E3 2013: Xbox press conference

TitanfallMicrosoft was criticised for a lot of things after their big Xbox One reveal two weeks ago in Seattle, but one of the big ones was that the press conference showed almost no gaming.
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In my interview with Xbox head Marc Whitten, I asked about this, and he explained that it was very much a hardware launch, and with that out of the way, E3 would be all about the games.

True to his word, E3’s Monday morning press conference, the first big event of every E3, was almost non-stop games from start to finish. Microsoft showed off a lot of exclusives – some made internally, and others made by third party publishers – as well as a few cross-platform games getting bonuses on the Xbox One.

Of course, volume does not make a great press conference. What was the quality like?

For my money, the games on display ranged from okay to amazing, with nothing looking outright terrible, and plenty of things worthy of gamers’ interest.

My favourite of the conference (and in fact my favourite game of the day) is the debut game from former Call of Duty assistant-developer Respawn, a first person shooter called Titanfall. It’s not clear yet exactly how the game modes work, but it appears to be a multiplayer-only game with story elements and characters.

The coolest thing is that is mixes soldiers on foot and big combat mechs, called titans. Cleverly, the regular humans are given agility and firepower that allows them to take down titans if they’re clever, so being inside a mech is not an “I win” card. Soldiers have an amazing, free-flowing movement, letting them wall-run and leap from building to building.

The mechs are also quick and nimble, but are hampered by their size – they can’t get down into a basement to chase infantry. It looks like a smart team will mix their troop types.

Oh, and a mech can cripple an enemy mech, punch its fist into its torso, pull out the screaming pilot, and throw him. I’m not sure how anything else this E3 will be able to top that for sheer awesomeness.

Another long-awaited reveal was Ryse: Son of Rome, an Xbox One launch exclusive made by CryTek. Set during the Roman conquest of Western Europe, you control a Roman centurion, fighting enemies one on one in blood-soaked sword-and-sandal style, but you can also give limited commands to your troops.

While you might choose to take on a large group of enemies one on one for the extra experience, you may instead opt to let your archers kill them, or at least reduce their numbers a little. Combat is fast and brutal, and it is essential to watch your enemies closely, because you will not be told when to block. I had some hands-on time with Ryse on Monday evening, and thoroughly enjoyed it.

The following console-exclusive games were also shown off. Note that some of these will be released on both Xbox One and Windows PC:

Project Spark – Something along the lines of LittleBigPlanet, this game-maker toolset will use the controller, Kinect voice control, and the SmartGlass tablet app. Like LBP, a huge variety of game types and custom objects will be possible, and all can be uploaded and shared.

Minecraft – Notch’s incredibly popular world-building game will be released in a special Xbox One version, with new features such as much larger maps.

Killer Instinct – Rare’s classic 2D fighting game is back, pitting werewolves against dinosaurs. The goofy fun will return as a downloadable title. One character will be available free as a demo, and you can then spend money to buy other characters if you like it.

D4 – Only a brief glimpse was given, but this episodic game from the creator of Deadly Premonition seems to be related to the old horror adventure D.

Forza Motorsport 5 – Nobody can be too surprised that Forza will be appearing on Xbox One. This ever-so-pretty racer will feature hundreds of cars and an interesting AI system that learns how you drive and puts a simulated version of you into your friends’ single-player games.

Crimson Dragon – Microsoft had an unfortunate sound issue during this presentation, so it’s unclear what this game is about. It is from the original designer of Panzer Dragoon, though, and features a lot of brightly-coloured dragons spitting fire at each other.

Dead Rising 3 – It’s difficult to say for sure, but it looks like Dead Rising, originally an Xbox 360 exclusive, will be making a return to the Xbox fold, with Dead Rising 3 looking to be an Xbox One exclusive. It’s changed in some ways, appearing to be faster-paced and set in a large outdoor open world. Otherwise, it looks like it should please the fans.

Below – This is an oddball indie title from Superbrothers, the creators of Sword and Sworcery EP. It looks like a highly-stylised top-down hack-and-slash, and it was described as a “rogue-like”. I suspect this is one that will have to be played to be understood.

Quantum Break – Not much new was revealed about this interesting new property from Alan Wake developer Remedy, except that it involves characters who have survived a laboratory accident that allows them to manipulate time. We also got our first look at the engine, including the incredibly lifelike facial animation.

Apart from games, some other announcements were made. The key ones included:

– A surprise slimmer re-design of the Xbox 360, for which Microsoft reasserted their support by announcing some upcoming titles. 360 is not dead, apparently. Wargaming.Net is also bringing their free-to-play World of Tanks to 360.

– A price for the Xbox One: $US499. Microsoft Australia then confirmed we would get it for $AU599, $50 less than the Australian launch price of the Xbox 360, despite its inclusion of Kinect in every box.

– Much like PlayStation Plus, Xbox Live Gold membership will now grant Xbox 360 users two free games a month, typically older games from their back-catalogue. The first ones announced are Halo 3 and Assassin’s Creed II.

– The Xbox Live Marketplace will no longer use points. All purchases will now be priced in users’ local currency.

Overall, it was a strong showing for Xbox. Previous E3s have seen lacklustre press conferences from Microsoft, talking too much about cable TV and ESPN. With that out of the way two weeks ago, they were free to just show off the games, and the games they showed were generally quite good.

Stick around for the EA, Ubisoft, and Sony press conference reports.

– James “DexX” Dominguez

Screen Play is on Twitter: @jamesjdominguez

The original release of this article first appeared on the website of Hangzhou Night Net.

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