E3 2014: Microsoft Decides To Give X-Box Fans What They Want
So here we go X-Bots! Microsoft has presented their E3 2014 Press Conference on June 9 and we here have the highlights for you. While at last year’s E3 Press Conference Microsoft decided to focus on seemingly everything but games, it looks like Microsoft learned their lessons and presented gamers what they wanted to see – GAMES! Loads and loads of games! From top level, triple AAA caliber games to surprising indie gems; games from Microsoft and her stable of studios and from third-party developers – Microsoft came out swinging and definitely needed to given the fiasco of a year ago.
Starting off with a great video montage, the Press Conference begins with Xbox Head Phil Spencer who quickly starts to pander to those in attendance and watching at home. Then he jumps by saying that the focus is on games. And the first order of business is the list of games slated for a 2014 release date.
If you are going to kick off a show dedicated to games, why not kick it off with the latest installment of one of the hottest franchises in the market – Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Xbox One owners will be the first to play new content as it is released. Viewing the trailer, I got to admit that it looks absolutely amazing. The perspective of this mission is told from a soldier named Mitchell who along with his insertion team fights their way through a war torn major city. Boost propelled jumps allow leaps from high altitude buildings down to the ground below. Whoa! Is that a mech suit that soldier is wearing? I wonder if we will get to try that in the game. If this is gameplay footage, I love the new minimal HUD utilized in the game. A giant “walker”/”metal gear” looking tank looks pretty wicked. The boost jumps again come into play, giving Mitchell new angles for combat. What the hell are those swarming machines? The new laser weapon and shield combo should add an interesting mix to gameplay should it be featured in multiplayer. “Search and destroy” grenades works interestingly as they scatter and home in on enemy targets. In the closing scenes one of Mitchell’s teammates gets caught by door in airship prepped for demolition. He pleads with Mitchell to leave him behind and Mitchell has to leave behind friend to die with the enemies; but Mitchell is injured as well and it is shown that he loses an arm.
Another trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare is shown and we go back to the main stage. Dan Greenwalt from Turn 10 Studios is introduced and now takes the stage. Looks like it’s time for a quick Forza Motorsport 5 update as the Nurburgring is race track is presented as a new track to download, is available starting today and its FREE! You definitely can’t beat that price for such a legendary racing track at your fingertips.
Now we get a look at Forza Horizon 2 as Playground Games’ Ralph Fulton takes the stage. A Day/Night time cycle and dynamic weather elements are introduced to the game and will be presented in full 1080p. For online gamers, playing a match online will require no wait times and no lobbies thanks to dedicated servers. September 30 is the announced due date for the game. A sleek racing trailer is shown that showcases what the game can do. Day and night and weather effects are on full display and how it will affect the racing in the game. My word, this game looks beautiful.
2k Games showcases a trailer for the much anticipated squad based online game Evolve. Online Beta and DLC will be a first release on Xbox One consoles. The trailer looks amazing as it introduces the characters and classes of the four person squad – Assault, Trapper, Medic and Support. The game features some wicked monster designs, which will definitely please one certain player should they choose to play as the monster itself and take on the four person squad. Now I get the hashtag #4V1. This game has been on my radar for a while so seeing more for it definitely was a huge treat.
Ubisoft’s Vincent Pontbriand is on the stage now to present Assassin’s Creed: Unity. As rumored and expected, Unity takes place during the French Revolution as you play as Arnaud. This time in the game you can form your own brotherhood to partake in the exploits and join three friends on Xbox Live. To show us how this works, a new exclusive gameplay demo is shown to the crowd in attendance. Paris 1789. The Marquis de Bullion is your target for this mission. A few quick kill attacks on some guards allow another assassin to join the team stealthily. Storming the Marquis’ home with your new partner while the peasants outside cause a distraction, a third assassin joins in. As you make your way through the Marquis’ home, you find that he is heavily defended by a number of soldiers. It’s too much to take him now, so the three man assassin team goes looking for him, killing soldiers stealthily along the way until a fourth member of the team joins up. Despite the chaos outside, there is a grand party at Marquis’ home. Just as the assassins are making their move the chaos from outside breaks into the main hall. In the confusion, the assassins strike as all four members fight Marquis’ men. Captured, the Marquis is thrown from home’s upper level to the rioting peasants below who quickly execute him. Holy shit! That looked amazing.
