Gamescom 2015: Microsoft Conference

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Well Gamescom has sneaked up on us this year, with E3 being a week late I assumed this would be in two weeks. I guess the games industry inability to spread things out over the course of twelve months has caught on with their trade shows as well as it is a week earlier than usual!

Without Sony and Nintendo (the former are attending Paris Game Week this year) Microsoft had the stage all to themselves, they had the perfect opportunity to gain some momentum in the console war. More than this, they had the opportunity to sell some units with a well thought out and considered press conference.

Did they succeed? Let’s analyse their performance.

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The Good

Well Microsoft turned up at Gamescom and that’s always a plus! Seriously though the fact that they found this trade show serious enough to attend (and why the hell wouldn’t they? It’s the second biggest on the planet) is good news and they came with a plan. They brought exclusive games, quite a lot of exclusive games.

Quantum Break

It was a wise move for Microsoft to start the proceedings with ‘Quantum Break’ for me this looks the strongest of the 3 exclusives we saw gameplay of. It’s an ambitious title from Remedy (the guys who brought us Max Payne 1 & 2 and Alan wake) that looks stunning, at its heart it is a cover-based shooter (I know, another one) with a cool looking time and space bending effect to keep things fresh.

The demo was hugely impressive, nice display of the “sticky button”-free cover, the shooting, time/space bending and the melee mechanics. The innovation comes from the game being only half the story the hero’s story. The villains story is presented in a Television show style segment of the game, a passive story telling angle that is pretty unique in gaming and one that piques my interest very much!

In saying this, there was a distinct whiff of a complete overhaul of the game (the characters looked completely different), never a good sign.

Crackdown 3

Crackdown is one of my favourite Xbox 360 games, however this one just didn’t look that great. Graphically it was fine, a solid jump from the last gen – however it was an alpha build interspersed between dev diaries(just why?).

There was also the promise that the game would feature “100% destructible enviornments” and while this is true; it is only true in the online modes and not in the single player. Quite why this is, is beyond me. “The Cloud” is the reason being presented; whether or not it actually delivers the horse power and consistency of connection required to compute the players and the destruction on a reliable scale remains to be seen. Judging by every other major release that requires internet – I’m assuming Crackdown 3 will be broke on release.

I’m filing this under “intrigued, but not convinced”.

Scalebound

Another one for that file I’m afraid. I love the output of Platinum Games and I have high hopes for this title but the video made it look like a slow-paced Monster Hunter type game complete with damage indicators over enemy heads. Whats worse is the protagonist is your typical Japanese interpretation of an American “cool guy” (read as obnoxious) and it is not looking good for ScaleBound.

I have hope for it, based purely on Platinum’s pedigree, but it is not looking like it’ll sell me a xbox one.

Halo 5

Focused on Multilpayer and the ability that Halo 5 has built-in to make it a leader in the e-sport arena. It looked amazing!

Halo Wars 2

Just a pre-rendered video, nothing major to report as I never played the first.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

Looked like a mix between the reboot from 2012 and Assassin’s Creed, doesn’t fill me with confidence that this game will be able to set itself apart from whats already here. Although early reports say that there are loads of tombs to explore and they are very reminiscent of the first! I enjoyed the reboot greatly, will be keeping my eye on this.

Forza 6

Yeah, it’s the racing you love now with accurately modeled rain puddles. To be honest I love Forza and this looks and sounds amazing!

The Bad

As is classic games developer conferences there were more than few weak areas (I think this comes from them booking far too much stage time). The worst thing about these though was they all came one after another, in some bizarre and shitty game of dominoes.

Windows 10 & the cloud focus

It’s really difficult to get excited about an operating system, especially when said operatng system is coming from the minds that brought us Vista, ME and 8.1. Microsoft however tried to get us excited about off-TV gaming and game streaming (still a problem area for many companies with better infrastructure) – I can’t help but feel that the integration of Windows 10 in Xbox One will have adverse effects on sales (many games are cross-platform).

Another thing I’m finding hard to believe is the difference that “the cloud” will bring to Xbox One on the grand scheme of things. I’ve seen numbers being thrown about “20% more processing power” and the like and I am skeptical, not least for the reliability of the infrastructure and internet and the need to be connected all the time – it sounds like their original vision for the Xbox One is being re-branded and shoved at us.

Always online required to play? No thanks.

TV

Remember the Xbox One unveil? Remember how it fixated on TV? Remember how gamers reacted?

Well Microsoft thought it’d be a good thing to try to launch that shite again. I have a TV and Satellite box for my TV I do not need nor want my console to do it too. Why would I want that? it’s much more impractical not to mention expensive.

Just no. Feel free to spend another 5 minutes taking about this never Microsoft.

Overall – Did Microsoft take full advantage?

No! While it was a solid show, there were far too many marketing terms and vague promises being made at almost every opportunity. Calling this the “strongest xbox line up ever” is not stretching it as they focused on the strong core of exclusives they have and although many looked a bit, meh, it’s great to see so many games being announced in a xbox show.

I don’t think they took full advantage of the opportunity here and it was not a strong enough show to say “They’re back in this war”; but they are showing signs of a resistance after a solid e3 and now gamescom. I wanted them to knock my socks off.

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