E3 reactions: Microsoft reigns supreme

By: Ash Rivas

Full disclosure: I love Microsoft.  I’m prone to hyperbole, so when I say that I quite honestly would pray at an idol of the Master Chief and would sacrifice goats and virgins to appease the almighty Phil Spencer, I’m not actually that far off from the truth.  Needless to say, bias is in full effect here.  Granted, bias does not include a total disregard for ignorant decisions (we’ll get to the name of this new console in due time, my lovelies).  But let’s gloat and celebrate over the triumphs of the almighty Box of X before we get to that.

My notes for this press conference are in complete stream-of-consciousness mode, and in true tribute to them, I will write this article in a similar fashion.  We’ll go over the beautiful highs and the (still pretty goddamn gorgeous) lows in equal measure before finally discussing the atmosphere of the conference, which is a metric I made note of for each panel.  And, shocker, Microsoft had lots of applause.  BECAUSE THEY’RE PERFECT.



The conference of high notes

Forza 7 Vroom, vroom!

Oh Xbox, how do I love thee?  Let me count the ways.  Wait, I do not have the ability to count that high.  It is mathematically impossible

Microsoft, you started me off with a little tease, a flash of leg, before getting into the meat and potatoes.  You lure me in with a trailer that hits me in the feels, showing clips of the Master Chief, and Shadows of Mordor 2, and how it feels to play (and thus, live) the games.  And then you did it.  You brought Phil on stage (amidst devoted applause) to announce the worldwide launch date for the new console.  My life burns anew; my passion is inflamed.  November 7th will be the day of reckoning for my wallet, and the day of rebirth for the phoenix that lives in my soul. 

But that name.  Why.  Did.  You.  Name.  It.  Something.  So.  Stupid.

The Xbox One X is like naming myself “The Ashley Rivas Ashley R.”  The only thing that could make it dumber would be calling it “the Experience.”  I’d even settle for the Xbox 720.  Or the Scorpio!  Or, as my husband creatively workshopped in a whopping 2 seconds, the “Spartan”.  WOW, WHAT A CONCEPT!

Whew, that’s enough.  There isn’t room for that much hate in my heart.  We got dangerously close to an actual, legitimate critique, and that can’t happen in an article written about Microsoft.  We’ll save that for the EA installment.  Or Sony.

Specs for the X Box One Box Squared Box (not a typo) knocked me on my ass.  How, on this Earth, can one console be so profoundly powerful and not be a PC?  I was stunned, and excited, and maybe a little aroused.  Who knows?  Who can say for sure?  True 4K, 8 million pixels, improved 1080P output?  Yes, please, and thank you.  Dear God, thank you. 

A great deal of time was spent on Forza 7, and admittedly, through clenched teeth, I gave the game credit.  It looks unbelievable.  And yet, believable.  Racing games have always had an incredible way of making graphics work their hardest to look their best, and this is no exception.  In game footage was rad, promo footage was the same.  This is what we want; for both the promo clips and the in game engine to finally run on the same race track and look either comparable or identical.  We’re getting to that point in gaming and technology, finally, and seeing it in real action is something spectacular.

Granted, this is a lot of praise for a racing game, which isn’t something I normally do, but it deserves it in this one instance.  Maybe.  I’m still hoping for Project Gotham Racing reboots. 

The next game shown was next year’s Metro Exodus , and I have no real history or connection to this title.  Dear husband was excited, and it looks immersive; you sweat, you pant, and you crack your mask, like an actual human being, only with more super powers (but perhaps the same gun loadout as a typical American these days).

Maybe I’m crazy (undoubtedly, but I like to comfort myself), but Assassin’s Creed: Origins looked underwhelming.  This game got shown at a few press conferences and just didn’t wow me.  The human models looked bizarre, and the story isn’t anything new. 

Assassin's Creed Origins Pyramids. Meh. Never seen this story before.

The transition into Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds was rapid, so I felt a little lost, but this was in keeping with the theme.  Xbox, like Sony of days gone by, likes to bum rush through trailers.  They punch you in the face with graphics and gimmicks and leave you desperate for more, which you won’t get for several months.  It’s fine, honestly, even more effective than other presentations, because it gets the general point across.

