E3 2017: Microsoft Conference

It’s time for Microsoft’s E3 conference and buckle up because it’s an hour and forty minutes long. With forty two games announced, and twenty two of them being Xbox Exclusive, let’s dive right in.

The conference started with a short trailer for the new Xbox console, which was followed by a speech by the Head of Xbox, Phil Spencer. He announced that the new Xbox (The Xbox One X) was due to be launched this October and that it is the most powerful gaming console ever. He then invited the Head of Xbox Software Engineering, Kareem Choudhry to the stage. Choudhry explained that the Xbox One X has been under development for the past three years and explained that the team’s goals for the new console had been power, compatibility and craftsmanship.

First up, was power with the Xbox One X boasting a 6 Teraflop GPU (whatever a Teraflop is), 12 Gigabytes of GDDR5 memory and 326 Gigabytes of memory bandwidth. He explained once again that this makes it the most powerful console available, meaning that they could now support true 4K gaming.

Compatibility was up next, as Choudhry spoke about how all current Xbox One accessories would work with the Xbox One X. Not only that, but he stated that current Xbox One games will look even better on the One X and that a 4K TV wasn’t necessary to experience the Xbox One X. Finally, on to craftsmanship as he explained that the Scorpio Engine was designed to be the most advanced console processor ever. A liquid gel coolant system and an optimized power management system are also new to the One X. These improvements are encased in the smallest Xbox console yet.

Ten minutes in and it was time to show off some video games as they showed a trailer for Forza Motorsport 7 taken from the Xbox One X. I’ve got to admit, it does look stunning with the new console being able to render the smallest of details and with over seven hundred cars, Forza 7 promises to be one of the biggest racing games yet. Dan Greenawalt, the Creative Director of the Forza franchise came out onto the stage and told the crowd that thanks to the players and the Forza’s close ties to the racing industry, a brand new supercar was making its world debut at E3.

As part of the stage began to spin, Greenawalt explained that Forza has signed a seven year partnership with Porsche. The stage stopped spinning and revealed the new 2018 Porsche 911 GT2RS. Here I was thinking this was a gaming conference…  They then showcased some more Forza footage played by two professional race car drivers, Shannon McIntosh and Verena Mei. Once again the footage looks stunning in 4K and the level of detail is amazing, but I couldn’t help but feel like this was dragging on.

Up next was the world premiere of the trailer for Metro: Exodus. This is the third game in the franchise and if it’s anything like the other two it’s going to include punishing combat in a mutant filled post-apocalyptic world. The trailer shows the player’s character slowly moving through a ruined metro tunnel. Once again the level of detail is amazing. As the character breathes the bottom of the gas mask fogs up, a discarded shotgun magazine is covered in dust when the player picks it up, and a lighter is used to burn away cobwebs. The character then fights a number of mutants before their shotgun jams and they are forced to flee outside.

We are then teased with what is potentially an open world by a brief glimpse at a map. The player is then chased through a village by a  giant mutant bear. With a jammed shotgun and only a crossbow to defend themselves, the player uses a zip line to escape across a ravine and after landing on the other side runs after a moving train.

The trailer ends after another character pulls them on board. The announcement of this new game surprised me as I wasn’t expecting it, but as a long-time fan of the Metro series I cannot wait for this new game.

Another world premiere trailer was next, as they showed off Assassins Creed: Origins. Set in Egypt, the game seems to be about the foundation of the Assassins Brotherhood. Jean Guesdon, the Creative Director of Ubisoft came onto stage afterwards. He explains the main character is called Bayek and the game will be about his struggle against those who corrupt Egypt. He goes on to talk about how going so far back in time forced the team to rethink their gameplay mechanics and how they are including some light Role Playing Game (RPG) elements to the game.

His speech was followed by a short game demo in which Bayek returns to his hometown to kill a false oracle. The following gameplay appears to be typical of the Assassins Creed series as Bayek runs around on rooftops and stabs people in the back. There are a few exceptions though. The first being how Bayek can utilize an eagle to spot enemies for him. Could this be how the assassins Eagle Vision came to be? Second was the finding and equipping of a new bow in an RPG style fashion. Third is the weapons themselves. Bayek appears to be able to use a sword, shield, spear, bow and knives.

