Thursday, June 23, 2016

HotSauce Off the Presses Post E3 - Microsoft Press Conference

Hello Hot Sauce Nation! SirOrin here with part 3 of our Post-E3 Hot Sauce Off the Presses!

Monday morning kicked off the first of the big three shows with the Microsoft Press Conference. Lagging behind the Sony Playstation in sales, I was curious to see how they would handle being the current runner up. I was especially intrigued to see if they would even talk about the new and improved Xbox One that was leaked prior to the show or whether they would focus only on the slimmer Xbox One S. As it turns out, they leaned pretty hard into the new box called "Project Scorpio" at the end of the show. Read below for my full impressions.

~ SirOrin

HotSauce Off the Presses for the Microsoft Press Conference

I wondered if we would see both new console
models at the show. Spoiler alert: Yes
Microsoft Press Conference

Microsoft opened with the reveal of their new slim console, the Xbox One S. Other than being 40% smaller than the current system, it is also slightly more powerful and can support 4K video. Microsoft also rolled out their "Play Anywhere" cross-buy initiative which basically means all Xbox games are now also coming to PC. Expect to have to purchase them through the Windows store though. Microsoft has been slowly combining their Xbox and Windows catalogs so this isn't too surprising given the current market, but I am pleased to see it happening either way.

For their first game, Microsoft showed off the next Gears of War, including an extended co-op gameplay demo. I have never played the Gears series but to me it looks like more Gears. Also, General Raam is coming to Killer Instinct. That game is slowly becoming Smash Brothers: Xbox with characters from Halo, Gears, and the Rare lineup.

Next up was Forza Horizon 3 which looked like another Forza Horizon game, although the helicopter airdrop as an animation for players joining your server was incredible. Following speedy racecars was Recore, an interesting idea in a not very interesting looking game. After the show it came out that it is apparently only going to cost $40 which is somewhat strange. The B-tier game may be making a comeback.

I was surprised to see Final Fantasy XV on the Microsft stage, but also the boss fight demo they showed was not very exciting. I have seen demos for that game that make me want to play it, but seeing someone get knocked down by a behemoth over and over was not a good look. Next was The Division which got a DLC announcement. That game seems to have come and gone in our circle but it is Ubisoft's equivalent to Destiny so they will probably support it for a while. There was also another Battlefield 1 preview and somehow over the course of three days I am over all of this coverage already. You can tell they really want this to be the year Battlefield overtakes Call of Duty. Finally, the creators of Limbo showed off a teaser for their next game that looked quite good called Inside. And it comes out the end of this month which is also nice.

The console itself got some new features. Being able to play background music, the Cortana voice assistance, and a looking for group feature were the highlights. Also, they now sell customizable controllers on their website. Personally, I want to get one with an engraving that says "Playstation" on it. Also, the guy who screamed out "Chat Pad" during requested accessories is my hero.

There was a moment where Microsoft brought out Minecraft (which I keep forgetting they bought) and showed off all the cross buy features and it was bizarre seeing an iPad on stage at a Microsoft event. Even more bizarre was John Carmack wearing a VR headset promoting Minecraft. I was hopeful he would just go on an engineering rant for twenty minutes.

There was an indie game montage with a lot of cool looking games. It was not quite as exciting as it could have been since a large portion of these games are already available on PC but cool nonetheless. Their big feature on We Happy Few was one of my favorite moments of the whole event though. This game looks right up my alley and I can't wait to play this game. Despite looking similar to Bioshock I have heard that it is an open world, rogue-like of some sort. I'm hoping it turns out great.

I don't have much to say about Gwent since I haven't gotten around to The Witcher 3 yet but it is cool to see a studio like CD Project Red becoming a major force in the games industry. I remember being very confused about a lot of things in the first Witcher. So to see them become a premiere fantasy RPG right up there with Elder Scrolls and Dragon Age is inspiring.

They finally brought out Tekken 7, but it is taking forever to come to home console in my opinion. This game has been out  in arcades and at tournaments so I'm not sure what is taking so long, unless it is all of the story-mode features. It was weird seeing Akuma playing like Akuma in a Tekken game though. Was that a super meter?

Dead Rising 4 was already leaked but I was still happy to see it on the show. I like holiday themed games and have been a big fan of Dead Rising in the past. Staying on the zombie theme, State of Decay 2 was also announced which had a pretty devoted fan base. If they clean it up, it could be special.

Scalebound was back and just like Final Fantasy, it didn't show well to me. It was just a long and confusing boss battle that didn't show that Platinum Games flair I am used to. For some reason it kind of reminded me of Lost Planet which probably isn't a good thing.

My second favorite game at this event was probably Sea of Thieves. I have been curious about it since they announced it and the gameplay seems like a interesting take on the survival/co-op genres. My biggest problem will be to find a crew to man a pirate ship probably.

Halo came out with another preview of Halo Wars 2. If there was ever a game to benefit from all Xbox One games now coming to PC, this would be the winner. I think some people really like the first Halo Wars, maybe because it did a decent job of being a console RTS, or maybe because the whole idea of it was bizarre but it's coming back.

Finally, Microsoft went more in depth on the upgraded Xbox One known as "Project Scorpio". They make it sound like this console will have VR headset support but didn't clarify what that means. Given their existing relationship with Oculus Rift, that would make the most sense. This console is reported to be 4 times as powerful as the current Xbox One and will be the most powerful console when it comes out, even compared to the Playstation 4 Neo. Just like Playstation however, all Xbox One games will have to be compatible with both the new and old versions of the console. That most likely means the biggest improvements will be with things like frame rate, texture quality, possibly load times, etc. The fear is that the original versions of the consoles will have significantly worse experiences but I would be somewhat surprised to see this happen. If for no other reason than the fact that these consoles will most likely have a much larger install base for the remainder of this generation. I could be wrong, but I really hope not.

And that wraps it up for the Microsoft press conference. This was a much bigger write-up than I anticipated but this is one of the top 2 shows at the event. All in all, I think they did a good job. Combining PC and Xbox when they are behind the Playstation in sales is smart. There are some very good first party titles coming out and they seem to be keeping pace with 3rd party support. The biggest question to be answered is how the sales of the Scorpio compare to the Neo, or if they even matter. It should be a good year and future for Microsoft based on what we've seen.

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