While I normally like to start at the beginning, I would like to start this article at the end, where the most exciting stuff happened.
While I have tried VR before, I finally got a behind closed doors demo on Microsoft’s HoloLens. While I was blown away with their display of HoloLens with Minecraft during their conference, the experience they showed me with Halo blew my mind. More details on this experience will be provided in the coming days. To summarise my experience in a few words however, the future is here.
Another highlight of my day was a behind the scene demonstration of No Man’s Sky where the developers walked us through some interesting parts of the game. While the previous trailers had piqued my interest in the game, I remained somewhat skeptical that it would be able to hold my interest. The demonstration however changed my mind, the sheer amount to do in the world has convinced me that I will sink many many hours into the game. I will provide more details about this experience in a separate article.
I also got a demonstration of the upcoming Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, a remake of the first Gears.
While I have been doubtful of the remake and remaster craze recently, from what they showed me it seems like this is one done right. The game is receiving a complete remaster and modernisation. This basically means that they are redoing all assets and upgrading some of the game mechanics to make it feel like a modern Gears game. This really showed in the gameplay footage shown off which made it really look like a new generation game rather than the 9 year old game it actually is.
Also included in this edition is 5 chapters of story previously only included in the PC version, adding about 90 minutes of gameplay.
The multiplayer features 19 maps and 6 game modes at launch with new modes possible after release. Unfortunately I haven’t had a chance to play it yet but as a massive fan of the Gears of War series, I was left very optimistic about the upcoming release.
Another behind closed doors Xbox demonstration I got was for the Xbox One platform itself. Here numerous parts of the platform were showed off including backwards compatibility, the new user interface and the new Elite controller.
If you tried backwards compatibility on the Xbox 360 you will know that it didn’t always work as you would hope. What I saw of it on Xbox One however seemed to work exactly as intended with a few extra features which I was not expecting.
Only games that publishers choose to make available for backwards compatibility will work though.
In order to run the game using an Xbox 360 disc, the Xbox One must first download some stuff. Digital games will automatically show up in your Xbox One library of games. Once downloaded, the game works exactly like any other Xbox One game, with an added perk of also being able to bring up the old Xbox 360 menu by pressing the Menu and View buttons at the same time.
When asked about the whether they were planning on bringing the compatible Xbox 360 titles to the Xbox One marketplace, I was told that it is something they are working on. It seems though that there is no firm release date for this to be added however we can only hope it will be available for launch.Backwards compatibility launches later this year for all Xbox One owners and is now available for over 20 titles now for Xbox One preview members.
The new Xbox One user interface was shown off. I was told the two major focuses of this new interface is speed and intelligence.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get hands on time with it but from what I was shown, it does look like these two things have been achieved. Cortana, Microsoft’s equivalent to Apple’s personal assistant Siri, is also being integrated into the Xbox One. While this is the feature I am most excited for, like with Cortana on Windows Phone and Windows 10, this feature will be available in USA & UK with a New Zealand and Australia launch sometime after that.
Another exciting Xbox announcement at their conference was the new Xbox One Elite controller.
This controller focuses on customisation and is aimed at more elite players. Luckily I was able to get some time with the controller and try out some of its most interesting features. The D-Pad and analogue sticks can very simply be taken off and replaced with different parts. This allows you to choose the style that best suits you.
Other cool features of this controller is the ability to change how much you need to press the triggers in to fire, an extra four buttons on the back of the controller and the ability to remap any of the buttons however you want. One change in the controller which I received no proper explanation for is the absence of colour in the A, B, X& Y buttons.
This seems strange to me as the colour of the buttons are often integrated into games when it prompts you to press one of them.
In between appointments I somehow managed to squeeze in some time on some of the games on the show floor.
The Banner Saga 2, the sequel to one of my favourite games of 2014, was the first on my to play list. For better or for worst, the game looks and feels exactly like the first game. The game still looks gorgeous, the story seems equally intriguing and the turn based combat still feels solid so it definitely a game I will get day one.
I also got my hands on a couple of other indie games.
The first was called Magnetic: Cage Closed which feels very much like portal but with magnetics instead of teleporters. The game focuses on solving puzzles using the ability to pull objects towards you and repel them away. From my brief time with the game, it seemed kind of cool although a bit rough around the edges. The game seems aimed more at the hardcore puzzle games fans. It has recently launched on Steam and is coming to Xbox One soon.
Another cool looking indie game I got some time on was The Flame in the Flood. This survival game, very reminiscent of Don’t Starve, revolves around trying to survive as you make your way down a river.
There is a crafting system in the game used to make clothing, clean water and traps. The game is procedurally generated and very brutal. If you’re a fan of survival games this is definitely a game to look into.
My first day of E3 2015 saw many highlights, most notably demos of HoloLens, No Man’s Sky and the Xbox One platform. Stay tuned for coverage of my E3 experience and some more detailed coverage of No Man’s Sky and Halo’s new multiplayer mode Warzone.