Microsoft’s Phil Spencer takes a moment at the opening of their press event to say a few words regarding the Orlando attack, wearing a pride flag badge on his jacket. These badges will continue to be seen worn by all speakers at the conference, as Microsoft show their support for those affected by the tragedy.
He follows with what would have been a huge announcement without the leak a few days prior: the Xbox One S. The Xbox One S is described as “slimmer”, “sleeker”, being toted as 40% smaller than the standard console. It also boasts a 2TB hard drive, as well as an integrated power pack, but no direct support for Kinect. The Xbox One S will be bundled with a redesigned controller with increased range on the wifi connector and a textured grip. The Xbox One S will be hitting stores in August this year, starting at a discount price of $299.
Up next, Spencer invites Rod Fergusson of The Coalition to the stage to speak about his studio’s upcoming game, Gears of War 4. He also introduces a new scheme that Microsoft have been working on, called Xbox Play Anywhere. This is the name of their cross play scheme between Xbox One and Windows 10 PC, where buying a copy for one platform will also feature a copy on the other. Things like achievements and even game saves will be shared via the cloud between the two platforms. Rod announces that Gears of War 4 will feature cross platform play between the two platforms for campaign and multiplayer, and this is also the case for many other games that were shown later in the conference.
As for Gears itself, voice actress and star of the game, Laura Bailey joins Rod to demonstrate two player co-op in Gears of War 4. The demo gives us a look at the new enemy in the series, the Swarm, who have a startling resemblance to the Locust of the previous games. We also see one of the new weapons, the Buzzkill: a saw-blade launcher that looks more like a work tool than a gun. The gameplay demo was fairly long, showing off multiple combat encounters in the level. As you would guess, the demo ends with a cut to black as a large monstrous enemy bursts through the door. Of course… every E3 demo ends like this.
And as a final tease, we see an old man resting in an arm chair by a fire. Who is it? Oh shoot, it’s Marcus Fenix! Cut to black again. We also get a glimpse of a special edition controller, modelled from the Elite version, complete with a blood red colouring and battle-worn appearance. Gears of War 4 is coming to Xbox One on 11th October this year.
As Rod and Laura leave the stage, Killer Instinct Community Manager Rukari Austin steps up to announce a new character will be joining their roster. With a snazzy trailer, he announces the original Gears of War baddie, General Raam, as a playable character, available for free for all players this week.
The first of many trailers to start with “Xbox One and Windows 10 exclusive”, we next see the first trailer of Forza Horizon 3. This sequel is set in the rural, suburban and city regions of Australia, as we are shown all the corners of the country throughout the trailer. Ralph Fulton, Creative Director at Playground Games, steps out to confirm the rumours of a new Forza Horizon and then announces that we will also be seeing the first gameplay reveal today too. Out come four players, each playing on different setups across Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Windows 10 PC - one PC user is using a racing wheel, while one appears to use keyboard and mouse. Starting in different locations, the four racers converge to display the new seamless multiplayer functionality Playground have introduced for their latest game. Ralph also mentions that Forza Horizon 3 features the most diverse open-world the team has ever built, and that it features the biggest roster of cars in the series. Forza Horizon 3 is launching on 27th September, 2016.
Following that, another trailer for a Microsoft exclusive title, except this time it’s for something we had already heard about. After only seeing a CG rendered trailer for Recore at E3 2015, it was great to see Inafune’s upcoming third-person shooter in action with a gameplay trailer. We’re introduced to the main character, Joule, and her robotic companions - a dog, a spider, and some sort of gorilla thing? The trailer also shows the game will feature platforming elements to support the action. Recore is dated for a release on 13th September this year.
Sticking with the theme of Japanese developed games, Hajime Tabata and Mathew Kishimoto from Square Enix took to the stage to announce the latest gameplay demo for Final Fantasy XV. The demo was specially crafted for E3, and has the title “Trial of the Titan”, and as you can guess, it features a massive Titan. The live demo shows the characters taking on this gigantic boss in an arena shared with an encroaching army. The player hacked and slashed at the hand of the titan between dodges until it began to stumble, before the full character crew of Final Fantasy XV teamed up to take it down with one powerful attack. Final Fantasy XV will be available to purchase on 30th September this year.
A quick break in the flow of exclusive announcements and debut trailers here as the trailer for the upcoming DLC pack for Ubisoft’s The Division plays. The trailer shows glimpses of firefights beneath the streets and in the stations of the New York underground subway. This content will be available first on Xbox One from the 28th June.
A familiar face appears on stage as DICE General Manager, Patrick Bach appears to repeat the key details on Battlefield 1 from EA’s conference last night. Battlefield 1 will feature warfare on a grander scale than any Battlefield before it, with land, sea, and air combat clashing in the stages of World War 1. Battlefield 1 will be released on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and PC on the 21st October, but EA Access members on Xbox One can begin playing on the 13th October, 2016. No word on first access to the DLC though, so we’ll have to see tonight if Sony has bagged that.
