Microsoft’s E3 2015 Conference: Grinding Your Gears

microsofte32015banner

There were multiple questions for Microsoft going into this conference, outside the obvious one of potentially outdoing Sony in the exclusives department. The first big one involved what they would show instead of some exclusives people wanted to see, as we learned before the show that Quantum Break, Scalebound, and the new Crackdown would skip E3 this year for Gamescom. The second biggie was how much time they would spend on the HoloLens, the company’s VR-esque experience previously announced in January. We know VR is part of gaming’s future, but this would mark Microsoft’s time to introduce their efforts.

halo5pic_061515

But not right away. No, the opening was used to show the biggest game the company has this fall: Halo 5: Guardians. The segment began with a co-op demo resembling previous Halo games, albeit with a few new twists for its multiplayer co-op. More of the same shouldn’t be an issue for the franchise’s fans, especially since they’ll have two campaigns with separate Spartan squads to contend with. There’s also the multiplayer, Warzone, allowing up to 24 players to compete simultaneously. The game will release on October 27th, hopefully without any Master Chief Collection-like problems at launch.

There were plenty of names I expected to see at this conference, but Keiji Inafune’s wasn’t one of them. He, along with a team of ex-Metroid Prime developers at Armature Studio, is working on a game called Recore, a title starring a female character and her robot dog — eerily reminiscent of Mega Man and Rush. Said dog’s, uh, essence was later implanted in a battle-capable robot, which could be an interesting mechanic. Sadly, they showed nothing but a CG trailer, but they’ll have to show it soon if it’s really releasing in spring 2016 — only on Xbox One.

Microsoft got their “mic drop” moment in early: The Xbox One will be backwards compatible with 360 games starting this fall. The lineup will begin with 100 games, including the demonstrated Mass Effect, with a list that will grow in time. They’ll be available digitally, but disc games can also be played. When a disc is inserted into the machine, the game can subsequently be downloaded. Don’t be surprised if some games that received remasters, or will receive them, will be left off the list. Also don’t be surprised if some games never become compatible, which always happens. But it’s still a nice thing to have after many of us bid it adieu.

The Xbox One Elite controller is coming later this year, allowing for multiple options like analog stick sensitivity adjustment, button reassignment, triggers made for precision, and a new d-pad that could be…interesting to use, perhaps. Though no price was given at the conference, it was later confirmed to be…$149.99!? There’s a reason why they didn’t announce it on stage, as it would have given the audience members sticker shock. It’s due for a release in October.

Fallout 4 returned here, with a demo that wasn’t too dissimilar from one shown at Bethesda’s showcase. But that didn’t matter when we’re talking about a game people really wanted to see. Thankfully, no exclusive DLC was announced, but players will have the opportunity to share mods between the PC and Xbox One versions. Also, the XB1 version will come with Fallout 3 free. The game will release on XB1, PS4, and PC on November 10th.

New games are coming to EA Access, including Titanfall, and upcoming EA games can be played first through the service, available through XB1 and PC via Origin. In addition, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 was announced for Xbox One, with a trailer ill-fittingly featuring “Danger Zone,” despite its tone not being very 80s. It’s due for release in spring 2016.

Forza Motorsport 6 was introduced with a car dropped on the stage. That was the prelude to Henry Ford’s appearance; a car exec. On stage. At E3. Having a non-gaming industry individual speaking on stage at E3 is almost always a recipe for disaster, but he thankfully only talked for a few seconds. The trailer featured everything a car porn nut could love, concluding with a confirmation of its release date of September 15th. It appears Microsoft has captured the racing simulation enthusiast audience in Gran Turismo’s absence, and that won’t be easy for Sony to reclaim with the next installment in their series.

darksouls3pic_061515

A CG trailer for the unveil of Dark Souls 3 was shown, though it would have been better if nearly every piece of information about it hadn’t leaked in the last couple of weeks. The game is due for XB1, PS4, and PC early next year, with Hidetaka Miyazaki (of Demon’s Souls, the first Dark Souls, and Bloodborne) returning to the director’s seat. Bandai Namco also said this would be the last episode in the franchise, though it undoubtedly won’t be the last of its kind.

