Gaming News

DF Direct: Xbox Summer Showcase brought banger games but underwhelming new hardware

Microsoft’s Xbox Summer Showcase was unexpectedly exciting, with a torrent of impressive-looking games from a range of well-loved franchises and some entirely fresh titles too. Despite some misgivings over the future of the Xbox brand and an underwhelming reveal of new hardware, the games themselves were enough to carry the day – and the Digital Foundry crew has convened to discuss the highlights and lowlights in a DF Direct special.

I won’t go into every game discussed by John, Alex and Oliver in the 102-minute episode – which included the likes of Doom: The Dark Ages, Perfect Dark, Gears of War: E-Day and Metal Gear Solid Delta: Snake Eater – so instead I’ll pick out some of my own personal highlights, starting with Stalker 2: Heart of Chornobyl. The original Stalker PC game from 2007 was janky, weird and completely captivating, so it’s incredible to see a proper sequel finally close to the finish line. What was shown looked impressive – significantly more refined cinematics, storytelling, shooting and technology, yet with all of the grimy atmosphere of the original, from unknowable anomalies sparking away to a band of stalkers playing guitar huddled around a campfire. Heart of Chornobyl looks to keep the emergent AI, relatively wide play areas and verticality of the original too, but with everything realised in significantly higher fidelity.

The new game is one of many from the Xbox Showcase running on Unreal Engine 5, with Nanite geometry and Lumen global illumination evident in the trailer – though it’s not clear whether it was hardware or software Lumen, with hardware being preferred by Alex for scalability reasons. The entire tr ailer was also shown in what looked to be native 4K. That means that the Series X version of the game will likely look a fair bit different, and even PC users may need quite beastly hardware to run the game at that resolution without resorting to upscalers like DLSS, XeSS or FSR.

With Rich out on assignment for IGN Live in the US, it was John, Alex and Oliver taking to the mics to discuss Doom, Perfect Dark, Gears of War, Metal Gear Solid and more. Watch on YouTube
  • 0:00:00 Introduction
  • 0:01:17 Doom: The Dark Ages
  • 0:11:05 Perfect Dark
  • 0:20:42 Gears of War: E-Day
  • 0:28:53 Metal Gear Solid Delta: Snake Eater
  • 0:40:39 Fable
  • 0:49:43 S.T.A.L.K.E.R. 2: Heart of Chornobyl
  • 0:59:18 Call of Duty: Black Ops 6
  • 1:07:17 Indiana Jones and the Great Circle
  • 1:15:54 Other games – Mixtape, Clair Obscur: Expedition 33, South of Midnight, Atomfall, Dragon Age: The Veilguard, State of Decay 3, Age of Mythology: Retold
  • 1:24:36 Updated Xbox Series consoles
  • 1:31:35 Phil Spencer: more Xbox games are coming to other platforms

We’re likely to know more when hardware requirements are revealed ahead of the game’s September 5th launch, which is set for Xbox Series X as well as PC Game Pass, Steam and the Epic Games Store. Expect Alex to take a close look at this one in due course!

Beyond the delivery of ‘banger after banger’ in the games space, Microsoft also finally detailed their next Xbox hardware revisions. This included two new models – a $449 white disc-less Xbox Series X model, a $349 1TB version of the Xbox Series S and a $599 ‘galaxy black’ disc Xbox Series X with 2TB of storage, with the latter two offering double the storage of their respective original models.

John and other members of Digital Foundry have gone on the record often to say that the ‘adorably all-digital’ feature Microsoft is rushing towards is definitely not a welcome move for game archivists, especially with platform holders being able to remove games from their owners libraries, and that same logic applies here. Still, it’s at least good to see that the disc-based models aren’t being replaced – the new models look to sit alongside the originals, at least for the time being.

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It’s clear from the pricing of the new models that Microsoft isn’t aiming to disrupt the market with lower prices than their competition at Sony, but what remains unknown is whether the new models come with a die shrink that would make them slightly more power-efficient – and maybe fractionally faster too. Microsoft’s press release promises “the same speed, performance and features”, but it would be nice to see lower power draw along similar lines to Sony’s PS5 revisions – or even a sneaky One S style GPU overclock to deliver fractionally better frame-rates.

What we didn’t see was something dramatically different to the current offering, both in terms of form factor (the leaked “trash can” style Series X) or functionality (the mooted Xbox handheld). I agree with John that this shows an understanding from Microsoft that a full mid-gen refresh likely wouldn’t have moved the needle in terms of hardware sales, and therefore that their resources are better spent elsewhere – hopefully, on a really good handheld that is demonstrably different from what Sony is offering and what already exists in the PC handheld space.

Of course, it’s been a busy time for game announcement shows as of late, and the recently released DF Direct Weekly #166 centred around the announcements of Summer Game Fest. John, Alex and Oliver talk through the highlights, including Lego Horizon Adventures, Kingdom Come: Deliverance 2, Black Myth: Wukong, Civilization 7 and plenty more – so do check out that show as well, which is embedded below.

DF Direct Weekly #166 immediately preceded the Xbox special and centred on Geoff’s Summer Game Fest. Watch on YouTube
  • 0:00:00 Introduction
  • 0:01:20 News 01: Summer Game Fest: Lego Horizon Adventures
  • 0:13:44 Metaphor: Refantazio, Kingdom Come: Deliverance 2
  • 0:25:17 Sonic X Shadow Generations, Alan Wake 2: Night Springs, Phantom Blade Zero
  • 0:40:53 Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers: Rita’s Rewind, Slitterhead, Killer Bean
  • 0:50:14 Black Myth: Wukong, Civilization 7
  • 1:03:59 News 02: Sony removes 8K support from PS5 box
  • 1:22:49 News 03: PS VR2 PC adapter detailed
  • 1:32:58 News 04: Microsoft unveils Auto SR upscaling tech
  • 1:46:20 Supporter Q1: How can you optimize Windows text rendering for WOLED displays?
  • 1:50:03 Supporter Q2: Why do people suggest limiting your frame-rate to just below the display refresh rate when using VRR on PC?
  • 1:53:24 Supporter Q3: Would John recommend a PS VR2 or Meta Quest 3 for PC VR use?
  • 1:55:33 Supporter Q4: Can you recall the first game that left you in awe of its graphics, making it hard to envision a better-looking game?
  • 2:04:30 Supporter Q5: Are the consoles holding back RT use on PC?
  • 2:10:25 Supporter Q6: What games do you wish you had first played on better hardware?

I also particularly appreciated the PC-focused supporter questions in that show, which had some excellent advice from John on VR setups – comparing PS VR2 and Meta Quest 3 – and the mechanics of frame-rate limiting and W-OLED text rendering on Windows.

If you’re interested in supporting the work we do and posing your own questions on a DF Direct near you – or even a DF InDirect Q&A show – then we’d encourage you to take a look at the DF supporter programme over at Patreon. As well as asking questions, you can get high-quality video downloads of everything we do, early access to non-embargoed content, exclusive DF Retro content and much much more.


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