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Microsoft Pre-E3 2016 Media Briefing Summary

by Chris "Atom" DeAngelus on June 14, 2016 @ 1:00 a.m. PDT

During Microsoft's Pre-E3 2016 Media Briefing, it presented new coverage for Dead Rising 4, Final Fantasy XV, Forza Horizon 3, Gears of War 4, Halo Wars 2, Inside, Minecraft, Scalebound, Sea of Thieves, Tekken 7, We Happy Few and more.

Monday, June 13, 2016, 9:30 AM
Galen Center, University of Southern California, Los Angeles

New Consoles

The show opened with the reveal of the X Box One S, which is a revision of the original Xbox One. It's about 40% smaller and far more sleek and refined, including an internal power supply instead of the bulky exterior ones. It boosts support for HDR and 4K video playback, as well as a built-in IR Blaster. The S is pretty much the newest variation on the Slim/Elite console update that comes down the line every few years. It will be available this August in 500GB, 1TB and 2TB variations.

The bigger news came at the end of the show with the reveal of Project Scorpio, which is a much larger revision of the Xbox One, more akin to the difference between iPad versions than a new console. Project Scorpio will feature significantly more powerful internal hardware, including what Microsoft believes is the most powerful CPU in a console to date, 8 CPU cores, and 6 teraflops of computing power. The goal is to support both True 4K resolution for games and high-fidelity VR with no loss in game quality. It's an ambitious goal, and it's going to be interesting to see the outcome. Project Scorpio is expected to hit at the tail end of 2017, so there's still a while to go.

Play Anywhere

One of the new features that Microsoft put front and center at the conference was the Play Anywhere feature. Pretty much every single game announced for the Xbox One at the conference will also have a Windows 10 PC version. Play Anywhere is somewhat similar to Sony's Crossbuy feature. Buy a digital version of an Xbox One game, and you'll gain free access to a PC version at the same time, including save data being transferable. Games including Gears of War 4, ReCore and Scalebound will all be supported by the Play Anywhere initiative, as well as co-op for certain games.

New Features

Xbox Live is seeing quite a few updates as well. In addition to Play Anywhere, Microsoft is working on refining the core infrastructure. While this includes server upgrades to make the Live system more flexible, it also includes new features, such as Clubs that allow you to group with people with similar interests, "Want Ads" that let you request other online players to take on a challenge with you, and Arenas that allow for competitive gameplay and tournaments. The Xbox UI will also get some much-requested new features, such as background music, language region independence and the helpful navigation tool, Cortana.

Gears of War 4

The first game displayed during the show was Gears of War 4, which stars a new cast and shows an unfortunate future. The cost of victory against The Locust left the world a terrifying hellscape of ravaging electrical storms and a new threat called The Swarm. Players control J.D. Fenix, Marcus' son, as he journeys with fellow soldier Kate in an attempt to rescue her mother from the Swarm's clutches. The same core co-op gameplay that was a big part of the Gears experience appears to be back in full force, including some fun gameplay mechanics, like one player launching explosive balls while the other shoots them at the right time to kill an enemy. The trailer ended with the promise of at least a brief cameo from an elder Marcus Fenix, something that's sure to please Gears fans. Gears 4 will be out Oct. 11 for the Xbox One and Windows 10. In addition, General Raam from the original Gears will be added as a character to Killer Instinct starting this week.

Forza Horizon 3

It wouldn't be Xbox without Forza, and this year, that is true as ever. Forza Horizon 3 is the latest game in the franchise and is looking to offer the greatest number of cars in the series to date. The emphasis appears to be on off-road action. In the brief demo, we saw plenty of dune buggies and jeeps and racing through untamed jungles. The developers are promising seamless four-player drop-in/drop-out cooperative play that allows people to instantly swap from their own races to a friend's world at a moment's notice. Forza Horizon 3 will be out Sept. 27 for Xbox One and Windows 10.

ReCore

The latest game from former Retro Studios developers Armature and Keiji Inafune's Comcept, ReCore got its first real gameplay demonstration today. Players take control of Joule, a young girl who is aided by a variety of robots, including a powerful combat-capable electric dog named Mack; a stealthy grappling-bot named Seti; and Duncan, a gorilla-like robot with brutish strength and built-in flame throwers. The gameplay seems to be a combination of fast-paced platforming and intense third-person shooter-style combat, assisted all the while by your robot friends. Look for more on ReCore this week, though the full game is due Sept. 13 for Xbox One and Windows 10.

Final Fantasy XV

We also got a brief demo of the latest Final Fantasy title. Final Fantasy XV follows Prince Noctus as he and his friends travel the world and battle an evil empire. The demo focused on Noctus attempting to tame the summon beast Titan, a battle made more difficult by interference by the evil empire's henchmen. The demo was a visual spectacle that focused heavily on Noctus avoiding attacks from the powerful Titan while trying to take down the empire. There was a lot of power on display from all sides, and Noctus' small band was able to do things like block the giant's crushing hand or freeze the entire area with a group Blizzaga. Final Fantasy XV will be coming to PS4 and Xbox One on Sept. 30.

