E3 2014: The Xbox One is Now a Games Console
When the Xbox One was unveiled last year and presented again at E3 last June, the focus wasn’t really on the games. Microsoft was more interested in pitching the Xbox One as an all-in-one entertainment unit for the living room by touting the entertainment apps and Kinect integration. Between not worrying about the games, the lingering DRM controversy and a price point $100 higher than the PlayStation 4, Microsoft has been in catch up mode for the last twelve months.
It’s amazing what a difference a year makes. With new Xbox division boss Phil Spencer at the helm, this year’s Microsoft E3 press conference was all about the games. The Kinect was hardly mentioned. Entertainment apps may as well not have existed.
While it was wedged into the middle of the presentation, Halo got a lot of feature time. We ran a story about a major leak from inside Xbox division. Included in the leak was all the news about the Halo franchise that we got in yesterday’s media briefing.
The first four Halo games will be getting rereleases on the Xbox One in a bundle called Halo: The Master Chief Collection. This will include HD rereleases of Halo, Halo 3 and Halo 4. Halo 2 will be getting a special 10th anniversary remastering that will see all the visuals improved and the original Halo 2 multiplayer without any modifications.
A new Halo 5: Guardians trailer was shown but it was noted that the game wouldn’t be coming out until 2015. To make up for the delay, gamers who buy The Master Chief Collection will get access to the Halo 5 multiplayer beta.
Making what I believe was a bigger impression than Halo was Xbox One exclusive Sunset Overdrive. The trailer shown off was a giant shot at the modern military shooter genre’s drab colour scheme and reliance on cover mechanics. That was a perfect segue into the bright, colourful and cover-less levels.
Sunset Overdrive got an on-stage demo showing off one level of the game. A big emphasis was on the grinding, wall running and trampolining used to navigate the level. Basically, you’re always on the move but everything is faster and more lively than an Assassin’s Creed game. The combat is over the top with explosions and vintage Batman-style “boom” and “brrrr” graphics popping up as you take out enemies. This game just screams fun. I really want this thing on PC. It would be awesome.
Fable Legends got a proper debut at E3. It will be an asymmetric online game with up to four players playing together against one evil character who is setting up traps to defeat the intrepid hero. It reminds me a bit of Evolve’s four-on-one multiplayer crossed with Dungeon Keeper. This is a far better Dungeon Keeper update than that mobile on EA tried.
The final big Xbox One exclusive reveal was for Crackdown. The devs have promised open-world gameplay, co-op, and competitive multiplayer. If the trailer can be believed, it looks like that open-world environment will also be destructible.
On the multiplatform front, the Xbox One presser also included gameplay footage from this fall’s edition of CoD. It’s into the future with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare which includes jetpacks, robots and futuristic weaponry. Assassin’s Creed: Unity, the next-gen exclusive AC game, got an onstage demo with a look at the four-player co-op functionality demonstrated in a segment of the game set in pre-French Revolution France.
Multiplatform RPGs were also part of the show, not just annual franchise games. A sizzle reel for Dragon Age: Inquisition was shown that included a lot of dragons and some in-game footage in addition to the cutscenes. The Witcher III: Wild Hunt had some live gameplay shown off featuring the conversation and combat systems.
One thing that kept sticking out to me and continued to strike a nerve was the DLC exclusivity period for a number of games. I’ve never been a fan of the Animal Farm-ization of gaming content. All game consoles should be treated as equal except where it’s just not feasible. Big expansions like Diablo III’s Reaper of Souls should be treated differently on PC than on console because the PS3 and 360 weren’t built to handle massive expansion packs.
Instead, we’re having DLC pack availability based on backroom deals just for the sake of segregating the player based and making a few more dollars. Having some games and other miscellaneous apps and offerings as console exclusives makes sense. A game that looks better because a console has more power isn’t a problem either. This is differentiation that allows consoles to compete with each other. The DLC exclusivity period is needless if you ask it. It’s just a case of all game consoles being equal but some game consoles are more equal than others.
Overall, though, it was a far better showing for Microsoft this year than one year ago. The console is out and they can focus on the games rather than the hardware. Mind you, I doubt devs bending over backwards for Kinect will be happy
The one problem I have is that it almost looks that 2015 will be a better year for games than 2014. Halo 5, Tomb Raider 2, The Witcher III, Fable Legends, The Division and more are games that have me interested. While there will still be games that will be worth picking up this fall but it almost seems as though we’ll be wanting to spend more next year than this.