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Xbox @ E3 2015

Bethesda started E3 a day early with their first ever press conference. It had some monumental moments of its own, like the gameplay reveal of Fallout 4 and its crazy crafting system that is sure to have gamers pouring hundreds of hours into the game later this year. Not to mention finally seeing what DOOM is going to look and play like. Now Microsoft finished their press conference for Xbox, and if you know me at all you know how much of an Xbox fan I am. To say I left their conference excited is quite an understatement. So, let's start off with going through the big announcements and the bombs that were dropped today that Xbox gamers can look forward to this year and next.

Normally companies save the best for last, ending on a high-note in order to leave a lasting impression in your mind. Microsoft traditionally leaves Halo as their smoking gun, but they actually opened the conference with it this year, meaning the rest of the 90 minutes had a LOT to live up to. Halo 5: Guardians was showcased, finally giving gamers a glimpse of the single player campaign. It's no secret that Halo 5 has a mysterious plot based on Agent Locke searching for Master Chief, but how that will play out is still a mystery.

Halo 5 Guardians

The level shown looked huge, the lighting and particles looked fantastic. Classic Hunters were shown, as were new enemies. The campaign will have seamless drop in and out gameplay that will relate and carry over to multiplayer in some fashion, which hasn't been fully revealed yet.

A new multiplayer mode was revealed, titled Warzone, and will have 24 players in matches that looked as if vehicles will play a large part of the massive maps (four times the size of any other Halo map) and I was instantly reminded of Battlefield. I would have liked to learn more about what the Guardians are, as it's unclear if it's referencing Forerunners or Prometheans. I also wish they would have shown what the collector edition is going to include. I've already got my money on it but have no idea what's in it. October 27th can't come soon enough, I want to continue Master Chief's story and find out why Locke is hunting him and his team.

A new IP was then shown and was prefaced with "from the makers of Metroid Prime and Keiji Inafune", best known for Mega Man, showing it has some major weight behind. It looks incredibly colorful and showcased a girl with her robot dog fighting some enemy robots. Her dog makes a sacrifice to save her, and, even though the trailer was only a few short minutes, I found myself feeling sad that the robot dog died. Luckily it looks as if there are some sort of 'soul' aspect as she was able to put her dog's orb into a worn down robot nearby and welcome him back. It's hard to say what type of game it will be, but it looks interesting and I know I'm interested solely because of the creators.

Recore

The next announcement, however, was quite unexpected and something I didn't see coming at ALL. Xbox has been great about listening to feedback, adding features and new additions consistently since launch, but there's been one particular feature that's been missing since launch and it was starting to seem impossible. Well, now it's a possibility. Xbox One is going to be getting Xbox 360 Backwards Compatibility! Yes, you read that right.

XBOX 360 BACKWARDS COMPATIBILITY FOR XBOX ONE

Obviously, not all the details were given yet but we still know quite a bit. Later this year you'll be able to play Xbox 360 games on your Xbox One digitally. You'll even be able to put in your Xbox 360 discs and download the game, saving it on your hard drive. The service will be launching this holiday (sooner for Preview members) and while not every single title will be playable, around 100 will be by holiday this year with hundreds being added each month, there will be tons to choose from. Actually, there's already an official list of everything so far:

http://www.xbox.com/en-US/xbox-one/backward-compatibility

Xbox One Backwards Compatability

Much like how Xbox 360 had some backwards compatibility with original Xbox games, the list was a good portion of the most popular titles. They showed the original Mass Effect playing on Xbox One, just as the game originally looked and played. It sounds as if it's going to be painless and easy to do, as any of the digital titles you already own will automatically show up in the "Ready to Install" section so you can download whenever you like. Own a disc version of a Backwards Compatible game and it will begin downloading and save to your hard drive, though keep in mind, like any other game, it will have to stay in the drive to play, understandably.

You'll be able to keep your game saves, addons, achievements, and Gamerscore. One of the coolest features though is that playing Backwards Compatible games on your Xbox One will make use of the new console architecture, allowing you to use the Game DVR, screenshots, and Windows 10 streaming. You'll even be able to play multiplayer with your friends regardless of which Xbox console they are on, 360 or One.

