E3 2013: announcements from Microsoft’s press conference

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Microsoft kicked off E3 2013 with a highly-anticipated press conference where they showed off their catalog of games for the Xbox One. Did their announcements match our expectations? Or was there something even more surprising? Join us as we take a look at Microsoft’s plans and share some of our impressions.

Microsoft Conference

Snake unleashed

The press conference opened with a game we discussed in our earlier predictions: the next installment of Konami’s tactical espionage series, Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain. What Konami showed at the conference was nothing short of spectacular.

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Set in an open world full of changing weather and a multitude of ways to sneak around – our hero started riding a horse, but also hid in a moving jeep, and hijacked an enemy tank – this new Metal Gear Solid brings us to an open world without losing any of the series’ key essence. The demo included the franchise trademarks, such as stealth gameplay and dramatic cut scenes that showed the return of classic characters such as Revolver Ocelot.

The graphics were superb, leveraging the improved Fox Engine, which makes great use of the Xbox One’s hardware. The Phantom Pain was a great start to the conference, but what else did Microsoft have to showcase?

Xbox 360 lives on

Although the Microsoft conference focused on the new games for the Xbox One, the Xbox 360 was still kicking with a little bit of life. Even with the Xbox One coming later this year, the previous generation system is still getting some love.

Microsoft promised that Xbox Live Gold members will receive two free games, much like Sony has done with PS Plus. Starting in July, Gold members can select from a number of games, including Halo 3 and Assassin’s Creed 2. The games are on the older side, but who could refuse free games?

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As for new Xbox 360 games, Microsoft reminded us of the upcoming releases Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy 13, Batman Arkham Origins and, of course, Grand Theft Auto V. Like previous years, Rockstar didn’t show anything at the press conference. However, trailers were shown for a console version of World of Tanks, new platformer Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, and the hardcore role-playing game Dark Souls 2.

Action everywhere

ryse_sons_of_romeThe conference soon switched back to Xbox One games, the first among them being Ryse: Son of Rome, an action game with brutal melee attacks similar to Gears of War. It was rather refreshing to see a game set during the Roman Empire, rather than the typical futuristic, fantasy, or modern military settings.

However, if you still want over-the-top action, you’ll love the new Killer Instinct. Unfortunately, this reboot of the popular fighting game series is being developed by Double Helix instead of Rare, the original design company. Rare would seem to be busy making Kinect games.killerinstinct

The final action game shown among this trifecta was Sunset Overdrive, a colorfully designed game filled with skaters facing against infected zombie monsters. While it did look nice, it mostly reminded us of a combination of two Valve games, Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2. Our personal impression is that Sunset Overdrive would fit better on the 360, not on a next-gen system such as the Xbox One.

Forza speeds by

Forza MotorSport 5 was the next game to appear, and our suspicions were true. The driving simulator contains extreme realism, something seen in the design of each car, beautiful tracks, and high-speed driving. The demo highlighted the multiplayer aspects and the fact that the franchise appeals to a wide audience of driving enthusiasts.

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High-definition block pixels

Not every game for the Xbox One requires extreme graphic improvements. Microsoft was happy to show off an Xbox One version of Minecraft, which retained its nostalgic pixelated design. In fact, the graphics and gameplay looked exactly like the Xbox 360 version, which leads us to wonder who exactly would bother buying it? The game will include some larger maps, and better online support for multiplayer. Minecraft is already a success on Xbox 360 and it it looks like Microsoft wants to repeat the sales on Xbox One.

Quantum Break will stop everything

QuantumBreakQuantum Break, the most mysterious game preview for Xbox One, was shown and revealed new information. Developer Remedy Entertainment went on to state that watching the TV show would strengthen the connection to the game, and playing the game would personalize the TV show. Sounds far-fetched, but we’ll have to wait to see.

Xbox One has its own LittleBigPlanet

project_sparkEnjoy LittleBigPlanet? Then you may like the next-gen game Project Spark, which mimics some aspects of MediaMolecule’s PS3 franchise. In Project Spark, you can create your own world, share it with others, and play it in many ways like you can in LBP. Unlike other titles, the game will have full Kinect support. We’re a little concerned that the target audience might not be interested in such a feature, however.

SmartGlass Gameplay

A few games such as Project Spark and Forza 5 have the ability to enhance gameplay with the use of SmartGlass. The app connects your tablet to Xbox One, allowing you to check game progress, play mini-games, and help out other players. It sounds interesting, but how many will actually use this feature? It sounds like it has some similarities to the Wii U, and hopefully Microsoft won’t treat it like a straight clone.

Even more surprising games

At this point the Microsoft press conference was mainly showing games that we had already predicted, lacking real surprise. That soon changed when Capcom revealed Dead Rising 3. The game was met with applause from the audience, as many didn’t expect it to be so different and/or ready to showcase.

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The game contains a new location, an entire city with a much freer open world. The main character, Nick Ramos, is more agile, stoic, and serious than his predecessors. We wonder what’s behind the shift in attitude. Is it to attract a new audience? Fans of the franchise are used to the goofy antics of Frank West and Chuck Greene. Will they also feature in this grittier sequel?

The most mature game shown was The Witcher 3, previously announced for PC months ago. As with The Witcher 2, it was expected to come to consoles, although it’s refreshing to know it will be much sooner and include the spectacular gameplay and feeling of important player choices.

Get your war on

battlefield4While many might have been overjoyed for zombies or roleplaying, many more were even more excited for Battlefield 4. The gameplay demo highlighted the Frostbite 3 graphics engine, showing that Activision and Call of Duty: Ghosts will have steep competition. The presentation at the Microsoft conference wasn’t without technical issues, but EA showed a follow up multiplayer demo at their own press conference later that day.

The gold standards

After the adrenaline buildup from Battlefield 4, the presentation showed a calmer character. A wanderer draped in rags walked aimlessly through a desert, when suddenly a monster burst from the ground. The traveler isn’t some new hero, actually revealing himself to be Master Chief, confirming that a Halo exclusive is coming to Xbox One. It’s not called Halo 5, and we don’t know the setting or timeframe, but we’re sure that Halo fans are ravenously excited that Master Chief will arrive on Xbox One.

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The show was wrapped up with footage of Titanfall. It’s an exclusive for Xbox One developed by Respawn.  At first glance, it looks like another futuristic shooter, complete with robots and armored soldiers. What we also saw was new exciting gameplay, showing unexpectedly swift action.

Xbox One hits this November

Xbox One and its laundry list of games will hit retail worldwide this November. While we are excited by some announcements, such as Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain, Dark Souls 2, and Dead Rising 3, we’re still skeptical about other titles. Worse yet, these games aren’t even exclusive to the Xbox One!

Unlike Sony, Microsoft wasn’t transparent about second-hand games and cost issues, giving many gamers a bad feeling. For now, we’ll have to concentrate on the good aspects of the Xbox One, and discover any problems as they are revealed. Hopefully we’ll get hands-on time with the Xbox One and its games soon. Until then, check back for all the latest coverage of E3 2013.

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