Microsoft’s Gamescom 2014 event was an interesting one to watch and it was a big change from the pace of E3, where they tried to cram in as much as possible. In the hour and a bit that I sat down to take notes and watch the show, I saw a bunch of awesome games and in particular felt that Activision is trying its hardest now to beat Titanfall, Battlefield and their own Call of Duty franchise at their own game, changing the play style in a big, big way. Quantum Break also looks like the system-seller Microsoft hopes it will be and it is both incredibly ambitious and unique in how it approaches time travel as both a plot and gameplay element.
One other interesting development needs to be pointed out – Microsoft’s marketing tactics have changed to match Sony’s. The company now says that the Xbox One “is the best place to play,” a line stolen from Andrew House as he introduced gamers to the Playstation 4 at Sony’s reveal event in February 2013. It’s good to see them paying attention to their public image in more subtle ways and I hope to see more of Phil Spencer’s work to bring the brand back up. Let’s dive in for the summary.
Xbox One around the world
Xbox boss Phil Spencer first took a few minutes to announce that the console will be available in an addition 29 countries around the world on 22 September 2014. This is up from the 26 announced a few weeks back in April 2014.
The current list of countries set to receive their Xbox One consoles this year are: Argentina, Belgium, Chile, Colombia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, India, Israel, Japan, Korea, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Slovakia, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, and UAE. No mention was made as to which are the three new countries joining the crowd.
The Xbox One launches in South Africa on 23 September for R6299 for the 500GB console without Kinect along with FIFA 15 and Forza Horizon 2. There is also a second bundle for the 500GB console, the Kinect sensor, FIFA 15 and Dance Central Spotlight. Both bundles come with a single controller, wired headphones with a microphone and a 14-day trial for Xbox Live Gold.
Here’s a tip – try not to buy a Gold subscription on the local Xbox store. The UK one is far better.
Three games, Three bundles
To celebrate the launch of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Sunset Overdrive and FIFA 15, Microsoft has put together a few interesting bundles. The FIFA bundle, obviously, ships just with FIFA 15 and a 500GB black Xbox One console.
The Sunset Overdrive bundle gives gamers access to the previously Microsoft employee-only white console and controller. It too has a 500GB hard drive and a launch edition of Sunset Overdrive.
Microsoft’s Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare bundle is the most impressive. The Xbox One’s shell comes with a custom coat of paint with vinyls on both sides, a matte grey finish on the left and a semi-gloss black coat on the vents on the right. The controller also gets a custom paintjob, too. There’s also a bundled copy of Advanced Warfare: Day Zero Edition, which gives you bonus XP and early access to new content 24 hours before anyone else as well as some other in-game DLC.
Assassin’s Creed Unity
Microsoft launched head-first into Unity, with a short showcase of the game ostensibly running on the Xbox One (no actual mention was made of this) and it looks very pleasing. There’s a great amount of detail in the landscape of Paris, even though the engine Ubisoft created to drive Unity pretty much assembles the city in a LEGO-like fashion. It is easily the best-looking Assassin’s Creed on consoles that I’ve seen yet and I am so reliving Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame‘s opening, where Quasimodo is skirting about all over the place.
Assassin’s Creed Unity launches for Windows PC, Sony Playstation 4 and Xbox One on 28 October 2014. SPOILER ALERT: There are no ship missions shown yet. Don’t cross your fingers for that.
FIFA 15 Exclusive: “Legend Players”
The focus switched to FIFA 15, one of Electronic Art’s most successful franchises in Europe. Microsoft reached a deal with EA to provide exclusive content to the Xbox One with a roster of players that are considered to be legends in the beautiful game. These include greats like Peter Schmeichel and Roy Keene, along with around fifteen or so others to choose from to create your own “dream team.” Microsoft even invited the real-life Smeichel to come up to the stage and pick out players for his dream team that he’d assemble in the game.
ID@Xbox is growing up
A short montage of games that have been spawned out of the ID@Xbox program followed and it looks like the people heading up that division have their hands full. The program is churning out games such as Blues and Bullets, Cuphead, Dungeon of the Endless, Fruit Ninja Kinect 2, Funk of Titans and many more. It seems like the exclusivity clauses are not keeping developers away from the platform and quite a few are taking it in their stride, putting out some very awesome-looking titles.
One big announcement is that Team17 will be porting all of their games over to the Xbox One. One of them, The Escapist, looks like an incredibly fun cross between Pokemon’s visual style and The Shawshank Redemption.
The first MOBA (multiplayer online battle arena) for the Xbox One was also announced in the form of the popular PC title, Smite. Smite was already well-adapted for use with controllers and this seals the deal even more.
