As usual, the Microsoft Xbox briefing took place on the first official day of E3, at 3am AEST, and as usual, I found myself up early, eagerly anticipating the announcements. It was chock full of trailers and announcements, so bear with us!
- The conference kicked off, perhaps unsurprisingly, given it was a known entity, with Halo 5: Guardians. The trailer was story heavy, but impressive nonetheless, followed promptly by live gameplay demonstrating 4-player co-op. This is not the Halo we’ve grown to love, but something evolved in many ways – a shot the in the arm that the series has arguably needed for some time. Come release on October 27th this year, it’s bound to be huge.
- This was followed closely by some footage of the new Multplayer mode coming to Halo 5 – Warzone. Here, standard PvP is thrown into what the developers refer to as “Player vs Everything” – essentially PvP multiplayer with AI-controlled enemies thrown in for good measure.
- Next up was an announcement trailer for ReCore, an action-adventure focused on a young girl and her robotic buddies in a futuristic environment. It’s a first-party franchise, only coming to Xbox One.
- Phil Spencer came up on stage and promptly announced that Xbox One would be backwards compatible – not only that, digital games that players already own would be added automatically, with 100 to be added shortly for Xbox Preview members, and hundreds more in the coming months. Digital discs will work simply by putting them into the Xbox One. Xbox Backwards Compatibility is coming to all by the end of the year.
- Next up, Phil Spencer announced the upcoming release of the Xbox Elite controller – a precision controller with improved accuracy, hair-trigger locks, swappable components, button remapping and more. No release date was mentioned.
- Fallout 4 was next on show, with a story and gameplay trailer showing the game at play on Xbox One, as well as the VATS system. While the game was only announced yesterday by Bethesda, it was nice to see all-new footage on display in the Microsoft event. The big announcement here was that PC mods would be carried over and usable on Xbox One.
- Peter Moore came out next to discuss EA Access, the monthly subscription service for Xbox One. All of the upcoming EA games will be playable first on EA Access. However, this was followed up by two HUGE announcements to the service – namely, both Titanfall and Dragon Age: Inquisition are coming to the EA Access vault within this year, providing free access to subscribers. In addition, EA Access would be opened up for free to all Xbox Live users for the week of E3.
- Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 was announced – the trailer showing an alternate future where the zombies had taken over. Lots of new characters, it looks like a lot of wacky fun (as usual for the franchise). Release noted as “Spring 2016” (Autumn for us folks).
- Next up was a trailer for Forza Motorsport 6, and a Ford GT was lowered onto the stage… and then promptly raised away. Of course, Forza 6 is an exclusive title for Xbox One, and while the trailer was gorgeous (particularly with regards to weather effects), nothing groundbreaking was involved, at least to my eye. Coming September 15th, 2015.
- This was followed by a trailer for Dark Souls 3. Highly stylised, and in glorious detail, but there was no gameplay shown.
- Next up was a trailer for Tom Clancy’s The Division – a game that was announced originally at the announcement of Xbox One, but had gone quiet in the intervening years. This new trailer is very story-based, and was follow by Ubisoft’s President Laurent Detoc, who covered off some fo the details of an Xbox One-exclusive Beta coming in December.
- Mr Detoc then covered off on the next instalment in the Rainbow Six series, Rainbow Six: Siege, also stopping to note that previous titles in the series will come free with the game, playable via the newly announced backwards compatibility. This was followed by an impressive preview trailer demonstrating many of the tools that will be availble to players come launch on October 13th.
- The next trailer was preceded by a “Windows 10 and Xbox One exclusive” announcement, which I expect we will hear more of in the future as Microsoft strengthens their Windows 10 play. This title was a new announcement – Gigantic, which looks to me like a MOBA and is free to play, with a Beta coming in August.
- This was followed by a Sizzle Reel of upcoming independent titles – way too many to mention in quick succession. Chris Charla, the Director of the ID@Xbox program then came out on stage to discuss the program to introduce some specific titles.
