Microsoft Struts Its Xbox Stuff At Gamescom

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You know, after what Microsoft shown at E3 this year, you’d expect everyone to say that they won E3. I, for one, thought they did. How could the one-two punch of Xbox 360 Backwards Compatibility along with support for PC created mods for Fallout 4 not win? These are features that gamers would love to have, because we constantly hear complaints about this generation’s consoles (save for the Wii U) not being truly backward compatible, not to mention the so called “Glorious PC Gaming Master Race,” a term I personally despise for obvious reasons, bragging about how they can have their games modded. Why wouldn’t that be considered a win?

And I didn’t even get to the idea of previewing games before coming out. That too has the qualities of a winning press event.

But no, all it takes is once again remastering one of the most overhyped games of all time, plus starting an e-begging, ERRRRRRR, Kickstarter campaign and all the sheep jump on the “Sony won E3” bandwagon. It’s insulting to gamers to think that we need remasters and paying for something you don’t own, let alone paying again for games you already own, to win E3.

But now, with Gamescom in full swing, it is Microsoft’s turn to show off what they are offering for this year and next year without any worry about such tricks being used by anyone else, and from what I saw, they pretty much delivered.

After initially talking about the launch of Rare Replay, a compilation of 30 Rare classics that I have been playing a lot of (and being surprised at how it got away with so many Nintendo references in the documentary videos,) it was just right on to the games. Specifically, they showed the three games that were taken out of the E3 press briefing, and I am so glad they decided to hold off because what they shown here stunned me.

First off was Quantum Break, and it now looks like a completely different game from what I saw before. It seems to be more action oriented similar to Max Payne with the addition of the time freezing mechanic. I’m more than ok with that. Not only that, but the game itself looks amazing. Sure we can still see the difference between the FMV cut scenes and the game itself, but the difference is less than before. But now seeing Shawn Ashmore (Iceman from the X-Men series) as the lead, and Dominic Monaghan (Lord of the Rings and LOST) as his brother, the story looks like it will be amazing. Then again, this is Remedy we’re talking about, and they do specialize in storytelling. Yes I may have found Alan Wake to be boring, but I never denied its narrative. But I have a feeling the gameplay won’t bore me here. Now if only April 5th would come sooner…

Crackdown was next. Or should I say, Crackdown 3, which I’m glad to see as a sequel rather than a reboot. Though I was not happy with Crackdown 2 as it just seemed like the first game done by another studio, the alpha footage of 3 demonstrated the city’s destruction being performed by the Xbox One cloud that we’ve been hearing about since the console’s reveal. And despite all the criticism I’ve heard by impatient gamers and press, if what Crackdown 3 is any indication, cloud processing might be for real. I just want to see that tall building collapse for real.

Finally, we got our first in game look at Scalebound. Considering this is from Platinum Games, and my enjoyment of the Bayonetta series, I have to say it looked pretty impressive, even if it did have some slowdown at times. I’ll let it slide since it is still early in development. I also find it a bit ironic that the main character, Drew, reminds me a bit too much of Ninja Theory’s version of Dante from DmC. The demo shown truly looked like a Kamiya styled slasher, but what impressed me the most, as well as everyone else, is the fact the game will feature 4 player co-op. Holiday 2016 is still a while off, but I’m glad to see not only will we be getting great games next year, but also this year. Yes, I’m looking at YOU, Nintendo.

Next we heard something that I knew was inevitable since the console’s launch (even from all the haters) offering OTA television based DVR for free, allowing shows recorded on X1 to be streamed to any Windows 10 device. Granted I don’t have OTA (as I have DIRECTV) it will be good for those who want to cut the cord.

In addition, the chatpad is back. I was a huge fan of the Xbox 360 Chatpad, and the new one will feature two programmable buttons for special commands. I will have to see how it works out in comparison to a full keyboard, considering that keyboard and mouse support is in the works. I’ll have to see come November if it will be worth picking up.

Afterwards, one of the biggest bombs dropped at E3, backwards compatibility, was discussed. Before the conference, two games were added to the BC list: Gears of War and Shadow Complex. I had the chance to test out Gears of War which ran quite well at some parts (some of which actually ran smoother than on the 360) while there was one time when the frame rate took a hit. Shadow Complex has yet to be tested. However the huge announcement at Gamescom is that any future game that is offered free via the Games With Gold program will be backwards compatible with Xbox One. That means that the Xbox One will receive four free games per month as part of Games With Gold.

And yes, what I asked in my last column is going to come true, as Windows 10 will be coming to Xbox One.

During Evo there was talk about Killer Instinct Season 3, and at Gamescom it was announced that it will debut on March 2016, and will also be available via Cross Play on Windows 10. In addition, a sneak peek of one of the season 3 characters was unveiled, ironically just in time for the release of Rare Replay: Rash from Battletoads will be available to play until September 9th. It is awesome to play as him, but he is right with his victory comment, “These cameos are killing me!” I agree. Let’s get a true Battletoads game out soon. MAKE IT HAPPEN!

Indie games are the next focus, and though I am not the biggest fan of the indie game scene, titles such as Cuphead that were shown at E3 look promising. Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night was shown, a game that earned over $5.5 million on Kickstarter and developed by Igarashi of Castlevania fame will be available via cross play on Xbox One and Windows 10. He also showed a unique character that looks a bit too much like Richter Belmont from Symphony. I’m curious to see how the Castlevania Symphony series can move on without Konami, but Iga, a little advice, learn how to use a whip better. And at least here, Microsoft didn’t have to put the game in the fans hands.

