Microsoft reveal a bunch of games while refusing to discuss always-online or second-hand trading.
By Tim Colwill on June 11, 2013 at 1:52 am
The initial reveal of the Xbox One as a glorified television remote and Bing-searching device left many gamers dissatisfied, and the follow-up punch of learning that you couldn’t trade your games, go offline, or disconnect your Kinect knocked them flat. The Xbox One was dead in the water before it began.
Microsoft saw the dissatisfaction. They saw the anger. They drew themselves up to their full height and decided that this E3, they’d do whatever it took to get gamers back on board.
And so it came to pass, that an hour before the conference was due to begin, Microsoft announced their partnership with Doritos and Mountain Dew.
To Microsoft’s credit, this year’s E3 showing was (as they promised it would be) “all about the games”. To their discredit, also, because the one thing that many were hoping would be addressed — the egregiously restrictive always-online policies and locked-down trading/selling/system — was not discussed at all. So if you’re here looking for answers on that front, I’m afraid all we have for you is a series of shrugs.
Microsoft chose to open their showing with the announcement of an open-world Metal Gear Solid game: Phantom Pain. The footage we saw had a very Red Dead Remption feel, with Snake riding on horseback through the desert, as well as jumping into tanks, jeeps and other vehicles and navigating through real-time weather conditions.
As somebody who doesn’t follow Metal Gear Solid very much I still found it quite visually impressive and some of the stealth elements looked neat, but the game kind of lost me when it introduced a sniper named “Quiet”, who is apparently “deprived of her words” and also her shirt because her (and Kojima’s) idea of appropriate battlefield dress is an enormously revealing bikini. Video games, everybody!
Hardware updates and old PC games
Don Mattrick took the stage afterwards, to announce that the old 360 console would be updated with a modern look and feel “based on the Xbox One”. That’s right — my old, white 360 is now set to become even more outdated as Microsoft release a third iteration on the 360 console. The new model is supposedly available as of today, but we don’t have any Australian pricing for you just yet — expect confirmation tomorrow.
Microsoft’s next big announcement is that World of Tanks is coming to the Xbox One, which probably wasn’t the best thing to open with as it launched on the PC literally three years ago and isn’t exactly known for being a graphical powerhouse. Nevertheless, it’s happening — and so is Minecraft, with Microsoft saying that the new version of the game will feature “bigger maps” and “expanded multiplayer” — in other words, all of the things that PC gamers have been enjoying since forever. I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be so snarky right out of the gate. Let’s try again.
Shifting gears, Microsoft unveiled some footage of Dark Souls 2, and it’s looking good. They’re really playing up the hardcore aspect here, and the visuals we’re seeing here are leaps and bounds above its predecessor. We also get a look at something called RYSE: Son of Rome, which is a third-person over-the-shoulder beat-em-up in a very similar vein to God of War, except, apparently, with the ability to form up into formations with other Roman Legionaries and throw pilums at people. It looks intensely pre-scripted and cinematic in the current action-game style, and quite violent — probably a contender for an R18+ rating later this year. It also uses what we’re assured is “the latest CryEngine”.
Rareware make their first big return to their roots since being picked up by Microsoft, with the announcement that Killer Instinct will launch with the Xbox One. We also get a look at Insomniac’s next title: Sunset Overdrive, which looks like somebody made a game out of a Fanta commercial while on LSD. Microsoft then flips to the next Forza game, whose most actually new feature is probably something they’re calling the “driveatar”, a driving avatar (yes, great pun everybody) which learns how you drive and mimics you so that can ‘be played against’, effectively, while you’re offline doing things such as working or studying.
Xbox One exclusives
The team behind Alan Wake, Remedy, also unveil their next title Quantum Break. It apparently follows the adventures of a “desperate hero who has survived a science experiment that broke down time, causing it to stutter and freeze”, which in practice means some totally sweet-looking scenes where time moves back and forth and pauses for dramatic effect. Hopefully Remedy can find the time to bring this one to PC once Microsoft lets them out of their contractual headlock, because it could look really nice.
