(previously posted on GamingPrecision.com; additional HoloLens discussion)

Pessimism is typically the word of the day when it comes to E3 presentations as of late. Microsoft and Sony have both had some good ones and some bad ones. Microsoft’s 2015 E3 presentation, however, started off with a solid jab that got gamers to pay close attention to what they are all about this holiday season.

Honestly, I lost count as to how many Xbox One exclusive trailers and reveals that Microsoft unveiled with their presentation today. When it comes to deciding when and what to purchase in the way of consoles, giving gamers titles that they are excited by is definitely the path. While PC gamers essentially have access to virtually everything, console gamers woefully take ‘sides’ based on which platform they like best. Microsoft lept into the conference by glossing over exclusives coming this year such as Rise of the Tomb Raider, Halo 5 Guardians, Gears of War Ultimate Edition, Recore, Forza Motorsport 6, and a new free to play game called Gigantic.

Microsoft quickly handed things off to 343 Industries with Bonnie Ross showing the world some Halo 5: Guardians gameplay where you get to play as Luke Cage! Oops, I mean, Spartan Lieutenant Commander Locke aka Mike Colter, who is also cast as Marvel’s Luke Cage. Anyhoo, you apparently will be tasked with playing as two different Spartan teams of 4. One that is led by Master Chief and one that is led by Spartan Locke. During the presentation, the beautiful Xbox One gameplay showed Locke’s team trailing Master Chief’s team. Once that was done, we learned that a multiplayer mode called Warzone has the capability to turn the bland been-here-done-that Halo formula on its head with larger maps, more vehicles, bots, and more players that seems to be a ‘Battlefield’ hybrid kind of mode. We’ll see how similar this mode is to EA’s series soon I hope.

Then a quick trailer for Kenji Infune’s newest Xbox One exclusive game Recore looked like with a full motion video kind of reveal. The only thing I could make out is that the protagonist is a young female with an AI fused within a blue ball (probably called a Core). When placed in other bots, it’s personality would upload into that new body and continue helping her explore a desolate desert land filled with other robots (with red cores). The companion helped and saved her a few times with EMP attacks and one grand attack that sacrificed his existing form to take out all the others. The heroine promptly picked up the blue core and placed it in a larger bot that was shut down without a core and she continued exploring. Since this is a new IP, it’ll be interesting to see what else this game is made of.

Once that was done, Phil Spencer hopped onstage and announced that starting today the Xbox One would be backward compatible with Xbox 360 games! This is pretty big considering they didn’t think they were going to be able to do this. This is huge, but there is a catch. Developers have to approve the game list for them to be available so don’t go running to your Xbox 360 library just yet. The list currently includes games like Mass Effect, Borderlands, Toy Soldiers, Battleblox Theatre, Hexic, Perfect Dark Zero, Gears Of War, Halo Reach, Halo Wars, Shadowrun, Super Meat Boy, Halo 3, and more. Digital games will automatically appear in the “Ready to Install” section and those that you have on disc (that are compatible) will be playable as long as you have the disc. Apparently this feature will launch with hundreds more titles this fall while Xbox Live Gold members have this small list of games to tinker with until then.


The new controller was up next. It’s reveal showed swappable thumbstick parts, new paddles on the bottom of the controller, a 3.5mm jack for headsets to eliminate the adapter, and better sensitivity. These will be wirelessly PC compatible (probably with a USB receiver) as well. Interestingly enough I saw some pro gamers laughing saying that Microsoft basically copied Scuf Gaming’s controllers which already had the paddles on the bottom for people that have bigger hands that don’t want to use the triggers.

Then Bethesda dropped in after their big Sunday E3 presentation to show off a bit more gameplay and Fallout 4 features. Player freedom is their number one goal and they want the game to be as immersive as possible. They mentioned that the PIPboy will be usable on your smartphone while you play the game to allow for you to manage your inventory and other stats as usual. Also, it was nice to see that your created character actually talks as well. Should be interesting to see how many voice choices they give you during character creation. Their big announcement was that PC mods will be downloadable and playable for free on the Xbox One as well which is HUGE! Considering mods are a huge part of PC gaming culture and Microsoft is trying so hard to merge those platforms, this will go a long way for many gamers. Will be interesting to see if the PS4 version will be capable as well (I bet it will be).

