E3 2014: Microsoft Conference

Date Posted Author
25th June 2014 Richard Pilot

Always save the first to last I always say, or at least for the narrative I’m trying to weave for this article I do. Microsoft, the first of the E3 conferences will bring our own E3 conference coverage to an end, and overall Microsoft was the most steady offering, presenting very few surprises.

They had previously promised that this conference would be, much like this website, all about games and it kind of was. The reason for this, however, was that Microsoft has revealed many announcements that would have typically been left to E3 a few weeks before. So let's dive into those pre-announcements first and start with a biggie; the Kinect is no longer going to be a pack-in for every Xbox One. Starting earlier this month, a Kinect-less Xbox One was made available. Given the lack of any true Kinect system seller, this actually made a good deal of sense and has since meant that non-Kinect games have been able to make use of extra processing power. Other bits of news leading up to E3 included the removal of the requirement of an Xbox Live Gold subscription for its TV apps, and additional free games in the Game with Gold scheme.

With these announcements out of the way this left the conference itself free from services talk to concentrate on games. It started off with a long gameplay segment from the new Call of Duty. The game looked great and featured a lot of the typical Call of Duty narrative that you'd expect. This was the first of many third party titles that showed up during the event and we got more gameplay footage and trailers from the likes of Evolve, Assassin's Creed Unity, Witcher 3, The Division and the reveal of a new Tomb Raider.

This is apparently an in-game image

This is apparently an in-game image

Moving on to Microsoft Studios games, the Forza series got a mention with the Nurburgring DLC for Forza 5, and the recently announced Forza Horizon 2 was given a release date of 30th September. There was also gameplay footage of Insomniac's Sunset Overdrive featuring monster killing action and a release date of October 28th. Recently downsized Harmonix got its spotlight literally with a mention of Fantasia and a new Dance Central, called Spotlight, although there wasn't a demo or trailer from either game. There was a gameplay section from Fable Legends which showed of a mode where players fought in a maze-like arena, and at the end it was revealed that another player had created that scenario similarly to Paradox Interactive's Dungeonland. It looked interesting but certainly wasn't the grand Fable adventure we'd been hoping for.

One of the biggest pieces of news was the Halo Master Chief Collection, which will include all numbered versions of Halo in one pack, launching in December. Players will be able to create custom playlists mixing levels from across all four games and like the previous Halo CE: Anniversary Edition, Halo 2 has been given a full HD makeover and can be toggled between the new and the old graphics engine, while Halo 3 and Halo 4 are updated to run at 1080p. Given the delay for Halo 5, this is Microsoft's big push for a Halo game this year, but it may not be enough to convince those that are sitting on the fence of a console purchase.

Halo 2 returns for its 10th anniversary

Halo 2 returns for its 10th anniversary

Indies also got their time to shine at the vent and we got to see the new game from PlayDead, creator of Limbo, called Inside, which seems to be set in a dystopian future. There was also a beautiful trailer for a 2D platformer Ori and the Blind Forest. Following this was an ID@Xbox segment where there was an impressive amount of games being shown, but none were really focussed on outside of the two we've mentioned.

This year Microsoft's big focus seemed to be on AAA games and whilst it did show an impressive amount of titles, many of those were third party and weren't even exclusive to the Xbox One with maybe only an extra piece of DLC. The show's final announcement was the reveal of a new Crackdown, but even that was a CGI trailer with no hint at a release date (although it certainly won't be this year). Those looking for big releases like the previously announced Halo 5 or Quantum Break will have to wait until next year before they are convinced to make the leap to Xbox One.

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Smileys taken from Crack's Smilies.