E3 2014: Microsoft announces new Halo

TIM BIGGS
Last updated 11:13 10/06/2014

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Kicking off the E3 conferences with a 90-minute presentation on the immediate future of Microsoft's gaming platform, head of Xbox Phil Spencer had a clear objective in mind.

Now that Xbox One is available in stores without the previously-required Kinect sensor for a price comparable to Sony’s PlayStation 4, the stage was set for Spencer and Microsoft to prove their platform’s future with a raft of upcoming games, and that’s what they did.

An enigmatic Halo trailer, featuring a sinister secret agent surveying the events of Halo 2 from afar, continued to build interest in Halo 5: Guardians while also providing a segue into the announcement of a new Halo game (or rather, a new take on four old Halo games): Halo: The Master Chief collection. 

As well as compiling the first four numbered Halo games in their original game engines, modified to run a 60 frames per second on Xbox One, The Master Chief Collection promises curated playlists of specific moments from all four games.

In time for its 10-year anniversary, Halo 2 will recieve a complete visual overhaul to bring it up to par with Halo 3 and the anniversary version of the original Halo, although it was specifically pointed out that, unlike Halo Anniversary, the new Halo 2 will arrive with its full suite of multiplayer options intact.

In fact the game taken together will feature over 100 multiplayer maps, meaning developer 343 should get all the user feedback they need to make sure the multiplayer is top notch when Guardians eventually arrives.

The Master Chief Collection will also come with a season of live-action cinematic show Halo Nightfall, produced by Ridley Scott, and a preorder will grant players access to the Halo 5: Guardians multiplayer beta later this year.   

Aside from Halo, a very drone-heavy sci-fi iteration of gaming’s biggest franchise was further detailed with a new demo of Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare.

The game, which made headlines with its announcement that Kevin Spacey would be starring in a major role, will be on every platform but as usual all add-on content will be available first on Xbox (an advantage that was also extended to the upcoming Evolve, a team-based monster-hunting game from the makers of Left 4 Dead).

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Several other multi-platform games also featured, with fresh looks at Assassin’s Creed: Unity, Dragon Age: Inquisition, Tom Clancy’s The Division and The Witcher 3: The Wild Hunt, as well as the announcement and world premiere of Rise of the Tomb Raider.

Already-announced Xbox One exclusive games were featured too, including flashy open-world racer Forza Horizon 2, bombastic shooter Sunset Overdrive (featuring a clourful protagonist who literally burst into a dusty first-person shooter to mock a military guy and his antiquated cover mechanics), Fable Legends - a Dungeons and Dragons-inspired take on the beloved roleplaying game that allows four players to team up with a fifth pulling strings as the malevolent villain - and Project Spark, the game creation software which, it was revealed, will star Rare's fan-favourite character Conker (of Conker’s Bad Fur Day). 

Further exclusives to arrive on Xbox One by "this holiday" include atmospheric platformer Ori and the Blind Forest, and music games Dance Central: Spotlight (a version of the popular franchise that will keep up with the top of the music charts) and Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved.

Platinum Games, makers of Bayonetta, were also on hand to announce an Xbox-exclusive dragon-riding action game Scalebound, while a reboot of one-on-one brawler Phantom Dust and new entry in the long-ignored Crackdown series were also teased for 2015 and beyond.

As expected, a portion of the conference was devoted to establishing Xbox One as a platform for independant development, and although "more than 100" indie games are headed to the system, the one shown off in depth was Inside, the intriguingly morbid-looking follow-up to Playdead's Limbo, which will arrive first for Xbox One.

Conspicuously absent were D4, the Kinect-powered mystery game announced last year at E3, and Microsoft developer Rare, who most recently put together Kinect Sports Rivals. The ommissions were perhaps to be expected given Microsoft's recent reversal on the much-maligned motion sensor's necessity.

Follow Tim on Twitter @weeklyrift

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