gamescom 2014: Microsoft Press Conference

Gamescom gets bigger and better every year and this year has started out as no exception. Now widely regarded as the European E3, this massive convention has cemented its place as one of the biggest events in every gamer’s calendar alongside E3 itself. Following on from yesterday’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare multiplayer reveal, Microsoft kicked us off today with their press conference which they promised would contain exclusives and a few surprises.

The show started with an Assassins Creed: Unity trailer showcasing some gorgeous graphics and giving us a look at Unity’s new assassin, Arno. We got to see some of Arno’s new methods of traversal such as jumping in windows, all new ways to clamber up walls, and new ways to move from obstacle to obstacle. He looks to be more nimble and agile than Ezio or Connor while lacking the former’s inherent cockiness and the latter’s surly demeanour. We also got a brief look at the kind of crowds we can expect to see in Paris (spoiler: bloody big ones), and what looked like a council of Assassins in white robes standing over Arno. All in all it’s looking like this is going to be the most fun game in a while for our robed friends. It is worth mentioning also the wonderfully upbeat piano tune from the trailer.

The head of the German division of Xbox then welcomed us to gamescom and introduced our host for the evening, Phil Spencer. Phil, who always seems more comfortable than any other speakers in front of a crowd, then proceeded with the usual marketing speak you expect at a press conference; “Xbox is the best place to play”, “best multiplayer”, “blah blah blah”. If you’ve heard it once you’ve heard it a hundred times. He did however mention that Xbox One would be coming to twenty nine new markets, starting September 2nd which is great news for Xbox as this should help to boost sales.

Following Phil was EA with some FIFA 15 news for us that once again Ultimate Team Legends will be exclusive to Xbox One, and now has over fifty legends to choose from including newcomers Peter Schmeichel, Sir Bobby Moore, and the Laudrup brothers, to name but a few. Alongside this, Microsoft revealed a new console bundle with FIFA 15 included for €400. This is of course a Kinect-less bundle but still represents a pretty good saving over launch day prices if the Kinect isn’t your thing.

Chris Charla, the head of Microsoft’s ID@Xbox platform was out next to show off some of the indie titles coming to Xbox One. He started things off with a quick montage of games coming first to consoles on Xbox One such as Dungeon of the Endless, Ghost of a Tale, Gunscape, Inside, #IDARB, Speedrunners, and many more besides before going in depth with a few others such as; Space Engineers, which looks like something akin to Minecraft in space, with giant spaceships and dogfighting; SuperHot, a minimalist shooter where time only moves when you do; The Escapist, a 16 bit prison escape game from Team17; Smite, the MOBA with more gods than Olympus. Finally, we got a look at the wonderful Capy’s Below, a dark and mysterious game that I can’t wait to see more of.

With the indies out of the way it was time to move onto the obligatory Call of Duty demo that seemed rather pointless after having a whole event for it just yesterday but hey you can never have too much Call of Duty right? Right? If you want to watch the whole multiplayer reveal you can click here. We got to see more of the exo-suits and the new grenade types such as the tracker and radar grenades which were nice but this time, it was in a campaign setting, not multiplayer. They didn’t really show anything new following their own reveal which was a bit disappointing and the campaign demo more or less confirmed that it will be continuing with the Michael Bay-esque explosions and set pieces, with linear level design. While the new abilities granted by the exo-suits add a whole new dimension to multiplayer, I was hoping to see some parallels with campaign in terms of innovation and new idea’s but one can only hope for so much, eh?

The biggest part of the COD section of the presser however wasn’t the gameplay or the explosions but a new custom Advanced Warfare console bundle that includes a custom designed Xbox One and controller, a digital copy of the Day Zero edition of the game and a big 1TB hard drive. Considering that games can now get up to 50GB in size it’s no surprise that we’re already seeing new bigger hard drives.

Next up was Turtle Rock to talk a bit about Evolve. With the game having been delayed until February 10th there wasn’t too much for them to talk about, however they did give us some footage of a new map called Distillery with the Kraken being the monster of choice. The game continues to look like a ton of fun and I for one can’t wait to get my hands on it. They also dropped a beta date of January 2015.

Crystal Dynamics were out next to talk about Rise of The Tomb Raider. No new footage here but we were told there would be bigger tombs and the bow would be making a return. Then they dropped the bombshell that it’s exclusive to Xbox, whether this is a timed exclusive or not remains to be seen but if it’s truly Xbox exclusive then this is a big coup for Microsoft, though I have to say I feel sorry for fans of the rebooted Croft on other platforms.

