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About Tony "OUberLord" Mitera

I've been entrenched in the world of game reviews for almost a decade, and I've been playing them for even longer. I'm primarily a PC gamer, though I own and play pretty much all modern platforms. When I'm not shooting up the place in the online arena, I can be found working in the IT field, which has just as many computers but far less shooting. Usually.

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Microsoft Pre-E3 2015 Media Briefing Summary

by Tony "OUberLord" Mitera on June 16, 2015 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

During Microsoft's Pre-E3 2015 Media Briefing, it presented new coverage for Dark Souls 3, The Division, EA Access, Fable Legends, Fallout 4, Forza Motorsport 6, Garden Warfare 2, Gears 4, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, Gigantic, Halo 5: Guardians, HoloLens, indie games, ION, Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare 2, Rare Replay, Rainbow Six: Siege, Recore, Rise of the Tomb Raider, Star Wars: Republic Commando, the Xbox Game Preview program, the Xbox Elite controller, and Xbox One backward compatibility.

June 15, 2015, 9:30 AM
Galen Center, University of Southern California

After Bethesda's strong opening for the E3 2015 press conference festivities, I had my doubts that Microsoft would pack enough of a punch in its briefing.  Though Microsoft certainly had its share of expected games, such as Halo and some no-shows like Quantum Break, some of the biggest hits of the conference didn't directly pertain to individual games.  This was probably the strongest press conference that Microsoft has had in years.

Microsoft didn't save all of its big guns for last.  It started with Halo 5: Guardians, which looks to really be the point where 343 Industries is going to put its stamp on the franchise.  Details of the plot were somewhat lost due to the conference's abysmal sound balancing, but it brings some fresh ideas.  You play not as Master Chief but as the commander of a squad of Spartans who've been sent to track down Master Chief after his disappearance after the events of Halo 3.  UNM Command believes that the Chief may be a traitor, so the squad's objective to bring him back.

Some footage indicated you're able to command a squad of three other Spartans to move to locations or interact with points of interest.  It somewhat reminded me of how you'd do the same thing back in Star Wars: Republic Commando, though obviously replacing Commando troopers with Spartans.  As the squad wandered through an alien city, there were not only Covenant troops and ships involved in the fighting but also some Guardian units.  A montage of gameplay also indicated that the flood will return in some form.  Additionally, it was mentioned that the Chief will command a squad of his own, though there were no details or footage.

On the multiplayer side, the game will feature seamless co-op and the expected adversarial modes in maps up to four times the size of previous Halo multiplayer maps.  The Warzone mode not only featured Spartan-on-Spartan combat but also Covenant enemies that appeared to be AI-controlled.  Mech walkers can be piloted like vehicles, and there was a hint that Pelicans will finally be flyable in a Halo game.  It would make sense, if the map size is to be believed.

The conference then switched gears to Recore, which was a CG trailer of a woman and her robotic dog-like companion making their way through a windswept desert filled with wreckage.  The pair takes cover from an impending sandstorm before finding a door below ground.  As the duo investigates, some robotic spiders with glowing red orbs attack from above.  The woman steals their core with a grappling hook to immediately take them out, but their sheer numbers force more drastic action.  Her robo-dog runs into a group of them and self-detonates, taking them all out but the dog as well, leaving only its blue core on the ground.  The woman picks it up and installs it in a previously deactivated robot, clearly transferring her buddy into a new body.  The game will be a first-party, Xbox One exclusive, though no hard release date was given.

The first big bombshell came as Phil Spencer, the head of Xbox, took the stage and casually announced that the Xbox One will be gaining backward compatibility to play Xbox 360 games.  It won't happen all at once, and digital games will happen first, but they did show the original Mass Effect running on the Xbox One complete with upload functionality.  Broadcasting and the like will also be available for BC games, and it will require no action from the original developers.  Some titles are immediately available for backward compatibility for Preview program members, whereas everyone else will get their chance to check things out over the holidays.  Finally, there will be no charge for the backward compatibility feature.

