E3 2015: Microsoft’s Showcase

I was set to write an article about the decline of console gaming. Actually, let me rephrase that – I was in the midst of writing said article, on my way to publishing it later tonight. And then, the Microsoft press conference happened, and in one fell swoop rendered my entire argument moot.

In a nutshell, the article I killed was about how console gaming will become obsolete unless the industry got its act together and started making games for the next gen consoles. Casuals have moved on to mobile, and developers continue to make games for both last gen and next gen systems. Without backwards compatibility, there really isn’t a huge incentive for many gamers to make the switch just yet, and I was prepared to watch Microsoft once again talk up Halo, Gears, Tomb Raider, tease Crackdown, Indie games, and then end with COD. You know, the usual. And while they did do most of that (minus COD), they also did so much more to restore my faith in the industry – if only for today, at least.

E3 is upon us, and holy crap has it delivered well beyond my meager expectations.

We are a far cry from two years ago, when Microsoft was blasted for some questionable moves, primarily disc-less, DRM-based game delivery and mandatory Kinect. The amount of backlash over these two features forced Microsoft’s hand, and the ensuing reactionary changes prompted critics to brand the new console the Xbox 180, for the 180 degree turns that Microsoft conceded.

And now? Shoot… They brought the house down. And if we’re talking 180 degree turns, then XBox has taken another 180 degree turn, and then took several steps forward in the right direction. Without further ado, here are some of what captivated us during the XBox E3 showcase:

Ashen
Remember Out of this World? Ashen kinda looks like they took that simple aesthetic and made it into a 3D exploration game of some sort.

Backwards Compatibility
Something gamers have been clamoring for, and one thing that many of us weren’t actually expecting to come. I thought this feature was dead, and the only way to experience it was through the endless stream of remakes. Let’s see what BC actually means in this context though before we give it our full seal of approval, because it seems like you still have to download the digital version of games even if you own them on disc.

Cuphead
Wow. It’s like a platformer, envisioned in that unique, surreal 1930’s cartoon aesthetic, minus the embarrassing blackface.

Game Preview
Kind of like Steam Early Access, but with free trials of games like Elite Dangerous and DayZ. Meh.

Gears 4
Less bromance, more badass, Marcus may be gone, but it looks like the same Gears action that we know and love.

Gears of War Ultimate Edition
If you didn’t like Gears 1, then this isn’t for you. If you did, then you probably don’t have to be convinced. But before you leave, sign up for the public beta, which starts today!

Gigantic
Kinda cutesy, but it looks like Xbox’s take on a MOBA.

Halo 5
Well, it’s Halo…  but regardless how many times we see a new one launch, it never disappoints. Master Chief is back, and he’s a fugitive being hunted by some familiar faces like Nathan Filion, all in glorious 1080p/60fps.

Rare Replay
So Rare is 30 years old, and they’re bringing a shitload of throwbacks. Ready to replay Perfect Dark? Did you miss how inadequate BattleToads’ difficulty made you feel? Well, you can play them again, and more. Way more.

Recore
The story of a girl, her robot-dog-turned-robot-gorilla guardian, and the post-apocalypse brought to you by Keiji Inafune of Capcom fame.

Rise of the Tomb Raider
Well, I thought I was watching a cinematic… until I realized that the cinematic seamlessly transitioned into the actual damn game. It’s a timed exclusive, but we’ll be looking forward to this one over the holidays.

VR and HoloLens
Partnerships with Valve VR and Oculus are cool, but the HoloLens Minecraft was simply amazing. Time will tell if these things are actually viable (and affordable), but good on MS to actually push the envelope a bit

Xbox One Elite Controller
MS pretty much just stole the MLG pro gaming controller market by coming up with their own. Swappable sticks and Dpads, paddle shifters, trigger and stick sensitivity control, and then some.

Stay tuned tomorrow for our PS4 roundup!