In recent years, Microsoft has had less-than-stellar performances at E3. In 2013, Microsoft announced the jaw dropping price for the then-upcoming Xbox One with an unnaturally strange focus on TV. In 2014, Microsoft shifted their attention to games on Xbox – this was better, of course – but the announced games (save, perhaps, for Sunset Overdrive and a handful of indies that I’m fairly sure still haven’t been released) was more of the same.
How did Microsoft fare in 2015? As it turns out, not too bad. Let’s run down the top announcements from the home of Xbox.
HALO 5: GUARDIANS
Surprising no one, Microsoft launched the whole affair with a new look at Halo 5: Guardians. After a gameplay demo featuring the voice talents of Nathan Fillion and Keith David, they announced the new Warzone multiplayer mode. While the campaign demo looked appropriately impressive, Warzone looks awesome. Touted as PvPvE (where E is “everything else”), Warzone hosts two teams of 12 and pits them not only against each other but also against our favorite Halo enemies in a large battle area.
Halo 5: Guardians is set to release on October 27, 2015.
Following Guardians, Microsoft decided to show something new. From Keiji Inafune and the team behind Metroid: Prime, ReCore tells the story of “one of the last remaining humans on a planet controlled by robotic foes bent on your destruction.” Presumably using those cores shown in the announcment trailer, the player will gain a group of robot companions, “each with unique abilities and powers.” Slated for Spring 2016.
XBOX ONE BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY
This was the big one. After years from both Microsoft and Sony camps saying that backwards compatibility had to fall by the wayside for this current (and the previous) generation, Microsoft surprised everyone by announcing that very same feature was coming to Xbox One. A select number of Xbox 360 games will be playable on Xbox One for free (suck it, Playstation Now) starting this holiday, with more compatible games coming later one. Xbox One features, such as GameDVR, live broadcasting, and screenshots, will be usable in 360 games, as well.
While there’s no word on what games will be available at launch, it’s a safe bet that Halo and Mass Effect will be on that list. This promotional poster also might give some clues as to what’s coming. For games not on the final list, fans can submit what titles they’d like to see added via Xbox Feedback, and Xbox will work with game publishers to continue to release new titles regularly. Still, given that this is presumably some form of software emulation, it’s also completely possible that some games may never be able to make the jump, particularly if they require peripherals like Kinect or plastic guitars. In any event, we’ll have to wait until the end of year to see what’s what.
XBOX ELITE CONTROLLER
I never thought I’d be excited about a controller before, but this did it. It’s is pretty much everything you’d ever want from a gaming controller. Too bad it’s $150. Available October 2015, just in time for Halo 5.
XBOX ONE GAME PREVIEW
While selling “early access” titles has become a common practice in the PC world these days, it was never feasible to do on a console until now. Xbox will soon let developers give gamers early access to their work-in-progress builds for a nominal fee. On Steam where early access is practically the norm, there have been a lot of complaints about this so-called “early access” as a way to get some dollars from the unsuspecting public without giving a full experience. Whether there’s merit to that argument is up for debate, but Microsoft is at least attempting to combat that idea by letting users take a trial first before eventually shelling out the dollars for a not-yet-complete game. Game Preview is already available for Xbox One owners on two titles – Elite: Dangerous and The Long Dark.
To celebrate their 30th Anniversary, Rare has put 30 of their classic titles, including as Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark, Conker’s Bad Fur Day, and Battletoads, in a neat little package! Unfortunately, the N64 friendship-breaker Goldeneye 64 will not be a part of this package. Also, we’re hearing that Rare has made an infinite runner version of the Battletoads’ infamous “Turbo Tunnel.” In other words, the people at Rare are sociopaths.
- “Jetpac” (released in 1983, 1-2 players) – Single-screen shooter where Jetman must reassemble and fuel his rocket while fending off alien hordes.
- “Atic Atac” (released in 1983, 1 player) – Top-down adventure with increased replayability thanks to randomized object locations and three different character classes.
- “Lunar Jetman” (released in 1983, 1-2 players) – A return to the “Jetpac” side-scrolling formula, but with a scrolling, randomly generated landscape and much more to do.
- “Sabre Wulf” (released in 1984, 1-2 players) – Classic jungle maze game and the first appearance of explorer Sabreman, tackling dangers including the vicious ’Wulf itself.
- “Underwurlde” (released in 1984, 1 player) – Rare’s first true platform game. Help Sabreman survive the perils of the Underwurlde and escape through one of three exits.
- “Knight Lore” (released in 1984, 1 player) – Introduction of Ultimate’s groundbreaking isometric Filmation engine. Sabreman must scour the castle for items to cure his werewolf curse.
- “Gunfright” (released in 1986, 1-2 players) – A Wild West spin on the isometric style, with an improved engine and new first-person target-shooting sections.
- “Slalom” (released in 1987, 1-2 players) – Rare’s first console game. Make it to the bottom of each course before time runs out while avoiding trees, sledders, snowmen and other skiers.
- “R.C. Pro-Am” (released in 1988, 1 player) – Responsive racing game that inspired elements of Rare’s future racers, including speed boosts, upgrades and collectible power-ups littered around the track.