Oh, I forgot to mention the best part of this announcement. There will be NO ADDITIONAL COST. Let that sink in.

You won't be charged to play games you already own. That's right. FREE. That's a HUGE deal considering the current state of the Playstation Now service.

After that bombshell, I was wondering "what could they could announce next that would be just as exciting?"

I never thought that a controller would get me excited, but wow, the new Xbox Elite wireless controller looks fantastic. At first glance it looks like a normal Xbox One controller, but upon closer inspection there's some really cool features being added. We knew a new controller was coming, however this was a real surprise.

So, what makes this new controller so "elite"?

What if you could customize your controller to your specifics and play style? Imagine being able to change the thumb sticks to a different style that feels more natural for you, or even a completely different D-Pad. What about adding paddles on the back of the controller for extra buttons, ease, and customization?

Xbox One Elite Controller

This is what the Elite controller looks to do. This new controller adds four bumper paddles on the underside of the controller, sure to be a hit with racing fans, a new D-Pad that looks more like a concave rolling pad, and even the option to lock in the sensitivity values, trigger values, and more.

Oh, and you'll be able to purchase new swappable components and truly customize your Elite controller to "pro-level accuracy". I'm very excited to see how this controller will affect developer choices and hopefully with these new underside paddles, there won't be a need any longer to map commands to clicking in the thumb stick, which is usually awkward to do. The fact that you'll be able to button map on this new controller is also a huge deal, as it's usually restricted and not an option given to console gamers very often.  No date or price was given, but I would guess this Holiday as that was the theme of most of this year's E3 showings. Microsoft could have a hit on their hands if this is done well and is supported with a plethora of different attachment styles, heights, and sizes.

While Fallout 4 was shown last night at Bethesda's own presser, it took stage again at the Xbox conference to show it once again, and to drop another bomb for Xbox fans. Yes, we know Fallout 4 looks amazing and will be on the top of many GOTY lists, but what was announced after was HUGE. Not only for Xbox, but console players as a whole. Mods made on PC will work on Xbox One and for free.

MODS ON XBOX ONE!

That's right. It's finally happening. The consoles have always been a closed system so mod support was either not possible, worth the hassle, or simply allowed. It looks like Microsoft is listening once again and things are changing for the better. Obviously mods aren't new to PC, for console fans though this is absolutely huge. No other games have been announced to have mod support but it's clear that this will be a possibility going forward for other games in the future as well. It would have been nice to have Microsoft make a bigger deal out of this reveal, the fact that support is finally coming is a huge deal.

Peter Moore took the stage to talk about EA Access, as it's an Xbox exclusive subscription service where you can pay to get access to catalogue of their games along with a bunch of other bonuses that make the entry fee well worth it. You'll be able to play this year's Madden and Need For Speed first with EA Access, but the big announcement was that Titanfall was going to enter the Vault this week and that later this summer, Dragon Age: Inquisition will also enter the vault and free to play if you have a subscription. If you're an Xbox Live Gold member, EA Access is completely free this week, so go download it, try it out, and see what EA Access has to offer for Xbox One.

A slew of games was then shown, many of which are exclusive to Xbox One / Windows 10. The new Ford GT was lowered from the ceiling to start the Forza 6 showcase, which looked absolutely amazing. Graphically it looked impressive, especially the way the rain bounced and dripped down the windshield, and you'll be able to drive over 450 cars, 24 player multiplayer, and releases September 15th.

The trailer for Dark Souls 3 was hard to not get excited about. Then the trailer for The Division was shown. Many people are crazy excited about this game, so it has a lot of hype to live up to. It looks fantastic and Xbox One will have an exclusive beta this December, though they didn't mention how to access it or sign up. Immediately after, Rainbow Six: Siege was shown and looks like it's going to be amazing as well, what stood out for me with the announcement was that the classic Rainbow Six Vegas and Vegas 2 will be FREE with Siege, because of the backwards compatibility Xbox One now possesses.

