Microsoft Gamescom 2015 Press Conference Impressions

Audrey! Clear my schedule!

As a backlogged gamer, I’d sometimes rather see Phil Spencer take the stage and say “sorry everyone, we’re still working out the kinks from launching this thing and we have nothing new for you.”

That wouldn’t make for the most exciting press conference but imagine if you had a year to catch up on everything you’ve missed over the years. Well, Team Xbox doesn’t care about your backlog and for anyone looking for some reprieve, it just isn’t happening.

Microsoft’s Gamescom press conference was supposed to be about Quantum Break, Scalebound, and Crackdown 3. It turned out to be a 90-minute appeal to call in sick for the next 18 months.

Serendipitously, Rare Replay launches the same day as the Gamescom press conference and Phil Spencer declares this “the beginning of the greatest line up of games in Xbox history.” This is now a well-known line of marketing speak that is beginning to carry some weight. As we’ll see.

Quantum Break | April 5, 2016 | Xbox One Exclusive

Quantum Break Microsoft Gamescom 2015

The communication surrounding Quantum Break has been notably fragmented and infrequent. Somehow, this has only led to increased expectations and a heavy burden set on the shoulders of the game makers over at Remedy. Amongst the largest line up of Xbox One exclusives and the most significant investment into first party games, Quantum Break has unofficially inherited the burden of being the game to singularly justify the Xbox One’s existence.

The theme of broken time permeates into more than the mechanics. The weapons and enemies are all heavily influenced by the fourth dimension and this may be enough to differentiate Quantum Break from other bullet time-centric games like Stranglehold, Dead to Rights, or Max Payne. The visual impact of breaking time is stunning and Quantum Break looks to be our leap forward into the next evolution of graphical prowess.

We saw a short teaser into the time travelling story and its the conspiracy that has me most excited for Quantum Break. Throughout the reveal, I found myself asking “Who is Paul?” or “What is going on here?” There’s a sense of something larger than any character and that’s why Remedy is creating this game.

I’m still left wondering how the live-action story pieces will be woven into the experience but now is not the time for that. We have plenty of time to get over-hyped for Quantum Break, if we haven’t already.

Crackdown 3 | 2016 | Xbox One Exclusive

Call me naive but I was expecting just a little more than what we saw from Crackdown 3. First announced as a “one more thing” back at E3 2014, it’s been a while since we’ve seen anything.

For a moment, the Crackdown reveal began to look like the developer documentaries from EA’s 2014 E3 press conference, which was hardly received kindly. With all this said, the reveal was rescued by one key thing: 100% destructible environments. Open-world games are often quite rigid in their structure and as someone who’s always though Crackdown was mediocre at best, this has me intrigued. This is all made possible through “the power of the cloud,” leveraging the Xbox One’s processing power more than 20 times.

After Quantum Break‘s relatively imminent 2016 release date, I was expecting Crackdown 3 to follow suit. Unfortunately, the most we can look forward to is a distant multiplayer beta about a year from now.

Scalebound | Holiday 2016 | Xbox One Exclusive

Scalebound Microsoft Gamescom 2015

Rounding out the three games promised for Gamescom, Scalebound showed surprisingly well. Hideki Kamiya, creator of the Devil May Cry series and Scalebound Lead Director, launched the live gameplay demo right from the menu. He brought us in on that moment when you jump into a game for the first time. It’s a special feeling and I was happy to share that with the creator and fellow gamers around the world.

I will reserve judgment on the protagonist but you should know that he may not be for everyone. Let’s put it this way, he wears giant headphones around his neck and I don’t think its because he like the audio fidelity. The only thing missing on this guy is a popped collar.

Still, this style of play combined with optional four-play co-op has me completely overlooking the possibly-annoying playable character. In other words, I cannot wait for Scalebound.


Thanks to some incremental updates from Microsoft, the original vision for the Xbox One as a central unit within the living room is finally taking shape. Each month, I look at my cable bill and wonder. I wonder if this is the month I’ll begin saving $50 and cut the cord. Xbox One recently got me part way there by announcing free over-the-air (OTA) HD tuning with some basic features.

At Gamescom, full-featured DVR functionality was announced and suddenly my cable subscription is on borrowed time. Being able to stream recorded shows to Windows 10 devices, even offline by downloading like Spotify or Apple Music, only makes the decision easier.

Backwards Compatibility

I may have been a little early on my E3 predictions but the prophecy has come true. All Xbox 360 Games with Gold will be backwards compatible on Xbox One. Meaning each month, Xbox Live Gold members will receive four games per month! In the past, Xbox Live Gold members have been treated to some of the best Xbox 360 games like Tomb Raider and Bioshock Infinite. Starting November, backwards compatibility on all Games with Gold titles will be available to all Xbox Live Gold members.

I’m excited because I was right and thought it was wishful thinking.

FIFA 16 | September 24, 2015 | Xbox One Exclusive Content

Halo 5 Microsoft Gamescom 2015

Electronic Arts and Microsoft sure are chummy these days. This may seem silly for North American onlookers but the FIFA 16 announcements are actually a big deal. FIFA Ultimate Team is insanely addictive and Xbox One is the only place you’ll find more than 60 new Legends like Alessandro Nesta, Victor Baia, or Ryan Giggs. Plus with EA Access, like all EA titles, players will receive a 10% discount on FIFA Ultimate Team points.

