E3 Hot Games
With both the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference and the Electronic Entertainment Expo gaming industry conference opening in California Monday, it was like having Christmas and Chanukah fall on the same day in my mixed-marriage household.
There was far too much news and eye candy for any reviewer to report on it all. What interested me most, though, was that Microsoft MSFT -1.78% and game developers and publishers finally delivered the goods on the Xbox One in Los Angeles, where E3 is going on. Microsoft pulled the curtain back on the coming console last month, but while there was a lot of ooh-ing and ahh-ing about its sleek appearance, powerful guts, cloud capabilities and other “own-your-living-room” features, there was a big question mark in my mind about how many great games there would be for this console when it launched and in the first few months after launch.
When I last wrote about the Xbox One, I said I liked its tech specs but was skeptical about having another overpowered and overpriced “entertainment hub” in my living room. I complained that, so far, Microsoft was saying you wouldn’t be able to play any of your Xbox 360 games on the Xbox One.
As a game reviewer, I care more about how many good games there are for a new console and how well those games play on it than whether I can use it to access Hulu or Netflix. Though Microsoft announced more than a dozen game titles and franchises that would commence or continue on the Xbox One, including four sports titles fromElectronic Arts EA -0.48% and Forza 5, there wasn’t anything that screamed out “must have” at the May unveiling.
After Monday’s E3 extravaganza, which I monitored from my perch in Hong Kong, I am now, officially, more excited about the Xbox One than I was. I am glad it will come out in November, ahead of the holiday season, but I do think the $499 price tag, announced Monday, is too high. Yes, it’s not out of line with earlier console costs. Yes, even at that fairly steep price, it will still be a loss-leader for Microsoft for some time. And yes, the price will come down. But if you really want to kill Sony 6758.TO +2.17% and the PlayStation 4 (Nintendo and its Wii U look like they’re on their way to committing early seppuku without any help), try coming in at $299.
The Xbox One games previewed at E3 Monday are full of spit and polish, taking full advantage of both the unit’s vastly improved CPU/GPU processing power, as well as the ability to leverage cloud computing. That reduces load times, allows for quick saves and resumption of saved games, some cross-compatibility of the game on different platforms and better opportunities for sharing of scores and other information and community.
Overall, though, I was impressed that after going on and on about the Xbox One’s entertainment- hub and other rah-rah capabilities, Microsoft finally got serious about Xbox One games and gamers at E3.
Here’s a quick rundown of the five games that caught my eye and that Game Theory plans to play and/or review at a later date for the Xbox One. There were many more, and I’m sure I’ll get to them eventually, but these ones, by virtue of their features or trailers, were what look to be early standouts.
Despite the lack of an official title and anything more than a vague 2014 launch date, this new instalment of the storied first-person shooter franchise looks hot. The trailer shows the Master Chief wandering through a desert in a Jawa-like hood, when suddenly, he feels the earth move under his feet, and he’s confronted by a giant mechanical warrior. The game will render in full 60 frames per second, allowing startingly good and clear detail. I’m hoping it’s even close to being as good as the HD trailer I watched.
Ryse: Son of Rome
There was a big reveal of this Crytek game at E3, and it looks promising, at first blush. It gets redundant to say that the graphics on an Xbox One game will be crisp and clear, but the quality of rendered people and objects in the trailer had me thinking I was watching an actual movie. Shadows were shadows, not black patches that made it hard to see what was going on. It also made combat particularly bloody and grisly, but had me transfixed. The audio quality was very good, and I liked the precision with which a legion charging at a tower pulled back and raised its shields to defend itself from income arrows. And how can you not love a game that quotes Julius Caesar’s “a brave man tastes death once, cowards, a thousand times over.”
Announced last month when the Xbox One was introduced to the world, it was far more-impressive to see the actual gameplay of this EA sports franchise. Both the trailer and the presentation piqued my interest. FIFA is one of the games I play regularly, even when I’m not working as a reviewer, so I was jealous to hear that there was a fully playable version on display at E3 this week. The Ignite engine means you, the gamer, will “feel” the emotions from players on the field and crowds in the stands. FIFA 14, which is not Xbox One-exclusive (it will also come out for the PS4), features “Pro Instincts,” powered by four times more calculations per second than in FIFA 13, meaning players will anticipate and avoid contact, brace for challenges and maintain possession better than before. Cutting will be more decisive, techniques will be more precise. FIFA 14 also features a new array of shots, passes and hundreds of skills not seen in earlier versions of the game.
Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain
Apart from an overly blue sky, the graphics on this Kojima Productions game look to be sharp, clear and extremely realistic, except for an awkwardly gallping horse in the trailer. The Konami-published action-adventure and stealth game is about, as the characters in the trailer describe it, “wet work,” with a lot of tracking, stalking, sneaking and killing. It will feature the voice of Kiefer Sutherland as Snake, promises “a new breed of stealth,” “realtime weather” and “various modes of transport,” including your equine buddy, a small tank, jeeps and other four-wheeled vehicles. The trailer showed a lot of hi-tech reconnaissance ability and claims “unparalleled strategic freedom” in an open world. I liked the bits of soundtrack included in the trailer. The trailer showed a female sniper and several other characters, including one named Skull Face and another called Code Talker. Metal Gear Solid V will also feature Smart Glass support. Smart Glass is the app that adds functionality to Xbox games via your Android smartphone or iPhone.
No. I’m not a shill for EA. But I am intrigued by Titanfall from EA and Respawn Entertainment. Due out in 2014, the game lets you fight on foot as a pilot or by climbing into titan robot shells. It’s hard to tell from even a nearly five-minute-long trailer, but I’m hoping the duo of Vince Zampella and Jason West, who, while at Infinity Ward, breathed new life into the Call of Duty (Modern Warfare) franchise, can put the same sort of oomph into their first game at Respawn. Whether you’re a pilot or a titan, you’ll have to attack and destroy other players or to defend yourself and your location. I particularly like the video thumbnails that appear on your heads-up display during combat and the precise way you can lock onto and shoot down projectiles raining down on you from the air.