Xbox E3 2019 Briefing report card: Gears 5, Halo Infinite & more

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Phil Spencer, Executive President of Gaming at Microsoft, speaks during the Xbox E3 2019 Briefing at The Microsoft Theater on June 09, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 09: Phil Spencer, Executive President of Gaming at Microsoft, speaks during the Xbox E3 2019 Briefing at The Microsoft Theater on June 09, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images) /

With Sony’s absence from this year’s E3, Microsoft’s presentation had some high expectations to live up to. Did the Xbox E3 2019 Briefing deliver?

Xbox E3 2019 Briefing: Presentation

Over the last few years, it’s been well-documented just how much Sony has clobbered Microsoft in nearly every aspect at E3. They’ve punched them in the gut, taunted them, and shoved them into a locker, nearly forgotten by all. However, the big bad bully of Playstation was not in attendance this year, so this theoretically gives the Xbox brand a grand opportunity to capitalize off of.

The presentation itself was solid, and its 90-minute-plus runtime was paced well for the most part. In the past, Microsoft has had a penchant for spending far too long on titles that didn’t need to be explained (I’m looking at you, Forza), but this has mostly been ameliorated thanks to a broader focus on simply announcing video games.

This year, an astounding 60 games were shown during the show, with 14 coming from Xbox Game Studios and 34 premiering on Xbox Game Pass. That’s certainly a large number, but it’s fair to criticize this as being just that; anyone can show a lot, but showing that looks genuinely great is something else entirely.

Keanu Reeves Xbox E3 2019
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Still, the conference did have its fair share of exceptional moments. Keanu Reeves showing up as part of Cyberpunk 2077 is one of the most insane hype moments at an E3 conference I’ve seen — nearly sending me into cardiac arrest, and almost tempting me to proclaim the conference a masterpiece for that reason alone.

Other things like the announcement that Double Fine was joining Xbox Game Studios, more awesome games heading to Game Pass (all hail Hollow Knight, forever may it reign), Phil Spencer evoking his usual level of swagger as a host, and the tease of their next console made the event an enjoyable affair.

Xbox E3 2019 Briefing: Games

But when it comes to specific games, Microsoft’s conference made a few stumbles. The show started strong with exclusive titles like The Outer Worlds from developer Obsidian Entertainment, Bleeding Edge from Ninja Theory, and the breathtaking Ori and the Will of the Wisps from Moon Studios.

Then, after the aforementioned flex of Keanu Reeves, some other titles like a surprising Blair Witch game reveal, The Legend of Wright, and 12 Minutes kept the momentum going. In general, Microsoft has managed to balance their conferences with both AAA and indie titles, and this year may be their magnum opus in that respect.

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However, I was taken aback by how average-looking their major titles looked. Things like Gears 5 look good, but it didn’t evoke a sense of astonishment that justified how much attention it received. In a sense, the same could even be said for Halo: Infinite.

The announcement that 343’s latest would be a launch title for the Xbox console (codenamed “Project Scarlett“) is outstanding news, but the short footage we received of the game didn’t feel anything particularly awe-inspiring. An exclusive franchise like Halo deserves the kind of first look that, say, The Last of Us Part II received at last year’s E3.

I don’t mean to bring up a PlayStation exclusive to be antagonizing or as a call to arms for the Console Wars brigade; it is only mentioned because that is something Microsoft has been rather lackluster with. I shouldn’t be walking away from their conference more blown away by Ori and the Will of the Wisps than the next generation of Halo.

Instead of saying “Yeah, Halo looks pretty cool,” I should be thinking about how to inject the game into my veins and name my future newborn Master Chief. There’s a crucial distinction I’m trying to make there, I promise.

The Best of Xbox E3 2019 Briefing

  • An excellent blend of both AAA and indie titles
  • Xbox Game Pass remains as tantalizing as ever, with solid games once again being added
  • Acquisition of Double Fine shows they are committed to collecting talent
  • Keeping a conference paced well for over 90 minutes is no easy task, and Microsoft succeeded
  • Keanu Reeves is a warlock

The Worst of Xbox E3 2019 Briefing

  • While I do love Keanu, he shouldn’t be the only major “WOW” factor of a conference, especially for a game that isn’t exclusive like Cyberpunk 2077 (Side note: Are we sure that thing will hit its release date?)
  • Lots of games shown, but what was shown wasn’t always exciting
  • Project Scarlett a bit underwhelming

. . Xbox E3 2019 Briefing. B+. If it weren’t for such sky-high expectations, Microsoft’s 2019 E3 conference might be viewed in a different light. There were plenty of games, smart announcements, and hardly any cringe-worthy moments. But with such tremendous fanfare leading up to E3, and lots of ground to cover, Microsoft needed to hit a home run; somewhat disappointingly, they instead hit a deep double to center field — maybe stealing third base thanks to a couple of truly standout moments.

What did you think of Xbox’s E3 2019 Briefing live stream event? What grade would you give the show?