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The games of Xbox One at E3: teaching a new dog old tricks

The Xbox One press conference was solid, if not exactly wowing. Furthermore, it was punctuated by two audio hiccups that left the publishing giants red-faced. But there were also thirteen exclusive titles for the Xbox One on show, and three games coming to the Xbox 360 later this year. Moreover, Microsoft unveiled a redesigned Xbox 360 that mirrors its upcoming bigger brother. It’s on sale today, but we’re here to chat about the new Xbox One games of this year’s E3. The Microsoft press conference was focused on AAA-titles that’ll sell by the boatload and outside of the odd embarrassing speech or two, Microsoft’s need to impress us with flashy games has kind of worked. This is what I thought of the Microsoft press conference, or “the year 360 died”.

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Watch the full conference, or enjoy the of trailers we’ve included below 
Welcome back, old friend

It began with Konami and a familiar face rising on horseback. We’re in war-torn Afghanistan, a dusty, mountainous part of the world and one that is beautifully realized. Running on the Xbox One architecture, the world looks picture-perfect. The familiar face draws closer. Could it be? Yes, it’s Snake, and he’s back in Metal Gear Solid: Phantom Pain, an open-world instalment in the Metal Gear Solid franchise, and a game that Konami promises will let you play the way you want to. The demo demonstrates the way Snake can hop onto passing trucks and take out his combatants in a variety of stealthy ways, and it all looks mightily impressive, hurt only by a rather corny soundtrack that plays over the video.

Next, we get a look at what the Xbox 360 is being treated to in the coming year. We have World of Tanks, which enjoys a dedicated PC following, and is being tailored for the Xbox 360 controller. Then we get a quick look at Max: The Curse of Brotherhood, which is a platform game with a pleasing aesthetic. It looks to mix action with puzzle-solving, and the environments are truly expressive indeed. Last of the Xbox 360 batch is Dark Souls 2. The footage largely mirrors that which we have already seen, but the excitements builds in the auditorium.

You died
As the Microsoft PR says: this show is “all about the games [for Xbox One].”

Phil Spector takes the stage. Every game from this point onwards is an Xbox One exclusive. Spector, the head of Microsoft Game Studios, claims there are more games in development for the new console than at any other time in Xbox history. Gamers are promised a mix of blockbuster franchises, new IPs and the classics “[gamers] have asked for.”

Spector leaves the stage, and a demo begins. A roman soldier calls his troops to arms. We witness a Spielberg-esque beach invasion as the soldiers bravely make passage through the choppy waters and onto the beachfront itself. Explosions ring loud. Our master and commander takes control. The camera snaps back to an over-the-shoulder, third-person view. Welcome to Ryse, Crytek’s latest.

The action kicks off heatedly. Think of it as God of War, albeit in even more stunning detail. The commander, Marius Titus, slices through foes’ heads and quick-time events liberally dots the screen. From my very brief look at the game, the QTE is a little overused for my liking, and the comment stream accompanying the live feed suggests I’m not alone. But there’s no denying that Ryse looks mightily impressive, and it’s powered by the latest in CryEngine technology.

The next demo is Killer Instinct, a former fan favourite that is being readied for the Xbox One. It’s a fighting game in the vein of Street Fighter. More impressive is the ability to record your efforts and stylize them in unique ways. You can also stream live via

Next, Phil Spector introduces Ted Price from Insomniac Games. His team is working on Sunset Overdrive, a stylised open-world shooter where the experience changes every day, thanks to the power of the cloud. It’s a more a trailer than a gameplay demo though, which is disappointing.

More interesting is Forza Motorsport 5, which is unveiled in full, glorious detail. We get a look at a pompous video dealing with McLaren, and their latest motor vehicle which is so powerful it’s banned from competitive F1 racing. Only two of these models exist in the real world? Guess what, they’re in Forza 5. Then we get to hear about how there is a “driver-tar”, a virtual personification of you, the gamer, that learns the way you drive. When you go off to work, your friends can engage with your driver-tar as if you’re really there, playing. It’s an odd, strangely Big Brother-esque move, and we wonder whether it won’t be one of the most contentious issues raised in the presentation.

Phil Harrison introduces Minecraft: Xbox One edition, and then Sam Lake shows us Quantum Break, though it’s light on actual gameplay. Lake teases once again that your choices affect a personalised version of the TV show, though we’re yet to truly know what the ramifications of this are.

