E3 2015: Microsoft Xbox Conference

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Microsoft opened up their conference this year with an exclusive gameplay demo of Halo 5: Guardians. Surprisingly, you weren’t in command of Master Chief, you were in command of Locke (played by Nathan Fillion) and his squad who are on the hunt for the Chief. After the stunning single player trailer was done, 343 directed us over to the huge multiplayer where they showed off a brand new game mode called Warzone.

In both single player and multiplayer the action looks faced paced, slick and gorgeously detailed. A good way to kick off Microsoft at E3. Halo 5: Guardians releases on the Xbox One on 27th October 2015.

Moving on to a new IP, Recore is the new game from acclaimed director Keiji Inafune and the Metroid Prime devs and is due for release in spring 2016. The trailer shown for it shows a strong relationship forged between Human and machine and looked stunning. However, this was only a pre-rendered CGI trailer. I hope to see more about the game in the near future.

Phil Spencer, Head of Microsoft’s Xbox division took to the stage to announce that the Xbox One will soon be backwards compatible with Xbox 360 games. This was met with a resounding applause from the audience. Spencer explained that you can download an Xbox 360 game from Xbox Live and it will be playable from your Xbox One at full 1080p. What’s more, if you own the old game, all you have to do is pop it into your Xbox One, the system will then read the disc and automatically download the game onto your systems hard drive for you to play. Best of all? If you own the retail copy, the digital 1080p version of the game will be free of charge.

It was then explained that the multiplayer features of the 360 games will also be carried over to the Xbox One and you can even play with 360 players, on your Xbox One via multiplayer, cross system play. A blinding move by Microsoft that was extremely well received by the reporters in the audience. The new service arrives for Xbox One this holiday season with no exact date given.

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Moving straight on from that announcement, the new Xbox One Elite Wireless controller was revealed, and boy, does this thing pack a punch. More buttons, more customisation and more precision for gamers who want the very best but don’t want to shell out for a third party controller. No price was given for the Elite controller but expect it to be more than the standard controller on sale. The demo video for the controller showed just what could be customised and what brand new features this controller has over the standard version. It might even give the dual Shock 4 a run for its money.

In a surprise twist for the next game announcement, Bethesda’s Producer and Director Tood Howard came to the stage. Immediately people knew why he was there and what game will be shown, Fallout 4.

Not showing anything new that wasn’t already shown the previous night at Bethesda’s own E3 conference. Howard announced that mods for Fallout 4 which will be created by the PC community will be able to be downloaded, used and shared amongst Xbox One gamers. A bold move from Bethesda but one that excited the audience a great deal. Later on after the show, Bethesda confirmed that the ability to use mods in Fallout 4 will arrive on the PS4 after they’ve arrived on the Xbox One first.

EA’s Peter Moore than took to the main stages to talk about EA access which, in my opinion slowed the conference down and didn’t excite the members of the audience. EA Access is only available on the Xbox One and hasn’t been that greatly received. Moore confirmed that discounts and free trails will be given to Xbox Live Gold members from this week in order to entice them into the service. Whether this will work or not is another issue but we’re going to have to wait and see. After this announcement, Moore than showed off Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2.

The lights then dimmed, and a film about Ford’s GT40 played on the main screen, talking about the triumphs and Le Man back in the 60’s. As this was playing, Ford’s brand new GT was lowered from the rafters onto a stage at the centre of the audience. It was beautiful, and obviously this was in relation to Forza Motorsport 6. There was no live gameplay demo of the game but the trailer they showed looked promising with over 420+ cars going to be in the game racing over 26 international locations. Forza Motorsport 6 is due for release on the Xbox One on 15th September 2015.

Straight after Forza was the announcement teaser for Dark Souls 3 which, if the rumours are true, is the last Dark Souls in the unforgiven series. Expect a release in early 2016.

Next up was The Division, a mix of CGI and gameplay in the trailer that gave very little information in the way of the game, but obviously Ubisoft would show more at their conference later in the day. It was announced however, that the early access beta for the game will be released in December 2015 for Xbox One players.

Moving swiftly on from The Division was a Windows 10 and Xbox One exclusive free to play game Gigantic which, again, will have an early access beta in August of this year.

We were then presented with an indie game showcase of what was to come on the Xbox One in the next year, year and a half. Games such as Tacoma, Ashen, and the popular Cuphead. Cuphead is in the style of a 1930’s cartoon and, well, looks incredible.

Another indie game that caught my attention was Beyond Eyes. A game where the main character is blind and they have to rely on all their other senses to navigate the world. The game looks stunning and I actually can’t wait to get my hands on it when the game comes out.

Microsoft then announced Xbox Games Preview. A service much like Steam early access where you can buy and play games that are still in development. A good tool for game devs to have in order to get instant feedback on their games and improve upon them before the whole game is launched. Xbox Games Preview has gone live today.

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Linking into Xbox Games Preview, a trailer for Ion, this sci fi themed game gave us absolutely nothing in terms of story, just lots of lovely CGI images of space, stations and planets zooming further and further out till we saw a vast network of star systems.

Rise of The Tomb Raider was up next and we were treated to a lovely gameplay demo for the game which showed a young Lara Croft traversing perilously snowy mountain sides which, of course, all went horribly wrong. Towards the end of the demo we got to see more environments from the game itself and I kinda wanted to see more than that than the gameplay demo as it felt similar to the first Tomb Raider gameplay demo that was shown at E3 years ago.

Fable: Legends was then announced and to be honest, it wasn’t that excited. Fable fans have wanted a direct sequel to Fable 3 for years and it looks like they aren’t getting it with Fable: Legends. I honestly did not know what to make of it.

Rare then took to the stage to announce they will be releasing a collection of their games on the Xbox One. I highly recommend picking this up when it’s released because even though they are old and the graphics are dated, they are really fun!

Rare then pulled out a new IP called Sea of Thieves which, if you’re a fan of Assassin’s Creed 4: Black Flag, or just pirates in general, you will enjoy. It’s nice seeing Rare go back to their roots and start to develop this fun games again.

Now comes the technical bits. Microsoft announced at their conference that they have partnered with Oculus Rift to stream Xbox One games to the hardware from the Xbox One. But they weren’t finished there. Microsoft has announced that they now have a relationship with Valve VR. Not much detail was given about the relationship, but expect big things to come from it soon. Microsoft then went on to discuss their new hardware: Hololens. To demonstrate it? Minecraft. I won’t say I wasn’t impressed with the demonstration, but I wasn’t blown away by it. Demonstrating VR headgear has always been a nightmare at games conferences and this was no exception. Thankfully the conference moved on from this for the final, big reveal that fans had all been waiting for.

A remake of the first Gear of War was announced for the Xbox One with upscaled graphics and all the bells and whistles. Due for release 25th August 2015.

Finally, a brand new Gears of War was announced. Called Gears 4, we were treated to a sexy gameplay demo of the game which featured new characters and a new location. Nothing much was given away about the game. Only that it comes out Holiday 2016.

As far as conferences go, this was one of Microsoft’s stronger ones. Largely focusing on games and minimising all the tech stuff really pays off and it is clear that it was well received by the audience in the conference.