The first big reveals of the year are on us with Xbox’s Developer Direct 2024. Microsoft’s approach to the format puts the devs themselves centre-stage, and can bring some nice, presumably unscripted, moments of humanity, such as this year when Marc Meyer at Oxide games was interrupted by someone walking across the background trying to get a drink.
This time we heard from Xbox studios Obsidian Entertainment, Ninja Theory, Oxide Games and Machine Games –, and there was even a surprise guest spot for Square Enix.
So, here are our highlights from the show. What was yours? Let us know in our Discord.
I think someone should mention Visions of Mana and Ara: History Untold. With that out of the way, the Xbox Developer Direct was bookended by Avowed, which manages to look better and better with each new reveal, and Indiana Jones and the Great Circle, which seems very different to the games it inspired, namely Tomb Raider and Uncharted. But it was Senua's Saga: Hellblade II that really caught my attention.
Ninja Theory created a truly unique experience that could be genuinely unnerving and I almost feel guilty for not seeing the original through to the end. I loved the storytelling, the visuals, the pacing, the top-class audio design and the world itself. Despite pushing through as far as I could, there were too many monsters and not enough shotguns for me to go all the way. Even now I'm unsure of how events played out, as I've convinced myself I'm going to finish it. One day.
The combat is said to be very different in the sequel, though we didn't get to see any, outside of a brief cutscene. I'm not interested in a Dark Souls level of difficulty, but something a little more complex and engaging would certainly be welcome.
I've purposely avoided many story details and the developers appear to be following suit, instead talking mainly about the production of Hellblade II and how they are committed to providing an in-depth representation of Senua's psychosis. They did a pretty good job the first time around, I couldn't ever be sure if all of the sights and sounds were "real" or not. Or which voices, if any, I should be listening to. It's a relief that the voices in my own head all sound like me and can be safely ignored.
Given that I only just talked about how much I’m looking forward to Avowed, you’d think I’d be the perfect audience for the first segment of Xbox’s presentation, going behind the scenes at Obsidian to see how the game is shaping up.
From the limited amount of actual gameplay we saw, it’s definitely ticking the right boxes, but, more importantly, the passion and excitement the devs talk about the game is what really gets me curious about exploring this world.
While acknowledging this is yet another game I will play and never finish.
Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, may avoid that fate however, given it is reportedly only about 8 hours long and is a very focused, linear narrative. The cerebral aspect, which delves into the psychological trauma of the character from the first game, also adds a surprising amount of depth to the character, even as someone who hasn’t jumped into the series before.
While the Civilisation series has been a mainstay of my gaming past, I can’t say there’s too much new or innovative going on in Ara: History Untold for me, but perhaps I am judging a book too much by its cover. Or perhaps, given its historical focus, that should be judging a…manuscript by its cover?
Finally, there’s no surprise that a licence as well-known as Indiana Jones would get another gaming outing at some point, and if any team can make the whip-cracking adventurer work in first person, it’s Machine Games.
In the end, a strong showing for Xbox, indicating a handful of good-looking titles coming to Game Pass this year, but are any of them real blockbuster smashes which expect to bring in new players by the thousand?
For those of us already subscribed, I suppose it doesn’t matter. More good games out in the world can’t be a bad thing, right?
Another year is here and it’s welcomed by one of our January traditions – discussing the most anticipated games of 2024. While it seems obvious now, we had no idea 2023 was going to be so jam-packed with great releases.
Fortunately, the big hits we chose – The Legend of Zelda: Tears of the Kingdom, Spider-Man 2 and Star Wars Jedi: Survivor – all proved to live up to the hype, but will we be as lucky this year?
Let us know your pick in the comments, or talk about all the possibilities in our Discord.
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024 | Liam Andrews
Microsoft Flight Simulator 2024 and its objective-based gameplay looks set to fix one of the biggest issues I had with Flight Simulator 2020 by giving it some structure.
I was initially fine flying about in FS 2020, but once I’d visited my home and several favourite holiday destinations and tried most of the planes on offer, I found myself getting a bit bored.
A clear achievable goal to work towards is, for me, exactly what’s missing in the current game (I’m not one for completing multiple hour flights just for the sake of it, but I can appreciate why it would be fun for some people).
I also really like the look of the missions on offer, as there is a decent amount of variety, from mountain rescue to stunt flying. I used to enjoy playing Search & Rescue on PC in the 90s, so I’m especially looking forward to trying out the helicopter-based missions, which, to me, look like a super HD version of that game.
I am also quite looking forward to trying my hand at aerial crop dusting. I recently tried (and enjoyed) my first Farming Simulator, and this looks like the crossover I never knew I needed, but definitely want to try.
Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn | Chris Brand
If there's one thing I love more than a meaty single-player RPG, it's a meaty single-player RPG with an unnecessarily long title. The Incredible Adventures of Van Helsing II? I'll take it. Pillars of Eternity II: Deadfire – Ultimate Edition? Sure, I won't ever tire of that little bit of finger gymnastics. By contrast, the manual dexterity required to type Flintlock: The Siege of Dawn is entry level stuff really but the game itself has caught my attention.
It's not often that I get drawn in by a Souls-like, as I lack the skills to be gud and the time to git to that level, but Flintlock promises a more accessible take on the genre, wrapped up package that doesn't look too dissimilar to the more recent God of War titles. It's a far cry from the grim world of Dark Souls.
The combat seems weighty, with careful and deliberate strikes being rewarded over relentless button-mashing, and some magical abilities to further enhance your kit. Many of those abilities come courtesy of your adorable fox-like companion, Enki, and I've already fallen in love with him. If the story calls for me to sacrifice him to save humanity, then I will let the world burn and never play another souls-like again.
Prince of Persia: The Lost Crown could have easily been my pick but we all know what to expect from the series by now, whereas Flintlock offers something I've not properly experienced before. 2023 gave us a few surprises and I'm hoping for more this year, otherwise my gaming calendar peaks far earlier than I'd like it to.