Well, the first of today's two big press conferences from Gamescom 2014 is done and dusted. Did Microsoft set the bar high as they did earlier in the year at E3? They certainly came out once again with a resolute focus on the games, and they didn't half drop a bombshell halfway through the show. Here's what we made of it:
The first big surprise of Gamescom has landed, and it comes in the form of Microsoft flexing their financial muscles. Rise of the Tomb Raider will be an Xbox One exclusive when it launches next Holiday season, setting up a tantalising Lara vs. Drake Christmas that is going to be extraordinary fun to watch (and play).
To be honest, much of the rest of the presser has faded into a blur since Microsoft dropped that bomb, and in retrospect, Phil Harrison could barely contain himself. Is it an anti-consumer move? It is a bit. Microsoft paid large sums of money to stop Crystal Dynamics reaching more than half of their potential audience, though I'm more pissed off about it not coming to PC rather than missing out on it on PS4.
Elsewhere, it was another solid showing from Phil Spencer's side. The Chris Charla creative indie carousel was outstanding, as Microsoft attempted to out-Sony Sony. There are some absolutely cracking games coming to Xbox One via [email protected], and it was good to see a few longer spotlight pieces on one or two highlights. I've been banging on about SuperHot since the flash game first appeared, and The Escapists looks like cartoon Shawshank crossed with Prison Architect.
It's a Microsoft presser, so of course FIFA and Call of Duty got their moments in the sun. Prepare for Titancall! That's unfair, Advanced Warfare looks both incredibly different yet also hilariously familiar. The exosuit's abilities certainly look like they'll create more opportunities to take advantage of verticality, but it all seemed a bit static rather than the fluidity we've seen from Titanfall and even Brink. Not sure about that custom Xbox One either -- it looks like it's been dipped in cement.
Microsoft's presser was strong and stable for the most part, and any time Sam Lake shows up it gets me a little excited -- Quantum Break's time manipulation looks pretty awesome,as does the whole thing, but whether or not it's fun to play remains to be seen. Remedy have done exemplary work to this point, though, so they'll be getting the benefit of the doubt from yours truly.
There was one thing that the 90-minute show highlighted, though, and it's that eSports voiceovers for gameplay presentations need to be killed. With fire. And by drowning. Or by anvil. Just stop it. It might work at E3 where everyone is too jetlagged to notice, or American, but it was hideous and detracted from the actual game.
What was impressive was once again how Microsoft remained focused on the games at hand, stunned us with a bomshell of an exclusive, and delivered a roster of games for this Christmas that, even with the Evolve delay, looks very tempting indeed. And that white Xbox One is the sex.
"Xbox is the best place to play." "Games that push the boundaries." Big words, Phillip, but the presser took its sweet time to build up to speed. Assassin's Creed CGI. FIFA preorders. Pushing the boundaries of how many sequels a franchise can squirt out, perhaps.
Getting celebs onstage for some painfully-rehearsed banter is also a great way to slow things down and derail your pacing, but hey, who doesn't love Peter Schmeichel. Our German hosts were delighted.
You can always rely on Chris Charla to get our indie juices flowing, though. He's my kind of trouble. Let's run! Dungeon Of The Endless is already amazing, while SMITE should be a great fit for consoles. And Superhot. That's definitely my kind of trouble. Nice to see Microsoft getting some more indie console timed exclusives, though they've still got a some catching up to do.
I wanna be... your sledgehammer! Peter Gabriel has been stuck in my head since last night's Call Of Duty reveal, and Sledgehammer Games have managed to get us even more excited about this year's offering. That said, I'm more excited about the terabyte hard drive upgrade, to be honest.
Evolve was delayed. So's the beta. Brendan wasn't best impressed by the most recent build, so I'm willingness to wait, but I'm still not entirely sold on the idea of four players' enjoyment hinging of the skilled one opponent. And, erm, couldn't we hear from the developers rather than some bloke called 'J-Party?'
J-Party, for chrissakes... whoa, wait, what, is Tomb Raider exclusive now? Wow. That's a seriously impressive coup that's set to blow the Internet skylight. Speaking of impressive, Quantum Break looked rather fun too. Like a super-gritty Blinx reboot, perhaps. Maybe Jack could travel back in time to stop Fable becoming a series. Regardless, Ori, Sunset Overdrive and Forza Horizon 2 all look set to make this a merry Xmas. Xmas. Geddit?
Sigh. Still, a stodgy yet decent enough showing from Microsoft, whose message of 'games games games' is still on track. Your move, Sony.
Starting off with the FIFA Bundle a good move to keep the European football loving crowd happy, but it was a move repeated from last year’s conference. At least there was terrible pre-panned banter with Peter Schmeichel! Thankfully my enthusiasm started to rise courtesy of the [email protected] reveals. Space Engineers? No Time To Explain? Goat Simulator? SUPERHOT!? A great move to focus on some of these smaller titles.
Then came with third party focus that I didn’t really click with. Advanced Warfare looked pretty, but despite having a similar deal as Destiny does with the PS4, I’m not feeling to need to absolutely play it on Xbox One. The same can be said for Evolve – it looks like it could be fun, but those shoutcasters? I could have done without them ruining the atmosphere.
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the reveal of Rise of the Tomb Raider an exclusive. It was a big move that will no doubt have those who’ve bought that other console rather annoyed, so well played there Microsoft.
Quantum Break’s first gameplay reveal definitely has that classic Max Payne feel about it, and what I saw definitely impressed me. I do wonder if the set pieces can be dealt with in various ways, but this could be a grand return for Remedy.
And then Fable Legends appeared, and had chickens. So there’s that. At least Ori And The Blind Forest still looks beautiful and whimsical, although I’ll almost certainly play it on PC.
Then came the Halo. More Halo is great, but I’m not sure they needed to reboot Halo Waypoint with the Halo Channel. Also, I might be alone in this opinion, but outside of the Halo 5 Beta I’m really not that excited about the Master Chief Collection – and the eSports banter didn’t help matters.
Overall I think Microsoft did a good job of making early adopters happy with what is coming up for the Xbox One, but I honestly don’t think it has convinced me to buy one just yet, despite the endless variations of bundles.
And no – I don’t care about preordering digital titles. No sir.