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E3 2013: Microsoft press conference impressions

E3 2013Microsoft

The Microsoft reveal raised a clamor throughout the industry. Vague comments were made about its required internet connection and controversy built surrounding Microsoft’s decisions concerning backwards compatibility and game ownership. And then there’s the revised Kinect, always watching, always listening. Today’s press conference discussed none of that.

Instead, the focus was games. The big and the bigger were paraded out in nonsensical order, all in the loving, reverberating embrace of a thousand subwoofers. There were new games and sequels aplenty, along with a few surprises sprinkled throughout. It was the missing link that would have made the initial reveal digestible.

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The Good Stuff

Call of Duty games are like sports titles from EA, it’s assumed they’ll be on all systems. Accompanying the initial reveal with a declaration that yes, Call of Duty will be on One is not news. Interested parties already know. The question for this conference was whether or not the next generation will have other interesting, new titles.

“Will cater to all interests”From what they showed it’s not easy to pass judgement. There were a few titles that didn’t really show much gameplay footage. Sam Lake of Remedy came out to discuss Quantum Break, but was only able to show how technically impressive the in-game rendering is. Sunset Overdrive could be ridiculously awesome, but how does it play?

But that didn’t stop a couple surprises from sneaking through, like a new game from Swery65. Killer Insinct awkwardly stumbled into the highlight reel and Minecraft was used as Microsoft’s defense that they support the Indie scene, but yet somehow the upcoming Superbrothers game Below managed to sneak in.

There was purpose to the odd assortment of games, even if there was no particular order to how they were presented. Much like the Xbox One reveal, this selection of games was presented to give off the idea that this system will cater to all interests. There were action titles, shooters, RPGs, kids games, casual games, and even a racing game tossed in there for good measure. I get the impression that Microsoft wants us to know that there will be games on their new system that will cater to the individual’s gaming desires, no matter what they may be.

That Old Hat

“Every single QTE”There’s nothing new under the sun, and for the most part that statement accurately applies to Microsoft’s showcase. Sequels were inevitable, for certain, but there were a few new titles presented as well, and a lot of the games felt more like combinations of older ideas brought to life via new technology. None of these games seemed quite so generic as Ryse: Son of Rome.

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I can understand why Microsoft would want to show that game specifically. Developed by Crytek, Ryse looks fantastic. It’s a beautiful eyesore to behold. The battle, like D-Day with Spartans, is a tremendous spectacle, brought down by lousy mechanics. My heart sank just a little bit lower with every single QTE required killing blow.

The Way You Play

During the One reveal that rued them all the Kinect was one of the many highlights, and it was a little odd to see its use absent from any of the games in the show, with the exception of the voice commands used in Project Spark. Instead, SmartGlass was touted this time around.

“Ability to directly affect the gameplay”When the addition of a tablet peripheral was first announced, it seemed neat but unnecessary. Due to the limited amount of games that actually used the application, I personally found myself in a loss for interest. The library of compatible games was small and the additional features they brought to the table were insignificant.

SmartGlass’s ability to directly affect the gameplay experience changes that. There were simple reveals, like the ability to adjust your inventory and character in The Witcher 3 to the more complex, like utilizing the tablet as a controller itself for games like Project Spark. These are interesting little things that add to the games, without hindering those without access to SmartGlass.

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And Then It Ended

When the show was over there were no credits to roll. It came to a close as awkwardly as it ran, and even though Microsoft tried to fill in the gaping hole they had forgotten about during their initial reveal, they still left a few things out. For instance, is there a benefit to purchasing games on the One that are also coming out on the 360? The Xbox One exclusives certainly look like they demand the extra horsepower, but a comparison of the two platforms in motion would have done well to better convince customers to pony up the cash.

If there was any sort of theme to the show, it’s that Microsoft’s new platform isn’t going to bring a gaming renaissance. The next generation of Xbox isn’t out to change the kinds of games you play, but rather enable developers to create the experience they wish to make, utilizing the new technology available.

The author of this fine article

is a Senior Staff Writer at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2011.

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