- Fullbright Games appeared on stage to present the new trailer for Tacoma, their follow up to last year’s success, Gone Home. A space exploration title, Tacoma looks like a lot of fun, but the trailer was light on content.
- Aurora44 appeared next, to present Ashen, a gorgeous and stylised adventure title that looks to include puzzles and exploration in a bleak environment.
- Tiger & Squid appeared next to show off Beyond Eyes, an adventure game about a young blind girl,, and the manner in which she experiences her world. It looks beautiful, and is due out Summer 2015 in the northern hemisphere.
- Cuphead came next, to many cheers from the crowd. I’ve been keen on this one for a couple of years myself. The new trailer showed off a lot more of the game, and it’s 1930s-style animation. Due out in 2016.
- Xbox Game Preview was then announced, essentially an Xbox version of Steam’s Early Access. Games coming to Xbox Game Preview will come with short demos so that players can experience the game prior to making the decision to jump in. The Long Dark and Elite: Dangerous were announced to be available via the service later today.
- Dean Hall, the creator of DayZ then appeared on stage. He announced a new title coming to Xbox Game Preview – Ion. It appears to be a space exploration game, but with huge scope. Few details were shown, but there was enough to guage interest.
- This was followed by a live demo of Rise of the Tomb Raider by Crystal Dynamics, due out November 10th, 2015. Given the success of the previous title, it’s bound to be huge, but the demo was impressive enough to hold on its own. In case you’d forgotten, this is exclusive to Xbox One.
- Next up was the announcement for Rare Replay, 30 hit Rare titles on one disc, which ships with 10,000 gamerscore. It includes Perfect Dark, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and Battletoads, among many others. It’s being released to commemorate the 30-year anniversary of Rare. I’m pretty keen on this one.
- Rare then announced a new shared world adventure title, coming exclusively to Xbox One – Sea of Thieves. A shared world Pirate game? Judging by the trailer, it looks like a hell of a lot of fun.
- Another Windows 10 and Xbox One exclusive trailer followed for Fable Legends, the free to play fantasy title, due out later this year, and will be cross playable across devices.
- This was followed by a new announcement between Microsoft and Valve VR – no additional details. This was quickly followed by mention of the Oculus announcement from last week, including the mention of Game Streaming to Oculus Rift. This quickly transitioned into a discussion around Microsoft Hololens, with a demonstration of the use of Hololens in Minecraft. The Minecraft demo not only allowed Hololens to be used to play Minecraft (via virtual prjection onto a wall), but also to visualise a whole Minecraft world laid out on a table as a Hologram… most impressively, the demonstrator was watching another player running around this world, and this player was playing on tablet. The potential is huge, so we’ll be keeping an eye on Hololens. Note though, that there was no announcement that Hololens would work with Xbox One, although I expect this would come as a matter of course… Only time will tell.
- Next up was the announcement of Gears of War: Ultimate Edition – the HD upgrade for the very popular series. This announcement was brief, but was really just a precursor to the REAL announcement – a trailer and demo for Gears of War 4 (shown here as Gears4 – potentially a rebrand?), which was a lot of running around in the dark. That said, new protagonists, new enemies, same tried and tested gameplay. Due out “Holiday 2016,” so… Xmas next year.
- Phil Spencer then came back out on stage to close off the show, with a summary of all the announcements. Also mentioned was a forthcoming, all-new Xbox One user experience, which in my opinion has been a long time coming.
The show then ended with a sizzle reel of announced titles. Some solid announcements, with some great looking games, it could be a great year to own an Xbox One. That said, I found the VR “announcements” confusing. There was nothing REALLY announced, apart from partnerships – it really just felt like MS felt something had to be said prior to Sony’s Morpheus demos that are expected as part of their announcements later today. Regardless, and as always – there are some great titles in the works.
For those of you interested in watching the conference, you can stream it in its entirety at the Xbox Twitch page.