The Microsoft E3 Press Conference is historically safe. Of the Big 3, their conference is perhaps the most predictable. Consistent with their teenage boy fantasy marketing, the games announced are usually action-packed AAA titles. You got your FIFAs and Maddens, your multiplayer shooters, your Assassin’s Creeds, your racing sims, and fast-paced action games like Mirror’s Edge Catalyst. These types of games cater to the stereotype of what a modern-day gamer is, and whether or not this approach is shortsighted, it seems to work well enough.
They’re not infallible, however. Perhaps the biggest reason Microsoft tends to be more conservative with their E3 announcements is because their efforts to innovate tend to garner reactions that range from negative to just plain indifferent. Recall the Kinect which was announced ahead of its time or the now iconic 2013 E3 Microsoft Press Conference where they unveiled the shiny new Xbox One complete with DRM restrictions. Their open source game Project Sparked failed to ignite any sort of fire in the crowd, while the new Call of Duty elicited the crowd’s biggest reaction of the day despite it being announced prior to the event. Time has proved again and again that Xbox does best when they stick to what they know. So for E3 2015, did Microsoft stay in the shallow end or did run nose first off the diving board?
The cinematic that opened the show dared to answer that question. Master Chief, Lara Croft, Marcus Phoenix, and some dude from Fable Legends who all appear in Xbox Games coming out later this year gave a generic but rousing speech about greatness or something that ended with a question that seemed to answer my own.
“Will you step or will you leap?”
Here’s the first part of my breakdown of everything Microsoft announced at their E3 2015 Press Briefing
It seems that Microsoft came to play and they invited the world to play with them. Wasting no time, they began with a gameplay demo for Halo 5: Guardians taking the place of what usually is a Call of Duty trailer. Call of Duty: Modern Warfare III didn’t receive as much as a mention at all during their conference, and whether or not that was by choice, it allowed their biggest franchise to take the spotlight.
The demo focused on their new “hero” leading a squad of four through a story mission in a destructible environment that at one point looked similar to a strike on the moon from Destiny. Even the new enemies resembled Destiny’s Vex foes.
Now that the story lovers were satiated, they gave the multiplayer fans something very big to look forward to. Halo 5 Warzone is the series’ first ever challenge based multiplayer team experience where 24 players battle not only each other but AI enemies from the campaign and large bosses as well. Each team races to earn 1000 points before the other which is accomplished by besting a world that is throwing everything at them at once. I’m excited to learn more about that.
Immediately Microsoft followed with a brand new IP featuring a girl protagonist and a robotic dog held together by a blue orb. The dog sacrificed itself to destroy a horde of red-orbed robotic spiders. Sad at the death of her companion, she picks up the blue orb and shoves it into the chest cavity of a rusted bipedal robot leaning against a wall. Immediately the robot reanimated and you can see its personality alive again in its new gorilla-like vessel. Then a title card revealed the game’s name “ReCore”. Literally nothing else was said about the game. While the concept seems very interesting, without any sort of follow-up I’m not inclined to give it any more attention until they give us more details.
Then Phil Spencer announced what gamers have long since given up on: Xbox One backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 games. And it turns out all it requires is for the game’s developer to approve that their games be allowed on Xbox One. With the library of approved games expanding all the time, now the 360 games you already own are playable on Xbox One for free. Spencer was quick to remind people waiting to upgrade from 360 to the One no longer have backwards compatibility as an excuse.
XBOX Elite Wireless Controller
What followed such a hype announcement was one that fell a bit flat. Phil Spencer introduced the world to a beautifully technical updated Xbox controller for Xbox One and Windows 10. Nobody applauded and the trailer way too intense for a controller. If you blinked you missed all the admittedly nifty features.
Fallout 4 was presented by the game’s director Tedd Howard. We were treated to some tasty gameplay and promised a companion app that doesn’t suck. Tedd spoke confidently. Coming off of yesterday’s Bethesda E3 conference, he knew he already had the crowd eating out of his hands. Speaking about Fallout 4 like it was already a critical success, he ended his presentation by announcing that the game would be able to be modded on the Xbox One version of the game. Mic drop. Howard out.
The next presenter, like Howard, Peter Moore wasn’t an Xbox employee either. I started to wonder why nobody from Xbox was promoting their games. Peter Moore representing EA came onstage and mentioned Madden 16 at which point 8 people or less clapped. Moore was there to remind everyone that EA Access existed. For just $4.99 a month, Xbox One owners can have access to a limited selection of EA titles. None of the subsequent information received any response from the crowd. Not the news that Titanfall would be included in the lineup starting today, Dragon Age Inquisition would be made available in a couple of months, and that the service was free to try all week. It took the trailer for Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 to get the crowd to make any sort of noise at all. This part of the conference was the definite low. Unfortunately, Mr. Moore is no stranger to embarrassing himself at E3.
Forza Motorsport 6
The room grew dark and then from the ceiling descended the beautiful ice blue Ford GT. It looked incredibly sexy and then out walked Henry Ford III. Mr. Ford said “Xbox is the home of racing” and everything else he said after that is moot. Xbox always dominated the racing simulator space and that’s not about to change. Forza Motorsport 6 will release later this year.
Dark Souls 3 Teaser
The ensuing teaser for the new installment of Dark Souls caused me to take a second and look back. The games that have been revealed so far have been really diverse. If the conference ended here, it would be fairly decent.