Indiana Jones and the Great Circle's latest showcase almost makes it look like they forgot to put a game in there

Official Showcase Reveal: Indiana Jones and the Great Circle - Xbox Games Showcase 2024 - YouTube Official Showcase Reveal: Indiana Jones and the Great Circle - Xbox Games Showcase 2024 - YouTube
Watch On

The Xbox Games Showcase has given us another look at Machine Games' upcoming Indiana Jones and the Great Circle and, y'know, it could've been worse. Over a near five-and-a-half minute running time we basically got to watch a whole bunch of cutscenes, a little bit of the action, and got the promise of a 2024 release date.

I guess one of the things about Indiana Jones is that, unfortunately, as the fantastic original trilogy became a franchise the essence of the character was solidified. There are certain expectations for anything Indy, which the modern material and even Spielberg himself rush to deliver, and whatever's going on in The Great Circle is no exception.

So we get characters in dusty offices, bits of paper with ornate scrawls held aloft triumphantly, declarations that this macguffin must be stopped from falling into the wrong hands, and of course Troy Baker chewing the scenery with his Harrison Ford impersonation. This Indiana Jones does sound like someone trying to sound like Indiana Jones.

Indiana Jones and the Great Circle screenshot

(Image credit: MachineGames)

There are worse things, of course: like Nazis! Machine Games has made itself a specialist in the Nazi-killing genre, and so here we move swiftly from the reveal of a battleship on top of a Himalayan mountain to Nazis swarming the same in Indy's wake.

A huge amount of the trailer is devoted to the cutscene that happens after a brief first-person game moment, where Indy and companion Gina find an artifact: the Nazis turn up, Indy gets captured, we're treated to a scene of a Nazi commander whose first words are "where is ze stone you American rat", before he goes on a rant about the Fatherland and a grenade sets the ship a-tumbling from the mountain. Various hijinks ensue.

I had two thoughts watching this. The first was that this is going to be a long-ass cutscene to sit through in my living room. The second is why are Bethesda and Machine Games showing me a great surprise (yes there's a battleship on a mountain... but a grenade starts the battleship sliding down!) well before the game's out. It's a weird thing about the hype cycle: Too often you see stuff you wish you'd seen in the game itself first. Why show it?

Indiana Jones and the Great Circle screenshot

(Image credit: MachineGames)

So much time was spent on the cutscenes, which are never going to measure up to a Spielberg movie, and so little on the game itself. But maybe for good reason. When the footage later moved into the actual game and showed the combat... oh dear.

The fisticuffs look alright, in that "press button to activate two-second animation prompt" way, but the whip's implementation looks awful, with no real crack or flair to it. This looks like a game that recreates all of the classic Indy action beats in combat, without ever quite having the weight or unpredictably that might make them interesting to control.

But then, thoughts like these are how I felt about the last movie too. So perhaps I'm idealising Indiana Jones in thinking it was ever anything more, and being unfair to The Great Circle in running through these beats. The trailer ends with the theme, of course, yet I've rarely been less excited to hear it.

It is only fair to note that Machine Games has an excellent track record with the Wolfenstein games, and Indiana Jones and the Great Circle does look the part and no doubt has more to show. But will it be a great Indiana Jones game? On the basis of this trailer, well, it sure looks like an Indiana Jones game.

Rich Stanton

Rich is a games journalist with 15 years' experience, beginning his career on Edge magazine before working for a wide range of outlets, including Ars Technica, Eurogamer, GamesRadar+, Gamespot, the Guardian, IGN, the New Statesman, Polygon, and Vice. He was the editor of Kotaku UK, the UK arm of Kotaku, for three years before joining PC Gamer. He is the author of a Brief History of Video Games, a full history of the medium, which the Midwest Book Review described as "[a] must-read for serious minded game historians and curious video game connoisseurs alike."