Microsoft promised to focus on the games this year, and that’s exactly what they did during the 90 minutes of their E3 media briefing this year. During the course of their press conference a new Xbox division appeared under the leadership of Phil Spencer, one which appeared more humble and less multi-media obsessed than the Xbox of old.
Just like some of the great Xbox conferences of years gone by, a gameplay snippet of a Call of Duty title was used to kick things off, in this case being Advanced Warfare. The game looked slick, with some genuinely impressive fire effects and particle wizadry putting it currently above Killzone: Shadow Fall as the best looking FPS of the current gen. It seemed to have a near future Korean setting, with a dose of alien action, all of which contributed to giving it a very Crysis 2 feel, particularly when the suits worn by your soldier character appeared to have almost superhuman powers. A solid showing for the game however, and it at least seems to be doing something different from the last several years of cookie cutter COD sequels.
Next up was a trailer for Forza Horizon 2, arguably a disappointment when gameplay footage should surely have been preferable as the game is due for launch in a few months. What we did see looked great however, with the gorgeous cars of Forza 5 set in some stunning locations. All the talk of ‘forming clubs and creating challenges’ however smacked of DriveClub and The Crew; this holiday is going to be filled with three very similar looking games…
Although Ubisoft showed off a big chunk of single player gameplay during their conference later on Monday, the Xbox show was the first time that Assassin Creed: Unity was seen in action, and it did look extremely impressive. The biggest crowds ever seen in the series along with some amazing looking 4 player co-op really marked this out as one to watch, particularly with the interesting (and fairly unique in games) French revolutionary setting. Why do all baddies in games have an English accent however, even when they are supposed to be French? I guess we Brits just sound evil!
Dragon Age: Inquisition was shown off next and looked great, although more of that was shown off later by EA so it was more of an extended trailer here. The next trailer up though really impressed me with its cheeky humor, leading into a fantastic looking in-game montage – Sunset Overdrive. This title hadn’t really been on my radar, but it has now quickly become only the second game after Titanfall to make me feel jealous as a PS4 owner. Seriously, Microsoft has done really well to get Insomniac on-board if this is the quality of title they will produce for them. How much more sense would it have been for the big M to buy them, rather than the disappointing Rare?
Another cheeky trailer followed the one for Sunset Overdrive, for some DLC content for Dead Rising 3 that is on sale now, and celebrates 30 years of Capcom history. If you ever wanted to dress up Frank West as B.B. Hood from Darkstalkers, then Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX + Alpha is for you!
Great games continued to be shown off during the event, with the majority of reveals only lasting a few minutes as opposed to the in-depth 15 minute play-throughs we might have seen in previous E3 shows. Fable Legends looked decent if a little uninspired, although the ‘villain’ mode looked fun. Dance Central Spotlight looked OK if you like that kind of thing and you still wanted an excuse to get a Kinect, I think I zoned out for a few minutes. Project Spark looked like Little Big Planet, only now with added Conker.
Then we had a few announcements that Microsoft had been saving up – starting with the heavily rumored Master Chief Collection. Bundling together Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition, Halo 2 Anniversary Edition, Halo 3 and Halo 4 (the Xbox 360 games presumably not graphically improved), the announcement was that multiplayer would be untouched and copied directly from the original games, in news that will surely delight many Halo fans. The good value bundle will also include the beta for Halo 5: Guardians, and also the complete Halo Nightfall live action series. All in all a very good way to spend several hours with your Xbox One this Holiday season.
Microsoft wasn’t done just yet though. After a sizzle reel of indie titles (I am SO hoping that Cuphead makes it to PlayStation…) including a new title from Play Dead, the big guns were wheeled out. Rise of the Tomb Raider was the big surprise and looked great in a mainly CG trailer. The Witcher 3 looked amazing, and is one of my most anticipated games of 2015. Phantom Dust….. well – that was a surprise. Does anyone actually remember the original Phantom Dust? Scalebound looked like Monster Hunter starring Beats from Jet Set Radio. The big last reveal however was saved for Crackdown, a new title in one of the few big series I have never played in my life. Have any of you guys played the previous Crackdown titles? If so, are you hyped for this Xbox One sequel?
And that was it, the first E3 media briefing by an Xbox division with something to prove. A solid show with plenty of good titles shown off and a few surprises, but perhaps nothing earth-shattering. They mentioned dedicated servers a few times, but aside from that there was no mention of any nebulous ‘cloud’ technology, or TV interaction. In fact, as the vox pops with various gaming celebrities attempted to prove, Microsoft is now officially ALL ABOUT THE GAMERS. And that can only be a good thing.