Microsoft have kicked off E3 in as-ever hotly-debatable style. Their 90 minute press conference revealed more of what we really wanted to know about the Xbox One, and then some. Here, below, is your rapid-fire conference round-up.
The show kicked off with an extended look at Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain. Featuring glimpses of Kiefer Sutherland’s voice acting, horse riding and open-world vehicular roaming not unlike Battlefield, Kojima’s latest effort is shaping up unsurprisingly well. Major Nelson got so excited that he accidentally tweeted that the game is an Xbox One exclusive. Which it isn’t.
Kojima on stage now to open the show and announce that the next Metal Gear Solid V is exclusive to #XboxOne
— Larry Hryb (@majornelson) June 10, 2013
Before further delving into the world of the Xbox One, Don Mattrick unveiled a brand new, shrunken Xbox 360 inspired by the divisive looks of the new console. Xbox Live Gold members are also being treated to a PlayStation Plus style monthly gift of free games, starting with…Assassin’s Creed II. Hugely popular PC vehicular combat title World of Tanks is also hitting 360, as is From Software’s bastard-hard Dark Souls II.
Returning the focus to Xbox One, Ryse: Son of Rome was announced as a console exclusive launch game set during the times of the Roman Empire. Initially a bastard child of Microsoft’s initial Kinect offerings the game has been reborn in the mould of God of War, complete with painfully liberal helpings of Quick Time Events. Killer Instinct was also revealed to the delight of positively tens of people.
If you ever questioned where FUSE‘s personality went, Insomniac delivered an answer in the form of Sunset Overdrive, a ballsy and chunkily styled combo shooter in the vein of Total Overdose.
Forza 5 turned up with graphics so real you would swear a car was on stage – that, or there was a car on stage. Recalling Driveclub‘s amazingly festishistic showing at Sony’s PlayStation Meeting in February, Turn10 went into excruciating detail describing the leather, the paint and even the air surrounding the game’s cars. They then debuted Driveatar, an adaptive cloud-based system which refines the artificial intelligence of the game’s opponents based on players’ combined driving styles. It can even drive for you having learnt how your style, winning races and gaining XP when you’re out. And presumably stealing your friends and significant other having replicated you so well.
Microsoft are very proud of their efforts to help indies (the Indie Games section of the 360 Marketplace is, naturally, a great example of this, if you can find it). They’re so proud, in fact, that they’re helping a fledgling indie studio bring a title to Xbox One – Minecraft! Microsoft’s indie pedigree is so great that Notch took to Twitter to rebuke them for not helping smaller teams.
Not sure if we're the type of indies that require support. They could do SO much more. 🙁
— Markus Persson (@notch) June 10, 2013
Remedy Entertainment turned up as they did last month with Quantum Break, demonstrating a real-time demo of a scene stuck in time. Giving away snippets of plot detail – malevolent forces at work, the ability to move around when time has stopped – it looked very pretty indeed. Microsoft also, very smugly, announced that Swery65 (Deadly Premonition) is working on a new game entitled D4.
Beginning the push with SmartGlass, the second-screen app available on every mobile device under the sun, Microsoft rolled out Project Spark. A cross between LittleBigPlanet and Black and White – thus far – the game allows players to rapidly create a world using their tablet or phone and then use their controller to populate the world and give it AI, turning a beautiful landscape into a playable challenge. Details were scant but creating worlds looked very, very simple – no LBP microchips and logic switches – and it looked pretty interesting. One to try out as soon as possible.
Microsoft continued to push SmartGlass, showing how you can use a second screen to compare stats with friends across games and even matchmake multiplayer games whilst you play something else. Switching from RYSE to Killer Instinct, the live demo went on to show real-time Twitch.TV streaming and the ability to capture and upload short highlight snippets of gaming moments – less Let’s Play, more Codemasters-style highlights as seen in GRID 2 and DiRT Showdown. Worryingly, it wasn’t shown if you could instantly resume where you left off in RYSE.
Real currency and account sharing are coming to Xbox Live Gold subscriptions on Xbox One, allowing other users on your console to play online multiplayer even if they aren’t signed in as you. This news was followed by console exclusive Dead Rising 3. Capcom’s zombie franchise has evolved into a full-on open-world game complete with a sense of real freedom: houses can be broken into and their items used as weapons, and the zombies litter the streets in their hundreds. Cars are also introduced as a way of getting around and Smartglass devices can be used to call in airstrikes and other support, presumably among other unannounced features. Also going open-world is The Witcher 3, which promises more than 1000 hours of gameplay and a metric ton of non-linear quests. The Elder Scrolls has some serious competition.
Following a total audio failure during a trailer for Crimson Dragon, Battlefield 4‘s demo got off to a delayed start as the audio cut out again. (Really hoping Microsoft’s network guys are better than their sound guys.) Once the demo was up and running Frostbite 3 really shone, showing off amazing lighting effects and slick animations along with real-time level deformation. The aircraft carrier the demo was set on splintered and split in two as the player ran through, sending planes tumbling into the ocean and disintegrating into several very pretty pieces. Worryingly, a Backspace key button prompt was prominent during the demo – was this really running on an Xbox One?
In an awkward moment of “Why didn’t they mention this before,” Swords and Sworcery EP champions Capybara revealed their new project, Below. It’s a properly intriguing rogue-like and looks like a serious reason to consider the console. Equally mysterious in its showing is a project by Black Tusk Games. The twenty-second demo featured a Sam Fisher type rappelling down the side of a skyscraper and disarming a would-be assailant. Little else to say for now…
Halo turned up in as-ever bombastic form, featuring Master Chief roaming the desert in a cloak for no apparent reason. Unless his protective armour needs protecting. Or something. Either way, he’s turning up on Xbox One next year.
Microsoft ended the conference as wisely as they could: following up bad news with more of the good stuff. The bad news is that price: $499 in the US, €499 in Europe, and £429 in the UK. Or, in dollars, the US $499, Europe pays $661.62 and the UK pays $668.40. Which is, to use an economic term, Beyond Ridiculous. Still, at least we got to see Respawn’s new game Titanfall! Vince Zampella rolled up to show off the mech-flavoured shooting game which features you being thrown around a lot and exploding stuff as you do so. Bang bang shooty shooty happy crowd.
But there’s no ignoring that price. Microsoft’s E3 conference has been their best in years but after events like the Kinect’s first showing that’s not saying much. The Xbox One’s second showing was blissfully Kinect and TV-free and the gaming line-up looks delicious.
However, the elephants in the room – that price and the omnipresent threat of DRM – were brushed over, and a couple of pot shots at Sony in the form of indies and video sharing came across a little flat. Time, and the chance to get hands on with the machine, will be the judge of whether Microsoft has judged this generation properly.
Watch all of the trailers from the press conference in our video section on the front page.