My Thoughts on Microsoft’s E3 2016 Press Conference

project_scorpio

The time has finally come to discuss the biggest video game event of the year once again: the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2016. I’m humbled by the fact that this is the second E3 I’ll be spending with you all. This wouldn’t be as fun if I was simply taking in these announcements by myself with no outlet to express that information. So, hopefully this is as fun for you as it is for me.

There have been E3 conferences and events the past couple of days, but my sights as always were set on the Big 3 companies: Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo. Monday saw the release of possibly the only two major showings of E3, so today I would like to share my thoughts of the show with you all, starting with Microsoft.

Apologies for the delay in getting this post out to you all, but this week was incredibly busy for me, and as a result I caught the entirety of the Microsoft conference in bits and pieces throughout the day. (Thanks Spike TV). If this run-down seems a bit schizophrenic or disorganized, my apologies. That’s just the way I experienced the conference.

By the way, I won’t be covering every announcement; only the ones that stand out to me.

The show begins with an invocation to the recent Orlando shooting by Xbox Head Phil Spencer. I thought that was an increasingly touching gesture on both Microsoft and Sony’s part to even acknowledge the shooting. They didn’t have to, and no one would blame them for not addressing it, but the fact that they took time out of the conference to at least mention it is heart warming. Respect!

Now for the first announcement of the show, something we kinda saw coming. The Xbox One S is the smaller and more efficient model of the VCR brick known as the current Xbox One. This model improves on the original with 4K Ultra HD Blu-Ray for streaming video and HDR support to make games looks even better. It’s a pretty cool addition for those who were complaining about how large the Xbox One was beforehand. It’s not for me, but I’m impressed by just how much smaller this model actually was. I thought slim was just code for just as wide and not as tall. Impressive.

Then we move onto games, the first and most anticipated being Gears of War 4. My experience with Gears of War is minimal at best, seeing as I only ever played the first level of Gears 3. Regardless, I thought this was a pretty good demonstration. I’m in love with the game’s weather effects for starters, and I already have a favorite weapon in the game. You know that disc dispenser gun that bounces off everything. That looks like fun. I just might give that game a try.

In other Gears of War news, General Raam from the first Gears game will be playable in Killer Instinct, a game which I forgot still existed. And I thought Smash Bros had a lot of relevance after launch. So rock on Killer Instinct fans.

Forza Horizon 3 was next up, and I usually respond to Forza games with “I don’t care”, because I usually don’t care. Surprisingly enough, I’m singing a different tune this time. This Forza actually looked really cool. I like how the open world co-op works and the Australian location set is beautiful. Not to mention they used it to demonstrate the new cross platform multiplayer feature between Xbox and Windows 10, Xbox Play Anywhere. Well done Microsoft. You finally broke me.

To expand a bit more on Play Anywhere, while I may never utilize it with my ancient PC, I love the concept of expanding Xbox in a more mobile and handy way. It ensures Xbox’s existence as a platform rather than a console, and even allows you to theoretically play your games anywhere you have your laptop. Sounds like I’m due for a laptop upgrade.

Then we got some gameplay for Final Fantasy XV, which is a bit jarring when you think about it. Aside from Crystal Dynamic games like Rise if the Tomb Raider, Square Enix games are typically reserved for Sony’s conferences. This year matters have changed. Anyway, they showed gameplay of what was considered the Trial of Titan. The game once again proves to be the action RPG goodness I was hoping for. It’s fast, fluid, beautiful and fun. I can’t wait to give it a try, and am happy to see how close we actually are to the release date.

Now for one of the two games I was personally looking forward to seeing. ReCore finally got some gameplay to go with that cool trailer from last year, and… it’s good. I didn’t really know what I was expecting the game to be, but for some reason it didn’t wow me like I thought it would. Don’t get me wrong. I am interested in the game still. I guess all I need is some more unedited gameplay footage to turn my attitude around. As it is, I commend it for being different.

In Minecraft news, a new mode was added to the roster called Minecraft Realms. To a non-Minecraft player like myself, it looks just like a regular game of Minecraft, but hopefully it did something for the fans. At the very least I can appreciate the show’s only mention of VR, as well as the new cross platform play.

Battlefield 1 makes its second conference appearance what I believe is the same trailer as in the EA conference, but I don’t mind. As much as I suck at FPS games and therefore have avoided the Battlefield series, I just might officially give the series a try now. This game looks like a lot of fun, and the variety of vehicles entices me. I agree with the sentiment of many that Battlefield 1 will probably be much better than COD Infinite Warfare. Even I, who has no preference for either game, would pick Battlefield 1 over Infinite Warfare. Point is, it looks good.

There’s a customizable Xbox One controller on the way. That’s pretty cool! I wonder if I can make it look like the NES controller. (I can’t be the only one thinking that).

The people behind Limbo showed a teaser trailer for Inside. All that was shown was the setting and world. There’s not enough here for me to get interested, but I did catch some gameplay outside of the conference. I wish I saw this during the show, because it actually looks excellent.

Now for something I can talk a lot about: Tekken 7. Oh, how I love this new trailer and the gameplay thereof. The big announcement this time around is that Street Fighter’s Akuma will join the roster, and by the look of things he will have a story arc with Heihatchi. See, my fear was that they would just end the trailer with the two cinematically fighting. I’m so glad I was wrong and that I received a full on match between Akuma and Hehatchi as well as some brief stills of other fights. Why must 2017 feel so far away?

They showed a couple indie games during the show in rapid fire trailer fashion. Among those games were Cuphead, Yooka-Laylee, Tacoma and Ark: Survival Evolved. Each look good in their own right, showing things you probably seen in past trailers. Only one indie game got a decent amount of shine, and that’s We Happy Few, seemingly its a narrative-based first-person adventure game with an awesome concept. A civilization living in confined quarters regularly taking pills of “joy” to remain happy when it’s all a twisted illusion? Sign me up. I’m keeping an eye on this game.

