So the Microsoft conference has come and gone and as usual our E3 predictions were way off. Much of what we hoped for has been pushed back to show off at Gamescom (we’re not complaining as we get two exciting conference instead of one) but what they did have to show off was surprising, interesting and packed full of games and features we can’t wait to try. Unfortunately we have to because the combined hype of all the Xbox One owners seems to have brought down Xbox Live a little. Reading around on forums we’ve seen a lot of cynicism, which tends to be the ‘cool’ thing to do nowadays. You’ll find none of that here, we’re as excited as many of you are and it’s hype all the way, so much to look forward to between non and Christmas and even beyond!
First up is the Halo 5 reveal. We knew we’d be getting single player gameplay and they delivered. It might not have shown off any exciting new gameplay features in particular, but we did enjoy seeing how it seemed to be built around 4 player co-op with each player taking a different named and voiced protagonist including Nathan Fillion’s Buck. Different players seemed to get slightly different little cut-scenes as well indicating that this has been properly thought out for co-op rather than just shoe horning four players into a single player experience. Graphically it looked great and is reportedly already running at a stable 60fps.
The multiplayer showed off the new warzone mode, an alternative to the arena we’ve seen in the beta. Warzone takes 24 players, maps three times bigger than the biggest we’ve seen (Valhalla. Waterworks and Blood Gulch I guess?) and AI controlled enemies into giant objective-based modes. You’ll be battling other Spartans while also fending off the covenant and prometheans in some fairly intense and chaotic combat. It looks like a lot of fun and an interesting new twists on the tried and tested Halo multiplayer.
Recore was next, a new Microsoft exclusive IP from some of the makers of Metroid Prime. There was just a CGI trailer for this showing a girl and some kind of pet robot weathering a sandstorm then battling some other little robots. It seemed like when a robot died it left behind its core which could then be inserted into another lifeless robot. Possibly some Pokemon-style team building for this? The art style was nice and we’re definitely intrigued by the concept, but as with any CGI it’s hard to tell what the game will actually play like.
This is a big deal and anyone who was an early adopter of the new consoles will tell you it was sorely missed. We’re hoping Sony follows suit on this but we’re glad that from fall you’ll be able to play Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One just by inserting the disc or redownloading previously purchased titles. No new purchases necessary! All of the Xbox One UI features work in the old games too as it runs on a different layer so you’ll be able to keep in your parties, save videos and stream games like Skyrim, Red Dead Redemption and old Call of Duty games because you think they’re better than the new ones and you want to show people how sophisticated your tastes are.
For now there’s a very limited list of Backwards Compatible games for Xbox Preview Program users and once we get it working (when Xbox Live calms down) we’ll bring you our impressions of the featured games.
Another big one, Microsoft are bringing out a new controller that’s a sidegrade to the regular (recently updated) core controller. It features customisable inputs and swappable sticks, d-pads and paddles that can all be remapped and have their sensitivities adjusted. This is a big deal for many gamers and we’ll be grabbing one as soon as possible. We often get annoyed at little things in any controller so having more customisation is always a good thing. Plus the new d-pad looks weird and awesome.
We’ll be doing a separate article on Fallout 4 thanks to the amazing Bethesda conference last night but it was nice to see a few new things being added for Xbox. First of all are the mods, in some capacity the Xbox One is going to get mods for Fallout 4 for free. We don’t know how this will work yet, but for Fallout 3 you can get mods that improve the graphics, change the models and textures and even add whole new areas and quests. Bethesda are really pushing for this with both Doom and Fallout 4 supporting user-generated content so we’re looking forward to seeing what people can come up with.
The second announcement was weird because it wasn’t mentioned, it just popped up on screen and then in Twitter. If you pre-order Fallout 4 on Xbox One you’ll get Fallout 3 on Xbox One for free. Alongside the backwards compatibility announcement we’re assuming this is just the 360 version, but we’ll keep our fingers crossed for an updated (and more stable) attempt at the game with new Xbox One achievements and framerates.
We just wrote an article on how brilliant EA Access is, now Titanfall has been added to it and Dragon Age Inquisition will be coming in the Summer. Seriously, that’s every EA game other than Battlefield Hardline, which I’m sure we’ll get in the Autumn. If you have an Xbox One just get EA Access, it’s £20 a year.
Forza Motorsport 6
We had this spoiled a little for us by Xbox Japan but it’s nice to see a very fancy looking Forza 6 with some more realistic rain, night time driving and huge 24 player races running at 60fps. I’m looking forward to seeing some actual gameplay of this over the week but we have had confirmation the weather and day/night cycle isn’t dynamic like in other recent games (Project CARS, Driveclub). Forza is consistently excellent but they still have to show what really makes this one different.
