Microsoft had their Xbox briefing Monday morning, and talked mostly about games and then a little bit of hardware and about Xbox Live itself. Let’s not dawdle, there was a lot going on.
First and foremost, Head of Xbox Phil Spencer opened the show with condolences for those affected from the Orlando attack. It’s especially a surprise for Xbox to do it very first thing, as historically they cut to an opening demo.
But after that it was to the usual business and Microsoft wasted no time in confirming the rumored Xbox One S. The slim model is 40% smaller, moves the power brick into the box, plays 4K Blu-Ray discs and 4K streaming, and is ready for HDR gaming. However, this also removes the Kinect port. Now if one wants to use it, there’s and adapter for a USB port. Further, the controller has also seen a slight upgrade with Bluetooth functionality and a new textured grip. It’s priced at $299 for a 500GB model, $349 for 1TB, or $399 for 2TB. It’s a great offer for anyone new to the Xbox One, but I’ll explain later why it may not be good for the biggest of gamers.
Then, the first game, Gears of War 4, was shown off while also showcasing a new initiative for Xbox. Like with Quantum Break earlier this year, Gears of War 4 would also be coming to Windows 10, but would also be the first title to feature the new Xbox Play Anywhere. Xbox Play Anywhere will let people buy a game digitally on both Xbox One and Windows 10 for one price. These games aren’t just cross-buy, they are cross-save and cross-play as well. I for one, see this as a fantastic new initiative for those gamers that can play own both, or for PC users that were interested in an Xbox title but didn’t want to make the plunge. Let’s hope it works better then Games for Windows Live.
But Gears of War 4 is also going to have support for the new High Dynamic Range that the S is going to offer. This will create better colors and greater visuals. I’m always happy for prettier titles, but the catch is you need a compatible TV which means you need a recent probably 4K TV. Will it matter when most haven’t bought in or is the thing that gets people to? A gameplay demo was also shown, and the biggest takeaway I had was that Gears of War 4 looked to be a lot more colorful, but still played like Gears. Surely that’s great for fans but if you haven’t paid attention to it, I doubt this game will change your mind. Gears of War 4 comes out October 11th. Is that not enough Gears for you? There’s a specially designed Elite controller for Gears 4 coming at the same time too. It’s assumed that ti’ll be the normal $150.
Is that STILL not enough Gears? The fighting game Killer Instinct is also joining the Xbox Play Anywhere program and is getting a new character, General Raam from Gears of War. General Raam is free to play this week.
Another Xbox Play Anywhere title was unveiled next, as Forza Horizon 3 races to the Australian coast. I’m not a big fan of racers myself but holy cow this game is gorgeous to behold. Instead of focusing on gameplay mechanics (which is a smart move to me) a stage demo instead focused on the cross-platform multiplayer. They had two PCs on stage, one using a race wheel, and the other using a gamepad playing along with an Xbox One and Xbox One S. Having not played a Horizon title before, I am interested after watching the gameplay, but but maybe it’s just the multiplayer aspect I like seeing. Forza Horizon 3 is coming to Windows 10 and Xbox One on September 27th.
Yet another Xbox Play Anywhere title, a gameplay trailer for Recore was finally shown. From the creators of Mega Man and Metroid Prime, gameplay has you traversing a far future Earth and using robot companions to overcome various challenges. I’m interested in this because of the pedigree behind it, but also as a great alternative to all of the multiplayer titles. It releases _________ on Xbox One and Windows 10 for $40 and gives you Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts for the Xbox One through Backwards Compatibility for free. Strangest bundle offer, but if you don’t have it that’s a great way to get it.
Next title shown at the Xbox conference is… not exclusive. They showed a Titan boss battle in Final Fantasy XV. Certainly not complaining that it was shown, but there was no commentary during the gameplay. It created a very confusing segment that I wish was expanded upon. No exclusive features for the Xbox One were mentioned or announced, which really makes me question why it was shown in the first place. I mean, we’ve known that Final Fantasy XV was coming to the console for a good while now. It felt out of place. Don’t get me wrong, still interested in the title though.
As an example of a good third-party appearance, Tom Clancy’s The Division showed off a new upcoming DLC for June 28th named Underground. Having not played it, I don’t have any opinion on it but for fans, I’m sure more DLC is always good news. Also, we kind of already knew it, bit Battlefield 1 can be played on Xbox One earlier than other platforms through EA Access. You can play it starting October 13th if you are a member of EA Access. What I don’t approve of though, is a showing of the exact same trailer that EA’s own conference showed just the night before. At least bring something a little different or even extended hm?
At this point, Xbox Live took a break from showing games and talked about the Xbox Live service itself and announced some new features coming. One, Clubs, will allow you to create your own communities to find friends and players easier then ever. True, this feature is already on the PlayStation 4, but this feature has been long overdue and I’m excited. Next, was Background Music. I know some like it and have waited for a long time for it, but personally, I prefer to listen to the game’s own music when playing. You can also select your preferred language for your home console. So, if your family is more fluent in Spanish, this would allow you to make all games and apps display the Spanish language by default. I don;t know of anyone that will take advantage, but it’s a good move in my book. Further, Xbox Live started to branch out. As a service, it’s now available on iOS and Android devices as well. Still another feature, Looking For Group, was announced and explained as “a wanted ad for gamers” where you look for gamers that are going for a particular goal or achievement. Lastly Arena is a new tournament platform for eSports or those that just want to play against each other. It’s not bad, but I’m not really that concerned myself.