EA and Bioware now present a trailer for their latest game, Dragon Age: Inquisition. The new trailer looks remarkably dark and seems to present a world on the brink of ruin. From what I am seeing, the game doesn’t look as beautiful as the other previous games shown, but it’s still pretty. Enemies look almost epic in scale and design, and that is really cool. It also looks as though the game is sort of taking an open world approach to the gameplay. The combat in the game looks incredibly sleek and simple to get a handle on while still allowing for a bit of strategy mixing might and magic. Okay fans, October 7 is the due release date for this game.
This next trailer from Insomniac Games had me scratching my head. We start with a lone soldier fighting a team of armed gunman. What the hell!? This punk kid joins in and quickly goes on his way to kill the soldier’s enemies in weird but impressive looking ways. As the kid leaves the warehouse, he explains that his world is being overrun by mutants who drank a contaminated drink. As the soldier joins the kid outside, he is quickly killed by one of these said mutants. Unphased, the kid continues to explain the world of Sunset Overdrive. Traps and guns are your best friends in a city as dangerous as this. Insomniac Games’ Ted Price is now shown on stage and shows us a new gameplay demo on big screens. The gameplay looks quick and frantic. It looks like there are multiple movement options to get across certain maps. Yeah, this definitely reminds me of the inFAMOUS game series. Suddenly a huge mutant enemy attacks, but with skill and speed the player dispatches the massive monstrosity. As the player continues to move through the level, the fighting starts to take place on roller coaster rails. As the player reaches the end of the level, a massive explosion rocks the screen. Level complete! One big attraction of this game in the eight player Chaos squad online mode, which will be handled by dedicated online servers. Sunset Overdrive arrives on October 28, exclusively for the Xbox One.
Now Capcom presents a new Dead Rising 3 DLC trailer that features previous Dead Rising characters as playable characters and you can cosplay as other Capcom characters in this new arcade like adventure with up to four players online. Super moves, power ups and bonus stages will add to the insanity of this new LDC named, are you ready for this – Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX plus Alpha. Hmm, a not-so-subtle self-jab there, right? This DLC is available now.
Harmonix’s Alex Rigopulos is now onstage touting the popularity of the Dance Central franchise. Now he starts talking about how October 21 music game fans can enjoy Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved exclusively for the Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Play as a sorcerer’s apprentice and use your magic to create and remix songs with the gameplay. I’ll admit, this is not my thing, but hey; there is no denying the appeal of this game genre. Rigopulos also tells the crowd that Dance Central: Spotlight will be a digital only title set for release in September and will feature tons of new music with easier and faster ways to download new music and dances.
David Eckelberry of Lionhead Studios is now on stage to take about Fable Legends. A new gameplay demo trailer is revealed and has us return to Albion. We join the hero Sterling in the main town/hub of the game as he meets the other playable heroes of the game: Winter, Brook, and Inga. The heroes enter a series of ruins to uncover a hidden artifact. Each member has their own set of skills which will be need to defeat the new scenarios and enemies they will encounter in multiplayer mode. Also, one player can also choose to be the villain in the game making the match another four-on-one game. The villain character controls the battlefield via “god mode” where they can see the whole map and set enemies and traps to stop the invading heroes. There is a hilarious amount of chatter and commentary coming from the characters in the game. Online Beta for Fable Legends begins in the fall. All I can say is thank goodness Peter Molyneux wasn’t there to overhype this game as well.
Now we see another cool trailer for the game building game Project Spark. Multiple game creation options are revealed and detailed (yawn, sorry, not my cup of tea). Wait! What is Conker doing in this trailer? You can now create your own Conker game in Project Spark? Interesting. Project Spark is available for download now.
