With the one-year anniversary of the Xbox Series X and S consoles, 20th birthday of the Xbox brand, release of the best-in-class Forza Horizon 5, AND the launch of the ridiculously fun Halo Infinite, Microsoft has had a lot to celebrate towards the end of 2021. Phil Spencer and friends won’t be keen to take the balloons down and end the party just yet though, and with a jam-packed 2022 ahead it’s easy to see why they’d want to keep the celebration going. Here’s what to expect from Microsoft and its host of Xbox Game Studios over the next 12 months.
Xbox Has Games
One way to keep momentum going is to focus on what gave Microsoft such a strong ending to 2021 – great games. And one element of the 2022 slate will be continuing support for those great games from 2021.
Halo is back and arguably better than ever, but the most exciting thing about Infinite is that it's only getting started. There’s so much more to come from Halo developer 343 in 2022, including the eagerly anticipated addition of co-op to the campaign, as well as the fan-favourite Forge mode. Multiplayer will of course be receiving regular updates, whether that be new maps, modes, or further improvements to the battle pass progression system that has been the only real mark against its name up until this point.
Forza Horizon 5 saw over 10 million players hoon it around Playground’s stunning depiction of Mexico within a week of its launch. The studio has a great track record of supplying a steady stream of high-quality DLC to previous Horizons so we can definitely expect to see some of that in the coming months.
Then there’s Bethesda, that small indie company Microsoft bought for $7.5 billion in March of 2021. Two Bethesda Xbox exclusives are currently scheduled for 2022, Redfall and Starfield. The former is an open-world co-op vampire shooter from Arkane, who will be eager to replicate the critical acclaim it received for 2021 Game of the Year contender, Deathloop. A departure from the studio’s traditional single-player campaign focussed past, Redfall will be a new challenge for Arkane to wrestle with, but with a history of creating some of the most mechanically sound and smartly designed games in recent memory, there’s no reason to doubt the studio.
Starfield is Bethesda Games Studios first new series in 25 years. A sprawling odyssey that director Todd Howard has himself described as “Skyrim in Space”. Currently slated for a November 11, 2022 release, we actually know very little about what we’ll be doing in Starfield, and that’s partly what makes it so exciting. Howard has teased us with being able to explore the great unknown, offering unparalleled freedom and going as far as calling it “the biggest most epic science fiction thing you could possibly imagine”. If Starfield lives up to all that it could be, then Xbox might have their biggest exclusive to date on their hands.
Back in the world of Forza, perhaps we’ll see the return of its older, more sensible brother in 2022. Revealed at the 2020 Xbox Games Showcase, a soft reboot of Forza Motorsport from Turn 10 Studios could be ready to take its place on the starting grid towards the end of this coming year. Built from the ground up for the Series X and S consoles, it’s sure to be a treat for the eyes if the in-engine trailer is anything to go by.
As for other things that look visually stunning; Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Ninja Theory’s follow-up to the critically acclaimed Senua’s Sacrifice, looks to be taking full advantage of Epic’s Unreal Engine 5. With gameplay recently shown off at The Game Awards, the signs are encouraging that development is progressing well. Again, another game we’re hoping to play in 2022, but just don’t know at this point.
Let’s get onto some of the games that we’ll be surprised if they don’t drop in the next 12 months. Stalker 2: Heart of Chernobyl is currently slated for an April 28th release. The first in the series of four games to be released on consoles, Stalker 2 will bring along with it a legion of devoted fans of the cult original. While this post-apocalyptic survival FPS may not be a laugh a minute, it’s sure to be one of the more tense games coming out in 2022 and another opportunity for the Series X to flex its powerful tech muscles.
If you didn’t get your fill of first-person survival horror over the past couple of years by just existing, then Xbox really does have you covered. Battling Stalker for the award for grimmest looking game is Scorn, an H.R. Giger inspired biopunk adventure. If relishing in the macabre and playing as a skinless humanoid fighting off ghoulish creatures on an alien planet sounds like a nice getaway then have I got the perfect game for you. Originally scheduled to release in 2021, delays have forced it into October 2022.
