Microsoft’s E3 Press Conference 2014

Halo is still the key franchise for Xbox, and this E3 brought plenty for fans to pore over.  Both the rumoured Halo 2 Anniversary and Master Chief Collection were announced for the Xbox One, meaning all numbered Halo games will be playable.  The multiplayer of all will be faithfully ported to be as similar to the original as possible.  All games will ship on one disc, with one single interface and all maps from the multiplayer being available.  There will be playlists covering maps and modes from different Halo titles.  The next iteration in the Halo series was also teased further.  Halo 5: Guardians’ multiplayer was shown briefly, with new game modes and features in the new game.  It will have the arena gameplay that players know and love, but at 60 frames per second and with new abilities.  There will be a beta for Halo 5 this December, with access available to those who buy the Master Chief collection.

Phil Spencer, Xbox’s new Chief Exec then began to announce games coming in 2015 and beyond, and there was naturally a little less in terms of gameplay.

A new Lara Croft game was announced on the back of the successful reboot of last year.  Rise of the Tomb Raider looks incredible, with a focus on her past and getting over her traumatic experiences of the first game.  The facial expressions in the game were especially good, although not much of the traditional action was seen, so it’s harder to say how the game will play.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was shown with gameplay of hunting a griffin.  It looked fantastic, with the franchise’s history of incredible graphics continuing.  It’s an RPG with impressive open landscapes that are all traversable.  It looked to me like a more featured version of Diablo for consoles, rather than just being ported.

Tom Clancy’s: The Division was also shown again at this E3 after being revealed last year.  The game is situated in a post-apocalyptic New York, after a virus was released.  It looked very good, being slightly more impressive in terms of visuals than the similar Call of Duty.  It was a solid gameplay demo, but didn’t have anything of a “wow factor”, just showing the four players clearing out a gang in front of their base.  The Division is slated for next year.

The conference featured a lot of smaller announcement.  Bioware’s Dragon Age: Inquisition was trailered, featuring a dark tone and a world that is bigger than any other Bioware game.  It was covered in more depth during EA’s presentation, and is set for a release on October 7thDance Central Spotlight will be the series’ first Xbox One version, coming in September along with a Disney Fantastia edition.  Inside was announced from the developers of the hit XBLA game Limbo.  The game shares similar gameplay traits, but features more of a third dimension and a story of oppression that works well with the game’s mechanics.  Platinum Games, developer of Bayonetta showed off their new title Scalebound, featuring huge monsters and a protagonist who seems as interested in his headphones and looks as slaying the beasts that lay ahead of him.

The final announcement of the conference was a next-gen Crackdown game.  There was a trailer that outlined the game’s open-world, futuristic co-op nature that looked very good.  There is little else known about the game though, and it could be a while before it is released.

My overall impression of the games for Xbox is that there are a lot of futuristic games on the way, with an amazing level of detail and information being given to players in elegant ways.  Co-operative multiplayer has really hit a new zenith too,  with games like Assassin’s Creed, Crackdown and Sunset Overdrive introduced interesting, but very distinct, types of co-op that mean you can have fun with your friends on the Xbox One.

All-in-all I was a little underwhelmed by the Microsoft conference.  There was no real awe-inspiring trailer or fantastic closing segment.  There were some great games on show, and there’s definitely more to be excited about for owners of the Xbox One now, but the console still has no real killer app on the way. Halo didn’t really steal the show in the way it could have with a trailer and there was no Gears of War or similar announcement. Sunset Overdrive was perhaps the only exclusive that I could see myself buying, but it didn’t look like a must-buy.  At the moment, there’s no single reason to for me to buy an Xbox One.  The next year might be a little better for Microsoft, but the transition to next-gen is still not complete yet.

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