Microsoft really brought their A game to their E3 2015 presser. A bevy of anticipated titles from well known series, new IP, and console upgrades really made Xbox One shine this year.
Xbox One Elite controller
Microsoft seems to have listened to fans in the past — less about what else the Xbox can do that isn’t games, more about how it can make games better. Two large console-centric announcements were made this year, the first of which being a first party Xbox One elite controller. This controller takes third party controller mods to the next level. With the new elite controller, you can switch out the thumbsticks for one with different grip, add paddles to the back of your controller (like the popular Scuf mod), and customize it the way you want. All of this is first party and fully supported by Microsoft, which is kind of a big deal.
Xbox One Backward Compatibility
The second, and definitely more important, is the announcement of Xbox One backward compatibility with Xbox 360 titles. Gamers have been clamoring for this feature in modern consoles for over a decade and Microsoft is happy to answer the call. Not unlike Sony’s solution, Microsoft now supports digital copies of Xbox 360 titles on your Xbox One. Even better news, if you already own the title on Xbox 360, you’ll get the digital copy for free, which of course made the crowd go wild. Though the feature will be slowly rolled out for specific games in the future, this solution offers incentive to upgrade consoles as well as expanding the Xbox One gaming library with very little effort on the part of game developers.
Halo 5: Guardians
Of COURSE they started out the show with some Halo 5: Guardians gameplay. The brief video led in to a gameplay demo that looked smooth as butter. We can’t confirm that it was 60fps, but it sure looked like it. Almost like a Call of Duty game in the steady smoothness of the animation. The actual combat looked like most Halo games, just really pretty. And though scale is kind of part of Halo’s levels, it’s never looked this massive or this detailed. Halo 5: Guardians is definitely the best looking one yet.
Next, a new IP hit the stage from some of the people behind Metroid Prime. There’s not many details beyond the short video showing a girl and her robot dog hiding from a sand storm, then fighting other robots. The dog self destructs, which bummed everyone out, but left behind its glowing blue core. She inserts the core into one of the now-dead robot husks and it fires to life. She greets her companion again and the title flashes. Recore. No gameplay was shown, but the art style and possibilities of recoring your companion make it very exciting.
Indies and Xbox Preview
Microsoft also invited a number of smaller game developers on stage to show off what they’ve been working on. They featured small videos and brief presentations of Ashen, Lunar Transfer Station Takoma, Beyond Eyes, and Cuphead. This segued perfectly in to the addition of Xbox Preview, with acts almost identically to Steam Early Access, letting you download and play unfinished versions of games before they come out. The main difference with Xbox’s program is that you can also try out the game before you commit to buying it, so it sounds like demos are a requirement to get listed with Xbox Preview.
Rare made a brief appearance to talk about Rare 30, a collection of their best games over the last 30 years in one disk. They then went on to talk about a new title they’re working on called Sea of Thieves, which appears to be an open world action game about pirates.
Minecraft on HoloLens
I wasn’t sure whether or not to put this under games or hardware, but it doesn’t matter, this one demo blew my damn mind. Minecraft running on Microsoft’s HoloLens system was insane. The demo starts off with traditional Minecraft on a screen on the wall, but the world then opens up on the table, building, in virtual 3D, the game both presenters were playing. While one was playing on console, he was able to also join her server, build things, and watch her move around in real time. He zoomed in and looked through a building in virtual 3D space to see her avatar moving about. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. He then was able to pull the world up from the ground to see what was beneath her. This act is questionably cheating, but who cares because HoloLens. They then showed off calling lightning strikes in specific positions, and like that it was over. Absolutely incredible hardware and software.
Gears of War
To wrap it up, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, which features updated versions of the first three games, was announced along with its beta being launched during the press conference. That was followed up by the announcement of Gears of War 4 along with a rather lengthy demo, which made it look as if the game is already far along in development. The level had us tracking down a beast with a Lancer through an old castle, culminating in a fight between three of these hell beasts. Looked very much like a Gears of War game, but prettier. No word on release or anything else, but Gears fans have many reasons to be stoked.