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Gamescom 2021 keynote recap: Halo Infinite, Saints Row, Call of Duty: Vanguard and more

saints row
(Image credit: Deep Silver)

While Gamescom 2021 may not have a physical location, it still featured plenty of games to show off today (Aug. 25). Hot on the heels of yesterday's Gamescom 2021 Xbox showcase, the Gamescom 2021 opening night keynote delivered even more info on some beloved Microsoft series, plus lots of new titles for PC, PS5, Switch and mobile platforms.

All told, the Gamescom opening keynote highlighted more than 30 games, ranging from the biggest of big-name releases (Halo Infinite) to titles produced by a development team of one (Midnight Fight Express). Journalist Geoff Keighley hosted the proceedings, which ran for two hours and featured trailers, gameplay demos and interviews with developers.

If you want to see the whole presentation for yourself, you can watch a recording of the proceedings on thegameawards YouTube channel. We've also embedded it below: 

While discussing each game in detail would take another two hours (at least!), here are the highlights from the Gamescom 2021 opening keynote. 

Gamescom 2021: Halo Infinite 

Halo fans were understandably disappointed when Microsoft's Gamescom livestream didn't mention Halo Infinite at all. However, the Gamescom keynote rewarded their patience with a brand-new multiplayer trailer, as well as two new Halo-themed peripherals: an Xbox Elite Series 2 controller, and an Xbox Series X console.

To celebrate Halo's 20th anniversary, Microsoft will put out a controller inspired by Master Chief's iconic armor, as well as a console with a space background and some distinctive geometric patterns.

More importantly, we finally have a hard release date for the game: December 8, 2021. It will be available on Xbox Series X/S, PC and Xbox Game Pass, although the game won't include campaign co-op or the creative Forge mode at launch.

Gamescom 2021: Saints Row 

Saints Row started life as a somewhat wackier take on Grand Theft Auto, and ended up as a sci-fi parody where you play as a superpowered President of the United States. A new reboot, simply called Saints Row, will bring the series back down to Earth — sort of. 

At the Gamescom 2021 opening keynote, we saw a story trailer, as well as a short gameplay montage for the upcoming open-world crime game. The new Saints Row looks like it'll be about rival gangs instead of alien invasions, but it also looks like it will have a lot of humor and some wonky physics, to match. The game will come out for Xbox, PlayStation and PC on February 25, 2022.

Gamescom 2021 Call of Duty: Vanguard

We learned a lot about Call of Duty: Vanguard during an announcement livestream a few weeks back, but today, we got our first extended look at the game's campaign. Laura Bailey plays Polina Petrova: a Soviet nurse-turned-sniper during WWII. Bailey explained that Polina is inspired by real-life snipers such as Lyudmila Pavlichenko, who fought with the Red Army during the Siege of Odessa and other important battles.

The gameplay should seem familiar to Call of Duty campaign fans, with a mix of atmospheric stealth and high-octane shooting, all in striking European battle theaters. The game will be out on November 5, 2021, and will feature both a campaign mode and the series' signature competitive multiplayer.

Gamescom 2021: Marvel's Midnight Suns 

Marvel's Midnight Suns came out of nowhere, but is easily one of the most interesting games from the Gamescom 2021 keynote. In this strategy/RPG from Firaxis games, you'll take control of an original hero in the Marvel universe, and team up with some of the darker heroes from the comic book setting. In their quest to stop an evil witch named Lilith, customizable protagonist The Hunter will recruit familiar allies like Wolverine, Blade, Magik and Ghost Rider, and work their way through a strange tale of the occult.

Captain America and Iron Man will be there, too, if you need some more straightforward heroes for your team.

The game doesn't have a release date yet, but Firaxis will host a more extensive livestream on September 1, featuring gameplay rather than just cinematic trailer footage.

Gamescom 2021: Horizon Forbidden West 

Horizon Forbidden West

(Image credit: Sony)

About a month ago, Sony hinted that Horizon Forbidden West might be delayed to 2022. Unfortunately, that turned out to be true. Fortunately, players won't have to wait too long for this highly anticipated open-world sequel. At the Gamescom opening keynote, we learned that Horizon Forbidden West will launch for both PS4 and PS5 on February 18, 2022. 

Unfortunately, that's all we learned about the game today; the developer showed off a more significant chunk of gameplay back in May, and that will apparently have to hold us until early next year.

Gamescom 2021: Other previews

Here are a few more games that are worth keeping an eye on:

  • Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder's Revenge revealed intrepid reporter April O'Neil as a playable character
  • Tales of Arise is still on track for a September 10 release date, and the soundtrack sounds great
  • Sifu, the gorgeous martial arts action game, will come out for PS4 and PS5 on February 2, 2022
  • Death Stranding: Director's Cut is set for a PS5 release on September 24, and features a variety of new gameplay mechanics
  • Far Cry 6 features Giancarlo Esposito as the charismatic villain Antón Castillo. We already knew that, but he still looks pretty menacing

Stay tuned to Tom's Guide for more Gamescom 2021 coverage over the next few days.

Marshall Honorof

Marshall Honorof is a senior editor for Tom's Guide, overseeing the site's coverage of gaming hardware and software. He comes from a science writing background, having studied paleomammalogy, biological anthropology, and the history of science and technology. After hours, you can find him practicing taekwondo or doing deep dives on classic sci-fi.