Microsoft showed off more than 20 upcoming video games for the Xbox One console at its press conference Monday at the annual Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. Here's our take on the highlights and the lowlights:
1. Games, games, games
Easily the best part of Monday’s big show was that it was all about games. New Xbox head Phil Spencer has made a point of reorienting Microsoft’s console back to its core content since taking charge of the division earlier this year.
It’s a wise move after the company alienated many gamers last year by focusing the Xbox One’s launch on TV and entertainment capabilities, not to mention initially announcing a host of consumer-unfriendly policies, like restrictions on used games.
“We’re dedicating our entire briefing to games,” Mr. Spencer said to huge applause, and he wasn’t kidding. Microsoft made no mention of the console’s other entertainment features during its entire hour-and-a-half presentations.
Will it be enough to reverse the lead that Microsoft has coughed up to rival Sony in the next-generation console battle? It’s a good start.
2. Halo deficiency
Halo fans will have to settle for The Master Chief Collection, a re-mastering of the first four games in the series, this holiday season since Microsoft wasn’t talking much about next year’s Halo 5: Guardians.
Aside from teasing that the new game will delve further into the protagonist’s backstory, there was no mention or indication of how the next instalment might differ from previous instalments. As Microsoft’s flagship game franchise, it would have been nice to have some indication of how Halo 5 will take advantage of the Xbox One’s horsepower.
3. Sunset Overdrive
Microsoft confirmed a number of Xbox exclusives, including Fable Legends, Forza Horizons 2 and a new Crackdown, but the most unique looking is still Sunset Overdrive, unveiled at last year’s show.
A cartoonish third-person shooter from Ratchet and Clank creator Insomniac Games, Sunset Overdrive also incorporates elements of Tony Hawk skateboarding games with characters able to slide along rails while shooting.
It’s colourful and wacky with some fourth-wall-breaking humour, making it one of the more unique games on the docket for release this year.
Last year, Sony garnered a reputation as being more friendly to indie developers, but that’s may be hard claim to make in 2014 after seeing how many independent games Microsoft has on tap. Headlined by Inside, Danish studio Playdead’s follow-up to its huge indie hit Limbo, the company says it has more than a hundred smaller titles coming.
The two-minute video showing snippets of those games seemed to back up that boast.
5. Light-up wristbands
Attendees at the press conference were wondering what the chunky white wristbands being issued at the door were for. It was only once the show started that it became clear: they were part of the show.
It turns out the lights in the wristbands were synced to the various light-shows accompanying game trailers and demos. It’s a nifty technological trick that added a little more razzle-dazzle to what is already always a sensory overload.