E3 2017 Microsoft Press Conference Review

Introduction

It’s no mystery that Microsoft as been in a weird spot for most of this generation of game consoles. From the Xbox One’s initial announcement to very today, it has not been a bump free ride for the company. For many, what was shown in this year’s press conference may be a make or break for MS as far as far as public perception goes. It will also serve a barometer for its chances of successfully salvaging their brand this generation as they look towards the future of the Xbox brand. With all of that out of the way, here is a deeper look into how the 2017 Microsoft E3 Media Briefing fared in terms of the games shown, its presentation, and its overall message.

Xbox One X

The Hardware

After showing a sizzle reel of animation showing the inner guts of their latest console, Phil Spencer took to the stage to welcome everyone. Starting the show with a bang, Spencer introduced us all to the newly dubbed the Xbox One X. Giving it the moniker of the most powerful console ever made, Kareem Choudhry took over to talk more in-depth about the new console’s specs.

Choudhry started with talking about the three core competencies the engineering team were trying to target when designing the Xbox One X being power, compatibility, and craftsmanship. With a 6 Teraflop GPU clocking in at 1.172 GHz, 12GB of GDDR5 RAM and a memory bandwidth of 326GB/s, it’s a pretty big step forward from the base Xbox One’s specs. What this all means is that the Xbox One X will be able to deliver gaming experiences in true 4K resolution. Choudhry even went on to talk about how the console is using a liquid-cooled vapor chamber for temperature control and that, even with all of these features, the Xbox One X is the smallest Xbox ever made.

He then went on to talk a bit about compatibility, saying that every accessory and game currently for the base Xbox One and the Xbox One S will be compatible with the Xbox One X. It’s good to see some specificity with how this new system will coexist the other SKUs in this current generation. They could have easily mystified and confused attendees like what happened with Nintendo’s unveiling of the Wii U, but that was luckily not the case here. On top of previously released Xbox One titles scaling better on the X, they will understandably load faster and look cleaner due to super sampling.

It was a pretty powerful segment of the press conference and did a lot to push the new system that will be launching on November 7th of this year. However, there was one aspect of the segment that probably should have been covered therein. Can you guess what it is? It’s the price, which will be the ultimate deciding factor. It’s also very unclear as to who this console is really for. Aside from these two big issues, the new hardware still managed to be somewhat enticing.

 

The Games

This is was a very critical aspect of Microsoft’s Xbox division that needed to be addressed. A lack of exclusives among other things has led to MS losing a lot of footing this generation. Phil Spencer was certainly pushing this point very hard and most of the briefing was about games coming to the Xbox One family both exclusive and multi-platform. Here are some notable highlights of the games showcased during the press conference.

Forza Motorsport 7

After a little teaser trailer, Dan Greenwalt came on to show off the latest Porsche 911 in order to announce a 6 year deal with the car manufacturer beginning with Forza Motorsport 7. A short gameplay demo ensued after the unveiling of the car. It was very nice to see the game being able to run in 4K and a steady 60fps without a hitch.

The exteriors look fantastic so far, but the attention to detail seen with the vehicles themselves is the more impressive aspect. Though it is a subtle touch, you can actually see parts of the vehicles move and vibrate due to wind resistance. These physics even apply to the fuselage interior, as partially fastened wires and other objects wobble from exterior forces.

Dynamic weather effects are also present here, but they apparently yield cumulative effects. If it is raining during a race, puddles in the track’s surface will progressively grow if said conditions persist. While the previous features are merely aesthetic, the latter stands to add something meaningful to the gameplay. Forza Motorsport 7 is slated to launch on October 3, 2017 exclusively to Xbox One and Windows 10.

Metro Exodus

4A Games looking to bring back their post-apocalyptic first-person shooter series in a big way with Metro Exodus. Shown for the first time at the media briefing, the trailer for it shows off great looking interior and exterior environment littered with junk and technology. A couple of skirmishes with mutated animals including a hulking bear ensue and it shows the use ranged combat with different ammo types and some possibly scripted melee combat.

The bigger reveal occurs upon leaving the ruined metro when the main character pulls out a navigation chart and looks over a sprawling landscape. This outing looks to be an open-world one. The gameplay snippet also shows some environmental traversal via zip-line before hopping on a train to escape. If this trailer is truly representative of what 4A is striving to pull off mechanically, then Metro Exodus just may be the most ambitious game in the franchise when it launches in 2018.

