At 5:30 PM UK time, 9:30 in the morning in California, Microsoft kicked E3 off in the usual way, by hosting a press briefing in an arena full of whooping and hollering, er, journalists, where they could show off the latest and greatest games they've been working on, and tell us what they have in store for the rest of this year and beyond. While the briefing itself was an hour and a half long, we've condensed the important bits into one nice round-up. Because we're nice like that.
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare
Just to open things with a change of pace from the usual serious military shooters the Xbox is famous for, Microsoft chose to open their conference with footage of serious military shooter Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, running on Xbox One. Alongside the announcement that, much like the previous games, all the extra downloadable levels and maps will be available first on Xbox One, the demo certainly went down well with the overly excitable crowd, as it showed off the new, futuristic bent for the series. Full of plenty of Hollywood inspired action, some seriously impressive visuals, and a lot of explosions, it was pretty standard Call of Duty fare, but this time there's a sci-fi twist. With sci-fi drop pods deploying your plucky bunch of angry soldiers into the battlefield at the start of the mission, a giant spider tank type thing trampling cars, and a swarm of flying robots that our soldier only just manages to fend off with the help of a car door, it's certainly a new take on Call of Duty - but will it be enough to entice non-fans? And will the single player be lengthy?
Forza Horizon 2
Next out was designer Dan Greenawalt from Forza developers Turn 10 studios, to ensure Microsoft tick all the boxes for their hardcore fans - guns, and cars. Kicking off with the announcement that the famous German racing track, the Nurburgring is now available as a free download for the Xbox One launch title Forza 5, Dan introduced Ralph Fulton from Leamington Spa based studio Playground Games, to talk about their upcoming title, Forza Horizon 2. An open world racing game with no tracks, letting you choose the fastest way to get from A to B, Forza Horizon 2 at least looks the part, with a weather system adding some very fancy raindrop effects (which, let's face it, is one of the best parts of any driving games), although how much variety it'll offer beyond standard races remains to be seen. With the developers promising plenty to do, from "hunting down exotic barn-finds, to unlocking exciting bucket list challenges", we're hopeful this one might be a bit different to the usually clinical Forza.
Assassin's Creed Unity
We've got a bit of a history with Assassin's Creed games. When you first see them running, they look amazing, and they always suck us in with their promise of free-roaming, free-running exploration in a historically themed land - this time, Paris during the French Revolution, where the peasants are revolting, the monarchy isn't much better, and the Scarlet Pimpernel is busy being poisoned by Lord Blackadder. The only problem is, they've traditionally been very hard to pick up and play if you're just coming to the series for the first time. While the jump to "next-gen" has made the game's rendition of revolutionary France look even more astounding than usual, and the addition of a brand new online co-op mode lets four friends run through the cities, up the walls, and over the rooftops together, we'll be keeping our fingers crossed the interface and story have been given an overhaul too, so we can enjoy this one as much as we want to.
Dragon Age: Inquisition
From here on in, Microsoft's conference started to pick up speed. Showing off a new trailer of the gorgeous upcoming fantasy game, Dragon Age: Inquisition, this was a game that seemed to tick every box that we look for in a game - a strong story, plenty of characterisation and customisation, and dragons. Promising developer Bioware's traditional emphasis on player choices, with characters you can befriend or betray, romances, and a story that you can influence based on the things you say and do, this is high on our list of wants - and we'll be hoping to go hands-on with it soon.
For us, Sunset Overdrive has been one of the biggest surprises of the show so far. At its initial unveil last year, we didn't really know what to expect, but now that we've seen it running, we're actually pretty interested. A colourful third person shooter with an attitude and sense of humour of its own, this is a game set in a land where the people have been turned into mutants by a contaminated energy drink, with its tongue thoroughly implanted in its cheek. With a protagonist who can grind down rails, Jet Set Radio style, crazy weaponry (a freeze cannon whose explosion spells "BRRR" in giant letters in the sky), and best of all, brightly coloured balloons, the game's demo, set in a theme park, had more colours than pretty much every shooter over the past ten years put together - and looked like a lot of fun to boot. Colour us interested in this one.
Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha
ARE YOU ALRIGHT?! Of everything at the show, this crazy expansion for the zombie slaying Dead Rising 3 has probably already won the award for best trailer. Fantastically self deprecating (and genuinely funny), the trailer for the upcoming downloadable expansion (deep breath) Super Ultra Dead Rising 3 Arcade Remix Hyper Edition EX Plus Alpha, showed off the add-on's all new range of characters, upgrades and extras for the Xbox One zombie slaying launch title. Adding in an all new arcade mode that lets you play as characters from all the previous Dead Rising games (including the first game's lead, Frank West), plus the option to cosplay as characters from famous Capcom games to celebrate Capcom's 31th (yes, you read that right) anniversary, an all new four player (online only) co-op mode, and a much needed sense of humour, this is an expansion that should make Dead Rising 3 the game it really should be. Even better, it's available now!
Dance Central Spotlight
After announcing a release date for the pretty impressive looking Fantasia (21st October), music game maestros Harmonix decided to lift the lid on a brand new game. Sadly, it wasn't the all new Rock Band we'd been hoping for, but instead, a new Dance Central on the Xbox One.
Instead of being a full release, Microsoft's Kinect powered Just Dance competitor is going to be available exclusively as a digital download, and will come with a core package of 10 songs, with 50 "chart-topping hits" set to be released as downloadable extras over the next year or so, each now coming with eight different choreographies.
One of the best looking games shown off at the conference was Fable Legends, Microsoft's very own fantasy role playing game, and one that, like Sunset Overdrive, has a rather unique sense of humour. Famous for its witty one liners and somewhat sarcastic British wit, the Fable series has always been a firm favourite at Everybody Plays, yet Fable Legends looks to do things a little bit differently. Instead of being a single player role playing game with optional same console co-op, Fable Legends takes a more multiplayer oriented approach, pitting a team of friends (or computer controlled characters), versus a human "dungeon master" villain, who places traps, sets off enemies, and generally tries to stop your group of heroes reaching the end of the level. With an overlying story tying it together, four defined characters to play as, each with their own powers, traits, and yes, personalities, it's an interesting idea, and one that, after seeing the gameplay demo, has us really excited - but we're a bit concerned about the lack of any news about same console co-op. Fable games have always let two people join in the fun together on the one console, and it'd be somewhat awkward for the most multiplayer oriented Fable so far to drop the one multiplayer feature that's been with it since the start...
Microsoft also showed a new trailer for Project Spark, their game creation tool which will be moving out of its open Beta and into a full release later this year. Think along the same sort of lines as Little Big Planet, only with no Sackboy, and no pre-built co-op game for you to play through, and you'll be along the right lines. With a huge community around the world sinking their teeth into the tools and creating their own games, levels and worlds, Project Spark is a hub for creativity - but quite what format it'll take when it launches properly is as yet unclear. While the game is currently free to play, with various components for your games available at a cost, we'll be keeping our fingers crossed for a stand alone release that gives you access to everything. On the plus side, Microsoft got a bit of a nostalgia pop after announcing Rare's foul mouthed squirrel, Conker, will be available as a character for you to make your own rudely funny levels with. Remember we said there was a chance Rare might be bringing back Conker for a new game now that they've ditched Kinect? Yeah. Keep your eyes on Gamescom in Cologne this August.
Ori and the Blind Forest
This was another very pleasant surprise, and one of the games that seems to have universally got the Everybody Plays team interested. A 2D, cartoon-style platform game with some haunting visuals, an equally stirring soundtrack, and some fantastic animation, it's a game that tells the story of Ori, a young orphan that looks a bit like a white version of Stitch, as he tries to save a dying forest. Promising plenty of emotion alongside the Disney/Ghibli-esque artistic flair, this could well be a tear jerker, and is a game that has magic written all over it - we're just hoping it won't go the incredibly difficult route, like some of the other more artsy games have done.
