Xbox is usually always one of the biggest shows of E3, so the combined forces of Xbox and Bethesda together rightfully made their show the most momentous in the E3 2021 schedule. Along with Bethesda’s enormous RPGs like Elder Scrolls and Starfield, there was plenty of anticipation on the Xbox side, as people looked for the fruits of the company’s mass acquisitions spree.
The talk of the town, as expected, was Bethesda’s Starfield. And after much speculation, it was confirmed that Starfield would be at the show after the game’s trailer leaked hours before the conference began. The trailer somehow ended up on the Washington Post website, providing a two minute look at a spaceship and internal environments that would look at home in Star Citizen or Elite Dangerous. (There’s a making-of video, too.) We also got a date of November 11, 2022, or the more fittingly typed “11-11-22”.
On the Xbox side, there was keen anticipation around the direction of Halo: Infinite and its multiplayer, especially after last year’s reception to the gameplay. But there was plenty else to look forward to: what was next on the Xbox Game Pass roadmap, what’s happening with games like Psychonauts 2 and Age of Empires 4, console ports for titles like Microsoft Flight Simulator, the State of Decay series, and system-wide upgrades for the Xbox ecosystem, including more compatibility for Dolby Vision in games.
Bethesda’s Todd Howard took the stage to open the show, introducing people to Starfield. “It’s a game we’ve dreamt of playing, and it wasn’t until now that we have the hardware, technology and team … to make that dream a reality,” he said.
Built on the “Creation Engine 2”, the trailer opened to the internals of a spaceship as an astronaut popped a rifle down on a table. The player is a part of “Constellation”, and Starfield was listed as an “Xbox exclusive”, meaning it won’t be available on Sony consoles.
The show then pivoted to S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chernobyl, with a note that the show would have 30 games, 27 of which would be hitting Xbox Game Pass on day one. As you’d expect from the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. team, it was revealed the game would target 4K resolutions with ray-tracing, and that it would be “coming first” to Xbox Series X/S and PC.
Gameplay showed the player walking around with some kind of futuristic wand that functioned like a Geiger counter, and there was a brief look at the classic gunplay you’d expect from the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series.
There’s some impressive weather effects throughout, especially in a later scene featuring the Duga, which gets lit up with lightning. The conference immediately jumped into Back 4 Blood, which was getting its own conference spot later in the morning Australian time.
The game will have a PvP Swarm Mode, a classic for fans of the original Left 4 Dead series. Back 4 Blood is launching on October 12, and it’ll be a day-one Xbox Game Pass release.
The next game was an Xbox exclusive from Avalanche Studios, makers of Just Cause, and it was Contraband. It doesn’t have a release date, but it’ll be an Xbox Game Pass day-one title. More content for Sea of Thieves followed, specifically the introduction of Captain Jack Sparrow and Pirates of the Caribbean to Rare’s co-op franchise.
All the classic characters make a return, including Davy Jones and his ship. The expansion will officially be called A Pirate’s Life, and it’ll launch as a free update to Sea of Thieves on June 22. Yakuza: Like a Dragon followed up, revealing it’d be hitting Xbox Game Pass today.
The first Battlefield 2042 footage then ran, giving everyone a proper look at the grappling mechanics, UI, weather effects, and what 128-player gameplay might look like. Players and vehicles can get sucked into the massive cyclone sandstorm if it appears on the battlefield, and it looks like at least one of the maps has massive skyscrapers that players can zipline between (giving those without the grappling hook easier access).
Fans of Psychonauts 2 got good news — the game is launching on August 25. Bethesda’s Pete Hines also announced that 10 more games would be coming to Xbox Game Pass, while DOOM Eternal will get a 60 FPS/ray-tracing mode, and a 120 FPS performance mode on Xbox Series X.
On the Game Pass front, The Evil Within 2, Dishonored: Death of the Outsider, Arx Fatalis, RAGE, Wolfenstein 2: The New Colossus and the original four Fallout games (Fallout Tactics, Fallout 1, 2 and 3) would all be available later today Australian time. There was no word on whether there would be FPS Boost functionality for any of the older games.
Fallout 76‘s latest expansion then had a new reveal trailer, while the Xbox YouTube channel revealed that Twelve Minutes would be a day-one Xbox Game Pass title. Twelve Minutes will be available from August 19.
After some a trailer for Elder Scrolls Online’s enhanced console edition, the cutesy co-op brawler Party Animals got a new reveal. It’s officially launching on Xbox in 2022, although it’ll launch on PC too.
Hades then followed with an August 13 date for its Xbox release. A new game from Jumpship called Somerville then played, showcasing a small family trying to escape and survive. It’s due out in 2022 and both games will be on Xbox Game Pass. (Thanks tonez for the spot!)
