Microsoft’s commitment to the Xbox, and to trying to turn around the negative perception and damage that occurred to the brand following the Xbox One unveil over a year ago, could not be any more clear at this point. Their E3 conference this year was a clear effort to win gamers back, showcasing lots of nice indie games, multplats, exclusive games for Xbox One coming from first parties and third parties, new franchises, old franchises revived, and more.
And that exact same attitude carried over to Gamescom, where Microsoft had a hell of a showing. Their Gamescom presentation may have started relatively boring and slow, but by the end of it, Microsoft was so in control, and revealing so much exciting content for the Xbox One, it was great. And unlike recent PlayStation conferences, the pacing, apart from the lull at the start, was great, with constant forward movement.
A lot of the games Microsoft showed off were expected, and dare I say it, even boring at this point. Yes, Halo: The Master Chief Collection looks amazing (and may single handedly sell me on an Xbox One). Yes, Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare looks sweet as hell, sure, Sunset Overdrive looks incredible, and yeah, Assassin’s Creed Unity looks nice, definitely, Forza Horizon 2 looks ace, and yep, Evolve looks seriously progressive. Oh, and FIFA 15 is there too, I guess.
But do you have to walk us through the same games over and over again every single time? That was my question for the first 20 or so minutes of the conference, when Microsoft retreaded a lot of the same ground as they did at E3. Happily enough, new showings of those games (which, yes, all of them look great- I do not mean to downplay them at all, they all look incredible) aside, Microsoft also packed some serious punch into its conference.
The other stuff they showed off looked seriously great. Let’s consider Quantum Break, for example, which may be the star of the show so far. Not only is the footage quite literally jaw dropping, as Remedy promised- the graphical quality was insane, but more importantly, when they showed off the actual gameplay, I got goosebumps, because of how well executed it seems. Remember, Remedy revolutionized games with the Bullet Time mechanic back in the day with Max Payne, and it looks like they might repeat the stunt- it is quite simply the first instance of a game I have seen where I sit up and go, ‘wow, that looks next gen.’
The only thing that sucked about the entire Quantum Break segment? They didn’t give us a release date. Come on, guys! We know it’s due out… some time in 2015, I guess? But when?
Microsoft followed Quantum Break up with two exclusives- Fable Legends, which looks better every time with its asymmetric gameplay (seriously, this is the kind of stuff Nintendo should have tried to develop for the Wii U)- and Screamride, which looks like an intriguing mix of Roller Coaster Tycoon, Mirror’s Edge, and Portal (yes, all three at once) in terms of tone and gameplay, and is slated for a March 2015 launch. Both of these games are under development in Europe, which Microsoft made a big deal out of, since this is in fact Gamescom.
Microsoft also showed off a whole host of indie games coming to the Xbox One, which look nice, and include some great games, such as Threes, Escapist, Space Engineer, Super Hot, and Goat Simulator (no, seriously). They also showed off Ori and the Blind Forest, confirmed to come out by this year’s end on Xbox One and PC. They showed off some more of the Halo 5 beta (and also detailed plans to develop a Halo community). In short, if this had been all that the conference was, it would have been a great one, and we would have gone home happy.
But then Microsoft announced the big one. A legitimate megaton. You see, Rise of the Tomb Raider- the sequel to the much loved Tomb Raider reboot from last year– is coming to Xbox. And only to Xbox. It will be an Xbox exclusive. Square Enix flat out said this, in no uncertain terms. There are no timed exclusivity shenanigans here. This game is Xbox exclusive.
And that was a very big deal- not only was Tomb Raider a hell of a game, but it gives Microsoft a major weapon in their arsenal to counter, say, the upcoming Uncharted 4 (seriously, the Uncharted vs Tomb Raider battles will be ultra interesting now), but it also sends a message that Microsoft is not going to back down from the Xbox One. It also sets a precedent for a major third party franchise that was multiplat (and hell, started out on the original PlayStation) to become an Xbox exclusive.
That announcement tipped the conference over the edge for me. It was a big friggen deal. It’s right up there with when Nintendo announced Bayonetta 2 as a Wii U exclusive, and, just like with Bayonetta 2, I suspect the crying for a port of Rise of the Tomb Raider will also continue well into the future.
All in all, take a bow, Microsoft, take a bow. You did well. You did very well.
Your move, Sony.
THE VERDICT: A slow start cannot detract from the most aggressive conference Microsoft has had in years.