It finally happened. Months after Sony’s much praised PlayStation 4 reveal, Microsoft held an hour long presentation showing off its new console. I have to be honest, the actual name came out of left field. Of all the rumoured names, I wasn’t expecting it to be called:
It’s not a bad name, certainly better than “Infinity” anyway. After the name reveal, we had a short montage revealing what the hardware looks like, including the controller and the new Kinect camera. It’s a large looking box, but from the sounds of things they want it taking up most of your living room anyway. The controller also looks on the chunky side, but it’s hard to gauge all this stuff without seeing some comparison shots.
Next came some cool demos showing you what the new Kinect can do. Saying “Xbox, on” will now turn on your console, and it will go to a home page showing you what you were last doing, whether that be playing a game, watching a movie, or listening to music. This was the start of a big focus on television for the presentation. You will now be able to watch live TV without having to switch inputs on your box. A new feature called “live switching” swiftly changes between applications on your console. A quick demo showed how voice commands can be used to seamlessly transition between watching tv, films, playing games or listening to music. It looked very impressive.
The Kinect also seems to have been improved, with what looked like better finger tracking. This was used to grab and drag things around the screen. For example you can hold your hands up and pinch to grab a movie and shove it onto the home page until you’re ready to watch it again. This is also linked to “snap mode”, which allows multiple applications to be running on screen at one time, much like on smartphones and tablets. We saw footage from a football game, popping up with real time Fantasy Team stats.
Specs were the next order of business. Eight cores, 8GB Ram, 500GB hard drive, so on and so forth. The specs looked very much as expected – no surprises here. An odd announcement was the inclusion of three operating systems. One that had access to the base level hardware, for use by developers and such, one acting as a Windows kernel, and another to link efficiently between the two. The Kinect is 1080i, and we saw some nice looking models showing off the new pivot points it’ll feature. It also seems as though it will be able to recognise individual controllers as you pick them up, which could have some cool implications.
Sports sports sports. We had Andrew Wilson from EA come out and announce its new partnership with Microsoft. Then came a trailer to announce the new game engine – Ignite – featuring huge names from the world of sport like Robert Griffin III and Lionel Messi. From the sounds of things, Ultimate Team in FIFA 14 will be exclusive to Xbox One. It will be odd to see Sony left out in the cold on such a big deal though, so I’m interested in further developments on that front.
Phil Spencer came out next, and showed us a trailer for Forza Motorsport 5, which will be a launch game. You can make cars look really good on new hardware, so this trailer was a no brainer. Next came a game no one was anticipating: Quantum Break from Remedy. It had a partly live action trailer, and a huge ship crashing through a bridge. It seemed like it had some Bioshock Infinite-y tear type stuff going on there, but the trailer was vague at best. Spencer told us that there would be at least fifteen Xbox One exclusives within the first year of release, with eight brand new franchises.
Next, an interesting partnership involving a live action Halo tv series with Steven Spielberg at the helm. Then, a partnership with the NFL was announced, further tying in with the tv and sport stuff announced earlier. After all that, we had a short recap of what we had seen so far, but of course everyone knew there was one more thing to come, and everyone already knew that it was Call of Duty.
Call of Duty: Ghosts is more exciting than other games in the franchise that have been released in recent years because Oscar winning writer Stephen Gaghan is penning the story. They’re making a big deal about it, which is promising given the flak the series gets for not having any semblance of interesting plot. Regardless, there are still lots of explosions, plenty of dudes get shot, and you now have a dog companion, which I hope can’t die or I’m not buying the game.
Then we were treated to a big countdown timer telling us how long it was until Microsoft’s E3 press conference, which I expect will be far more focused on games than this one.
In terms of reveal events, the PS4 one was certainly more interesting, but with E3 so close, you can’t blame Microsoft for saving most of the game reveals for that huge show. It’s an exciting time to be involved with games.
Thanks for reading.