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Media captionWATCH: First look at Halo Infinite

Microsoft has given gamers a first look at Halo Infinite’s gameplay.

The firm said that the game’s map was more than twice the size of that in the sci-fi franchise’s last two entries combined.

It also promised “more complex visual effects” than before on its forthcoming Xbox Series X console.

However, some gamers voiced disappointment on social media at the quality of the graphics shown within the demo.

Image copyright Microsoft
Image caption Halo Infinite’s trailer featured an action-packed battle before revealing the game’s wider plot

This may in part be down to the art style of Halo Infinite, and the live stream being broadcast in high definition at 1080p.

A trailer uploaded soon afterwards in 4K showed the detail and lighting to much better effect.

Image copyright Twitter

There was a more positive response to the addition of new weapons, which included a grappling hook as well as a futuristic automatic pistol.

Microsoft is also promoting the game’s fast-loading times on the new console – a feature Sony also made much of at its recent PlayStation 5 event.

Image copyright Microsoft
Image caption Microsoft said Halo Infinite would run at 60 frames per second on the Xbox Series X

“There’s a huge community around Halo, people really love Master Chief, but it also reaches a wider audience with people who may not finish the story, but spend hours in multiplayer,” commented Ellen Rose, presenter of the Outside Xtra gaming show.

“If Xbox nails it, it could really help shift sales of the new Xbox Series X.”

Microsoft also confirmed another of its big name franchises would come to the new console in the form of Forza Motorsport 8.

Image copyright Microsoft

It was described as being in the early stages of its development, so is unlikely to be released alongside the device.

Other games unveiled included:

  • Hellblade 2: Senua’s Saga – a sequel to the Bafta-winning original, which will be set in Iceland this time round
  • Grounded – a third-person action game in which the player’s character has been shrunk and must fight insects in their backyard
  • State of Decay 3 – a second sequel to the survival horror game, which featured a zombie deer in its trailer
Image copyright Microsoft
Image caption Hellblade’s protagonist is a Celtic warrior who deals with psychosis – the first game was praised for its handling of her mental health issues

Microsoft also showcased Tell Me Why from France’s Dontnod Entertainment studio, which previously released Life Is Strange.

It is notable for featuring what the developers have said is the first playable transgender lead in a major release.

The trailer showed Tyler and his twin sister Alyson seeing ghosts of their past selves in a story that centres on exploring mysteries about their mother and childhood.

Despite the decision to break new ground, the footage shown did not make specific mention of Tyler’s gender identity.

Image copyright Microsoft
Image caption Tell Me Why is a narrative adventure game that will be released in several chapters

Over the current generation of games machines, the Xbox One comes third in terms of global sales, behind Sony’s PlayStation 4 and Nintendo’s Switch.

But one expert said it had fared much better in terms of market share in the UK.

“There’s a love for the Halo brand among UK consumers, and their tastes are generally more aligned with the US [where the gap is also closer],” commented Piers Harding-Rolls from Ampere Analysis.

“So, I expect it to be pretty close between the two next-generation platforms here. But when you look at continental Europe and other global markets, the disparity is likely to be significantly in the PlayStation 5’s favour.”

Both Sony and Microsoft have invested in exclusive content by acquiring third-party games studios in recent years.

However, they are now pursuing different strategies.

Sony plans to release several of its new games only on the PlayStation 5. By contrast, Microsoft generally intends to launch its forthcoming first-party titles on both PCs and the new Xbox Series X, and often the existing Xbox One as well.

As yet, neither company has revealed how much their new consoles will cost, despite both being set to go on sale before the end of 2020.

They may both be holding off in the hope the other will go first, allowing the second party to tweak their strategy accordingly.

However, Mr Harding-Rolls suggested the companies would be wise not to wait for too long,

“The coronavirus has created pressure on spending, so I think there would be an advantage to giving people the ability to pre-order,” he said.

‘A firmer footing’

Analysis by Marc Cieslak, BBC Click

Image copyright Microsoft

What is the next generation all about, beyond better graphics and speedy loading times?

It’s a question I’ve been asking to every developer and games industry executive I’ve spoken to for the last year.

So far, I’m yet to receive a response that fully answers the question.

After a shaky first showcase from Xbox back in May, calling in back-up from Halo’s Master Chief at this latest event put the Series X console on a firmer footing.

In comparison to Sony’s online shock-and-awe showing last month, Xbox opted for a slick and classy event. Halo Infinite and Forza Motorsport used tried and tested Xbox franchises to demonstrate the new machine will be a force to be reckoned with.

To me, this event was far more reminiscent of the atmosphere and feel of Xbox’s recent E3 showcases.

A grown-up affair, which highlighted a wide diversity of games from crowd-pleasing first-person shooters and racing titles to more thoughtful fare like Tell Me Why, a platform-exclusive game with a trans lead character. They even found time to tease a new Fable too.

Image copyright Microsoft
Image caption The new Fable trailer showed a fairy taking an exhilarating flight before being eaten by a toad

It looks like Xbox is more than ready for the challenge of yet another scrap with PlayStation.

But consumer expectation for the next-generation’s capabilities should probably be tempered, until we get a first hand look at games playing on next-gen machines, rather than making a judgement based on an online promo stream.

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