My personal love for Microsoft is so great that the sophisticated, futuristic intro to their E3 presentation was enough to give me lower back tingles. Granted most of Project Scorpio’s information had been revealed well before the presentation itself, but there was still something impressive about seeing all the individual components performing their intro dance and coming together. I’d also like to point out something I liked from the intro: it wasn’t a guy holding the controller to the “world’s most powerful console,” it was a woman. Thanks, Microsoft. That notion was appreciated.
Phil Spencer is almost always adorably humble when he gets on stage and is greeted by a horde of screaming Xbox fans. However, he always jumps straight to reminding us how he feels about Xbox and what he believes the band stands for. Even more so now with their new juggernaut machine, the Xbox One X (XBX) releasing later this year on November 7. Hearing Kareem Choudhry, the head of software engineering explain what went into the XBX demonstrated its immense potential. They were aiming for power, compatibility and craftsmanship, and they seem to have hit each of these goals. The most important take away from the XBX is that it technically dwarves any other console so far, it rivals PC, it’s their smallest one ever, and it is immediately compatible with all Xbox One games and accessories. I have to admit I’m impressed by the advanced hardware engineering, and I also like that even without a 4K TV, ALL games will look better and load faster. So, in short, it’s exactly what Xbox fans were asking for.
After the XBX reveal, Dan Greenawalt from Turn 10 Studios took us through Forza 7, with the help of two professional drivers: Shan McIntosh and Verena Mei. Wanting to bring so much more to the future of racing on one of the largest online racing communities, Forza debuted Porsche’s newest, most powerful 911 GT as the flagship car of the new game. The 4.8 million active players are going to be thrilled at the recreated driving world, reimagined experiences of the most dynamic and epic Forza yet. With over 700 cars, it’s the most technologically advanced racing game ever, also confirmed to be running at 4K and 60FPS on XBX. It’ll be launching on October 3rd.
4A Games also premiered a clip for an XBX optimised title, Metro Exodus; bringing the game that gave me claustrophobic nightmares into a vast, living world. I can’t say I ever wanted to see these monsters in 4K, but it looks brilliant. If the surroundings affect as much of the game and interact as much as what we’ve seen so far, it will make for an exciting gameplay experience. Another franchise with its next instalment optimised for XBX, this one not as much a secret, was Assassin’s Creed: Origins. I have a love/hate relationship with Ubisoft and Assassin’s Creed. Three of the games are in my favourite games of all-time list, three others are in my rage quit list, and the rest fall somewhere in the middle. While I knew this was coming, it was still exciting to see, and I am looking forward to some new skills, mechanics, and a boss fight with a basilisk. It looks beautiful, and it feels as if they’ve been listening to many of the gripes from the player base. Although, we won’t know for sure until it’s time to play it ourselves on October 27.
Mojang also got on stage to announce a 4K update to Minecraft, which sounded somewhat unnecessary to me, but seeing what it would look like convinced me it’s a venture with potential. It appears to give the entire Minecraft world a sense of life and depth it’s arguably been missing, as well as adding a whole new layer to the player skins, textures, and maps that are coming out. The biggest new addition Mojang had to offer fans is cross-play – it will now be possible for PC, mobile, VR and consoles to play together. A few games from Asian regions such Dragon Ball FighterZ and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds had a sort of segment, too. Both of these games looked impressive enough, but nothing particularly stood out to me. They are, however, a part of the impressive list of exclusives, along with 22 other games presented at Microsofts briefing this year (Although, the term “exclusive” was used rather liberally).
Two of the biggest standout games for me personally were Sea of Thieves and Middle-earth: Shadow of War. Sea of Thieves is a pirate adventure set in a persistent open world and designed to be played with your friends. It’s like it was created to let you live out childhood fantasies, and I can’t wait to play it. There are treasure maps and riddles, ships to plunder, islands and undersea to explore, plus there is the constant threat of other pirates – what’s not to love. Shadow of Mordor was a favourite of mine, so I am expecting a lot from a sequel. While we only saw a vertical slice of the game at E3, it looks to have the potential to be just as brilliant. Bruce, the Australian Orc, was cool, but I’m more interested in the new fortresses, the fact that you can dominate orcs to build an army, and that the nemesis system has grown to the point where a pissed off orc will actively hunt you down. I’m also looking forward to the expanded region too, but we’ll have to wait and see how well it all works together this time when it launches on October 10.
Out of the 42 titles shown on Microsoft’s stage this year, there were a few in particular which caught my eye, including Ashen, Life is Strange: Before the Storm, The Last Night, Cuphead, and Crackdown 3. The biggest surprise for me, however, was Ori and the Will of the Wisps. I have been obsessed with the first game since it came out and regularly check the developer’s pages and store for anything hinted at for a new game. As soon as the composer was on stage and the screens lit up, I knew what it was and got a little choked up. I can make guesses at the story, but it’s so nice to see it’s a sequel and not another prequel. The other surprise was Anthem at the very end of the presentation. It’s a sprawling, persistent open world where you need mechs to get around and is being developed by the team at Bioware who brought us the original Mass Effect Trilogy. At first, it called to mind several other games, but the longer the gameplay demonstration went on, the more drawn into it I was. Some of what we saw included abilities, terrain and events, and while it wasn’t enough to think I had to run out and order the game, I’m keeping an eye on it for now.
The final thing E3 brought us from Microsoft this year was something I didn’t think would happen: backwards compatibility over three generations. There are already 385 titles compatible with the Xbox One family from the Xbox 360, but starting to roll out later this year are titles from the original Xbox. I never thought I’d see this or the fact that these games are going to play and look better on Xbox One. What a time to be alive! In the end, I was happy overall with the amount, and the diversity of games shown, the broad representation, and the fact that Microsoft is still caring about the Xbox family as a whole. ID@Xbox has also brought on many new titles, while Xbox is shifting focus toward new IP internally and have promised a console so epic that I’m feeling satisfied with this year’s offerings. Grade: B