Microsoft took to the stage for its 2015 E3 Press Conference Monday at the L.A. Convention Center. Along with most of the games I mentioned in our expansive E3 Preview, we got some welcome surprises for the Xbox One platform that also raised some questions.
The most impressive announcement for the platform is that Backwards Compatibility for Xbox 360 games will be coming to the Xbox One this holiday season. The announcement is likely due to the new console lagging behind the Playstation 4, and Microsoft’s hope is that this will convince 360 owners to stay in the Xbox family. This also includes digital 360 purchases, which is one of the only reasons the console is still part of my entertainment center.
Like the Xbox 360 with Xbox games, only a select number will be released — with Rainbow Six Vegas and Rainbow Six Vegas 2 announced for later in the year and these 18 games available now for Xbox preview members— confirmed as part of the first wave of titles. Hopefully, this curbs the number of remastered games released on the XboxOne, but I don’t see many third-party titles coming to the system — especially games like NCAA Football 14 still earning significant amounts of my time.
Additionally, with a remastered version of the original Gears of War on the horizon, will that mean the original version won’t be compatible in order to convince people to buy the new version? Only time will tell and I expect Microsoft to give more details around Gamescom 2015 in August.
Also on the hardware front is the new Xbox One Elite Controller. Microsoft already announced a remodeled standard controller that will include a 3.5mm headphone jack. This is a much more premium item, though, with completely customizable parts — including the ability to remap the face buttons to the back of the controller, so your thumbs never have to leave the analog sticks.
As expected, the biggest exclusive game announcement came in the form of two announcements regarding Halo 5: Guardians. The first of which was the above gameplay demo from the title’s campaign that will jump between Master Chief and a band of spartan soldiers hunting him down. The gameplay trailer focused entirely on said hunters and showed off the game’s impressive blending of cinematic gameplay that we got a taste in parts of Halo 4.
Microsoft also announced a new game mode for the series called Warzone. It seems likely that this will replace Halo 4‘s disappointing “Spartan Ops” mode, which in turn replaced the excellent “Firefight.” The mode pits two teams against each other in what looks to be a domination-style game with capture points on the biggest maps in franchise history. To fill the space, there will also be AI opponents for each team. I expect them to be slightly smarter versions of the AI opponents in Titanfall, but that remains to be seen. With Halo 5: Guardians releasing in just more than four months, there’s still a lot to be seen but the announcements should come soon.
Microsoft’s second biggest franchise, Gears of War, also got heavy play that included a remake of the original game in Gears of War: Ultimate Edition on XboxOne. It remains in question what this means for the original Xbox 360 game being playable on the Xbox One, especially with it being a first-party game and easily negotiated into backwards compatibility. Either way, the remastered original’s multiplayer is available to the public now in the form of a beta.
Getting much more time was Gears 4, the latest entry in the series due out next fall. Microsoft showed off a gameplay trailer — mysteriously set at night, which I thought hindered the graphical fidelity — that, like Halo 5, appears to blend cutscenes with gameplay in a cinematic light. I’ve never finished a Gears game but from what I saw, the airtight gameplay looks like it will return with amazing visuals.
The timed-exclusive Rise of the Tomb Raider which I highlighted in my preview also got a full trailer that continues the trend of blending cinematics with gameplay. Visually, it’s a significant upgrade over even the first’s digital remaster with Lara looking much more liker her actor, Camilla Ludington. From what was shown, the gameplay looks like an improved version from the originals and fans of the initial game have a lot to which they can look forward. Check out the trailer.
Other exclusives included Recore, the new game from Metroid Prime developer Kenji Inafune as one of its next exclusives. Only the cinematic trailer was released, but it featured a female protagonist on an adventure with her robotic dog, among other robotic creatures, in a desert world and mysterious cavern. There’s no word if this will be a open-world Metroidvania-style game or something else entirely.
The long-in-development Fable: Legends also made an appearance but per usual, there was no release date. Rare continues to be relegated to highlighting its history rather than the future with the release of Rare 30, a collection of 30 of their games spanning multiple generations. However, Rare is working on a pirate MMORPG which looks interesting to say the least. The studio also showed off Forza Motorsport 6, the bi-annual racing series. As expected, the game looked amazing and if you’re a fan of the series or racing genre, you should be excited for the release Sept. 15.
Bethesda dropped the hammer Sunday night by announcing Fallout 4 will release Nov. 10 of this year with many games likely soon scrambling out of its way. Game Director Todd Howard took to the the stage again to show off more gameplay footage from their open-world RPG. This time, we got a better look at the improved real-time shooting mechanics that look to be on par with the best first- and third-person shooters.
Speaking of third-person, it looks like Fallout 4 will be the first of Bethesda’s RPG’s where the third-person view is a viable alternative to first-person mode. Gone are the third-person views of “skating” avatars. Howard also announced that PC mods (modifications) will be freely available, exclusively to Microsoft’s console. You can take a look at these mods for Bethesda’s Skyrim to see what the PC community accomplishes in order to see why this is huge. With the upcoming slate of Microsoft games available to play on both PC and Xbox, this is an integral sign the company wants to bridge the gap between the two platforms.
Ubisoft also took the stage to show off a new trailer for Tom Clancy’s The Division, which we now know is a post-apocalyptic game with no zombies or mutants in New York. This has now been shown at three E3 conferences without a release date, though we finally got a 2016 release and a multiplayer beta that will be exclusive to XboxOne.
Coming out this year, though, is Rainbow Six: Siege ,which looks like it will return to more open, tactical play that includes all the walls being destructible and open for breaches and gunshots. The game will also come with Rainbow Six: Vegas and its sequel, free of charge.
Microsoft also took time to announce plans allowing for better indie development on its console that included an impressive sizzle trailer, as well as confirmation that Day Z, The Long Dark and Elite Dangerous are getting trials in the form of Xbox Games Preview, with the latter two of that trio available now. You can see all the games in the sizzle montage linked above but I want to highlight Cuphead, the new platformer from Studio MDHR. What makes the game so unique is the visual style that’s reminiscent of 1930s cartoons, and as someone who grew up watching old shorts on Cartoon Network, I couldn’t be more excited.
To close the conference, Phil Spencer teased a desperately needed new UI, as well as reveals for Crackdown, Scalebound and Quantum Break to be shown at Gamescom in Germany. While it would have been great to see those titles today, there was plenty to take in that should make for a great fall for Xbox One owners.