- “Cobra Triangle” (released in 1989, 1 player) – Hop into a boat and power through a branching game world, completing challenges such as shooting targets, disposing of mines and defeating leviathans.
- “Snake Rattle N Roll” (released in 1990, 1-2 players) – A fast-paced isometric adventure. Rattle and Roll must eat Nibbley-Pibbleys until they’re heavy enough to ring a bell and open the exit.
- “Digger T. Rock” (released in 1990, 1-2 players) – 2D platformer in which Digger must find an exit switch, stand on it, then make it to the exit in 60 seconds.
- “Solar Jetman” (released in 1990, 1 player) – A game built around exploration and physics; Jetman has to tow fuel and other items to his mothership.
- “Battletoads” (released in 1991, 1-2 players) – Skill and perseverance required as the ’Toads take on multiple game styles to rescue Pimple and Princess Angelica from the Dark Queen.
- “R.C. Pro-Am II” (released in 1992, 1-4 players) – Sequel to “R.C. Pro-Am” with a wider variety of environments, more car customization options and bonus games.
- “Battletoads Arcade” (released in 1994) – First “Battletoads” game to allow all three ‘Toads to play simultaneously. Has never had a home release before “Rare Replay”!
- “Killer Instinct Gold” (released in 1996, 1-2 players) – Home version of “Killer Instinct 2” with several multiplayer modes (including tournament mode) and a training dojo.
- “Blast Corps” (released in 1997, 1 player) – Cult classic with a fleet of destructive vehicles (from bulldozers to robots) used to clear the path for a runaway nuclear missile carrier.
- “Banjo-Kazooie” (released in 1998, 1 player) – 3D platformer adventure where Banjo and Kazooie must take on the evil witch Gruntilda, who’s kidnapped Banjo’s sister Tooty and plans to steal her beauty for herself.
- “Jet Force Gemini” (released in 1999, 1-4 players) – Interstellar action adventure that mixes third-person exploration and alien-blasting action as the last three JFG members go up against Mizar.
- “Perfect Dark” (relased in 2000, 1-4 players) – A stealth shooter set in the year 2023. Players lead secret agent Joanna Dark against the dataDyne corporation as they uncover an alien conspiracy that takes her around the world.
- “Banjo-Tooie” (released in 2000, 1-4 players) – Builds on Banjo-Kazooie with larger worlds, separately controllable characters, multiplayer modes and many more moves to learn.
- “Conker’s Bad Fur Day” (released in 2001, 1-4 players) – Beloved comedy adventure that mixes up genres (platformer, third-person shooting, racing) with mature humor, pop culture references and parodies.
- “Grabbed by the Ghoulies” (released in 2003, 1 player) – Rare’s first Xbox game. A comic book beat-’em-up set in a haunted house filled with breakable scenery and Ghoulies of all kinds.
- “Perfect Dark Zero” (released in 2005, 1-4 players locally, up to 32 players online) – A prequel to “Perfect Dark” that delves into Joanna’s origins and fuses first-person shooting with third-person, cover-based combat.
- “Kameo: Elements of Power” (released in 2005, 1-2 players locally or online) – A fantasy adventure focused on combat and exploration, with Kameo able to transform into ten different Elemental Warriors.
- “Viva Piñata” (released in 2006, 1-2 players locally) – A magical gardening/life sim in which the player can cultivate a garden paradise, attract different Piñatas and keep them safe from Professor Pester and his Ruffians.
- “Jetpac Refuelled” (released in 2007, 1-2 players locally or online) – A modern update to “Jetpac”. Assemble and fuel your rocket before blasting off to the next of 128 challenging stages.
- “Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts” (released in 2008, 1-2 players locally, up to 4 players online) – A more open-ended, customizable approach to the series with vehicle-based challenges set by L.O.G. (the Lord of Games).
- “Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise” (released in 2008, 1-2 players locally or online) – Features new species and Piñata Central challenges, plus desert and arctic regions to visit and catch native Piñatas.
This was, quite possibly, the coolest demo of a thing I’ve seen in quite some time. It was simple, effective, and mind-blowing. While early reports of others who have gotten their hands on the Hololens tend to indicate that using the device isn’t quite as impressive as shown in the demo, if this is the future of gaming in 10 years, sign me the hell up.
GEARS OF WAR
To conclude the Microsoft presser and give it that Jobs-ian “one more thing,” Rod Fergusson stepped out on stage and demoed gameplay of the newly-announced Gears of War 4. It looks gorgeous (in that “everything-is-the-same-color-but-is-still-really-sharp kind of way), but everything about the gameplay looks pretty familiar, down to the active reloads. There will be more to say about the game, no doubt, in the coming months. Gears of War 4 is slated for a 2016 release.
Gears of War: Ultimate Edition was also announced, which is a fully remastered version of the first Gears of War on Xbox One. Containing five campaign chapters never-before-released on Xbox, Gears of War: Ultimate Edition has been modernized in 1080p and grants access to Gears 4‘s multiplayer beta when available in 2016.
Those are the big announcements from Xbox’s press conference. Not too bad, in my opinion, and it seems that opinion is shared by at least some others in the community. We’ll have a rundown Sony and Nintendo soon, so keep on the lookout for those in the next day or so!