Friday, September 11, 2015

New Generation from Xbox Ones

Backwards compatibility, Windows 10 and 20 times more power. Xbox One is finishing 2015 a whole new machine…

E3 could have been a disaster. it’s easy to scoff now, this safer side of June, but the teething years for Xbox One have been continuously difficult – and Microsoft had no way of knowing how its biggest announcements would go down with the fans. Would Xbox 360 compatibility be seen as a step backwards? Would the game Preview programme be taken as a concession to last year’s habit of unfinished game being released at full price? Would Halo 5 be booed by angry Master Chief Collection owners?

Okay, Guardians was a pretty surefire hit, but as it turns out, so was practically everything Microsoft announced on the stage. Just two years ago, Xbox One was pretty much the console that wouldn’t let you play pre-owned games. now it was going to play some of the biggest hits from our Xbox 360 collection. the Preview programme means not just access to in-development games, but also ports of PC behemoths such as Day-Z. it sounded too good to be true. sadly, in the games industry, that usually means it is.

If E3 was the wild promises, gamescom was the reality. far from being the depressing wake-up call we feared, we actually got concrete details. there were no controversies to contend with, like the initially mixed response to Kinect or backlash to always-online modes. Microsoft was instead able to double down on the Xbox One’s new features, with fan support behind it in a way that hasn’t been seen since the peak years of Xbox 360. now we’re seeing the wellreceived innovations of e3, smartly executed.

Gamescom gave us got solid release windows – some tantalisingly close. Backwards compatibility launches in november, with over 100 Xbox 360 games supported. november will also see the launch of the new dashboard, replacing the current dated interface with a sleek new design. so long, summer: november’s now the only month that matters on our calendar. heck, you know you’re watching a confident presentation when a release date for Quantum Break is announced. no offence, remedy, but your games have an unfortunate habit of slipping forward in time.

We’ve explored the announced games elsewhere in this issue, but new surprises were slim – with the biggest being Halo Wars 2 and that Koji igarashi can’t use a whip. But the Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night creator was able to announce co-op play between Xbox One and Windows 10 PC players of his upcoming Castlevania-in-everything-butname adventure. no one’s ever not wanted it, but few of us have been brought to tears of joy by Windows 10 support.

Yet announcements such as this and Cobalt showed cross-play’s massive potential. already we have full Xbox One game streaming, so hopefully we are looking at a future where multiplayer between Pc and Xbox One games will become the standard. everyone playing peacefully side by side? enough to bring a tear to our eye.

Look back fondly

A trailer for backwards compatibility gave us brief blink-and-you’ll-miss- ’em glimpses of boxart from the likes of BioShock, Dark Souls and Driver: San Francisco. We’d mention all we saw here, but we’re hoping ending on Driver: San Francisco might somehow subliminally persuade more of you to play it. None of these games have been officially confirmed (not even your favorite, Driver: San Francisco) but why would Microsoft include games that wouldn’t be backwards compatible in a trailer for that very feature? it was also confirmed that all future Xbox 360 games With gold freebies will be run on Xbox One.

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Following Fallout 4 and Rainbow Six Siege, Just Cause 3 is the latest 2015 release that will also come with its Xbox 360 predecessor in the box. We hoped these generous bundles would start becoming the norm, and it’s great to see more publishers picking up the fan-pleasing habit.

The Xbox game Preview programm added a third title – Sheltered – to a library that’s still looking far slimmer than we’d like, but it’s also smartly turning some of 2016’s biggest games into 2015 releases. along similar lines, you’ll have to wait far into 2016 to play Homefront: The Revolution on PS4, but the announcement of a beta means you can partake in its multiplayer by the end of 2015 on Xbox One.

So if 2015 was the comeback year, what of the future? Well we finally got to see some of the games teased all the way back at E3 2014 (and we’ve been promised Quantum Break since 2013). as if having a dragon onside wasn’t enough, Scalebound now has four-player co-op. Crackdown goes even further, using cloud computing to utilize processing power 20 times that of the Xbox One. suddenly we’re seeing city-wide destruction and collapsing skyscrapers that would make Just Cause 3 weep. Quantum Break not only has cool time-twisting gunplay, but now boasts Game of Thrones’ aidan gillen as a villain. so we’re getting littlefinger versus time itself. investing earlier in developers has finally given Xbox One the definitive first-party lineup.

Breaking free

This was the focus on new ideas which we’ve been crying out for since the new console generation began. not only did the show open with Quantum Break, but almost a quarter of all the games shown were new productions. it’s a vital transition following an e3 that, while great, was conservative in its reliance on previous big-hitters. Halo, Tomb Raider, Gears of War – all great games, but wheeling out what’s worked before will only get you so far. Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, Dead Rising, Saints Row – these were some of the biggest-selling series of the previous console generation. they also all started out as new series on Xbox 360, and we’d argue we’re yet to see their alternatives for the current era.

Will the likes of Quantum Break and Scalebound become sequel-spawning hits? no one knows yet, but these are the essential risks that have to be taken going forward. listening to the fans has revitalised the console, giving the audience what they wanted – an Xbox One that’s never felt more accessible or unique. the new-gen entries in some of our favourite series are looking absolutely essential, but now it’s time to start taking risks, to start challenging that audience again with games that would never have been possible on Xbox 360. if those risks involve investing millions in an original game where you play a cocky, Prodigy-loving youth who befriends a dragon, we’re all for it.

By Tom Stone

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