Microsoft E3 2014 Press Conference – Our Impressions

By Chip Tamplin

Published on Sunday, June 15, 2014

There’s no denying that Microsoft botched their E3 press conference horribly last year. I didn’t mind most of the elements they were trying to bring to the table, but their lack of details and disconnect with certain fans left a noticeable rift going into the media-proclaimed “console war”. At the conference, Microsoft had a great opportunity to show off all the great things about the Xbox One, but instead fumbled through an awkward conference that set Sony up for their mic-dropping conference later that night.

It took a few months before Microsoft could start to work their way back from that. They did a full 360 (heh) on most issues that gamers didn’t want, but thankfully stuck to bundling Kinect, despite the increase in price over the PlayStation 4. Thanks to great launch titles like Dead Rising 3, Forza Motorsport 5 and Ryse: Son of Rome, the Xbox One was able to keep themselves close enough to Sony to keep up the fight out of the gate.

A few months ago, Microsoft started hitting on all cylinders and the promotion of Phil Spencer to head up the Xbox brand seemed to be the main reason. Since he took over, Games with Gold (similar to PS+) has been revitalized on Xbox 360 and implemented on Xbox One. Forcing consumers to buy Kinect bundles was also done away with, lowering the price of Xbox One to $399, just like the PlayStation 4. There is also a much bigger focus on the gaming aspect of Xbox One under Spencer, who’s a big gamer himself. While I love the TV and Kinect integration of my Xbox One, I didn’t want to hear anything about either of them at E3. First and foremost I play my Xbox for games and that’s what Microsoft needed to show me.

We’re over six months into the new generation and both consoles are doing a great job so far. Microsoft needed to make a major impact in this years E3 to keep their momentum going and I think they did a great job of it.

 

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – Xbox One, PlayStation 4, 360, PS3, PC:

There’s no denying that the Call of Duty franchise needs a serious boost of creativity. While the sales are still some of the best in the business, the series has become very stale and with each installment the games feel less and less fresh. After they helped finish the multiplayer for Modern Warfare 3, Sledgehammer Games were given the unique opportunity to join the rotation with long time studios Infinity Ward and Treyarch to make Call of Duty games. From the sound of it, they’re not taking the job lightly. While the advanced warfare aspect isn’t exactl new, the technology they use in the game are all in development in real life. While they advance the progress for the sake of the game, they still work.

Everything we saw in the opening trailer was very Call of Duty-esque, but what we saw behind closed doors was what impressed us most. Sledgehammer was nice enough to show us another level of the game, set on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the game looks amazing. Gameplay is fast and quick, especially with the use of the jetpacks to help traverse the environment, but the graphics have made a drastic improvement too. I’m still cautious, but now I’m cautiously optimistic.

Plus…KEVIN SPACEY.

 

Forza Motorsport 5 DLC – Xbox One:

While Forza 5 has been out for over six months now, that doesn’t mean developers Turn 10 Studios will sit back on their laurels. They announced that the iconic racing map Nürburgring will be coming to Forza Motorsport 5 immediately and it will be free.

 

Forza Horizon 2 – Xbox One:

Forza Motorsport 5 was fantastic and Horizon 2 improves on it in conceivably every way. It introduces a full day and night cycle as well as dynamic weather. Forza’s amazing Drivatar AI are back and better than ever. Dedicated servers also allow you to join races instantly, with no lobbies or wait times. Forza Horizon 2 will launch on September 30th, 2014.

We loved Forza Motorsport 5 and we were excited to try out a few races of Forza Horizon 2. I’m terrible at racing games, but I had a blast with the game. As I hopped into the seat of my bright yellow Lamborghini, I started tearing down the track of this coastal highway. As I made my way down, I noticed storm clouds leaving in the distance. As I rounded the corner, I hit a spot of road that had just been hit by a rain storm and my car immediately started losing traction. As I attempted to get used to the new addition of the elements, I couldn’t help but be amazed by the level of detail that Playground Games had incorporated into the game. Forza Horizon 2 is shaping up to be one of the best racing games of the year.

 

Evolve – Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC:

Ever since it was announced, I’ve found Evolve to be one of the most fascinating games on the radar. While multiplayer gaming is bigger than ever right now, the basic concept for Evolve left me a little bewildered as to its practicality. Evolve pits you and three of your friends against one player, who takes control of a large monster (as of publishing this, only two monster styles have been unveiled, but Turtle Rock Studios promises more).

