June 9, 2014, 9:30 AM
Galen Center, University of Southern California
It can be argued that the Microsoft E3 2014 press briefing is one of the company's most important in years. Its newly launched console has had a rocky start, marked with a noticeable lack of strong exclusives and its dropping of the Kinect as a bundled peripheral. Microsoft needs a strong briefing to make up some of the ground it has lost over the past year. I settled into Los Angeles' cavernous Galen Center to see what the company has in store for gamers for the next year.
Microsoft counted down with a pre-briefing video, which ran through a few highlights as the briefing got ready to begin. Later this summer, the Xbox One OS is getting an update in the form of a snap-capable Achievements app. This app lets you track in real time how close you are to unlocking new achievements, and you can also sort them or pin them to the top. Meanwhile, for the Achievements you are struggling with, you can use the app to search the Internet for help.
In the warm-up video, Microsoft also showed some snippets of game information. Killer Instinct Season 2 comes in Fall 2014 and marks the arrival of T. J. Combo to the game. Happy Wars is coming to the Xbox One and will allow for cross-platform play between it and the Xbox 360 version.
The real information began to flow in once the briefing began. Starting things off, Phil Spencer took the stage to thank gamers for their support and noted that the entire briefing is dedicated to games. The first game was Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, which will be getting exclusive content at launch only on the Xbox One. The video showed a trailer of soldiers in some sort of flying landing craft that takes a hit and crashes into the war-torn cityscape of Seoul, South Korea. The graphics were some of the most impressive that the console has displayed to date, assuming it is representative of what the game will look like. The players character seems to have a limited flight pack and is able to slow his descent after leaping down a multi-story shaft. Soldiers in hulking exosuits marched down the fractured city streets toward the the enemy, while the player and his squad picked their way through crevasses in the pavement.
The flight pack saw more use, allowing the player to double-jump onto higher ground to get better shots at the enemy infantry. The player ripped a car door off of a wreck to use as an impromptu riot shield before the video skipped ahead a bit. The player can also use the flight pack to dash to the sides to avoid enemy fire or throw seeking grenades that hover before flying toward the enemy. The player character loses a fellow soldier in combat and then takes a large piece of shrapnel that severs his arm. As he is dragged from the field, the screen goes to black. The game is set to launch on Nov. 4, 2014.
Dan Greenawalt from Turn 10 took the stage, first talking about the history of the Forza franchise. The Nurburgring was announced to come to Forza Motorsport 5, with detail supposedly down to millimeter accuracy. The track will be available for free, starting today. Forza Horizon 2 was unveiled by Ralph Fulton, with a new Lamborghini as the poster car. The game will feature new weather effects and a dynamic day/night cycle. The game will come out Sept. 13 of this year, and it looked stunning. High-end super cars drove off piers and onto the streets, while features such as seamless multiplayer, open-world freedom, and dramatic weather were touted.
Evolve was up next, which elicited cheers from the crowd. The trailer for the game showed the hunters picking their way across an alien world, encountering a monster that looked like a child of Cthulhu. The trailer did a good job of showcasing the game's action but had little in the way of real information. A beta will be coming this fall to the Xbox One.
Assassin's Creed Unity was showcased next. This demo seemed to be in real time and showed the city of Paris in a state of upheaval. The player's assassin is as nimble as ever, clambering over objects and into walls with brutal efficiency. The player made his way through a massive crowd of NPCs before killing guards alongside another assassin companion and allowing the crowd to move forward. It looks as though cooperative play will be a real option in the game, with up to four players working together to take down guards and make their way toward their target. This was evidenced by player-controlled assassins clearing the way ahead while the main one progressed into an ornate building, where a formal gathering was hosted. The four threw caution to the wind after busting through the windows and drew swords to deal with the occupants. The player assassins didn't kill their target; they threw him off the balcony and left that honor to the peasants below, who promptly beheaded him.
Dragon Age: Inquisition had its trailer next, and it's coming out Oct. 7. The game was a little difficult to place at first, with characters leaping into combat. As is the trend, the trailer featured minimal information about the game and showcased the graphics more so than the content.
Sunset Overdrive's trailer took a nice jab at the cover system so often used by other games and showcased the game's use of velocity as a defense system. A character saved a pinned-down stereotypical soldier by grinding down rails and blasting enemies on the move. No gameplay was shown, but the trailer's humor and fun elements were certainly interesting.
Ted Price of Insomniac took the stage to talk about the game and show off a demo. The player immediately began grinding along the tops of carnival equipment while blasting enemies with a bevy of weaponry. A giant monster called a Herker showed up and slammed the ground as the player nimbly rolled out of the way and leapt onto rooftops to engage the beast. The beast exploded into goo when killed, and the player made his way to a roller coaster and grinded its rails while blasting more enemies. It reads like a game that was borne out of the better parts of Jet Set Radio, with the open-world tenancies of Dead Rising. The game launches Oct. 28 on the Xbox One.