Below also looks incredible.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (aka Bridge Deconstruction 101)
Activision showed up to punt Advanced Warfare again and this is legitimately the first Call of Duty that I’ve been really interested in since the zombies were revealed in World at War. Advanced Warfare makes drastic changes to the traditional COD formula by introducing new elements such as jetpacks, exoskeletons with super-strength and invisibility, homing grenades that fly, drones, guns, explosions and more guns into the game and it looks fantastic.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare launches in South Africa on 4 November 2014 and will be available on Windows PC, Playstation 3, Playstation 4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. Pre-ordering the Zero Day edition online nets you 24 hours of early access to the game before launch day.
Evolve looks awesome
Turtle Rock Studios’ Phil Ribb (who has a fantastic beard) arrived to talk a little bit about Evolve and show off a new map they’ve created for the game. Evolve pits a team of four human players against one extra human player who takes their turn to be the monster that must be hunted. Both the hunters and the monsters can use unique abilities during the game. The monster player can kill other smaller creatures to evolve and become stronger by going into a cocoon stage, leaving itself vulnerable for a short duration.
Evolve launches on 10 February for Windows PC, Xbox One and Playstation 4. There will be an open beta of the game available in January 2015 to help Turtle Rock test out the game’s multiplayer performance before the launch.
Quantum Break (drooooooooooool!)
Quantum Break gameplay. Well, you couldn’t have Alan Wake 2 this year, so this is what you get! The game seems to take a few gameplay aspects of time control from the Prince of Persia series, in particular Sands of Time and Warrior Within.
The entire conference room was silent. You couldn’t even hear keys tapping away while unfazed journalists suddenly had orgasms in their pants. Quantum Break is THE system-seller for the Xbox One. Nothing else comes close to the same level of technical wizardry. I do hope that the game has some replayability factor, or else it’ll be a wild one-way ride to the end of that rabbit hole.
Fable Legends and ScreamRide
Personally, I’m very meh on the Fable franchise. Legends looks like a fun co-op RPG romp though.
Hey, you guys played Theme Park back in the day, right? Well, this is what you get when you combine Theme Park with Evil Genius and that one episode in Phineas and Ferb where the two brothers decide to build the most ultimate roller coaster ever (“in the history of ever, Ferb!”) and ride it. I imagine that this is what took precedence when Kinect Sports Rivals was launched. It looks fun.
Forza 5 update and Horizon 2
Dan Greenawalt took to the stage to update the audience on how Forza 5 was doing, with millions of players zooming around the Nurburgring since it launched on the game as free DLC. Forza 5 players will now also be able to get the 2014 Infiniti Q50S and Q50 Eau Rogue for free as well as the 2013 Vauxhall Astra 1.6 Tech Line Top Gear Edition, 2014 Rolls-Royce Wraith, 2014 Renault Spark SRT-01E (Renault’s electric Formula E racecar) and the 2015 Ford Mustang GT.
The Renault Spark SRT-01E also accompanies a unique event in the game for the Formula E league. Drivers can set a fastest time on the Long Beach East Circuit to win tickets to the grand opening of the Formula E race in Berlin, Germany on 30 May 2015. Winners will be able to mingle in with the teams, drivers and crew as well as have a top-class seat for grandstand-level views.
Turn10 also showed a video about the social aspects of Forza Horizon 2 and it looks to be taking a major stab at taking out the air from Evolution Studios’ Driveclub and Ubisoft’s The Crew. They’re not playing around here.
Also in development is Forza Fuel, a competition that sees players driving from Barcelona to Bologna. I didn’t catch if this was a real-life competition or a virtual one, but either way it’s going to be fun. Forza Horizon 2 launches for the Xbox One on 30 September 2014.
Ori and the Blind Forest
It’s like Rayman: Legends and Okami had a baby.
343 Industries’ Bonnie Ross introduced new developments for the Halo franchise. Firstly, the Master Chief Collection will include all four Halo games that debuted on last-gen consoles, as well as a live-action Halo: Nightfall series that was promised at E3 2013. Accessing the series is done through the Halo channel, a new hub that will appear on the Xbox One dashboard offering you news and information on the Halo universe as well as bring you footage from tournaments, chats with developers and professional players and live streaming from Halo-themed events and tournaments.
Ross then showed off a multiplayer match of Halo 2‘s Sanctuary map featuring pro Halo 2 players I have never heard of, as well as gameplay footage of the multiplayer portion of Halo 5: Guardians. There is a beta for Guardians available if you purchase the Master Chief Collection. The Halo: Master Chief Collection launches for Xbox One on 14 November 2014 for countries in the UK, Europe and the EMEA.
And now for the sweet bitterness
Lara Croft’s latest adventure, Rise of the Tomb Raider, is either a Xbox One timed exclusive or an outright exclusive. Phil Spencer was very particular about his words on that one.
It’s your turn now, Sony.