The games that could make or break Project Scorpio

Matt Sayer 11 June 2017

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If anything is going to sell us on Project Scorpio, it's these games.

We already know a lot about Project Scorpio, Microsoft's upcoming hardware revision of its Xbox One console. We know how Project Scorpio's tech specs stand up against the PlayStation 4 Pro and the Nintendo Switch. We know the system is going to release before the end of the year. We know Microsoft is going to lay out its battle plan at this year's E3. But we still know very little about the most critical component of Project Scorpio: what games will it have?

Sure, Project Scorpio will play all standard Xbox One games, but it's the games designed specifically to take advantage of Scorpio's superior hardware that will determine whether Microsoft can make up for Sony's considerable lead in console sales. In light of this, we've picked out the three top games that could make or break Project Scorpio and what Microsoft needs to do to make sure Scorpio doesn't share the fate of the company's last big hardware push: the Kinect.

Crackdown 3

Announced way back at E3 2014, Crackdown 3 was originally pitched as the poster child for showing off the power of cloud computing. At the time, Microsoft was leaning hard into the idea of offloading processing tasks onto remote servers in "the cloud", promising that Crackdown 3 would use the extra power to simulate a fully destructible city unlike any seen before in a video game. Dave Jones, Founder and Creative Director of Crackdown 3 developer Reagent Games, even claimed that the game would harness "20x the power of a single Xbox One" thanks to the magic of cloud computing.

Fast forward three years and we've barely heard a whisper from Microsoft or Reagent Games about Crackdown 3. Given how quickly the whole cloud computing fad fell out of favour, though, it seems more than likely that Reagent Games has been working to redesign Crackdown 3's physics engine to leverage the power of Project Scorpio instead. It'd sure make for an attractive headline: Project Scorpio capable of 20 times the power of a regular Xbox One. Of course, the tech specs don't paint quite as rosy a picture, but from a marketing perspective, it's a quick and easy comparison that's sure to grab people's attention.

What it comes down to, though, is whether Crackdown 3 can truly make a case for Scorpio's added power. It's certainly in the best position to do so. Unlike sharper graphics and higher resolutions, Crackdown 3's fully-destructible environments are impressive whether you're watching them in-person on a 4K UHD TV or at home on a low-bitrate, slightly-pixelated YouTube stream. That's an important distinction for a lot of potential Scorpio owners, since getting up close and personal with the console before buying it isn't always an option. Being able to show off what Scorpio can do without requiring viewers to stream in 4K HDR is a huge advantage for Crackdown 3 and if it can really push the destructive power of Microsoft's new console, it could become Scorpio's system seller.

Forza Motorsport 7

It hasn't been officially announced yet, but there's little doubt a new entry in the Forza Motorsport series is in the works. Eurogamer effectively confirmed as much when the games outlet previewed a "ForzaTech" demo during a visit to the Microsoft campus in April this year. This tech demo served as a chance for Forza Motorsport developer Turn 10 to get its feet wet with the power of Project Scorpio, producing a game engine capable of running at 60 frames a second in 4K – something that even the highest-end PCs still struggle with.

This bodes well for the next entry in the Forza Motorsport series. If Turn 10 can deliver its trademark crisp visuals and stunning weather effects at 4K and 60fps, it'll be proof positive that Scorpio's power is more than just impressive numbers on a spec sheet.

There is a catch, though. For as tantalising as pretty graphics can be, a lot of Scorpio's visual enhancements rely on owning a 4K and/or HDR-capable TV. If you're still rocking a 1,080p TV, not only are those enhancements moot selling points, you won't even be able to tell the difference by watching trailers or gameplay videos. Since 4K TVs are still a luxury for most people, Turn 10 will need to make it clear how a new Forza game would look and run better on a regular 1,080p TV. Otherwise, that $600 console will become a $1,600+ console and TV bundle, and that's going to be a lot harder to sell people on.

Halo 6

It's been a year and a half since Halo 5: Guardians, and it's safe to say 343 Industries has spent that time hard at work on the next instalment of the hugely-popular sci-fi shooter series. Story-wise, 343 has already got the basic framework for Halo 6 mapped out, but what about the game itself? Master Chief's return is a big deal and it'd be the perfect opportunity to showcase the power of the Scorpio with more than just shiny cars and collapsing buildings.

Halo has always been a visually vibrant series and Halo 6 could push that even further. Halo 5: Forge, the PC- and multiplayer-only version of Halo 5 that released late last year, has already shown how breathtaking Halo can look when running in 4K, even when the environments weren't built to explicitly take advantage of it. A brand new Halo game made from the ground up for 4K, on the other hand, one with grander vistas, bigger battlefields and action that actually plays out like Halo 5's spectacular intro cutscenethat's the kind of game that'll get people throwing money at their TVs and computer screens.

At the same time, 343 Industries has a track record of playing it safe ever since taking over the Halo series from original developer Bungie. The studio's going to need to step out of its comfort zone and use Scorpio's power to push Halo in a new direction, whether that be through massive battles that truly warrant the term epic or through dynamic levels that shift and reassemble themselves around you. If Halo 6 ends up being nothing more than a slight visual upgrade on Halo 5, even the Master Chief won't be able to lead the Scorpio to success.

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