It’s never easy to say who won what, and talking about E3 2016 it doesn’t make any difference. Sony and Microsoft have offered two kinds of media briefings completely different, one focusing on games, the other discussing its infrastructure and hardware, somehow making a step further into the future of video games, despite someone could say we didn’t need that yet. Let’s start with Microsoft. Under the spotlight we have Project Scorpio and Xbox One S. Project Scorpio is the new Xbox, which will come in holiday 2017 and according to Microsoft won’t open any new generation of console – it’s just another arrival in the Xbox consoles family, such as Nintendo did with 2DS, 3DS, New 3DS. We’ll just have to wait and see 1. If people get this; 2. If developers will penalize the current Xbox One.
Project Scorpio has been dubbed the most powerful console ever, and sure it is. The new Xbox ships with a 6TFLOPs GPU, an 8 core CPU, a 320+GB/s bandwith. Microsoft has always been pretty reluctant to go deeper into its new consoles’ specs, but this time around it’s very different. Sony has officially challenged it on fields like raw power and price, so it is obvious Redmond needed to have a bold and aggressive take.
Are we satisfied with these specs? Well, at this point we can’t tell much, we can’t say this is going to be enough to sustain all of the promises Spencer & co. have done (native 4K gaming, VR, and more) without any compromises. Hopefully, they’ll deliver. But we’ll still need to see what PlayStation 4 Neo comes out like, despite it is clear now Sony has all the time it might ever need to go and change specs, price and whatever. And with all the things that have been said, it is sure Neo won’t be a simple Slim console.
Talking about Slim consoles, I’m pretty fascinated by Xbox One S. The console is 40% slimmer than currently available Xbox One, can stand vertically, has a nice white color, and ships with a 4K UHD Blu-ray drive for those guys who want to play 4K Blu-ray without investing hundreds and hundreds of Dollars. I think I’ll trade in my current Xbox One and then will trade it back again when Scorpio arrives on the shelves.
Hardware-wise, it has been told the console will upscale games to the 4K resolution for players owning a 4K monitor and will provide developers with some extr a power. For example, Gears of War 4 will use a dynamic resolution such as Halo 5: Guardians in order to keep frame rate smooth and stable; The Coalition’s Rod Fergusson has said Xbox One S will help reducing times this will happen.
Games. Microsoft needed a very different type of media briefing in comparison with Sony. The latter decided not to showcase a brand new console during its press conference and it makes sense, other than give us the certainty PlayStation 4 Neo will be something similar to Scorpio. Redmond had a great chance to finally talk clearly about its vision with Windows 10 and Xbox One as an unified gaming ecosystem, and delivered.
Xbox Play Anywhere has put to rest rumors and controversy about Xbox One games coming to Windows 10, even though in a way many won’t understand or appreciate. Basically, all the upcoming titles for Xbox One are shipping on Windows 10 PC as well, and thanks to XPA players won’t need to invest their money on two different copies of the same game. Moreover, cross-saves and cross-play have all been granted. It’s like the interaction between PlayStation Vita and PlayStation 4, but a step forward.
New titles showcased at Los Angeles include Dead Rising 4 and State of Decay 2, which had been unfortunately spoiled a few days before the conference kicked off. The first will see Frank West getting back to Willamette in a holiday mood and with its ironic mood still there, while the second will allow us to have strong online interactives (nobody survives alone, the trailer remarked) even though we don’t know if it is going to be a full fledge massive online multiplayer game or a Destiny/The Division like “shared world”.
Some other games have been delayed, such as Halo Wars 2 (there’s a multiplayer beta out there anyway; Gwent: The Witcher Card Game releases as well in an exclusive beta this September) and Crackdown 3, Sea of Thieves is still lacking a release date, just like Scalebound which now looks much better than its first gameplay reveal last year, while ReCore is shipping on September 13 but we’ve still to understand what it is. Keen an eye on console timed exclusive We Happy Few launching in July.
Anyway, it was almost natural for Microsoft to have all of these games in some sort of background, considering all the stuff it had to introduce, and it did pretty smoothly, on an ecosystem and hardware perspective. Forza Horizon 3 announcement was also fundamental in describing what’s coming next with Xbox Play Anywhere, and the same happened with Gears of War 4.
