E3 has now begun. First out of the gates of today’s press conferences was Microsoft. After so much controversy and rumour after the Xbox One reveal event, Microsoft had a lot to prove. Initial statements from Microsoft Game Studios General Manager Phil Spencer says that “this is a gamer`s show” helped to focus our minds on the event to come.
And man, Microsoft did not disappoint.
This was a conference about the games, pure and simple. No TV, no social media integration, just exclusive announcements and demos. Putting their strong foot forward, the conference started with the first ever Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain gameplay demo. It showed the usual protagonist, Solid Snake, in a desert like environment, doing such things as riding a horse, and using said horse to hide from a a group of guards. This is all in aid of Kojima`s idea of unparalleled freedom in stealth, allowing for new movement and combat options deal with situations how you see fit. We also got to hear the first samples of Keifer Sutherland as Snake, replacing the usual David Hayter that fans have come to know and love. In all honesty, it is hard to tear his voice away from that of Jack Bauer, but i am sure he can bring a lot to the role. The demo was very impressive, showing the capabilities of the new console to render detailed characters and stunning backgrounds.
This was then followed by a quick mention of the future of the Xbox 360. This brought news of a console redesign, to make it look more like all the other indiscriminate black boxes in your room, and it is available to buy right now. They also revealed some 3 new games coming to the 360. The first two were the very popular free to play tank combat game World of Tanks, and a follow-up to the indie game Max and the Magic Marker called Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, a Pixar-esque style third person puzzle platformer, much like its predecessor. The final game shown was the sequel to the much loved Dark Souls. From the looks of the trailer, if you like Dark Souls, you are sure to like this one.
The conference then shifted into Xbox One gear, giving us a look at some of those 13 exclusive games that they announced at the reveal event.
First off, Ryse: Son of Rome, a game announced as Ryse at E3 2 years ago as a Kinect first person hack-and-slash. It now appears to be a 3rd person action game that can really only be described as “Call of Duty :Rome” A very cinematic gameplay demo of a Normandy beach landing style city siege. Lots of quick time event kills, and not really a lot else. It was a demo that was very visually impressive, but didn’t not have a lot of sustenance in the gameplay. It did not look like something I would want to play, but that could change as more information comes about the game.
Next up was the announcement, finally, of the Killer Instinct reboot. There was Jago, there was a lot of punches and kicks and ultra combos. Looked very much like an HD Killer Instinct. If that appeals to you, it looked like a lot of fun.
The stage was then taken by a surprise guest, Insomniac Games. The previously Sony exclusive developer of the Resistance and Rachet and Clank series, showed a stylish shooter by the name of Sunset Overdrive. The trailer showed characters with gamertags above their heads, suggesting co-op multiplayer, lots of parkour motion, and improvised weapons such as a vinyl record launcher. It looked like it could be a lot of fun but had shades of Fuse, formerly Overstrike, which started as a stylistic shooter and ended as a bland 3rd person team shooter. I hope this does not happen second time.
Turn 10 studios then showed their latest racing simulator, Forza 5. In keeping with the fashion of showing car games for new consoles, Forza looked stunning. Realistic car models, detailed backgrounds and accurate racetracks. The interesting point was the introduction of the Driveatar, a stupid name for an excellent concept. Driveatar is an AI which learns how you drive as you play the game, eventually being able to simulate your driving style while you are not playing the game. This means that the drivers you see on the track are Driveatars of the people on your friends list, and they will see yours in return. This is a really great concept that they are dubbing “the end of AI” .
The conference then took a slower turn, as Microsoft talked about idea for indie games on Xbox One. This was spearheaded by the reveal that Minecraft will be coming to Xbox One. Why is Minecraft coming to Xbox One? Your guess is as good as mine, but it is most likely because it sold over 6 million copies on Xbox 360 and they want to earn money one the new platform. Microsoft also showed the new game by Swords and Sworcery developer Capybara Games. This was a rogue-like hack-and-slash called Below. With a minimalist art style, and music by Jim Guthrie, this looks to be a game to keep an eye on.