Minecraft also made some waves and showed off that multiplayer can now be engaged over different platforms including Xbox One, Windows 10, Oculus, iOS, and Android. Notably, there’s no PS4 or Wii U. Also, you can ear achievements or invite people from your Xbox friends list. I wish that the other networks would reach out and bridge the gap. Still, pretty cool announcement.
Oh, remember those controller upgrades? It’s also possible to get your own custom controller. For a bit of a premium over the original, you can mix and match colors and have them engraved at the Xbox Labs website. Not a bad service, but it’s on that seems inconsequential.
Playhead’s latest title, Inside is almost here! They announced with a trailer that it’s coming out June 29th. But aside from that, LIMBO is now free for Xbox One owners. And free is always great news. But aside from that, Inside has been greatly anticipated because of how well LIMBO was received. If you haven’t tried it before now is the perfect time.
Being that Inside is an ID@Xbox title, it should come as no surprise that a sizzle real started highlighting some big titles on the way like Cuphead, Below, Outlast II, and Stardew Valley.Eagle-eyed observers of the sizzle trailer will have noticed that four titles; Cupped, Slime Rancher, The Culling, and Everspace are also Xbox Play Anywhere titles. Also right after the trailer, Ark: Survival Evolved was announced as another title in the program, and that it would honor previous purchases was well. Could this be a sign that any 3rd party publisher could enable the service too? I hope so. The more people that play these gases, the better.
A demo was also showcased for an upcoming ID@Xbox title that would also be making it’s way to Game Preview: We Happy Few. Personally I’m excited for it and I get a very Bioshock-ish vibe from it with the characters being controlled to some degree by a drug called Joy. I for one know I’m going to play when it comes to Xbox Game Preview on July 26th.
But my guess is that the next game will get a lot of people excited. CD Projekt Red, the folks that made the Witcher series wold be creating a spin-off based on the very successful card mini-game, Gwent. Gwent will feature a single-player campaign, and cross-platform multiplayer between PCs and “consoles”. A closed beta will be coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs in September 2016. Interested? You can register at playgwent.com.
Why stop the competition at cards though? Next up Microsoft showed that Tekken 7 would also be coming to Xbox One and Windows PCs simultaneously with the PS4 release in early 2017. On stage, a demo showcased the story mode that would switch between cutscenes and actual fighting gameplay. But why stop there? Tekken Tag Tournament 2 was also made free for all Xbox Live Gold members through Backwards Compatibility. Again, free is great.
Moving right on to the next title is another game coming to Xbox One and Windows 10, but notably was not labeled as an exclusive. Dead Rising 4 will release this holiday on both Xbox One and Windows 10 and could eventually make it’s way to other platforms in the future. Dead Rising 4 will feature Frank West as the main protagonist again as he bashes and shoots his way through hordes of zombies 16 years after the first game.
Next up though was a demo for a game coming in 2017 from Platinum Games, Scalebound. In the demo, 4 players worked together to bring down a massive boss. It could be fun, but it didn’t seem like fun to me. I’m hoping that I will be proved wrong when it releases. Scalebound is yet another title that will be Xbox Play Anywhere.
Now as for something I am excited for, the upcoming Rare title, Sea of Thieves was shown with some gameplay of “real gamers” playing it. It came across as genuine and really spoke to the goal of “play how you want” that they’re going for. Sea of Thieves will be coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 as a Xbox Play Anywhere title. Sea of Thieves unfortunately does not have a release windows yet.
Was Dead Rising 4 not enough zombie mayhem for you? Good, because State of Decay 2 is coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 as another Xbox Play Anywhere title due to come in 2017. Just the trailer was shown.
The final game on display is a big one for Microsoft, Halo Wars 2. It’ll be coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 as a Xbox Play Anywhere title and bring back the RTS gameplay to console on February 21, 2017. Halo Wars 2 also launched a public beta that ends on June 20th. I’m excited for this only because I haven’t tried the first one yet, but I loved titles like Age of Empires and Starcraft.
With all of the games shown off I thought that was it. But Phil Spencer hit the stage again and with a trailer introduced “Project Scorpio” publicly. This is why I can’t decide if the Xbox One S is worth getting right now. Project Scorpio is going to be a very powerful console that will allow for 4K gaming, VR support, and HDR gaming. Project Scorpio will release sometime in 2017. There’s been a lot of talk this last week over wether it makes the S obsolete before it releases, or if it will create a fractured user base. Unfortunately, right now I don’t think the answers are all there. I feel like Scorpio will be the biggest story at next year’s E3, but for right now, it leaves more questions then answers.
But Scorpio, aside, the Xbox conference was almost more about Windows 10 being welcomed back with open arms into the Xbox family, and that can only be a great thing. My only concern is that it will give people less reason to pick up an Xbox One and just beef up their existing PCs. Time will tell.
But there’s my admittedly long-winded look at the Xbox show, lots of games, some added features, some new hardware and even some free games. I’ll be working on the Ubisoft briefing and I’m hoping that I’ll get that out sooner then later.