Indie pursuits

Microsoft has been at pains, from the beginning of the presentation, to assure gamers that they have indie teams at heart too. And then we see this in action. An episodic murder mystery is teased, entitled D4, and it’s the work of Swery 65, the cult director of Deadly Premonition! Exciting news indeed.

Dave McCarthy from Microsoft teases Project Spark, which looks like a more evolved version of Spore. I use the word “evolved” intentionally, because it’s a god-game in every sense of the word, one that works on voice commands and gives you the breadth and scope to build truly diverse, imaginative worlds. Microsoft gives us a quick look at what gamers like you or I, who have spent time with the game, have had the chance to build so far. It’s impressive stuff, and shows off the diversity on offer.

Light me up
Crimson Dragon begins to play… to no sound. Here’s the first embarrassing audio hiccup. The game plays out to loud jeers and, truth be told, it’s difficult to remember what the game looks like given how distracting the chorus of mocking cries proves to be. Microsoft reps are left red-faced indeed.

Capcom Vancouver are next up. They’ve been working on Dead Rising 3, purportedly exclusive to Xbox One. The game looks visually impressive and you’re in the possession of a new character. It takes place in a war-torn city that looks like Mexico, but the strange thing is that the game’s aesthetic seems much more in line with the Walking Dead TV series than any Dead Rising games before it. It certainly looks visually arresting, and the number of zombies on screen at any one time is mesmerising, but it’s difficult to escape the feeling that this doesn’t look like the Dead Rising we know and love. Perhaps the setting is too stark a departure, or perhaps Capcom has been spent too much time watching the seminal television show.

Dead Rising 3 does, however, promise a heady dose of vehicular combat, and we get to see this in action. It looks like mad, Redneck Rampage fun, but the game as a whole looks like a cross between Resident Evil and the aforementioned Walking Dead, as opposed to the shopping mall-bound Dead Rising instalments of old.

John Mamais shows off Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, which looks truly stunning. However, is this an Xbox One exclusive? It seems not, which is odd, given Microsoft prefaced the conference by saying they would unveil games exclusive to their console. We’re promised over 100 hours of non-linear story. It’s hard to argue against more Witcher goodness.

Patrick Soderlund from EA is left red-faced as the audio fails to work for a second time, this time as Battlefield 4 is unveiled. Not that you really need a sonic accompaniment to this game: the visuals are so stupefying it would work as a silent experience on its own. Battlefield 4 truly looks like a game to wrench away the FPS crown from the ever-popular Call of Duty.

Below is next, which looks like a platformer, but very little is demoed. Then we hear about a new development studio, Black Tusk, which, from their Vancouver setting, is worked on something rather special. The trailer frustratingly reveals very little, other than a black-clad figure entering a high-rise apartment as fireworks blaze a trail through an inky night sky.

Oh… hello. A space-opera setting. A cloaked figure. The 22nd century Aladdin? The figure walks forward to be met by a massive, hulking beast that sends the wind gusting towards the cloaked man. His hood falls off to reveal a very familiar mask… it’s Master Chief! The game is entitled Halo for now, and this is one of the cleverest reveals of them all.

One more exclusive is left. Respawn Entertainment shows off Titanfall, a multiplayer FPS that looks fast, fun and frenetic. You can commandeer Titans that fall from the sky: think of them as mechs. You can eject from one, as the demo shows, and swoop into the air, before tackling an enemy Titan. It looks mightily impressive. Commandeering a mech, you can catch bullets a la the mech from District 9, and also let rip on ground-level as a simple infantry soldier. It’s mixing a Sci Fi setting with technical wizardy, and it looks like a lot of fun, if a little derivative.

The price ain’t right

Last of all, we hear that the Xbox One will cost US$499 dollars, or £429, and will release in November in 21 regions.  The price elicits a grumble or two in the comments stream.

And then it’s over. Kudos to Microsoft for showing us the games they’re readying for their launch window, but barring Ryse, which demoed five minutes of in-game action, not a great deal was shown off. D4, courtesy of Swery 65, is sure to cause a stir though, and there’s enough meat to the presentation to mean it wasn’t a failure. It wasn’t entirely a success either, thanks to the audio hiccups, but next-gen gaming looks like it’ll be an exciting pursuit come November.

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