Games Inbox: Is Microsoft out of touch with Xbox Series X?

The Monday Inbox is still unconvinced by Xbox’s first party games and developers, as one reader is disappointed by Luigi’s Mansion 3.

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Looking next gen
Hey GC, thanks for including my feature. Just a note on that – I found out recently that the Forza Motorsport trailer was actually running at 30fps, so not as impressive as first thought but should still look great once they’ve got it to 60fps at release.

I find it really bizarre that after a games event where a multi-billion dollar corporation basically said they are going to give all their new games away for next to nothing, all anyone can talk about is how bad Halo Infinite’s graphics look. I would be surprised, but I feel as though whilst Microsoft are trying to embrace and drive a paradigm shift in how we perceive content, they haven’t ever fully understood or got to grips with the current paradigm.

They are clearly positioning themselves against Sony, made many comments direct or indirect on Sony matters, timing their release with Sony etc. It’s clear they are very much in the console war but then seemingly have ignored what console gamers expect of next generation releases. Xbox have promoted the Series X so bullishly that I don’t think it is absurd to suggest gamers were expecting a real next gen looking Halo.

Not sure what you make of it GC, but I think Microsoft has fallen prey to their own grandiosity. Or maybe they’re just stretched too thin trying to compete with Sony whilst trying to build a new service. They’ve definitely got ground they need to make up either way.
Twiggy Smauls

GC: Their approach does seem rather muddled at the moment. On one hand they boast about the power of the Xbox Series X and directly attack Sony – in a way they never have since Phil Spencer took over – and on the other they seem strangely reticent to prove that power. Then they undermine their own proclamation about no next gen exclusives (a concept that never seemed to benefit anyone) by implying most of their first party games will be Xbox Series X-only after all. They need to offer a more focused vision of their plans, which we assumed would coalesce around the unequivocally excellent Game Pass – except they barely mentioned it on Thursday.

Undeniable quality

Never have I seen anyone preach about so many (average at best) games before. I am an Xbox One and PlayStation 4 owner and a huge Gears Of War fan. But for me the Xbox exclusives have been abysmal this gen. Since CliffyB and Epic – come to think of it Bungie as well – stopped working on Gears and Halo, respectively, both franchises have gone downhill massively.

The Reader’s Feature clearly showed that the Xbox One has good games, but I would take none of those over any PlayStation 4 exclusive except… Days Gone. For me, all of the top tier Sony titles have been absolutely miles ahead in terms of gameplay and storytelling.

Forza Horizon 4 is very good, but it’s not exactly a killer app. I would certainly regard God Of War, Bloodborne, and The Last Of Us Part 2 as killer apps. No, they are not first and foremost multiplayer games, but they are of an absolute undeniable quality, and from what I see Microsoft are miles behind, and the best exclusives from the console are a shadow of the previous generation.

The original Gears Of War made me buy the Xbox 360. Does Halo infinite or any other game exclusive to Xbox make me want to buy an Xbox Series X at the moment? No…

You know Sony are going to do sequels for God Of War and Horizon Zerio Dawn, etc., you would bet money on them being great games. Can you say that for any Xbox exclusive, bar Forza? I think not.
Skill Influx (gamertag)/Skill_Influx (PSN ID)

Next gen pity
I feel sorry for Microsoft, the internet demands they show gameplay, not a trailer of their game, and when they show a level from the final game in an open environment the internet complains it doesn’t look good enough. You can kind of understand why so few companies make real-time demos anymore.

343i put their mark on Halo 4 and 5’s art direction which I actually quite liked (and I still feel 4 had the best told story) but got a lot of push back from long term fans. They return to Bungie’s original aesthetic and still they get it in the neck.

I watched the eight-minute trailer in 4K and it does look like a really solid, clean advancement over the original Halo. It probably looks a little too close to that original vision though, so any advancements are much harder to notice.

I do hope they improve the graphics a little before release, I’ve read they are going to be adding ray-tracing after launch though, so it seems Microsoft are still in the process of releasing their live service games (see: not finished games) to the public, though with the Xbox Series X launch this year I guess they really couldn’t delay it.

I look forward to playing it on Game Pass, in all honesty the show was as much of an advert for the service as much the console.
DarKerR (gamertag)/DarKerR-UK (PSN ID)

GC: The original Halo was 19 years ago; we’d certainly hope it looks better.

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Git goo
Luigi’s Mansion 3 is probably the most overrated game I’ve played this generation. Some parts, like the pianist boss and the film set, are fantastic but the addition of Gooigi and having to control another character is awkward, fidgety, and frustrating. Plus, Luigi moves far too slow, the controls are far from slick especially with the inaccurate aiming and the Polterkitty boss was frustrating enough fighting once never mind literally five odd times, on top of having to spend ages looking for him!