Dark Souls 3
This was a shock for a Microsoft conference. Just CGI again so basically nothing we can tell from it, looks like Dark Souls, but it’s more of a statement just to have the title in this conference. Dark Souls 3 is coming to the Xbox One and From Software haven’t forsaken us. Well no more than they usually do with their sadistic games.
Expect to hear much more about this in Ubisoft’s show but we’re still confident The Division is going to be an amazing co-op experience. We got to see some behind closed doors quite a while ago and it’s genuinely impressive. A little disappointed to see the graphics aren’t matching up to those ambitious early vertical slices but the gameplay and incredible world is still intact. The announcement here was that there’s going to be an Xbox One beta at Christmas.
Rainbow Six: Siege
I’m hoping for a single player reveal during the Ubisoft conference but here we got a look at a new skyscraper level from the game as well as the promise that if you buy it on Xbox One you get the two excellent Vegas game for free with it. Those games still hold up and the single player portion is well worth playing through.
To be honest we had no idea what was going on in this. It looked absolutely mental. We love the art style but just can’t work out what kind of game this really is, perhaps at Gamescom we’ll see more, or there’ll be gameplay impressions from the show floor.
The Indie Titles
As ever there was a nice collection of games like Goat Simulator, Ark and Superhot that we already know are brilliant. The biggest one for us is still Cuphead, the delightful 1930s animation style co op beat em up that captures an art style better than anything we’ve ever seen. This whole game looks like an early Disney movie and it has to be played to be believed. It’s disappointing that all games aren’t made like this. Some more games like Ashen and Tacoma were shown but it’s difficult to tell how good these will be without getting some hands on-time. They all looked great.
Xbox Game Preview
This is Early Access for Xbox and it’s coming with a bang with Elite Dangerous launching on it today alongside The Long Dark. Elite is one of our favourite games and thanks to some brilliance on the part of Microsoft, every game on this service has to have a free demo to try, so you can see if you can put up with how broken many of them will be. DayZ is coming eventually (Something we predicted for E3 last year) and we can’t wait to be surviving Chenarus on the Xbox One.
Again we know very little about this, except it’s from Dean Hall, the creator of DayZ. It’s set in space, which is something Dean talks about a lot so I’m sure there’s a lot of passion in the game. Let’s hope he finishes this one.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
A single player gameplay segment of this shown off, very similar to the Uncharted reveals of past E3s. Visually very impressive and we do love these kind of scripted experiences alongside more open games. The section shown had our pulse racing as Lara frantically scrabbled across a collapsing ice shelf and we were pleased to see a quick montage at the end showing a variety of different locations. Can’t put up with feeling cold through a ten hour game.
The Rare Collection
This is a biggie. Like the excellent Sega Mega Drive collection a few years back, this collects thirty of Rare’s greatest games into a single budget release. There’s none of the games they no longer own (so no more Goldeneye or Diddy Kong Racing) but we do get Blast Corps, Viva Pinata, Banjo Kazooie and Conker’s Bad Fur day. This could be the greatest release of the year and we really hope they emulate these things right. We want widescreen lagless gameplay please and at least local multiplayer on all the titles that had it originally. Online leaderboards for things like Blast Corps would be amazing.
Sea of Thieves
This is Rare’s new pride and joy, a multiplayer pirate experience with some awesome chunky graphics and quite spectacular naval battles. Looks like you work together as a crew and go do piratey things, so sign me up! Will be interesting to see if this goes in Xbox Game Preview as it looks like a lot of those survival-esque games. A departure from the norm for Rare, but historically that’s been a good thing.
Before this little section there was a mention that Microsoft are working with Valve on VR as well as Oculus. Nice little confirmation that the Oculus deal isn’t exclusive at all. Hololens was showed off with Minecraft. The ‘create a 3d world on a table’ thing was very cool, but the more interesting thing for us was shown at the beginning, someone playing a game on it on a screen on the wall that doesn’t exist. This eliminates the antisocial aspects of Oculus, because you can still see the world, but lets you play games on whatever size screen you want, without owning a screen or necessarily having any space. we’ve used this kind of tech with the Gear VR and its cinema app and it is by far the most convincing use of VR we’ve seen for regular use. This is something to keep an eye on.
There was a brief section on the upcoming Gears of War remaster with the announcement that there’s a week long beta starting today (check your inboxes for invites) but the real purpose of this segment was on Gears 4. We got a lengthy brooding section of gameplay and it showed a new protagonist and a slightly different tone to many of the other games. This was darker with a touch of survival horror, like some of the best levels in the first trilogy. We didn’t get to see any massively new gameplay features but graphically the environmental effects were really impressive.
So that was Microsoft’s E3 conference. We saw a lot we liked during that and we can’t wait to get our hands on the Gears beta and Elite on the Xbox One. As soon as it all goes live we’ll bring you new impressions. On to EA!