E3 Recap: Microsoft

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E3 2014 may have been the most important press briefing for Microsoft since the debut of the original Xbox. Certainly more important than last year. After a much maligned unveiling of their next generation console at E3 2013, followed by less-than-stellar messaging by then-head of Xbox Don Mattrick, it was widely considered that Microsoft lost in a big way to Sony and the Playstation 4. The public was generally untrusting of the focus on home media, mandatory Kinect integration, and mandatory online check-in policies that had become the central focus of the Xbox One. This was a big fallback after almost eight years of Microsoft undoubtedly dominating the market with the Xbox 360 and Sony chomped at the bit to capitalize on this loss of trust as the console war hit highs unseen since the “Sega does what Nintendon’t” 90’s era.

But a lot can change in a year. Before the Xbox One was released, Microsoft reversed its online check-in policy (at the cost of what would have certainly been an interesting digital game sharing feature) and, although still included with every system, removed the necessity to have the Kinect in use. Don Mattrick left the company to be replaced by former head of Microsoft Studios Phil Spencer. Leading up to this year’s E3, A-list games were unveiled and new Kinect-less SKUs were announced. Phil Spencer promised that Microsoft’s E3 2014 would be 90 minutes of “Games, games, games,” and it definitely delivered on that promise.

Taking the stage early Monday morning, Spencer hosted Microsoft’s briefing with class. Congratulating both Sony and Nintendo on all the hard work they’ve put in over the last year, Spencer, a gamer at heart and proud owner of systems other than just the Xbox, proved that competition is good for the consumer and does not necessitate snide remarks and trash talk. Reaffirming a commitment to gaming and promising a look at one of his all time favorites (VooDoo Vince?), Spencer kicked off the show.

First up was an extended look at the recently revealed Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. Microsoft has long been partnered with Activision in debuting Call of Duty games during Xbox Briefings, and this year was no different. The game looks absolutely beautiful in action. Fighting a ground war in a battle-torn downtown metro area, this year’s COD features a verticality not seen yet in the franchise. Though it is still not known if this will extend throughout the campaign, players in this multiplayer demo had jetpacks allowing them to leap from cover to cover and take point on top of vehicles and structures. We’ll have to get our hands on this before we can say for sure whether it holds up to the Titanfall standard of movement, but this might be the most exciting COD has looked in a long time. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare will release on November 4th, 2014 on all platforms with DLC coming first to the Xbox One.

Forza Motorsport 5 was one of the best-looking games to launch with the Xbox One, and Microsoft was proud to announce that over a million gamers are playing it week to week. To thank its fans, Microsoft announced the immediately available Nurburging DLC for download and gave the public its first look at Forza Horizon 2. If the difference between Motorsport and Horizon had to be boiled down, it would be this: Forza Motorsport is about cars, Forza Horizon is about driving; Motorsport falls more on the simulator side of the fence, while Horizon is an open-world action driving game. For fans of the series, dedicated servers will continue to host Motorsport Drivatars in Horizon and social aspects will enable you to create driving clubs of up to one thousand members. Forza Horizon 2 will release on September 30th, 2014 on Xbox One and Xbox 360.

From the creators of Left 4 Dead, next up was the 4v1 multiplayer combat game Evolve.  Its new trailer debuted the Kraken, an all-new monster for a player to take control of while four of their closest friends team up to take them down. Evolve’s beta and DLC will launch exclusively on Xbox One and the game will launch on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC on October 21st, 2014.

Ubisoft took the stage at Microsoft’s event to unveil Assassin’s Creed: Unity‘s all-new four player co-op mode. Set during the French Revolution, four Assassins took different paths through the a mansion, all on their way to the same objective. Able to keep track of each other’s location via markers, players are able to break off from each other and come back together when the time is right. This is the breath of fresh air that Ubisoft’s aging series needed, as the simple follow and instant fail stealth missions of past games has gotten a bit stale. Assassin’s Creed: Unity launches on Xbox One and Playstation 4 on October 28th, 2014.

Taking a break from game debuts and showing their devotion to gaming as a whole, Microsoft broke up the presentation with a series of pre-recorded “#MyFavoriteGame” interviews with celebrities and game developers. First up was “My First Game” with shout outs to classic experiences on the Atari 2600 and childhood experiences playing arcade games at local pizza places.

Next, the crowd was given the latest trailer for Dragon Age: Inquisition, the latest swords and sorcery RPG from Bioware, best known for the epic Mass Effect trilogy. Dragon Age: Inquisition launches on Xbox One, Xbox 360, Playstation 4, Playstation 3, and PC on October 7th, 2014.

It was here that things took a turn for the fun. Up until this point, Microsoft’s show had been full of the stalwarts of every E3; New Call of Duty, new racing game, new Assassin’s Creed. A good, albeit painting-by-numbers conference. The Sunset Overdrive trailer couldn’t have come at a better time. Tongue firmly in cheek and poking fun at the more serious fare of the show, Insomniac took the stage with its anarchic view of what a video game should be. Ratchet and Clank for adults, Sunset Overdrive features a variety of creative weapons and high-energy gameplay. The aggressively colorful Sunset Overdrive launches exclusively on the Xbox One on October 28th, 2014.