Remedy then showed more from their interesting Quantum Break, shown at the Xbox One reveal event. It looks like this is the TV show that Remedy has always wanted to make, with a complex story that adapts and changes depending on the players choices in the game. I`d keep close eye on this one
To show just how many developers Microsoft have gotten to work on the Xbox One, what followed was presentations by a slew of varied developers from all over the world. This included Deadly Premonition developer SWERY65, showing an “episodic murder mystery” simply called D4. Not much was shown, but I will play anything that that man wants to put out on game consoles.
A follow-up to the dragon shoot-em-up Panzer Dragoon was also shown, Crimson Dragon. It looked very much like Panzer Dragoon. Not very next gen, but a lot like Panzer Dragoon, if that is your cup of tea.
Capcom Vancouver then showed us the next entry in the Dead Rising series, Dead Rising 3. An outbreak in the city of Los Puridos leaves protagonist Nick in a struggle for his life. Several Dead Rising tropes were shown, including craftable weapons like a saw with a sledgehammer on the end, but this was an all round grittier take on the Dead Rising universe. In my mind, Dead Rising was always pretty goofy, and that was part of its charm. I`m really not sure how I feel about the change, but I will tentatively keep an eye on it.
In real surprise, CD Projekt took to the stage to show The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. The trailer shown looked absolutely stunning, much like The Witcher 2 before it, and told us that the game is a vast, truly open world. Exclusive Kinect commands are included in the Xbox One edition, however we are not sure what this entails as of yet, however.
Battlefield 4 then took the floor, showing gameplay which looked like a very pretty modern military shooter. Not really all that exciting, but hey, guns and headshots am I right guys?
The conference wrapped up with 3 trailers from 3 studios. The first, a developer trailer for Black Tusk Studios. A splinter cell like spy rappels down a glass building and fired a future gun. No game announcement, nothing. It looks alight though, so i hope what they have is interesting.
As a shock to no one, 343 announced their next Halo game for Xbox One. The trailer revealed Master Chief`s helmed face from under hooded robes in a desert by a giant robot coming out of the sand. More Halo on Xbox, who would have guessed?
The final showing from Microsoft was the, leaked game from former Infinity Ward employees Respawn Entertainment, Titanfall. This was an excellent gameplay demo, showing the Titan mechs themselves in action, free-running first person shooting, and fantastic looking scenery and animations. It was the only game at the entire conference that looked like it was actually being played, and that impressed me immensely.
In non games announcements, the integration of tablets, Smartglass, into the Xbox experience was better explained. We saw the viewing of friends progress in games, the initiation of single player games from the tablet, and the browsing of multiplayer queues while in game. This means that you can queue for a multiplayer match in Halo, while you play The Witcher, and transfer between the two. The Twitch TV partnership was finally confirmed as well, with what Microsoft are calling “Game DVR,” which records games as you play, and allows you to stream your games, or use the Upload Studio to upload your clips to the cloud.
There was also the first look at Project Spark, a game creation tool which seems to be Microsoft`s answer to LittleBigPlanet. There were programmable items, and seemingly easy to use interfaces, integrated with Kinect voice commands. This could be an interesting one if the more creative of us get their hands on it.
The news that everyone was waiting on, however, was price and release date. Microsoft answered one of these questions by announcing $499/£429 as the price-point for the Xbox One, releasing some time in November of this year. £429 really seems a bit steep to me, but it really all depends on what Sony announce for the PS4 later today.
In all, it was an excellent showing from Microsoft today. They did not forget the core gamers, with several high profile releases and exclusive, sure to make a variety of gamers happy. What was not so good, was the constant mention of “the cloud” as some mystical entity that does magical things in several Xbox One games, but no mention of exactly what “the cloud” is actually doing in our games. Left me quite confused as to what is actually going on. We also cannot forget the legitimate outrage the internet has brought down on the console over the last 2 weeks. 24 hour internet connection checks and games essentially becoming nothing more than license that you own are a very real issue that worries several people. If you can get over concerns for just a little while, Microsoft did a great job at showing us the Xbox One as a machine for gamers.