Minecraft

Minecraft is probably the biggest game in the world, and so it's no surprise that it also is on the table for upgrades. "The Friendly Update," as it has been dubbed, is aimed at making Minecraft an even more inclusive game. Players on the PC, Android and iOS will be able to play, earn achievements and build worlds together. Dedicated server support will also allow players to keep their worlds up even when they're not playing. Future updates will also bring special texture packs that allow you to customize the look of the world as well as the abilities and AI of monsters and villagers. These features will be coming to all console versions sometime next year.

Indie Games

ID@Xbox is as busy as ever in bringing tons of new Indie games to the console. They opened up with a brief look at Inside, the newest game from the creators of Limbo. It was hard to get a feel from it from the brief video, but it looks as atmospheric as Limbo. In celebration of indie games, Limbo will be free for all Xbox One owners.

Other games coming to the console include the long-awaited cartoon shooter Cuphead; the latest title from Castlevania director Koji Igarashi, Bloodstained; horror game Outlast 2 and countless others. Though not quite "indie," the stand-alone digital version of The Witcher 3's Gwent card game was also announced, and it will include new cards and a story mode that's custom-tailored to the gameplay. A particular standout was the follow-up to the excellent zombie game State of Decay, with a trailer that strongly hints at a heavily cooperative-focused game.

The greatest focus was given to We Happy Few, which is set in a dystopian society where everything is controlled by censorship, drugs and violence. The brief trailer shows the protagonist foregoing his "joy" pill and getting a horrifying glimpse into the diseased world that exists behind the happy exterior. What we saw of the gameplay suggests something reminiscent of BioShock, with atmospheric exploration with some combat. We Happy Few is coming out July 26, so we shouldn't have to wait long to see more.

Tekken 7

The latest entry in one of the longest-running fighting game franchises on the market will be coming to Xbox. The trailer was from one of the in-game cut scenes, featuring Street Fighter's Akuma taking on Tekken mainstay Heihachi in a battle to the death. There is a seamless transition from combat to cut scene and back again, something we were told would be a major part of the story mode. The combat looked fast-paced and intense with heavy back-and-forth combat. Akuma had all of his Street Fighter moves while Heihachi showed that old age doesn't mean he can't kick butt. Tekken 7 will ship in 2017 for PS4 and Xbox One, but Xbox One owners will get exclusive access to a backward-compatible free copy of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 to tide them over in the meantime.

Dead Rising 4

One of the shorter trailers was for Capcom's Dead Rising 4. Protagonist Frank West returns to handle yet another zombie outbreak. This time, it appears to be Christmas-themed, and Frank's latest collection of weaponry supports that. Everything from fire-breathing reindeer heads to candy cane-launching bowguns can be crafted to slay the Grinchy undead. Appropriately, it's due this holiday season for Xbox One and Windows PC.

Scalebound

The latest game from legendary Platinum director Hideki Kamiya, Scalebound looks like it's half-action game, half-Monster Hunter. The gameplay demonstration showed off a cooperative battle against what is called Platinum's largest boss yet. The player character has a dragon who is his partner, and the battle was an eight-on-1 fight against a gigantic crab-like monster. Players had to constantly swap from riding on their dragons to plinking at the monster with a bow to diving in to attack weak points. It looks like a new direction for Platinum, which normally does straight character-action games, but it should be interesting to see how the final version pans out in 2017.

Sea of Thieves

One of the last games shown during the conference was Sea of Thieves, which is a cooperative pirate game where crews of players are thrown into open worlds and have to work together to … well, do whatever they want. The gameplay demo involves throwing three people into crews and seeing what they did. The result was everything from getting drunk to exploring caves to accidentally getting into a brutal fight that left their ship to sink beneath the waves. The gameplay looks focused on fun and exploration more than grim realism, but it also looks like it has the potential for depth.

Halo Wars 2

The last game shown was Halo Wars 2, the long-awaited sequel to the Halo-themed RTS for the 360. Players return to the UNSC Spirit of Fire, long after the events of the first game. The crew awakens while the ship floats over The Ark, which is the birthplace of the Halo rings. The Ark has been taken over by Atriox, who rules an army called The Banished. The Spirit of Fire crew has to find a way to use its limited forces to stop Atroix's army before he uses The Ark to bring devastation to all. The core Halo Wars gameplay looks intact, but we'll be able to find out for ourselves, since there will be a week-long beta during E3, so all players can try out the latest RTS.

Microsoft's press conference was a solid affair. From new consoles to new games, the powerful lineup really showed off what the Microsoft gaming brand can do. Classic franchises like Gears of War were joined by ambitious newcomers like ReCore, and indie games were displayed alongside their AAA brethren. The new consoles are going to be the biggest talking point to come out of the conference, and it will be interesting to hear more about Project Scorpio in the coming months.

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