At every E3 in recent memory, Xbox has been a strong player, typically chipping in with installments to franchises that keep on printing the company money like no tomorrow. This year was no exception, but it was also very different. The event overall had a stronger feeling and a more confident stance, showing that Xbox knows some of their in-house stuff is their best to date. As you hop in with us, you’ll see a recap of some of the hardware announcements that Xbox made as well as their reveals for new games, new services and one whopper of a reveal – backwards compatibility with a growing list of Xbox 360 titles.
The headline feature: Backwards Compatibility
Xbox boss Phil Spencer was on stage to make the reveal and it couldn’t have left me, much less everyone in the audience, in total disbelief. Spencer announced that the Xbox team had been hard at work on a secret project that could finally be revealed – backwards compatibility with Xbox 360 titles, played natively on the Xbox One (ergo, Windows 10 PCs as well, because you can stream your games from your console if you have a Windows 10 machine). This is pretty substantial for a number of reasons, not least of which is obviously complexity – we’re talking two complete architecture switches from PowerPC (CPU) and Terascale (GPU) in the Xbox 360 to x86 and Graphics Core Next (GCN) in the Xbox One. Microsoft isn’t running these games in a virtualised environment, they are native.
How you claim your “remastered” games is promised to be simple. You can pop in some of your Xbox 360 discs, sign into your Xbox Live account, and redeem the reworked versions. Then, you can download them to your Xbox One. These games run natively, but they will still make use of the same services as before, so you can play with your friends who are on their Xbox 360 consoles. There’s a preview for this program starting today for Xbox One owners in specific regions around the world (either they weren’t mentioned or I didn’t catch them) with a worldwide rollout of the offer in Holiday 2015.
The Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller
Another surprise hardware announcement was the Xbox One Elite controller, a reimagined Xbox One controller that takes more than its fair share of inspiration from the MadCatz Xbox 360 Pro Controller. This one from Microsoft has replaceable parts and extra features that you might want to consider, especially if you play games professionally. The D-pad is replaceable and Microsoft’s default configuration will be this new curved design that allows you to hit those diagonals pretty easily. The thumb sticks are replaceable and can be swapped out with ones that have a different finish for different grip levels. The face buttons are the same internally, but promise better feedback.
Underneath, there are extra paddles that mimic the functionality of existing buttons, which can be customised in software. This is so that you can execute complex moves without ever taking your thumbs off the joysticks. The paddles are replaceable and might even have 3D designs made available one day, so you can custom-create your own paddles. Also new is the 3.5mm jack for headphones at the bottom of the controller, but not much noise was made about it.
Microsoft didn’t detail when the Elite controller will be available, but you can bet that its going to be more expensive than the regular controller. Thanks to the wireless adapter for Windows machines, this controller will also work for your games on your PC, and should be fine for use with the Xinput API.
Another Hololens for Xbox One demonstration
Just before the Hololens demo, it was revealed that Microsoft would be working with Valve and Oculus to make VR work on both the Windows PC platform and the Xbox One. The Valve announcement was very off-the-cuff, but signals a renewed partnership between the two companies, surprising given that Gabe Newell publicly denounced Windows 8 and used it as an incentive to build SteamOS. The Oculus Rift will also be compatible with the Xbox One, but there’s a catch – you need to hook it up to a Windows 10 machine on the same network, because you will be streaming the visuals over the local network to the host PC and the attached Rift. There’s surely some latency involved there.
On to Hololens. Minecraft was used as the showcase for the peripheral and it was first projected on to a wall in first-person mode. Then, the demo was suddenly moved to a nearby table, where the game was rendered on the table, using the surface as a minimap for the game world, which was then rendered before the player in full 3D. Not only could he move the world around with hand gestures, he could also order the game around with voice commands. We’ve seen grand demos like this before when Microsoft revealed the TV functionality of the Xbox One way back in early 2013, so this could be a scripted demo, but it looks so very nice.
And now, to the game announcements.
Halo 5 Guardians by 343 Industries – launching 27 October 2015
What would an Xbox event be without Halo? Halo 5 Guardians was shown off, with gameplay showing four players in co-op advancing through a level in the game together. The action is pretty fast and thick, and the tight corridors that the players move through adds to this feeling of slight claustrophobia. The game looks good, which is good for 343 Industries, as they try to move away from the Halo Master Chief collection saga and on to a brighter future.
