This year I was hoping Microsoft would open with a well thought out apology. They would apologies for all the issues they have had to correct, issues that were of their own doing, the latest of which was selling the Xbox One without Kinect. To my infinite sadness this did not occur.
Microsoft opened this year’s conference with arguably one of the biggest guns in the industry. Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare now with 90% more of the same gameplay. I’m cynical when it comes to CoD at the best of times and the gameplay we saw here didn’t disappoint. Going by the supposed next generation standard, one would assume that the game should be running at 1080p, 60 fps. From what we saw, that seems hard to believe, like most next gen releases hitting those magical numbers seems a challenge but given Call of Duty’s low quality textures and assets 1080p is a number that is far from reach of one of the highest grossing games in development. Gameplay wise it looks more of the same with the addition of quirks from the setting, lasers and homing grenades were among the few quirks on show here along with the dramatic leave a team member to die in an explosion cliché to end the demo. Good work guys, tick list fulfilled.
Following up a game like Call of Duty is a daunting challenge, so let’s just get the mandatory racing game out of the way instead. Forza Horizon 2, the sequel to the critically acclaimed Forza Horizon and sister to the normal Forza games. Like last year the main thing I gathered from this game was Drivatar, except this time it is improved drivatar, with multiple drivatars being loaded in an open free roam environment, so you can think your friends are still playing the game when in fact they’ve moved on to greener pastures. The gentleman on stage assures us this game will run at 1080p full HD, which after what we’ve seen the Xbox One is actually capable of seems a bit far from the truth. All in all it’s a racing game, so as far as original critique goes I can’t provide anything. It looks nice and has lot’s of new cars, basically covers most bases here and as I’m stretched for time that’s all your getting.
From there we had a brief trailer for Evolve, which we were given little info on so let us move swiftly on to the next game which has a bit more for us to digest.
Presenting Assassins Creed V: Unity, now with 4 player co-op. The inclusion of co-op in AssCreeV seems, to me at least, like a diversion from the main issue surrounding the series. What actual new gameplay is there? Assassins Creed’s gameplay had been becoming stale for some time now, the combat is so easy a child could do it, and whilst AC4’s sailing mechanics alleviated some of the stress, it’s being piled back on again in the fifth iteration, with what appears to be this co-op mechanic to distract us from it. Expect harsh judgement if nothing new is presented to us.
Next up we have a game that sits astride the 4th wall like it’s a horse. Sunset Overdrive opened with a parody of your standard military shooter. Insomniac Games is well known for its sense of humour and it’s demonstrated well in the trailer for this game. the main refreshing thing about Sunset Overdrive is the colour pallet change, from the standard browns and greys of your run of the mill shooters, Sunset Overdrive has a vibrant, almost blinding in comparison, pallet that is further added to by the orange blood vomited out by enemies. The theme you sense from this game is a want to break the mold of standard shooters and apart from a few generic weapons displayed in the gameplay it kind of achieves this. My main erk with this game is that it an Xbox One exclusive and this makes me sad.
Oh look a Dance game that uses Kinect. Moving on!
What is this? A Fable game without Peter Molyneux. Of course it doesn’t mean it’s going to be any good, it just means there will be less lies and hopes and dreams surrounding it. From what we saw the most grating thing was the bad accents and cheesy lines. I haven’t played any of the Fable games as the series never interested me, and this one rubbed me the wrong way out of the gates. It does feature 4 player co-op which is another reoccurring feature this year as well as being devoted to the gamers, but even that doesn’t sell it for me.
It looked like a further look at Project Spark was on the cards this year, the tag line of ‘Where’s the rest of it’ amused many. This game raises questions of how they are actually achieving this. The game itself is extremely ambitious, but I do feel that building an entire game around user generated content is a bit risky. Without a good curation system much of your time will be spent sifting through the crap to find the diamonds of content. I’m not saying the game is bad, but perhaps I lack the faith in my fellow man to see the full benefits of a game such as this. Then again I do see the appeal in Everquest Next Landmark.
Halo now, and Microsoft have many ways to pilfer your pockets for money. Not only did we get a new trailer for Halo 5, which I’m still puzzled to how it will fit into the story canon, but we got the official unveil of the Halo: Master Chief collection in which you can now buy all the Halo games featuring your favourite stoic character in one place. Include in this bundle is a HD remastering of Halo 2 with its own multiplayer attached, which is tempting, and a movie short thing directed by Ridley Scott called Halo: Nightfall. I suspect the main selling point to this package will be the Halo 5, air quotes, Beta access, just as it aided in the sales of other iterations toting a similar offer.
Following the largest Xbox exclusive title we have the indie games, which were showcased in the only way we know how, via a montage with some sweet guitar music. From the looks of things there were too many indies to actually focus on, apparently this was showcasing Phil Spencer’s indie cred, when in all truth it was an incredibly vague section that I actually remembered little of.
Back in the mainstream we were then treated to a gameplay slice of Tom Clancy’s The Division, which is not actually a Tom Clancy game. We were originally shown this game alongside Watchdogs last year as part of Ubisoft’s dystopian future selection. Some have compared the game to Borderlands in a grittier setting, and I am somewhat inclined to agree, it is an RPG with FPS elements and your screen is covered in numbers, given by the demonstration it also may take itself way too seriously or it may just be the group of people they chose to demonstrate it. Ubisoft have a knack for getting overly serious people to play their demos and this is no different.
Perhaps one of the best looking games all show was the Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. Whilst I am biased to say it will look infinitely better on PC, the Xbox does a respectable job at showing this beautiful game. CD Project Red are said to now a thing or two about their game engines and have clearly done an excellent job at optimizing this game for the platform. During the demonstration we were treated to a Gryphon hunt that along the way led us to a side mission to complete. With this being an open world game there needs to be a lot for the player to do, and I don’t doubt that this game is looking to cater to that.
To finish, a new Crackdown was unveiled. I loved the original Crackdowns so was happy to see the game make a return with the same voice actor for the director of the Agency. From the trailer we gather that it is a new city with a new protagonist, although I wouldn’t put it past them to bring the old enemies back or for the naming department to gain any more creativity then what they have previously presented. Again I am saddened by this being an Xbox exclusive as I really like this game series.
Overall Microsoft’s conference this year was actually okay. There were no earth shattering announcement s or controversy, they played it very safe and this time focused on the games. But best of all not a single mention of Netflix or TV and only the slightest reference to Kinect and its retched dance games. So if I could sum it up in one word it would be Meh.