On a more hardware-centric front, Microsoft announced the Xbox Elite, a new controller that has taken more than a couple of design cues from the more competitive-focused, third-party controllers out there.  The d-pad and sticks have clearly been reworked, but the biggest things came at a rapid fire pace.  New buttons on the bottom of the controller, hair trigger locks, button remapping, sensitivity curves, and swapping components were all showcased.  This will undoubtedly give people an unprecedented amount of configuration options for a first-party controller, and it looked pretty much like it could end up being one controller to rule them all.

Todd Howard from Bethesda then took the stage and showed off a little bit more of Fallout 4 than what was shown at Bethesda's press conference.  Your dog companion can perform takedowns on wounded enemies, and one of the new weapons is a laser musket that must be re-cranked between each use.  They also showed more gameplay footage of power armor in action, complete with it ripping a minigun off a tripod for its own use and mowing down some raiders.  The biggest news came when it was said that mods from the PC version will also be compatible for the Xbox One iteration, and at no charge.  Given the vibrant mod community for the PC versions of the most recent games of the series, this is a pretty massive boon to console players.

Peter Moore then took the stage and announced EA Access, a subscription-based plan that gives you benefits for a slew of EA's games.  For $5 a month, players get early access to new games up to a week early, get a 10% discount on all EA purchases in the store, and gain access to the EA Vault.  Within the vault are some of EA's older games, which subscribers can play as much as they want whenever they want.  This summer will see TitanFall added to the vault, and Dragon Age: Inquisition will be added this fall.  For this week only, the EA Vault is available to all Xbox Live Gold subscribers, so they can check it out for themselves free of charge.

Plants vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 was then briefly shown in the form of a CG trailer, teasing some new characters and settings.  As "Danger Zone" kicked in, we saw corn miniguns a-blazing, zombies get turned into goats, and what looked like a PvZ take on a TitanFall Titan, complete with the orbital drop.

Forza Motorsport 6 was announced with Henry Ford III taking the stage, and a new Ford GT descended from the rafters.  The game will feature 26 destinations, 1080p resolution at 60fps, over 450 ForzaVista-capable cars, and 24-player multiplayer.  Very little was really shown, short of some impressive visuals, such as cars racing in the rain.

Dark Souls 3 was also announced but only via a CG trailer that displayed dusty wastes, an ornate crown, and a giant statue that slowly turned to embers.

The conference then got back on track of providing real information with The Division.  Considered an Action RPG, the game still obviously takes place in a New York suffering from a weaponized virus attack, basically turning the city into a postapocalyptic landscape.  Xbox One players will get access to an exclusive beta of the game in December of this year.

Completing the pair of Tom Clancy games was Rainbow Six: Siege.  Some gameplay was shown that featured 5v5 multiplayer, with one team trying to defend a bomb on the upper deck of a large airliner while the other tried to breach and clear it.  There was a lot of teamwork showcased, with players on both sides using technology such as fiber optic cameras and breaching charges to get the drop on the other team.  The game will launch on Oct. 13 and will also come with full copies of Rainbow Six: Vegas and Rainbow Six: Vegas 2, which will run under the new backward compatibility of the Xbox One.

Microsoft then briefly showed some footage of the upcoming game Gigantic, which features stylized characters duking it out over colorful battlefields, but there was little detail to be had, other than a beta date of August 2015.

The conference then showcased a series of independent games, all of which deserved to be highlighted on such a stage.  Fullbright, of Gone Home fame, is developing Tacoma, which has the player investigating a seemingly abandoned lunar transfer station to find out what happened to the crew.  Ashen, a game by Aurora 44, will be a PvP game where relationships are key to survival, but little detail was shown beyond two characters entering a crypt and getting separated.  Beyond Eyes was a beautiful game about a young girl who is blind, and you must navigate her world of limited vision of your own, but what you can see is gorgeously drawn via watercolor.  Finally, Cuphead brings the style of a 1930s cartoon to life as a 16-bit platformer that features two characters with cups for heads who make a deal with the devil.

Microsoft then switched things up again, announcing the Xbox Game Preview program.  Acting as a sort of early access popularized by platforms such as Steam, the Game Preview program allows players to buy games while they are still in development to get an early peek at them.  All such games will have free trial periods, so people can see if it's a good time to jump in, or if they should wait until the game is more developed.  Day Z, Elite: Dangerous, The Long Dark and Shelter will be such titles, and all of them are available right now via the program.