Halo Infinite then finally appeared, with 343 Industries head Bonnie Ross saying Halo Infinite‘s multiplayer will be free-to-play and available on PC and Xbox with “no boundaries”.
We also got some details about the Halo Infinite campaign, including some set pieces in space where it eerily sounds like Cortana has returned. We got a brief look at the grappling hook again, and confirmation that Master Chief was tasked with taking Cortana back to the Infinite for deletion. Master Chief then takes a second AI and inserts it into the back of his head via a sci-fi SD card.
The first Halo: Infinite free-to-play multiplayer season and the paid single-player campaign will “launch this holiday season”. On the multiplayer side, we saw some footage of the grappling hook being used to pick up fallen weapons, grappling to enemy vehicles and airplanes, or throwing explosive barrels.
In a rare occurrence, the conference then followed up with Diablo 2: Resurrected, which will launch on September 23 this year. A Plague Tale: Requiem — made by the same studio behind Microsoft Flight Simulator — was then announced with a 2022 release date. A Plague Tale – Requiem will also be an Xbox Game Pass game.
A trailer for Far Cry 6 played, touching on the game’s stealth mechanics, sniper rifles, explosives, a controllable tank, RPGs, and my personal favourite, a rooster than runs around attacking everyone.
Why does the rooster have studs, Ubisoft? Far Cry 6 launches on October 7 this year.
Next up was the overly cute Slime Rancher 2, which is launching next year. Fans of snowboarding got a new title, Shredders, while a new Atomic Heart trailer played set to a strong eurobeat soundtrack.
Shredders is launching December 2021, while Atomic Heart has no release date (but will be on Xbox Game Pass).
A super-stylish pixel-art brawler Replaced then played. It’s hitting Game Pass and PC, but not until 2022. Obsidian’s Grounded then revealed Shroom & Doom, which adds bugs as pets, mushrooms, achievements, and the ability to sit. And also the Broodmother is being added, so I’m definitely not playing that.
Among Us gets an update adding 15 player lobbies on June 15, but it’s also being added to Xbox consoles and Xbox Game Pass.
It was then time for some JRPG action, namely Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes. The game was originally backed on Kickstarter, and was targeting an October 2022 release date. It’s since gotten a new publisher — 505 Games — but that has since been pushed back to 2023.
Eiyuden Chronicle Rising was also announced with a 2022 release date. Both games will hit Xbox Game Pass on launch.
Age of Empires 4 then got a flashy new trailer, reconfirming it’d hit Xbox Game Pass day one for PC. It’s launching on October 28 this year.
In what surprisingly became one of the better videos of the whole conference, a sci-fi trailer played with a voiceover that repeatedly took the piss out of video game trailers. It was the sequel for The Outer Worlds, although it honestly felt like it was taking shots at Halo for most of it.
Microsoft Flight Simulator then showed up, showcasing its usual array of vistas, aircraft, airports and various places you can go soaring. Microsoft Flight Simulator will launch on Xbox Series X and S on July 27, but in an added bonus players will also be able to fly military aircraft as part of a Top Gun: Maverick expansion sometime this spring.
It was finally time for some Forza action, but the showcase looked a lot more like a future Forza Horizon than Motorsport. There was shots of high-speed race cars, dirt racing, trucks, and it was coming a lot sooner than expected: Forza Horizon 5 would be launching on November 9.
Forza Horizon 5 will also have support for ray-tracing at launch, and a gameplay explainer started in a Mexican rainforest. The “festival” is still core to the Forza Horizon campaign gameplay, but the video then switched to multiplayer, quickly going from the rainforest to seaside locations, urban areas, beaches and a nearby volcano.
Playground Games added that The Eliminator — the battle royale mode introduced in Forza Horizon 4 — was making a return. The game would also have photorealistic skies courtesy of a 12K HDR camera rig, used by Playground to capture the Mexican skies.
A new feature is Events Lab, basically a level builder for Forza Horizon that lets players customise the ruleset and level configuration. It looks like a much more powerful version of the editor that was added into DiRT 5 last year.
Phil Spencer then took the stage for the first time, highlighting the range of games that would be hitting Xbox Game Pass from now until Christmas. Other titles featured there that weren’t part of the Showcase, like Sable, Scorn, Aragami 2 and The Gunk, although their release dates had been revealed prior.
Typically, shows of these magnitude never end without one more thing. For Xbox and Bethesda this year, the spotlight was given to Arkane Austin to reveal a new title that was confirmed as an Xbox exclusive.
The game showcased a group of four characters, each with their own supernatural abilities and powers. The game is called Redfall, and it’s launching on PC and Xbox in the Australian winter on 2022.
And if that wasn’t enough, the Xbox Mini Fridge is actually a thing. It’ll be available sometime this holiday, although Australian availability is unknown.