Microsoft E3 2016 – Xbox Conference Rundown

Halo-Wars-2-trailer-battle

There is only one event every year that geeks hold their breath the entire year round waiting for. And that’s Comic Con. Okay, and maybe Blizzcon, Penny Arcade Expo, Game Developers conference, and more. I’m sorry, did I say one event a year? The impact E3 makes on gaming seems to be growing smaller (some would call that shrinking) , and the conference no longer seems to have the influence it once did. This couldn’t have been made any more clear than the year when Nintendo announced they would not be showing up to the convention (Though their digital live stream seemed a lot like having their cake and eating it too).

I read an article on theverge.com by Chris Plante that suggested in the console wars of convention conferences, Sony had arguably won every year since 2013. I wouldn’t agree with that in the slightest, in fact I quite preferred the Xbox One conferences of recent past to Sony’s adherence to old ways and frankly consumer disrespecting greedy customer service. How they continue to vastly outsell Xbox when every decision they make seems to be on how they can squeeze more money out of their audience is beyond me. This year I might be more inclined to give Sony the win, however, with their more impressive line-up of attractive exclusives, as one generally sees when a console vastly outsells another. That said, Microsoft’s conference wasn’t at all bad when judged on its own merits or even in comparison to the rest of E3. They came out with some strong showings, proving that it will never be said that Microsoft lost the console generation. They just won less.

Xbox Slim

Before the conference everyone thought it was inevitable Sony would announce a new console. PS4.5, it would be an incremental improvement that would make our games slightly better looking without actually moving us to the next generation (Probably for the best, as this generation of consoles is about as old as the milk in my fridge). Funny then that Sony ended up introducing no new consoles, and Microsoft introduced us to two.

They opened up their Microsoft conference by discussing the Xbox One Slim. As with any other slim model it’s smaller than the Xbox One, and cheaper to produce for Microsoft, but other than that it is the same machine. Just don’t expect to use Kinect with it, because you’ll need an extra dongle that uses up a USB slot.

Cross Buy and Cross Play

Microsoft announced a push for cross -buy and cross-play, an initiative in which if you buy a game, such as the upcoming Gears of War 4, you get it not just for the Xbox One, but for Windows 10 PCs as well, free of charge. Beyond that, the games will support cross play in which you can play against PC people from your Xbox. This is a feature already introduced to Rocket League, and I look forward to a growing inclusive community. Next we need to get cross-play with Sony, starting perhaps with GTA Online. And share exclusives while were at it, until finally we have console parity. Or if you rather we could keep fighting this war forever.

Gears of Wars 4

The game looked good, if a little by the numbers. The storm was impressive, with winds throwing corpses past the camera. That said, with many of the same enemies it felt almost too much like the same Gears I already know.

They did showcase a new weapon, a buzzsaw that launches saw blades that bounce off walls to gruesomely dismember your foes. It felt a lot like weapons I’d seen used in Dead Space, and I hope it shows up a lot in multiplayer to encourage some fun experimentation. Also the old man Marcus was a welcome reveal, though it’s led to an amusing meme I saw online once and could never find again suggesting Gears of War and Sony’s God of War should cross-over for the game Grandfathers of War. As long as they let me play as Ramm I’ll buy that game too.

Forza Horizon 3

Sometimes I wonder. You can take good music, make some pretty cars drive around on some roads in front of an imaginary camera, and suddenly we’re supposed to be excited for your new racing game. It’s amazing how grating the blatant marketing and advertising is all over this conference. Not that there isn’t positive things you can take from the live game demo. The cross play co-op seems to work seamlessly in such a way that it sort of reminded me of what the Burnout people tried to accomplish with Burnout Paradise. Sure these folks might have a better chance at success. That said, I cant help but look back at Forza Horizon 2. It really wasn’t that long ago that the game got released, not at all. And it had been a lengthy enough game to grate at me before I ever came close to finishing it, and in the end I never did.

The environments did look pretty and varied, and it will be nice exploring the unique climates of the Outback. It’s a setting immediately more compelling than the generic European open fields of Horizon 2. That alone might be enough to make this open world driving simulation worth checking out.