We now get a new look at another Xbox One exclusive. Ori and the Blind Forest looks absolutely brilliant. Whimsical and playful; dark and moving – this new game from Moon Studios looks incredible.
And here we go: I was wondering when the obligatory Halo trailer would be presented. Halo 5: Guardians is now onscreen and this new trailer features Master Chief HALO jumping from space and single-handedly destroy an entire starship. A new character is seemingly on a quest to find Master Chief? But Master Chief is on a quest of his own. Bonnie Ross of 343 Industries explains that Halo 5: Guardians will feature a search for the truth – in the past and in the future. She also announces that as a lead in to Halo 5, on November 11, gamers can play the entire Master Chief saga on one console, the Xbox One, with Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which will contain Halo 1 through 4.
Dan Ayoub is now onstage and says that the collection of the four games on one disc will come completely unlocked. Also, in addition to Halo: Combat Evolved being presented in its Anniversary Edition form, Halo 2 will get the full anniversary treatment as well. He also says that the popular Halo 2 multiplayer component will be left completely intact and that six of the most popular multiplayer maps will be recreated to take advantage of the Xbox One’s power. Multiplayer gameplay from one of these maps in shown and it looks marvelous. Over 100 multiplayer maps from the entire Halo series are being presented in beautiful 1080p, at 60 FPS, and on game dedicated servers.
Bonnie Ross is onstage again and reveals that Halo: Nightfall, a live-action, digital series made with Ridley Scott will be included in the Master Chief Collection as well as access to the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer Beta beginning in December and will debut new game modes and features. A quick new trailer for that is now playing revealing some of these features including arena multiplayer and new Spartan abilities.
Phil Spencer is back and talks about how 2014 will shape up to be a great year for Xbox fans with all the previously shown games scheduled for release in 2014 (at least in some form). Spencer then begins to talk about the 2015 line up of games for the Xbox One.
We get a quick look at the early 2015 Playdead offering Inside, which will hit the Xbox consoles first. If you liked Limbo and how it played, Inside looks like a much more polished, much more evolved game but still manages to keep the feel and sentiment of Limbo. This one looks really astounding.
With that, Chris Charla, head of ID@Xbox takes the stage and discuss how proud he is to be working with independent studios and helping them develop and self-publish on the Xbox consoles by providing support and development kits to ease the process along. Now we are presented to a video montage of all the current games in development with support from ID@Xbox, and wow wee, is this a doozy:
- Aztez from Team Colorblind
- Knight Squad from Chainsawesome Games
- Plague Inc.: Evolved from Ndemic Creations
- White Night from Osome Studio
- Earthlock from Snow Castle Game
- Cuphead from Studio MDHR
- Hyper Light Drifter from Heart Machine
- Lifeless Planet from Stage 2 Studios
- Splash Dash from Nevernaut Games
- Fru from Through Games
- Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime from Asteroid Base
- Mighty No. 9 from Comcept
- Grave from Broken Window Studios
- Threes from Sirvo/Hidden Variable
- Fenix Rage from Reverb Triple XP/Green Lava
- Woolfe: The Red Hood Diaries from Grin
- #IDARE from Other Ocean
- Hellraid from Techland
- Below from Capy Games
If you are a fan of indie games, for whatever reason – like myself I love them for their ingenuity and overall fresh takes on tried and true genre and gameplay tropes – then what Microsoft is doing with ID@Xbox should really appeal to you with the multiple games being worked on through the system.
Next up we have a world premiere trailer for one of the more anticipated games at the show – Rise of the Tomb Raider! Oh shit! Lara Croft is speaking to a psychiatrist about her experiences from the previous game. Meanwhile, we see her escaping from a vicious grizzly bear. Back in the office the doctor talks to Lara about what kind of traumas her experiences can lead to and that she needs to explore for herself what affect this has had on her – all while action scenes of action of her fighting through the forest and engaging enemies play through the trailer. She then boldly declares that she knows what kind of person she has become because of the events of the last game. Wow, that Rise of the Tomb Raider trailer was amazing. It looks even more epic than the last game. I really can’t wait for this one.
