LOS ANGELES—Microsoft’s E3 2015 Xbox event was the first of a full day of press conferences, and boy, did it wake up the crowd with a bang. The company showcased a tantalizing slate of games, including a closer look at Halo 5 and Rise of the Tomb Raider, as well as the world premiere of exciting titles such as Gears of War 4 and ReCore.
The house of Xbox made an even bigger splash with its hardware announcements, including the game-changing news that Xbox One will soon play a host of your old Xbox 360 games. We also saw an awesome new Xbox One controller, and plenty of cool indie titles. Here are our highlights of Xbox’s E3 2015 press conference.
Gears of War 4 and Gears of War Ultimate Edition
Microsoft’s flagship third-person shooter is back, and it’s looking pretty intense. Gears of War 4 will be the first original installment in the series for Xbox One, and will star what looks like a brand-new duo of male and female protagonists. The latest Gears retains the series’ signature third-person combat and brutal weapons (including the Lancer, everyone’s favorite chainsaw-infused assault rifle), but based on the stage demo we saw, seems to take on a darker, quieter and more eerie tone than its predecessors. The next evolution in this beloved Xbox franchise is slated for the 2016 holiday season. Yes, 2016.
If that seems too far away, fret not. Gears of War Ultimate Edition is hitting the Xbox One August 25, delivering a juiced-up Xbox version of the series’ 2006 debut. The remastered title will offer 1080p, 60 frames per second gameplay, as well as new content to complement the game’s campaign and multiplayer modes. The best part? A public beta for Gears of War Ultimate edition is available for Xbox One starting June 15.
Halo 5: Guardians
Microsoft gave us our first look at Halo 5’s explosive four-player co-op gameplay in action, featuring new protagonist Spartan Locke and his fireteam. The game’s campaign will retain the same acrobatic Spartan abilities showcased in last year’s multiplayer beta, so players will be able to clamber up ledges and ground pound hordes of unsuspecting enemies from above. Halo 5 co-op is drop-in, drop-out, so your friends can come and go as they please.
We also saw the debut of War Zone, a brand new multiplayer mode that aims to emulate the epic scale of Halo 5’s story missions. War Zone will feature massive battles in which two teams of 24 players must battle both each other and AI-controlled enemies across sprawling maps filled with vehicles and objectives. You can experience Halo 5’s story-based and multiplayer chaos when the game hits Xbox One October 27.
Rise of the Tomb Raider
We’ve known about Rise of the Tomb Raider for a while now, but we finally got to see the world gameplay premiere of the hotly anticipated action-adventure game at Microsoft’s showcase. The stage demo showed series heroine Lara Croft picketing her way up an icy mountain, just barely making each death-defying jump from ledge to ledge. This sequel to 2013’s Tomb Raider reboot looks to take its predecessor’s exhilarating platforming to all-new levels, and looks so beautiful, it’s hard to believe the in-game graphics aren’t pre-rendered cutscenes. Rise of the Tomb Raider is coming exclusively to Xbox platforms on November 10.
ReCore looks like what would happen if you put Tomb Raider and Wall-E into a blender. Created by the minds behind Mega Man and Metroid Prime, ReCore is a brand-new Xbox One action game that stars a female protagonist and her adorable (but deadly) robot companions. Based on the trailer we saw, it looks like you’ll be able to put the “core” of your robot buddy in a host of mechanical bodies, allowing you to team up with anything from a robot dog to a full-on mech. The game is slated for a spring 2016 release.
Forza Motorsport 6
Microsoft is serious about hyping up Forza Motorsport 6, to the point that it dropped a real-life Ford GT in the middle of its E3 2015 conference stage. Fortunately, Forza’s in-game cars look almost as good as the real thing, with mouth-watering graphics and smooth racing action that runs at 1080p and 60fps. Due September 15, the next installment in Microsoft’s flagship racing sim will let up to 24 players race at once, with roughly 340 vehicles to choose from.
Rare Replay and Sea of Thieves
Legendary developer Rare is owned by Microsoft nowadays, but the company’s legacy reaches far beyond the Xbox. As such, Rare Replay will deliver 30 of the studio’s greatest hits, including Battletoads, Banjo-Kazooie, Perfect Dark and Conker’s Bad Fur Day, in a single $30 package coming to Xbox One August 4. If you’re an achievement junkie, this package features 10,000 points of Gamerscore waiting to be earned.
Rare also came prepared with a brand-new title: Sea of Thieves. This colorful first-person multiplayer adventure lets you and your friends live out all of your pirate fantasies, as you’ll sail ships and explore treacherous locations in pursuit of gold and glory. This free-to-play experience will hit Xbox One and PC during holiday 2016.
Dark Souls III
From Software’s brutal action role-playing series is ready to punish players for a third round, as Dark Souls III made its official debut at Xbox’s showcase. We didn’t see much in the game’s trailer, save for what looks like a Goliath-sized, machete-wielding boss character, so as always, prepare to die often. Dark Souls III is coming to Xbox One (and presumably PS4 and PC) in early 2016.
As per usual, Microsoft devoted a good chunk of its E3 event to its ID@Xbox program, which is dedicated to bringing cool indie titles to Xbox One. Some highlights include Tacoma, a surreal sci-fi exploration game from the makers of Gone Home, as well as Ashen, an open-world adventure game with a minimalist-yet-brutal art style. We can’t wait to play Beyond Eyes, a game that casts you as a blind protagonist and aims to emulate her unique sense of perception via beautiful watercolor art. We also saw more of Cuphead, a delightful 2D platformer that looks like a playable ACME cartoon.
Xbox One Backwards Compatibility and Game Preview
The biggest bomb dropped during Microsoft’s event wasn’t even a new game announcement. Instead, it was the news that Xbox One will soon gain backward compatibility for Xbox 360 games, which marks a first for this generation of consoles. Xbox One will support more than 100 Xbox 360 titles (both disc-based and digital) by the end of the year, and you can take advantage of all of Xbox One’s features, such as screenshots, Game DVR and Twitch streaming, when you play your old games.
Microsoft also took a page out of Steam’s playlist with its Game Preview program, which will let gamers buy and play games that are still in development. Free trials will be available for all Game Preview games, and the program’s lineup will include such titles as The Long Dark, Shelter, Elite Dangerous and DayZ.
Xbox One Elite Wireless Controller and HoloLens
This year’s Xbox E3 showcase was all about the games, but there was still some exciting hardware on hand. Microsoft unveiled the $149 Xbox One Elite Controller, which features unique components built for pro gamers. The Elite gamepad offers rubberized grips, a variety of swappable analog sticks and d-pads for various types of play, and optional rear-facing paddles that add extra controls. You can even remap any of the controller’s inputs on both Xbox One and Windows 10.
We also got a taste of how Microsoft’s HoloLens goggles will enhance gaming, thanks to a brief Minecraft demo. You’ll be able to project a game of Minecraft onto any wall in your home with a HoloLens, but if that’s not exciting enough, you can move the game to a flat surface and experience your entire Minecraft world in 3D. HoloLens owners will be able to control their worlds via voice commands (for example, saying “lightning strike” will cast lighting onto your town), and can pan around the environment with motion-based gestures. HoloLens works with the core version of Minecraft, meaning you’ll be able to play with any of your friends on the PC version of the game.