E3 2017 is drawing to a close, and many attendees have already flown out of LA in search of less crowded pastures.
At E3 this week, Microsoft revealed the new Xbox One X, formerly known as “Project Scorpio.” The new console sports a six-teraflop (TF) computational capability, designed to power games with 4K resolution.
Overall, Microsoft had a great E3 showing, but there are some genuine question marks that need to be addressed sooner rather than later.
Here are the three things I loved most … and the three things I thought were lame.
Loved: Xbox One X
While there were some initial dissatisfied rumblings about the leaked $499 price point ahead of the show, Microsoft did a good job of demonstrating why the console is more expensive than its closest competitor, the PlayStation 4 (PS4) Pro.
The beefy six TF specs, the (small) size and general form factor, and the feature set, 4K game DVR, 4K streaming, 4K Blu-ray, HDMI-pass through, and more, really demonstrated how much value the Xbox One X will provide users who have invested in expensive 4K monitors and TVs. It genuinely looks tremendous.
Lame: Relying on third-party graphics demonstrations
With the exception of Forza Motorsport 7, Microsoft largely relied on third-party games to demonstrate the Xbox One X’s visuals. Metro Exodus and Anthem both looked utterly stunning, but we don’t really know how they’ll look on PS4 Pro in comparison, which is a big problem.
Assassin’s Creed: Origins also looked incredible, but I know from conversations here at E3 2017 that it will look virtually identical on the PS4 Pro, which is $100 cheaper than the Xbox One X. Again, not good.
Microsoft really needed another game such as Ryse to fully showcase what is possible with the Xbox One X. You can easily argue that racing games, particularly non-open world racing games, aren’t as intensive as a fully-open-world action game, complete with multiple A.I. characters and environmental details.
It was a big mistake on Microsoft’s part to not have something ready to shut down any discussions about graphics parity.
Loved: The diverse games lineup
Microsoft made a point of showing a diverse and vast games lineup at E3 2017, showing off 42 titles with more than half of them featuring some form of console exclusivity. Games like Code Vein and Black Desert really spoke to the criticism Xbox has received for not having enough Asian titles, and games such Lucky’s Tale and Metro Exodus covered the full age range of Xbox One users.
It’s a credit to Microsoft and the Xbox team that they placed emphasis on the global nature of their upcoming games lineup, featuring titles from all sorts of developers.
Lame: Lack of new AAA first-party
Frustratingly, Microsoft didn’t unveil (or even really tease) what sorts of exclusive games players can expect to enjoy on their Xbox One X consoles in the future, opting instead to show a bit more of the games we already know are coming. I’ve been up close and personal with Crackdown 3, Forza Motorsport 7, Sea of Thieves, and State of Decay 2, but I can’t really say I’m surprised by anything I’ve seen.
Microsoft really needed a more photo-realistic flagship action game to tease for the Xbox One X.
Crackdown 3 is mad fun, but it’s just like Crackdown 1, by design. Forza Motorsport 7 has some great new features, but we all know what a racing game is for. Sea of Thieves didn’t really give us any more clues as to what players will be doing besides digging up treasure. And State of Decay 2 is almost identical to the first game, albeit with polish more befitting of a Microsoft Studio title.
Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2, and Crackdown 3 all sport stylized visuals, as well, and clearly don’t push the Xbox One X to its limits. I think Microsoft really needed a more photo-realistic flagship action game to tease for the Xbox One X. But it looks as though we could be waiting a while to find out what comes next.
Loved: OG Xbox backward compatibility
As someone who largely missed out on the original Xbox (thanks, World of Warcraft), I’m ecstatic that Microsoft is now working to bring original Xbox games to the Xbox One family.
Microsoft emphasized “game preservation” as a driving motivator for bringing OG Xbox games into the modern generation, and I think that’s a noble goal. In my interview with Xbox’s chief of marketing Mike Nichols, he compared the concept to music, in the sense that it should be no harder to play 25-year-old games than it is to listen to 25-year-old music.
Microsoft demonstrated Crimson Skies as one of the first games that will come to OG Xbox backward compatibility, but there are dozens of instant-classics we could see re-emerge from obscurity, including Knights of the Old Republic, the original Max Payne games, and Mech Assault.
Microsoft also showed off some amazing new Xbox One avatars and demonstrated the potential of Dolby Atmos to us behind closed doors. Microsoft certainly isn’t holding out on new features.
Lame: No roadmap for VR
When the Xbox One X was originally revealed as Project Scorpio, Microsoft placed a lot of emphasis on the fact that it would power “high-fidelity” VR experiences. The fact that games like Resident Evil 7 (with a baked VR component on PSVR) came to the Universal Windows Platform (UWP), seemed to signify that the Xbox One X would at least have some form of VR demonstration this year. If not at E3, at least during Xbox Daily or something. Instead, we got nothing.
It seems to be part of a bigger PR decision to not talk about VR this year. Some outlets even reported that VR for the Xbox One X has been dropped entirely. We know that isn’t true, it just relies on Windows Mixed Reality which Microsoft is developing in partnership with Acer, Dell, and HP, and for Microsoft’s own HoloLens headset.
Microsoft could still be working out what VR looks like on Xbox One X. The company doesn’t seem to be happy with the current implementation, which is fairly anti-social and isolating, locking you out of multi-tasking and other functionality. Windows Mixed Reality will, presumably, allow games to run as the VR “environment,” letting you lay down 3D holograms for UWP apps like Twitter and Skype, right on top of the VR “experience.”
Perhaps it simply isn’t ready for prime time yet, but Microsoft could have at least given us some hard confirmation that it’s still on the way.
Microsoft had a great press conference at E3, and in my opinion, the company dominated Nintendo, Sony, and the big third-party AAA publishers.
The Xbox One X demonstrated its power well, using games like Metro Exodus and Anthem to do the heavy lifting. Clearly, Microsoft is going to struggle to persuade third-party publishers such as EA, Ubisoft, and Activision to utilize the extra power in the Xbox One X, because it seems like companies want to keep their games on an even-footing with the objectively inferior PS4 Pro.
As we move through the holiday season and towards E3 2018, Microsoft has Gamescom, and perhaps even the Tokyo Gameshow, to talk a little more about its future roadmap for exclusive games.
For now, let’s kick back, relax, and start wondering how we’re going to pay for that 65-ich 4K TV to go with our new Xbox One X consoles …
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