Now we have CD Projekt Red representatives John Mamais and Konrad Tomaszkiewicz out to present a gameplay demo for The Witcher III: Wild Hunt. In this new gameplay demo Geralt of Rivia is on the hunt for a Griffin. As Geralt starts setting up hunting for the monster he also explores the vast wilderness which leads to open world gameplay touted to be the largest of any RPG. As he wounds the Griffin and it flies away, while he is tracking it he encounters other enemies. The interaction he has with other world environments and scenarios will determine what assistance or resistance he will find later in the game. This time, he manages to save an herbalist who will certainly help him later in the game should the player need them. Swordplay and powers lead to a cool battle sequence with the Griffin before Geralt utilizes some kind of enchanted sword and returns with the Griffin’s head.
Ken Lobb of Microsoft Studios, who helped bring back Killer Instinct last year, unveils a new Xbox One exclusive. The trailer opens with a man sitting in a park bench before a wave of power washes over the area revealing a destroyed cityscape. A woman emerges and engages the man, both using awesome powers to defeat their foe. As the two collide, the screen whites out and the game is revealed to be… Phantom Dust! Wow, that was a surprise. I never thought I would see this game again. I used to love the original and thought that it was all but a forgotten gem from the Xbox’s past.
Ubisoft Massive’s Ryan Barnard then comes out to talk about Tom Clancy’s The Division. Last year at E3 we got a glimpse of a world devastated by a deadly virus that was released on Black Friday. In this new gameplay trailer we see a ravaged and desolate New York City. Division agents are in the city trying to reclaim part of the city by reaching the headquarters of one of the members to continue planning the next move. The map feature looks awesome as it appears to be an interactive hologram. The agents move through the subway, past countless body bags stored there, presumably when the morgues of the city overflowed. Eww. Interactive locale displays to explore past events giving the player a glimpse as to what may have happened. They soon meet up with two other team members and engage some enemies outside. Change of player skills seems to be done on the fly. Also, it looks like teamwork a must. (Sucks for you all you Call of Duty fans.) Hovering flash weapons allow the team to move up and rescue a downed member utilizing new tactics and weapons. Tom Clancy’s The Division will see DLC and extra content first on Xbox One.
Hideki Kamiya from Platinum Games I snow out on stage to announce an Xbox One exclusive title - Scalebound. This new action game pits players in control of massive, monstrous beast against other massive, monstrous beast. During the demo, one player uses his magic skills and monster companion to fight another larger enemy. It almost looks like two Kaiju fighting it out. After the first monster is defeated, a bigger Hydra looking monster appears, but the player is not alone as a team of monster hunters appear hinting at even bigger battles thanks to online multiplayer. This one definitely looks pretty intense.
The final presenter of the night is David Jones from Cloudgine who is out to present yet another Xbox One exclusive. Crackdown is back with a new single player campaign mode and an even more intense co-op/multiplayer mode thanks to dedicated servers. This open world game features lots of explosions and over-the-top antics, like sniping a gas truck covered in explosives which topples building after building onto each other just to eliminate one enemy. Talk about overkill.
To end the show, Phil Spencer once again comes out to thank the crowd before another video montage featuring games discussed in conference.
All in all, it was a great showing for Microsoft – and they certainly needed it. Last year, Microsoft completely dropped the ball that really cost them momentum and credibility. What they were trying to do with the Xbox One was both sad and great at the same time. The new engine and core of the machine were astounding, and the social media connectivity was a nice touch; but the always online necessity, DRM loaded content, and mandatory Kinect really hurt the company. Then there was the huge focus on television and other non-gaming related aspects of the Xbox One that just completely turned away fans in droves. Ugh, last year’s E3 was nothing short of a disaster; so much so that Microsoft almost completely 180’d their initial promises to try and appease and win back gamers support.
This year, I think they certainly won back a lot of gamers with their press conference. They gave the crowd what they wanted to see – GAMES! The hell with all that other bull, gamers want to see games at E3. And that is what they delivered today. Hell, I think they finally sold me on buying an Xbox One for my home. Hopefully they also sold other on the same idea as well.