Recore

This game has yet to sell me on why I should care about it, and Microsoft didn’t seem too concerned with trying. The trailer we were given shows much we hadn’t already seen, and the random animation moments seemed to be trying to give the game an artistic deep slant, when everything about the gameplay screams Just Cause with robots. There’s nothing there to give me a sense that I should care about any of the characters, or that there’s any emotional plot worth latching onto. And without that, I’ve got other single player games better worth of my time. Like the conspicuously absent new Deus Ex.

Final Fantasy XV

I’m a huge fan of the Final Fantasy Franchise, having played the games since the Super Nintendo days back when I was a kid. Despite that, I’ve been overly critical of this game since its release. I actually enjoyed Final Fantasy XIII for the most part, being invested in these games mostly for the story meant that I was unbothered by the linearity of the game. Square Enix really shot themselves in the foot with that game though, including a minimap that made no attempt to hide that every environment in the game was one big hallway with pretty lights and huge vistas around it.

Immediately the past looks at THIS game have come across as not very Final Fantasy to me.  It has occurred to me over this E3 that one of the biggest staples in the franchise is how different each game is from each other, and in that way I’m starting to be swayed on this game. Certainly the shot where he blocks the titan’s blade with his sword was absurdly impressive. Personally, though, I think it was a bad fight to show. I saw some footage from the floor, where they were fighting a smaller boss and it gave a much better impression of how the fluid combat would work. They were throwing a large sword back and forth between the player and non-player characters, and the player was pulling out a spear that he was throwing across the field to stick into a tower, and then he’d teleport across the fight to the tower, and start casting spells while hanging there. It looked far more impressive than the on-stage demo where they just seemed to stumble around and take a lot of damage for a couple minutes. Also what was with the battle music sounding almost exactly like the Elder scroll’s theme, specifically from the Skyrim menu. All the chanting, and many of the exact same notes and progression. Someone should have said something by now.

The Division

This game is already out but they have some DLC coming, and a snazzy music video to fool us into wanting to play it. And now I shall say all there is to say about that.

Next.

Battlefield 1

I’m getting tired of seeing the first 30 seconds of this game’s trailer. They showed it twice at EA’s conference, then again at this one, and then more times on stage demos and in montages. And it makes just no sense, and is cut together so you can’t tell what the hell is going on or if the shots are even remotely connected. Some people yelling in a tank. Some people shooting their guns. There’s a bird for some reason, and it’s gonna kill them all apparently. Then some guy gets shot close to his ear, and some moustached guy says some bullshit. What does any of this have to do with our experience in the game, and why is it taking so much of this trailer?

And from there it gets pretty good. I love biplanes a lot. And zeppelins. You have me there. The horses are cool, but really they could have always given Poland horses in World War 2. I just hope after this one, we might actually get a World War 2 Battlefield again. I’d even love to see some of the same maps. No all the same maps. And new ones. But anyway, Battlefield 1’s setting looks like a fun change in pace. Bring on Biplanes!

And Zeppelins!

Clubs, Looking for Group, Arena

Microsoft took a break from games to announce a ton of random social features, most of which seemed superfluous. Of the three announced, I think Looking for Group might be the most interesting, but other specific types of people might get use out of Clubs and Arena.

Minecraft

Released for quite a while, Minecraft has been able to hold onto it’s popularity for years now. They came back to E3 this year to announce their Friendly Update. It seems Minecraft, like the Xbox itself, will be getting all kinds of new social features like persistent dedicated servers and cross play. Personally I’m still waiting for Infinite worlds on Xbox One, or did they add that sometime while I was blinking. They talked about playing with Xbox One players on their iPad and getting an Xbox achievement on their iPad. What they didn’t say was which features that they showed were actually available that day with the friendly update, and which were delayed until fall or even next year. It seems like it was more than they implied.

Inside

[Editor’s Note: This is one of the titles that we have been waiting for years to play. Even though Playdead didn’t show much during E3, the other gameplay trailers previously released had us super excited. From what we see, it’s looking like another dark adventure, that will be a puzzle solving platformer masterpiece. We are super psyched about Inside, and be sure to look for a review of this title on XboxExclusive.com soon!]