Assassin’s Creed Origins

It seems as though the break taken from the Assassin’s Creed series may have done Ubisoft some good. This new installment takes things back to the alleged formation of the Assassin’s brotherhood as Origins brings us to the new locale being ancient Egypt. The gameplay demo shows combat that is more accessible and even show some of the RPG mechanics of skills the new assassin can develop. It exhibits quite a few traits of other open-world Ubisoft games made in recent memory. For fans of this sort of homogenization, you’ll be able to experience it with a good looking Egyptian theme when Assassin’s Creed Origins launches on October 27, 2017.

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds

The free-for-all battle royale style FPS will be seeing a release on the Xbox One consoles in late 2017. A short gameplay trailer was shown, but it doesn’t look terribly different from its PC counterpart. While it won’t knock your socks off graphically, its over-the-top charm might.

Deep Rock Galactic

Deep Rock Galactic

Ghost Ship Games turned some heads with a trailer of its latest game Deep Rock Galactic, which looks like a an interesting FPS that mixes some concepts from Left 4 Dead and Infiniminer (or Minecraft.) DRG showed very well with its colorful, low polygon count visuals and banter between the dwarves. This seemingly quirky Co-op FPS will be launching sometime in 2018 as a console exclusive for Xbox One, but will also be available PC.

Minecraft

Mojang are still furthering their support for the massively popular Minecraft, and announced some welcome additions to the mix. On top of adding more server support for all versions, Mojang will be uniting practically all currently supported versions of Minecraft through cross-platform play which will be rolling out later this year. Mojang has also been working on extra graphical features for the Xbox One X iteration of Minecraft, which takes advantage of added shaders and lighting effects. It definitely offers some cool visuals, seeing cast rays of light coming through the voxel clouds of the world’s sky box.

Dragonball Figher Z

It looks like Son Goku and company are coming back in a brand new fighting oddly named Dragonball Fighter Z. Perhaps its a referential nod to odd naming conventions of older titles. Regardless, the trailer for this game featured a lot of elements seen before in DBZ games produced by Dimps. This new title as an interesting look to it with characters being rendered in 3D, but not animating at a full 60fps. This really makes the fighters look like they came straight from an episode of DBZ. The only that makes it a bit disorienting is the fact that all of the environmental objects animate at 60fps, making the game look like a bit off like a Sega Saturn game. Dragonball Fighter Z will launch sometime in 2018.

The Last Night

Being developed under the direction of Tim Soret, The Last Night had a little teaser trailer feature at the conference. Simply put, it is visually stunning and is by far the most unique game showcased at the media briefing. It looks to be a side-scrolling action adventure experience that owes a bit of its presentation to the cinematic platformers of old like Fashback: The Quest for Identity. It uses 3D polygonal graphics for the environments, but turns to 2D sprites to represent characters and world objects. Though no concrete release date has been given, The Last Night is expected to come out sometime in 2018

Sea of Thieves

Sea Of Thieves

Rare’s multiplayer swashbuckling adventure game was given some more time at this E3, showing some examples of player scenarios. The gameplay demo starts with the pirate crew plundering a random shipwreck. It cool to see that salvage is going to play a major role. There was another scenario with a legendary hidden treasure subplot which looked like fun. However, it was a fairly short quest, so it is looking like Sea of Thieves is pretty much going to fly or die depending on the amount of meaningful content contained therein along with the on-ground combat, seafaring combat, and exploration. Sea of Thieves still on track for an early 2018 release.

Ori and the Will of the Wisps

Accompanied by a live piano performance, we got to see a teaser trailer for Ori and the Will of the Wisps, the sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest. No much gameplay was shown, but we got some amazing looking visuals. The first Ori was a classic-style 2D platformer art game and this new installment looks to be no different. No release date has been given at this point.

