The E3 conference, the busiest week for the videogame industry, is now in full throttle. Microsoft played the “early bird” this year around, and here at Culture Mass we have a rundown of some of the highlights of the 90 minutes presentation.
As expected, this conference was mostly about the Xbox One, but this time around Microsoft focused on dropping the big bombs: its games. They knew they had to do more to satisfy the hardcore gaming audience, as they are the most-likely early adopters, and Microsoft came out swinging showing an almost overwhelming amount of games. Would you be interested in paying $499 (the announced launch price) for their new console? Let’s take a look at what was shown makes a compelling argument:
Kinect Sports Rivals was announced during the event’s pre-show, which showed different sports such as climbing, football, soccer, and bowling. It showcased the possibility of scanning yourself and being put into the game, it is said that the game will even recognize your facial expressions. Kinect isn’t looked too kindly upon in the hardcore gaming crowd, Microsoft’s intended audience for the conference, so it was smart to get this title out of the way before the actual show.
Microsoft showed its intentions to keep supporting the Xbox 360, and announced (during the pre-show) the titles that will go live for Summer of Arcade, which include Charlie Murder, TMNT: Out of the Shadows, Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons, and Flashback HD.
Then the show officially started with…
Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain for the Xbox One, PS4, Xbox 360 and PS3 was the first game being presented onstage. Introducing a lot more new elements into the franchise, like an open world with real time weather and day/night cycles, new stealth mechanics, and the chance to use horses and vehicles during the game. This game feels like something truly different than the kind of title we usually expect from the Metal Gear franchise (a slight Red Dead Redemption vibe into the mix), but it shows a lot of promise. By the end of this trailer we can now confirm that the voice of Kiefer Sutherland and boob physics will be an integral part of the game.
Then Microsoft reaffirmed its commitment to keep the Xbox 360 running with the announced a new revamp for the console; now smaller, sleaker and quieter that the previous models, available right now in stores. And current Xbox 360 owners who have and Xbox Live Gold membership, they will receive two games per month starting in July and running until the launch of the Xbox One, starting with Assassins Creed II and Halo 3.
They also presented a trailer for World of Tanks Xbox 360 Edition, a free-to-play downloadable tank combat for this summer which has had great success on PC’s; Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, a side-scrolling adventure-platformer set in a really strange world; and Dark Souls 2, the highly anticipated sequel to be released in March 2014.
Then the real show started as we got to see the games being developed for the Xbox One:
If you ever wondered how Saving Private Ryan would look in an ancient Rome setting, Ryse: Son of Rome is just the thing for you. This launch title is an exclusive action game for the Xbox One, supports a lot of melee combat sprinkled with some quick time events for finishing moves (don’t you just love these?). Also, the game also offers the chance of using Roman legionnaire signature tactics, such as the tortoise formation.
A brief Killer Instinct trailer was shown! The title is a reboot of the classic and is being developed by Rare with assistance from Double Helix, and was one of the most exciting surprises of the day. We got to see a brief match later during the presentation, and it looks to be staying true to the form of the original. It was announced also as a launch exclusive for the console.
Ted Price from Insomniac Games presented the exclusive Sunset Overdrive, a stylish shooting game reminiscent to Left 4 Death but with the tone of Ratchet and Clank. It seemed over the top and filled with the humor Insomniac Games is known for. This time around you’re fighting something not-exactly zombie-like, but it was hard to tell what the actual game would look like as the trailer was a CGI teaser.
A McLaren P1 car was lifted to the stage during the Forza Motosport 5 presentation, another exclusive and one of Microsoft’s staple series. The game is looking forward to pull off that thing about teaching an AI how we (stupid humans) behave. It prominently featured integration of the “cloud processing” Microsoft have been talking about; the system uses something called a “drivatar”, which serves to represent you online. Through learning your driving style and habit, including your common mistakes, this virtual “you” is supposed to keep driving online against your friends and family even .
Phil Harrison came out on stage next and talked about how indie games will still be part of the next Xbox One experience, which lead to the presentation of Minecraft Xbox One Edition. The newer edition promises bigger worlds and more multiplayer integration; avid PC-gamers must still be thinking that the game will continuously try to catch up with the PC version of the game.
Sam Lake, the creative director at Remedy (developer of Max Payne and Alan Wake) next talked about Quantum Break, the game that is looking forward to blur the line between TV and game; an in-game trailer with amazing animations and face expressions that seemed on par even with the technological marvel achieved by L.A. Noire . The structure of the game and related TV-show is as of yet still a little unclear, but purportedly individual choices made in each players’ game will have ramifications in the succeeding episodes of the television show, which if done right could be a very exciting and unique experience.
Developer Swery65, creator of the cult classic Deadly Premonition, revealed a trailer for the cell-shaded episodic murder mystery game, subtly called D4. The trailer does a magnificent job at throwing directly into the action without any idea about what’s going on in this insane turn of events, but it seems like we can expect lots of action from this title and insanity. The game will be exclusive to Xbox One and utilize Kinect in some fashion.
Dave McCarthy from MS Studios, announced Project Spark for the Xbox One and Windows 8 PC’s, a Kinect- enhanced game that is basically a game-creator title utilizing voice recognition features. The developers showed us how easily they could create custom landscapes, drop in a town, and program a pet-rock (yes really) in matter of seconds. There’s obviously more advanced features behind this game which show some promise for those who dream about creating a game, but are (still) not crazy about learning how to properly code. It is clearly Microsoft’s answer to games like Little Big Planet and Minecraft, and looks promising.
