Monday, 9 June 2014

Microsoft @ E3 2014

Missed the Microsoft E3 conference? Want to check out the highlights without watching the whole thing? Don't worry, CeX has you covered!

The overall word on Microsoft's mouth was “passion”, as after last years E3 disaster they were doing their best to talk to you, the gamer. I have to hand it to them though, as most of the time when that kind of shtick comes from Microsoft it feels fake and forced, but it felt genuine here. Sure, it could be the we-lost-one-billion-on-Xbox-so-far-please-buy-one kind of genuine, but it was positive overall. Also, last year there was a huge focus on the Xbox One being an “entertainment machine”, as opposed to, you know, a gaming console. But Microsoft changed their tune this year, as during the press conference the terms “TV”, “Sports” and “Kinect” were literally not uttered once. Impressive! Instead Microsoft made a point to let gamers known that they intend to focus on the games. Here's the rundown...

Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (Multi-platform)

I wasn't surprised they'd show this off or that they'd put so much focus on it. The Call of Duty franchise started back in 2003 and was set during World War II. Over the years we've seen it change quite a bit, but it was when Infinity Ward released Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare is when the series took its sights off World War II and decided to focus on a more modern/futuristic setting. The next title places the action in 2054, and the gameplay they showed off at E3 looked... well... like Call of Duty. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad at all, but it just felt like the last 3 Call of Duty titles but with some futuristic tech. From the typically Call of Duty look to it all, the scripted sequences to the jet-pack that looks like it was pulled directly from Titanfall, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare seemed way too similar than to what came before it. Maybe they're holding back gameplay elements that truly set it apart from the rest of the series, but I wasn't too impressed by what I saw this time.

Sunset Overdrive (Xbox One exclusive)

The first Xbox One exclusive of the press conference came in the form of Sunset Overdrive, an open world game brought to you by the team behind the classic Spyro the Dragon series. Despite the protagonist being incredibly annoying, this is the game that impressed me the most through the show. Coming across like a mash-up between Jet Set Radio and Infamous: Second Son, Sunset Overdrive is not just incredibly colourful, but also looks to give the player unparalleled freedom. Though I'm a little sceptical if the final product will look this good, if it does Microsoft may be onto a new, long lasting franchise to call their own.

Halo 5: Guardians/The Master Chief Collection (Xbox One exclusive)

This was the segment of the show Microsoft must have been dying to get to. However, it probably didn't go down the way they wanted it to. While the big reveal was a new CGI trailer for Halo 5: Guardians, the crowd seemed to rejoice even more at the announcement of The Master Chief Collection; a new collection that includes Halo 1, 2, 3 and 4 on one disc. Sweet! In fact, what's even better is that, much like what 343 Industries did with the remake of Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2 is getting the same next-gen treatment. Even sweeter! But that wasn't all, as the much-loved original, non-updated version of Halo 2's online mode is completely intact on the disc too. Epically sweet! With all that bundled on the disc, the mention of Halo 5: Guardians kind of went below the radar. I guess it just goes to show how much gamers still love the original Halo titles!

Fable: Legends (Xbox One exclusive)

Though I suspected we'd see it eventually, I was quite surprised by the announcement of a new Fable title during Microsoft's press conference. Developed by Fable series creator Lionhead Studios, Fable: Legends kicked off its gameplay showcasing some rather dull 4-person cooperative play...  which just looks like Fable 3's combat. Then the developers on stage revealed that a fifth player can assume the role of the villain from a top-down point of view... which looks just like the RTS sections in Fable 3. I can't imagine setting the gaming world alight like the original Fable did, but it may do well somewhere within the ever growing MOBA market. I can't say I was disappointed as the series lost its way after the excellent Fable 2, but Fable: Legends literally did nothing for me. Yawn.

Rise of the Tomb Raider (Multi-platform)

Last years reboot of the Tomb Raider franchise was excellent, and since then there has been a lot of speculation as to where the series is headed. This trailer shown during Microsoft's press conference doesn't reveal any story details, but at least we know it's actively in development. I loved the open-world aspect of the last game, so here's hoping we not only get to explore some epically huge environments, but also get to, you know, raid tombs! I'd also love to see this new title be a little less gritty and edgy, purely from an aesthetic point of view, as I adore the original trilogy. That may be a little unrealistic considering this new trailer was uber edgy and dark, but hey, a man can dream...

Crackdown (Xbox One Exclusive)

I wasn't expecting this. The original Crackdown was a great, fun and hilarious game. Sprouting from the mind of the creator of the Grand Theft Auto series, Dave Jones, Crackdown presented us with an incredibly over-the-top open-world game like no other. From scaling buildings to dizzying heights to chucking cars across the city, Crackdown was simply fucking insane. Though its sequel was lacking, it looks like Microsoft are now bringing Crackdown to the Xbox One. However, while there is confusion as to whether this is a remake or direct sequel, expect the next gen capabilities of the Xbox One to shine here. I only hope that we get to see the level of destruction in the trailer within the game itself. I don't want to be jerked around by skyscrapers being demolished, only to find it's not actually possible when I play it.

Overall Microsoft played it pretty safe with their E3 presentation. That said, they did make good on their promises and focused entirely on what matters- the games. They didn't mention Kinect and gave us enough trailers to happily drool over. Good stuff, but next time hit us with more exclusives, Microsoft! 

I'd give it a B+.

Denis Murphy

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