A Christmas release date for Halo: Infinite was among dozens of announcements at Microsoft’s E3 show. It was scheduled for release last year alongside the new Xbox, but was delayed due to the pandemic and amid outcry from players over its graphics.
A new Forza racing game and the Xbox release of Flight Simulator were also among the 30 titles revealed. It was the first E3 since Microsoft acquired Bethesda last year for $7.5bn.
Unlike other developers’ conferences, the 90-minute Microsoft show was nearly entirely back-to-back game trailers and announcements, with few speeches in-between.
Bethesda boss Todd Howard started the event with news of a November 2022 release date for the firm’s first new series in 25 years, Starfield.
The space-faring game was shown only with some in-game footage of a ship taking off from the surface of another world – revealing no new details about what its gameplay would be like.
But a preview released in July 2020 was widely criticized by fans of the game as looking unpolished, with enemy character models labelled as crude and reminiscent of older games, rather than a next-gen title. The developers pledged to work hard on improving them.
Sunday’s video showed off the series hero Master Chief meeting a new AI character, as the two discussed a mystery around the fate of Cortana, the game’s other long-running protagonist. But it notably did not include the alien enemy models which caused so much controversy last year.
Microsoft did, however, show off the game’s multiplayer mode for the first time – the main attraction for many players.
Sticking to plans to make the multiplayer part of the game a free-to-play package, not requiring a purchase of the main product, Microsoft said it would release it alongside the game for the Christmas shopping season.
Developers said parts of Mexico’s real landscape had been faithfully recreated using photogrammetry data – the same type of 3D technique used by Microsoft’s Flight Simulator to map realistic cities.
A new expansion was also shown off, tied to the Top Gun film series – which will bring official support for fighter-jet style planes for the first time. Previously, such planes have only been available through player mods or paid add-ons.
Microsoft’s surprise pandemic hit, the pirate-themed Sea of Thieves, is also getting an expansion featuring Pirates of the Caribbean characters – including Captain Jack Sparrow.
Piers Harding-Rolls, games analyst at Ampere, said that Microsoft’s strategy was to grow the service to tens of millions of users by accepting a broad range of new games from third party developers.