Mark Whitten came on stage to talk about the Xbox One architecture, XBox Live, and the console integration with Smartglass. By using Smartglass and Upload Studio integrated into the Xbox One, you can record, edit and share your videos online, as well as leaderboards, and compare stats with your friends (basically Microsoft’s backhand to a certain “share button” being implemented on another console). More excitingly, they also announced a partnership with Twitch TV, the online streaming service. The partnership will allow players of the Xbox One to stream your game sessions live on the service, and with Upload Studio they will be able to edit and record gameplay commentaries using Kinect with ease.
Getting back at the games: Crimson Dragon –the spiritual successor to Panzer Dragoon– was announced as an Xbox One exclusive. The Kinect title was previously teased as a first-generation Kinect game for the Xbox 360, although with the technical improvement available on the Xbox One’s new version of Kinect, . We couldn’t hear a thing during the trailer, but the final game will surely include sound when it is officially released.
Then Capcom announced Dead Rising 3 as an Xbox One launch exclusive and showed a length demo of the game. Despite being apparently larger and grittier than former entries, the core style remains intact: There are lots of zombies to run away from, everything can be used as a weapon. You can still attach objects together in order to form new weapons, proving once more that duct tape is still the best invention ever.
CD Projekt Red announced The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, showing some amazing in-game footage, as well as confirmed much of what we already knew (100+ hours, non-linear, mature, dark, open world). The game supports Kinect voice commands (like battle and inventory management, which was reminiscent of Skyrim’s smart approach to Kinect-integration).
DICE came on stage, and talked about Frostbite 3 and another game that players were looking forward during this presentation: Battlefield 4. They showed some gameplay in gorgeous 60 FPS, amazing water effects, and insane destruction and physics, which they had to restart to correct the lack of audio once again. Being a next-gen military shooter being published Electronic Arts is obviously not exclusive for the Xbox One, but they promised that the owners of Microsoft’s new console will be the ones who will get a stab at the first DLC for the game (is this something to be excited about? I don’t know). It seems clear that Microsoft is attempting to corner the Market on Battlefield 4 with exclusive DLC partnerships, something that worked to great effect for them on the Xbox 360 with the Call of Duty franchise.
Phil Spencer introduced us to Below, a fascinating indie game developed by Capybara Games (developers of Swords & Sworcery), which he called “his favorite of the show”. From what we saw it’s really difficult to describe exactly what it is, but appears to be some sort of rogue-like dungeon crawler that might involve some combat and puzzles, you know how are these indie games, right? There’s usually this huge concept behind some minimalist presentation, and hopefully Below will prove to be just that.
Black Tusk, Microsoft’s new AAA-studio based in Vancouver, showed a small glimpse of what they’ve been working on through an in-engine trailer of another exclusive game for the Xbox One. There is no name yet revealed about it, we could only see a spy rappelling down building of what seems to be Shanghai. More details to be announced later date.
Then we were presented to a teaser trailed of another Xbox One exclusive. It showed a lone figure completely covered in robes wandering through a desert; you can tell there’s obviously someone important (or very well known) hiding under that huge amount of clothing, but it’s still a surprise to learn that this figure was no one else but Mater Chief himself, announcing another entry of the franchise. It was easily the most effective Halo teaser to-date. Funny enough, the new entry seems to be called just Halo, without any trace of a 5 around the new announcement, so it’s either a still unnamed entry for the series, or 343 Industries is planning to do something completely different to the series, or both. Also, it was revealed that the game will finally play at 60 FPS, as well as there’ll be dedicated serves for the online component of the title. The title is targeting a release of late 2014.
And finally, Vince Zampella of Respawn Games (former Infinity Ward co-founder) closed the conference with the presentation of TitanFall, putting an end to the question about what he and his team at Respawn Entertainment have been working on all this time since their departure from Activision’s under wing. The new title looks really cool, far beyond to what you would expect from just another Call of Duty clone. The plot seems to set its roots in a futuristic setting heavy on the sci-fi aspect. You take control of a futuristic soldier equipped with a Jet pack, and apparently you can slide on the side of buildings pretty much like you do in Tribes. But the biggest feature of TitanFall is the inclusion of mechs into the field of play, which takes the definition of vehicular combat to a completely new direction. From what was shown on the in-game footage, those enormous machines can be called from space for combat; we can only speculate that these would be killstreak rewards during online matches. The mix of soliders fighting giant mechas should prove interesting if balanced properly.
All in all, Microsoft didn’t juggle or distract with system specifics, Kinect, or other non-gaming capabilities this time around. They now backed the real reason why you would be drawing out your wallet or not by focusing solely on raising the question: can you live without playing these titles? That being said, we won’t get tired of saying it, but it would be nice if they finally addressed the vague responses they have been quoting about the used/borrowed/rental games, and the “you’d better connect your console every 24-hour or all you games will die” dilemmas. Their messaging to this point has been extremely muddled, which is proving to be a huge drag to presenting a clear vision of what the Xbox One will mean to the consumer.
The only points being addressed in this conference were the disappearing of Microsoft Points as the service’s currency in favor of real sounding money; the retail launch price of the console; and the chance to share your Xbox Live Gold benefits with your household (including online playing), even if you’re not logged in.
We’ll keep you updated on further news as the week progresses.