Xbox and Bethesda’s E3 2021 preview has five titles worth seeing

Xbox and Bethesda’s E3 2021 preview has five titles worth seeing

Microsoft’s buying spree of studios finally looks like it’s paying off as the company announced a flurry of 30 games at its E3 Showcase with Bethesda. Twenty-seven of those titles will be included on Xbox Game Pass, which is the centerpiece of the company’s strategy to capture this generation of gamers.

‘Starfield,” “Forza Horizon 5,” “Battlefield 2042,” “Halo Infinite” and “Atomic Heart” are worth keeping an eye on

By building a large library of titles and giving players near-ubiquitous access to it, Microsoft creates a compelling value. That offer looks even better as it showed off exclusive projects available to its platforms. Here are the top five games that caught my eye.

1. Forza Horizon 5 — Can a racing game be game of the year? “Forza Horizon 5” can make the most convincing case in years as Playground Games project arrives Nov. 9. What astounded me the most were the visuals. At first glance, I thought the environments were real-life videos, but when the cars roared across the landscape and the HUD popped up, that’s when I knew it was a game.

In the past, photorealism was impressive on vehicles. Now with ray tracing and more powerful hardware, that image quality stretches to the environment. These are the prettiest visuals I’ve seen since “Demons’ Souls” on PlayStation 5.

This entry takes place in Mexico and features deserts, jungles, ruins, cities, beaches and volcanoes. It’s a diversity of 11 biomes with changing seasons. Taken together, that means players will see plenty of environments and variations upon them. The seasons concept with weather patterns (seen in “Forza Horizon 4) is one of the most forward-thinking concepts to come to open worlds in a long time. It changes the courses and adds new elements to gameplay and it’s good to see that making a return here.

Playground Games seems to make the title more accessible and fun with Horizon Arcade events, which introduce challenges and minigames with other players. EventLab offers more customization options for races. It’s a huge expansion on the Blueprint races that the developers introduced in “Forza Horizon 3” and makes the game friendlier to user-generated content.

With the bleeding-edge graphics and more refined gameplay, this could be one of the top games to come out in the fall.

2. “Starfield” — Bethesda kicked off the showcase, but the announcement didn’t have quite the impact because of a post that broke the embargo. That said, players should still be excited for “Starfield,” which is Bethesda’s first new IP in 25 years. One of the bigger selling points is that Bethesda Game Studios finally updated its engine. Not much was revealed in the announcement trailer other than its release date, which is Nov. 11, 2022.

Other articles shows that “Starfield” takes place more than 300 years in the future, and players are part of Constellation, which is a group of explorers. It’s a described as “Skyrim” in space, which means either two things. One is that players will have plenty of agency joining factions and choosing quests that determine how they impact the universe. The second (and less likely outcome) is that players can expect “Starfield” to be remastered and ported over to all future video game consoles and perhaps AI-controlled smart speakers. 3. “Battlefield 2042” — Plenty of hype has been generated about this game since the leaks and official reveal. The Xbox & Bethesda showcase didn’t hurt by showing off actual gameplay, which should make fans even more excited about the project. It was one of the few titles at the event that showed in-game footage and it seems to confirm fans’ hopes.

In this year of coverage with much of it being remote, gamers should appreciate reveals that actually show the game and give concrete details rather than clever teasers (though there are exceptions). The EA footage shows that players can crash ATVs into helicopters. They can switch weapon mods on the fly. The wingsuits can pick up the updraft of tornadoes. The maps will also be layered as players engage in running gunfights atop skyscrapers and fight below in desert sand. The Oct. 22 launch date can’t come soon enough.

4. “Halo Infinite” — The delay looks to have done good for the latest entry in Master Chief’s adventure. Microsoft offered hints to the story as the search for Cortana continues as the franchise protagonist investigates her fate. Her scheduled deletion didn’t go as planned and Master Chief encounters a new AI, which he adopts and plugs into his suit. This new character offers a novel dynamic as Chief will likely have to adjust to the fresh-faced AI as they both head to a Halon ring to find out what happened to Cortana. It makes the single-player campaign more intriguing, but what’s even better were the glimpses of what Master Chief’s new grappling hook can do.

The tool can be used to grab explosive barrels so that players can toss them back at foes. In the multiplayer, that functionality is even more pronounced. Players can use it to ambush rivals. They can grapple onto vehicles and hijack them. One interesting wrinkle is that grenades can blast items toward players and they can grab them midair to attack. That display of shooter prowess also comes with a look at samurai-inspired Spartan armor. The trailer was a good way to whet players appetite for “Halo Infinite,” which is scheduled to come out later this year.

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