There is a point towards the end of the footage, in which an arrow fired from a bow seems to correct itself in midair, could there be some sort of magic involved? Ultimately I feel like not releasing an Assassins Creed game last year has helped Ubisoft out. The gameplay looks fresh, but there’s enough familiarity in there that long term Assassins Creed fans shouldn’t be disappointed.

Next up was the announcement that Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds was coming to Xbox One and would be a console launch exclusive. Battlegrounds is a battle-royale style game in which one hundred players compete against each other to be the last one standing.

The game is already out on the PC and from the gameplay I’ve seen it’s a fun, tense shooter that I could easily sink hours into at a time. This announcement is pretty big for Xbox as I feel they have been lacking some big name exclusive games for a while now so it’s good to see it’s finally starting to happen.

Following on from this was another three console launch exclusives. There was a trailer for Deep Rock Galactic which looks like Minecraft meets Starship Troopers, State of Decay 2 which is an open world zombie apocalypse survival game and The Darwin Project which seems to a fast paced battle royal style game.

Out of the three, State of Decay 2 caught my attention the most. A zombie survival game in which you build a community of people and a base for you to live in is something I’ve wanted for a while. I really enjoyed the First State of Decay, and hope the second one is just as good!

After that there was an extended look at some gameplay from Sea of Thieves, the open world multiplayer pirate game from developer Rare. In the gameplay, a crew of pirates explore a sunken ship for treasure before heading to an island in search of buried treasure.

After that, they fight their way through a number of undead skeletons before fighting an enemy pirate ship in the middle of a storm. If the actual game plays as streamlined as this trailer did, I could see Sea of Thieves becoming one of my favourite games.

Some footage from Middle-Earth: Shadow of War was up next. It promises to be bigger and better than its predecessor with an expanded Nemesis system which allows the player to create an army. The footage shows the recruitment of an Orc captain and the beginnings of a massive attack on a fort.

The scale of the game is impressive and there is an emphasis on the fact that every players experience will be different and that no two playthroughs will be the same. The combat system looks as fluid and fun as ever and the characters seem well written, this is another game I am very excited for!

The final game to be showcased was worth the hour and a half wait. That game was Anthem, a brand new game from Bioware. Straight off the bat, this Anthem’s graphics looks phenomenal. The player takes control of a Freelancer, a person who pilots an armoured power suit called a Javelin. The game promises a large variety of Javelin suits for players to choose from, each with their own play styles. In these suits, players leave the safety of a walled city to go out and explore the harsh, untamed lands beyond. The suits allow players to fly, run and shoot their way through danger at an incredible pace. Once again, the scale of this game blows me away a little as the world looks massive.

The gameplay looks fun and varied and it all takes place in a shared co-op multiplayer world. This is definitely one to keep an eye on.

There were also trailers for Minecraft, Dragonball Fighter Z, Black Desert MMORPG, The Last Night, The Artful Escape, CodeVein, Tacoma, Super Lucky’s Tale, Cuphead, Crackdown 3, Ashen, Life is Strange: Before the Storm and Ori and The Will of the Wisps. These were all more teasers trailers than actual gameplay, and there wasn’t much substance to them.

What struck me about this conference was the wide variety of games on show and the amount of games from smaller developers, which is great news. However, the show was far too long and at points it felt like the games were being overshadowed by the announcement of the Xbox One X.

By the end of the conference, the constant reminders that this was the most powerful console on the planet was beginning to get on my nerves. If I had a dollar for every time someone mentioned “the most powerful console ever”, “4K”, “console exclusive” or “biggest game yet” I might be able to afford the four hundred and ninety nine dollar price tag. The Xbox One X’s power is undeniable, but for the casual gamer its price tag seems a bit steep.

Overall, this was a relatively enjoyable conference which was saved by the second half. Each game seemed to have its own unique style, and graphically they were all very impressive. It’s going to be a good couple of years for gamers.

You can watch the whole conference here and for more E3 coverage stay tuned to Air3 Radio.

by Matthew Roud

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