After last years abject failure, which, now that I’m thinking about it was simply the culmination of an increasingly corporate / generic / everybody but the gamer trend that had been creeping into Microsofts messaging for years (starting around the Kinect I think). Microsoft desperately needed a hard 180. They got it. My expectations of this years E3 were flip-turned upside down when Xbox pretty much stole the show, and right out the gate too. Opening the press conference portion of this years E3, Microsoft came out humble, apologetic, and basically said ‘ok, we get it now, sorry and thanks for sticking with us’. Then proceeded to deliver on a promise of 90 minutes of game footage and it started with this year’s offerings, and there were many, before indulging in games ‘projected’ for 2015. Needless to say there’s a fair list of material here, and I can’t possibly put it all down, but here’s my best of Microsoft’s E3 2014 press conference (stuff that’s coming out this year).
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare – An obvious move, but probably the right one. The Xbox is a ‘bro’ box, and the bro’s love COD. I (mostly) tease… what I mean is that shooters are a big deal for a lot of people. It’s a genre that had reached its ‘best before’ date by the end of the last console run and is in need of … something. If the poster child for military shootering looks this fresh again, I think maybe the hardware has provided the space developers needed to find it.
Evolve – I’m not quite sure what the connection is, but this one is by folks involved in the Left 4 Dead franchise, and it was instantly recognizable. A class and squad based coop (that’s a mouthful) its basically the framework of something like Left 4 Dead, except its sci-fi, and its humans vs Cthulu. Ok, its ‘monsters’ but there’s a lotta tentacle aesthetic going on, we know what that means.
Dragon Age: Inquisition – Nice to see Bioware in strong form this year, starting with Dragon Age. The first one was a big deal for me, the second one… not so much. It’s been a long time coming, and I’ve been quietly hoping for a return to form, seems like I got it. Though the conference video was a lotta hype production and cutscene stuff, there was enough gameplay to see what they were working with. Since then I’ve seen much more in-game footage and its legit. Stunningly crafted with strong art direction, the battle system looks like a broader more accessible version of Dragon Age the first. Dragon Age:inquisition has been rocketed into my ‘best in class for’ this years show.
Sunset Overdrive – The first fun trailer I saw caught my attention, but didn’t give much to actually go on, that changed. Starting with a none-too-subtle poke in the direction of the military FPS that ended with a respectful nod to Half-Life, these guys made their intentions very clear and had my complete attention. What followed was pure joy. With a light hearted, tongue in cheek tone, and an outright disregard for the fourth wall, they have a touch of that stuff that makes a certain vault hunting shooter so compelling. With gameplay that resembles something like Tony Hawk with shooting monsters, and a bit of a Sonic feel (as odd as that might sound) this game is ostentatious, and loving every minute of it.
Fable Legends – I have to admit, there’s a part of me that that Fable had seen its best day, and that was a sad part indeed. Then there was this. Fable Legends is yet another game from this year with a big ‘team’ emphasis. Playing out of a hub, if I have this correctly the experience is player driven. Taking the roll of one of five characters (four characters and a villain) Fable Legends is also smack in the middle of another trend, asymmetric gaming. Any character assuming the roll of the villain has a top down view of the challenge the heroes are undergoing, and as architect, gets to choose how to torment them. It’s got all the character of the Fable franchise, but matured and with a new angle. That sad little place seems to have disappeared.
Project Spark – Though this does have roots at least as old as Little Big Planet, the game engine / creation kit thing is moving through the culture as well, there’s four or five of them at this years E3 and Spark is a big one. Though exact details are scant, you can see what their getting at… and what their getting at is a powerful tool for game design in the hands of the players.
Ori and the Blind Forest – After watching more footage and interviews with the developer, this shot up to the top of my ‘Games of Show’ category, directly under ‘No Man’s Sky’. A 2.5D ‘metroidvania’ style game with an art style like the end result of a divine coupling between Limbo and Trine? Ya, that’s my jam.
Halo – This was a big set piece of the whole presser, splitting the whole thing in half between ‘2014’ and ‘projected 2015’ and is a sound place to cap off this article. A multi staged release event is taking place here, and Microsoft are going big. To start, it’s the Master Chief Collection, all the main Halo games til this point (Combat Evolved Anniversary, Halo 2 Anniversary, Halo 3 and Halo 4. ‘Halo 2 Anniversary’ you ask? Same treatment as Combat Evolved was given, ground up visual up-rez. Out of the box all content is unlocked, which means you can hop into any mission from any game at any time, it also means there are over a hundred multiplayer maps. If you’re thinking ‘oh, this is going to be big’, I’m with you. Also included in the set is a digital series leading up to Halo 5: Guardians, called Halo: Knightfall, a live action (finally) tv show that Ridley Scott is involved with. Lastly, those who get the set (due this holiday season) will have beta access to Halo 5, and all this is at a 60 dollar price point. See, you were right… this one’s a doozy.
As I mentioned (twice) there was more… quite a bit more actually that fell into the ‘projected 2015’ category, the other big pressers had much of the same. The difference being, Microsoft had all of the above mentioned content as well. In one move (made of lots of little ones) Microsoft wormed their way right back into our hearts… and wallets. Man, that’s a lotta games.
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