E3 2021 is the first E3 since Microsoft acquired Bethesda, and today’s Microsoft and Bethesda Games Showcase is the first joint E3 press conference from the two companies. The 90-minute event revealed a number of new and previously announced games that will be coming to Xbox and PC in 2021 and 2022. Naturally, we’re most psyched for the 10 co-op games featured in the showcase.
Back 4 Blood
Don’t feel bad if you missed “Back 3 Blood” – Back 4 Blood is actually Warner Bros Interactive and developer Turtle Rock Studios’ spiritual successor to the Left 4 Dead franchise. This horror-themed first-person shooter will feature a 4-player co-op narrative campaign and competitive multiplayer (with human and Ridden teams), much like its spiritual predecessors. Back 4 Blood will launch on day one with Xbox Game Pass on October 12 for Xbox, Windows 10, and Cloud (beta). It will also be coming to PlayStation 4 and 5.
Forza Horizon 5
While some observers had previously expected the announcement of Forza Motorsport 8 at E3 this year, Forza Horizon 5 and its new setting were leaked at the end of May. The new game is set in the deserts, jungles, beaches, cities, and ruins of Mexico. Multiplayer will include online co-op, Horizon Arcade (a series of over-the-top challenges), Horizon Open and Tours, and community gift sharing.
Although Forza Horizon 4 looks stunning on Xbox Series X, part 5 will be the first game built from the ground up for Microsoft’s latest console. In addition to HDR and amazingly detailed environments and foliage, Forza Horizon 5 will feature ray tracing – but only in the Forzavista car-viewing mode.
Forza Horizon 5 will launch on Xbox and Windows 10 on November 9 in Standard, Deluxe, and Premium versions. The Standard version will be available to Xbox Game Pass subscribers, who can also choose to buy the Premium Add-On Bundle to get DLC and early November 5 access.
The Ascent is a cyberpunk action-RPG from Curve Digital and Swedish developer Neon Giant. On an alien planet run by the oppressive Ascent Group megacorporation, things kick into high gear when the Ascent Group collapses. The game looks to blend some of the visual style of Devolver Digital’s Ruiner with Diablo-style gameplay and lots of shooting. It will feature both local and online co-op for up to 4 players.
The Ascent launches on Xbox, Windows 10, and Steam on July 29 and will cost $29.99. It will also be available on Xbox Game Pass.
Halo Infinite, the sequel to the slightly disappointing Halo 5, has seen a somewhat turbulent development period, with a lackluster reception to last year’s preview, a release date delay to 2021, and the departure of several key staff members. Today’s conference featured an intriguing cinematic that reveals the existence of a new AI that will be replacing Cortana and assisting the Master Chief during his adventure. No actual campaign gameplay was shown, disappointingly, so we didn’t get to see Infinite’s 4-player co-op in action.
Microsoft and 343 Studios did at least share some exciting Halo: Infinite competitive multiplayer. The traditional multiplayer experience will be enlivened by the addition of grappling hooks. The PvP portion of the game will be free to play and launch alongside the campaign on both Xbox and Windows 10 during the 2021 holiday season. Halo: Infinite will, of course, be available on Xbox Game Pass as well.
First announced during today’s event, Redfall is an open-world co-op shooter from Arkane Austin, the developer of the Dishonored franchise. The game is set on the island town of Redfall, which has been overrun by powerful vampires. How powerful? They’ve blocked out the sun and pushed the tides back, totally isolating the town from the rest of the world. Human cultists serve the vamps as well.
Players will choose from four distinct heroes with unique powers and then discover customizable weaponry for them on the island. The game promises not only an engaging overall narrative, but individual stories about the protagonists as well. The bad guys themselves are unusually powerful because they’ve gained their powers from biotech longevity experiments rather than the traditional curse of the undead.
Microsoft and Bethesda haven’t revealed any actual gameplay for Redfall, but the cinematic trailer certainly looks promising. Redfall will be an Xbox Series S and X and PC exclusive when it arrives in Summer 2022.
Diablo II Resurrected
Diablo II Resurrected isn’t an Xbox exclusive or even an Xbox Game Pass title, but we’re still glad to learn its official release date: September 23. The press conference showed both cinematics and gameplay of the remaster, which looks even nicer than Diablo III. Diablo II Resurrected will feature five classes, 8-player online co-op (local multiplayer hasn’t been announced), and cross-progression between platforms. The Xbox Series S and X version will run at up to 4K and 60 FPS, making it the smoothest console Diablo experience yet.
Diablo II Resurrected is coming to Xbox, PC, PlayStation, and Switch this September. It will retail for $39.99.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Console Enhanced
Since its initial release in 2014, The Elder Scrolls Online has both thrived and outlived numerous competing MMOs – the Blackwood expansion arrived just a few days ago.
Bethesda has been brewing an ESO upgrade for next-gen consoles for quite a while now. That upgrade will finally appear on Xbox Series S and X and PlayStation 5 on Tuesday, June 15. The update brings the option of 4K display or 60 FPS as well as improved draw distance, textures, reflections, shadows, and more. As a lapsed Elder Scrolls Online player, I certainly find these upgrades tempting!
Sea of Thieves: A Pirate's Life
Microsoft and Rare’s open-world pirate game, Sea of Thieves, has taken inspiration from all manner of pirate-based movies and media. It’s only natural (but still surprising) that Sea of Thieves should crossover with Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean.
“A Pirate’s Life” is a story-based campaign made up of five quests that will be included in the upcoming Season Three update. These quests have players rescue Captain Jack Sparrow (whose voice actor sounds just like the real thing) and team up with him to thwart the nefarious Davy Jones. The campaign will feature elements from both the Pirates of the Caribbean movies and theme park attraction, including several new enemies: phantoms, sirens, and ocean crawlers.
The free Sea of Thieves Season Three update and “A Pirate’s Life” campaign will set sail on June 22 on both Xbox and Windows 10. Sea of Thieves is included with Xbox Game Pass.
Grounded: The Shroom & Doom update
Does anyone remember Obsidian’s Xbox exclusive game, Grounded? Is that a game that actually came out? It did seemingly launch as a Game Preview title last year. Since then, it appears that Grounded has continued to remain operational and even receive improvements. To prove it, Obsidian and Microsoft have announced “The Doom & Shroom Update” will materialize on June 30.
The update to a game that definitely exists will includes a new Broodmother spider boss (complete with optional Arachnophobia mode that censors the spider’s appearance), Achievements, pets, and the ability to sit. It’s relatively safe to say that Grounded is available to buy or via Xbox Game Pass on both Xbox and Windows 10. The “Shroom & Doom Update” will surely make the game even more real on June 30.
While Bethesda’s Fallout 76 MMO experienced a rather troubled launch in 2018, it has slowly and steadily improved over the years. Case in point: the free “Steel Reign” update set to arrive on both Xbox and PlayStation on July 7. The update includes the Steel Reign questline that concludes the story of Steel Dawn, a new vendor, and a new legendary crafting system.
Bethesda also revealed Fallout 76: Expeditions - The Pitt. Expeditions are quests that take place outside of the main Fallout 76 game area of Appalachia (West Virginia). The first of these expeditions is called The Pitt and will take place in the ruined version of Pittsburg that was introduced in Fallout 3. We don’t know much about The Pitt beyond what is shown in the teaser trailer, but it will arrive sometime in 2022.
Which of these upcoming cooperative games and updates do you find exciting, co-op enthusiasts?