Finally we arrive at the much anticipated Quantum Break gameplay reveal from Remedy. Sam Lake took to the stage, charismatic as ever to introduce us to Remedy’s newest offering to the gaming world, and it looks pretty damn good. This according to Lake is a game with “time amplified mechanics”. Time is breaking down because of a failed experiment which our protagonist, Jack Joyce, got caught in resulting in him having the power to manipulate time. He can speed himself up, slow enemies end even stop bullets. This can be used to move between cover and get behind enemies without them realising where you’ve gone. There are also stutters, moments where the timeline breaks down and events such as a car crash can freeze, or loop over and over again. Jack can act normally inside these stutters because of his powers however the enemy has exoskeleton suits which allow them to function inside stutters too as they try to stop you from fixing the broken timeline. All in all this looks like a fantastic follow up to 2010’s Alan Wake with some really interesting mechanics and an intriguing story and I can’t wait to see more.

Lionhead up next with Fable Legends and a new gameplay trailer that honestly looks the same as all the others they have shown so far. I keep hoping to see something here that’s going to make me like this game because I’m a huge Fable fan but there just doesn’t seem to be anything appealing there. It doesn’t look or feel particularly Fable like but I’ll reserve final judgement for when I get my hands on the game as Lionhead have never gone wrong before.

Following Fable was ScreamRide a new theme park builder from Frontier Developments. I’m not sure what to make of this game as I didn’t really get the point or objective of it but I do know it looked like a lot of fun. Launching Spring 2015.

Forza was next in line with a few Forza 5 announcements like new cars etc. but the meat here was all Forza Horizon 2. 1080p graphics with a huge open world for drivers to explore, with over two hundred cars, clubs with up to a thousand members and the return of Drivatars make for a really compelling looking experience. A lot of the talk here was about making Forza more social and they seem to be making great strides towards that with lobby-less multiplayer and the large clubs. I’m not usually a big driving game fan but the open world combined with the arcade-y driving style has my interest piqued and I look forward to this one with eagerness.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YNNFKQxgZPM

A quick look at Ori and The Blind Forest followed. A gorgeous looking platformer that to me seemed very reminiscent of Max: The Curse of Brotherhood. Slated to launch Holiday 2014.

We got to see some of the quirky Sunset Overdrive and were introduced to some new characters as well as some more gameplay. The game is just Over Charged (sorry) with charm, wit, and humor and if it all comes together could turn out to be one of the surprise hits of 2014.

Microsoft closed out the games of the presser with 343 Industries and Halo: Master Chief Collection. On top of all the stuff we already knew from Comic-con, RTX , and E3 such as Halo: Nightfall and the Halo 5 beta all being included with the game 343 saw fit to announce the Halo Channel. A new entertainment app based solely around Halo and all its content. Described as “an interactive digital network that provides unprecedented, personalized access to the Halo Universe.” Basically this is going to be your place for all things Halo, interviews, character bio’s, full Twitch integration and Waypoint posts such as the Weekly Bulletin, and you can also launch the games from here too. 

After this we got a short look at the mission Delta Halo from Halo 2 Anniversary. The new graphics combined with 60FPS and rerecorded audio make for a fantastic looking and sounding experience. Sanctuary was revealed as one of the six remastered maps for multiplayer which leaves only two remaining. Perhaps most importantly to the Halo community in general, and particularly to long term competitive fans such as myself was the announcement of a skill based ranking system for multiplayer that is identical to Halo 2‘s. Excuse me for a few minutes while I dance around in childish glee. OK I’m back, Destiny has long been my most anticipated game of the year which is saying something considering I love Halo enough to have something from the game permanently tattooed on my arm but the more I hear about the MCC the more excited I become and I really worry how I’m going to fit both Destiny and Halo into my limited gaming time. Let’s face it though, it’s not exactly a bad worry to have.

Along with the Master Chief Collection 343 also spoke briefly about the Halo 5 beta in a ViDoc. The key points from this would please any Halo fan that was around pre-Reach and remembers Halo in it’s prime; 4v4, arena style maps, weapon control, map control, no loadouts or armour abilities. If that’s not enough to get your hype levels close to maximum then consider what’s in this pretty substantial beta; 7 maps, 3 modes, 7 customisable armour sets, 11 weapons and all running at 60FPS on dedicated servers. On top of this there will be some unlockable stuff that will carry over to the full game on release.

And finally to close out the show Phil Spencer dropped the small bit of information that digital pre-ordering and pre-downloading are coming soon to the Xbox One starting with games like Forza Horizon 2 and FIFA 15.

So how do you think Microsoft did at gamescom this year? Did you see anything that got you excited? Was there anything you were hoping to see that never showed? Sound off in the comments below and let us know what you think.

 

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