Games Inbox: What will be the Xbox Series X launch games?

The Friday Inbox worries that Nintendo’s love of secrecy has got out of control, as one reader struggles to see the point of Animal Crossing.

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News at last
So Microsoft is going first, just as predicted. I’m not sure why, as it’s obvious Sony are going to switch plans as soon as they see what they’re doing, but presumably Microsoft know what they’re getting themselves into. But at least we might now actually get something proper to discuss about the next gen, barely six months before it’s meant to start.

I’m sick to death about hearing about teraflops and SSDs and just want to see some proof of what they can actually do. Even that Assassin’s Creed Valhalla was just a pre-rendered trailer, that could’ve been for a PlayStation 2 game for all the difference it would’ve made.

In trying to predict what games will be shown the obvious ones are Halo: Infinite and Hellblade 2. Assassin’s Creed as well, apparently, but that’s the only big ones confirmed for launch I think. They’ll definitely want to have at least one prominent Japanese game in there but it’s hard to guess what, maybe just a promise of Final Fantasy 7 Remake next year?

They’re always chummy with EA so I’d imagine FIFA 21 and maybe a new announcement? Possibly a new Star Wars game or Battlefield 6? I could also see some sort of headline-grabbing deal like getting first dibs on Call Of Duty back or something to do with Rockstar, GTA 6 even?

It’s easy to get carried away with these sort of things but given how behind Microsoft has been this gen surely this is the moment to go all out. Somehow I have feeling they’ll leave Fable 4 to later though, given I don’t think it’s supposed to be a launch game.

Random spoiler
Oh well, it had to happen, I guess. With the recent spoilers circulating the internet for The Last Of Us Part 2, eight weeks until its release was probably too much to ask to successfully avoid them. In the end for me it was just a couple of days – spoilers appeared on a Twitter thread that was completely unrelated to computer games. Having had the game effectively spoiled I subsequently took the view that I might as well seek out the footage to see them all for myself.

I have to say I’m unconvinced by the story for various reasons, if that’s the direction it is going in. I obviously can’t elaborate further on why without giving away the plot and actually playing the game may change the context for the better. I always thought the original was such a great standalone game, one which I loved, that a sequel would be superfluous. Having seen the plot that would seem to be more the case now.

Yet I can’t help but think cynicism, especially when the gaming industry is not covering itself in glory with microtransactions, gambling aimed at children, and notorious working practices of which Naughty Dog has a well-documented issue; an issue where its lamentable treatment of its staff seems to have come back to bite it hard on its posterior via a disgruntled employee.

The Last Of Us Part 2 alongside Cyberpunk 2077 was one of the few games this year that I had in mind as a possible to buy on launch. With the former I guess I might now wait for the reviews and general reaction before deciding to buy it.
Paul Williams

GC: We’re surprised by such a reaction, we found ourselves more interested in the game, after hearing the spoilers, than we were before.

Download Rage
I’d have to say that Streets Of Rage 4 is everything I wanted it to be. If they’d have changed the formula too much you’d have lost the feeling of the original games and I think they got this spot on. I’ve enjoyed playing it most of today.

It’s the first time I woke up during the night because I was so excited about a game for a long time. It wasn’t on the Nintendo eShop until 10am unfortunately, so I couldn’t pre-download it and I heard there’s been some problems on different formats with actual release times if you want a digital copy.

I’m loving the soundtrack, but I do like a variety of different music genres anyway.

The only thing I haven’t liked about the game is Axel’s beard. And the difficulty playing on my own on normal seems really tough. I had to give myself more lives, which I hated doing, but it was annoying me not being able to get through the level.
Nick The Greek

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Short, controlled bursts
I took the plunge, despite my reservations, and bought Animal Crossing: New Horizons. After five days of play I have to say… I’m really not sure. I can absolutely see the charm in the game. I love Blathers and enjoy collecting all the bugs, fish, and fossils for the museum but overall there just doesn’t seem to be enough going on to keep my interest. Your island is way smaller than I imagined beforehand. I thought exploration would play a role in the game, but you can walk round the whole landscape in under five minutes. I actually ran out of things to do yesterday.

