eSo it’s GamesCom – my personal favourite gaming show of the year and one that I should be attending next year – and Microsoft has held the annual press briefing that in the past has been less ‘GAMES!!’ and more ‘Games?’.
So did they do well? Short answer, Yes. Long answer, Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeesssssss.
Now I make no secret of the fact that Microsoft are my console provider of choice, but this year I feel more vindicated than ever by their on-going commitment to provide great first party titles and platform exclusives. The solution found in regards to backwards compatibility combined with the improvements in the offering of services that are not buried behind a pay wall.
So onto GamesCom 2015’s conference.
The show opened with Herr Bieler (German Rob I reckon) announcing the opening of the conference and then got Phil Spencer up on stage. For a moment I thought he meant the one off of those TV shows about buying and selling houses and lost my mind. But it was Microsoft’s Phil Spencer.
The first game shown off was Rare Replay, which surely has to win the award for best value game ever at £20 for a shedload of incredible games (and some poor ones… looking at you Grabbed By The Ghoulies!) and achievement points. It was selected to highlight Microsoft’s commitment to creating long lasting gaming experiences, to put developers on a pedestal and to sell lots of copies of Rare Replay. Call me cynical but I can’t help that was their primary function, and sell games it shall. Hell, it’s worth the price alone to get a digital copy of Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts.
Quantum Break was up next with a decent reveal of the gameplay mechanics and the time manipulation within said mechanics. With a starry cast including Shawn Ashmore, Aiden Gillen and Dominic Monaghan providing their acting chops and their, well, acting chops it looks to actually deliver on a lot of the promises made when the game was first announced a few years ago. Also cropping up was a trailer for the in-game/out of game TV series and some confirmation of how this will work. The game – they say – will cover the story from the ‘hero’ point of view, while the TV show will tell the same story from the ‘villain’ viewpoint. With Aiden Gillen in there – assuming he’s a villain – this has a lot of potential, and alongside the two live action Halo shows (and maybe Defiance?) it could see the start of a new wave of good quality TV shows inspired by and based upon video games.
Crackdown 3 finally got some proper showtime after being notably absent at E3 and Lolocaust favourite Dave Jones (not the guy with a squid for a face*) came on stage to present a new trailer and some footage from the crazy looking multiplayer mode – powered by the cloud. Single player looks like the Crackdown we know and love, while the multiplayer mode looks like the Keys to the City mode we adored, blended with the sort of shenanigans that only a group of friends could conceive. Oh and did we mention that in the multiplayer mode 100% of the environment is destructible? Well it is. Imagine that for a moment.
When Platinum Games took the stage to show off Scalebound I sat up straight with great enthusiasm, and I think I like the look of it. I have been told it is similar to Monster Hunter in some ways, by way of Devil May Cry and Fable. The judge is out for now, but its blend of action RPG and giant monster fun does have a certain appeal. Oh and four player co-op, with four dragons, four heroes and one giant enemy makes me a little bit hot under the collar. More of this kind of thing please.
Backwards compatibility was a big deal at E3 and at GamesCom they further clarified the offering, promising that ALL future Games with Gold 360 games will be backwards compatible, giving Xbox One owners two extra games a month, while also building up a library for new adopters, encouraging trade ins against console upgrades. A couple of games were confirmed to have added in back catalogue games, for example Gears of War Ultimate edition comes with ALL previous Gears games as a bonus. When the service officially launches – it’s currently available to preview members – it will have over a hundred supported titles and continues to impress.
Killer Instinct 3 is on the way – or rather ‘season three’ is – in 2016 with a special cameo from a Rare character from the past (and maybe more to be announced) in the guise of one of the Battletoads. As well as this it will also be cross playable with Windows 10 users and all purchased content/progress will be compatible across both platforms. This is something that Microsoft were keen to emphasise throughout, cross platform.
ID@Xbox continues to impress with a few Kickstarter projects being highlighted (after hitting funding, not in the shitty Sony way) including my personal fave We Happy Few which is still firmly at the top of my wishlist and knowing that it is coming to a system that I own is just incredible news. Also the trailer was brilliant:
So, yeah We Happy Few might just be more desirable to me than Crackdown 3 and Gears of War U.E. combined.
Probably not more desirable than a weekend on a canal boat with Peter Molyneux though.
But that’s ok.
Cities Skylines is also coming to consoles via ID@XBOX and that is only a good thing, in lieu of the fact that it is better in every way than Sim City. With the promise of mouse support coming to the console in the near future too, this could finally see the rebirth of good console ports of this kind of game… War for the Overworld next? Please?
Team 17 are also heavily invested in the ID@XBOX system, which makes sense since they have excelled at helping bring games to platforms with their supportive distribution model and soon enough we will be seeing Ukulele, Worms W.M.D. and the new version of The Escapists featuring the Walking Dead licence. All very exciting, but not as exciting as the fact that one of the highlights of Indie fare at E3, Beyond Eyes, released the same day as the briefing (look out for more on this soon folks). One of the best things about the digital age is this whole ‘available RIGHT NOW’ trend that we at Lolocaust heartily approve of.
Ron Gilbert is someone who should rightly be living in a solid gold cottage on the side of a now extinct volcano, drinking cocktails as the sun goes down. His work on games such as Maniac Mansion and Monkey Island should have resulted in him never having to work again. But! We are glad he still does else we wouldn’t have The Cave or the potential to play his next game, Thimbleweed Park. With a graphic style VERY reminiscent of Maniac Mansion and other early SCUMM titles it has us hotter than a weekend in a Butlins chalet with Jet off of Gladiators.
Sheltered from Unicube and published by Team 17 also has a lot of potential, with you being tasked with protecting your family in an apocalyptic nuclear shelter life. With procedurally generated wastelands and raider attacks it looks like a big jump over Bethesda’s Fallout Shelter app, echoes This War of Mine and is available on Steam/XB1 Early Access now.
Just Cause 3 was shown off.
You can ride a god-damn gas cylinder into the sky like a rocket.
YOU CAN RIDE A FUCKING GAS CYLINDER INTO THE FUCKING SKY, LIKE A ROCKET!!
So in short, two great games later the Just Cause series is better than ever, and I cannot wait until EGX to have some hands on time with Rico and his particular set of skills.
When Homefront: Revolution was shown off I was very pleased to see that it had elements of the much maligned original, aspects of Call of Duty and parts of Far Cry blended together into a game that could well have been a Red Faction game were it not for the fact that it isn’t set on Mars. I’m very excited by this one, has a shed load of potential.
Rise of the Tomb Raider was one of the highlights of the show, demonstrating a lot of the improvements Crystal Dynamics have laid down. Combat is more intensive and the ability to scavenge items on the fly – taking a tin can and crafting a grenade from cover, for example – was mightily impressive. Microsoft have a hit on their hands (exclusively for a year).
Finally I was astonished to see that I will FINALLY be able to play a follow up to Halo Wars. Halo Wars 2 (imagination only goes so far at 343 it seems) was simply teased, but with the aforementioned potential support for mouse and keyboard this could be one of the most phenomenal RTS games on console, ever. Not to mention the fact the RTS kings Creative Assembly are also on board. I adored HW1 and can honestly say that Halo Wars 2 has jumped into my top five most anticipated games list.
So, overall a VERY strong showing from Microsoft and their partners. The rest of GamesCom has been a blast and it only serves to suggest that this year’s EGX is going to be better than ever. So what did you think? Let us know in the comments box below.
* OR the guy from The Monkees, come on folks, this is serious stuff we are writing.