“Monsignor” Moody

While Microsoft’s #E32017 presser didn’t exactly blow me away (a $499 price tag for the Xbox One X will do that), it wasn’t hard to like what the company had present on the floor and behind closed doors. Lines for Sea of Thieves were as ambitious as Rare’s open-sea pirate adventure; Cuphead, with its new September 29th release date, was nowhere to be found; and nerds went as crazy Minecraft as anything on the bright green carpet. I had the chance to visit with developers for two Xbox exclusives — Forza Motorsport 7 and State of Decay 2 — and a chance to get my hands on both Crackdown 3 (and the newest Forza) quite extensively. Did Xbox get the “Monsignor” anxious for its latest console?

Answers lay below.

Despite lending an ear and eye to what Slightly Mad Studios (via Bandai Namco) had to offer this fall with Project Cars 2, I just can’t help it: I’m a Forza guy. Not only was Forza Horizon 3 my 2016 GOTY, Forza Motorsport 7 was my “Most Buzzworthy” Xbox exclusive heading into this year’s E3 (Forza 6 was also in my Top 5 of 2015). When the “Project Scorpio” was announced, you just knew that FM7 would be the title to showcase that pretty new 6 Teraflop GPU, 4K res at 60 fps, AMD FreeSync, 12 GB memory @326 GB/s, etc.

Taking October 3rd’s Forza 7 for a spin–or three, refusing to acknowledge my time was done after one race–I immediately thrust into the wheels of a big rig semi, something definitely out of the ordinary for a Forza game. But in addition to slushing a Nissan GT-R on a rainstormy F1 track, my fav among the floor demo’s tres carreras was taking a Porsche through the misty sand-blowing tracks of Dubai. The climbs felt like an unfrustrating challenge, and the weather had a superb effect on both handle and grip.

Photogrammetry was also the buzzword flowing around to describe the 1-to-1 accurate realism of this season’s line-up of racing games in 4K. Forza devs showed off the game’s dynamic skies and sky shadows, describing how clouds change composition on every turn–promising a different “photo finish” every time out. In addition to a whopping 700 cars (that include a new, 6-year deal with Porsche), FM7 will also feature 300 driver suits (female and male; classic and modern) to show off the various unique personalities that will carry over to each of your gamertag pals’ drivatars. Other features include: 30 different race environments (including the much requested Maple Valley Raceway), improved custom music (we hope), a new reward collection tier system, 6 major championships to the Driver’s Cup, and a bigger push for split-screen. 4.25/5 Bibles.

Not gonna lie, I was just a tad underwhelmed by the floor demo of Crackdown 3. It played like a floor demo. “You’ve played the original Crackdown before, right? Here’s a control, you run around, shoot mindless security dweebs, bonk into aimless future city pedestrians and tourists, scale walls, blow things up, eventually find a cooler gun; shoot something ginormously ridiculous, but not nearly as ridic as anything in Agents of Mayhem. Oh, and remember all that great cloud computing (from the Gamescom 2016 trailer) that allows players to destroy whole skyscrapers and about anything the city had to offer? That’s not available here, and.. you might get stuck inside a pixel-less building, but we’ll gladly start the demo over for you.”

What a guy. Thankfully, Crackdown 3 was still a, ahem, blast to play. The graphic novel-inspired aesthetics are still there, the gameplay is quick to learn and just as familiar as you remembered it 10-years ago. And that special gun I told you about? It shoots a suckhole of death akin to Spider-Man rogue, The Spot. Huge fans of the original will appreciate the new one’s complete homage, but those longing for something extra and mind-freakishly eye-popping might not appreciate the result of the sequel’s once seemingly infinite delay. 3.25/5 Bibles.

I may have the saved the the most interesting for last. Interesting, in part, since State of Decay 2 is a “yet, another zombie” game, one in which you completely haven’t played–even if you played the 2013 original. When I asked the devs from Undead Labs about the game’s plot structure to the hard sim, they promised that one exists within the “ultimate zombie survival fantasy’s” vastly unique experiences. Although one experience will not be a change in weather.

The online co-op title has far more strategy and scenario-think than, say, Dead Rising or Dying Light; far more community-centered character progression (1000 character traits, like team morale and.. snoring) and RPG elements. Base building provides more opportunities, a survivor-dictated supply and demand for resources and materials, and noise levels. Thankfully, SoD2 had impressive combat to boot; Undead added grappling, and double team moves that should provide a much appreciated tactical advantage. So long as the overall arc proves as compelling as the stories you come up with on your own, action/rpg fans should have no worries feeling too zombie’d the fuck out. 3.75/5 Bibles. – Travis Moody

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