Moving away from games for a bit to talk about the things you can do with games, Microsoft show off some of the new features of the Xbox One’s architecture such as the ability to edit and upload footage capture automatically during gameplay, as well as inbuilt Twitch.tv integration. Also announced, to great acclaim from the audience, is the removal of Microsoft Points — finally! — and their replacement with real money. The company also announces that you’ll be able to share multiplayer access across the console, allowing one person who has paid for Gold memebership to share it with any other users on the same box. Of course Nintendo, Sony and PC gamers don’t have to pay money to play online, but it seems to be working out for Microsoft so let’s just let it go. Sorry, I got snarky again. Forgive me.
Back to the games. Panzer Dragoon fans are treated to some footage of Crimson Dragon, the new game from the creator of the first one, and then we move onto Dead Rising 3. In the vein of every other announcement tonight it, too, is an open-world game, and features a new hero by the name of Nick Ramos who appears to actually have a mullet. Quite frankly it’s about time that gaming was brave enough to embrace the mullet, and such a combat-ready hairstyle seems to be necessary as Nick jumps about the place and hijacks cars, plowing through crowds of the undead. We’re assured that “With the addition of SmartGlass you’ll have unique ways of dealing with the zombie outbreak,” which we’re shown by… calling in a massive artillery strike that sends plumes of zombies flying and fills the screen with fire. How does it all work? It’s not explained! We’ll try and find out for you.
Witcher 3, BF4 and other cross-platform goodness
We’re then joined on stage by a man from CD Projekt RED, who shows us The Witcher 3 running at 60FPS in DirectX 11. It’s looking good, and will doubtless look even better on PC. The same goes for Battlefield 4 which, despite some technical hiccups which nearly saw the whole demo cancelled, eventually goes on to showcase another level from the single-player campaign. As everyone around the world scratches their head in confusion, DICE shows some impressive traversal of a maritime level, with the player making their way through a sinking ship under fire from enemy cannons, breaking apart in front of you. It’s all very cinematic and gorgeous as hell, but it’s just not multiplayer, and in all honestly it basically looks like a distilled concentrate of every military FPS from the last five years. We’ll have the video up for you as soon as we can.
There’s only a few more games left in the lineup, and one of them is another Halo title — it’s just a teaser movie at this point, and shows Master Chief trudging through the desert wearing a cloak for some reason, and then pressing a button and summoning an enormous winged robot thing. All very exciting, but ironically not anywhere near as exciting as the reveal of something called Below, a beautiful hand-painted survival roguelike from Capy Games. Hopefully Below can be freed from the exclusivity clutches of Microsoft at some point, because it looks rather delightful. See footage of it here.
Titanfall explained in detail
Finally, we’re treated to Titanfall — the first game from Respawn and the answer to “What have you been doing ever since you left Infinity Ward?!”. The gameplay footage we see shows clearly that the on-foot side of the multiplayer gives you immensely improved freedom over piloting a mech, with sweet wall jumps and jetpack-assisted leaps the order of the day. It seems that you have to wait for a countdown to expire before your mech suit is ready for ‘Titanfall’, meaning that the first minute or so of most games will be scrappy on-foot combat.
Once the suit lands, you can jump into and out of it at anytime, and naturally the heavier firepower of the mech makes it ideal for tougher situations such as breaking into capture points. However, we’re also treated to scenes of grouped on-foot players working together to take down a mech, and a lovely scene where a player ejects from a critical mech, parachutes into the air, and then lands on top of an enemy mech and being spraying its ‘brain’ with assault rifle fire. It looks neat, and is confirmed for PC as well as Xbox One. We’ll be speaking to Respawn later in the show, so stay tuned for the details of our chat with them.’
Finally, Microsoft reveals the price — and it’s quite reasonable, costing less than the Xbox 360 did on launch. The US RRP is $499, while Australians are set to pay $599, according to Kotaku (UPDATE: Confirmed to us by Microsoft PR). The exchange rate doesn’t work out of course, but when does it ever? We can expect the Xbox One in November of this year.
That’s all for the Microsoft conference — the EA one is set to begin in just half an hour at 5:30 AM AEST. See you there!