Team 17 is also back with a new version of Worms (aka Worms WMD) for Xbox One, as well as a new game developed by the creator of Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island, Ron Gilbert. The game will be called Thimbleweed Park, and features a similar interface to the SCUMM engine used in his past games Even the characters look like they came straight from Maniac Mansion.

The next showing was the Xbox Game Preview, which as you all know, I have been deeply involved with, particularly with Elite Dangerous. However at the briefing, a new game, Sheltered, was announced for download. And coming soon is a title I’ve seen a lot of people stream on Twitch: Ark: Survival Evolved. I’ve wanted to play this for a while but with my computer not being fast enough for it I wasn’t able to. My chance will come this winter.

And the last game to be shown in Game Preview is a title by Compulsion Games called We Happy Few. I didn’t expect much but after seeing the demonstration, it reminded me a bit too much of The Purge series, only this time in London. It is just the masks that everyone wore in it made me feel like it was a retelling of The Purge. I’m hoping that is how it will end up.

DirectX 12 was mentioned for Windows 10, though sadly all that was shown was a tech demo from the makers of Final Fantasy. No word on if it was shown running on PC or Xbox One. I’m guessing it was the former.

Mojang took the stage next, starting with a discussion of a Windows 10 version of Minecraft, but that was not all they shown. A new Xbox One console exclusive called Cobalt was shown, a co-op action shooter that will be released this October.

A new video for Dark Souls III was shown, as well as a trailer for Homefront: the Revolution, which now looks like an open world experience. I’m really hoping that it will make up for the sour taste that was the original Homefront.

EA came out next to show off FIFA 16’s new features, namely Ultimate Team and EA Access. In addition, a new FIFA 16 Xbox One bundle was announced in Europe, including either a 500 GB console with 1 month of Access or 1TB with one year. I’m guessing it won’t come to the US since they have a similar bundle for Madden 16.

Halo 5 Multiplayer was shown more of this time around in comparison to the campaign shown at E3. In addition, the Halo World Championships was announced. A demonstration between one of the US’ best teams (OpticGaming) went off against a European team. I didn’t have much interest in this, though I thought it was funny they both had ScufGaming sponsorships. What’s going to happen if the HWC mandates the use of the Xbox One Elite Controller instead of their sponsored Scufs? I’m sure that will cause some controversy. After all, look at what the UFC is going through with their mandatory Reebok sponsorships. To finish up, a 1 TB Halo 5 console was announced.

The next game announcement surprised me: Just Cause 3. I never played the series (though I have Just Cause 2 on my 360 via GWG) but it’s a game I really need to get into and the showing of part 3 looks quite amazing. Even better for those who don’t own Just Cause 2, it will be bundled with Just Cause 3 when it is released on December 1st.

Forza Motorsport 6 then took the stage, showing off the game’s weather system that we had an amazing taste of with Forza Horizon 2 last fall. 450+ Forzavista cars will be available with full damage and customization, with 24 player races being played on dedicated servers. Even better, matchmaking will be based on speed and professionalism. Forza 5 already looked sweet as it ran at 1080p, 60 frames per second, and Forza 6 intends to run at the same speed. I really want to see them succeed at it, and come September 15th, I will put that to the test.

A new trailer for Rainbow Six Siege was next. Once again, I have to ask, can this game come sooner? It just looks intense, and yes, including Vegas 1 and 2 still makes it a great value.

Holiday Exclusive Rise of the Tomb Raider came back with a new gameplay trailer. Where the E3 one shown more of Lara surviving arctic cliffs, we now are treated to combat footage that looked as brutal as the last game. One of the best attacks featured Lara doing a double bow headshot, similar to the mark and execute system used in Splinter Cell. Special arrows such as poison gas were also used, as well as Molotov cocktails…but only to be greeted by a flame soldier. The guerilla combat looks great. I can’t wait for the final release to come out, and yes fanboys, the game is still a holiday exclusive. We all knew this right from the beginning as Phil Spencer himself said the exclusiveness “had a duration,” so just relax.

Phil Spencer then came back to the stage, and we all thought it was over. But no, he decided to make like Apple and do a “one last thing.” And what a surprise it was. When I saw the trailer I first thought it was going to be a follow up to Halo Reach, but I was wrong. When the Creative Assembly logo first came out, I thought they were going to do a survival game in the Halo universe, but that was because I was used to them doing Alien Isolation. I forgot they were best known for the Total War franchise, and they are back to that genre with Halo Wars 2. Talk about a hell of a surprise. After all the first game was developed by Ensemble Studios who sadly are no longer with us. Getting Creative Assembly to make the sequel has got me hyped up, and if the keyboard and mouse rumors come true, more so since the game will be on Xbox One and Windows 10, I cannot wait!

So what did I think of the Gamescom briefing? Microsoft pretty much crushed it. They showed the games that were left out at E3 as well as some nice new features. The first party exclusives that are coming out this year look amazing, and I can’t wait to get my hands on them. Sure it didn’t have the bombshell they did at E3 (namely the backwards compatibility) but since Sony was sitting out Gamescom, they really didn’t need it. I think Phil Spencer was right to save showing Quantum Break, Crackdown 3, and Scalebound until now. Suddenly it’s not just this year that looks interesting, but so does 2016 as well.

Sony, your turn is coming at Paris…

Currently Playing: Rare Replay

Waiting For: Forza Motorsport 6

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