Microsoft has taken a ton of flack since several PR and messaging missteps last year left a bad taste in the mouths of many of it’s once most ardent supporters. They’ve worked very hard since then and have course corrected very deftly leading into this year’s E3. Having listened to the market and made several changes to the Xbox One (doing away with confusing and draconian DRM, removing always-online system requirements, and offering a Kinectless system) Microsoft is in a much better place than they were a year ago.
This year Phil Spencer started out by thanking all of the fans and customers for their loyalty and feedback, then devoted the conference entirely to games. Sledgehammer Games’ Call of Duty entry, Advanced Warfare, kicked off the game footage. The new CoD looks beautiful with immersive and HUDless visuals of a futuristic urban landscape complete with jump-jet packs, walking tanks, and swarms of locust-like flying enemies. There was also an improved arsenal including homing grenades, pulse grenades that light up enemy locations, and a freaking laser rifle!
After CoD was through, Dan Greenawalt (Creative Director at Turn 10 Studios) took the stage to talk about new content for Forza 5. The Nurburgring (an iconic 60 mile long track) was introduced as free DLC, after which he handed it off to Ralph Fulton (Creative Director with Playground Games) to introduce Forza Horizon 2. Boasting over 200 cars, a full day – night cycle, and dynamic weather, Forza Horizon 2 will display in 1080p and will be available September 30th.
Next up came a short trailer for Evolve (the new multi-platform entry from the Left 4 Dead creators) followed by a live demo of Assassin’s Creed Unity. The new (and entirely next-gen) Assassin’s Creed game makes a great many improvements over its predecessors. Seamless transitions from gorgeous outdoor environments to gorgeous indoor environments, improved parkour, and co-operative multiplayer gameplay are all welcome improvements to the franchise.
Before the next live demo was a short trailer for Dragon Age: Inquisition. It looked decidedly last gen when bookended by Assassin’s Creed Unity and the newest game from Insomniac Studios, Sunset Overdrive. Ted Price (Founder and CEO of Insomniac) led us through gameplay demo for the fast paced, traversal heavy, 3rd person shooter. Chocked full of cartoonish style, it’s a great change of pace from the likes of Fuse and the Resistance series.
The cartoon fun continued with Super Ultra Deadrising 3 Arcade Edition EX Plus Alpha (a DLC for Deadrising 3) and Alex Rigopulos (Chief Creative Officer for Harmonix) came out to announce Disney Fantasia Music Evolved and Dance Central Spotlight. David Eckelberry (Game Director at Lionhead Studios) came out to show us some of the co-op gameplay from Fable Legends in a live demo. A video for Project Spark (a game creation game) highlighted some of the creative possibilities and showcased Conker (that’s right, from Conker’s Bad Fur Day) as a playable character.
Ori and the Blind Forest (a side scrolling platformer) from Moon Studios had a trailer showing before giving way to Halo news. Bonnie Ross (Studio Head at 343 Industries) gave a release date (November 11th) to the Halo Master Chief Collection. The Master Chief Collection will feature all 4 Halo games with everything unlocked on one disc for $60. This means that not only will you be able to experience the story, but every multiplayer map (over 100) in 1080p at 60fps!
There was also a beta announcement for Halo 5 Guardians starting at the launch of the Master Chief Collection before giving way to Phil Spencer and a trailer for the new game from the creators of Limbo: Inside. The Director of ID@Xbox Chris Charla came out to give developers some indy love with a speech about all the ways Xbox supports indie developers and an indie game montage. Rise of The Tomb Raider (a clear sequel to the phenomenal reboot from last year) showed off a cinematic trailer, followed by a live gameplay demo of the fantastic looking Witcher 3 which showcased a gryphon hunt and some badass visuals.
Creative Director Ken Lobb from Microsoft Studios came out to announce a reboot of an iconic game from the original Xbox: Phantom Dust. Don’t worry, I hadn’t heard of it either, but it looks pretty. Ryan Barnard (Game Director from Massive Games) took to the stage to show us more gameplay footage (clearly scripted) for Tom Clancey’s The Division. We got to see cinematic trailers for Scalebound and the reimagined Crackdown before getting a send off from Phil Spencer.