E3 2014: Microsoft Press Conference - Halo 5, New Tomb Raider
After badly losing to Sony at last year's E3, Microsoft had a lot of ground to cover with Xbox One sales lagging behind that of the Playstation 4 as a result of their rival's crowd-pleasing conference. They promised a full 90 minutes of games, and for all intents and purposes, they delivered. Delivered on an often awkward multi-stage format, this conference brought the few fans in attendance a pretty solid cheer (for an E3 conference) with numerous announcements, while the journalists sat in place typing away like usual.
This conference didn't boast about numbers, not only because they're not that impressive, but because they didn't really need to, as they only would have distracted from the games, which we all claim we want to see more of. After an impressive display of AAA titles, their ID@Xbox program which gives indies all of the tools they need to self-publish games for Xbox One got its day in the sun again. A montage showed games like Massive Chalice, and Mighty No.9.
New IPs were announced/shown as well, with demos for monster-slaying Scalebound and Sunset Overdrive (mentioned below) played to show fans a future to look forward to. Microsoft did what they needed to do. They left out the numbers, they left out TV shows and channels, they left out the Kinect and gave a really strong showing. This wasn't one for the books by any means, it didn't have any "mic drop" moments and wasn't one that will get undecided gamers running to the nearest GameStop, but it did set a pretty decent bar for Sony to try to beat later on this evening.
Notes on a few of the games shown (links will take you to demo videos and trailers):
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare - This CoD looks and feels incredibly similar to the franchises past games, sure it has a few technological advancements placed in and on guns and vehicles, but otherwise appears to be another FPS shooter that will sell piles of copies. Taking a few cues from CoD: Black Ops 2 and maybe even Halo, we see soldiers using homing grenades, and rocket boosters that allow quick convergence on enemies. We'll see gamers everywhere lining up for this one on November 4, 2014.
Forza Motorsport 5 - This 12 year old franchise appears to have a few tricks up its sleeve. Introducing the Nürburgring course, a track that was nicknamed "The Green Hell". Found in Germany, this track is said to be one of the most demanding, with some very fast corners, and a change in altitude of 1000 metres from its lowest and highest points. Captured at "millimeter accuracy", you can bet this track will generate some curses.
Forza Horizon 2 - An open-world driving game, with 200 cars, this Forza entry aims more for racing enjoyment and fun than professional, realistic, track-based racing. Available for pre-order now, and for purchase on September 30, 2014. Trailer is right over here
Evolve - This shooter pits 4 players against one monster, one giant monster with tentacles and 4 eyes named The Kraken. This is only one of several playable monsters, but is the only one announced thus far. The monster can be player-controlled, with an objective of killing the players, and/or destroying other player resources like bases or power-plants, while the humans only need to kill the beast. No word here on what the single-player campaign will look like yet.
Assassin's Creed Unity - The first next-gen exclusive title in the franchise. You can join up to 3 friends via Xbox Live or PSN to traverse the beautiful streets of Paris during the French Revolution. The movement in the demo shown is incredibly fluid. Unlike previous games, where entering through a window brought on a quick animation of your character also leaving through the other side of the building, this video shows that you can also freely walk around inside the person's house. The movement also appears to be much more influenced by parkour, as descending from a platform was a glide much smoother than jumping off or climbing down. A few glitches were seen while interacting with citizens, which is par for the course in this franchise, but otherwise this new installment appears to be a huge step in the right direction.
Dragon Age: Inquisition - Bioware's next installment in this RPG franchise will include "premiere content" available first on Xbox when it's released on October 7, 2014. Another game shown today with very fluid combat, and beautiful landscapes.
Sunset Overdrive - appears to be a shooter with very fast parkour elements, including sliding down rails with shoes and wall-running, a big blast of comedy, and a very... creative take on physics. Set in a world where a contaminated energy drink (ofcourse), turned everyone into mutants, and where everything in the environment is apparently booby-trapped, the few survivors fighting mutants for survival, and humans for their own benefits. October 28, 2014 release date.
Dead Rising 3 - DLC coming for the zombie-slayer Xbox exclusive that brings back all of the heroes from past DR games, slaps them into crazy Capcom costumes, and throws them into a zombie-filled arcade-style brawler. Looks pretty fun actually. Available now.
Halo - Halo 5 was shown in another short trailer. The Master Chief Collection was announced, bundling the first 4 games of the Halo series. Halo 2 was completely re-worked, giving it a fresh coat of paint, though you will have the option to go back to the original graphics. The multiplayer will also function exactly as it did when it was launched seemingly ages ago. The collection will be packed with Halo: Nightfall, produced by Ridley Scott, a live-action film that will lead into Halo 5.
Inside - Playdead's follow-up to Limbo is headed to Xbox first early in 2015. It appears to be another platformer in mostly black-and-white, though with a little colour this time, starring another young boy protagonist. This one seems to show more character personality, as you can actually hear the boy's terrified breathing.
Rise of The Tomb Raider - The teaser trailer began with protagonist Lara talking to a psychiatrist about flash-backs she's having about adventures we have yet to see in a game.
Tom Clancy's: The Division - This game looks absolutely incredible. Set in NYC after a deadly virus has decimated to population. This third-person shooter was shown last year, and is definitely one to keep an eye on. Our own George Prax stated later on that if The Division actually ends up looking as good as it did today, he will eat his own shoe. The beautiful demo took map usage to a new level, instead of bringing up a separate on-screen page-based map, the city itself hologrammed itself on the floor and we could get a birdseye view of where we need to go. This massively-online multiplayer shooter will be available in 2015.