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E3 2015: Microsoft’s Impressive Press Conference
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E3 2015: Microsoft’s Impressive Press Conference

Microsoft puts on an impressive show with a games-filled press conference full of actual surprises.

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A certain degree of embarrassment has followed Microsoft since their disastrous announcement of restrictive DRM on the Xbox One in 2013. Tell consumers that they’re getting locked out of the used game market and the pushback might surprise you, after all. With that in mind, I was eagerly anticipating the Microsoft conference at E3 2015, shuddering with glee at the latest comedy of errors that ol’ MS would reveal.

Much to my surprise, it was actually pretty good! With the sole exception of the announcement of yet another form of paid-beta system a la Steam’s Early Access, there was very little to dislike at the conference and a lot to look forward to. I know: I’m as amazed as you are.

First, here’s the big one: the Xbox One is getting backwards compatibility with some Xbox 360 games, approximately 100 when the feature is launched. This sounds similar to the system used on the Xbox 360 for original Xbox games, so we can imagine it’ll hit the bigger and more well-loved titles while leaving a lot of the lesser-known games in the dust. My guesses: Red Dead Redemption will probably be available, Rare’s titles have already been announced to be available, and Halo almost certainly will not be available in order to avoid chewing into sales of the Master Chief Collection. I don’t know if this will be a system-seller for the Xbox One, but it’s certainly a nice feature.

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Next, let’s talk about games. I’m going to go the boring mainstream route for once and say that the biggest hype-generators for me were two of the more obvious titles: Gears 4 and Fallout 4. Yes, they’re AAA sequels. Yes, I know we’re not supposed to like those anymore. Yes, I absolutely don’t care: these games look fantastic. Not to steer you away from your lovely Popzara Pals (we’d miss each and every one of you), but Microsoft has posted some impressive game info right HERE!

Gears 4 – note the lack of the “war” bit of the title, suggesting perhaps that it’s a sequel to Gears of War 3, which marks the apparent conclusion of the Locust/Human war – came as a bit of a surprise given Microsoft’s focus on the upcoming Gears of War Ultimate Edition. This is a series that’s been begging for a proper sequel for quite some time. I found Gears of War Judgment a little disappointing, trying as it was to shove more story into a plot that had already concluded, and I certainly wasn’t the only one. Here, we’ve got what appears to be a new set of protagonists and antagonists, perhaps allowing us a new and innovative look at the world of Sera.

As for Gears of War Ultimate Edition, I really wish I could be honest with myself when I said I wasn’t going to try it…but, well, it’d be a lie. HD remasters are another thing that we’re really not supposed to like anymore, but the first Gears of War was the best game in the series as far as I’m concerned, and I welcome the chance to check it out again with remastered graphics and new content. The inclusion of the series’ iconic multiplayer is icing on the cake.

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What’s there to say about Fallout 4 that isn’t already being said? My take on it is that we’re getting what appears to be “Fallout Effect” – a Fallout game with the open-world wandering that we’ve come to love from the series with the conversation system and character development from Mass Effect. The biggest reveal from the Microsoft show when it came to this game, though, was the announcement that PC mods will be compatible with the Xbox One version of the game. It’d be naive to think that there won’t be any restrictions on this sort of cross-compatibility, but at first glance it sounds like a great plan to keep the game fresh over time.

That’s not all that impressed during Microsoft’s conference, though. An indie game called Cuphead that I’d never heard of took me by surprise, for instance; this, by all appearances, is a shooter with graphics ripped straight from a 1930s-style cartoon. It’s kind of surprising that this has never been attempted before and I’m eager to see how it works out. I’m also fascinated, as is pretty much everybody else in existence, by the Rare Replay collection. Games like Blast Corps, RC Pro-Am and the original need more love and this collection, retailing at a mere $30, looks like a great way to do it. Finally, the HoloLens, yet another form of headset peripheral announced at a show where around three trillion of them will be available, actually looked pretty interesting in a stylish Minecraft-focused demo.

Not to say the entire conference was just one great tidbit of news after another, though. Microsoft’s announcement of an Early Access-styled program for the Xbox One known as Xbox Game Preview certainly gave me pause, particularly when they brought out DayZ designer Dean Hall. This is a man that was described as a “true visionary of Early Access entertainment” – essentially a fancy way of saying that he’s really good at not finishing his games. And lo, along with announcing that DayZ will be present on Xbox Game Preview, he announced yet another game, a space-themed title known as Ion which looks suspiciously similar to Elite: Dangerous…a title that will also be on Xbox Game Preview.

Long story short, it’s hard for me to get excited for the chance to play unfinished games with a banner slapped on them to deflect criticism, particularly since that’s been a popular thing to do in the industry as of late.

All in all, though, Microsoft’s conference gave me a lot to look forward to, both for future game releases and the rest of what E3 2015 has to offer. Stay tuned to Popzara for more exclusive E3 coverage as the show progresses throughout the week!

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About the Author: Cory Galliher