Seeking retribution from last year’s poor showing at E3, Microsoft decided to really cut out the fat and stick to the software giving gamers a glimpse into what they can expect this year and into 2015. While not in the driver’s seat for this E3, Microsoft is looking to gain ground and momentum on Sony and what better way to do that than to just focus on what’s coming down the road. Featuring great third party content like Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Assassin’s Creed Unity, and Evolve, we also saw some great first party offerings like Forza Horizon 2, Sunset Overdrive, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection as well.
Microsoft gave us a lot to take in with its 90 minutes of software and there’s plenty to dissect so lets dive in. The full report and my overall grade awaits you after the jump!
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare: In what has quickly become an annual tradition, Activision and Microsoft partnered up to show off the latest Call of Duty for the first time. Advanced Warfare looks to take the near future setting of games like Ghost Recon Future Soldier and Black Ops 2 and twist it to feature things like exoskeleton suits and smart grenades. The exo suit itself presents an interesting twist as it gives the players access to almost superhuman abilities such as dashing and boost jumping. Not only that, the graphics were very impressive which isn’t normally a strong suit for Call of Duty. With Treyarch and Infinity Ward sitting this year out, I’m very curious to see how Sledgehammer does in the spotlight.
Forza Franchise: I say franchise because Dan Greenawalt took the stage to first reveal that the famed Nurburgring race track was available right now for Forza Motorsport V for the low, low price of free. He then gave way to Forza Horizon 2 with a new trailer and a release date of September 30.
Evolve: Finally we got to see a new monster in a brand new E3 trailer and it looks like a mobile kraken. It’s fearsome looking and further proof why I’m terribly excited for this new game from Turtle Rock Studios.
Assassin’s Creed unity Co-op Demo: Not only have I been patiently waiting for an Assassin’s game to be set during the French Revolution, but I’ve always thought how cool it would be to be able to take part in the action with friends. Unity pretty much hits all the check boxes. Showing off the open world co-op gameplay for the first time ever, four assassin’s joined in on the hunt for a local aristocrat. It was a wonderful dance of blades, stealth, and action. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to be beheaded, well, make sure you watch that trailer.
Dragon Age: Inquisition: Wanting to hold onto it’s cards for it’s own show following Microsoft, EA only provided a new trailer for fans to drool over. Dragon Age Inquisition looks like the game that fans have been waiting for.
Sunset Overdrive: Arguably the showpiece for Microsoft this year, Sunset Overdrive opened with a very funny and self aware trailer with the main character talking to the audience directly as he saved a survivor and held off swarms of OD. Next, Insomniac CEO, Ted Price, took the stage for a live demo of the game that also showed off a new area set inside an abandoned theme park. There were plenty of spots to hang, jump, and grind on in addition to massive destruction elements as well which made me curious to see how much of that was in the game. Ted also confirmed an 8 player co-op mode called Chaos Squad, which leaves the mind wondering just how much mayhem you really can cause. I absolutely love that this game is bursting with color, personality, and humor. Seeing how self aware the game is only makes me want it that much more.
Dead Rising 3 DLC: Capcom riffing it’s own naming conventions? Awesome! In a very funny trailer, Capcom announced new DLC for Dead Rising 3 called Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX+ Alpha Prime. Yup, I think that covers everything. The DLC comes with so much Capcom love for the game with references, clothing, and weapons across all of it’s franchises all wrapped in a crazy arcade style mode.
Dance Central Returns: After quickly mentioning Fantasia: Music Evolved, Harmonix revealed that they’re bringing their popular dance title, Dance Central to the Xbox One with “Spotlight”. Coming in as a digital title, Spotlight will have improved visuals, more accurate tracking, more venues, and weekly DLC for new songs. Even though the Kinect is now optional, Harmonix continues to give you reasons why you should have one around.
Fable Legends: After being teased at last year’s show, the folks at Lionhead took to the stage to give everyone an extended look at the game and how it plays. In the demo, 4 players took control of class specific characters (tank, mage, archer, rogue) and set out to beat the level. In an interesting twist, a fifth player is the villain in charge of setting traps for the heroes to overcome. This ain’t you’re typical Fable experience. Frankly, I’m still a little unsure of the overall game in terms of if this is how it’s going to play or if this is a multiplayer mode. Still have a lot of questions about this one.
Project Spark Meets Conker: A new trailer showed off just how much you can really do with this world creator tool. The trailer detailed a large variety of tools and themes to work with including showing some impressive user based stats. The most interesting bit? Rare’s naughty squirrel Conker will be making his debut in Project Spark. What that exactly means, I’m not sure. I’m definitely intrigued to find out more.
Ori and the Blind Forest: I’m a sucker for colorful and interesting side scrollers and Ori fits that bill perfectly. The game has this dark but beautiful looking art style and looks to be a 2D platformer as well. All we got from Microsoft was a trailer so details around the story and who these characters are, isn’t revealed yet. I can’t wait to see more from this title.