Tom Clancy’s The Division is coming next year, though the beta will launch on XB1 at the end of this year, for anyone who wants to try it before that. Also from Ubisoft, Rainbow Six Siege will include the first two Vegas titles as digital 360 ports when purchased on XB1. That sounds like a good deal, assuming every game in the package is worth playing. Siege releases on October 13th.

Turns out Microsoft was serious when they said they would show PC games here, the first of which came in the form of Gigantic, coming to Windows 10 and XB1. It’s a MOBA whose beta will begin in August, though the final version will be free-to-play. It stood out because it was by far one of the most colorful non-indie games at the conference.

Speaking of those, a section of the conference was dedicated to indie games, and it was much larger than last year’s. Titles like Tacoma, Ashen, Beyond Eyes, and the superlative-looking Cuphead were featured, since they’re making their console debut on Xbox One. Microsoft also announced Xbox Game Preview, a means of bringing Early Access for indie games to consoles. These will start with The Long Dark, Shelter, Elite: Dangerous, and DayZ, the last two of which are available now. And speaking of DayZ, a new title from the developer was shown called Ion, an MMO coming to Xbox One and PC. It will also be available through the aforementioned preview program before release.

rottrpic_061515

To the surprise of no one, Rise of the Tomb Raider was demoed at the conference, and ended up being one of the more set-piece-driven demonstrations — still the antithesis of what the old Tomb Raider games were. But hope lied beyond it, as the trailer showed the promise of Lara actually raiding tombs. The game will release as an Xbox One-exclusive for the holiday season on November 10th, meaning it will go up against Fallout 4. That may not be the best date.

You knew Rare was going to be in some part of this conference, though the news was leaked a few hours beforehand. Rare Replay is coming, a collection of 30 games from Rare, including Perfect Dark, Battletoads, Blast Corps, and the Banjo-Kazooie games. It will release on August 4th for $30, which is a steal. It’s also refreshing to see a retro collection at retail in this day and age.

Rare is working on something original, though, in the form of Sea of Thieves, a pirate MMO launching for PC and Xbox One. The company called it the most ambitious game they’ve done yet, though it still needs some development time. No release date was announced.

A trailer was shown to remind you that the free-to-play Fable Legends is still coming this fall to PC and Xbox One, one shown with an all-female party. It looked intriguing enough, but they didn’t spend much time on it.

(Have you noticed that all the non-indie PC games shown are free-to-play? That’s not the support from Microsoft people had in mind, though it makes business sense.)

Fret not, because Microsoft is definitely taking PC seriously by partnering with Valve VR, and this led to the presentation of the HoloLens from Kudo Tsunoda. Following this was an impressive holographic demo of Minecraft, and you could tell the audience was equally as impressed. They definitely put on a good showing, though more Minecraft will have to wait until Minecon 2015 in early-July.

gearsofwar4pic_061515

Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, another badly-kept secret, was finally confirmed for Xbox One. This version of the game will run in 1080p and 60fps, and will come with a smoother multiplayer mode whose beta is available now. The conference closed with a lengthy Gears of War 4 demo. Though its graphics were impressive, it was hampered by serious technical issues. The demo was full of screen tearing and framerate issues, and the contrast was so dark that it was difficult to make out what was happening. It was also very set-piece driven, without much of the raw shooting people enjoy with Gears. Overall, not a good showing, though the game has the same potential every Gears game has, whose enjoyment will depend on how much you enjoy the franchise. It’s coming in the holiday season of 2016.

Outside of the anticlimactic finish, this was one of Microsoft’s better conferences in recent memory. They made the Xbox One an enticing product through exclusives and backwards compatibility, and they’re finally taking indie games seriously. We’ll have to see how Sony responds later on.

If you want to watch the entire conference, you can do so here. More info from the games shown  can be seen on Microsoft’s E3 hub page.

Leave a Reply