I had a two-hour play session in the morning in which I did everything I wanted to for the day and then had to abandon a second night-time play session after an hour for lack of engaging tasks. To be fair, there were technically activities I could do, such as design my own T-shirt, landscape my garden or do some interior design but none of these things particularly appeal to me. I played Splatoon 2 instead.

Weirdly, I’m not even sure I find the game entirely relaxing. Part of the reason I play games is that they fully engage my brain, meaning I don’t have to time to think about my worries and anxieties from the real world. With Animal Crossing I find my mind wandering much more than normal, letting the real world creep in.

I wonder if anyone else who has tried the game feels the way I do? Do most people play another game at the same time? Maybe I’m trying to play too many hours each day. I’m going to persevere for a while longer. I have the shop opening today along with a house expansion so maybe they’ll help make things more interesting.
Ryan O’D

GC: The average play session is always just an hour or two. It’s a game that’s meant to be played a short amount of time but every day.

Hard decisions
Your reader the other day made a great point on storage for next gen machines. You’ve only got to look at the big differences Xbox and PlayStation have today for dealing with storage, PlayStation 4 you can open the machine and pop in a new hard drive but Xbox you cannot. On Xbox you can plug in two USB hard drives, on PlayStation 4 only one at a time. On PlayStation 4 you need roughly twice the available space on a hard drive to install a game initially, on Xbox you don’t.

Moving forward with PlayStation 5, at present there is no hard drive that can match its specs, so you would have, say, a basic hard drive plugged in then have to move your game from the external drive to the internal drive, which is OK unless your internal drive is full… We don’t, as far as I am aware, know how much of the stated internal capacity of PlayStation 5 is available but sounds like musical chairs with data if you have lots of games. The Xbox solution is to have the custom plug-in drive (dread to think how much that will cost!). Plus, as per PlayStation 5, the ability to use a standard hard drive and move game data internally.

Your other reader also made a good point on Xbox 2D to 3D comments, personally I still have a 1080p TV, so 4K is lost on me and I’ll be honest I can’t tell if the game I’m playing is 30fps or 60! I couldn’t tell the difference between an Xbox One’s and Xbox One X’s game… but what I could see quite clearly, even on my Galaxy S5 phone screen, was the differences ray-tracing made to Minecraft, beautiful! That gives me hope that there will be some truly stunning games on the horizon!

Flimsy excuse
In response to comfortablyadv, who was concerned about the normalisation of extreme behaviours in gaming: whilst I can see his point I would argue that most forms of media entertainment (be it books, films or video games) primarily use extreme behaviours in their narratives as it is often at these extremes that the most interesting stories are found. The ratings information for Cyberpunk 2077 made references to things which happen frequently throughout the world every single day (even though some of them may be extremely unpleasant). If one doesn’t enjoy such fare then the simple answer is not to purchase it.

There may well be a gap in the market for a game that explores the repercussions of violence in a realistic manner, but I don’t think it’s fair to expect it from the likes of Assassin’s Creed or Cyberpunk 2077. I accept it is rather ridiculous to have a ‘good’ character remorselessly kill hundreds of ‘bad’ characters but this is simply the foundation on which many video games (and indeed, other media) have been built for a long time and as long as some pretence of ‘being the good guy’ is provided I find the experience cathartic.

Interestingly though, whenever a game offers me the option of being ‘bad’ (i.e. Mass Effect) I can never choose to do it, so perhaps that says something about how people only need the flimsiest feeling of righteousness in order to justify violence, in both games and in reality.
TheMilkyBarKidUK (Steam ID)

Perfect anxiety
Can I just add my twopenn’orth to the recent approbation for Alien: Isolation.

I got this game on the Switch when it released last December. I have completed it three times thus far, working through the five difficulty levels. I’m currently about 80% in on the Hard setting and am finding it extremely challenging. When I attempt the Nightmare level I think that, to paraphrase Ash in the first Alien movie, I do not give much hope for my chances of success!

As others have said, this game nails the aesthetic and dread atmosphere of the first movie completely, and when played in the dark on a big TV whilst wearing a good pair of headphones, the superb soundtrack and impressive graphics make for an incredibly immersive and genuinely scary experience. For most of the time you are playing in a state of heightened anxiety, and the space station Sevastopol is almost a threatening character in its own right.