Dead Rising 4 is coming, starring Frank from the first game and set in or around Christmas. Dead Rising is a game I’ve been wanting to get into ever since Dead Rising 2, and Dead Rising 3 was one of the reasons I wanted an Xbox One. I just haven’t gotten around to playing it. So, here’s what I’ll do. This game is due out Holiday 2016. I vow now that I will try a Dead Rising game (whether its 3 or 4) by this time next year. I can no longer resist. This game has a gun that shoots candy canes. I need to play this thing!

Now for the game I was looking forward to most from Microsoft this year. Despite being delayed to 2017 (E3 giveth and E3 taketh away), Scalebound made it to the show with some much needed gameplay. They showed an online co-op boss battle sequence against what I would call a giant octopus/crab hybrid that looked really fun. I hear some people aren’t feeling this gameplay, and I guess I see why. My only gripe is that it looks exactly the same as the Final Fantasy XV segment not even 30 minutes ago. Though, I like the Final Fantasy XV segment, so I’m okay with it looking the same. At least this game has flying dragon things in it to spice things up.

Sea of Thieves was another game I wanted see more of. It started off with a cinematic teaser trailer followed by a second gameplay trailer. It was explained that a handful of players (I think they were YouTubers or Twitch streamers) were invited to play the game with no explanation, no tutorial and no objective. Just go and experience the world. You see them sailing the pirate ship, hoisting the sails, drinking rum, searching an island and embarking in a sea battle with another pirate ship. Even though it’s attempts at humor are limited by its quick editing, the trailer clearly shows off how fun it is to collaborate with others in this open world pirate adventure. Not an incredible showing, but I still liked it.

I feel like I’ll be echoing the same thing when I talk of State of Decay 2, but I’ll say it anyway. I never played the first one- hell I never even heard of the first one- but the game looks really cool, and I’d love to try it out. I do feel the short trailer showed too little gameplay, and it’s never clear what is gameplay and what is cinematics. In any case, it still looks fun.

Halo Wars 2, and I don’t care. Halo Wars 2, you have no hair. Halo Wars 2 and…okay I’ll stop. I’m not that into Halo mostly due to how much I suck at it and all FPS games. I applaud them for giving the fans what they want, as this was the second most anticipated game announcement of the show. I just won’t be participating.

In addition to game news, Microsoft also announced three upcoming features to Xbox Live. Clubs are discussion groups similar to web forums, which will allow players to meet other likeminded players to play with. Everyone will be free to join “The Ranting SBox Rocks” club when this feature arrives. Arenas will allow for competitive game tournaments among friends and the world at large. That way everyone can see how much I suck at FPS games. And Looking for Group is basically a want-ad for players to join competitive teams. So those who want to join a group called the “Rainbow Lovers”, where we discuss global warming and camp in Call of Duty, I’ll be taking applications.

With all the games out of the way, that leaves only the elephant in the room. Indeed, Xbox One.5 is a thing, only its name is Project Scorpio. This specimen will be the most powerful iteration of the Xbox One (duh), going up directly with Sony’s PlayStation 4 Neo and Nintendo’s NX. Microsoft totes of how this will be the most powerful console ever made. Those sound like fighting words. I like it! It turns out that’s no overstatement with 6 teraflops of GPU and 4K output. This beast will hopefully be as small as the Xbox One S and be no more than $500 and will release Christmas 2017.

This is no surprise to anyone. In fact I’m shocked that Microsoft is making an Xbox One S when Scorpio is also on the way. Not to say that Xbox One S isn’t a good idea, but I thought it would be stepped on for Scorpio. Anyway, Scorpio was something that has to be made considering where the industry is heading. With PS4 Neo improving on the base model PS4, which already overpowers the original Xbox One, and the Wii U being replaced with whatever the NX is, where would that leave the Xbox One. It would be dead last in power to everybody. What I am surprised by is just how much of an upgrade Scorpio will be. Without knowing the NX’s specs, the idea of Microsoft leading the industry horsepower-wise is beyond ambitious.

Much like PlayStation Neo, Scorpio will receive no content exclusive from either Xbox One or Windows 10. Do I fully believe that? No. With that substantial of a power boost, Scorpio only games will probably be a thing perhaps by E3 2019. It’ll be a 3DS to New 3DS situation. Though until such time as it does gain exclusive content, I probably won’t be buying it. I have all three eighth gen consoles already, so I have no need to jump right now. However, for people willing to wait a year and a half for a powerhouse console like the Scorpio, I salute you. May it not bring back the Red Ring.

So, that was the Microsoft 2016 E3 conference. Overall, this was a good show from the Xbox division. It definitely had the biggest announcement of E3 with two new consoles on the way. The game line-up is incredibly strong with Sea of Thieves, Scalebound and Dead Rising 4. For the most part, it gave the people exactly what they wanted with just one exception: the HoloLens. I was disappointed that it wasn’t shown or added upon in any way, and the absence of any VR discussion is surprising. The biggest flaw with the show is that it lacked surprises, since we already knew about Scorpio, Dead Rising 4 and the like.

I would give this conference a solid B+. It fulfills all the requirements of a great show, and had a good amount of gameplay footage compared to cinematic trailers. Though its lack of surprises keeps it from being extraordinary.

What did you guys think of the E3 conference from Microsoft? Did you enjoy it or hate it? Did you get everything you wanted? What were your favorite games at the show? My favorite games of the show were Scalebound, We Happy Few, Final Fantasy XV and Tekken 7. Let me know what you think in the comments so we can compare.

Tune in next time for my thoughts on the Sony press conference.

I’m SBox180. Thanks for reading!

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