Microsoft came out swinging in its E3 2021 livestream—its first since acquiring Bethesda in 2020—by leading off with Starfield, one of the most anticipated games at the show. But that was far from its only big shot: We also saw Stalker 2, Battlefield 2042, 12 Minutes, Forza Horizon 5, and a brand-new co-op shooter from Arkane called Redfall. There were 30 games in all, many thanks to Microsoft's acquisition spree over the past several years. (Bethesda and Zenimax's other studios are far from the only developers Microsoft owns these days.)
Here are the biggest trailers from the Xbox and Bethesda show. If you want to see everything, the full show is embedded above.
The biggest, most anticipated drop from Microsoft was the trailer for Starfield, which as Todd Howard reminded us is Bethesda's "first new universe in over 25 years." The short trailer emphasized the wonder of space exploration, focusing on a pilot getting prepped for launch. For all the dramatic music and the like, though, there just wasn't that much real detail in there. We still barely know what Starfield is like, what the plot is, or how it'll play.
But there was a really pretty cheese sandwich, at least. So there's that.
Starfield was a strong start, and Redfall—the last game in the showcase—made for a big finish. Microsoft closed its show with a new co-op shooter from Arkane that looks like what we've come to expect from the studio: guns, magic, and a stylish setting with open-ended gameplay in a reactive world. "Every game we make is a little different from the last," co-creative director Ricardo Bare said. "Despite those differences, in every case our focus remains on deep world building and inventive game mechanics. The same will be true of Redfall."
While Microsoft still won't give us an exact release date for Halo Infinite, we did get a teaser on the new Halo ring and what's going on there. Cortana is dead, but probably not dead, and Master Chief is going after her with a new AI friend. (Who is also supposed to be dead.)
What really stole the show is Halo Infinite's free multiplayer, which looks great. We've got high hopes for it, praying for what could be a return to the glory days of Halo 3 multiplayer, but with Grappling Hooks and Threat Sensors and Repulsors. It looks fast-paced, vicious, and quite exciting: A clutch scene sees a grappling hook armed player board and hijack a Banshee flyer. Plus, Oddball. Oddball is good.
Stalker 2: Heart of Chernobyl is immediately familiar, with grim-looking men sitting around a campfire in the midst of a ruined world, seemingly none of them entirely sure why exactly they're there. In case that wasn't enough, the new trailer revealed today also gave us a very up-close look at one of Stalker's most infamous monsters. It looks fantastic: as ugly and ruined as you could want, updated with modern graphics. And we've got a release date too! We're headed back to Pripyat on April 28.
Battlefield 2042 was revealed last week, but EA brought the first gameplay trailer to the Xbox show. Not a bad get, as it's a pretty interesting Battlefield: the first one to up the player count, which will now max out at 128.
If you've ever felt like slapping some Glenn Frey on the 8-track and running guns and smoke up the coast in the trunk of your '68 Chevelle, Contraband might be just the game for you. The new project from Avalanche Studios is an open-world co-op action game set in the fictional country of Bayan, and while we don't have any details yet, it's coming from the folks behind Mad Max and Just Cause, and we think that makes it very promising.
It's been a long wait, but Psychonauts 2 is almost here. The new tale of the weird kid and the friends he made at summer camp will arrive on August 25. We got a peek at some of its fresh "headsploration" gameplay in a new trailer, and suffice to say it looks very Psychonauts.
It's been the better part of a year since a demo for Party Animals appeared on Steam and we haven't heard much about it since, but a new trailer that appeared during today's Xbox E3 livestream promised that it it's coming in 2022. We also got a look at some new gameplay that we don't mind saying is a little dark: The Party Animals are wonderfully cute little creatures, which makes it all the more disturbing to see a teeny corgi clubbing the shit out of a blue stuffed dinosaur before chucking it down a chute.
Forizon Horizon is coming back, and this time out we're headed off to Mexico. The newest game in the series looks very good indeed in its debut trailer, which shows off its new ray-tracing and photogrammetry tech in action. Forza Horizon 5 will be out on November 9.
Microsoft showed some Age of Empires 4 gameplay today, with a special focus on Jeanne D'Arc, The Maid of Orléans. It looks good, but the big news is a release date: It'll be out on October 28.
