That's Xbox's Big Show for E3 2016 over and done with, live and direct from not-so-sunny Los Angeles (seriously, did I bring the weather with me from the UK?). Let's review what was said, what was showcased, what was loud and in everyone's faces so hard it felt like knuckles on your gums. Hardware, software, excitable rhetoric, and fluffy promises that'll almost certainly crystallize and shatter prior to their realization: This was your Xbox briefing as it played out.
9:13 AM PDT
Here we all are, waiting. Exciting, isn't it? The doing nothing. The sitting around. The expectation and anticipation. The hope and dreams inside all of our hearts still pushing to be seen for real, to be felt as completely as an apple, or can of delicious what-at-this-hour-OK-sure soda. Will there be another Kameo? A new Amped? The return of Viva Piñata? Almost certainly: nope, no chance, and just do one.
Credit where it's due, though. This looped electronic "holding" music that's going on right now is marginally more bearable than what EA had yesterday, at its Play showcase.
OK, I take that back. It's grating, now. Maybe we should just check out for a minute or some, and come back when Big Phil's on the stage? OK, let's do that. Hold tight.
T-shirt sweepstake, anyone? I'm saying your guy up there, Phil Spencer, Xbox Big Boss Man, will be rocking something Gears of War 4 related. Just feels like that game needs a push. Which is amazing given the size of the franchise it's a part of, but doesn't it feel like there's an underwhelming amount of hype for the Coalition's upcoming shooter? October 11 it's out, which near enough puts it in competition with the next Battlefield, Titanfall, and Call of Duty releases. Feels like shooter overkill, no? And the previews haven't been amazing. I guess what happens in the next hour could significantly affect the course of the game.
Just a generic, albeit super old-school, original Xbox tee, it turns out. With a jacket over the top (it is nippy). Anyway, we are go, after a brief message from Phil on the shootings in Orlando. I wonder if that will have an impact on what Xbox chooses to show here, or more pertinently, how they do so.
Here's the new Xbox One S. A slimmer, white model of the Xbox One. Forty percent smaller than the current model. No massive power brick. Comes with a new controller with fancy texturing. TBH right now, I'd go in for one. The starting price is $299. Feels a little PlayStation in '95, doesn't it?
First out the gate is Gears of War 4, brought to E3 by Rod Fergusson, studio head at the Coalition. It'll be a title that incorporates cross-platform play via the Xbox Play Anywhere program. That means playing horde mode—there's horde mode!—with your friend who has a PC and refuses to usually mix with console peasants. Which is a neat move. We get to see some of the campaign in co-op play. The lancer chainsaw gets in on the action early, cutting through some weird, spooky, milky white humanoid enemy. That's new, the enemy—what's not is the same old cover-and-combat set-up, as the characters work together to take down a turret gunner, moving bullets-absorbing wreckage as life-preserving cover as they creep nearer.
Co-op door opening, just like that new Turtles game. There's a gun that fires circular saws that bounce off walls. Which is more Ratchet & Clank than Gears, to my mind. The weather turns out to be an enemy, too, albeit one that no gun can go up against—lightning strikes the ground with deadly results for the COGs' opposition.
It's too early for harsh language. But bloody dismemberment is fine. Gotcha.
And there's Marcus Fenix.
Killer Instinct has 7 million players. It's "the most-played fighting game on Xbox One." No comment on that. There's a new character coming to the game, and it's a back-from-the-dead Gears heavyweight: General Raam. Remember him? He got himself killed at the end of the first Gears. But now he's back, in one-on-one fighter form. Which is certainly a thing that's happened.
Now here's a change of pace. Albeit with another awful cover version of a song you know. "Wicked Game" in this instance, soundtracking forthcoming Australian outback racer... Forza Horizon 3. It happened. We called it.
Horizon 3 looks bloody beautiful. It's still just a driving game, under the hood, but boy, is it ever a delicious one. There's four-player campaign co-op, which is new. I never stick with these kind of games, though. Horizon 3 also supports Xbox Play Anywhere, and comes out on September 27.
ReCore gameplay, featuring a lot of melee combat with your human protagonist working alongside her adaptable robot companion. Not going to lie, it's a lot more action focused than I was anticipating after the atmospheric reveal trailer of this time last year. ReCore comes out on September 13.
Final Fantasy XV is on show, with a new demo showing protagonist prince sulky pants Noctis and his boyband-like pals facing off against an almighty titan. I'm really looking forward to this one. Here's a preview from earlier in 2016. The scale of this game certainly can't be faulted at this stage, and the real-time combat appears awesomely fluid; the music, too, is all big choral blasts and dramatic strings. I don't know if FFXV will do the numbers to cover the obviously enormous costs that have gone into its production, but my body is entirely ready. You want to mark September 30 on your calendar for this one. And then book the rest of the year off.
Here's DLC for The Division: "Underground." Randomly generated stages. Endless combat. Is this the game's take on Bloodborne's Chalice Dungeons? Yes. It is.
