Microsoft Press Conference E3 2013

It’s all about the games

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True to their word, Microsoft managed to pack a huge amount of games into their press conference. We saw Ryse, Killer Instinct 3, Dead Rising 3, World of Tanks, Minecraft, TitanFall, Battlefield 4, Forza 5 and loads more. We also found out a vague release date and the price point. But what do we think?

I was impressed with the press conference. As always I’d like to have seen more gameplay, but we did see extended sections of Dead Rising 3, Metal Gear Solid 5, TitanFall, Ryse and Battlefield 4 and every single one looked incredible. I was shocked at the leap in graphical fidelity, expecting most games to be lagging behind what we see on PC now. Ryse and Battlefield 4 in particular looked amazing with the reflective armour of the Roman Soldiers and the impressive water effects on the boat sequence if Battlefield, as well as the plane crumpling up as it fell.

Gameplay wise we were treated to some new and novel ideas, particularly with Spark, and we saw a good mix of other genres as we went through, for once it wasn’t just a FPS fest on stage. In terms of surprises, Killer Instinct 3 was perhaps a let down as apparently it’s not actually being made by Rare, but Dead Rising 3 possibly stole the show for me. I’m a huge zombie fan anyway and everything they showed in that video ticked all the boxes for what an action-zombie game should be. The art style had hints of the colour palette from ‘The Walking Dead’ and that can’t be a bad thing.

As a quick round-up of some of the main games and our thoughts:

Ryse: A third person military-leader combat game, it looked beautiful and the squad commands were interesting. Going to be a launch title so seems like the right sort of game to show off just what your new Xbox One can do.

Metal Gear Solid V: Other than the graphics, I was most impressed with the concept of stealth in an open world game. I know we’ve seen it before with Assassin’s Creed, but it never worked particularly well or was necessary. The option to hide in a truck to get past a checkpoint, or hang off the side of a horse and enemies passed were great ideas.

TitanFall: There’s mechs and jumpjets and parkour, what is there not to love? The game seemed to have a spectacular flow to it, traversing the map was fluid and fast, and was it my imagination or did the mechs seem to have quite a personality of their own when set to guard mode or picking the guy up to help him in? How sweet.

Killer Instinct Round One: This didn’t look great. Obviously it’s hard to tell anything about a beat-em-up without playing but there was nothing impressive about it and the attacks looked floaty. An Xbox Live Arcade title for sure.

Battlefield 4: It’s Battlefield, very hard to tell anything from single-player footage apart from how pretty it is. It’s very pretty.

Dead Rising 3: The zombie hordes, destructable scenery and a guy throwing a saw through a Zed made for an excellent gameplay demonstration. If this is a launch title it’s a day one purchase for me. Everything about it looked so right, the animations were perfect, the city looked detailed and it seemed as though you can just wander into any building, with no loading screens. Amazing.

Halo 5: We didn’t really see anything but why does Master Chief need a cloak when he has a helmet?

Forza 5: Looked absolutely gorgeous, as you’d expect. Also the first interesting use of the cloud we’ve seen, with it tracking your driving style and sending it to your friends’ games to play as AI, so when you race you’ll be racing against AI opponents who act like your friends.

Sunset Overdrive: I hate this kind of trailer, as it leaves us with no idea what the game is actually like. It looks jumpy and shooty, and cartoony. I’ll hold my judgement on this one.

Project Spark: This looked terrible at first, but then got more interesting as the trailer went on. World creation tools that then let you make the game you want by setting rules and camera angles etc. Could be a great way to show off content-sharing features.

Feature-wise we saw very little, thanks to Microsoft covering most of that with the reveal but we did see Twitch integration which is huge for show-offs like me that want to share their console gaming with the world. Twitch has become a serious player in the world of e-sports and could open up whole new audiences to their superb service. The speed at which everything seems to slot together continues to amaze me, and if that’s how the console actually works it’ll be a great leap beyond what we have today.

Obviously the big reveal for many, and what many will choose to focus on for the next few weeks is the price. £429 is a lot of money. Obviously going by my standard ‘entertainment is worth £5 an hour’ philosophy, that’s still a bargain as you’re likely to spend thousands of hours on a console if you’re a dedicated gamer, but as consoles go that’s certainly more than I’ve paid before. The extra sting was that Americans are getting it for $499 which works out at about £321. You do have to remember we include VAT in our prices and Americans don’t, so with VAT the American price would be £385, so we’re getting ripped off to the tune of £44. Not the end of the world but certainly significant. Personally I’m happy to pay this for the console. We get Kinect with it and I know the games will be worth it for me, but I can imagine it putting off a lot of people who were on the fence. It’ll be interesting to see where Sony goes later tonight.

Overall I thought this was an excellent presentation. They showed us a ton of exciting games, they let us know the price, and they didn’t waste time talking about things no-one cares about. Not one single game on show looked dull to me, I’d happily buy them all. That’s the first time I can remember that I can say that about a conference. When Killer Instinct is the low-point of your show, I think you’ve done something right.

Now it just needs to hurry up and be November.

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