Back 4 Blood, the Left 4 Dead-alike currently in development at Turtle Rock Studios, is coming in October, and today we got a look at a new game mode called Swarm. Similar to L4D's Versus mode, Swarm pits four survivors against a team of four "Ridden," special variants of infected who are especially deadly.
A Plague Tale: Requiem sees the return of Amicia and her brother Hugo, a little older and wiser, as they sneak their way through an oppressively grim world much like in the first game. We didn't see much of gameplay in today's reveal trailer, but that sea of rats running through the streets is the stuff of nightmares—as it should be.
Today's trailer for Twelve Minutes was brief, but it gave us a release date and right now that's what we're really interested in. Annapurna's new "interactive thriller" has a star-studded cast including James MacAvoy and Daisy Ridley, who play a couple who experience a home invasion, and Willem Dafoe, portraying a cop who shakes things up even further. It's coming on August 19, and it looks really good.
Mundfish seems to be on a mission to one-up itself with how absurd each Atomic Heart trailer is. This one is no different—it didn't really tell us anything about the story, its world or its characters, but it did look cool as hell. There are some big Bioshock Infinite vibes here, drenched in a Soviet-era coat of paint and some thumping Russian techno as a backdrop.
Somerville, the first game from indie dev Jumpship, has you leading a whole family through a strangely beautiful post-apocalyptic Massachusetts, including the family dog—as any dog owner knows, dogs will stick with you even through the literal end times. Some of us hope this game forgoes the sudden moments of gruesomeness that were a trademark for Playdead's work, but it already looks less dark than those. We will listen to the haunting piano piece from the trailer on a loop until we get to see more.
Shredders is a multiplayer, open world snowboarding game inspired by snowboarding movies, the Amped games from the original Xbox, and various snowboarding goofs from social media. You'll see plenty of other people on the mountain when you're out there ripping it up, and almost every one of them will be "a real rider playing right there with you," developer Foam Punch said. It hasn't been confirmed for PC yet.
The Far Cry games have always featured elements of the absurd, and Far Cry 6 is no exception. Case in point: The newest gameplay trailer, which reveals that you can bring a cock to a gunfight. An attack cock, that is. A big, mean attack cock.
I never thought a trailer for a sequel to a game about slimes could make me so happy, but here we are: Slime Rancher 2 hits PC in 2022, and we got the first trailer for it to boot.
Eiyuden Chronicle: Hundred Heroes is coming in 2023, but a surprise spinoff of the JRPG crowdfunding success, Eiyuden Chronicle: Rising, has also been teased for a 2022 release. That news came alongside a brand new trailer and news that both are coming to Xbox Game Pass.
Replaced is a surprise of a game, a cyberpunk platformer where you're an AI that has been downloaded into a human body. It's a pretty slick-looking concept for a neon retrofuture that still has the griminess you associate with cyberpunk as a genre.
As promised, Microsoft's E3 2021 presentation was a big one, and that's not all of it. The Xbox folks also revealed new updates coming to some of its biggest ongoing games:
• The Fallout 76 Steel Reign Update will take the storyline of the Brotherhood of Steel to its Fallout 76-y conclusion, and there's an expedition to everyone's least favorite Fallout 3 DLC: The Pitt!
• In what is a technically on-theme decision, albeit a bizarre one, Sea of Thieves is going to have a crossover story arc with Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean movies, featuring Johnny Depp's Captain Jack Sparrow. There's also weird tentacle-bearded Davey Jones and Gibbs.
• Obsidian's Grounded may be slowing down the update pace, but the Shroom & Doom update is coming soon with nice lovely big mushrooms and also even even larger distinctively not-lovely and even bigger spider, the Brood Mother.
On top of all that, there are 27 new games being added to the Xbox Game Pass, including Hades, one of the most universally acclaimed games of the last few years, and Yakuza: Like a Dragon, meaning that the whole mainline Yakuza series is now on Microsoft's service. Among Us is also on the way, alongside 15-player lobbies with 3 traitors.
Overall, it was a very big show: Well-paced, interesting, and with strong games from start to finish. Without getting into any debates about who's going to "win" E3, we don't think there's any question that Microsoft has set a very high bar for other publishers in 2021. But there's still more to come, including presentations from Take-Two, Capcom, Bandai Namco, and Nintendo—you can keep up with everything that's happening in our E3 2021 schedule.