Then the presentation got a bit boring as a stream of games were shown with full motion video ‘previews’ and little discussion or explanation of what the game featured or any new details about the games. Forza Motorsport 6 (Sept. 15th release date), Tom Clancy’s The Division (X1 exclusive beta in December), Dishonored 2, Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (October 13th with Vegas and Vegas 2 included free), free-to-play action game Gigantic (August beta launch), Dark Souls 3 (Early 2016), Ashen, Beyond Eyes, Ion (survival space game from Day Z creators), Rise of the Tomb Raider (with pretty gameplay but no real stunning reveal about the game), CupHead (which looks AMAZE-BALLZ!!), and a host of quick clips of indie games popped up and revealed little that we already knew. My two favorite indies shown were Sword Coast Legends and Ark: Survival Evolved which are both coming to next gen consoles this year.

Studio MHDR is putting together a unique platformer with the art stylings of 1930's Disney as its canvas (pic courtesy of giantbomb.com)
Studio MHDR is putting together a unique platformer with the art stylings of 1930’s Disney as its canvas (pic courtesy of giantbomb.com)

Somewhere in there, EA’s underwhelming contribution to the Microsoft presentation featured the blah announcement of EA Access adding Titanfall and eventually Dragon Age Inquisition to the games playable in the EA Vault once the $5 a month subscription is paid. Oh, and they are offering the service for free this week to Xbox Live Gold members. Then they announced Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare 2 coming spring 2016.

Also stashed in that mash was a fleeting moment of fun when Rare popped on stage showing off their first retro game bundle filled with games they’ve developed. Rare Replay, as the collection is called, features 30 of their games for $30 including Conker, Battletoads, Banjo Kazooee, Perfect Dark, RC Pro Am, Killer Instinct Gold, and more. The release date is August 4th. Not only that, they showed off an interesting new IP that is a multiplayer Pirates game called Sea of Thieves. That definitely perked my Spidey-senses!

Then, as I dozed off, Microsoft pulled me back in. With their announcement recently that Oculus would be partnering with them to bring VR to PCs and the Xbox One, Microsoft allowed themselves to cover the virtual reality boom (without having to develop their own headset), and concentrate on what we were all looking forward to, augmented reality! The HoloLens had a nice little demo in this part of the show where the HoloLens allowed for a player to play Minecraft in the way their initial HoloLens trailer teased that it would. Using voice commands to ‘create world’ and ‘follow player’, the user could see a large portion of their world from an ‘overlord’ kind of view right on his table.

(pic courtesy of winbeta.org)
(pic courtesy of winbeta.org)

This is where Microsoft could really set themselves apart from this whole gaming market. People sometimes forget that Microsoft is really competing as a company with Google moreso than Sony. This means that HoloLens is more of a jab at Google Glass. Microsoft is hoping that their union with Mojang (which is bigger than many give the acquisition credit for) will help propel HoloLens into the necessary accessory for Minecraft players going forward. It looked fantastic as a ‘commander mode’ kind of style control scheme and should be an angle that they use to truly innovate sandbox games of that sort. Imagine if they decide to use this AR headset for games like Sword Coast Legends, Lego Worlds, or even Commander mode for Battlefield games going forward?! The only problem is that we didn’t get concrete price or release date info from them on this front. Again…nice demo but a missed opportunity.

Also, Xbox Game Preview is set as a new feature much like Steam’s Early Access program. This basically allows gamers to play games as they are in development (as I’m currently doing with Ark: Survival Evolved on the PC) for a price. Launched today they are even making a few key games available on the program such as survival game Long Dark by Hinterland Studios and the space combat sim Elite: Dangerous. Also slated for the program are Day Z and Shelter. These are exciting additions which continue to speak to Microsoft’s promise to bring the Xbox One more in line with what has always or is being done with PC gaming.

Then the underwhelming reveal of Gears of War Ultimate Edition complete with retouched shiny and added on version of the Xbox 360 original was announced and shown off a bit. I’m certain that wasn’t the Gears announcement we were all waiting for but that just means the real deal is too far off to show anything for certain.

All in all the presentation was good. They did say that Gamescom was going to have many more game announcements at the end of July but that may be centered around the Oculus Rift I think. That is certainly key for the oncoming VR boom that should begin in November with HTC’s release and then in ‘early 2016’ with the Oculus Rift and Morpheus release. One of these companies are going to have to show off the first IP that will be featured at launch for these things and we’ve yet to see anything.

Nice job Microsoft. Not quite blown away by the talk of “best lineup ever” but it still was a good presentation. I would have invited a few more of the indie developers to reveal more about their cool upcoming games but that’s just me!