Continuing Sunset Overdrive’s energy, Capcom completely surprised everyone with a look at all new DLC for Dead Rising 3. A favorite of Xbox One owners around the Geek Outpost offices, Dead Rising 3 seemed to be all but done with DLC after rounding out the single player expansions included in its season pass. But in celebration of its 31st anniversary, Capcom debuted a trailer for Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition ex+ ⍺. You read that right: Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition ex+ ⍺. Crammed full of references to just about every single Capcom property of the last 31 years, Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition ex+ ⍺ is available now.

After a brief reminder from Harmonix that Kinect is still going strong, releasing Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved and Dance Central Spotlight later on in 2014, Lionhead took the stage. Its debut was gameplay of another 4v1 multiplayer game headed to the Xbox One, Fable: Legends. While Evolve looks like the most high stakes game of tag you’ve ever played, Fable: Legends could almost be described as a true Dungeons and Dragons video game, with four players trying to survive the machinations of a fifth-in-control dungeon-master-like villain, plotting and triggering NPC monster attacks in real time. While quite a departure from the single player Fable formula, Fable: Legends definitely looks intriguing enough to hold gamers over until a true Fable 4 eventually comes around. Fable: Legends will release exclusively on Xbox One.

Next up was a trailer for the still-in-beta-phase Project Spark. An exclusive to Xbox One, Project Spark allows players to create and publish their own games, similar to the LittleBigPlanet series on the Playstation platforms. You can currently download the ongoing public beta before Project Spark has a full release this fall.

If there’s one thing that got gamers the most excited in 2013, it was Playstation 4’s commitment to independent games. Leading up to the release of the Xbox One, Microsoft seemingly left the little guys by the wayside, a surprising misstep considering the massive success of Xbox Live Arcade (RIP 2004-2013) on the Xbox 360. Such was not the case this year. Ori and the Blind Forest, by Moon Studios, kicked off a focus on independent developers at Microsoft’s show this year. Ori and the Blind Forest looks jaw-droppingly gorgeous, with a hand drawn art style evoking the works of Studio Ghibli and Ubisoft’s Rayman franchise. Ori and the Blind Forest will release this fall on Xbox One and PC.

Following another #MyFavoriteGame break, this time focusing on favorite video game characters, the moment many were waiting for arrived; the instantly recognizable Gregorian chants of the Halo theme filled the auditorium. After a cinematic trailer for Halo 5: Guardians, 343 Studios officially announced the much rumored Halo: The Master Chief Collection. Collecting Halos 1-4, the Halo 5 beta, and the digital television series Halo: Nightfall all on one disc, the Master Chief Collection is a love letter to Halo fans. Halo 5: Guardians launches in 2015 and Halo: The Master Chief Collection releases on November 11th, 2014. Both are exclusive to Xbox One.

Circling back around to the world of indie games, Microsoft gave us a brief spotlight on the ID@Xbox program, a program for independent studios to self publish on the Xbox One. Their sizzle reel gave us glimpses at what’s on the horizon, with my personal favorite being Cuphead, which looks like a platformed animated by Max Fleischer.

Next up was an extended look at The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. CD Projekt Red’s Witcher series has always been an incredibly deep and expansive RPG experience, and Wild Hunt looks to be no different. The game is as visually stunning as any in the series and should be the new go to game to show off your Xbox. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt releases on Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC on February 24th, 2015.

Ken Lobb, creative director of Killer Instinct, took the stage to surprise the crowd with a remake of a cult classic original Xbox game. Phantom Dust was ahead of its time when it released in 2005. An arena-based fighter with a strong online component and combat very similar to Magic: The Gathering, Phantom Dust told the story of a planet Earth plagued with amnesia. The world as we know it is over and nobody can remember why. Humanity has retreated underground, save for Espers, humans who are immune to the dust storms causing everyone else’s amnesia, instead gaining supernatural abilities due to their exposure. Phantom Dust was published by Microsoft Game Studios in Japan and all but sent to die in the west with a limited release straight to bargain bins. Hopefully the remake gets the attention it deserves. Phantom Dust, an Xbox One exclusive, does not have a release date yet.

The Division, Ubisoft’s much anticipated open world online multiplayer action game was originally scheduled for release this year. After a disappointing push back to 2015, it was refreshing to see promise in this year’s E3 demo. Now that we see exactly what Ubisoft is working on, there’s little reason to be hesitant. Tom Clancy’s The Division hits Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC in 2015.

Not much yet is known about the final new IP shown at Microsoft’s event, Scalebound, other than it is exclusive to Xbox One and it’s vein developed by Platinum Games, the studio responsible for The Wonderful 101, Bayonetta 2, and Metal Gear Rising: RevengeanceThe trailer hit notes of being Monster Hunter for adults and seems to hint at some sort of multiplayer component. No release date has been set.

Finally, Crackdown. Crackdown is coming back, guys. Crackdown, the awesome open world super cop game you got for free when you bought the Halo 3 beta in 2006 is hitting next-gen. Crackdown doesn’t have a release date yet, but it will be an Xbox One exclusive and hopefully will be much better than the critically panned Crackdown 2 released in 2010.

Microsoft had its work cut out for it going into E3 2014. With a slew of exclusives and a corporate head held high with class, I’d say that Xbox One owners were certainly given a reason to look forward to the next 18 months. After a rough launch window, a solid performance at this year’s E3 was precisely what the house that Bill built needed and they certainly delivered on that front.

Now give me Crackdown.

 

Mike is a writer and editor for geekoutpost.com. He also enjoys playing video games, drawing unicorns, playing games about unicorns, drawing unicorns playing video games, and reading comic books. Sometimes about unicorns.

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