Speaking of Day Z, its creator Dean Hall announced ION.  A simulation MMO of mankind's expansion into space, the game is set to be an ambitious take on players surviving in space and building space stations.  No gameplay was shown, so there's no inkling about what the actual game will be like.

Rise of the Tomb Raider then was debuted, with Lara and a companion traversing some snowy tunnels atop massive frozen mountains.  The pair is looking for the ruins of a lost city while trying to outpace a storm that's bearing down on them.  As soon as Lara spots the city, she falls from her perch, resulting in some treacherous moments as she and her companion desperately try to cling to whatever frozen walls they can with their icepicks.  An avalanche separates Lara from her friend, sending her sliding down a tunnel. She ends up covered in snow and alone.  She's later shown picking apart a deer carcass with her icepick, making a bow, and then trying to survive amid ferocious bears and what looked like some form of enemy soldiers.  The game will come out on Nov. 10 and looks to be a lot more of the previous game, which was a fantastic reboot for the franchise.

Rare then stepped up to the plate and announced Rare Replay, a pack containing 30 games from Rare's history.  Banjo-Kazooie, Battletoads, Conker's Bad Fur Day and Perfect Dark were all part of the pack, but it was tough to get a full list just by watching the video.  It's a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Rare as a studio, but it wasn't the only thing it had to show off.  Sea of Thieves is set up as a shared world adventure game that has players working together as the crew of a sea-faring vessel. They use cannons to fend off enemy ships and go on land to find treasure while also being attacked by skeletons.  No release date was given, but there is certainly the promise of something interesting.

Fable Legends was shown off again, but only with a trailer that's devoid of details and gameplay.  The title will feature crossplay between Xbox One and Windows 10, and progress made in one carries over to the other.  It was said that the game will be free to play, and it certainly looked like a Fable game, but it's a bit worrisome that the game somehow seems less far along than where it was at last year's press conference.

Once again going back to the realm of hardware, Microsoft began to talk about its initiatives in VR.  It now has a partnership with both Oculus and Valve for their respective VR platforms, and you can stream Xbox One games to your Oculus Rift via Windows 10.  It all led up to a presentation of Microsoft's HoloLens from a gaming perspective, with a version of Minecraft that was developed specifically for the product.  As one player explored the world, the HoloLens user could switch from that mode to have a god-like vantage point.  By projecting the game world onto a nearby table, the player could zoom in and out, manipulate the world directly, or mess with it by sending down lightning strikes.  More info on the HoloLens version of the game will be available at Minecon, which is taking place this year in London on July 4 and 5.

Finally, the conference began to wind down with some new announcements for the Gears of War franchise.  First up was Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, which is essentially an HD remake of the first game running at 1080p and 60fps, and will have a one-week beta starting today.  The bigger announcement was that of the more simply titled Gears 4.  The demo showed a two-person squad composed of a new male and female character exploring some town ruins looking for someone — or something.

The windy, ominous setting was more reminiscent of a survival horror game than anything else, and it was punctuated by the screams of some strange enemies clambering around on the rooftops.  The two take cover from a massive approaching tornado within a castle that is falling apart around them, and they encounter strange glowing intestine-like tubes and goo pods.  Finally, they reach a courtyard where the two contend with a series of hulking beasts.  One of them gets the Lancer treatment, while another then leaps onto the player character and pins him down on the ground.  No other details were given, other than a release date of Holiday 2016.

Conspicuously absent from any of Microsoft's announcements this year was anything at all that makes use of the Kinect.  After it was announced last year that the peripheral would no longer be bundled with the console, a lot of people figured it was the death knell for any real usage of it to continue in games.  It certainly seems that outlook has come to pass, and I suspect that few, if any, games will use the device going forward.  Alas, poor Kinect, we barely knew ye. 

Overall, Microsoft certainly kept tight-lipped on games such as Crackdown, Quantum Break and Scalebound, although it was promised that those games will be shown at this year's Gamescom.  However, the rest of the game announcements and the backward compatibility certainly made up for it.  Microsoft may not have had the strongest showing last year, but if nothing else, it's saving up some ammo to bring out the big guns.  We'll have more information on many of the games presented when we check them out at E3 2015 during the course of this week.

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