A ton of Indie games were shown next, while I'm not the biggest fan of Indie games (not to say I'm a AAA snob), there were a few that really stood out for me that I'm excited to learn more about and play: Below, Gigantic, SUPERHOT, Tacoma, Ashen, Beyond Eyes, and of course, Cuphead.

The surprising announcement though was the unveil of the new Xbox Game Preview program.

Early Access is nothing new on PC, but again, Microsoft is slowly starting to close the gap and blend the PC and console gaming worlds. Like on PC, Xbox Game Preview will allow you to pay to have early access to a game in development, much like with Steam on PC, but there will also be a free trial for everyone to try before committing to a purchase. Elite Dangerous and DayZ will be among the first to try out and offer this special early access. Again, it's not so much about the specific game but the platform feature being added to Xbox One that is really exciting.

Rise of the Tomb Raider made an appearance next and wow, did it ever impress. We already know how great it looked from the reveal trailer but we finally got to see some live gameplay. Lara leaves trails from walking in the snow, the ice looks incredibly realistic, and the gameplay looks as fantastic as ever. Coming November 10th, the only thing that I noticed is that it was still touted as "exclusive | Holiday 2015", even though we know it's timed. I thought they would clear up the confusion a little bit, but for now, it's still exclusive for an undetermined amount of time for Xbox One.

Rise of the Tomb Raider

It was essentially a safe bet to guess that RARE was going to announce or show something. I wasn't expecting Rare Replay at all.

30 of Rare's classic games for $30 on one disc. It's Rare's 30th anniversary, so it's very fitting and quite an awesome collection. Rare Replay releases August 4th, has 10,000 gamerscore, and here's a list of just a few of classic Rare titles that I know I'm excited to replay: Cobra Triangle, Battletoads, Battletoads Arcade, Killer Instinct Gold, Blast Corps, Banjo-Kazooie, Jet Force Gemini, Perfect Dark, Banjo-Tooie, Conker's Bad Fur Day, Perfect Dark Zero, Viva Piñata, Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts, Viva Piñata: Trouble in Paradise. Rare also showed off their new game, titled Sea of Thieves, which looks like a multiplayer pirate game; I'll keep my eye on it simply because of the developer.

Rare Replay

It was announced that every Oculus Rift VR headset would come with a wireless Xbox One controller, work natively with Windows 10, and you'll even be able to stream your Xbox One games to your own private theater.

We already knew Microsoft HoloLens was a real thing with its previous reveal but we finally got to see it in relation to gaming. It's no secret that Microsoft paid an exorbitant amount for Minecraft and even though I've never personally been a Minecraft player, wow, it was hard to not get excited about that demo of Minecraft for HoloLens. Minecraft was first shown playing on a wall, the player wearing HoloLens will see the game as if it's on a TV. The pinnacle of this demo though was moving the game from the wall to an augmented reality version "played" on a standard table. Here, the world was built in 3D instantly and the world is completely navigated with hand motions and voice commands. It was a super impressive demo that worked flawlessly and if Microsoft can show other gaming applications for HoloLens, they may have something big on their hands.

HoloLens

Last up, the other Xbox franchise that has millions of fans: Gears of War.

Due to leaks, we already knew a remaster of the original Gears, titled Gears of War Ultimate Edition, was most likely be announced, and now we know that there's going to be a 1 week public beta, 1080p/60fps, and releases August 25th. After that though, we got to see our first look at Gears 4 (yes, it's called that). To say that it looked stunning is an understatement, the facial features and lighting look absolutely amazing. It'll be interesting to see where the campaign will go, considering Marcus wasn't shown in the demo, but the core Gears gameplay looks to be intact with its cover based system and it's going to be a very long wait until Holiday 2016.

Gears 4

So what did I take away from this year's Xbox E3? That Phil Spencer was right. They showed the best game lineup in Xbox history. Microsoft is listening and its consumers. Backwards compatibility, Mod support, new pro-level controller, early access, HoloLens, and of course amazing games that I'm so excited to play this year and next on Xbox One. E3 2015 was hands down Microsoft's best E3 keynote as they showed NEW IPs, features, hardware, and more importantly that they are listening to their fans and giving us what we want.