After a brief diversion into Battlefield 1 territory—we saw this yesterday—we're onto Xbox Live with Mike Ybarra. He's talking up how much faster the network's become (it's always been swift for me, to be fair), and bigging up cross-network play. "Your feedback drives us every day." OK, Mike, I have one thing: that dashboard is still a total dog's dinner. Can we neaten that up, at all? Nope? Hang on, here are three forthcoming features. There are "Clubs," which are communities around certain games and groups of players. There's "Looking For Group" functionality. And finally, "Arena" is a tournament platform for Xbox users, for competitive play in games like SMITE and World of Tanks, plus various EA Sports titles, "in the coming years." That's years, plural. Way to stick a flag in this, Mike.
Minecraft. Remember when we all liked Minecraft? Those days seemed so much sunnier than today's climate of the game's maker being a professional troll on Twitter. They wheel on id founder John Carmack for about 23 seconds to show the game off in Oculus Rift. Presumably he's actually playing Brutal DOOM in that headset, or what the fuck, right?
Xbox controllers now come in nearly any color scheme you want. Cool?
Here's Inside, by Limbo creators Playdead. This quiet, kinda unsettling, near-monochromatic trailer is an audience-silencer. Barely any applause in the Galen Center for it. Chris Charla of ID@Xbox (Xbox's indie program) comes onstage and calls it a "masterpiece." It's out June 29, which is exciting, and Limbo is free for Xbox players from right now by way of celebration. A trailer for more upcoming indie productions follows, featuring Cuphead, Below, Deliver Us the Moon, Yooka-Laylee, and more.
We Happy Few, first on console on Xbox One, looks super creepy. Like, A Clockwork Orange had a baby with BioShock. And brought Brazil over to babysit. And lived in an alternative universe 1964. And there's your piñata and what the fuck? This game is something else. Consider us very up for this. Watch the trailer below.
It's the Gwent card game we all knew was happening, based on The Witcher 3. We called this (and certainly weren't alone in doing so). This is a full multiplayer experience with cross-play functionality between PC and consoles. And there's a single-player campaign, too, which sounds... unlikely. But interesting. A story mode, in a card game. I guess time will tell with this one, but there's no denying the potential audience for this is massive, given the multimillion sales of The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It's out in September.
Xbox players might not have Street Fighter V, but they are getting Tekken 7, with Street Fighter badass Akuma in it. It's out early 2017.
Dead Rising 4, confirmed (again). The crowd noise swells. "Snow" falls in the auditorium (better than the grey skies outside, mind), as "Jingle Bell Rock" plays. And zombies get dismembered, toasted, squashed, and electrocuted on screen. The game is out this side of Christmas. Interestingly, there was no "exclusive to Xbox" messaging, so will it be out, too, on PS4?
Platinum's upcoming Xbox (and Windows 10) exclusive Scalebound is introduced by director Hideki Kamiya, who blocked me on Twitter the other week. So maybe I'll block his game, too? Ha. That'd teach him. Except: Massive monster combat with friendly dragons is pretty damn awesome looking. What's shown is apparently the biggest boss battle Platinum has ever realized, played in co-op. All seems a bit slow for the studio that brought us Vanquish and Bayonetta, though, even if the prospect is still very appealing. It's out sometime in 2017.
Here's Sea of Thieves, the new pirate adventure from Rare. There are some indoor pyrotechnics, because if pirates don't dig fire, with their massive wooden ships, who does? We get a gameplay footage premiere, featuring a multitude of (loud) players working with and against one another with no prior introduction to the controls or the objectives. And it looks great. Like, just joyous. Gleefully brilliant. All-smiles-all-the-time shooty-cannonballs-to-shipwreck-your-foes amazingness. I want this right now, please. (Check out the gameplay trailer above.)
More zombies, as State of Decay 2 gets its time to shine via a cinematic trailer. It's coming in 2017.
More not-actual-gameplay scenes as we get a look at real-time strategy sequel Halo Wars 2. I never played the first one. Should I? Dan Ayoub of 343 Industries is onstage to introduce a new force of nasties, the Banished. The game's being made in cooperation with the UK's Creative Assembly (Alien: Isolation) and is out on February 21, with a beta available on Xbox One immediately.
Big Phil's back to close the show. "We believe in uniting gaming communities," he says, and with the Xbox Play Anywhere scheme, it looks like that's Xbox's big move for the next year and more. And he's not done: The Xbox One S will be followed by a whole new piece of hardware, 4K capable by default, with a truckload of "horsepower" and the "highest-quality pixels." Something that's being built up as completely next-gen. Come on then, what do we have? This teasing is killing me.
Project Scorpio is confirmed. Pow. "It's a monster," and the most powerful console ever. Phil says it'll ship next year. Six teraflops of power: That's a lot of flops. Will it have any decent games, though? Oh wait, shit, OK, all Xbox One games and peripherals will play on and be compatible with Scorpio. Does that mean E3 2016 was "won" by Microsoft? Could be. Your move, Sony.
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