Halo: The Master Chief Collection
Arguably the game Microsoft are banking their highest hopes on for this year (yet not the game to go on last) was Halo: The Master Chief Collection, a slightly upgraded version of Halos 1-4. The game contains the Xbox 360's massively visually overhauled Halo Anniversary, the newly overhauled-for-the-Xbox-One Halo 2: Anniversary, along with slightly buffed up versions of Halo 3 and 4. While the cynic in us would point out that Microsoft managed to make a room full of people whoop in excitement at being told they could now buy four games they already own - again - this is still a game we'll probably play, if only because the first game was so incredibly good, and the others each had their fair share of great split-screen co-op moments. Even if you do wonder how telling an audience that your brand new game will feature the "Halo 2 multiplayer exactly as it shipped ten years ago" is a selling point. Don't we want something new?
Still, promising all new playlists that let you and your friends to play through levels from all four games, as a kind of "highlights" mode, an all new prologue and epilogue to help the game connect with the upcoming Halo 5 (set for release in 2015), the Halo Nightfall TV series, 4000 Gamerpoints worth of achievements to unlock, and, of course, the same split-screen co-op we've come to know and love, this will launch on 11th November - or roughly in time for our Editor's birthday.
Then, it was time for the traditional indie games montage. There are too many games featured in this montage to talk about here, and they were all featured in such brief snippets it's hard to really tell what most of them do, but there's bound to be something that'll catch your eye.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
While we're still trying to get over the disappointment that was the last Tomb Raider when compared to the old games, it seems Lara's still having flashbacks of her most recent outing too. In a teaser trailer to announce her new game, we were shown Lara chatting to a psychiatrist about her issues, how she's still a bit unstable, and will still presumably be a bit of a wreck for the next game now that it's taken the serious approach. Looks like our hopes of a return to a traditional Tomb Raider were premature. Sigh. You can find the trailer here.
Witcher 3: Wild Hunt
Rounding off the fantasy role playing game trifecta was some new gameplay footage from the Witcher 3, another strongly story driven, emotionally moving title, only this time set to release in 2015. Showing the game's protagonist Geralt hunting down a griffin using his special Witcher powers, which allow him to use special senses that are attuned to tracking mythical beasties, we saw a glimpse of a branching conversation, the huge, sprawling worlds you can explore, and a lot of combat. Check the trailer out for more.
Next up was a trailer for a reboot of an old Xbox game, called Phantom Dust. If your first answer was "what?", then you're probably thinking along a similar line to us, as despite owning an original Xbox, we've never heard of it either - but after having done a bit of research, it sounds a lot more intriguing than the initial trailer made it look. A card based action game set in a land of amnesiacs with magical powers, it was typically Japanese, but certainly something different, and a game we'll be keeping our eye on on the Xbox One.
Tom Clancy's The Division
Like all good stage shows, Microsoft knows how to work a crowd. Not wanting to tire their audience out with 90 minutes of fantastic looking games, Tom Clancy's The Division took the penultimate penultimate slot, to give the audience time to calm down after all the excitement. Showing a ten minute demo of the game, a co-op, near future, open world shooter, it's all very military, and all very serious - but if that's your sort of thing, feel free to check out the trailer here.
In the penultimate slot was a new game from Japanese studio Platinum Games, the developers of the zany Wonderful 101 and the button mashing action game Bayonetta. Featuring a guy with oversized headphones winking at a dragon, before drawing on the power of drum and bass and some cool stone armour to defeat his oversized foes, this was another one of those "WTF" trailers, but still shows the depth and variety of the Xbox One line-up as compared to previous years. No more is it all racing games on the Xbox One - now we have games where you can fly dragons, too!
And, last but most certainly not least comes news of a reboot of a series that was close to our hearts before the second game came and ruined everything, Crackdown. A game that puts you in to the oversized police boots of what's effectively a kind of super hero secret agent, with the ability to jump buildings, chuck cars, and boot ne'er-do-wells into the sun, the original game was all about making you feel super. Turning you into what was effectively a human tank, there were gangs to defeat, vehicles to drive (including one that could drive up walls), and, perhaps the most fondly remembered part of all, hundreds of orbs scattered around the city, waiting to be found - if you could figure out how to reach them. While we're concerned again at all the mentions of a "revolutionary new multiplayer experience" in case it comes at the expense of a single player/split-screen mode, if the sequel can capture even half of the fun of the original, then we'll all be in for a treat. Fingers crossed we'll see more of this soon, and that it'll launch in 2015...