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Play Life, Live Games column: Xbox showcase falters in delivering wow moments

Dusty Ricketts
dricketts@thedestinlog.com
The Destin Log

Columns share an author’s personal perspective.

*****

For months, Microsoft has been building hype for its upcoming Xbox Series X by saying things like it’s the most powerful gaming console ever created.

While on paper it may be true that the Xbox Series X is more powerful than the PlayStation 5, the games they showed off at last week’s Xbox Games Showcase, our first real look at gameplay from first-party titles, did not wow me.

While I had and bought games for all three systems during the PlayStation 2/Xbox/GameCube generation, for the past 13 years the PlayStation ecosystem has been my primary platform of choice for gaming, having just picked up a Nintendo Switch in the past couple of years as a secondary system.

So I admit I’m a little biased toward PlayStation, but I truly do want all three console makers to be successful because that just improves the health of this industry that I love.

That said, the Microsoft showcase did nothing to sway me back to the Xbox family. In fact, I was more excited about the system before I saw the games running on it than I am after it, and that’s not good.

Microsoft spent the most time in their roughly one hour showcase giving a deep dive into their flagship game for the Xbox Seriex X launch, “Halo Infinite,” the sixth mainline game in the popular Halo series. While the gameplay looks solid and fun, I was shocked at just how bad the graphics looked. It looked like an early Xbox One game running at a higher resolution.

Soon after the briefing, I saw a video online with a side-by-side comparison of the graphics for “Halo Infinite,” running on Microsoft’s soon-to-be-released state of the art hardware, and “The Last of Us Part 2,” released in June for Sony’s nearly 7-year-old PlayStation 4. In every scenario, close-ups of faces, driving, environments, “The Last of Us Part 2” looked better.

It’s true that “Halo Infinite” and “The Last of Us Part 2″ are two totally different styles of games, with “Halo Infinite” being an open world first-person shooter and “The Last of Us Part 2″ being a third-person linear adventure. However, whoever made the comparison video could have easily substituted in any of Sony’s big PS4 open world games like “Horizon Zero Dawn,” “Spider-Man” or “Ghost of Tsushima” and all three would have looked better than “Halo Infinite.”

Microsoft showed off more than “Halo Infinite” during the showcase. Other big titles included announcement trailers for “State of Decay 3″ and “Forza Motorsport” that both looked good, but were trailers only with limited, if any, real gameplay. The developers at Rare showed a trailer for their game “Everwild,” which looks beautiful.

By far the game that looked best to me was “The Medium” from the developers at Bloober Team. In the game, which is scheduled to come out this year, you play as a psychic medium investigating a dark mystery. But the unique feature about the game is it’s set in two realities, the real world we’re used to and a dark mirror universe similar to the Upside Down in “Stranger Things.” It looks like you’ll be switching between the two realities throughout the game, and even more interesting, experiencing them both at the exact same time through a split screen mechanic.

August should be an informative month when it comes to the next generation of consoles. Both Microsoft and Sony are rumored to be planning additional showcases this month and hopefully we’ll finally get release dates and prices for the new systems.

Dusty Ricketts is the editor of The Destin Log and The Walton Sun newspapers and can be reached ata dricketts@thedestinlog.com.