Now for some tech stuff. The Head of Platform Engineering at Microsoft, Mike Ybarra, talks to us about the history of Xbox Live. He tells us that they have been listening to what their customers want from Xbox Live going forward, making mention to the recent addition of cross platform play with users on other networks. Now, he has three new features to announce: the ability to listen to your own background music while you play, language region independence to allow you to choose your system language regardless of what region your console is in, and the addition of Cortana to Xbox One. He also announced three more features that they are working on for an update later this year: Clubs on Xbox Live to allow you to communicate with like-minded players, Looking for Group on Xbox live to allow you to team up with like-minded players, Arena for Xbox Live for hosting and taking part in tournaments solo and with friends. Developers set to support Arena include Daybreak Studios, Hi-Rez, Wargaming, and more. EA Sports, who last night announced a similar scheme, will also be supporting Arena over the coming years.
Next is some stuff for the kids - it’s Minecraft time. Lydia Winters and Saxs Perrson announced a whole host of updates for Minecraft on both Xbox One and other platforms. The first was cross platform across *all* devices, including iOS and Android. Minecraft: Realms is the name that they are giving to dedicated servers that will be publicly available, allowing you and your friends to host your own multi-platform worlds without hassle. They demonstrated this on stage with Lydia whacking out an iPad and Saxs playing on Xbox One - but they aren’t alone. In pops John Carmack of Oculus to show off Gear VR integration with the cross platform play.
Also coming to Minecraft in the future are texture packs for the Windows 10, iOS and Android versions, as well as Add-Ons. These are effectively mods, demonstrated on stage with some gameplay of Lydia and Saxs taking down an army of zombies remodelled as aliens with blasters, and taking down a UFO. Add-Ons and Realms will be coming to Xbox One too, but not until next year. More details will be given out and announcements will be made at MineCon this September.
Something almost completely out of the blue next: you can create your own custom S model controllers online, allowing you to mix and match colours of buttons, sticks, and both the front and back plates. A colourful display showed the near endless combinations, stating a number near 8 billion, and you can visit the Xbox Design Lab to create your own.
Now it’s time for ID@Xbox, and they start off with a short look at the world of Inside - the latest game from the team who made Limbo. Not much is shown in the trailer that we didn’t see as gameplay before, as a series of static shots showed some NPCs milling about the drab city. Inside will launch on the 29th June, and Xbox One owners can claim a free copy of Limbo right now.
Out comes Chris Charla, Head of ID@Xbox, to let us in on what his partners have been working on. Oh… apparently it’s only around 1000 games. Cool. Then, in classic “ID@Xbox @ E3” style, a montage of upcoming indie games. A list of what we spotted:
- Cuphead by Studio MDHR
- Deliver Us The Moon by KeokeN Interactive
- Outlast 2 by Red Barrels Games
- Flinthook by Tribute Games
- Slime Rancher by Monomi Park
- Figment by Bedtime Digital Games
- The Culling by Xaviant
- For The King by IronOak Games
- Beacon by Monothetic
- Stardew Valley by ConcernedApe
- Hand of Fate 2 by Defiant
- Raiders by MercurySteam
- Yooka-Laylee by Playtonic Games
- Everspace by ROCKFISH Games
Before he left, Chris also announced that Ark: Survival Evolved is joining the Xbox Play Anywhere scheme.
Next, Xbox Game Preview, Microsoft’s early access platform. After the success with games like Ark and Elite: Dangerous, more games will be coming to Xbox Game Preview soon, including Slime Rancher, The Culling and a new game…
This game is coming from an indie developer called Compulsion Games. Guillaume Provost, formerly of Arkane Studios, shows us the first trailer for this new game called We Happy Few. Based in a stylised 1960s setting, Joy is a drug that citizens are given by some shady organization or government to keep them from seeing the horrors of the world and keep them working hard in boring jobs. The game begins with the main character refusing to take his pill and then finally seeing the world as it really is, and is hunted down by mysterious, tall figures in black coats and white masks. A release date was not announced.
This was followed by the tease of an announcement from another independent studio, who just so happened to be CD Projekt RED, of The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt fame. Damien Monnier, one of the lead designers on their latest project, was stunned by the reception to one tiny part of what was a massive RPG experience, and so a small team grouped together to turn the Gwent card game you could play in taverns into it’s own full game.
Like many, it will feature cross play across PC and console, as well as some form of a single player campaign. The cards from The Witcher 3 have been redesigned along with the UI to create a stronger look for the standalone game. Gwent: The Witcher Card Game will feature four decks at launch: the Skellige Warriors, the Northern Realms, the Scoia’tael, and Monsters. No sign of the Nilfgaard deck though - DLC perhaps? Visit playgwent.com to sign up for the beta, and the full game will be coming first to Xbox One and Windows 10 PC in September.
