With the terrible E3 showing last year, Microsoft needed to step up to the plate this year and wow the audience. Question is how are they going to do this? Will they ramble on about how great the system is, again? Will they talk about games at all? What about the Kinect-less integration now? There was a lot of questions heading into this event. Let’s see what they accomplished.
Phil Spencer (Head of Xbox) was on stage when the event went live. After some short dialog welcoming everyone to the show we jumped right into it. First thing that was shown is the highly popular Call of Duty series. This focused not on current games, or DLC coming out, but an entirely new game titled, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. The trailer they showed for it was intense and actually looked really decent. With the soldiers having Jump Packs it could leave a lot of room for maybe some platforming elements or puzzles. I know those are not typically found in a shooter but there are a lot of possibilities that may arise. At the end was a bit of a shock as your body was pulled away leaving your severed left arm behind. Quite a shocking moment for the first official showing during the event. Leaving the arm behind makes me wonder if there is going to be an exoskeleton type of body armor in the game. They also revealed the drop date for the game is set for November 4th 2014
Forza series was next on the plate with a slight announcement that the famous Nürburgring course will be available to players. Not only available but starting now, for free. What struck me odd was that this has never been in a Forza game before. It’s a world famous course that tests the driving ability of not only the driver but the mechanical ability of the car as well. Gran Turismo has had this course in their games for many years now. Then they moved right into to Forza Horizon 2. This game will support over 200 cars. A full day and night cycle. Plus dynamic weather will play a part in the handling of each car. The game is supposed to be running in 1080p resolution. If you currently have a Drivatar in Forza 5 that will also be available in Forza Horizon 2. This racer is set to be launched on September 30th.
The next showing was the highly anticipated game, Evolve. They announced the classes that you can be in the game. Those include Assault, Trapper, Medic and Support. Each one of these will have different abilities and strategies to go with them. They showed off the newest monster that you can actually play as, a Kraken. While not overly big it did look fierce and angry. The opening segment of its two blue eyes looking at you then two more opening up right below it gave the monster a surreal presence that he was there staring at you. There was a lot of CGI in this trailer that made the game look exciting and explosive. From what I hear the gameplay is actually quit good and satisfying. It just would have been nice to see actual gameplay on stage. Time will only tell with this title.
What would another year be without another Assassin’s Creed announcement? This year we get Assassin’s Creed Unity. This game is set in 18th Century Paris and you play as Arno Dorian. For the first time in an Assassin’s Creed game there will be a four player co-op mode. It seemed to be a drop in co-op as well. First it was the main player then throughout the section 3 additional players appeared one at a time. They showed a small portion of this being played and it looked interesting but a little off balance. The sense of direction on where you need to go wasn’t very noticeable. It might have been the camera work though. For an open world game traversing your way to your goal could get frustrating. One of the great scenes was right at the end when the four guys threw their target out of the balcony window, the peasants below beat him mercifully and the camera panned out to show his severed head twitching on the end of a stake. Great scene that captivated the demo we saw.
One of the most anticipated games that I have been looking forward was up next, Dragon Age: Inquisition. Unfortunately we didn’t really get so see or hear much about this game. They showed a CGI trailer that looked really good, of course. They didn’t talk about the game play, or the story, or even any of the characters. They announced the street date of October 7th. If you have been following this game at all the date has been announced for some time now. I was hoping for a little more information about the core aspects of the game itself. We really didn’t get much but a teaser. I was left with wanting more out of this segment.
Another game that I have been interested in and will be a day one purchase for me, is Sunset Overdrive. Ted Price from Insomniac came out on stage and showed us a quick demo of what the game performs like. You can tell he has played this part of the game many times as he was just playing right through everything and knew the exact path to take. The pace of the game was extremely faced paced and vivid looking. All the colors seem to jump off the screen. There is a lot of orange in this game but it didn’t distract from the overall visual looks of it. You can tell that the Ratchet and Clank series has a slight hand in here from the crazy guns you can use. Even the box cover gun could easily be a R.Y.N.O. in one of the games. The game will also include an 8 player co-op mode called Chaos Squad which will run on dedicated servers. The launch date for this game is scheduled for October 28th.
One of the weirdest, no the weirdest announcement of the whole conference is a DLC pack called Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha Prime. What a long name for some DLC for Dead Rising 3. This incorporates some of your favorite characters from the Capcom universe and puts them in the Dead Rising world. What they showed was a lot of characters from the Street Fighter series. The DLC is available right now. I honestly really don’t see this taking off all that much. Yes, there will be people who get it who love the Dead Rising and the Street Fighter series. Besides that, I don’t seeing this being a big hit.
There was also an announcement of two musical/ dancing games that really didn’t get a lot of applause from the audience. Those are Dance Central, which is a digital download only item, and Disney Fantasia Music Evolved. Both of there are Kinect titles. This was the only time the Kinect was mention during the whole presentation. The Disney game sounds a little promising as big time Disney fans will get it, other than that I don’t see these going over. If you are interested in them, both will be available this Fall.
Back to the main stable of games from a somewhat break in the action so to speak. Next was Fable Legends. Maybe it was just the trailer but the game actually look boring. I loved the first Fable and have been looking forward to seeing this in person. The trailer wasn’t all that inspiring. Part of it showed a top down “tower defender” type of game. Not what I had in mind for a supposedly action RPG. The hack-n-slash style reminded me of Baldur’s Gate. Also announced there is a beta coming out this holiday. You can actually sign up for it already at fablelegends.com.