Talking about Sony, as rumored the Japanese platform holder had a chance to focus exclusively on games and it started very good with a long God of War presentation. It’s a reboot based on Nordic mythology. Santa Monica Studio has already pointed out that, despite saying to his son “it’s a new beginning”, Kratos will still be the protagonist, though a new fashioned one. The game looks very good and I really appreciated the emotional scene where you need to take out a poor deer, with Kratos’ son striving to kill him.
At least three bangs came out of PlayStation media briefing, apart from God of War and Days Gone we almost knew everything about before the press conference started. First, the new Hideo Kojima’s game starring Norman Reedus. We don’t know much about this but at least we have a in-engine trailer (whatever the engine is) and a name: Death Stranding. It will be something visceral and ancestral, from the looks of it.
Then, Spider-Man sure makes it in the count. We were told a new Spider-Man was in the making, rumors and leak were already there, but nothing was ever said about its developer not being Sucker Punch. It’s Insomniac Games, instead! Now: 1. What’s Sucker Punch working on? 2. Making it a PlayStation 4 exclusive and giving it to Sunset Overdrive creators means Spider-Man is going to be a lot of fun. We can’t wait, although such as with Death Stranding we don’t have any release date and it looks like it will take a bit.
Resident Evil 7 was also a huge surprise. Capcom promised it would be coming back to its roots, the roots of evil and horror, and it seems like they did it. The game looks pretty scary, though we can’t say it has an original presentation – it looks like they really enjoyed the P.T. demo and Silent Hills project. Great news is it is going to be compatible “from beginning to the end” with PlayStation VR on PS4, it’s shipping on January 24, and a demo is now available for Sony’s home console. Looking at what happened with P.T., we recommend you to download it on an external drive, just for safety…
Other announcements were delivered, of course. We anticipated Days Gone, it’s the new IP coming exclusively to PlayStation 4 in a not better specified date from first-party developer Bend Studio (the guys behind PS Vita’s Uncharted spin-off Golden Abyss). It’s a post-apocalyptic, zombie-based, survival title where you are a rider who’s lost everything, even his girlfriend/wife, and now is running through this unspecified country looking for something or simply for his own life.
From a gameplay perspective, it has some biking, third person shooting, and it works as a common open world, we were displayed, so it will be pretty interesting to understand whether it’s just a sandbox or a completely open environment where we can get new missions, talk to secondary characters and more. We’ll also need to see how different from The Last of Us this game is – now differences are very sparse but let’s give the developer its time to calmly showcase what’s next with Days Gone.
I was almost sure Sony would give us a Detroit: Become Human 2016 release date but, looking at how the press conference evolved, the next game from Heavy Rain creators won’t launch this year. Anyway, its demo was interesting, especially from a gameplay point of view, since we were said we’ll have a chance to look at a homicide from different perspectives and several ways to prevent this from happening. Sounds good, but we’ll have to see how this applies to an entire story mode campaign.
Finally, we had a release date for The Last Guardian – it’s shipping this October – and we couldn’t be happier to see the latest from Fumito Ueda has made it (in time for PlayStation 4 as well!). A very little gameplay sequence was showcase but in cases like these the less you know, the better. PlayStation VR had its participation to the conference but its space was handled very good (not something like VR stuff at Ubisoft press conference…), it was integrated with the rest of gaming announcement and that’s the way Sony needs to work it out if it wants VR to be successful.
New stuff for it includes an October 13 release date, a few new games including survival horror Here They Lie and Farpoint, Batman Arkham VR from Rocksteady, an exclusive Final Fantasy XV VR Experience. The PlayStation VR lineup now counts on 50+ games, which is a good start for Sony to have the new platform given at least some chances to become a standard, other than a competitive $399 price tag.
In the end, again, Sony and Microsoft delivered two very different media briefings. Sony did what it needed to do – just focus on games. The only con is those games often don’t have an even remote release date. Microsoft already had a good amount of games in the works and added only a very happy few (Dead Rising is shipping this year, i.e.), since it needed to have a better focus on its unified Windows & Xbox One vision. And importantly took the lead when it comes to new consoles coming next year. Sony didn’t want to waste PlayStation VR launch and it was a good idea, but will surely follow early 2017.