With a pretty poor showing three weeks ago with only two first-party games shown and a EA Sports presence that pretty much made up the show that consisted of TV, sports and Call of Duty, Microsoft had everything to prove at the USC Galen Theatre in Los Angeles tonight as they showed a massive core line-up. They succeeded, but near the end was their pitfall.
The conference began with a stunning debut of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, running on Fox Engine and the first glimpse at its cast and story along with the debut of Kiefer Sutherland as Snake, before Hideo Kojima and Don Mattrick came out on stage to announce the game for Xbox One. Spot that beside that opening two minute salvo on stage, we didn’t see Mattrick afterwards. A majority of the show was presented by Microsoft Studios GM Phil Spencer, who it was left up to announce the November date and price of $499/€499/£429 at the end.
But before we get to that, it must be stated that in comparison to a few weeks ago, Microsoft stayed true to its word of tonight’s conference being game heavy. And with the possible exception of Project Spark from Microsoft Studios, a multi-device supported game akin to LittleBigPlanet, the line-up was tailored for the core: from the beginning with MGS5 to the end with the official announce of Titanfall from Respawn Entertainment and EA Partners.
There were also some genuinely great surprises. For one, Insomniac Games’ Ted Price wheeled out on stage to show brand new Microsoft-published IP Sunset Overdrive, showing clear inspirations of Mirror’s Edge and a similar artstyle to the game formerly known as Overstrike. And at last, Rare is working on something that have made the fanboys wild. Before the show, they announced Kinect Sports Rivals for Xbox One as a launch title to a very meh-like applause. Cue the revival of Killer Instinct to send Twitter into a frenzy. The live demo that followed afterwards was great, but as someone pointed out on my timeline, some of the chatter did get a bit ‘inappropriate’ lets just say (the same could be said for the wolf-whistling in the audience of 343 Industries head Bonnie Ross – fuck you, whoever did that).
Halo 5 was announced as expected, but the bombshell: no number. It’s the second chapter in the Forerunner trilogy following Halo 4 and will release on Xbox One from 2014 with, for the first time in series history, 60FPS gameplay. And the good stuff kept on rolling: Black Tusk’s new IP looked intriguing (but without a name), Witcher III, a new episodic series on Xbox One from Sweary 61 called D4 and, to the shock of no-one considering the game’s success on Xbox 360, Minecraft for Xbox One.
Speaking of, Xbox 360 wasn’t entirely left out. After the MGS5 showing, a 360 redesign was announced as well as three new announcements for the platform: Dark Souls II (which isn’t really a new announcement), Max: The Curse of Brotherhood from Danish studio PressPlay and WarGaming’s World of Tanks, which will be F2P on Live this summer. Well, not so much free-to-play as it is pay-to-play-for-free if you don’t have a Gold account.
Not everything looked hot, though. Dead Rising 3 was announced for a holiday release as an Xbox One exclusive, but seemed more like an open-world version of Resident Evil and less like a Dead Rising game with little-to-no humour. Forza 5 was also shown but there has to be a concern now that Turn 10 is now focusing on looks rather than gameplay. And Crytek’s Ryse: Son of Rome was too reliant on QTEs and otherwise didn’t look too appealing.
Before the end, we had probably one of the most awkward moments in E3 history, but lets prelude that a bit. Panzer Dragon, announced at TGS 2010 as a Xbox 360 exclusive for XBLA, was reannounced on Xbox One with a new trailer — except no sound. It was left to the crowd to provide sound for us.
But you think that’s bad, spare a thought this evening for EA Games president Patrick Soderlund, who had audio difficulties trying to sort out a Battlefield 4 demo on Xbox One. Kotaku has a video of it you can watch here, but it was wincing to say the least. Eventually, the demo got underway and we had a look at BF4 running an incredible 60FPS on a console. If it’s any consolation to Soderlund, compared to what was shown yesterday, DICE’s effort made Call of Duty: Ghosts look pretty inferior. By a country mile.
And then we come to that wince worthy price announcement. To put this into perspective, this may be a touch more than what was the original price-point of the PS3 in the UK, but if you were to convert the $499 price point into sterling, it’d be £320. For reference sake, PS3’s launch price-point in the US was $599.
In the end, Microsoft lived up to the promise of a (mostly) AAA core line-up for its press conference with no mention of TV. The closest to it being Xbox Live and how SmartGlass fitted into it, the Twitch announcement (big coup for that) and that there was no friends restrictions and Microsoft Points gone. But that price has almost certainly put off a few people from a day one purchase. We’ll have to see in a few hours if PlayStation 4 will have a similar price up its sleeve.
Your move, Sony.
More coverage will come throughout the night on @Project_Boom. You can also follow me at @JohnnyCullen for snark/analysis/Vine coverage and come back here to JohnnyCullen.net for more in-depth opinion of tonight’s press conferences.