Xbox Games Showcase -- reactions to Halo, Fable and more

Master Chief returns. Provided by 343

What was your overall impression of today's showcase?

Arda Ocal: Good, not great. Some of the games looked really cool -- I loved the trailer for The Outer Worlds: Peril on Gorgon, a very self-aware, sarcastic, breaking the fourth wall, old-timey vibe ... my kind of game. Grounded was cute with the Cyberpunk references. I would say that this showcase, though it had its moments, left me wanting a little more. We got a diverse-looking pool of games, with a Warhammer release, Phantasy Star Online 2, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2, Avowed, Everwild, Forza Motorsport, The Gunk, Tetris ... I fully admit it could be a personal preference thing, but with every title that went by, my reaction was "Cool.... cool.... cool..." (except for Tetris, I stood up and cheered, obviously). Then again, I'm the segment of the audience that will buy both consoles regardless and has played thousands of video games, so maybe I'm looking at it from a very cynical eye.

Jacob Wolf: Compared to the PlayStation 5 reveal, it's a bit underwhelming. I'm excited for the Outer Worlds DLC too, as I really liked the base game, and obviously Fable got my blood boiling. But because the Xbox One didn't really have any established franchise tentpoles (outside of Halo) in the way that the PlayStation 4 did with Spider-Man and Horizon, there weren't hyped sequels for Microsoft to lean on. There were a few cool things like Everwild and Ori content I'm looking forward to, but I wasn't taken aback overall.

What did you think of the Halo reveal?

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Ocal: "Master Chief has a grappling hook now" wasn't what I was expecting to leave this reveal with. This was a Xbox Games Showcase, not a Halo: Infinite Showcase, but let's be clear -- Halo was always the main event of this 60-minute presentation. The fact that we saw Halo right out of the gate was a daring and clever move. We saw several minutes of great gameplay. The game looks clean. The single player campaign looks robust. But Halo is a franchise that also succeeded on multiplayer in many iterations, and has a fantastic legacy in competitive (albeit esports being a small segment of the overall Halo footprint), and we got zero information on multiplayer. I honestly thought we would revisit Halo at the end of the showcase in a "... oh you thought we forgot to mention Halo multiplayer? NOPE HERE YOU GO!" kind of moment, but it didn't happen. So, for me, I'm sure gameplay and new features and abilities will be incredible for many, but not enough for others, particularly top content creators that have taken to Twitter to express their desire for more. But this does mean there is a lot more to reveal at a later date. We are only talking about this particular showcase, after all.

Wolf: Meh. To Arda's point, we knew about the grappling hook based off the box art that was released a few days ago (which was definitely a nod to Halo: Combat Evolved). I'm a bit let down by the lack of multiplayer announcement though, as that's what defined Halo early in its franchise tenure. Younger gamers may not remember but when Halo 2 and Xbox Live released, Microsoft bested PlayStation really for the first time. It was a big moment for them as the PlayStation 2's online multiplayer capabilities were really lackluster. It carried over into the Xbox 360 and the PlayStation 3. That started with Halo.

Since Bungie departed Microsoft and went on to develop Destiny -- another multiplayer titan in its own right -- Halo has felt like it lost what made Halo 2 and Halo 3 so spectacular. 343 Industries has been underwhelming with their direction for the franchise. Halo is the game that Microsoft needs to nail given it is the flagship title for the Series X release. I wasn't shown today anything that wowed me.

Which game are you personally looking forward to the most?

Ocal: Give me Tetris Effect Connected all day! Tetris Effect is one of the greatest works of art in video games -- brilliantly executed, reimagining one of the most popular games on the planet. Now we get a bolstered version of the game. Sign me up a hundred times. Fun fact: I was asked to be part of that commercial! I asked my wife instead, because she loves the game so much. Many of the people you see in the video are competitors in the Classic Tetris World Championship (also Maya Rogers, the president and CEO of the Tetris Company, and Alexei Pajitnov, the inventor of Tetris).

Wolf: Fable! Finally, after a decade of no Fable titles (we don't talk about The Journey Kinect game in this house), we got something. It was a CGI fairy and toad, but you know what, it got my feelings. More below, but my expectations are through the roof.

Do you think Fable will live up to the hype?

Ocal: It has to. Fable is a polarizing game that many, many people enjoyed. Some have strong opinions about the sequels in the title, and will be watching this one with a critical eye. If there was one game other than Halo that could sell this console, it will be Fable. No pressure!

Wolf: Hard question ... Since the disbanding of Lionhead and the departure of Peter Molyneux from the Microsoft ranks after big promises, Fable has so many expectations for it. The first and second Fable were stellar, advancing the genre of console RPG in their respective moments, and Fable 3 wasn't awful but missed the mark of its predecessor. The Journey was a cash grab for the Kinect, another gaming failure of Microsoft's; looking back on motion control, both Sony and Microsoft lost that battle first to Nintendo with the Wii and now second to Oculus. That said, Fable needs to hit. It was the "hammer" of this presentation, albeit it did leak a few days ago, and the legacy of this franchise means so much to me and to many others. Please get it right, Microsoft.

In your opinion, which console is in the lead *right now*: Xbox Series X or PS5?

Ocal: PS5 right now, for sure. The PS5 showcase smashed viewership and just felt more like a complete presentation. The thing is, the one criticism of the PS5 showcase from many was that it was missing that one blockbuster reveal that knocked you off your feet (Spiderman Miles Morales is awesome, don't get me wrong), and Xbox already had that with Halo. The main event was already set going into the Xbox showcase. But it felt like a prize fight that has its moments for a couple of rounds and ends up going the distance with less action than you had hoped. So, right now, PS5 is in the lead based on exclusives, offerings, gloss of presentation and hype, but that can certainly change. Also remember: Creating video games is incredibly difficult, so props to the developers and teams putting them together, especially during this time. As someone who loves video games, I will definitely give games on both sides of the fence here an honest try.

Wolf: PlayStation 5 for now. Their presentation didn't have jaw-dropping game titles but it did have several sequels to well-established, good-reviewed franchises, like Horizon, Spider-Man and Ratchet and Clank. Sony is capitalizing on winning the Xbox One / PlayStation 4 generation and using what it established at the end of the PlayStation 3 and the aforementioned 4 to get it an early lead into the 5. I'll be pre-ordering a 5 ASAP and depending on whether Fable is exclusive to the Series X, I'll probably pick that one up too. But I'm more excited for the 5's content than the Series X at this point.