The main premise of the game is that the four players work together to kill the monster while the monster aims to evolve (by killing and eating animals in the world) until it evolves and grows stronger. We had the opportunity to play the game and I was able to be the monster. As I guided the Kraken (the second monster unveiled so far) through the curves of the map, I picked off animals until I was finally able to evolve (for the first of two times you can evolve in-game). After evolving, my health and abilities received a major boost and the developer who was showing off the game to me said I was ready to take on the opposing team. You’re able to spend experience points to boost several abilities each monster has. I chose to get all of them on low power rather than upgrading one to its peak, allowing me plenty of ways to kill the other team. As I rained lightning and wind down on them, I picked them off one by one, starting with the medics. After taking out the medics, I had a limited time to pick off the remainders before their teammates respawned. I was able to do so with a few seconds to spare to win the game.

My first taste of Evolve was definitely fun and the graphics looked amazing on the Xbox One. I’m still going to need to try out the public beta available for Xbox One users this fall, but so far it appears to be living up to its hype.

 

Assassins Creed: Unity – Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC:

We touched on Unity a lot during the Ubisoft press conference, but here’s the world premiere trailer of four-player co-op shown off during Xbox’s event. It looks amazing:

 

Dragon Age: Inquisition – Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC:

Likewise, we already talked about Dragon Age during Electronic Arts’ conference, but here’s another great trailer for Inquisition:

First content will be coming exclusively to Xbox One. Dragon Age: Inquisition launches on October 7th, 2014.

 

Sunset Overdrive – Xbox One:

As I said during Sony’s press conference, I couldn’t believe that long-time Sony studio Insomniac Games was releasing an Xbox exclusive. Sunset Overdrive, the brainchild of the studio that made Ratchet and Clank, looks absolutely amazing. With beautiful bright colors, tons of insane weapons, and parkour style of level traversing, Sunset Overdrive is set up to be one of the most insane games of the year.

We waited in line for about an hour to play the game and it was definitely worth the wait. Teamed up with seven other people, we were made to survive waves of infected as we protect our land. With an arsenal of insane weapons, we began creating havoc in Sunset City. Traversing the environment in the way you see the creators do it in the trailer definitely takes some getting used to, but with an auto-aim reticule, you’re able to get used to it pretty quick. We’ve still got a few months to wait until Sunset Overdrive launches on October 28th, but it’s definitely one of my most anticipated games of the year.

 

Dead Rising 3: DLC – Xbox One:

The Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX + Alpha is probably the greatest DLC name of all time and the fact that it’s more Dead Rising 3 is even better. What’s better than that? It’s available NOW. Dead Rising 3 was easily one of the best launch titles last year and I can’t wait to try this out.

 

Dance Central Spotlight/Fantasia: Music Evolved – Xbox One:

Both games will be coming out this year, with Dance Central Spotlight launching digitally this September. I don’t have anywhere near enough rhythm to play either game, but I watched other people play and both games looked very good.

 

Fable Legends – Xbox One:

I had the opportunity to play a co-op game of this at E3 and I was shocked at just how much I liked it. The graphics were gorgeous and gameplay was crisp and addicting. You’re able to go off by yourself or with a group of friends and explore the world. Someone could also play as the villain, creating all the challenges that the players play through. It’s fantastic.

 

Project Spark – Xbox One, PC:

Project Spark is a game that lets you build your own game. As I stated in the EA conference about Project Spark and the Nintendo one about Mario Maker, I feel like I don’t have the creative mind to truly play Project Spark. Watching some of the developers create a quick level was beyond impressive, but seemed daunting. I will definitely try the game, especially now that Conker will be exclusively in the game, but I’m not sure how right this game will be for me.

 

Ori and the Blind Forest – Xbox One:

Ori is one of the prettiest games at E3, by a landslide. It’s got a captivating story, immersive gameplay and gorgeous visuals. I only played a quick game about halfway through the level, but I’m very excited to try the full version of this game when it launches this fall.

 

Halo 5: Guardians – Xbox One:

Halo 5: Guardians is still almost eighteen months away, but what’s the harm in a quick teaser, right?

 

Halo: Master Chief Collection – Xbox One:

My favorite gaming memories of all time took place on the original Xbox. I’ll never forgot bringing my Xbox over to my friends houses in high school and playing hours of Halo: Combat Evolved via LAN parties on the weekend. There was no Xbox Live at the time, but it didn’t matter. Then we moved on to Halo 2, which I never got to play via Xbox Live, but was amazing to play with friends locally. Halo has been the essence of the Xbox since it launched and Microsoft has no intentions of letting that stop now.