The creators of Limbo had something to show, but it felt a whole lot like nothing. It was clear the game would have a similarly abstract quality to it, but the random rooms it showed with people going about their day didn’t seem to illuminate much on what the player is going to be tasked with accomplishing. Maybe it was all they’d made of the game so far. At least, in their credit, they apparently have until June 29th.

Other Indie Titles

I’ve heard great things about Stardew Valley on other platforms, and think it should be worth checking out for anyone a fan of Animal Crossing, Harvest Moon, or Minecraft. I also saw Cuphead, looks adorable but hard plus we’ve known about it for years, and a couple other games that looked more interesting at least than Cuphead. Who was that man on the moon, and can it be me?

We Happy Few

Now this is a trailer I like. It’s unclear if what we are seeing is REALLY live gameplay, or if it’s pre-rendered, but the story canvas that it paints is beautiful and exciting to both my girlfriend as well as myself. Not all the details were revealed, but it seems like you’ll be in a world where everyone is high on some kind of Joker-like drug giving people hallucinations that convince them the horrible things they are doing are really joyful things, like beating up a Pinata, but it’s really a rat and now those people are eating its guts like candy. Get me out of here!

Great, now when can I go back in? Ah yes, July 26th on Xbox Game Preview.

Gwent

I think this game has better chances than Elder Scrolls Legends so at least it has that going for it. I think Elder Scroll Legends is far too similar to Magic the Gathering, or Hearthstone, or Pokemon, or Yu Gi Oh. Any fan of these kinds of card games would far rather play any of those, and then all you have left is the Elder Scrolls fans, but they are all fans of the series for its open world and do anything gameplay. Elder Scrolls has always been a little clunky and generic in its lore, and its lore is about the only thing Legends will share with the other games.

I could care about as little for that as I could for Gwent, though their play styles are actually quite different, and I say that after spending quite a fair time on the game in Witcher 3 proper. I can see why people would become huge fans of it to the point of making their own physical decks, but personally I’d be perfectly fine if I never played another hand of Gwent ever again. Hopefully for them that’s just me and my Attention Deficit Disorder.

Tekken 7

The second time I watched this trailer I tried to comprehend what was going on in that cutscene as best I could, but I just couldn’t do it. The scripting is so dumb that I suppose it’s meant to be deliberate. But my god, I couldn’t see the trailer raise a single reason as to why this game should even exist.  And I’ve played a few of the other games. My favourite character is the guy who kicks. Hwoarang. I liked having Haiheichi in Soul Caliber. I just don’t understand how they think they can release trailers like this and think they can sell any units. “Epic Narrative Cinematics” you say? I call bullshit, dude in a robe.

Dead Rising 4

I was one of the people who played Dead Rising 3, the first game on the next generation of consoles, and thought the best improvement the game made over the previous ones in the franchise wasn’t with graphics, or size of the game world, or how many zombies could be rendered at once. Instead, I was just happy they had decided to finally go with a more contemporary control scheme. The previous games were being held back by their archaic gameplay, but for the first time the game could hold up to multiple playthroughs. Too bad I was too busy, I guess bring on Dead Rising 4. This time at Christmas.

Scalebound

The scale was certainly impressive but I felt the textures felt a little off. I also couldn’t really tell how successful the controls were being at mimicing the real life feeling of riding a dragon. I’m guessing not at all, but how would we know? I would suggest anyone excited for this game should curb their enthusiasm, but I could see things to like in what was shown.

Sea of Thieves

I love the co-op features of sailing a pirate’s ship. I had an idea for this game many many years ago (What do you mean who hasn’t?) and I was told time and again that I was crazy for imagining such things and it would never work. Well apparently they were wrong, and I can not wait to try taking the co-op of Sea of Thieves to the next level with the Star Trek Bridge VR game announced in Ubisoft’s conference. Though at least for Sea of Thieves you won’t have to pay for VR.

It did seem like the game would be hard to have fun in without friends, however. I can only hope it allows some kind of splitscreen. It didn’t seem likely. With or without couch co-op, if you can get a bunch of friends together, that naval combat looked pretty gnarly. And if you don’t have any friends, or time to have friends because you’re a loser with a life, well that’s your fault. Our fault.

State of Decay 2

The surviving aspects of the zombie apocalypse are often my favourite aspects of the genre, and I’d choose a focus on that over the exaggerated violence of Dead Rising or Days Gone.

