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 trailer 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.

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