If that isn’t enough, two new Xbox One bundles will be available just in time for EA Access members to play FIFA 16 first – exactly nine days prior to the public launch. Conveniently, the two bundles include subscriptions to EA Access and will allow gamers to play FIFA a week early.

This may not connect with stateside gamers but this is a well thought out package targeted directly at a market Phil Spencer has identified as an area for improvement.


Homefront: The Revolution | 2016 | Cross-platform

By far, Homefront: The Revolution had the most engrossing trailer I’ve seen in a long time. A young boy is pushed on stage to deliver a speech to the new foreign military presence in America as we learn about an underground uprising. You instantly feel a connection to the speaker and the cause…until the gameplay starts and Homefront: The Revolution looks fairly cookie cutter. My hopes are high but I’m sadly anticipating disappointment.

Halo 5: Guardians | October 27, 2015 | Xbox One Exclusive

Halo 5 Microsoft Gamescom 2015

According to Justin Timberlake, a million dollars isn’t cool anymore. But to me, a million dollars in Halo 5 prize money is cool and it represents the most substantial investment into Halo esports ever. The time we spent with Halo 5 was focused on highly competitive esports pitting an American team, Optic Gaming, against a European squad, Epsilon. Normally, I’d shut off the volume at this point because esports commentary has left much to be desired. Remember Evolve at E3? Too much OH MY GOD for my liking. It looks like play-by-play for shooters is getting a bit more thoughtful and so is the presentation. Quick replays and expert insight into the strategies employed made this segment surprisingly enjoyable.

Probably the best new reason to finally buy an Xbox One is in the form of a (truly) Limited Edition 1TB console bundled with a digital download of Halo 5: Guardians which you can pre-order today.

Just Cause 3 | December 1, 2015 | Cross-platform
I mentioned to a fellow writer that this game showed better than Uncharted and was immediately ridiculed. Now, a sizzle trailer should show better than a straight gameplay demo but I want to experience everything Square Enix has in store this December. Following a nice trend we’re seeing with new Xbox One games, Just Cause 2 will be included and playable through Xbox 360 backwards compatibility.

Forza Motorsport 6 | September 15, 2015 | Xbox One Exclusive

I recently took a 12 hour drive from Vancouver to Edmonton and while I was completely awestruck by the Rocky Mountains in summertime, all I could think about was how I wanted to experience this environment again, on demand. And the first thing that came to mind was Forza Motorsport. With that, the allure of racing games returned to my soul and this was the time Turn 10’s messaging finally clicked for me.

That’s not to say there was anything new to say at Gamescom, in fact, the focus on driving in the rain was fairly boring. Next.

Rise of the Tomb Raider | November 13, 2015 (European date) | Xbox One Holiday Exclusive

Rise of the Tomb Raider Microsoft Gamescom 2015

We haven’t seen much from Rise of the Tomb Raider but after a strong showing at Gamescom, it seems Crystal Dynamics has been quietly confident with Lara’s next adventure. After an arguably underwhelming demo at E3, Rise of the Tomb Raider exhibited a perfectly paced and beautifully choreographed gameplay demo. The stealth looks tense but accessible. And just before it got stale, Lara cranks it up with more than a few gritty kills.

For the first time, I am impatient for the next Tomb Raider. Before Gamescom, I could wait but now, I cannot.

Halo Wars 2 | Fall 2016 | Xbox One and Windows 10 Exclusive

Earlier this year, the return of a “beloved” strategy game was foretold by Phil Spencer but I don’t think anyone was expecting Halo Wars. The “one last thing” at Gamescom was a genuine surprise and though this is a niche game, it speaks volumes to Microsoft’s commitment to PC gamers, to the Halo franchise, and a deep portfolio of games. On the negative side of the surprise was the release date. Not that it is too far out but rather, that its a fall release. The original Halo Wars was released in February. Even it meant pushing Halo Wars 2 to 2017, I’d rather see this sequel come out in a nice empty space like Bloodborne or Dying Light did earlier this year. I suppose there’s lots of time for a delay to be announced…

Final Thoughts

The messaging from Microsoft has been remarkably on point. A new chat pad, Koji Igorashi’s Bloodstained: Ritual of the NightCobaltDark Souls 3Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six: Siege, and new Killer Instinct content (including Rash from Battletoads) rounded out this solid press conference. It seemed like a natural progression from E3 and it feels like we’re having a constructive dialogue with Team Xbox. Through its feedback program, Xbox One is quickly closing the gaps punctured by a botched launch and addressing concerns many of us have but have never voiced directly to Microsoft or Phil Spencer. What are my options in choosing a console bundle? How can I personalize my Xbox experience? How can Xbox compete with services like PlayStation Plus and its cross-buy/cross-save ecosystem? All of these powerfully impactful questions are being answered with each press conference and it is a thrilling time to be a fan of video games.

The most important question is still to be determined: Will any of this help Xbox One catch PlayStation 4?