Xbox – Moving Forward by Going Backward
There is no doubt that Microsoft had a bit of a barren year in regards to exclusive titles in 2017. There really wasn’t much to cling to for fans of the big black box (or small white box as the case may be). But 2018 brings a whisper of hope for fans. With already announced titles such as Sea of Thieves, State of Decay 2 and Crackdown 3 coming along and titles like Halo 6 and Forza Horizon 4 more than likely getting a start, the MS release slate is looking a lot better.
Perhaps what is more encouraging is that it appears that Microsoft has realised they actually have quite a deep back catalogue of IP that they can draw on. With a new Age of Empires game announced and Fable 4 all but confirmed, it is clear that Microsoft has been going through the attic for inspiration for their next big hit. So I thought it would be good to look at some titles from Microsoft’s back catalogue that would be great to see breathe again, some titles that could really bring some much-needed momentum back to Xbox
Judging by the reaction last year to Microsoft implementing original Xbox backwards compatibility and making Crimson Skies one of the first titles available, it appears this steampunk aeroplane shooter still has a lot of fans. Rightly so, because Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge on the Xbox was an absolute treat that still holds up well today. In a world where these sort of games barely exist anymore, there is a huge market for MS to tap into, not to mention how good it could all look on an Xbox One X or high-end PC. I hope that the big hype around Crimson Skies last year was Microsoft testing the waters, seeing if the world was ready for a sequel. I know I am.
Many might not be old enough to remember this one, it was released in 1999 after all, but Midtown Madness was a cracking arcade racer that was something of a forebear to the Burnout series. Players raced fictional cars through sprawling cities, dodging traffic, finding shortcuts and taking out the opposition. There appears to be a real shortage of crazy arcade racers right now so the time is right for someone to put one together. The chances of this actually happening are remarkably slim, the title is after all quite obscure these days, but saying that doesn’t change the fact that it could be a nice feather in Microsoft’s cap by having a game style in their catalogue that not many other developers are attempting.
Space sims are so hot right now. Well kind of. With Elite Dangerous doing pretty well and Star Citizen doing……. Well whatever the hell it is doing, space sims are somewhat back in vogue. Both those titles are quite technical sims that can be a little daunting to those that aren’t hardcore fans. That is where a new Freelancer could possibly come in. Sitting somewhere between hardcore space-sim and arcade shooter, Freelancer would be a much more welcoming title to a much wider audience without sacrifing the depth the franchise is known for. I for one am desperate for a good space game that doesn’t require learning an encyclopedia of controls and functions and I am sure I am not the only one.
Much like Freelancer, MechAssault offers a fun, easy to get into experience set in a genre that can be somewhat complicated. The first two MechAssault games were cracking action titles that allowed players to live their mech fantasies without bothering with the technical stuff that has been ingrained in games like MechWarrior for years. A new MechAssault title could be a wonderful action experience for Microsoft’s customers and one that I would welcome with open arms. I can even imagine this sort of title going open world and adding some RPG elements into the mix. The more I think about it, the more I want it so how about it Microsoft?
Not technically owned by Microsoft (Bioware was MS second party when it was released) Jade Empire could be a worthwhile pursuit for the Xbox team. The first game was a wonderfully unique RPG that melded Eastern fantasy with a cracking story and more kung fu than a Jackie Chan marathon. It is still in my top five RPG’s of all time and every year I pray for a sequel. Bioware isn’t using the property right now so I can see a world where Microsoft buys the IP and tasks someone like Obsidian to build the game. Microsoft needs a big single player RPG in its stable and while Fable 4 will probably be that title it certainly wouldn’t hurt them to have two in production and give a new Jade Empire to fans at the same time.
This may seem a strange choice but hear me out. The idea behind Brute Force was controlling a group of 4 soldiers, each with different abilities, in an action-focused title. That idea is a remarkably firm foundation for a cracking game. Brute Force fumbled the execution of the idea somewhat but it is still an idea worth exploring. A big 3D action title with four-player co-op and a tight story is something that we know Microsoft can do well (Gears) so it is certainly within their wheelhouse. This is even the sort of game that could make the transition into an open-world title. It would need a big budget and talented dev, but there is no reason a Brute Force revival couldn’t be a successful one.
So there you have it, just some of the titles from Microsoft’s back catalogue that I feel deserve a revival. Did I miss one? Am I off the mark? Let us know in the comments below.