E3 2021 may have been another no-show for Sony, but it felt like the year Microsoft finally got its ducks in a row. From first-party announcements, some impressive indies, and a huge array of Game Pass games, this was the company coming out swinging.
I recently opined that I love my Series X but it's my PS5 that I play the most, but Microsoft (and newly-acquired Bethesda) are likely to have me reconsidering that in the months to come.
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Microsoft Just Dropped Its Best E3 In Years
Perhaps what's most striking about the Xbox showcase is what wasn't there. No Forza Motorsport, no Avowed, no Fable, Perfect Dark, or Hellblade - and though they would have been missed by many, the event simply rolled from one game to another, never skipping a beat.
Halo Infinite had a particularly impressive showing, and while its new story campaign may bring back memories of Halo 5's impressive pre-release trailers only to flub the landing, the multiplayer reveal certainly called to mind memories of Halo 3 marathon sessions when I first set up Xbox Live.
Between vehicular combat, objective-based modes, and the fact you can send weapons flying and catch them in mid-air has me itching to grab my battle rifle like it's the Xbox 360 era all over again.
Forza Horizon 5, while leaked ahead of time, really feels like a natural evolution of a series that's doing open-world racing games in a way that no one else really is, and The Outer Worlds 2's cinematic may not have revealed a great deal, but it showed that Obsidian hasn't given up on that franchise - despite Avowed being in development.
Finally, Redfall, developed by Arkane Studios in Austin, sounds like a really exciting prospect. Arkane has traditionally developed single-player titles, but the thought of a vampire-themed co-op title with the studio's penchant for insane power combos and emergent gameplay has me itching for Summer 2022.
Sure, I'd have liked to have seen Starfield gameplay, but a release date of late 2022 suggests there's plenty more time for that title to spend in the oven, and seeing Far Cry 6 24 hours or so after Ubisoft's own event made it feel somewhat redundant - as fun as I'm sure it'll be.
Of course, the real winner here is anyone with an Xbox Game Pass subscription. Not only did ten Bethesda games arrive on the service today (including DOOM 2016, Fallout 3 and Dishonored: Death of the Outsider) along with Yakuza: Like A Dragon, but 2021 now looks packed.
In 2021, subscribers will get access to Psychonauts 2, Forza Horizon 5, Halo Infinite and the Ascent, but Microsoft also confirmed the likes of Shredders (which I was really hoping was a new Amped title), Hades (my favourite game of 2020) and Back 4 Blood would arrive on the service on day one. Those same titles will also arrive on PC.
I wanted big things from Microsoft this year (out of a love of competition, not some rampant fanboy nonsense), and the trillion dollar underdog (eugh) actually delivered. It felt as though Xbox was deliberately responding to the "but Xbox has no games" meme that stuck throughout an entire console generation, and delivered a sizeable middle finger.
Microsoft may not really care whether you play on Xbox or PC, but it's sure making a solid argument for either.