E3 2014 couldn’t come fast enough for Microsoft as it looked to undo the damage of last year’s show. By and large the company did a good job refocusing on games and showing a positive feature lies ahead for the Xbox One.
So if you’re been holding off on buying an Xbox One, here are the five best reasons following E3 2014 that you should finally splash the cash.
1. New Exclusive Games
While Microsoft kicked off its show with the dubious claim to fame that the Xbox One will be first to launch a DLC pack for ‘Call of Duty: Advanced Warefare‘, it soon found its gear with ‘Forza Horizon 2‘.
Coming on both the Xbox 360 and Xbox One in September, the graphically stunning game will have 200 cars, day and night driving, dynamic weather conditions and an online mode with dedicated servers and driving clubs. It will also be joined by ‘Sunset Overdrive‘, a back-to-basics third person shooter that is part Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater and part Dead Rising 3.
Arguably even more excitement was shown towards the announcement of ‘Halo: The Master Chief Collection‘ which will bring all four Halo titles to the Xbox One and see major graphical updates with each running at 1080p and 60fps.
‘Halo 5: Guardians‘ was also fleshed out a little with news breaking during the show that the beta has a 27 December release date with a full launch in 2015. It will feature a completely new graphics engine to Halo 4 with Bonnie Ross, general manager of developer 343 Industries, saying both the content and scope will be much larger as well. The long awaited Halo TV series is also planned to appear around the same time with Steven Spielberg in an executive producer role.
What may excite Xbox One owners most though was what Microsoft saved for last: Crackdown 3. The name for the third Crackdown instalment has yet to be finalised, but Microsoft said it will be multi-player focused and retain the same distinctive graphical style and open world feel as its predecessors. After the disappointing Crackdown 2, hopes are high this will mark a return to form.
2. Wave Goodbye To Kinect
For those happy to see Microsoft finally unbundle Kinect from the Xbox One there was good news: it doesn’t look like you need to buy a Kinect separately any time soon.
In isolation Kinect is a remarkable system, but initially forcing it upon gamers rather than letting adoption grow organically sadly looks to have done for the once-exciting control system.
3. Increased Performance
A hot topic confirmed during E3 is that the Xbox One will soon be able to tap into 10% of additional GPU performance previously reserved for Kinect.
These extra horses won’t be accessed simply by unplugging Kinect, but rather by a new developer SDK. Whether updates for Kinect-less titles will receive updates that bolster than resolution or fps remains to be seen, but the good news is you won’t have to disconnect Kinect in order to access it – the SDK automatically cut it in and out as needed.
4. Cheaper pricing
Another side-effect of Microsoft’s decision to, more or less, abandon Kinect. The Kinect-less Xbox will soon go on sale for $399 making it the same price as the PlayStation 4 for the first time.
Again the popularity of this cheaper console is likely to sound the death knell for Kinect as developers – who have already been slow to adopt the technology – now cannot rely on gamers having it.
This will be good news for those who had found the Xbox One’s cost to be prohibitive up to now. That said I can’t deny feeling some sadness that Kinect’s potential is now unlikely to be reached and fear there may be knock-on effects which could have seen a successful Kinect also integrated into our PCs and even phones.
5. Indie titles gaining momentum
Microsoft is making headway now with its ID@Xbox program that helps smaller studios make and distribute titles and some diamonds are emerging from the rough.
Games that most caught the eye were Lovers in a Dangerous Space Time, Hyper Light Drifter, Mighty No 9, Fenic Rage, Aztez and Threes. Meanwhile Below, Inside and the previously announced Ori and the Blind Forest (below) all look to have what it takes to give the PlayStation’s traditionally powerful indie scene a run for its money.
In completely reversing the focus of its E3 2013 presentation, Microsoft arguably neglected some of the Xbox One’s impressive living room credentials (Halo TV series aside) and those outside the US, in particular, are still left in limbo wondering how and when greater HDMI-pass through support will appear. With Kinect clearly on the wane there was also no attempt to push its value outside gaming, which seemed a little odd.
There is no denying Microsoft is still playing catch-up to Sony. The tone of its show was notably more humble and while its gaming announcements were roughly on a par with what was announced for the PS4, it is clear Microsoft needs to surpass not just equal Sony’s roadmap if it is to stand any chance of closing the gap on the PS4′s runaway sales lead.
Whether that leads to inspiration or desperation from Microsoft (and it could be argued ditching Kinect – while practical – is closer to the latter) we won’t know for sure which path the company has set upon until E3 2015.
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