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Perfect Dark, Indiana Jones and a new Gears of War: all the new games from the Xbox Games Showcase
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Perfect Dark, Indiana Jones and a new Gears of War: all the new games from the Xbox Games Showcase

Xbox has not had the best year, so far. In January and February, a leaked announcement that formerly Xbox-exclusive games were about to make their way on to rival consoles the PlayStation and Nintendo Switch sent the most vociferous portion of its fanbase into a tailspin, convincing themselves that Microsoft was about to give up on Xbox exclusivity altogether. (In the end it was only four games, but Xbox’s leadership took their time clarifying.) In May, Xbox closed two well-loved studios that it had acquired in a spending spree a few years ago: Tango Gameworks (Hi-Fi Rush, The Evil Within) and Arkane Austin (Prey, Dishonored). All this comes on the back of flagging sales for its Xbox Series X/S consoles; analysts have estimated that the PlayStation 5 is outselling them lately by a factor of 5:1.

Microsoft will have been hoping to rescue the narrative with its Xbox games showcase, which was broadcast live on Sunday and screened at an event in Los Angeles for media, games industry and a coterie of Xbox fans. Call of Duty: Black Ops 6, a new Indiana Jones game and the return of brutal action-game series Gears of War led the pack in blockbuster games, but there were also plenty of smaller-scale announcements. With its Game Pass service, which offers an ever-changing library of games for a monthly fee, Microsoft has made a billion-dollar bet on Netflix-style streaming as the future of video games – and after its recent merger with Activision Blizzard, it now has a huge number of game studios making games for it.

Call of Duty: Black Ops 6 will be available on Game Pass when it launches on 25 October, and is set in the 90s after the collapse of the iron curtain. From Bethesda, which Microsoft acquired in 2021, there was DOOM: The Dark Ages, a new instalment in the venerable shooter series that will also release on PlayStation 5 when it comes out in 2025. EA and Ubisoft showed new footage from their upcoming multiplatform Dragon Age and Assassin’s Creed games releasing later this year.

Exclusive Xbox games shown included female-fronted spy shooter Perfect Dark – a series that began on the Nintendo 64 in 2000 – which is being revived by studios Crystal Dynamics and The Initiative, and has distinct echoes of Dishonored and Deus Ex in its first-person stealth and combat – and State of Decay 3, a co-op-zombie survival game from Undead Labs. Indiana Jones and the Great Circle was shown-off with a gloriously over-the-top confrontation between Jones and some Nazis on a battleship stranded at the top of a mountain.

South of Midnight is an adventure game set in a fantasy-flavoured version of the US south, featuring giant talking catfish and gators the size of islands. There was a long, promising-looking trailer for Fable, the British fairytale-fantasy game in development at Playground Games. Ukraine-made shooter STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl and the forthcoming new Flight Simulator were also shown, in a trailer that somehow managed to romanticise agricultural aviation and private charter flights. And the final reveal of the show was a new Gears of War game, entitled Gears of War: E-Day, set during the alien invasion that forms the backdrop to the rest of the series.

A smattering of independent games, most of which are multiplatform, provided a counterpoint to a rather guns-and-gore heavy opening salvo from the show: Annapurna’s Mixtape, a magical-realist 1980s teen drama; FragPunk, a comic-book-styled mix of card game and hero shooter. An intriguing role-playing game called Clair Obscur: Expedition 33 is set in a world where a mysterious painter daubs a number in the sky every year, instantly vapourising everyone over that age. There was a hand-drawn game about a mouse trying to make a home in a woodland, Winter Burrow, and the first showing of a new Life Is Strange game from Deck Nine, starring the series’ fondly remembered first protagonist, Max.

The showcase was well-received in a room full of Xbox fans – which, after a year of difficult PR moments for the company, will doubtless come as a relief to its executives. Next to a very light schedule of 2024 and 2025 games from PlayStation, the Xbox slate is looking relatively packed.

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  • Keza MacDonald attended a screening of the Xbox showcase as part of Summer Game Fest in Los Angeles. Flights and accommodation were covered by Amazon Games

Source: theguardian.com