Microsoft’s pre-E3 conference reveals all the new Xbox One games fore 2014 and beyond, from Halo 5 to Sunset Overdrive.
The one thing you can always say about Microsoft is that they do know how to put on a good E3 showcase. Even last year, when they were still trying to push the original always-online version of Xbox One, they managed to show off more and better games than Sony. This year they’re in a less awkward position, and although Xbox One sales are still well behind that of the PlayStation 4 the results of this E3 will undoubtedly help Microsoft to narrow that gap.
Microsoft’s hour and a half long media briefing was introduced by new Xbox boss Phil Spencer, who promised to talk about nothing but games and went out of his way to compliment rivals Sony and Nintendo. His attempts to cheerlead for not just Xbox One but the industry as a whole went down very well, as did the general lack of marketing speak from everyone.
The event was split between games coming out this year and those due for 2015 and beyond, with the first game to be shown being Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Most of the trailers are already online, although there were also developers on stage pretending to play the games live as well. As always though they almost certainly weren’t, especially given how suspiciously well choreographed everything was.
Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare
All of the games shown were either straight Xbox exclusives or had some sort of exclusive deal with the downloadable content or beta. In the case of Advance Warfare it was that the Xbox formats will continue to get map packs first. The trailer was from the single-player campaign and features an attack on the South Korean city of Seoul, with you and your fellow soldiers landing in drop pods and fighting off swarms of flying, beetle-like drones. With spider tanks, laser weapons, and mech suits there was a danger the game could’ve become just a sci-fi hotchpotch but, for better or worse, it still looked and felt like Call Of Duty.
Forza Horizon 2
Both of Microsoft’s new 2014 games had already been leaked before E3, but they still made a big fuss of open world spin-off Forza Horizon 2. They made no mention of the Xbox 360 version though and instead concentrated on the fact that the game is in 1080p, uses the graphics engine of Forza Motorsport 5, and features dynamic weather and a day/night cycle for the new Southern European setting. Also announced was a free Nürburgring track for Forza Motorsport 5, which is available today.
Not all games got a full on-stage demo, with 2K’s Evolve restricted to a short gameplay trailer featuring a new Lovecraftian-looking monster. The new multiplayer title from the creators of Left 4 Dead was still looking good though and both the beta and downloadable content will appear first on Xbox One.
Assassin’s Creed Unity
The first next gen-only Assassin’s Creed did get the full on-stage treatment though, with Ubisoft confirming rumours of four-player co-op. The game is set in 18th century Paris during the French Revolution and the stage demo featured four players attempting to assassinate a French aristocrat (or at least we assume he was French, but all the toffs seemed to have English accents). The assassins started by first starting a riot outside the palace and then sneaking in to capture their target and throwing him out to the crowds outside. The size of that crowd and the level of detail in the environments and interiors was genuinely stunning, making it one of the best-looking games of the whole event.
Next was a short trailer for BioWare’s Dragon Age: Inquisition, which will also be getting extra content first on Xbox. The next stage demo though was for key 2014 exclusive Sunset Overdrive. The new game from the creators of Ratchet & Clank went all out to mock the trend for brown-hued, cover-based military shooters and the colourful visuals, irreverent humour, and third person shooter action looked like a very welcome break from the norm. The main character might be a bit too obnoxious for a non-American crowd but the Jet Set Radio style rail grinding looked like a lot of fun. A separate 8-player mode called Chaos Squad was also mentioned, but not shown.
Super Ultra Dead Rising 3′ Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX + α
Despite all the many different games there was still a lack of genuine surprises in Microsoft’s media briefing, although we certainly don’t think anyone saw this coming. Apparently it’s out right now as a download and is a four-player brawler where you get to play as a range of different Dead Rising characters as they in turn dress up as classic Capcom characters, from Ryu to Captain Commando. That sounds amazing but there did seem to be something slightly off in the tone of the trailer, which seemed more mocking than reverent, but we’re still keen to try it when we get home.
Taking to the stage next for a brief talk was Harmonix, who announced Dance Central: Spotlight and name-checked the already revealed Fantasia: Music Evolved. They didn’t show either in action though and we’re pretty sure the word ‘Kinect’ was not uttered by them or anyone else at the event.
Although the final game is not due out this year there will be a multiplayer beta for Fable Legends this autumn. Oddly though the stage demo was almost identical to the one we saw last August, with four players co-operating to take on a fifth player who’s controlling all the enemies via a top-down view. There was also a brief look at a hub world where you meet up with allies before starting, but we’ve still yet to be convinced this is a title worth getting all that excited about. Especially as the exaggerated British regional accents and cringe-worthy dialogue were already starting to grate just from the demo.
According to Microsoft a million people have already made good use of their answer to Minecraft and LittleBigPlanet – a hugely ambitious game-making tool, which has been a key part of their presentations since the Xbox One’s inception. It didn’t get any stage time but there was a teaser for the Galaxies sci-fi expansion, which will offer an alternative to the default fantasy aesthetic that the game starts with. There was also the surprise inclusion of Rare’s Conker, from Conker’s Bad Fur Day, as a character to use and play as.
