After the year Xbox had since the previous E3 and the events between, it was going to have a big job changing its fortune. From it’s green lights, green screens and other green paraphernalia, Phil Spencer strides on to centre stage and proclaims that they listened to their consumers and that this years conference will be just about games. And so commenced the sudo-denying of the Kinect, never mentioning the camera by name. Even when they talked about “Fantasia: Music Evolved” and the newly announced digital only “Dance Central Spotlight”, two genuinely good Kinect games, they nary mentioned the device. Also, considering that “Spotlight” is the type of game that Xbox One was designed for (a digital only, Kinect game) they didn’t spend that much time talking about it.
Comparatively, they spent most of their time talking about their other two titles that make up most of the Xbox, “Call of Duty” and “HALO”. This years ‘CoD’, called “Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare”, was Xbox’s opener with a chunk of gameplay. The gameplay opens with the player and what consists a squad in a high-tech flying battle tank. They crash into a building, climb out and then jump off the building. They can do this because this iteration gives the player a jetpack. The first thought that went through my mind was ‘does that mean people can’t fall to their death off the map in multiplayer?‘ This partly shows what people really want to see when a new ‘CoD’ is shown off. All it seams to have done is given the player a double jump. As for the rest of the gameplay, it felt like they had taken ideas from many of the things that I like. I saw battle suit mech that resembles the MAX from “Planetside 2”, and giant ominous looking walking mech that looks like it was taken from “Metal Gear Solid: 4/Revengance” and a robot swarm that looks like a draft version of the Sentinels from “The Matrix” trilogy.
“HALO 5”, actually titled “HALO Guardians”, meanwhile showed the new character Agent Locke, with him/her/it watching Master Chief’s actions of HALO 2. And that’s it. Again, Xbox has a new pre-rendered trailer and still manages to say nothing. As for actual gameplay, they showed off “HALO 2: Anniversary Edition”, the HD modern remastering of “HALO 2” but keeps the original multiplayer mechanics because people like the old multiplayer over the modern versions. And to pile on the nostalgia even more, they announced “HALO: The Master Chief Collection”, a collection of all the Master Chief games (HALO 1-4) that allows people to join the HALO 5 multiplayer beta in December. The collection also gives access to the show “HALO Nightfall” which introduces Agent Locke for HALO 5. So for HALO fans there are many things to buy:
“HALO Nightfall” live action show,
“HALO 2 Anniversary” remastering,
“HALO Master Chief Collection” so people can get HALO 5 betas,
(And at some point in 2015) “HALO: Guardians”
As a note on HALO things, there was no mention of Stephen Spielberg’s HALO adaptation. Xbox is really wringing all the money they can out of the franchise.
On nostalgia, there is “Project Spark”, the 3D game maker that uses the Kinect but they would never say that. They showed it off even more (with a pre-rendered trailer) before it’s released in the fall. What they show off is what they’ve always showed off. User generated games, “Little Big Planet” style, that people can play and open up to the internet. Easy, simple stuff that’s very safe in the cloud driven age we’ve been dumped it. But, as a stinger, Conker of “Conker’s Bad Fur Day” shows up chainsaws the logo and says he couldn’t resist and they after 10 years with no new game, the user base should make themselves a new Conker game. Conker is now a player character in ‘Spark’. And that is how to piss off a rather significant chunk of people. The subtle message is that there are no plans of a new ‘Conker’ game. Or it’s a testing of the water to see if people remember the character meaning their maybe a new new ‘Conker’ game in the distant future. Either way, people should either feel unbridled rage tinted with nostalgia or unbridled hope tinted with desperation.
“Forza 5” gets some free DLC in the shape of one free track, the Nürburgring. Although, as I follow “Top Gear”, I hear some quavers of dislike for the track because some cars are most often tested at the Nürburgring making them sudo-track days cars making them uncomfortable because a track day car is not comfortable on normal roads which are rarely flat with all of their potholes. But that’s me being picky. They also announced the next Forza game, “Forza Horizons 2”: more Forza. Can’t really say much about it because it’s Forza. They’re not going to drift to far from standard procedure with a series as popular as this. If you like Forza, it most likely going to be more of the same.
Another exclusive that Xbox showed off was “Sunset Overdrive”, a game designed by a former Sony exclusive developer Insomniac Games. It opens up by mocking the ‘modern, black and brown’ shooter and then leading to the protagonist, or at least a voiced character because of the character creator I distinctly remember, rail-grind into a colourful city filled with hyper-coloured monsters. He then explains the plot of the game. (Evil corp made evil soda which made evil monsters, ‘kill they ass’). Rather then getting into the problem of a differing trailer to what the game turns out to be (ala “F.U.S.E”) they had a gameplay demo that showed off a hyper-coloured game with rail-grinding and over-the-top guns. So this game may turn out as shown. Which is good because the game looks fantastic!
Another over the top shooter coming to Xbox is “Crackdown 3”. There wasn’t any game play, just another pre-rendered trailer so not that much can be said of it. As long as it keeps the over-the-top shooting then it should be alright but at the moment all we have says nothing really about the game. That can also be said about the newly announced “Scalebound” which was revealed via a pre-rendered trailer that only said that it will include swords, giant kaiju-like monsters and magic, and the re-make of “Phantom Dust” where magic and fighting is included because it was another pre-rendered trailer that says nothing actually about the game.
They had a highlight reel of some of the indie games that are coming Xbox Live. It was a pretty good list. A few stand out games but a good and varied collection.
As indie’s go, there was one that Xbox held up called “Ori and The Blind Forest”. This one is one that can also be held up as the ‘art game’ of the conference. And it looks great.
They showed off the announced “Dead Rising 3” DLC. It’s called “Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX+ Alpha”. Really. It’s Capcom using their back-catalogue in a fun an interesting way. With an arcade 4 player action add-on that has multiplayer silliness where no one is entirely sure how long the comedy will last. At least I’m not sure. I can see messing about dressed up as Capcom characters as something that may get old.
They also showed off some multi-platform games. Here is the list;
“EVOLVE” – From the developers of “Left 4 Dead”. Some more 4 play-co-op but with aliens and sci-fi space weapons.
“Assassin’s Creed Unity” – This years ‘Assassin’s Creed’ which is set during the French revolution and has some 4 player co-op, for no good reason besides it has 4 player co-op.
“Dragon Age: Inquisition” – Some BioWare fantasy RPG action so people have some faith that it will be good. It actually seems to be very good.
“Inside” – From the developers “Limbo” and looks much like it so should be ok.
“Rise of the Tomb Raider” – The sequel to the dramatic re-boot. It was a pre-rendered trailer but it had the same tone as its former so it doesn’t seems to be shifting to far.
“Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt” – More RPG action with swords and magic.
“Tom Clancy’s The Division” – There was another gameplay demo that continued the multiplayer shooting with talking between the players that seemed barely human.
Finally, there was a demo of “Fable Legends”, which as 4 player co-op and a ‘villain mode’ ala “Dungeonland”. The conference was definitely a conference based on 4 player co-op. Multiplayer has always been a selling point of the Xbox with “Call of Duty” and the ilk gravitating to console but 4 player co-op was certainly ‘the thing’ of this years E3 with it coming back in other conferences too. I’m not a fan of multiplayer games but I know then have their place. But it’s getting to a point where most of the major releases are multiplayer games. Story and plot are not part and parcel with multiplayer games and that is something I dread.