We should begin by laying out some facts right off the bat and acknowledge a few truths about the current situation as it applies to the video game industry, but more specifically E3 2021. The COVID-19 pandemic really hampered so much development by forcing it out of the collaborative spaces of offices and into peoples homes. It also severely disrupted supply lines and manufacturing pipelines to such a degree that every electronics company is grappling with component shortages. Also worth considering is the fact that E3 is a show that’s been desperately searching for an identity for quite some time now, only to really feel the pressure after not having a conference at all last year. Knowing all of that led me to believe that I should temper my expectations for this year, but despite the middling status of E3 as a show, some of the presenters brought some really interesting stuff that I’m actually pretty excited for.

Keep in mind, I don’t really have much of a structure or rule set in mind for how I’m picking these, but I’m going to try and focus on games that were more than a cinematic trailer. No offense to cinematic trailers, but there isn’t really much to talk about with those when compared to games that showed off some actual gameplay footage. So don’t get weird about it when I don’t mention Starfield or whatever. But anyway, here’s what I saw at the Microsoft press conference (are we still calling them that?) from E3 2021 that really piqued my interest.


BATTLEFIELD 2042

It’s been a while since I’ve actually enjoyed a Battlefield game, with Battlefield 3 being the last one that really resonated with me. But before my decline in interest with the series really took hold, I thoroughly enjoyed games like Battlefied 2, Battlefield 2142, and even Battlefield 1943, which doesn’t even mention my fondness for the Bad Company spin-offs. But here we are, staring down the barrel of the Battlefield gun once again, and while I don’t recall anything demonstrably new or revolutionary about this latest entry, I’m intrigued by the footage that seemed to focus in on map hazards like snowstorms, dust storms, and tornadoes. It looks like it could be a cool inclusion in these massive battles, granted it doesn’t become overly tedious after encountering these events a couple of times.

I don’t really know what to expect from Battlefield 2042 except for the fact that there will not be a single player component, which might make it a tricky sell for some folks. Hopefully this Battlefield entry is more welcoming to new and lapsed players, and not just be a cool training exercise for snipers who want to see how quickly they can snipe me after I spawn.

PSYCHONAUTS 2

Man, I loved the original Psychonauts and have been so very excited for the follow up to finally come out. Luckily, I won’t have to wait much longer because it’s coming out at the end of August this year, and will be on Xbox Game Pass. Judging solely off of the trailer shown at the briefing it doesn’t look like Psychonauts 2 is straying too far from the path, vis-à-vis the things that made the original so successful and beloved. The humor seems on point, the art looks just as weird and flamboyant as I remember, and the gameplay looks just as good as I remember the original did (hopefully it’s less cumbersome this time though). The only real difference that I could see was that the levels look a bit larger and more mechanically diverse than in the original, which is a welcome change.

I don’t know what you’re supposed to do to revitalize a long dormant franchise of a cult classic to make it appeal to modern gamers, but I do know that I’m totally on the hook for this psychedelic platformer. And hey, it’s only been like 16 years since the original released, so I’m sure it’ll live up to everyone’s totally reasonable expectations and no one will be upset about anything.

PARTY ANIMALS

Man, I don’t know who’s out there developing games with me explicitly in mind, but I want to thank them so much. Party Animals looks like one of my favorite multiplayer games of all time, Gang Beasts, but like, if Gang Beasts was a bit more polished than it is. I don’t know what else to really say that can entice you more than the trailer can, but if you like silly ragdoll-centric mayhem where everyone is dressed as (or is?) an adorable animal, then we have nothing more to discuss. It’s just a shame that Party Animals isn’t going to be with us until sometime in 2022.

HALO INFINITE

Maybe I’m a fool, but I still want a good Halo game to come out. I’ve enjoyed parts of the past two Halo games, namely some of the single player campaign from 4, and most of the multiplayer from 5, but I would just love to see Halo be the tour de force it used to be once more. Despite the misguided story stuff from 5 though, I’m still kind of invested in these characters and this story that’s spanned more than half of my life at this point.

So later this year we’ll see if all of the complaints and delays really made Halo Infinite a better product than its initial reveal led us to believe. The most exciting developments from the trailer this year easily include the versatility of the grappling hook, which allows you hook onto not only surfaces, but you can pick up weapons and equipment with it and jack vehicles as well. The story bits in the trailer were also real intriguing, with this fake-ass non-Cortana hanging out with my good buddy, Master Chief, as well as the usual haunting occasional narration from Cortana herself. I haven’t checked in on the multiplayer presentation as of writing this, but apparently it is going to be free-to-play, which seems like a smart move to me.

We’ll see if it lives up to expectations when it drops on Game Pass and in retail this holiday season. Because of course they didn’t give it a firm date.

SHREDDERS

Despite having arguably one of the stupidest names for a game, Shredders looks like an extremely chill snowboarding game that I might be into. I’m not a big snowboarder or even a big fan of the outdoors in general, but even I can admit that Shredders looks super fun in a low stakes kind of way. Whereas something like Steep was a little too annoying in that classic Ubisoft way, where like, everyone was making terrible jokes and quipping at you constantly, Shredders seems like it’s going for a more relaxed vibe, trading out chatty NPCs with abject silence, while focusing on a more realistic representation of what it’s like to “shred that gnar.”

Like most of what was shown at the Microsoft event, it too will be coming to Game Pass when it releases later this year on December 12th, just in time for me to be utterly sick of the snow.

REPLACED

I don’t quite know what happened to The Last Night, but if it never comes out which is looking more and more to be the case, at least we can look forward to something like Replaced which might actually come out. Listen, I’m always gonna be here for a cyberpunk-themed side-scroller, but man am I excited for this one. First and foremost, it just looks fucking incredible which would be reason alone for me to try it out, but from what little combat and platforming that was shown, it looks like it won’t just be all flash and no substance.

There isn’t much else to really glean from the trailer itself, but that hasn’t done anything to dampen my excitement or anticipation. And like I said, considering Replaced is slated for release next year and is a day one Game Pass game, I think I can more safely assume it might actually come out. So that’s something.

XBOX GAME PASS

Out of the 30 or so games that were announced and discussed at the Microsoft presentation, I think only like 4 of them aren’t going to be on the Game Pass service, which is really quite impressive. I don’t know that anyone who owns an Xbox would have a tough time justifying signing up for Game Pass before this presentation, but after what was shown, it kind of seems essential to the whole Xbox ecosystem. Obviously that’s the point of what Microsoft has been doing, but they really made a strong case for it the other day. With games like the new Dark Alliance dropping day one later this month, to Microsoft Flight Simulator dropping in July, Psychonauts 2 in August, and plenty of other big name titles headlining each month for the remainder of 2021, I just don’t know how you can resist hopping onboard the Game Pass train.


Microsoft did a big dump of games, and while not everything resonated with me, I was genuinely impressed with how stacked their lineup is, especially considering the kind of year the developers making these games had to endure. Consider me impressed Microsoft. Now if only you could provide some sort of expandable memory for the Xbox Series consoles that didn’t cost $220, that would be just delightful.

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