With the Master Chief Collection, you’ll get all four Halo games that feature Master Chief (Halo 1-4, excluding Reach and ODST) in beautiful 1080p running at 60 frames-per-second. Every game will play exactly like it did, but wit the added bonus of better graphics. All four games will ship on one disc and will feature every multiplayer map that ship with each game, equating to around one hundred and ten maps. From the start, everything will be unlocked. You’ll be able to queue up maps to play across each game, seamlessly transitioning between each one. For the first time ever, you’ll be able to play Halo: Combat Evolved’s multiplayer online via Xbox Live. The game will also feature dedicated servers and, for those of you who are achievement whores like myself, the game will ship with 4,000 GS. For an even further breakdown of all the amazing features (and value) of the Master Chief Collection, check out IGN’s amazing preview HERE.

If you buy the game, you’ll also be treated to the Halo original series known as Halo: Nightfall. The live action, digital series has been created in collaboration between executive producer Ridley Scott and Director Sergio Mimica-Gezzan. The series introduces a pivotal new character that leads up to Halo 5: Guardians. We speculate it’s the other Spartan-looking character from the Guardians trailer, but who knows.

The Halo: Master Chief collection will launch on November 11th exclusively for the Xbox One. The Halo 5 beta will also launch this fall, which you’re guaranteed access to if you purchase the Master Chief collection.

 

Inside – Xbox One (timed exclusive), 360, PC, PS3:

Inside, the new game from developer Playdead (the masterminds behind 2010’s Limbo), looks amazing. We don’t know much on its launch window yet, but it will be a timed Xbox exclusive.

 

ID@Xbox:

We were given a great montage of the indie games coming to the Xbox systems over the next year. Many of these will be timed exclusives for the Xbox One. See a trailer in the montage below that interested you? We’ve got you covered! Click on the links below to explore these games further:

Aztez trailer

Cuphead trailer

Earthlock: Festival of Magic trailer

Fenix Rage trailer

Fru trailer

Grave trailer

Hellraid trailer

Hyper Light Drifter trailer

Knight Squad trailer

Lifeless Planet trailer

Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime trailer

Mighty No. 9 trailer

Ndemic Creations trailer

Threes trailer

White Night trailer

Woolfe trailer

 

Rise of the Tomb Raider – Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC:

Crystal Dynamics 2013 Tomb Raider reboot (and the 2014 re-release for Xbox One and PS4) was tied for my favorite game of 2013 along with The Last of Us. I’d never been a big fan of the series prior to that installment, but it was hard not to fall in love with the world that Crystal Dynamics had created. Because it was a reboot, you’re a young and naïve Lara Croft, not the hardened badass we’ve seen in the past. This vulnerability was a key part of the narrative and that’s clearly carried over into Rise of the Tomb Raider. Not much is known yet, but it is believed the game will launch sometime in 2015.

 

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt – Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC:

I never played any of The Witcher games prior, but this game looks absolutely amazing. Developers Projekt Red have repeatedly stated how important the move to next gen consoles has been and so far it seems well worth the wait. Despite another delay, the game is scheduled to release on February 24th, 2015.

 

Phantom Dust – Xbox One:

Phantom Dust was a cult classic that I sadly missed out on playing on the original Xbox. Thankfully, it’s being brought back by Microsoft Studios.

The Division – Xbox One, PlayStation, PC:

As I stated in my article on Ubisoft, The Division is my most anticipated game, by a long shot. Read the article HERE for my full impressions as well as extra trailers and screenshots. The Division launches sometime in 2015.

Scalebound – Xbox One:

Scalebound looks ridiculous. We don’t know much information on it yet, aside from the fact that it will be an Xbox One exclusive.

Crackdown – Xbox One:

Crackdown was one of the staples of the Xbox 360. The first one was amazing and the second left a bad taste in our mouthes. This new iteration of the series looks to make right the wrongs of 2 and restore the series to its original glory.

 

Final impressions:

“Today we showed our commitment to making Xbox One the best place to play games this generation. Thank you for helping us shape the future of the new Xbox.” – Phil Spencer

Mr. Spencer couldn’t have said it any better. Aside from about sixty seconds of talk about the Halo original series, they talked about TV and media less than Sony did, which I don’t think anyone expected. Microsoft managed to throw in some great announcements like Crackdown and Phantom Dust, while also showing their dedication to being more accommodating to indie developers. There were safe bets like Call of Duty, Dragon Age and Fable while adding some fantastic looking exclusives like Scalebound and Sunset Overdrive.

The news on the Halo Master Chief collection was unfortunately leaked a few weeks prior to E3, because bringing that out and dropping it on the crowd would’ve just been amazing. This is absolutely one of, if not the greatest box set in video game history.

Like every other conference at E3, the Microsoft press conference felt a bit too safe and predictable. It was amazing to see their dedication to gaming and I think that Phil Spencer truly has hand in that. The future is looking very good for Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. It’s a great time to be a gamer.

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