The Microsoft E3 2018 presentation saw the company bring its A-game, and for a guy who usually can’t make it through their presentations without sighs and cynicism, this is quite a lot for me to say. Microsoft needed some clear messaging after delays of Crackdown 3 and the lingering question of “Why do I even need an Xbox?” hanging over the gaming industry. However, Microsoft kept it simple and brought enough games to back up the power of its Xbox One X console’s impressive specs.

And because it got to go first, it stole the rug out from under Sony for a few huge world premiers.

Usually, this is the part where Sony steps in and delivers a press conference that lacks the excitement of new reveals but makes up for it with better presentation skills, but even in that area, Microsoft was able to overcome its usual hurdle of playing a montage for an hour and a half and actually dress up its press conference in an admirable manner.

For an hour and a half, I saw game after game I wanted to play, and immediately felt my heart sink knowing that I wouldn’t have time for all of them with this new force called “parenting” in my life. Granted, I know half of the games won’t look like their E3 trailers when they launch (looking at you The Division 2) and the other half will either burst onto the market with broken servers or the inability to match the hype, but whatever.

For just an hour and a half, Microsoft made me believe that this was its year.

What I liked

Halo is back, and while its a fossil of a series at this point, this is coming from a guy who still plays the SNES Classic on a daily basis. I always struggle at the shooters the kids play these days, but drop me in a Spartan suit, and I’m suddenly the Terminator and RoboCop rolled into one deadly killing machine. I haven’t been overly impressed with Halo since Halo 3, but the truth is, Halo is one of the last series that lingers on my boundaries of “classic gaming,” coming onto the scene before this nerdy hobby of mine became a mainstream entertainment industry.

Just like Final Fantasy or Mario, blasting through the original Halo still flickers memories in my mind of awkward high school get-togethers and cold college pizza, and that’s the driving power behind my gaming habits these days. The nostalgia is real, folks! Halo, no matter how buried it becomes under more successful, modern franchises, holds a special place in my heart they can never hope to achieve.

Now, if only they would make one that inspired me to buy an Xbox.

I didn’t play Dying Light, but I know it was a surprise financial and critical hit when it came out back in 2015. You can bet that I’ll be checking out it sequel though since it is being penned by Chris Avellone, the creative mind behind some of the most brilliant RPGs of all time. Fallout 2, Icewind Dale, Planescape Torment, Fallout: New Vegas, the guy’s credits read like an “All-time Greatest” list, and he’ll be sure to make this game more than just a simple zombie survival experience.

I have my doubts that this will be free from the problems in Ninja Theory’s polarizing DmC, namely in the storytelling department, but how can you not be excited about this? In a world dominated by Dark Souls and its action game clones, Devil May Cry 5 is bringing it all back to show how over-the-top, proper action games are made. It’s like George Miller coming out of retirement, making Mad Max: Fury Road, and showing the kiddies how its all done.

Granted, Creator Hideki Kamiya is knee deep in Bayonetta 3 at the moment, but Director Itsuno Hideaki has proven with his Devil May Cry games to be up to speed with the rest of the industry.

From Software claimed that they were moving away from Dark Souls to make new games, but that proved to be one huge lie. Sekino: Shadows Die Twice is essentially Dark Souls with a sweeter samurai MOD that Nioh and developed by the real deal. No doubt, From Software genuinely tried to move away from the genre, but those Activision dollars were just too alluring to back away from.

I’ll try not to be cynical about this one though. This game looks tight!

Microsoft E3 2018 – Also-rans

Battletoads is back with a modern look that suits the classic style, Gears of War 5 looks solid enough to keep my attention (although I would much rather play the first game re-imagined with Nendroids), and Crackdown 3 continues to torment and tease me. Not only is it being constantly delayed, we’re still wondering if the final product will be good enough of a follow-up to the cult classic action game.

Microsoft landing exclusivity from smaller studios like Ninja Theory is also huge since they’ll be developing exclusively for Xbox from here on out. We’ll need to see how these partnerships pan out before we consider this earth-shaking, but for now, we’ll try to be positive about it. Microsoft’s tendencies to cancel games it makes with smaller studios, like Scalebound, has me a bit skeptical at the moment.

And closing with Cyberpunk 2077 was also a classy move. Need to give it up for Microsoft for landing that one.

Microsoft E3 2018 – A good show

Like I said, Sony usually finds a way to get around Microsoft’s megaton announcements and deliver a better paced, more digestible show, but it might have its work cut out for it this year. Microsoft not only brought the games it needed to be a success at E3 2018, it also learned how to give a proper presentation that does flow like a YouTube playlist.

Microsoft showed off a bit of something for everybody, whether you like Halo, zombies, JRPGs, or artsy indie titles, and it made Xbox a force to be reckoned with in 2018. However, I still felt that its Achilles Heel hasn’t been addressed yet.

Why, oh why, would I ever buy an Xbox One X when I could just play all these games on a high-end PC? We’ll have to see if that gets answered in the coming weeks.