Halo Wars 2

A number of these trailers have done a lot to prove to me that the industry has gotten so good at a certain kind of entertainment. The trailer. There are so many talented filmmakers out there, probably incapable of getting the money or backing to start their own TV show or movie. So they go into editing trailers for video games, and we get trailers like this one, and Forza, and Division. I never played the first Halo Wars, outside of an early demo, but along with this announcement was the release of the open beta for Halo Wars 2, and I played a match of that. I did terrible, of course, as I’m horrible at RTS games. I still like them for some reason, but the open beta left me wanting to play Command and Conquer instead, or even Warcraft after the new movie. If this game does pique your interest, check out the Ultimate Edition which comes with the “Definitive” edition of the first game.

Project Scorpio

The marketing speak they used in the video for the next Xbox console made me want to throw up. It was full of complete nonsense statements about removing barriers boundaries and limitations. They talk about technology fueling art, as if people’s art and creativity were being held back. Microsoft had flourish in the things they said, but were stringent on any sort of specificity. One detail that was dropped was 6 teraflops, which is a technobabble sort of term that means nothing to normal people. A little digging has unearthed that the current Xbox One system has 1.3 teraflops of whatever. If this is true, that DOES sound like a big upgrade. But if Project Scorpio is supposed to be like the Playstation Neo, or PS4.5, then wont it still play the same old Xbox one games, just with upscaled textures? That’s asking a lot from consumers, to buy another console that isn’t even a full generation jump. They say they’re bringing the highest resolution and the best frame rate. What they don’t tell you is how indistinguishable 4K resolutions are from 1080p ones, especially on a TV smaller than 70 inches. It’s like Microsoft is making a rift between the haves and have nots. If you want the best experience, you’ll go out and drop thousands on a 4K TV. You’ll drop another thousand on VR, and another 500 or so on Project Scorpio. Just for “The Best” experience, playing games you could have played on your old system.

Where did these companies get the idea that this was okay? This isn’t another slim machine like we’ve seen in previous generations. The closest comparison would be Nintendo’s 3DS. Just last year they released something called the New 3DS, which is just like the old 3DS, and plays the same games, but its stronger and games look and play better on it. It also has an extra analogue nub that isn’t all that functional. The biggest problem comes from getting games to work for both. Anyone who has heard of Hyrule Warriors has probably heard how it plays great on the New 3DS, and then chugs to the point of being unplayable on the old 3DS. Since when did the other two companies decide to start taking ideas from Nintendo. Of the big three, they’re the closest to complete financial ruin. I live on a minimum wage. I have growing debts, the price of living keeps going up with hands reaching into my pockets from every side, and after 4 years working fast food I’ve never gotten so much as a raise. The job market is incredibly closed to a writer like me, or frankly anyone. We just don’t have the capability to buy into a new console every 3 years.

Has Microsoft and Sony forgotten that we are in a recession? Have they forgotten that Nintendo hasn’t always made the best business decisions, and maybe we shouldn’t be following them into the fire. Just look at how well PlayStation Move performed, Sony’s answer to the Wii. Or what about Microsoft’s Kinect, a device I actually really appreciate. I think it adds a lot to my experience with the interface, and adds a lot of extra functionality to games. I can lean in Battlefield 4 by actually leaning on my couch, call for ammo or reinforcements just by yelling such out loud. The Kinect had such potential to change the way we play games, and I was so excited when it launched with every Xbox, implying we would see it integrated in nearly every game. But then Microsoft went back on that promise, removing the Kinect from bundles. Now that maybe only 10% of Xbox owners have Kinect, it seems we’re doomed to never now get creative uses of the device like we were promised. The dream was destroyed by paranoid schizophrenics who believed the government would use the device to spy on them.

How is Sony and Microsoft going to convince people to buy their new consoles, half way through their console generations, when they have in the past been so bad at selling their supplemental hardware. Only time will tell, and hopefully plenty of it. The longer they wait to release this, the more it will feel like a new fresh experience instead of a way to milk more money out of us.

Andrew Geczy
99geek.ca
Twitter: @AndrewGeczy
Gamertag: WingcommanderIV

Media Collected by: Steve Melanson

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