With a free-to-play multiplayer in the vein of Counter-Strike developed by Korean developers Smilegate, and a single-player campaign designed by Max Payne and Control creators Remedy from Finland, CrossfireX has a uniquely cross-continental flavour. If the Fins can bring some of their unique storytelling talent to the table here then it could emerge as a surprise hit for Xbox when it drops as soon as February.
When Rare isn’t spending time constantly improving and adding unexpected treats to Sea of Thieves, it’s busy making Everwild. A uniquely stunning looking proposition, it's still largely shrouded in mystery. Revealed well over 2 years ago now, maybe 2022 is the time we get a proper look at what secrets Everwild holds and maybe even get to play it. With rumours swirling that the development has been difficult though and a 2023 release may be more likely, we’ll hold our breath for now.
Not everything has to operate on such a grand scale though. After being at the forefront of the indie game boom in the early 2000’s at the peak of the Summer of Arcade, Xbox hasn’t had as many indie exclusives recently to call its own compared to its competitors. 2022 may well be seeing that momentum swing back however.
Somerville is an upcoming mystery platformer from new studio Jumpship, created by former Playdead co-founder Dino Patti. With plenty of pedigree coming from working on indie classics such as Limbo and Inside, Somerville promises something similar. Tunic is a delightful looking adventure where you play as a fox on a magical quest. It’s unsurprisingly drawn many Legend of Zelda comparisons not least because both heroes wear a green outfit, hold a sword and solve puzzles. Then there’s Nobody Saves the World from the traditionally PlayStation-aligned Drinkbox Studios. A top-down dungeon crawler containing all the charm and character you’d expect from the people behind the Guacamelee! games.
ALL of these games will be finding their way to Xbox Game Pass too, undeniably the best deal in gaming at this point, and these are all just the Xbox console exclusives coming next year. A smorgasbord of great looking 3rd party games including Elden Ring, Dying Light 2, Suicide Squad, and Gotham Knights to name but a few are due in 2022. Plus hey, maybe even Cyberpunk 2077’s Series X version will make it too.
Hardware & Services
Of course, to play some of these games you’ll need to be in possession of either an Xbox Series X or S. Something that has not been the easiest thing to do since those consoles launched. Console shortages are no new thing in the games industry, especially so soon after the launch of a new generation, but this time around they’ve been harder than ever to get hold of. Component shortages and the ever-developing pandemic have of course offered unprecedented challenges – let’s hope things only get easier from here on all accounts.
For those who are still waiting to get their hands on the new generation however, xCloud is here to save the day. Xbox Cloud Gaming allows PC, phone and tablet users to get a taste of the Xbox action without actually having to own a console. Recently added as a service to any Game Pass Ultimate subscription, it really does mean you can play all of the games mentioned earlier without even owning a console in 2022. It will be intriguing to see how cloud gaming develops over the next 12 months, but with Xbox Cloud Gaming it really does feel like the future is already here.
One thing we’re unlikely to see from Xbox anytime soon though is a dip into the murky sea of NFTs. In a recent interview with Axios, Phil Spencer described Non-Fungible Tokens in games as something that “feels more exploitative than about entertainment”. While big publishers such as Ubisoft and EA may well be heading in this direction, it feels safe to say we won’t be seeing any Master Chief NFTs on the Xbox Store in 2022.
With a myriad of great looking games on the way and so many audience-friendly services continuing to blossom, 2022 is shaping up to be a great time to be an Xbox player. Beyond all of this, the future is looking bright for Xbox and its stable full of impressive studios. On the horizon is Fable, Avowed, The Outer Worlds 2, State of Decay 3, Perfect Dark, Indiana Jones, AND The Elder Scrolls 6. It would certainly be a surprise (and you wouldn’t hear me complaining) if any of these were to come out in the next year, but the promise of seeing more of them is exciting enough. And that’s maybe the best thing about being an Xbox player right now – it just doesn't look like that excitement is going to be ending any time soon.
Simon Cardy doesn't think he could be any more excited for Starfield. Come and tell all about your favourite moons on Twitter at @CardySimon.