Last year, I'd say Microsoft had a solid holiday season. In addition to the major multiplatform titles like Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Assassin's Creed Unity, and Destiny, Microsoft offered up Forza Horizon 2, Sunset Overdrive, and Halo: The Master Chief Collection. There was a little something for everyone and if you stepped back, you could say that Microsoft had a better holiday offering than Sony's PlayStation 4.
It didn't really matter though. The Xbox One occasionally pulls ahead in sales, like it did in November and December of last year based on the strength of those holiday offerings, but for the most part the PlayStation 4 has the momentum in this console generation. As a owner of multiple consoles, I'm fine with that. If anything it makes Microsoft try harder to win my love.
Microsoft's Gamescom show was the company trying to show that it still has what it takes to be your console of choice in 2016. On stage, the company touted "the greatest games lineup in Xbox history". I'm not sure if that's true, but it is a solid lineup of Xbox One titles for 2016, with some aimed at Windows 10 as well. Here's the highlights.
Halo Wars 2
This was a legitimate surprise coming from Microsoft, considering it shuttered Ensemble Studios, the development house behind the first Halo Wars. This entry is being made by 343 Industries in collaboration with Total War developer Creative Assembly. The latter is really good at strategy games, so we can at least expect some quality here, but this brief CG trailer is all we have to work with. (If Phantom Dust is any indication, that could potentially be a problem down the line.) Halo Wars 2 is coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 in Fall 2016.
Platinum Games' upcoming Xbox One exclusive is one of those games I know a lot of people are looking forward to. The character animation on the DmC Dante-style player character looked a bit off in the cutscenes and framerate needed some work, but the Platinum lineage is clear. While you do the normal hack-and-slash, you can also command your dragon partner to attack enemies, other monsters, and structures. Scalebound feels like it's somewhere between Devil May Cry and Monster Hunter.
It'll be interesting to see if the studio can find a solid balance between you and your dragon, so players can't just have the dragon doing all the work. I trust Hideki Kamiya to hit the right spot though. Four-player coop play makes an appearance at the end of the trailer, with the various versions of the main character each having their own weapon loadouts.
Scalebound's trailer didn't have even a hint of a release date, but Xbox Wire has confirmed that it's coming to Xbox One in Fall 2016.
The Lord is real. After announcing Crackdown 3 at E3 2014, Microsoft has finally given us a small taste of what's coming. The first look footage is obviously early, but the art style of the game feels closer to the cartoony madness of Crackdown, instead of the darker shift we saw in Crackdown 2. The trailer describes a gameplay focus that's like most open-world titles these days: go to point, kill things at point, take control of point, repeat.
The best part is Microsoft and developer Reagent Games (a new studio comprised of many former devs from Realtime Worlds, the studio behind the original Crackdown) are promising "100 percent destructible environments," at least in multiplayer mode. Microsoft is still trying to push the cloud on players as a selling point, but watching that building fall was pretty exciting. Hopefully, that level of destruction also extends to the single-player game. Crackdown 3 is still a ways off though, with a multiplayer mode beginning Summer 2016.
Max Payne and Alan Wake developer Remedy have been attached to Quantum Break since its announcement prior to E3 2013. At the time, the title was meant to be half-game, half-television show, with both sides coming together to tell one big story.
What looked like a more adventure-style title has finally been revealed as a third-person action game, something firmly within Remedy's expertise. Cover shooting, melee combat, and time-stopping shenanigans combine to make what looks to be a unique title. Shawn Ashmore (X-Men: Days of Future Past's Iceman) stars as the main character, while Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones' Littlefinger), Dominic Monaghan (Lost), and Lance Reddick (Fringe) are support cast members. (There's a female character, but she wasn't named?) The trailer also makes it clear that the live-action show is still a part of the equation, showing three of the actors in live and in-game versions.
Quantum Break is coming April 5, 2016 to Xbox One.
Forza Motorsport 6
Turn 10 Studios wants you to know that they're really happy about getting rain and general wetness into the next Forza Motorsport. I seriously enjoy listening to sports game developers talk about how real their game feels because they spent a lot of time measuring real-world aspects like people, cars, and tracks. They get really excited. It's cute.
As for the trailer, this is Forza Motorsport. You're either looking forward to it, or not. (I know Jaz is.) Forza Motorsport 6 is coming September 15, 2015.
Killer Instinct: Season 3
Finally, Microsoft announced the next season of Killer Instinct, coming to Xbox One and Windows 10 on March 2016. That's a pretty vanilla announcement, but the real news is Rash from Battletoads is coming to Killer Instinct as a playable character... today. The character is still in beta, with unfinished animations and moves, but at the very least it's Microsoft letting people know that it hasn't forgotten about Battletoads as a property. Between that and Rare Replay, maybe Microsoft could be convinced let the original Rare out to play?