Overall I give Microsoft a C+ on their presentation. There was not much new content nor unexpected announcements in their show, but they did manage to get me mildly interested in two games that I had not really thought about much in the past with Crackdown and Sunset Overdrive. Granted, we had already heard of Sunset Overdrive, but I frankly did not really watch enough of it before, so this was a good addition to the show. The other games we already knew about, and although I want them, they did not add anything to the Microsoft conference since they were already well known.
Microsoft opened their show showing off the latest Call of Duty. Although I am not a Call of Duty fan, I did find the presentation interesting with its Sci-Fi elements. The game seems to take place in a metropolitan area, and the soldiers were sporting some interesting equipment including boosters that allow them to slow their falls from atop of buildings, or leap upwards 15 feet onto objects or platforms. They were also strong enough to rip doors off cars and use the doors as shields against swarms of flying, mechanized doodads. Although this game looks great, I must question Microsoft for opening with a cross-platform game that will sell even without their support. For the most part, this does not help them specifically and it does not give us anything new to be excited about. It’s almost as if Microsoft if being blackmailed into showing this Activision game out of threat of losing exclusive content and Activision support.
The next announcement was actually better for me being a big Forza fan. The Forza team announced the completion of the Nurburgring track. The track is already available and has been released at no cost to current Forza 5 owners. They continued to tell us a little about Forza Horizon 2. I have not played the first Horizon but I do generally prefer the simulation aspects of normal Forza. They did hint something about Drivatars during the Horizon 2 announcement in that they would be available in the game on release. This makes me think that they might be using the Drivatars from Forza 5 in Horizon 2 which is an interesting idea for cross-game functionality.
The next game is Evolve which is a monster hunting game that we already knew about previously. This game has co-op with 4 people fighting the monster plus 1 more player who can play as the monster. We did not know about playing as a monster and I thought that this would be a lot of fun, especially for those who love to troll and grieve people, assuming the monsters are not weak. The game looks great and should be a lot of fun for those who like boss battle type games with the option of co-op and playing as the boss.
Next we saw some Assassin’s Creed: Unity. The game itself does not look any different than any other Assassin’s Creed, but with the addition of co-op online game play. I expect this game to be as good as others in the series with the added perk of playing with friends.
Possibly the most interesting game covered during the conference was Sunset Overdrive, a Microsoft published exclusive. The more I see of this game, the more interested I become. The game is basically a slapstick zombie action-shooter with outrageous controls and guns. You can slide across power lines, bounce off awnings, and pull bazookas out of your backside in midair. If they can perfect the controls to this game then it will have great potential. It’s almost like a mix of Sonic and Borderlands… can’t go wrong with that.
The following two announcements were uninteresting. They covered some silly DLC for Dead Rising 3 which included walking tofu and hadokens. It was not very interesting. Next was an announcement that Dance Central for Xbox One was on its way without showing us any footage. I am actually looking forward to Dance Central because my wife likes those games and they really are good exercise… yes it’s scary, but I have danced to them myself.
Fable Legends was covered with emphasis, yet again, on multiplayer functionality. This time you play with friends and a dungeon master who can control the enemies, design traps, and create environments. I think that multiplayer Fable might be interesting if you can play independently, like in different areas of the world at the same time. This would require a persistent world type save scheme which I doubt will be available here, but I can always hope. The addition of the dungeon master is interesting, however I don’t think there will be very many people who will want to be DM’s most of the time; unless there is a way to save DM made content and make it playable by others via download (like Neverwinter Nights), then I think that this functionality is wasted. Otherwise, I just hope that they did not skimp on the single-player aspects to the game because I think that the majority of gamers will be playing this one solo.
Project Spark is just a modern game making engine. It looks very good in the trailer, but it’s very hard to judge these types of game kits without knowing the fine details. As a game developer, I would not recommend these types of kits unless they are greatly optimized and easy to use for the laymen. Otherwise, you are better off with a real engine like UDK, Unity, or others.
The next big announcement is Halo: The Master Chief Collection is due out on November 11. Most of the information is not new and/or was predictable, such as including all the previous 4 Halo games into one package, and including a remastered edition of Halo 2 along with the already available remastered Halo 1. The big addition, however, is the inclusion of beta keys for the Halo 5: Guardians beta due this December. This will make for a nice gift for any Halo enthusiast, and a good pickup for any shooter fan who has not played Halo before.
We then had a short 3 or 4 minute indie game medley showing off a bunch of games being developed by small studios. This led into the next big game in Tomb Raider: Rise of the Tomb Raider. This game appears to continue where the previous game left off, with Lara dealing with her new found violent side. The previous game was very good and I expect this to be the same, though I am not a big fan of physiologically challenged characters. Then again, I just might be a robot.
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt was covered during the conference, and although I love the Witcher games and look forward to this one, I really don’t understand why a cross-platform game is being featured at the Microsoft conference. We will see plenty of coverage on The Witcher on the show floor and Microsoft really should focus on exclusives and in-house stuff during E3. Regarding the game itself, The Witcher 3 looks fantastic, and they did show some in-game play with Geralt hunting a griffon. They re-emphasized that this Witcher is more open-world than the last 2, which is a big plus for me. They indicated that the game will be out in February 2015, so it will be a while before we can enjoy this game.
The next major feature is an old game that is getting a remake – Phantom Dust. This is a Microsoft exclusive made by the same folks who created Panzer Dragoon on the Saturn, and they didn’t really show much more than a trailer in the conference. The old Xbox game was an action-strategy game and the trailer seems to indicate that this will be similar. I did not play the old game so I cannot say much more on this one.
Tom Clancy’s The Division MMO was the next game shown, and I honestly thought that it looked boring in the game play video. From the game play, it looks like any other team-based shooter, however I will point out that this is supposed to have RPG elements which were not displayed in this conference. Perhaps the RPG elements will add some sophistication to the online world because it will otherwise just be a plain old shooter. The Tom Clancy series of shooters are extremely good, so I would give them the benefit of the doubt.
The last two games are also Microsoft exclusives. Scalebound looks like an action hack-and-slash adventure made by Platinum Games. They really didn’t show much except for a pre-rendered video, so I cannot say much aside from the fact that the hero is using medieval weapons while sporting a headset and music player. This is the same developer that gave us Bayonetta which was also a very well made game, so I expect that this will be at least as good.
Crackdown looks fantastic and was probably the sleeper hit of the day. It was the last game featured in the presentation and showed off the cool, neon-filled, artistic impression of the game. I never played the 1st game, but after watching this presentation I was definitely interested in at least seeing some game play. During the presentation we did watch some video, but I am unsure if that was in-game play or a pre-rendered cut scene. The premise is that you are tasked to take out targets and you are free to do it any way you want. In the video, they showed the player crashing a gas truck into a building, blowing it up afterwards, and allowing the building to domino into another which had the actual, intended target. This looks very cool and I would love to see more, especially if it is a big open-world that is mostly destructible.