Games Inbox: What did you think of the Xbox 20/20 games?

The Friday Inbox thinks Nintendo deserves its current success, as one reader recommends the Super Mario Maker-esque LevelHead.

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Big reveals
OK, so, err… that Xbox 20/20 was a big load of nothing. I know, I know. GC and plenty of readers said not to expect to much of any event like this but man, I was expecting at least one major third party reveal. And we go DiRT 5? Was that even new? I think they said it was, but whatever.

Where was the new Batman, Elden Ring, or… anything we’ve ever heard of. I’m all for new IP, really I am, but the only new games were indie titles, which is also fine but they’re not likely to be the sort of games pushing the next gen envelope and, at this point, I don’t think I’m being too shallow to say that I think that’s what we’re all looking for at the moment.

The closest we got to a big budget new IP was, I guess, Scarlet Nexus from Namco Bandai, although there’s no way from looking at the trailer that I would’ve guessed it was a next gen game. That’s largely because of the art style, but there was nothing in the gameplay either, that looked like you couldn’t do it on Xbox One. But then I guess if there’s no Xbox Series X exclusives plans that’s always going to be the case.

I have to say I think Microsoft are blowing their chance here. We’re just six months away from launch and so far they have given me zero reason to be excited for Xbox Series X, especially as most of these games are multiformat anyway.

Hype levels
I expected nothing and somehow I was still disappointed. I’ll admit there were some games that looked interesting there, particularly The Medium and Scorn, but how was anything in that Inside Xbox meant to promote either the next gen or the Xbox Series X?

Microsoft’s plan appears to be startingly softly and building up but I’m really not sure that’s a good idea. Compared to the PlayStation 5, which has shown basically nothing, and them, who have now shown quite a bit, there’s a massive difference in hype levels and Microsoft are not the ones in the lead.

They really need to be pulling out every stop but all they had was two minutes of probably fake gameplay footage for Assassin’s Creed Valhalla. If my shoulders had shrugged any harder I think they would’ve fallen out of their sockets. There was nothing about that livestream (that obviously wasn’t live) that would convince anyone to buy an Xbox Series X and I’m increasingly convinced Sony is going to wipe the floor with them.

I don’t want that though. Even though I’ll probably get a PlayStation 5 it needs as solid competitor to push them to do their best. (Nintendo doesn’t count because they themselves are not trying to compete with either of their would-be rivals.) At some point Microsoft are going to need to wake up, or they’ll end up asleep forever.

Glass half full
Our first look at Xbox Series X (and PlayStation 5) gameplay was a bit meh, wasn’t it? I’ve been telling people to temper their expectations for the show as I knew it wasn’t going to be a barnstorming sea of third party excellence, but I’m truly disappointed that Rocksteady’s new game and the Harry Potter role-playing game still remain unseen or anything of that ilk.

But I’m a glass half full type of person and I don’t want to dwell on what we didn’t see or if it was a missed opportunity (plus we’re still miles away from the next gen launch), let’s look at the positives. Yukuza: Like A Dragon is a launch title – I’m shocked considering how long it’s taken some Japanese games to reach Xbox One. The Medium looks pretty cool and if this was in-engine footage it’s a considerable upgrade on the recent Blair Witch game the studio did. Plus, Scorn is a day one Game Pass release, which is awesome, and the game had H. R. Giger vibes which I’m totally on board with.

The July event with the first party studios is going to be the real test here – we need more than these short snippet trailers. We need to see their games in all their full glory. Halo Infinite and Hellblade 2 need to show what the next generation is really about, as these games did not deliver.

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Essential gaming
I’ve read the recent Inbox letters expressing legitimate frustration and anger at Nintendo’s silence with detached surprise at their ferocity. Surprise at the ferocity due to the mitigating circumstances of the pandemic and that Nintendo have done a good job with the Switch’s first three years. The complaints are totally justified but like the pandemic in general a wait and see approach for the next month or two seems reasonable. After that, go nuts.

The SNES and N64 were utterly essential for me, I played those games even over the sexy new PlayStation, with its industry changing demographic appeal and arcade quality home gaming. On the GameCube, only Metroid Prime felt utterly essential. Since then only Zelda: Breath Of The Wild has felt essential for me, so I bought a second-hand Wii U for it. By essential I mean have to play it here and now, on release as it looks and sounds just too good to delay playing.

Of course, this is all personal preference and not a reflection on Nintendo’s output or desirability which seem as strong as ever, but it did get me thinking what is utterly essential gaming for me now. FromSoftware hold that status, I know nothing about Elden Ring but I’ve never wanted to play a game more. If Cyberpunk 2077 lives up to its promise that game and CD Projekt Red will join the list. I wonder who other GC readers would deem essential? I expect PlatinumGames might feature on a few, as well as Nintendo.

GC: Nintendo’s current situation has nothing to do with the coronavirus, it started well before the pandemic did and yesterday’s financial report made it clear that, so far at least, the impact has been minimal.

