After weeks of confusion, anger and disbelief, Microsoft has played its hand.
Arriving at E3 suffering from the self-inflicted wounds of a poorly received Xbox One launch and a comically entertaining communications catastrophe, they had a lot to prove. Almost every aspect of Xbox One has drawn fire, from its TV integration through to its used games policy. There’s a sense that years of innovation are being thrown away in the name of appeasing publishers.
Microsoft’s assurance was that E3 would be about the games. And they were true to their word with a presentation that lined up title after title. It was a presentation that ticked the boxes you would expect. Big on spectacle, and huge on particle effects. Many games played out like out a pre-pubescent boyhood fantasies, mature only in the sense that you get to pop a bullet in someone, or slash a sword in a face.
A prime example was Ryse: Son of Rome, a never-ending sequence of QTEs that looked like a retrograde step in all but visual spectacle. It was a stop-start beauty pageant that bored long before its demo finished. The Kameo of the next generation for sure. Forza 5 proved yet again that cars are pretty, there was a nagging familiarity to the demo, but the Drivatar concept is certainly interesting and it may give the franchise the boost it needs. Remedy’s Quantum Break was by some measure the most intriguing exclusive Xbox One title, its mixed media format, undeniable style and developer pedigree bodes well for what looks like a genuine attempt to push the medium in s new direction.
Meanwhile, Project Spark trundled into town, the latest title to handle game creation to its players. It was all nice enough, but the demo lacked a single flicker of charm, a reminder of how tough it is to combine quirkiness and appealing character design. The trailer fared better, promising more variety in genre and tone. Its simplicity will be key.
It was left to Insomniac’s Sunset Overdrive to bring a dash of much-needed colour and humour, gate crashing the presentation like a Sega game, circa 1999.
Of course a Halo tease was to be expected, but the sight of Master Chief clad in flowing garb was peculiar to say the least. And the resurrection of Killer Instinct could be one of the least wanted franchise revivals in recent years.
Finally, we got our first look at Respawn’s Titanfall, a rambunctious cocktail of jumping, shooting and mech combat. While its scope and ambition couldn’t be questioned, it was a shame to see the game’s artistic direction taken from Jane’s Big Book Of Space Mech Marines. Add in a flash of colour and you have a show stealer right there.
So, by all accounts a reasonably strong line up, if one that was a little self-important. I’m not sure that a title like Ryse will have the punters lining up (especially as you won’t able to get rid of the thing when you’re done with it), but the likes of an improved Minecraft, Below, Sunset Overdrive and Quantum Break certainly help to dilute the feeling that Xbox One is just a machine built for jocks.
Microsoft’s next job is proving that these games are not only worth playing, but also worth all the other hassles Xbox One is bringing to the next-gen party.
Xbox One Games at Microsoft’s E3 Conference
Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain
Ryse: Son of Rome
Minecraft – Xbox One Edition
The Witcher 3
Dead Rising 3
New Halo title