E3 2015: Microsoft Press Briefing

Microsoft have lost some good will in the eyes of gamers. With them not being able to shake the dark shadow of the Xbox One launch claims and sort of middling game catalogue, there was a lot to live up to at their conference this year. In all honesty, they did a fine job. By showing some expected exclusives, and digging into the past, Microsoft are standing on solid ground going forward.

Halo 5 started things off with several explosions. Showing Star Wars: Republic Commando like gameplay, of small squad gameplay with order systems and individual characters. Story seems to be split between two Spartan teams, one lead by the Chief himself, another by Spartan Locke, with the entire campaign being available for drop in drop out co-op. They also talked a little about multiplayer, debuting the mode “Warzone”. This appears to be what I would call PvPvE, so two teams of players and AI aliens all on one huge map. This all looks very Halo, and I’m sure it will give fans of the series exactly what they want, and some conclusion to the grand Master Chief tale.

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A massive pick up for Microsoft was the exclusivity of the new Keiji Inafune title, Recore. All that was shown was a CG trailer featuring a female protagonist with a bolt rifle and a robot dog fighting other robots. Has a slick look, but I’ll need to see what the actual game is. It does come from a very strong designer though, so keep your fingers crossed that we hear more soon.

Possibly the most shocking and incredible announcement was the showing of Xbox 360 backwards compatibility on Xbox One. With an apparent “hundreds of titles available” by holiday this year, allowing multiplayer between both platforms and Xbox One features usable with playing your old Xbox 360 games, this is a massive deal. This also includes the statement that you will NOT have to pay again for games you already own, it`s a strong step for Microsoft. Reminding people that they know where they came from, and how much that matters.

Heavy hit after heavy hit, the redesign of the Xbox One controller to “Elite” status. Toting new hexagonal design d-pads, precision thumbsticks, trigger locks and an entirely customisable button layout, it seems like a nice little upgrade to an already very nice controller.

After last night’s grand slam, Todd Howard took to the stage once again to show off Fallout 4. A largely similar demo to the Bethesda stage show, the important reveal was the cross compatibility of mods from the PC version to the Xbox One. This is a really great little feature, but I would need to know about some form of moderation for this service before I get too excited. There are too many bad things that could be done with this feature. Still, the concept is brilliant and I am all for cross talk between console and PC gaming.

Forza 6 showed all its shiny racing-ness, starting with the reveal of the new Ford GT car to the crowd at the show itself. Looks like a very nice racing game. Yup. That`s all I`ve got.

A very short CG trailer revealed the existence of Dark Souls 3, for release in early 2016. This has been confirmed as not exclusive, so Souls fans of all platforms rejoice, you`ll probably get more of the same that you love.

Ubisoft showed both Tom Clancy’s latest offerings, The Division and Rainbow Six: Siege. Both look like interesting ideas for games, if you have the friends to play them. Also, people who buy Siege will get free copies of both Rainbow Six Vegas games, just so you remember what Rainbow Six is all about.

Not forgetting the indie developers, ID@Xbox showed off four of their latest games. Tacoma, from Gone Home developers Fullbright, looks like a very Gone Home style experience on a space station. That`s not a bad thing, it`s incredibly impressive. Ashen appears to be an RPG survival game, which the developers are saying is entirely dependant on human interactions to drive it`s gameplay. With games like DayZ proving that this concept can lead to some really interesting situations, this could be one to keep an ear on to see what happens. The beautiful Beyond Eyes also gracefully showed it`s gameplay. Featuring a blind protagonist who sees the world be created in front of her from other senses in a stunning watercolour style. This will be released summer 2015, and I just want to look at it some more.

Lastly, more from the long awaited Cuphead. Shown to much applause last year, the 1930s cartoon style platform just looks incredible, and I’ll play the hell out of that thing.

As a send-off, ID@Xbox announced its “early access” program Game Preview. What makes this different is every game in this program has a try before you buy feature, so you can see if the game is worth paying for in its early stages. A great idea for a system that has been hit or miss on PCs.

Speaking earlier of DayZ, lead developer Dean Hall showed his new project, Ion. No actual gameplay shown, but lots of space and space stations, which is pretty nice. I`ll get back to it when I know what exactly that game is.

A gameplay demo of Rise of the Tomb Raider hit the stage. Lara Croft continues to be the most unlucky explorer every, with every bridge, cliff face and floor collapsing from under her. The game looks incredible, showing impressive facial technology and environment reactions. Releasing 10th of November this year, it looks like more of the Tomb Raider shown in the reboot 2 years ago.

Rare then finally showed their hand after years of silence. Firstly showing Rare Replay, an Xbox One collection of all the old Rare classics everyone knows and loves. They then showed their new project. To say I’m excited about this would be a lie. This is pretty much the video game I’ve wanted since I was kid. A multiplayer pirate game. PIRATE.GAME. Like, with ships and everything! Run a pirate ship with your friends! Fight other people in their other ships with their friends! ARGHH! Sea of Thieves is the name. I`ll play that game basically forever.

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Coming down from that, another showing for Fable Legends as a free to play RPG action game for Xbox and PC this holiday.

Microsoft then confirmed their commitment to VR, saying both Valve VR and Oculus will be supported by Microsoft. Then, the showing of HoloLens as a gaming tool, with non-other than global mega success, Minecraft. Showing world displays on a table, that allows you to move around a server map across all layers of the world, and minor manipulations like lightning strikes. It was a very impressive demo, and you should go an watch it to really appreciate what I’m talking about.

Lastly Black Tusk, now ominously named The Coalition, showed both Gears of War products. The Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, a remake of Gears 1 for Xbox one, with a multiplayer public beta occurring right now. Then the big showing of Gears 4 (not an abbreviation, it`s just called Gears 4) It showed a very human interaction between a male and female lead character among a ruined city chasing a strange alien pig that shoots spines. Like many new-gen games, it LOOKS incredible.

Microsoft did a pretty good job. Showing the old with the new simultaneously shows owners and possible adopters alike that they care about the games again. And that’s really all that matters.