GO BIG GREEN (FIRST HAND REPORT ON XBOX MEDIA BRIEFING)
With Starbucks in hand, I woke up at 5 a.m. to make the drive down to USC from Burbank. Not accustomed to LA traffic, I wanted to ensure I made it early rather than late. I got to valet for my car and I felt a bit like Cher Horowitz in Clueless.
I raced up the stairs to pick up a barcode then, after scaling more stairs, I was awarded a green pass and lanyard. Worn proudly around my neck, I entered the side room to wait in line for preferred seating that weaved through the practice gym.
An event worker handed out lime green slips of paper with seating sections. I chatted in line, tweeted The Drunken Moogle and drank my coffee for about 90 minutes before we were allowed into the venue. Luckily, it was worth the wait because we were seated in the first section above the floor. Apparently, the early gamer gets the worm especially when she has Starbucks.
Green lights flooded the USC Galen Center as press and partners waited anxiously to hear more news about the Xbox One. I couldn’t help but smirk as a loyal Oregon Ducks fan to see the home of the rival USC Trojans covered in one of my alma mater’s colors. I also kept glancing around for the Green Lantern to appear on stage because there was seriously that much green.
Animation sequences danced across three jumbo screens with collapsing green squares, Xbox logo, close-ups of the new Xbox One controller and console. Dance music filled the arena as the first and second story seats quickly became occupied. A booming voice came over the loudspeaker like in The Hunger Games to warn us only five minutes for the main event.
As the minutes creeper closer, the arena began to ponder what laid ahead. “What game would be shown first? Would they share price? Will there be a show stopper and original IP that excites the industry like Watch_Dogs last year at E3?”
I loved how the event began with the signature Xbox “On” signal noise followed by the introduction of Metal Gear Solid: The Phantom Pain. Snake is riding alongside a companion on horseback in the mountains of Afghanistan.
It’s your mission to rescue his companion. As the game geared up, the room began to shake from the bass and sound effect. I felt like I was in one of those simulator rides where your chair moves along with the motion on the screen. I gripped my chair in anticipation of it to start rumbling and jerking with Snake’s movement.
It wouldn’t be a Metal Gear game without new stealth attacks such as hiding behind your beloved steed. The game boasts a variety of travel including tanks, automobiles and the fore mentioned pony option.
The other interesting part of the game was the inclusion of real-time passage of time in collaboration with Seiko watches. As you may recall, Metal Gear Solid has had a partnership with the watch maker in the past but I think this is the first time the watch will appear in game.
Talk about some interesting product placement and I’m sure there will be another limited watch available around the games release. The trailer wrapped up with the shots of some new characters including Kazhuria Miller, Quiet, Eli, Skull Face, Code Talker and more.
The trailer began the stunning line-up of 13 next-gen titles for the Xbox One. After some fun filled facts about Xbox such as it launched 8 summers ago. Seriously, 8 summers ago. Doesn’t that make you feel a little old? Well, don’t worry, there is going to be a new one.
On stage, the new Xbox 360 was introduced and it’s sleeker and slender than before. I was quite surprise that is available today. As confirmed in Seattle, it was reiterated that Xbox Gold membership will transfer between the Xbox 360 and Xbox One.
Now, all Xbox Gold Members will be able to download two free games including Assassin’s Creed 2 and Halo 3. A very nice perk for Gold members and a reason to keep paying those membership dues. After the Xbox One and the emphasis placed on the product, it seemed like the Xbox 360 would be out of the game.
The unveil of the new Xbox 360 shows that Microsoft is still dedicated to it because there will be hundreds of games coming for the Xbox 360 including Splinter Cell Blacklist, Batman: Arkham Origins and GTA5. Another benefit of the Xbox Gold membership is now you can play World of Tanks for free.
The popular online MMO is being done so you can play it on your console for the first time ever with 15 v 15 combat. It’s a great opportunity for Wargamming.net to open up a game to new audience. I’ll be interested to see how many more MMOs make the jump to being available on PC and Console.
More titles coming down the pike for Xbox 360 include the cartoon platformer, Max: The Curse of Brotherhood which looks like magical Pixar inspired adventure. We also got a glimpse of the anticipated Dark Souls 2 coming in March 2014.
The conference switched to new games coming for the Xbox One. One of the new titles includes RYSE: Son of Rome, a game that’ll let you experience what to step into the boots of warrior and leader in the Roman Empire. It requires you to give commands, rally the troops, strategize your moves and kill enemies.
In all honesty, there was a lot of violence and blood. It looked like 300: The Video Game with lots of stabbing barbarians in the neck or through the skull with sword as the method of choice to kill enemies in the demo. I did enjoy how they created an realistic environment filled with chaos, confusion and shock of the ancient battlefield. It’ll be an Xbox One exclusive and playable on the showfloor at E3.
After a dramatic battle, it was refreshing to see a more tame demo with introduction of the classic arcade fighting game, Killer Instinct. The crowd laughed and applauded in nostalgia as their favorite arcade fighters took to the screen to battle. Killer Instinct is back and it never looked better. It’s exclusive to the Xbox One. It’ll even be compatible with a new MadCatz Fighting Stick made for the Xbox One.
The creators of Spyro and Ratchet and Clank, Insomniac, are working on an exclusive open world shooter for Microsoft called Sunset Overdrive. The colorful world is filled with zip-lining hipsters who fire goofy-faced orange bullets like Bullet Bill, baseball bats and record guns to take out monsters who overrun the city. The “living world” of Sunset Overdrive changes every day based on how the community facilitates and powered by the cloud.
After the announcement of Sunset Overdrive it looks like the conference was interrupted with a car commercial as it showed close-up shots of an orange, expensive sports car with soft, elevator music. A definite and jarring break from the loud, dance music that had been booming in the arena since first entrance. It seemed extremely out of place until it was revealed that McLaren partnered with Microsoft in the creation of Forza 5.
