The Xbox Series X launches this holiday season and there’s no denying the exciting lineup awaiting fans. A few titles were shown during the recent Series X press release, such as Second Extinction and Vampire the Masquerade – Bloodlines 2. Ubisoft announced Assassin’s Creed Valhalla shortly prior to the press release, in which they showcased in-game cinematic gameplay. 343’s Halo Infinite, while revealing little information since its E3 2018 announcement, also releases holiday 2020 alongside the Xbox Series X.
Systemic Reaction’s Second Extinction is a three-player first person co-op shooter set on an Earth overrun by mutated dinosaurs. Developed by the people behind Mad Max and the Just Cause series, it features a scenic frozen world and fast paced combat operations. Second Extinction pits players against mutants ranging from electric raptors to giant T-rexes. The trailer reveals unique weapons and abilities, with raptors being blown into flying meaty chunks. Fans of dinosaurs and Left 4 Dead should keep an eye on this one.
Gamers will combine their team’s weapons and abilities to fight off deadly beasts in “challenging combat setpieces”. Taken from the game’s fact sheet: “Take part in a joint effort: Your actions, together with the rest of the community, will shape the course of the war against the dinosaurs.” It seems community wide progress and interaction will be part of the core gameplay, perhaps similar to Death Stranding’s online. Systemic Reaction is using a live service model, supporting the title post-launch.
Of Avalanche Studios Group’s three divisions, Systemic Reaction, formerly known as Avalanche Publishing, is the self-publishing arm. A small team of Avalanche Studios Group veterans whose focus is “freedom, exploration, and a drive to create games like the ones that kept us up at night as kids.” Second Extinction is their second release after last year’s Generation Zero. It’s confirmed for Steam and both generations of Xbox. There’s been no word of a PlayStation version, nor a release date.
Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines 2
Bloodlines 2 is an RPG set in White Wolf Publishing’s World of Darkness and the sequel to the cult classic of the same name. Its trailer showcased dark humor and a Seattle landscape. While the animations leave much to be desired, the setting and story is where this series shines brightest. Take the role of a freshly turned thinblood vampire,climbing the ranks of the city’s vampire underworld to join one of five fullblood clans. Master the masquerade.
The game begins with players creating a vampire and selecting a background, such as a barista criminal, coroner, or police officer, each offering different dialogue and interaction options. As thinbloods, players must choose from three upgradable Disciplines: Chiropteran (the ability to glide and summon bats), Mentalism (the ability to levitate objects and people), and Nebulation (the ability to summon mist to attack, conceal the character, or transform into mist to move through small spaces).
Bloodlines 2 is presented in first-person, switching to third-person for certain animations such as climbing or embracing an enemy’s neck. Fans of the original are sure to miss the option to switch between camera modes, especially when it may mean less focus on character appearance and customization. However, Hardsuit Labs stands by its decision and ensures fans the forced perspective is for improved gameplay.
Bloodlines 2 features side quests, stealth, and factions. Players can join various factions, remaining loyal to them or creating subterfuge from within. Factions may become hostile to players depending on their actions, such as a masquerade violation. Killing innocents or actions of similar magnitude lower the player’s humanity points, turning them into a mindless beast if repeated frequently. The world and story look to be as interesting as its predecessor. It will be exciting to explore Bloodlines 2’s Seattle.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla
Valhalla is Ubisoft’s newest and most ambitious entry in the long-running Assassin’s Creed franchise. Take control of a male or female Eivor, a Viking raider from the late 9th century forging a home in the foreign lands of England. Grow a settlement while raiding fortresses and expanding into Europe. Deal with historical figures such as King Alfred the Great and Nordic Deities including Odin the Allfather. With a team double the size of Odyssey, Valhalla’s development scale is unlike any entry before it.
Assassin’s Creed’s worlds are more than sandboxes. They’re snapshots of different environments and political climates throughout history. England in 873 was a collection of several in-fighting kingdoms focused on each other, in addition to the rising incursion of pillaging Vikings seeking alternatives to the North’s harsh climates. Narrative Director Darby McDevitt clarified he wanted to portray Vikings in a realistic light, showing their brutality as raiders, but also their roles as settlers, farmers, and traders.
Players start in Norway and travel to a hostile England early on, seeking a new home while exploring four major kingdoms: Wessex, Northumbria, East Anglia, and Mercia. The settlement, a major mechanic, acts as a customizable home base. The world can be traversed by longship, alongside a crew of customizable raiders known as Jomsvikings who live in the settlement. Major attacks on forts are set-piece moments tied to the story. Continuing with the RPG format, players collect unique upgradable gear throughout the game’s course.
A plethora of weapons will be available in the onslaught against the Saxons. Fans of the series will love the addition of shields, which were missing from Odyssey. Ashraf Ismail, Valhalla’s Creative Director, stated dual-wielding will play a big role. Eivor can dual wield any combination of weapons such as axes and spears, or even equip dual shields. Players can customize Eivor to their liking, selecting cosmetics like tattoos, beards, war paint, and era-fitting clothing and armor.
“We can’t claim to create the ultimate Viking experience if we don’t nail combat. So combat is visceral, brutal. We made sure that every swing of an axe, every defense with a shield feels good. A lot of effort has gone into the weaponry of the period, into the enemies.” says Ismail. He asserts that Valhalla will be THE Viking experience.
Halo Infinite is the sixth installment in the series and will continue the story as such. The Xbox Hall of Famer launches for Xbox One, Series X, and Windows 10 PC alongside the new console this holiday season. Information on the game has been sparse but it’s confirmed to come to Xbox Game Pass at launch and feature Microsoft’s Smart Delivery service. A gameplay demo is scheduled for July according to Xbox marketing GM Aaron Greenberg.
Halo Infinite will run on the Slipspace engine developed by 343 to maximize the Xbox Series X’s power. Franchise director Frank O’Conner says 343 Industries “had to create an engine that was more powerful for next-generation development, but also more nimble, so the creatives and engineers are able to work more easily and iterate faster.” This could mean faster updates and additional content for Halo Infinite post launch.
Jerry Hook states “We have to be able to respect that legacy that we’ve come from to help make sure that Halo doesn’t just become an amalgamation of what the market is currently doing, but that what makes Halo unique remains unique for our players, our community, and for the industry.” The next generation of Halo is coming, with July bringing a huge reveal. The excitement is palpable.