E3 2014 Microsoft Xbox conference review: all about the games

After handing E3 to Sony last year by ignoring gamer feedback and implementing anti-consumer DRM, Microsoft had a lot to prove at this year’s show. With Phil Spencer now leading Xbox, the focus was on games, something that makes everybody happy, especially myself. Microsoft has had a lot of bad shows in the past, so how did they perform this year? This is a rundown of all the major game announcements and an overall review of the Xbox Conference for E3 2014.

Phil Spencer started the show strong with a very humble attitude virtually unseen from Microsoft. With the promise of listening to gamer feedback in order to improve the brand, Microsoft promised the show was all about games and in that aspect, they delivered, with not a Kinect game in sight. Unfortunately, the conference was dominated by multi-platform titles that are not only coming to competing consoles, but will actually be superior on those platforms.

The show kicked off with Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare. While it wasn’t the best way to start the show since it’s the same Call of Duty at the end of the day, game did look visually impressive, especially for a CoD game. The faces looked great, explosions packed punch and the overall fidelity was quite commendable. The game looks very different to previous entries aesthetically, with futuristic locals and slightly more colour and imagination then previous games. The soldier used a jet pack, which added extra verticality, but the game is still unabashedly linear, at least if the demo indicates anything.

Dan Greenawalt of Turn 10 Studios took the stage to reveal free Forza 5 DLC, which is always appreciated, before Forza: Horizon 2 took centre stage. The game is running in 1080p and the trailer showed off drop dead stunning visuals. The dynamic weather added a great deal to the fidelity and the courses themselves were varied and highly detailed. The game is also featuring dedicated servers for seamless multiplayer which is great. A September 30 release date to wrap it up was the icing on the cake.

Surprisingly, Assassin’s Creed Unity made its debut at the Xbox conference. Typically, AC games are shown at the Sony conference. Four player co-op was confirmed by Ubisoft and shown off to great effect on stage. The game featured the trademark parkour the series is known for while demonstrating really impressive crown simulation. The level of co-ordination shown by the players was quite impressive, but it appears to make the game even easier than previous entries, which weren’t exactly Dark Souls difficult. The vistas of France were stunning, filled with colour and detail. Overall, the demo was surprisingly solid.

Dragon Age Inquisition followed up next with a great looking trailer that showed off a small amount of gameplay. Exclusive content was confirmed only for Xbox One.

Another dull looking military game took the stage that made me roll my eyes to start. Suddenly, it was filled with colour and life, revealing itself to be a rather funny trailer for Insomniac’s Sunset Overdrive. Ted Price took the stage for a short live demo. It featured fast paced, fluent movement and creative weapons Insomniac are known for while presenting a world completely unique and full of colour. The game seemed fast paced, explosive, crazy and really unique. The game received an October 28 release date.

Thankfully, Dance Central: Sportlight for Kinect only took up a minute or so before Lionhead took centre stage for Fable: Legends. The demo started strong, revealing a title that struck a good balance between a quirky art style and highly detailed texture work. The gameplay actually looked more challenging than previous Fable games, which is much appreciated. Lionhead also showed a new asymmetrical spin to mutliplayer with “the villain” able to deploy enemy forces against the four players part of the demo. Overall, the demo was quite good and genuinely impressed, which Fable 2 and Fable 3 never did.

A short Project Spark trailer was shown that looked quite interesting. They ended strong Conker featured in the trailer. Suddenly, a really sombre and rather beautiful little game was shown by Moon Studios. It appeared to be a 2D side scrolling adventure game that was actually quite emotional. The title was called Ori and the Blind Forest and is exclusive to Xbox One.

The Halo theme song erupted through the stage. A CG trailer began playing. Master Chief is seen dragging a bomb over Earth before plummeting to the Covenant Armada bellow, a scene familiar to those who played Halo 2, though the trailer teased Halo 5: Guardians. Halo: The Master Chief collection was officially announced for a November 11 release date. It features Halo 1 through 4 excluding Reach. In this collection Halo 2 is receiving anniversary treatment with upgraded visuals over the original. A multiplayer demo was shown, revealing that Halo 2 multiplayer would play as it did 10 years ago. The collection features 100 maps and will run at 1080p 60 FPS on dedicated servers.

It was revealed that Halo: Nightfall, the live action series by Steven Spielberg would be available to those who purchased The Master Chief Collection. The Halo 5: Guardians beta was announced, coming this holiday season. A very short trailer was shown, teasing new Spartan abilities. All the games revealed up to this point would be available this year.

Playdead studios was the next developer to show a game. What appeared to be a very artistic side scrolling title was shown. It had a very monotone art style that contrasted heavily with the few colours shown on screen. The title was called Inside and is releasing early next year. This was followed by a trailer showing off some of the Indie games that would be coming to Xbox One. It was great to see Microsoft give Indie developers the time to show off their games on the big stage. A CGI trailer was then shown for Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Brilliant polish developer CD Projeckt Red took the stage with the first live demo of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, one of the most promising next generation titles revealed so far. The game was undeniably one of the most visually impressive titles shown. The view distance was amazing and the overall fidelity was jaw dropping. The combat was fact paced and visceral with Geralt using a variety of melee and magic based attacks. The music was pretty damn great as well and added a great deal to

After a short trailer for a title called Phantom Dust was shown, The Division, one of the most anticipated titles of 2015 took centre stage for a live demo. The game still looked phenomenal as it did last year, with really excellent attention to detail and fantastic animations. The sound design was also spectacular. The players showed a great level of co-ordination, utilizing gadgets to both silently and loudly take out characters. It was great to see stealth implemented into a title of this scale. The combat itself was very fast paced and looked great. Overall, The Division had an excellent demo that was without a doubt one of the standouts of the show.

Surprisingly, Platinum Games took the stage to reveal an Xbox One exclusive title by the name of Scalebound. The trailer itself was quite entertaining and visually impressive, featuring massive monster battles. A trailer for another Xbox One exclusive was also shown. The trailer was colourful and explosive. This game was revealed to be Crackdown and was received very well and for good reason. Microsoft ended the show with a montage of all the games revealed.

It’s safe to say that Microsoft bounced back, though their conference was not nearly as good as it could have been. After years of having pretty awful conferences at best, Microsoft brought nothing but games which is what they needed to do. They showed a few exclusive titles and lots of multi-platform games that were often impressive and a few of them looked stunning, especially The Division and The Witcher 3, but those are coming to PC and PS4 too. They showed that they’re expanding their reach, investing more into games that don’t just cater to the brodude market. We saw the shooters, but we also saw RPG’s, action game, Indie games and more.

If Microsoft spent more time showing off exclusive games instead of just revealing trailers, their conference would have been better. Overall, Microsoft had a solid conference. It wasn’t mind blowing and they needed to show more exclusives, but Microsoft did do a decent job this year. Whether or not it will be enough to compete against Sony and Nintendo will be revealed soon.

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