Halo, Halo, and more Halo: Another key aspect of Microsoft’s presser involved…of course…Halo. Ah, but we’re not going to be discussing Halo 5, oh no. Microsoft confirmed that The Master Chief Collection is coming later this year to Xbox One, packing in all 4 core Halo titles including Halo Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3, and Halo 4. But that’s not all! The games will be running at 1080p and 60 frames per second and the package also comes with an invite to the Halo 5 Guardians beta and the Halo Nightfall miniseries from directory Ridley Scott. What’s pretty cool is that Halo 2 Anniversary is packaged in this collection by default and includes the Halo 2 multiplayer as it played exactly as when the game was released all those years ago. You can also play with the remastered graphics or as it looked back then as well.
Playdead’s New Title: Limbo was one of those rare titles to come along and just sweep you off your feet. Featuring a wonderful art style with mainly greyscale coloring, it was a truly unique experience. Since that time, Playdead has really gone off the radar in terms of what was next for them. We finally got answers as ‘Inside’ was shown off for the first time. Sporting a similar visual style to that of Limbo, Inside looks to tell the tale of a young boy trying to escape a city who’s been overtaken by an enemy force. Frankly, the trailer didn’t do much to explain what was going on but the visuals alone were enough to catch my attention.
ID@Xbox: Chris Charla took the stage to talk a bit about the ID@Xbox program and also brought along a new trailer detailing a ton of games coming to the Xbox One. Standouts include games like Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime, Cuphead, Hyper Light Drifter, Below, and Mighty No. 9.
Rise of the Tomb Raider: We heard that Crystal Dynamics was hard at work on a new Tomb Raider and this CG trailer confirmed it. Rise seems to take place directly after the events of the 2013 title with Lara seeking professional help to help sort out all the trauma experienced on the island. As the therapist is speaking, we’re seeing glimpses of Lara in action jumping over ravines, running from bears, and aiming her trademark bow. The end of the trailer sees Lara embracing her new lifestyle as a treasure hunter and explorer.
Witcher 3 Wild Hunt Demo: Visually stunning on all accounts, CD Projekt Red took to the stage to show off just a piece of this massive world. In this live gameplay demo, Geralt was hunting a griffin. Coming across the creature, Geralt used a special arrow to wound the creature and as it escaped, it left a trail of blood for him to follow. Along his journey, Geralt stumbled into a caravan being attacked by bandits. Always wanting to lend a helping hand, he stepped in to assist the woman. After a brief conversation, Geralt comes across the giant creature and a fierce battle breaks out. The end result? The decapitated beast’s head hanging from the side of his horse as he walks back into town.
The Ken Lobb Effect: After touching on Season Two for Killer Instinct, Ken Lobb revealed that his team is also reviving another cult classic game in Phantom Dust, a critically acclaimed Xbox title that never really found an audience. I never played Phantom Dust so I couldn’t say much about this one outside of it having a very interesting looking trailer.
The Division Demo: I mean, what can I really say. Ubisoft unleashed a new gameplay demo of their open world shooter RPG and it was extremely impressive. Again featuring co-op play between three people and someone playing remotely on a tablet, the group of four set out on a mission to take back a base of operations from a rogue group in the heart of Manhattan. The demo detailed an interesting “flashback” mechanic where you can see a history of events at certain places, such as the subway in the instance. As usual, the Snowdrop powered graphics continued to impress. New enemy types, upgraded weapons, and new abilities highlight this extremely impressive gameplay demo.
Platinum Games Partnership: Hideki Kamiya was next out on stage to announce Scalebound, an exclusive Xbox One title. The trailer was about as insane as you’d expect from developer Platinum games including fighting dragons and a human character squaring off against these huge beasts wearing headphones. I have no clue what the game is about, but it sure was visually interesting.
Crackdown Returns: Closing out the show was a brand new trailer for the open world super agent game, Crackdown. As the trailer opened, the Voice of the Agency was back leading the agents against the Los Muertos gang. Featuring updated visuals powered by the Unreal Engine 4, one of the bigger elements on display was the chaos and destruction caused. I’ve read that this wasn’t for effect as destruction will be in the core game. How much remains to be seen but this is great news. Fear not, no zombies were seen anywhere during the trailer. Better yet? Original creater Dave Jones is back on board leading this title. Folks, have no fear, this Crackdown is back in capable hands.
Honestly, Microsoft kept the message real simple this year and focused squarely on the games. There were no audio/visual issues from what I could see and the conference went pretty smoothly.
If I had to pick something though, I would say that I was a little disappointed we didn’t get some sort of teaser or CG trailer for the new Gears of War game over at Black Tusk. I know the game is way too early in development to have anything ready, but not even a CG teaser?
It was also interesting that we didn’t get much in the way of Halo 5. We got some beta news but most of the Halo talk was centered around the Master Chief Collection.
My what a difference a year makes. Microsoft came out this year guns blazing and laser focused. After what many considered to be a low point for them last E3, Microsoft took the stage this year at the Galen Center ready to give the masses what they wanted: games. For them, it was all about the software this year showing off what’s coming in 2014 and then next year as well. The conference felt light, fast, and kept the momentum throughout.
They kicked things off really well with a great speech from Phil Spencer and then basically from there on through the 90 minutes it was games, games, and more games. I would have actually liked to have seen Phil a little more especially considering he’s the new face of Xbox, it would have been great to get a little more face time. Regardless though, you can’t complain much when a company gives you what you want. We all bemoan stats and non-game related features taking up time during press conferences, so this one was for you guys. Microsoft is looking to eat into Sony’s lead and this was a strong push to do just that.