Speaking of Dead Rising, last year's Dead Rising 3 is getting insanely named new DLC, Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha. The game is getting everything from playable Street Fighter characters and moves to the ability to play as a mobile piece of tofu. It's all for Capcom's 31st anniversary, and its trailer left me deeply, deeply confused.
Alex Rigopulos of Harmonix lifted the proverbial curtain on Dance Central Spotlight, a new entry into the Dance Central franchise to release later this year. There really wasn't any more information to be had, other than the standard bullet points of there being hit new songs.
Fable Legends was the next game to get the marquee treatment. A long buildup explaining some of the game's characters yielded to the party of four running into battle. The combat looked fairly indicative of the series norm, though it was hard to tell if the game was anything more than a video. The player can also play as the villain, which was an interesting tweak. As the villain, you orchestrate the challenges that the heroes face in a top-down view. You send in the monsters and try to stop the heroes from achieving their goal. This looked like it may pan out to be an interesting take on player versus player, and I could see the fun to be possible for players on both sides of that coin. A multiplayer beta will be available later this fall.
The next game in the lineup was Project: Spark, and it showed off the types of games that players can create. It was interrupted by Conker from Bad Fur Day fame cutting the logo in half and announcing that he will be in Project Spark.
Up next was a colorful and quite beautiful side-scroller named Ori and the Blind Forest, which showed off a gorgeous art style but lacked much in the way of showing much about the game.
Meanwhile, it was hard to not recognize the soundtrack of Halo, with the video being a CG remake of the Chief returning the Covenant's bomb from Halo 2. Kieth David narrated as the Chief hurtled with the bomb toward a Covenant cruiser, letting go as it detonated. Bonnie Ross from 343 Industries took the stage to begin to speak about the next entry in the series, Halo 5. The game is said to be about Chief's past and future as he searches for answers while others still are searching for him. On Nov. 11, the entire Master Chief saga will be released as Halo: The Master Chief Collection, which encompasses Halo 1-4.
Dan Ayoub then spoke more of the new collection and kicked off a seemingly real-time demo of the upcoming game. All four games will ship on one disc and seamlessly combines all four games. Halo 2 in particular is getting the anniversary treatment and is getting a full HD remake. The game will also include the original game's multiplayer, which was further showcased by a four-player team deathmatch. The newly revamped Ascension map looked quite nice as the players battled for a brief stint before it faded to black. The game will have every multiplayer map from all four games, will run at 1080p 60fps, and will have enough achievements to net you 4,000 gamerscore.
Halo: Nightfall was spoken of next, which is the new short being made in conjunction with Ridley Scott. This helps build the story toward Halo 5: Guardians, which will have a multiplayer beta later this year. Dedicated servers were touted for the game, and its beta access will be available to anyone who pre-orders Halo: The Master Chief Collection.
Spencer returned to say that everything we saw up to this point will be available by the holiday season of this year. To begin to put a cap on the proceedings, he led into a demo reel of what gamers can expect from the future. Early 2015 will bring a game called Inside, which is a stylized side-scroller with the player navigating a hostile environment filled with dangers.
A new Tomb Raider game was teased, called Rise of the Tomb Raider, and it was followed by some new gameplay from The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which we will have greater detail on later this week. The game is looking quite good, with Geralt able to navigate the open world with speed and ease as he hunted down a griffin. He first had to deal with some brigands, who he dispatched in brutal fashion, cleaving one in two from shoulder to waist before saving a woman. The griffin fight was suitably epic, with the two clashing before Geralt rode into town with a fresh griffin's head hanging from his saddle with a meat hook.
The return of Phantom Dust was briefly teased, though it had little more than a clearly CG trailer. Tom Clancy's: The Division was up next, with a demo that showcased the game's take on cover-based third-person gameplay. The squadmates looked more like insurgents than soldiers, fighting their way across a version of New York that has clearly seen one too many battles. The Xbox One will be the first platform to get new content, with the game coming in 2015 to the console.
Platinum Games showed off a CG trailer for its upcoming game called Scalebound, with a character in the middle of a fight between giant beasts in the jungle. As with others, this game didn't have much in the way of details.
Crackdown is coming back, which should make quite a few people happy. A CG trailer showed the agents at play once again, leaping from buildings and using an excessive set of explosives to turn a fuel truck into a mobile bomb. One agent ramped it into a collapsing building while another detonated it, sending flying pieces smashing into yet another building to complete the most insane assassination of a gang leader ever. The new team behind the game is led by Dave Jones, who is a veteran of the original Crackdown team. Skills before kills, indeed.
To end the briefing, Spencer took the stage one last time to go over the games that were shown during the briefing. Overall, it's a strong briefing when it comes to the lineup of games that is set to hit the Xbox One over the next year, but it lacked a lot of detail other than titles and release dates. There's a lot to look forward to, and we'll certainly have a lot more information on the games as the week progresses. It wasn't as strong of a press briefing as it could have been, but the focus on upcoming titles is certainly what Microsoft needs to put the Xbox One on much stronger footing.
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