Anthem

Anthem

The media briefing was punctuated with one of the biggest demonstrations at the show with the reveal of Bioware’s Anthem and some gameplay. Starting the demo with very political move, we saw that this game will feature good animations and acting for NPCs – something Mass Effect: Andromeda still suffers from. The first stent of the demo takes place in a quasi desert looking community and marketplace. The player eventually slips into a mechanized exosuit the game call Javelins. We got to see some small skirmishes and it seems that this multiplayer online third-person shooter is trying to capture magic as Bungie’s Destiny. Despite the similarities, Anthem looks lush and beautiful beyond the marketplace some of the powers shown look like a lot of fun to harness. Anthem is set to launch sometime in 2018.

Backwards Compatibility

towards the end of the press conference, Phil Spencer came back on stage to drop a pretty big announcement concerning playing games from legacy platforms on Xbox One. The platform family will be backwards compatible with original Xbox games. Referred to as the “OG Xbox” by Spencer, select titles from it are being tooled to work in the same way as the Xbox 360 games for this ecosystem. Anyone with an original Xbox game that is compatible can insert the supported disc into their console and install a binary of the game designed to run on the Xbox One’s chipset architecture.

One of the games showcased to promote this new addition was Crimson Skies – a game that many fans of the legacy console have expressed much interest over. The only catch with this upcoming program is that only so many OG Xbox can be supported. The reason for this is most likely due to the fact that some publishing and developer company of some titles do not exist anymore, which makes licensing fairly difficult for some games. Aside from this, it is still huge gesture from Microsoft to give a little love to the platform that give them their start in the home console stratosphere.

Presentation:

The press conference was fairly solid in terms of staying focused on overall message. Phil Spencer owned the stage at the event, holding steadfast in showing the power of the Xbox One X. Kareem Choudhry, though a bit stilted, did a good job in presenting the specs of the new SKU. Dan Greenwalt’s presentation of Forza Motorsport 7 was great demonstration of the hardware doing its thing.

Gamers may have been a bit disappointed to not see the console playing something from 343i or Coalition i.e. a FPS, which is a fair point that cannot be refuted. However, with the technical requirements needed to make a good looking racing game that operates a consistent framerate, Forza 7 was probably the way to go in this area. Even with this demo, the press conference lacked a first-party software presence that was sorely needed.

Pushing the native 4K aspect of the new system is big for gamers looking for a premium gaming experience, as it is possibly the cheaper option in getting into 4K gaming. On the PC front, good quality 4K monitors are still fairly pricey. While Spencer stressed the point of compatibility all current MS consoles, he would always punctuate this point with Xbox One X being the best.

Whether or not the Xbox One X will take and help secure a stronger foothold in the market for Microsoft’s game division still remains to be seen. Despite this, it is pretty hard to simply write off the company’s ‘no-nonsense’ approach in its media briefing. Aside from the car presentation and the weird live commentary that was used to present The Darwin Project, the event was dominated by trailers with a portion of them showing actual gameplay.

We also saw an influx of interesting titles being developed by smaller, more independent developers. The Last Night was arguably one of the event’s best offerings. There was even time blocked out for some Japanese developed titles – perhaps a way to try and make up for Scalebound’s cancellation. It was probably one of the more diverse lineups of games seen in recent memory for Microsoft. With all that being said, the press conference was a fairly solid presentation that stayed on point. There was very little awkwardness and the key aspects of MS’s future strategy permeated the entire briefing. It’s just unfortunate that it still felt like something was missing from the event as far as first-party support goes.

Overall Message:

The gist of this event is that the Xbox division is trying harder than ever to turn things around and they really want you, the gamer, know that. Ms is trying to provide cheapest to experience true 4K gaming while still providing experiences that can still be had on the other hardware iterations of the Xbox One family of systems. They are also pushing for a more diverse dose of software support with smaller indie games, titles from Japanese developers and hitting the nostalgia cord with OG Xbox backwards compatibility. This is on top of having a AAA game presence like Metro and Anthem. This is all well and good, but it comes off as a bit bittersweet considering that calling a game a ‘console exclusive’ doesn’t necessarily mean that you can only get said game on Xbox One. Only time will tell if this current strategy is enough to satisfy gamers and bring skeptics over.

8

Overall

8.0/10

Pros

  • Showed over 40 games that will be appearing on current hardware
  • Pushing backwards compatility with 'OG Xbox' support
  • Providing the cheapest route to true 4K gaming

Cons

  • No 'true' console exclusives
  • Did not sell the Xbox One X as well as they could have
  • Scant first-party presence