021.
As is tradition for Double Fine games, Jack Black will be appearing in Psychonauts 2 as the ‘Mote of Light’, the subject of one of the game’s levels. He will teach Raz the ‘Time Bubble’ power which lets him slow down objects to “create makeshift platforms” as well as singing a trippy ballad about smelling the universe and tasting the sky. Gnarly!
Stalker 2, the first Stalker game in 11 years, is an Xbox Series X launch exclusive
One of the most shocking debuts of the night was that of GSC Game World’s Stalker 2, which wandered into the showcase to reveal it will be an Xbox Series X console launch exclusive. Stalker is a beloved immersive simulator FPS franchise from the 00s, but Stalker 2 has experienced a rough road to release – it was cancelled back in 2011, only to be revealed again in 2018.
This makes Stalker 2 the first Stalker game in 11 years since Call of Pripyat, which landed in 2009. This is definitely a game series you should do some research into if you’re a fan of games like Deus Ex, Dishonored or Pathologic – and the trailer’s atmospheric, decrepit setting is a good starting point.
Tetris Effect: Connected brings multiplayer to one of this generation’s best games
Another surprising reveal came from the lords of synaesthesia, Enhance, responsible for such legendary titles as Rez, Lumines and 2018’s Tetris Effect, which was originally a PSVR exclusive and an absolutely essential experience in its own right. The game recently made the jump to other VR platforms, and now a new version of the game, Tetris Effect: Connected, will be available at launch on the Xbox Series X.
The worst thing you can assume is that this is just another Tetris game – you should go in blind and see for yourself when it launches later this year. If interested, do some research into Enhance’s back catalogue, and learn how they use games to deliver their audio-visual, haptic vision.
Connected optimises the single player Journey Mode and introduces co-op and competitive ranked multiplayer modes to the emotional experience. It will also be fully cross-platform with PC, and available for all Xbox Game Pass subscribers. If you’re not planning on picking up an Xbox, though, good news! Enhance will deliver the Connected update to the PS4, Epic Game Store and Oculus Quest versions of the game in Summer 2021.