Also, Feral, who did the port of this game, deserve great credit and congratulations for the magnificent job they did. I really hope and pray that there is a sequel, and if so that they are involved.

If you are a Switch owner and like survival horror then this game is a must buy, and well worth the asking price what with all the DLC included. For other platform players, with the game being so cheap at the moment, you have nothing to lose by giving it a try.

One last thing, if you have any heart or anxiety issues then be careful how, and if, you play this game, because your heart rate will be higher than normal and at times will rocket – be careful out there!
anthony B
PS: Thank you GC for your continued coverage of our great hobby in these strange times, you are much appreciated.

Not an expert
Saw someone online saying that Red Dead Redemption 2 was the best game ever. When challenged his reply was…. ‘Ahh well I’ve played the first one and that was really good, but not played Red Dead Redemption 2’.

I’m not sure you can say a game is the best game ever without actually playing it…

Catch up on every previous Games Inbox here

All quiet on the Nintendo front
If the reports of Nintendo delaying the first big Direct of 2020 are true – and it seems to me that they probably are – they’ll really need to completely rethink this philosophy of silence they’ve maintained for decades. I appreciate nobody could’ve predicted recent events but going forward they simply can’t plan to keep quiet for several months then risk having those plans toppled by suddenly being forced to keep quiet for what amounts to a whole year.

Even Nintendo, with their wacky methods, can’t have literally zero game announcements and almost as few actual new games for that long during the peak of one of their best performing consoles.

Not to be insensitive to the situation: the well-being of their people and the preservation of their high standards should be their priorities and some of my comments are coming from a place of impatience. But the issue for me isn’t that this is happening but how they seem to be deciding to deal with it.

I’m not even that impatient to get hold of the next big games. Releases like XCOM 2 and the many, many downloadable titles I have on my shopping list will see me through pretty much any delays. I just don’t understand what the risk is of announcing what’s on the not-too-distant horizon without necessarily committing to a release window. Or why that’s a worse option than letting people think there’s absolutely nothing at a stage in the Switch’s lifecycle that’s should be among the very busiest.

By mid-August 2020, we’ll have gone five months without a notable new Nintendo release and 11 months without a proper news event. In fact, even that one didn’t have any big exclusive announcements. So count that as close to, what, 14 months since the last proper first party news in June 2019?

Then, aside from how supported the Switch should currently be, consider within the coming weeks we’ll be neck deep in all the hype of the new generation of rival machines. Who could possibly think in that context that the preferable option isn’t to just let us know what’s going to come eventually, with the expectation that we’ll appreciate there’s scope for a completely understandable delay given the current circumstances?

The only explanation I can think of is they want to use the next Direct to sell more consoles and putting it out during a period of global stock shortages would be a wasted opportunity to do so. But I wonder how many people will then be thinking about getting a good price for their Switch to fund one of the new consoles if it looks there’s nothing lined up to make it worthwhile holding onto.

GC: That last is a particularly good point. Consider all the people that would’ve bought a Switch for Animal Crossing/the lockdown and who have been given no reason to think any new games will be out for the foreseeable feature. In that scenario selling the Switch to fund a PlayStation 5 is going to seem like a very reasonable decision.

Inbox also-rans
How are the English being portrayed as the bad guys even when they’re been invaded by Vikings? Also, fire arrows were never a thing. It always annoys me to see that.

I find myself strangely keen on seeing a tennis match between Karlie Kloss and Seal, where one is Luigi and the other is Waluigi. What a world we live in where that might actually happen.

This week’s Hot Topic
Inspired by the release of Predator: Hunting Grounds, the question for this weekend’s Inbox was suggested by reader Grackle, who asks what movie would you like to see turned into a video game?

After almost giving up on the concept, publishers have recently started making movie tie-ins again and, unlike previous generations, a lot of them have turned out pretty well. But what other film or film series (including those that have had games in the past) do you think would make a good game?

You can also include TV shows and other licensed properties, like comic books, but how do you think they would work in practice and what elements would be easy to adapt as a game and what would be more difficult?

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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