It’s safe to say that Microsoft has had a rough ride since announcing the Xbox One last month. They came into E3 facing a lot of questions and the biggest one revolved around the software side. Thankfully, Microsoft took all 90 minutes and devoted it entirely to games showing off exclusive titles like Ryse: Son of Rome and Forza Motorsport 5 and even throwing some surprises in there such as Insomniac’s exclusive title Sunset Overdrive and the next Dead Rising. We also got information on the price ($500) and release window (November 2013) so that’s something right?
Microsoft gave us a lot to take in with its 90 minutes of software and there’s plenty to dissect so lets dive in. Full report after the jump.
Metal Gear Solid V: Opened the show with an extended trailer showing off some very cool moments. The opening looked like a next-gen Red Dead title as Snake and Revolver Ocelot rode together on horse back through a dusty desert region of Afghanistan. The graphics engine is absolutely stunning with its dynamic weather effects, amazing lighting, and a huge open world. We also got our first listen to Kiefer Sutherland as Snake. I’ve never been a huge Metal Gear guy, but this one looks very cool indeed.
Xbox 360 News: Next up Microsoft touched on what gamers can expect for the Xbox 360. The big news was the console redesign to look more like it’s next-gen counterpart. Not only that, Microsoft is beefing up what it means to be a “Gold” subscriber as it looks to take some elements with what Sony does with their Playstation Plus system. Specifically, gold subscribers will be able to download two free games each month with Halo 3 and Assassin’s Creed II being the first two available. World of Tanks is coming to the Xbox 360 bringing with it a free-to-play model (Okay, yes, you do have to pay for XBL Gold so technically it’s not “free”). Dark Souls II and Max: The Curse of Brotherhood was also shown off in trailer form.
Ryse: Son of Rome: The big exclusive title from Crytek definitely took me by surprised. I was expecting a first person Kinect title but from what I saw, that wasn’t the case at all as the person playing used a controller and prompts on-screen used familiar controller buttons. Players take up the armor of Marius Titus as he leads his Roman army against a barbarian horde on a beach. The action was tense and brutal. The game looks visually phenomenal but it seemed to rely quite a bit on quick time events and scripted moments. Hopefully that’s not the entirety of the gameplay. I’m certainly intrigued.
Killer Instinct: I’m glad this franchise is back finally and unfortunately at the time we only got a very brief trailer instead of actual information. I found out after the fact that it’s not actually in development at Rare but at Double Helix and will be a free to play downloadable title where you’ll need to purchase additional characters outside of the warrior monk, Jago. I’m about to do a facepalm.
Sunset Overdrive: Another major surprise came from Insomniac as they announced this game as an Xbox One exclusive title. Still boggles my mind knowing where Insomniac comes from and seeing them actually jumping to other platforms. Sunset Overdrive looks great and carries over Insomniac’s pedigree for wild guns. No gameplay was shown but the trailer showed off a stylized world where the main character performed parkour moves like wall running while taking down monsters with a customized gun. It was also confirmed to be an open world multiplayer title.
Forza 5: Not much to say here, the game looks stunning, but you knew that already. Also Drivatar.
Minecraft Announcement: Yup, it’s coming to Xbox One to take even more of your money.
Quantum Break: Sam Lake took the stage to show off a bit more from Remedy’s next title. I still can’t tell you too much about the title, but what I did see looked very cool. In the demo, the player seems to control someone who can…freeze time in crime scenes and talk to victims? Yeah, not sure, but I am interested.
D4: Swerty’s next game coming to Xbox One. If you liked his previous work, you’ll want to check out his newest murder mystery.
Project Spark: I’m still not quite sure what this game is trying to be, but I was very much impressed by the demo. From what I saw, it seems to be something along the lines of LittleBigPlanet where it’s more about being creative than anything else. No mention was made about a campaign or story as the demo showed two guys creating an environment from scratch and populating it with things to do like beating up on trolls. Graphically, it was a treat for the eyes with its vivid colors and stylized look. I was most impressed with how seamless and fast the game could build the object or item on the fly that you wanted as at one point, the game was creating a ridge on the fly that the players were walking across at the same time. Games centered around creativity definitely hold a special place in my heart.
Sharing/SmartGlass Details: Giving us a slight breather at this point, Microsoft clarified and detailed a number of changes coming to SmartGlass, Xbox Live, and sharing content. First off, the 100 friend cap is gone in favor of…well…no limit. Feel free to befriend as many people as humanly possible. Microsoft Points are going the way of the dinosaur as well as Xbox Live will transition to real money. Looks like I’ll have to retire my “moon bucks” or “fun money” phrases as well. Dubbed Upload Studio, the Xbox One will now allow you to upload and stream gameplay through Twitch. Not only that, players will be able to edit and share gameplay footage through this tool in addition as the Xbox One is always recording what you play. Finally, SmartGlass also received an update to now allow tracking things like game progress, friends, achievements, and more. Seems more a kin to Facebook almost now.