Something for the fighting game community now, as a trailer for Tekken 7 shows Street Fighter’s Akuma facing off with Heihachi in a rendered cinematic, looking like all the Bandai Namco trailers of old - but oh snap, it transitions straight into gameplay out of nowhere. As the two continue to clash, the new particle effects and environment details really make this game pop. As the two come to the end of their bout, we’re given only a vague release date of “Early 2017”.
Katsuhiro Harada and Michael Murray from Bandai Namco talk about how Tekken has changed over the years, and how Tekken 7 continues to evolve - citing the Story Mode and how it seamlessly transitions from exposition to combat. They also tell us that more will be shown later in the year, and that in the meantime, Tekken Tag Tournament 2 is now available on backwards compatibility for free this week only.
Another title that probably would have blown us away if it hadn’t leaked just a few days ago, but Dead Rising 4 is coming exclusively to Xbox One and Windows 10 PC this year. The trailer shows off Frank West returning to the Willamette Parkview Mall, the setting of the first Dead Rising, at Christmas time. With the mall decked in christmas lights, and snow covering the park, we also see that Dead Rising 4 will allow us to explore other areas of the town that weren’t featured in the original game. As the final tagline says, “let the slay ride begin” this holiday season.
Up next is Hideki Kamiya, of Platinum Games, presenting their Xbox One and Windows 10 PC exclusive, Scalebound, with a new demo. He’s here to show the off the biggest boss fight Platinum have ever made, featuring some co-op gameplay as well. And oh my - it’s a giant. enemy. crab. It’s E3 2007 all over again. We see the protagonist - still sporting his red headphone hanging around his neck- using a bow on a 200ft tall crab. When that doesn’t seem to be working, it’s time for some dragon combat.
This is a huge boss, for sure. We see the beast ducking beneath the water and soaring about the arena as the four players try to pierce its shell armour. When they finally do, they jump on it Shadow of the Colossus-style, and start hacking away using their scaly armour and engaging in melee combat. Looking at the designs of the armour and the weapons, Platinum seems to have taken some influence from Monster Hunter, and it looks awesome.
Following the theme of multiplayer co-op, studio head Craig Duncan from Rare presents the first gameplay of their upcoming MO-aRrr-PG, Sea of Thieves. Their most ambitious game yet, Sea of Thieves has you teaming up with friends to captain a pirate ship together - delving for treasure hidden in wreckages, exploring remote islands, and engaging in first-person naval combat with other crews. They then show a trailer with three teams having a go with the game, having had no tutorial at all, and seeing what they get up to - drinking, laughing, and then sinking one another. Sea of Thieves will be available on Xbox One and Windows 10 PC in 2017.
As we begin to approach the end of the show, there are two more games to see. The first, we only get a short debut trailer for - State of Decay 2. We see a far graphically superior game, with the scavenging and settlement-building that made the original so good. But the next one was bigger…
Halo Wars 2! A Microsoft E3 event would not be complete without something to do with Halo, now would it? With a trailer reminiscent of the ones we saw for Halo 3 back in 2007, we see a little bit of everything you’d expect: UNSC marines on the front, warthogs jumping over hills, the Covenant forces, big tank things, Brutes wielding gravity hammers, big walking exo suits, the ODST dropping in from the sky, Spartans charging, Elites with energy swords, banshees and pelicans soaring overhead. It’s basically perfect.
From 343 Industries, studio head Dan Ayoub reveals that Halo Wars 2 will indeed continue the story of the Spirit of Fire, and her crew, from the original Halo Wars, and that The Banished is the name of the Covenant army they encounter on a remote planet. He also revealed that 343 Industries are working with Creative Assembly to make the game. Halo Wars 2 will be released on the 21st February next year, but it is playable at E3 and as part of a week long beta on Xbox One, starting right now. This announcement was followed by a gameplay trailer of the beta, showing off combat and some hints of base building and management. Like nearly everything else in the show, Halo Wars 2 will be part of the Xbox Play Anywhere program, meaning we’ll see it released on Windows 10 PC’s too. The Xbox One beta is running from the 13th to 20th June.
Now, finally, Phil Spencer returns to the stage to talk about the history of Xbox. About how they always seeked to innovate, to transform; about how Xbox has always been about offering more freedom and more choice to gamers, allowing them to play what they want, with who they want, how they want. The Xbox One S is just the beginning of how Xbox is growing. The next step of gaming has to deliver true 4K display and high fidelity VR…
So that’s why they’re going to be releasing a console that does just that! BOOM! A video plays with multiple developers from the likes of Bethesda’s Todd Howard, The Coalition’s Rod Fergusson, 343 Industries’ Bonnie Ross, and more discuss what they want from the next major console. Microsoft want to deliver the world's most powerful console, and that’s what they’re setting out to do. Dubbed “Project Scorpio”, this new Xbox will coexist with the Xbox One and the Xbox One S, sharing the same games and accessories - and it’ll be released by the end of 2017.
Phwoooar, go on, Sony… What you got to beat that? We’ll have to wait and see tonight. That concludes the E3 2016 Microsoft conference, and we’re dying to see what Microsoft do next.