Two years after receiving a bloody nose at the E3 expo from its nearest and dearest rival, Microsoft sought to maintain the momentum from last year’s keynote, when it unveiled a raft of exclusives and a Kinect-less Xbox One. This year, it’s hands-free gaming sensor wasn’t even mentioned, but Microsoft had one or two peripherals to announce, as well as one of the strongest gaming line-ups the platform holder had unveiled in ages. If you want to watch the whole keynote, it’s been broken up into chunks on the Xbox One YouTube Channel. However, if you simply want to know about the important announcements and reveals, here’s everything you need to know from the Xbox E3 keynote:
Halo 5 has Nathan Fillion in it
Microsoft opened big this year with a demo from the forthcoming iteration of its flagship shooter and damn, if it didn’t look pretty. In front of a packed audience, Halo 5: Guardians caused enough ‘oooh’s’ and ‘aaah’s’ to to heat up the interior of the Galen Centre. The demo ticked all the right boxes – classic Halo gameplay, swoon-worthy graphics and teases of a plot that seemed a little deeper than normal for this franchise. Halo 5 will also contain a mode called Warzone, which boasts some of the biggest multiplayer maps ever created in this series. Alongside the game’s release date – it’s out in October – the feature that caught our eye the most was the appearance of Nathan Fillion in the campaign. Any game that features Captain Malcolm Reynolds has got to be worth a look, right?
The Xbox One is now backwards compatible
The news that garnered the biggest and most positive reaction was the announcement that the Xbox One will soon be able to play Xbox 360 games. Since the very notion of backwards compatibility has always seemed an impossibility on the new generation, the fact that Microsoft has now given players a reason to pull their old console games out of the attic may be something of a game changer. Will Sony and Nintendo follow suit? At the time of this writing it seems unlikely. However, it will be interesting to see whether or not this new Xbox One feature will eat into the sales of the steady stream of old gen remasters that are making their way to retailers. If publishers want punters to pony up money for old rope, they’re going to have to offer packages containing a lot more bells and whistles.
Minecraft is now a HoloLens game
But Microsoft wasn’t just looking to the past with backwards compatibility. It also unveiled a bold new direction with a demo of HoloLens – Microsoft’s ‘alternate reality’ headset – involving Mojang’s creative game, Minecraft. Using HoloLens, Mojang developers showed how their game could now be played in a virtual space in your living room. It’s the sort of ‘look-to-the-skies’ moment that punters haven’t seen at an Xbox keynote since Project Natal was first unveiled back in the day. The gestures and commands used to interact with Minecraft look pretty intuitive and fun to use. Now all we need is a price point and a release date. We’re praying we don’t need to sell a kidney.
You’ll be able to play Xbox One games with the Oculus Rift… kinda
Microsoft also announced that players will be able to play Oculus Rift games on both Windows PCs and the Xbox One. Sort of. Apparently players will be able to use the VR headset and an Xbox One controller as part of a game-streaming service. The jury’s still out on how many punters will want to invest in a streaming service where latency is something of a factor. In the meantime, Microsoft also announced that it had partnered with Valve to bring players more immersive games. Now, if their new partner could be good enough to get to work on releasing Half Life 3, that’d be just lovely.
There’s a new Xbox One controller
For those players who don’t fancy the idea of strapping a VR visor to their face, Microsoft also unveiled a more traditional controller. We say, traditional; we haven’t seen a controller this sexy in a while. Beyond it’s sleek, shiny design, the new Elite controller is advertised as endlessly customisable; players can swap out thumbsticks and the D-pad, add switches to the underside and adjust the sensitivity of the triggers. It’s also compatible with Windows 10 as well as Xbox One.
You’ll be able to play all of Rare’s classic games
Viva Pinata. Perfect Dark. Banjo Kazooie. Killer Instinct Gold. Battletoads. Grabbed By The Ghoulies. Sabre Wolf. Over the years, Rare has been responsible for the some of the best and most loved titles on Microsoft’s platform. At E3 2015, the British developer announced that some of the gems from its past will now be made available in August in one concise package called The Rare Collection. Naturally, it won’t contain either GoldenEye or Donkey Kong Country – since Microsoft doesn’t have the rights to them – but, perhaps to make up for this Rare also unveiled a brand new open world pirate game called Sea Of Thieves, which we have to say, looks rather enticing.
You can now play Xbox One games before they’re out
Xbox One player will also gain access to something prosaically entitled Xbox Game Preview. Essentially what this service does is allow players to gain access to games that aren’t on release and/or are still in development. If you’re a member of the Steam community this feature is so-several-years ago, but it’s interesting to see Microsoft taking cues from the PC platform to push content on its console.
Gears Of War 4 is coming
The Xbox One began with Microsoft’s PG13 flagship FPS and it ended with its Rated R Third Person Shooter. Representatives from Coalition, formerly known as Black Tusk, showed off the latest installment of Gears Of War and it looked absolutely stunning – even if it did boast the Gears’ series usual covering of grit and viscera. The demo revealed very few details about the game’s protagonists or plot, but it unveiled a couple of disgusting-looking monsters and some decent-sized action set pieces. Gears Of War 4, as it’s called, will be out at the end of next year. In the meantime, players have the original trilogy, remastered for Xbox One, to get stuck into. Mind you, since the Xbox One will soon be able to play Xbox 360 games, we have to wonder how many copies it’ll sell.