I’m not a huge cars person but even I could tell it was a beautiful piece of machinery. Since there are only two in the world and to see one stage was incredible. I got a better glance at the expensive sport car while waiting for my own car at valet. The demo bragged about the end of AI by having Driveatar monitor how you drive and will see how you race.
It’ll adapt then, offer you advice based on your skills which seems very interesting. Then, it’ll even let you race based on your racing style when you’re not home to earn credit. Definitely more information is needed about that feature because how can you be earning points when you’re not there.
The next game announced for the Xbox One boasted more multiplayer and maps but received a lukewarm reaction from the crowd. Minecraft’s short trailer at the press conference seemed like the most “meh” of the bunch.
Quantum Break, another Xbox One exclusive, will let you make your own version of the TV show and it will also let you impact how you play the game based on watching the TV show. The demo showed a man who looked like a doppelganger for Bill from True Blood and a women who are fixing a paused scene. They save a scientist’s life before she is pulled from the time stream before it collapses into explosion.
Following Quantum Break was another brief trailer for a game called D4 by swery65 that has the art style of a gritty comic book. The short trailer opened up the way for the long demo around Project Spark.
Project Spark’s goal is to give game making to everyone by letting you create, share and play your own games. Based on voice commands, Project Spark lets you change your characters, terrains, powers, time and more. Using the SmartGlass, you can even customize it even more to add personal touches.
The demo showed how you can change a simple rock into a rock with a “brain” based on the available AI. There is pre-made AI and also ones you can download from others. The demo showed some of the worlds and levels created by the testing community. Project Spark has a lot of potential to let you use your imagination to create your own world to play, build and share with friends.
After the demo, we switched with some extremely bright lights shined in your face like the motorcycle in Rent accompanied by the new Fall Out Boy song, “Light ‘Em Up” to follow illustrate the change of gears to talk about some of the Xbox One features including SmartGlass, SmartMatch and Game DVR.
With the Xbox One, you’ll be able to play a game while it finds you a match then, switch between it. As a person who loves to multitask, this is a huge for me. You can also record your gameplay with the Game DVR. You can customize your video by editing, sharing and publishing right on your Xbox One. You’ll have the ability to add your personal stamp, select from custom skins and even add commentary.
While Game DVR is impressive, Microsoft solidified their seriousness to enter the livestream market with a partnership with Twitch. Now, you can share live on Twitch with a program built automatically into your Xbox One. You can even watch the live chat who have the ability to impact the game.
Another feature of the Xbox One is that you are not limited to 100 friends. You can now have “all your friends.” I’d like confirmation that it is truly unlimited friendships if you want it. Microsoft is also converting from Microsoft Points to real currency which will make buying decisions easier with a clear vision of the price and no worry of securing more Points.
Another feature that will be coming to Xbox Gold Membership is Xbox Live Gold Sharing that will allow anyone using your console to be able to access multiplayer online even when you’re not logged into your account.
After the new features, a trailer for Crimson Dragon appeared on screen with no sound. Even though it lacked in sound, it didn’t lack in applause from the crowd. The crowd clapped louder for a soundless trailer than Minecraft. I’ll let you make your own judgments about the one.
There was no shortage of applause for the Dead Rising 3 gameplay. The open world zombie game let’s you control Nick Ramos, a mechanic who is hoping to escape with his life in a California town overrun with zombies. Two days after the outbreak, zombies flood the scene attracted by noise so Nick defend himself with a wrench.
When cornered, Nick can also use a flare fun to distract the zombies. As he explored the world, he is able to use anything as a weapon such as a flashlight and upgrade weapons by combining them together such as the creative but deadly Sledgesaw.
One of the best ways to explore the world is via car but it’s still not entirely safe. Zombies will jump on the car, ride along with you and break glass trying to attack. You can even call in support with SmartGlass. If you’re a fan of The Walking Dead then, you definitely need to check out this game.
The Witcher 3 will be coming to Xbox One with the first free roaming and open world. It includes optional voice commands with the Kinect, an exclusive feature of the Xbox One.
After some sound issues with Battlefield 4 that were met with boos from the crowd, the demo went underway at 60 FPS. I’m not a huge Battlefield 4 fan but the immersive environment, intense sound and motion capture were enough to make me seasick in the arena. It’s pretty incredible how far that first person shooter has come. The first maps for Battlefield 4 will premier on the Xbox One first.
One of the few adventure games show, Below, is a platformer by the creators of Sword and Sworcery. Microsoft also announced a partnership with five new studios including Black Tusk. It showed a realistic special effects of a cityscape that looks like a lot like Tokyo with a spy roaming the side of the building. The special effects look so realistic, it’s incredibly real-looking.
In a surprise twist, Microsoft announced the next Halo game coming 2014. After a robed figure is scene walking through the desert and encounters a ship rising from under the sand, we see some familiar dog tags held by a Spartan solider.
Halo is back on the Xbox One alongside the recently announced Spartan Assault for Windows 8 which will be playable on the showfloor and the live action TV series with Steven Spielberg. Then, Microsoft threw down the gauntlet and announced price with $499 US /EU. It’ll be available in November 2013. You can reserve your Day One Edition today. It looks like Sony will have to announce the PS4 pricing tonight. I’m interested to see how it compares.
To finish off the press conference, Microsoft had one more exclusive title to reveal. Titanfall is another FPS with giant robots that you can control. It’s like those soldiers in Avatar in a multiplayer world. The trailer shows two soldiers jumping on out of an aircraft to secure the area to help a fleet get through. The soldiers move by running, rocket boost on the bottom of the boots, wall climbing and via giant robot Titans. The game will be available in Spring 2014.