Also shown off was Halo Warzone, the multiplayer component of Halo 5 Guardians. Fairly standard stuff for Halo if you’ve played previous games in the series, but it will probably turn out to be fun. Warzone is limited to 24 players in a map, but the maps are bigger with more things to do, so that somewhat helps to compensate.
ReCore, by Keiji Inafune – launching spring (US) 2015
ReCore is a first-person shooter that looks a bit like a mix of Rage and Borderlands, where your female protagonist and her companion journey through an abandoned wasteland, battling mechanical enemies. The title seems to point to how you progress through the story with your companion, as he/she/it is powered by a blue crystal core, or ball, of energy. Attaching this ball to any number of different bodies may give your companion new powers and abilities, and together you’ll team up to tackle the foes that cross your path. Nothing much else is known about the game, but it does look very appealing.
Fallout 4 by Bethesda Game Studios, launching on 10 November 2015
This was an interesting one. While we’ve already seen all the details we could ever possibly want to know about the upcoming Fallout 4 landing on current-gen platforms this year, Bethesda’s Todd Howard appeared on stage to talk about the game and release one very interesting development – mods created on the PC version of the game can be shared and used by users playing on the Xbox One version. Either that’s down to the similarities of the PC and Xbox One version, or there’s also a mod-sharing agreement in place with Sony for the PS4 version as well.
Additionally, Xbox One owners buying Fallout 4 will also receive Fallout 3 for free (the backwards compatible port from the Xbox 360), but strangely not New Vegas. Maybe its treated as the black sheep in the family, which is odd because it is the superior game by far.
Plants Vs Zombies: Garden Warfare 2 by PopCap, launching in spring (US) 2016
The Plants Vs Zombies franchise took a turn for the better in the form of Garden Warfare, a first-person shooter that never took itself seriously in any way whatsoever. The sequel looks set to maintain that mild insanity, putting players in the role of the zombies, as they have conquered Surburbia and now prepare to defend themselves against onslaughts of plants. There’s a nod to a few other games in the Electronic Arts stable, because one zombie, Imp, has a Titanfall-esque mech that he can summon mid-battle.
Garden Warfare 2 will use the Frostbite engine once again and will offer over 100 new playable characters, several new game modes and split-screen gameplay, and will be coming to the desktop PC as well.
EA Access gets Titanfall and Dragon Age: Inquisition
Electronic Art’s Peter Moore appeared on stage briefly to talk about EA Access, an exclusive service that players subscribe to for $5 per month to get access and unlimited play time to a roster of games available through the service. It acts almost like an extended rental of the games on hand and its been a tremendous success in the past year that its been running.
For June 2015, Titanfall and Dragon Age: Inquisition will be heading to the service next, and Moore assured the audience that newer titles like Need For Speed and the 2016 wave of sports games would be likewise available on the platform.
Forza Motorsport 6 by Turn 10 Studios, launching 15 September 2015
Turn 10 Studios appeared on stage with Ford boss William C. Ford Jr. to show just how much detail the team have been able to put into the game’s version of the new Ford GT. Building on the features and base of Forza 5, Forza 6 adds in more cars, more tracks, working doors and body panels as well as a fully modeled damage system. There’s also night racing and wet weather tracks to test your mettle, although the multiplayer action won’t be too insane, being limited to 24 cars on the track at the same time.
Turn 10 still promises that the game will achieve 60 frames per second at the full 1920 x 1080 resolution, which, with all the added detail, will be no mean feat for the team to achieve.
Dark Souls 3 by From Software, launching in early 2016
Dark Souls! Dark Souls! Dark Souls!
Nothing more needs to be said. Microsoft got to reveal this trailer first and I’m sure they are extremely happy they did.
