Taking a lesson from last year, when Sony publicly mocked their DRM restrictions and announced a console that was $100 cheaper, Microsoft’s press conference was one designed to be as safe as possible.
I say safe because how much more secure can you get than by opening with the next installment in the one of the most successful video game franchises of all time? We saw a gameplay trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, where guys with cool sci-fi gadgets do things that we’ve seen guys in first-person shooters do hundreds of times before. It probably won’t be the video game equivalent of Shakespeare, but I know I’m at the very least intrigued to see how multiplayer incorporates all of the cool near-future technology showcased in the trailers and demos. Again, all DLC for Advanced Warfare will be available on Microsoft consoles.
Next up, Turn 10 Studios took the stage to announce that Xbox One exclusive Forza Horizon 2 will release on September 30. Also, the new Nürburgring track will be made available this month for owners of Forza Motorsport 5. The track has been recreated down to subcentimeter levels of fidelity.
Evolve made its own appearance with a new gameplay trailer focusing on the classes and introducing a new type of monster. Xbox One owners will have first dibs on both the Evolve beta and Evolve’s DLC.
Just behind Call of Duty, the next safest bet in the industry is a new Assassin’s Creed game. Which is just what Ubisoft showed off at Microsoft’s press conference with Assassin’s Creed Unity. The title will be exclusive to Xbox One and PlayStation 4 and will feature 4-player co-op. If the idea of sneaking and assassinating in the midst of the French Revolution with three other friends gets you excited, this might be the perfect game for you.
As someone who has little interest in the Call of Duties and Assassin’s Creeds of the world, I wasn’t feeling particularly compelled or excited about the games so far, but the newest trailer for Dragon Age: Inquisition made me do a double-take. I’m getting more excited than I probably should be for this game, but I can’t help having faith in BioWare and in the potential that the Dragon Age franchise has always shown. Once more, it seems that Xbox users will be getting some exclusive access to “premium content.” There are no details as of yet what will be contained in that DLC.
Sunset Overdrive had a stellar appearance with many winks and knowing nods to the audience in a scripted sequence lampooning traditional shooters. This was followed by a live gameplay demonstration that was well-executed and impressive.
Then there was a goofy teaser for a Dead Rising 3 DLC pack that I am not going to write out because it is long and purposefully obnoxious.
Harmonix briefly took the stage to discuss how Disney Fantasia and Dance Central Spotlight are coming to consoles this fall and were then quickly ushered off the stage so that Microsoft could divulge some more information on Fable Legends. I haven’t played it, but my reaction to Fable Legends was one of complete and utter boredom. The game has a few interesting ideas (a group of players take on the role of heroes while another player becomes the villainous mastermind who attempts to thwart their progress), but those ideas seem to be piled under layers of uninspired fantasy.
Then there was the obligatory, “Project Spark is still a thing, guys! Remember how cool that concept was!?” The trailer was fine; it looked great. However, I’ve played a bit of the game and it is hard to muster much enthusiasm for a great game creation kit that is mired in overpriced microtransactions.
*Warning, what follows is riddled with sadness* Another trailer followed Project Spark, this one for a small indie game titled Ori and the Blind Forest. Will it be one of this year’s indie gems? Possibly. Will it make me cry if I play it? No …sniff… *muffled sob*
One of the biggest announcements of the press conference was that on November 11, Halo: The Master Chief Collection will release. The collection contains Halo: Combat Evolved, Halo 2, Halo 3, and Halo 4 on one disc with everything unlocked. Custom playlists will combine the great moments from all four games into one epic smorgasbord. Halo 2 is also receiving the full anniversary treatment that Halo: Combat Evolved received for Halo Anniversary Edition. The original version of Halo 2 will be included alongside the revamped version. In addition to all of that, the original multiplayer that fans fought so hard to protect will be brought back. For multiplayer, every map ever released will be available in 1080p and run at 60fps on dedicated servers. Over 100 maps. That’s a lot of maps. The collection will also include Halo Nightfall, a live action prelude to Halo 5: Guardians. Speaking of Halo 5, purchasing Halo: The Master Chief Collection also nets you access to the Halo 5 beta in December.
All previous games Microsoft had talked about up until this point will be released by the end of the year. The second half of the show focused on games coming in 2015 and beyond.
Most of the releases talked about were indies (and there is nothing wrong with that, just not a ton of information on the individual games).
Then there was the surprise reveal of Rise of the Tomb Raider, a sequel to the Tomb Raider reboot. We see Lara getting some much needed therapy after the traumatic events of the previous game and then raiding some tombs. Ahhhh, nostalgia!
There were a few other moments after that, like the announcement of the Phantom Dust reboot, some hilariously scripted gameplay from The Division, and the reveal of Crackdown 3, but what got me most excited was the Xbox One exclusive from Platinum Games titled Scalebound. It looks goofy, different, has giant monsters, and the ideas on display seem like they would be a lot of fun in the hands of the developer who brought us Vanquish and Bayonetta.
Honorable indie mentions:
That’s it from Microsoft. On the whole, this conference was much better than last year, which is a win for the company, but I can’t help but feel that this was one of the safest press conferences in the five years I’ve watched the show.
What do you think? Awesome? Just right? Meh?