Halo 5: Guardians
There really wasn’t much of Halo 5 to be seen at E3, which wasn’t too surprising as it was already known not to be coming out until next year. But there was a brief trailer featuring the Chief guiding a mine through space and throwing it at a Convenet capital ship. The new character pictured in the game’s box art was also featured, although who or what they are remains unclear – apart from the fact that they seem to be searching for the Master Chief and there’s some hints of a conspiracy and mixed loyalties.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Much more time was spent on this HD collection for Halo 1, 2, 3, and 4, news of which had leaked previously. It puts all the numbered sequels onto one disc, with a total of 45 campaign levels and over 100 multiplayer maps. Halo: Combat Evolved will be an upgrade of the existing Anniversary Edition and Halo 2 will be getting similar treatment. Halo 3 and 4 were barely mentioned though, which we imagine implies that, since they were Xbox 360 rather than Xbox games, they’ll be getting more straightforward ports.
You can play all of the games in their original form if you want, and there was much whooping and hollering amongst the crowd when this was confirmed to include Halo 2′s multiplayer. On top of this six maps will be upgraded visually for the Xbox One, running in 1080p at 60 frames per second. But not only can you mix and match the multiplayer maps as you wish you’ll also be able to create single-player playlists made up of any combination of the campaign levels you like – since all of the game’s content is unlocked from the start.
On top of that you also get access to the Halo 5 multiplayer beta this autumn and the Halo: Nightfall digital series produced by Ridley Scott (not to be confused with the TV series produced by Steven Spielberg, which wasn’t mentioned). Compared to the usually incomplete, cash grab style box sets that other game franchises get it sounds a very generous package and Halo hog heaven for fans.
Thanks to their pre-U-turn attitude Microsoft are currently well behind Sony in terms of their relationships with indie developers, but the show reel above proves that won’t last for long. There was particular emphasis on timed exclusive Inside, the next game from the makers of Limbo, and permanent exclusive Ori And The Blind Forest from Moon Studios. The other games were only glimpsed for a few seconds each but Cuphead’s gorgeous ’30s style animation, and Capybara Games’ Below particularly stood out to us.
Rise Of The Tomb Raider
Perhaps the most peculiar announcement of the day was Rise Of The Tomb Raider, which was shown in the form of a quick teaser trailer that revealed nothing other than Lara Croft has a shrink now and that she still remembers how to use a bow and arrow. A subsequent press release confirmed that it is in fact ‘the next chapter’ in her adventure, i.e. Tomb Raider 2.
And yet at the same time Square Enix also announced a four-player co-op sequel to Lara Croft And The Guardian Of Light, called Lara Croft And The Temple of Osiris. This wasn’t mentioned at all by Microsoft, but you can see its trailer above anyway.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
The first two games aren’t generally well known by most console gamers but we suspect this E3 demo may have put The Witcher firmly on people’s radar. It showed protagonist (we hesitate to describe him as a hero) Geralt attempting to track down a griffon, making use of his enhanced senses to follow its trail. The graphics for the game’s open world environment looked fantastic, and there was also a brief example of the game’s character interaction. Here Gerlat saves a woman from bandits, and in return she offers her services as a herbalist for him.
Rare’s Ken Lobb was the next veteran developer to take to the stage, but oddly he didn’t really talk about Killer Instinct – which has now been confirmed as getting a new ‘Second Season’ of content and new characters. What he did do though is announce a new Phantom Dust game, although it was only shown as a pre-rendred demo.
Tom Clancy’s The Division
The second Ubisoft game to be featured was The Division, which will also be getting new content first on Xbox One. A brief co-op demo showed a team of four meeting up within the game world’s post-apocalyptic looking landscape, before taking on some marauders. In gameplay terms there was nothing especially remarkable about the cover-based action, but the graphics were excellent and the talk of setting up your own base and customising characters on the fly seemed interesting.
The biggest surprise of the night, and the only completely new IP for a retail game, was Scalebound – a new Xbox One exclusive from Platinum Games. The creators of Bayonetta and Metal Gear Rising are one of our favourite developers working today, but it wasn’t really very clear from the pre-rendered trailer what the game was about. Well, other than it features giant monsters and you have a pet dragon. Which together with Platinum’s involvement is all we need to know really.
The final game of the show was never referred to as Crackdown 3, no doubt because of the poor reception for the second game and the fact that Grand Theft Auto creator Dave Jones is back in charge of development. Again the pre-rendered trailer didn’t really given anything new away, although the game’s cel-shaded visuals seem to have taken on a Tron style vibe. But since the game is not out until next year at the earliest we’re sure we’ll find out more in due time.
Overall this was another slickly produced event by Microsoft, with plenty of content and almost all the games fans might have hoped for. Quantum Break and D4 made only cameos in a video montage, and there was no mention of Gears Of War, but apart from that the only game that didn’t put in appearance from our preview was Shenmue III (and we doubt anyone’s going to be surprised by that no-show).
But the only new IP from a non-indie developer was Scalebound, which is less than might have been hoped. There currently seems little reason to expect Sony to do any better in that regard, which means the next gen is still relying too much on existing franchises for our liking. Even so there’s otherwise very little reason to be disappointed by in Microsoft’s pre-E3 show, and we wouldn’t be at all surprised if this ended up being the best one of the week.
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