Guns in
I know as I’m typing to send this I’m going to get a lot of stick, but here goes. Nothing was really interesting on the Xbox stream (for me that is). DiRT 5 looked OK. Halo doesn’t interest me, for me it was all about Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, and dare I say it gameplay that wasn’t gameplay. Was it, GC?

I don’t get Xbox Series X new gen coming out with a clean sheet, they have said they’re going guns out with Xbox Series X but there wasn’t really that much. Just a load of stars and staff going on about how they’re making friends with game developers. They don’t need to make friends, they did that 20-odd years ago. They should be saying, ‘Here’s a new game’ over and over again.

Don’t get me wrong, I know their own games are two years away but there is plenty of third party games they could show off for the first time, let’s be honest. Xbox can only go up from that I hope. And as for Sony are they still making a next gen or have they given up on the idea?
candyman 121

GC: There’s no way to tell if it was really gameplay or not, but it’s always best to regard any pre-launch footage for a new console with deep suspicion. And there will be Microsoft exclusives this year, they just won’t be Xbox Series X exclusives, i.e. they’ll all be on Xbox One as well.

Enjoyably moreish
As I’m just playing it now, I’d thoroughly recommend Into The Breach as a low resource requiring PC game that works with a controller. It doesn’t need a large screen to work and can be played in bite-sized chunks – though each round of the puzzle/tactical mech game is so moreish, that you’ll soon find you’ve worked your way through several.

A variety of other indie recommendations include Spelunky, Hotline Miami, Darkest Dungeon, Journey, Hexcells, Unavowed, and the recently mentioned Return Of The Obra Dinn
Matt (he_who_runs_away – PSN ID)

GC: Those are some good calls.

Super Mario Maker too
Wondering if you are going to be able to get round to reviewing LevelHead?

It was you years ago the introduced me to the off-beat humour of Butterscotch Shenanigans, with their mobile release of Towelfight 2.

This led me into following their future output including the excellent Crashlands, which is on mobile along with PC and Switch.

This led me to anticipating their next game, LevelHead. It’s a good platformer with user-generated levels, which may have been overshadowed by Super Mario Maker 2, especially as both are on Switch, but has it’s own unique style, so will hopefully be able to thrive.

Also, it’s the only maker platformer available on mobile, PC, and Xbox and is on GamePass so those with that have no excuse.

I hope this email or maybe a review by yourselves will help spread the word on this little gem.
PS: Here’s the trailer

GC: We’ll be honest, we hadn’t heard of it till now. We’ll see if we can squeeze it into the next mobile round-up, which we’ve delayed till next week in order to fit in the new Forza game.

Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here

Midas touch
Incredible sales figures from Nintendo. Animal Crossing: New Horizons is an absolute beast and all these other games doing so well… they really seem to have the Midas touch this gen, no wonder they’ve got a bit sleepy now. The idea that the Switch is their worst console is laughable to me. Especially if it gets those Super Mario remasters than I think it’s going to end up easily their best, to the point where it’s almost pointless considering any of their other consoles.

Can I also say I really appreciate them always providing detailed sales figures, something they were doing even in the darkest days of the Wii U. Microsoft’s sad refusal to say how much the Xbox One has sold kind of says it all about their position at the moment, although I’m sure Sony would be the same if their situations were reversed.

A lot of gamers seem to have it in for Nintendo, through a mix of not wanting to praise games they deem childish and being frustrated by Nintendo’s disinterest in state-of-the-art tech (even though the Switch is arguably that, just not in terms of raw horsepower). But again and again Nintendo succeed for what sure be the purest reason: because their games are pure fun and they appeal to a very wide group of people. I mean, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

Nintendo never have a very long run of good fortune though so I’m sure they’ll trip over themselves sooner or later but for now I think their success Is 100% deserved.

Inbox also-rans
Is Assassin’s Creed Valhalla going to be the least Assassin’s Creed-y Assassin’s Creed so far? There doesn’t seem to be any platforming and the hidden blade isn’t hidden. Not that I’m complaining. I’d be happy for them to drop the whole idea and just do separate historical games. Black Flag would’ve been much better if it was just a straight pirate game.

A Mass Effect Trilogy remaster sounds like something we’ve been hearing about for years now. I hope it happens though and then they can go straight onto Mass Effect 4 and not lose anyone. I’d be perfectly happy if they change the ending a bit on 3 though.

This week’s Hot Topic
The question for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Traxxus, who asks what is your most memorable console launch video game?

It doesn’t necessarily have to be the one that you like the most but the one that left the biggest impression, perhaps because of its graphics or its quality (either good or bad). If you didn’t get the console when it first came out then any game you bought with it, or shortly after, would count.

Do you hold launch games to a different standard than others, compared to what you’d usually buy? Which launch games do you think hold up as genuinely good games and which are you now surprised you enjoyed at the time?

E-mail your comments to: [email protected]

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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