Crimson Dragon: More on this one below.
Dead Rising 3: Honestly wasn’t expecting this one. The biggest news with this title is that it’s a timed Xbox One exclusive which I’m sure took a lot of people by surprise. We were treated to an extended gameplay demo from the title and the changes are very much apparent. The game features a more realistic look with muted and darker colors, though the crafting system from the second game seems to be intact. The game promises to be an open world title and the number of zombies that can be on the screen at once was very impressive as a horde broke through a fence to grab the new protagonist, Nick Ramos. According to Capcom, the game can render 2-3 times more zombies at once than Dead Rising 2.
Witcher 3: Part of me wasn’t surprised that the Witcher 3 was announced for Xbox One considering that the second game hit the 360 last year. Still, it was very cool to see the game shown off running on next gen power and as usual, the team at CD Projekt Red have a stunning game on their hands.
Battlefield 4: A technical hiccup aside (see below), DICE took the stage to show off a new campaign level and honestly, the game looks incredible. If you want a title that’ll really shows what the next generation is capable of, this is it. The lighting and visual fidelity is just mind blowing. The gameplay action seemed to be a bit chaotic but it was certainly fun to watch.
Below: Capybara Games showed off their next title based around exploration of a mountain and sported a very distinctive pixel look with music by Jim Guthrie. While all we got was a gameplay trailer, Below is looks to be a hack and slash rogue-like title. Capy’s a great company so I’m looking forward to hearing more from this one.
Black Tusk Studio Teaser: Disappointing if only for the fact that it was a very cool looking trailer lacking any sort of information including a title for the game. For as much hype surrounds this studio in regards to building a new AAA title, I wanted to get more details on what they have cooking up there. From the CGI trailer, it looks like a stealth action title in a similar vein to Splinter Cell.
Halo 5 Teaser: Talk about a surprise. At first, I thought this would be our first look at Destiny as a hooded figure walked along a desert. As the desert collapsed around him, the cloak fell back and the familiar green Spartan armor was revealed as Master Chief stood against a bird like mech. Interestingly enough, the trailer didn’t have the number 5 in the title so I wonder if that means they’re ditching the numbers going forward?
Microsoft’s One More Thing Moment: Respawn finally revealed Titanfall and honestly, it blew me away. The game is multiplayer-centric mixing the campaign with multiplayer and honestly, from what I saw, it works. Players start out on foot but after a certain period of time, they can call down these giant agile mechs to help. The maps appear big enough to support the mechs and also keep it so it’s not frustrating to soldier players. People playing as soldiers can also perform agile wall run moves and have a jetpack burst for double jumping. The action looks very addictive and reminiscent of some of the best Call of Duty 4 moments. I can’t wait to see more on this title.
Technical Hiccups: Awkward moments are never a good thing and unfortunately there were two major ones. The first came with the debut trailer for Crimson Dragon which can be viewed as a spiritual successor to the popular Crimson Dragoon. Unfortunately, the entire trailer was without sound. Still, the audio issue didn’t stop the crowd from cheering wildly which was good to see.
The other flub came at the premier of new Battlefield 4 footage. Sadly, the gameplay started without audio again. The crowd got agitated, the demo stopped, and the person on stage looked like he was about to get tarred and feathered. Even though it was probably less than a minute long hiccup, the silence and awkwardness of it all made it feel like 10 minutes as they rushed to fix the issue. Thankfully, the issue was corrected and everything was once again right with the world.
Lacking Gameplay: I know Microsoft really wanted to prove doubters wrong by showcasing just as much software as possible but doing so resulted in a lot of one off CGI based trailers. That’s all well and good, but sometimes gameplay footage is king. I would have honestly liked to have seen more in the way of actual in-game video for some of these titles and that probably means they would have had to cut a few out. So be it.
Price: It could have been worse, but $500 bucks was a little more than everyone was predicting. It’s not a preventative barrier but it’s something that families will have to consider before diving in especially when you see Sony’s offering sitting next to it at 100 bucks less.
Regardless of what you think of the content, Microsoft took the entire 90 minutes to unleash the software. The biggest gripe I hear from people about these conferences is when they slow down to cover uninteresting topics like statistics and behind the scenes stuff. Well, Microsoft eliminated that aspect and kept the flow going with their software. It made for a more engaging and fun show I think. Plus, cutting the fat such as concerts, weird Kinect moments, and needless banter about stats, really helped in my enjoyment factor. So if you remove all of the news from the previous weeks leading up to their press conference news and just focus on that 90 minutes, I felt it was solid.
So why the B+ since I’ve been mostly positive up till now? As I mentioned above, Microsoft had a rough week prior to E3 with their online policies and such. E3 is a good time to shine some good light or clear up rumors and unfortunately, they didn’t take any time to do that. As we now know, Sony took advantage of that in their press conference, but I’ll get to that in another post. Needless to say, it’s going to be very interesting to see how Microsoft proceeds and responds to Sony as we head toward November.