Tom Clancy’s The Division by Ubisoft, launching 8 March 2016
The first gameplay trailer for Tom Clancy’s The Division is short on both length and details, but it looks to be one of the bigger games for 2016. A four-player co-op experience, The Division puts you in with your teammates in a post-apocalyptic version of New York, where you have to brave the elements and other ruthless humans to scavenge what you can and try to keep some order, and keep those from the Dark Zone out. It is probably a game more famous for promising utterly spectacular visuals and realistic car doors than anything else, and this trailer will only see the beginning of more threads on Reddit and NeoGAF asking others if the game’s visuals look downgraded at all.
Personally, I think it’s going to be fantastic, and the emergent storylines that come out of it will be fascinating.
Tom Clancy’s Rainbox Six: Siege by Ubisoft Montreal, launching 13 October 2015
Although the trailer for Rainbow Six: Siege didn’t show much of anything exclusive for the Xbox One in particular, the Ubisoft representative on stage (I never caught his name) told the audience that Xbox One owners would not only get Siege, but would also net free copies of Rainbow Six Vegas and Vegas 2 as part of the backwards compatibility features announced earlier.
Rise of the Tomb Raider by Crystal Dynamix, launching 10 November 2015
Rise of the Tomb Raider is a controversial game already, being an “exclusive” for Microsoft, but possibly appearing on the PlayStation 4 and PC platforms much later due to a rumoured exclusivity agreement. This latest adventure with Lara takes you into the icy mountains of what looks to be Nepal, with the snow nearly killing her and her partner in an attempt to make it to some sort of sanctuary hidden in a mountain valley. Lara luckily doesn’t get impaled in this gameplay demo, but I’m pretty sure there’s a couple of broken ribs involved there when she escapes a deadly avalanche.
Indie Montage for ID@Xbox
Obligatory montage of indie games coming exclusive to the Xbox One? Your wish is granted. You can also check out the fully extended trailers for Gigantic, Tacoma, Beyond Eyes, Ashen, and the utterly insane Cuphead.
Ion by Dean Hall and the Xbox Preview Program
A surprise guest appearance from Dean Hall of DayZ fame also accompanied the announcement of a new program for the ID@Xbox developers, called Xbox Preview. In a nutshell, this is Early Access for the Xbox platform, where developers ask for your hard-earned cash in return for access to a game in the early stages of development. It begins with Hall’s game Ion, sort of a DayZ-esque title set in space, where you and others live, survive, and sometimes die in space. Spaaaaaaace!
However, the access part is different. Instead of paying to access the game in development, players will have a trial period set by the developer that will allow them to preview the game in its current format and let them decide if they want to buy it and continue with the preview versions of the game, or hop off the unfinished version and join the hype train for the game’s launch. It is an interesting way around the issue of users feeling ripped off if they get into a game that has no future, which we’ve seen several times for games funded by Kickstarter and Early Access in the past two years.
Rare’s Replay Collection and Sea of Thieves (launching 2016)
Rare made an appearance and for the first time, paid homage to their incredible laundry list of hit titles by announcing the Rare Replay collection, comprising of 30 games from Rare’s past that made them successful. If you’re a Rare fan, this is going to be a good one to pick up to drive all those feels back to your heart again.
Rare also revealed their new project, a first-person multiplayer MMO where you’re a pirate in a pirate crew roaming the seas looking for bounty, loot and lost treasure. I didn’t actually hear anything during the demo, though.
All I heard were the soft weeps of Ubisoft developers crying over how much money they could have made doing this exact same thing with a game based entirely on the naval missions in Black Flag. Rare will probably knock this one out of the park, and it looks like everything I’ve ever wanted a MMO pirate simulator to be, complete with ship battles and getting people to walk the plank.
Gears of War 4 by Black Tusk Studios, launching in Holiday 2016
Its an entire year away, but Microsoft left its audience with Gears of War 4 gameplay. Go on, salivate.
Thanks to Microsoft’s efforts to work on backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 titles, we also get something else from Black Tusk – a complete remaster of the original Gears of War trilogy. More VREEEEEEEEM, less aliasing. I’m cool with that. Gears of War Ultimate Edition will be a 1080p 60fps remastery with HD textures, reworked sound and lighting and will probably launch towards the end of 2015 during the holiday season.
That’s a wrap!
If you really want to watch the entire conference yourself, you’ll be able to watch it here. But you probably won’t, because you have to catch up on all the other E3 news we’ve compiled for you in the last two days.