Microsoft spent a lot of time showing short clips or slightly longer sections of footage of smaller games, indie titles that have been given a chance to thrive amongst the big kids thanks to the indie partner initiative.  Some little games worth mentioning:

  • Ooblets. Pokémon meets Animal Crossing meets Harvest Moon.  The cute is off the charts, and I can say from personal experience (I’m a patron of the dev) that this game is really pushing limits in terms of ingenuity for a smaller scope title.
  • Super Lucky’s Tale. I played the first one at my first PAX on the Oculus, and this one looks even better and somehow cuter. 
  • Ori and the Blind Forest 2. Need I say more?    Cry until you have nothing left inside of you.  Emotions are going to kill you in this game.
  • Deep Rock Galactic. Dwarves are mining for space rocks.  They’re also killing monsters and aliens.  That’s the life I want to live.

Big titles include Minecraft updates, which will now feature crossplay and a Super Duper Graphics Pack.  It’s rendered in lovely 4K, which gets a free 4K update when the Xbox One X Box X One Box (again, not a typo) launches in November.

So one thing I wanted to hit on (or hit in the face) is the trailer for Anthem.  This is a new Bioware IP, and that used to be exciting, but honestly, this trailer was fine.  It went in an ambiguously meta way at first, but leveled out.  What was offensive was the animation.  The faces were beautiful.  And I hate that.  Why, why, why, are the faces so good here, and so janky and lifeless in Andromeda? Perhaps that is a fight for a different day.  But it’s clear from this trailer where the Bioware money went.

Spencer Compatibility All the cheers for Phil Spencer and backwards compatibility. Photo credit: ESA

Microsoft ended, as they do, with another kind of overall trailer showing how fantastic they are.  Which is accurate, they are amazing.  But before that, and before Anthem, they gave us another bit of news.  They told us that original Xbox games are coming to the Xbox One and the Xbox One Xbox Squared Box XXX (I wish that were a typo).  I wanted to weep.  I started to weep.  I did weep.  WEEP WITH ME, BROTHERS AND SISTERS, THE DAY OF BACKWARDS COMPATABILITY IS AT HAND.  We have entered the true dawn of console superiority, and it’s name is Xbox X X Box One Box Two Box Three Box Four.


Setting the mood

Mood lighting, baby Setting the mood lighting, baby. Photo credit: ESA

Xbox knows how to light the candles and seduce you.  They’ll put on Barry Manilow, feed you wine, and wait until you come begging to them.  It happens almost every year, but this year, the fans were rabid with their lust.  The clapping started immediately, both in the audience and at my house.  I’m a bit of a Microsoft junkie, I suppose.

Almost every major announcement was met with applause.  I didn’t note a single time that a large release didn’t get a reaction.  The smaller games, part of the 42 game lineup Our Lord and Savior Spencer mentioned, often got smatterings of applause, but this was largely in part due to the fact that they were moving so fast. 

The Porsche reveal (an actual car, not a game reveal) was a little confused with light applause, probably because we didn’t exactly care about a car the 99.9% certainly would never own (particularly with so many game titles to spend our cash on)., but other than that, the conference held strong throughout with screams and cheers.  Phil had his name chanted after the Forza segment ended.  Things hit a bonkers high when backwards compatibility was announced.  The crowd went wild.

Was this in part due to the fact that the audience was now populated by both industry peers and the masses?  Probably, but it’s hard to tell for sure.  Either way, the audience was ready and eager, and it was very clear from their reactions that Xbox had showered these dweebs in nerd dust and left them begging for more.


The end is only the beginning

The hype craze was very much real with this conference, and they certainly weren’t strangers to teasing games without any real substance behind them (especially with Crackdown 3, which looks great, but didn’t get enough in-game time).  But overall, they backed up each title they showed with footage, info, or release dates, which is really what we want when we watch this multi day spectacle.  Xbox delivered, and that delivery was good.

So who’s next?  I feel it’s only fair to go from my favorite to my next favorite, which was, drumroll please….

Ubisoft!  This is probably the first and last time I’ll ever say that (I hope I’m wrong), but they had a fantastic conference and I’m talking about it next, damn it.  That’s so surreal to write.  What day is it?  Where am I, and what future is this? 

Ubisoft On deck! Photo credit: ESA

About The Author

I'm a big ol' nerd, and I want to effuse that nerdiness for the rest of my life. I spend as much time as I can drawing and playing video games, and I've taken that to the career level now since I'm back in school to be a game designer. I'm the mom to three puppies and a fat kitty, and the wife to a fellow nerd.

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