The most creative game that got announced, really wasn’t that big of an announcement. That was Project Spark. If you haven’t heard Project Spark is a user created environment. Each person can build their own worlds and have others go through it. This game does support multiplayer and even has a co-op campaign. They didn’t go into much about the campaign at all. I was hoping they would explain how user created worlds can factor into a campaign mode. This is also coming out this holiday season. What threw me off at the end was Conker. I was hoping we were finally going to get another Conker game or the much wanted Bad Fur Day HD remake. Nope, it was just a small announcement that he will be available in the game. Such a letdown.
One of the most pleasant surprises was from a developer called Moon Studios and their game Ori and The Blind Forest. This is a side scroller adventure with some very beautiful artwork and what seemed to be an emotional story. Not much was really said about this game but it definitely caught my eye. Especially being stuck between some rather big announcements. Like the following one.
What would an Xbox major press event be without a little bit of Halo news? There was the announcement that everyone pretty much knew already, Halo 5: Guardians is coming out. Not a big shocker there. What got the loudest applause of the conference was the announcement of Halo: The Master Chief Collection. This includes every major Halo game in the series, the original Halo Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo3 and even Halo 4. You can play with the upgraded graphics or you can switch back to the original graphics at the touch of a button. The series will also include the widely popular Halo 2 multiplayer which includes the original maps that was shipped with the game 10 years ago. In total, there are over one hundred multiplayer maps all of which are the original maps. These will run on dedicated servers and 1080p resolution at an amazing 60fps. They also made it a point to say that in total there will be 4000 Gamerscore available. Also included in this collection is the digital collection of Halo Nightfall that is a weekly series which will focus on the life of Master Chief as it ties together the first four Halo games and laying the path that leads up to the story of Halo 5. There will also be a beta test for Halo 5 that will include all new game modes and features. A big announcement for a big package. This package will be available this November 11th.
The rest of the conference focused on games coming out in 2015 or later. There are some pretty big titles coming next year. Let’s go over those really quickly.
They did a nice quick little presentation of the Indie Developers and their games coming to the console next year. A few looked like rehashes of previous games while some looked really interesting. There wasn’t a lot of detail to each game. Just a quick few words here and there and then they moved on to the next segment. Unfortunately it felt more like a time filler then to actually showcase those games. For Indie Developers that is great to get their name out there but it just seemed that Xbox wasn’t that excited to have them aboard.
One of the big games coming out next year had an amazing trailer behind it. That was Rise of the Tomb Raider. Again another CGI trailer but it looked intense. The reboot of the franchise was an amazing experience. I am really looking forward to this game as well. I just hope the developer drops the terrible multiplayer experience and they just focus on the single player this time. This very well could be a good candidate for game of the year in 2015.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was next on the agenda. While my interest is peaked for this game, the gameplay they showed was interesting but the battle mechanics seemed really slow. If that is the case then playing through the areas will turn out to be a chore as you face enemies and drag the overall flow of the game down.
Another shooter that shows a lot of promise is the anticipated Tom Clancy’s The Division. This showed off some very innovative gameplay. From your ability to change your skills on the fly, even while in battle, which in itself is very intriguing. The mapping system is very unique as when pulled up you are actually standing on the map and it shows the surrounding area around you including the streets and buildings. If done correctly it could be a giant aid in your travels instead of trying to figure out which way your marker on a mini map is pointing.
A game coming out next year that caught my attention also is called Scalebound. Once again not much was said about this game or the actual game play showed. It was just, what I am guessing, your character running through the forest with a giant monster chasing you. You come out to the clearing to a dragon standing right in front of you. From there a little bit of fighting happens and then you are on top of the dragon flying through the air. One of the things I caught during the trailer was the ability to “spawn” armor on yourself while riding the dragon. Again another CGI trailer. I’m not sure if the dragon aids you in your quest or you have to capture and train it to be your ally. Either way it was very interesting.
The last big game that was announced, that I don’t think anyone seem coming, was a new Crackdown. Once again another CGI trailer was shown and not much was talked about the game, unfortunately. It definitely has me interested as I loved the first game. Hopefully the Orbs will not be as hard to find this time around. Those last few drove me nuts. It did have a slight Tron vibe feel to it as the vehicles had neon lights running about them as well as the city.
That was pretty much the entire conference. There was a few surprises but most of the stuff we already knew about. The one thing I took away form this year was the lack of Kinect this and Kinect that. As mentioned it was only spoke about once for two titles, then that was it. With the Xbox One now available without the Kinect is Microsoft finally starting to go away from the device? I know mine at home doesn’t pick up my voice even though I’m only about 3 feet away from it. I have a friend whos Kinect will pick up her dog walking by and sign in as her. Strange device that doesn’t seem to work correctly.
As the ending video was being shown there was a few logos that popped up. The one that caught my eye the most was the Gears of War logo. Is this an indication that a new Gears game will come coming out for the Xbox One in the future? Or was it a simple nod to the previous games on the 360? Only time will tell on this.
Over all this was a much bigger and better experience then last years conference. Last year was more about how great the Xbox One is going to be. The power of using the cloud and the three different operating systems. This year was more about the games and then the games some more. It was great seeing Microsoft getting back to the people that made their consoles worthwhile to play on. Us, the players.