Overall great in parts but deeply flawed game which really disappointed me especially as a big fan of Nintendo games for almost 30 years.

GC: Really? We thought the game’s main problem was that it was too easy.

One franchise studio
I’ve never been a big fan of Halo so I see myself as something of an impartial judge on this. I’d say that I was not at all impressed by what we saw of Halo Infinite on a technical level. I also don’t really like the idea of an open world. Those enemy encounters in the demo look great this time, but what about the 100th time when they keep respawning because you’d otherwise be exploring an empty map?

But, like I say, I don’t really care either way. What I am interested in though is whether Microsoft are going to admit that 343 Industries are maybe not the right developer for the job. As far as I understand they were created specifically to work on Halo, with some leftover Bungie staff, and have made a bunch of games that most fans don’t seem that keen on.

If they were taken off Halo then would they be shut down? Is there another company big enough to do Halo instead? Could Bungie be brought back? To me these are more interesting questions than anything in the actual showcase.

Tortoise and the hare
I caught up on the Xbox Games Showcase this morning and I actually had to double check I was looking at gameplay of Halo Infinite and not one of the remasters in the Master Chief Collection. So yeah, a tad underwhelming.

Having said that, it’s clear to me that Microsoft are planning to go all in with Game Pass, which actually is a fantastic service. I’m currently subscribed on PC, mainly to play Sea Of Thieves, but am working through Forza Horizon 4 and won’t have a problem picking something else when I’m done with that.

The issue is that the vast majority of consumers want to be wooed by the next gen consoles, and the Xbox Series X appears to be avoiding that and highlighting that it’s only one possible way to play Xbox games, albeit the best console experience. I’ve no doubt that Game Pass will acquire many new subscribers over the next few years, but it could be a slow burn whilst the PlayStation 5 becomes an immediate hit.

Killer app
Phantasy Star Online 2? That’s enough reason for me to buy the new Xbox Series X.

I still play the Dreamcast version 20 years after release and will be soooo angry if this new game doesn’t get a UK release.

The rest of the Xbox game reveals I have little to no interest in so far.

Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here

Spoiler warning
Having been a fan of The Last Of Us since its inception for the PlayStation 3, and the remastered version for the PlayStation 4, I’d like to throw my two cents in to the ring about all the anger and disgust toward the sequel.

Most of the games in recent gaming history revolve around a primary theme… revenge! Someone does some wrong to a character or to a community and someone else takes up the call to exact vengeance for those wronged. We love to be the hero who defeats the strong boss and receive the rewards from the game, as well as the satisfaction of beating the game over and over again. I know I did with the first game.

Yet The Last Of Us Part 2 is a totally different animal.

Although its central theme is revenge, there is an underlying theme that struck me as I played. Abby is similar to Joel!

She is the ultimate anti-hero who takes a young child under her care and becomes a surrogate mother/big sister. How is this any different than what Joel and Ellie experienced in the first game?

Joel was a bad man. A smuggler. A hunter like the ones that attacked him and Ellie. He did unspeakable things to insure he and Tommy survived. His life is summed up by Tess when she says, ‘We’re s*** people.’

According to Mel, Abby is also a ‘s*** person!’ What is the difference between them?

This game gives us a view of redemption that some have disliked. Hatred consumes both Abby and Ellie to the point where it ruins their lives and kills those that they love.

But it had the perfect ending to the best game so far this year.
Lance Wilson

GC: We had to cut a lot of that out because of spoilers, you can’t talk about such a recent game in that kind of detail.

Inbox also-rans
Everyone keeps talking about Game Pass but what if Sony decide to turn around and make their own version? It’s be super easy, it’s not a technical thing, and they’d automatically have a better offering because their first part games are better. If that happens I don’t know what Microsoft has left.

I’ll tell you why I’m not interested in Xbox Series X and it has nothing to do with Halo Infinite’s graphics! Does Xbox have Bugsnax? No? Well, then what’s the point? Especially now I’ve discovered the official full theme tune. Or to give it it’s full name: the best video game theme tune of the 21st century!

GC: No lies detected in that last sentence.

This week’s Hot Topic
Given the Xbox Games Showcase last week the topic for this weekend’s Inbox is an obvious one: how do you think Microsoft are doing with their next gen plans so far?

What did you think of the games that were shown and will they be enough to convince you to get an Xbox Series X? Do you think the complaints about Halo Infinite’s graphics are fair and how do you think that game in particular is looking? If you were the head of Xbox right now how would you handle the launch of the console?

If you want to address similar points in the weekday Inbox then please indicate whether your message is meant for the Hot Topic or not.

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The small print
New Inbox updates appear every weekday morning, with special Hot Topic Inboxes at the weekend. Readers’ letters are used on merit and may be edited for length.

You can also submit your own 500 to 600-word Reader’s Feature at any time, which if used will be shown in the next available weekend slot.

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