How About That Direct?| Xbox Developer_Direct 1/25/2023

When I decided to bring back the feature “How About That Direct?”, I assumed that the first post would be about a Nintendo Direct. After all, there usually is one around this time of the year, and they’re by far the presentations I get the most excited about, outside of E3 anyway. But no, Xbox decided to put on a show today, and they even used the “Direct” name, so of course, I had to watch it and I want to talk about it.

While Sony has had their State of Play presentations that mimic the Nintendo Direct format, Xbox never really did. They had shows called Inside Xbox that were probably the closest thing to it, but they weren’t short and snappy like a Direct should be, and they were typically light on announcements and were more about deep dives into upcoming games we already knew about. Today, we got our first Xbox Developer_Direct, which was still fairly light on announcements, but fit the format much closer.

Going into it, we knew that it was going to focus on four games, Minecraft Legends, Forza Motorsport, The Elder Scrolls Online, and Redfall. But right away, we saw that number change from a four to a five, and an unknown game from Tango Gameworks was added to the list. I’m unfortunately pretty inexperienced with Tango’s other games, despite loving Shinji Mikami’s work at Capcom and Platinum. I should probably fix that at some point. But still, exciting to get something we didn’t know about.

From a presentation standpoint, this was really good. As the title suggests, every game was talked about directly to us, the fans, by the developers themselves. We’ve seen some of that in Nintendo Directs and especially their Indie World Showcases, but this was the entire show. It’s a really neat way to stand out from what Nintendo is doing while still doing the Direct thing. I liked it, and hope that this is something Xbox continues to do going forward.

I’m really not all that interested in Minecraft Legends, Forza Motorsport, or ESO, but the show still did a good job showing them off. Minecraft Legends is a pretty neat take on real-time strategy using familiar elements from Minecraft. Forza Motorsport looks gorgeous, but it’s also a very serious race sim. I had some fun with the more arcadey Forza Horizon series, but I just don’t think I’d ever get anything out of the proper racing sim games. And The Elder Scrolls Online does look cool, despite my general dislike of MMORPGs, and they kept stressing that you could just play it like one of the single player Elder Scrolls games. But it’s been out for a good while now, this was mostly showing off a new expansion, and I kind of feel like I missed the boat on it. But who knows, maybe I’ll give it a try some time.

redfall

Redfall took me by surprise. When it was announced at E3(?) last year, I couldn’t get myself to care at all. It seemed like a Left 4 Dead-like, but with vampires and annoyingly snarky playable characters. But, this showcase made the game seem much more appealing to me. It’s an open world first person shooter that can be played single player or with up to three other players. The vibe seemed much more dark and serious than the initial announcement too. It’ll be interesting to see how it is when the game comes out. I had written this one off, but now I’m really looking forward to it’s release in May.

And finally, Tango’s new game, Hi-Fi Rush was the real standout of the show. It’s not at all what you expect out of the The Evil Within developers. It’s a bright and colorful action game with a music theme. You’re encouraged to attack on the beat of the music, and other game elements, like death traps, also activate on the beat. The trailer opened with a “I bet you’re wondering how I got here” line, that was definitely eye rolling, but once the trailer really got going, I was shocked at how appealing the whole thing looked. Oh, and it’s out right now and on Gamepass. I’m downloading the game while I’m writing this.

hifi

Overall, this was a really good show from Xbox. I do wish there was more surprises, those are always the best part of Nintendo’s Directs, but I’m not going to complain about what we did get. This has also succeeded in making me more confident about Xbox’s 2023, after 2022 had almost no notable first party releases. I’m hoping to see more of this in the future.

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