E3 is like Christmas for gamers. Maybe we don’t actually get anything that day (unless we’re lucky enough to attend), but after months of hoping and wishing, we at least find out what we’ll be playing for the rest of the year.
Microsoft had a fine E3 last year, showing off Gears of War 4, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Halo 5: Guardians, and the surprise reveal of Xbox One backwards compatibility. But what got most gamers really excited was Sony’s tri fecta of megaton announcements: Shenmue III, Final Fantasy VII Remake, and the re-reveal of The Last Guardian. We still don’t know exactly when any of those games will actually be released, but just knowing all three of those long-awaited games are finally coming is huge, and Microsoft’s conference just didn’t quite match Sony’s surprises.
So what could Microsoft show off at this years June 14-16 conference to impress us? These five titles would be a great start…
5. Forza Horizon 3
This list a little bit of wishful thinking (OK, maybe a lot of wishful thinking at times), but of all the games on here, this one seems all but a certainty. Microsoft has been teasing that it will show off a new Forza game for months, and since the publisher has been alternating Forza Horizon and Forza Motorport games annually since 2012 and Forza Motorsport 6 just came out last year, it doesn’t take a math whiz to figure out what the new Forza game will be this year.
Really, Forza Horizon 2 was so perfect that Microsoft doesn’t need to change much to make Forza Horizon 3 a success. Add in more cars, more events, and a new location, and you’ll have a winner on your hands. Since the first game was set in Colorado and the second came had you racing around France, maybe the third game could mix things up by being set in an Asian city.
4. A New Panzer Dragoon
Panzer Dragoon Orta was one of the most celebrated games on the original Xbox. More than a decade later, it’s still a strikingly beautiful rail shooter that will take you on a journey through a unique and surreal world unlike anything else out there. Though Sega owns the IP, it was an Xbox exclusive, and if you can track down a copy, you can still play it on Xbox 360 via backwards compatibility.
Despite Orta being the fourth game in the beloved yet underrated franchise, no one has heard a peep about a new Panzer Dragoon since its release. Microsoft sort of tried to revive interest in Panzer Dragoon with the Xbox One launch game Crimson Dragon, a spiritual successor to Orta that even had Panzer Dragoon’s creator on board. Unfortunately, that game was plagued by development issues. Once an Xbox 360 Kinect exclusive, it finally showed up on the Xbox One with Kinect completely optional.
The long development time and annoying addition of microtransactions resulted in a game that grabbed few people the same way the original Panzer Dragoon titles did. Depressingly, a companion Crimson Dragon game that only showed up on the doomed Windows Phone platform received a better critical reception.
Since Sega doesn’t seem too interested in doing anything with its older franchises outside of Sonic the Hedgehog, maybe they’d be willing to let Microsoft make a proper Panzer Dragoon sequel now, or at least release a remake of the impossible-to-find Panzer Dragoon Saga.
3. Brute Force 2
Sometimes good games are victims of terrible timing. Brute Force was a four-player squad-based shooter that came out in 2003. Each character in the squad had unique skills that could be used in unison to complete missions.
The problem is that Brute Force arrived without any online multiplayer functionality when Xbox Live wasin its infancy. What could have been one of the greatest co-op games of its time was quickly forgotten, especially in the wake of Halo 2 and the eventual release of the Xbox 360.
Curiously, while Brute Force showed a lot of potential, and Microsoft seemed committed to a sequel soon after its release, Brute Force 2 was apparently quietly abandoned around 2006. That’s a shame because the series seems to have so much unrealized potential. Imagine if there was a game like this you could jump in or out of on Xbox One whenever you wanted. Finally unveiling Brute Force 2 or a remake of the first game would be a huge, welcome surprise from Microsoft at this year’s E3.
2. Phantom Dust
A new Phantom Dust game may or may not be happening depending on who you talk to and their mood that day. Microsoft showed off a fantastic-looking reboot of the 2005 original Xbox game at its 2014 E3 conference. And now we don’t know exactly what’s going on with it. In 2015, Microsoft said the game was “not in active development” after a dispute with developer Dark Side Game Studios.
But just two months ago, Xbox boss Phil Spencer said that Phantom Dust definitely isn’t dead, and a new game will come out when Microsoft finds the right developer.
So right now Phantom Dust is Schrodinger’s video game. It does and does not exist until Microsoft opens up its box of tricks at E3 and tells the world what we’ll be playing for the next couple of years. We don’t care who develops it, we just want a modern version of this awesome arena card-battling game.
1. A New Microsoft Exclusive Franchise
The Xbox One has recovered pretty well from a rough unveiling at E3 2013. No one can really argue that the console is vastly inferior to the Playstation 4. But even with the great experiences that the Xbox One has given us over the past few years, it’s been severely lacking in new Microsoft-exclusive franchises.
As we previously pointed out, Crimson Dragon was underwhelming. Microsoft had big hopes for Ryse: Son of Rome when it launched with the console in 2013, but a mixed reception from gamers and a fight over IP rights killed a sequel. Quantum Break is pretty awesome, but a month after release it’s too soon to know whether this is the beginning of an important new Xbox franchise.
For far too long, Microsoft has been coasting on its Halo, Forza, and Gears of War series. We already know we’ll see more of Gears of War 4 at this year’s E3 conference, and a Forza Horizon 3 announcement is likely as well, but what we really want is something new. And no, that doesn’t mean another Halo spinoff.
Even though it won’t be out until 2017, maybe Microsoft will show off more of PlatinumGames’ impressive looking action-RPG Scalebound. And there’s always hope that we’ll see something great from Rare that will remind us of the developer’s glory days before it was purchased by Microsoft. Maybe its pirate MMO Sea of Thieves will steal the show this year?
We don’t know exactly what this could franchise could be, but just like Christmas morning, sometimes the biggest surprises end up being the best presents of all.
Article by Chris Freiberg