Mr Speaker, Mr Vice-President, Xbox Enthusiasts, my fellow gamers. We are two years into this new console cycle. Two years in which we have had highs, lows, deaths in the family (RIP Kinect), changes of direction, and renewed purpose. It has been, and still is, a time of great learning, of discovering hardware capabilities, and searching for new adventures. But today we push forward into a new year, with new opportunities, and great promise. Now we must build, but we can do it from a position of great growth and of strength.
2015 was a fantastic year for Xbox. Sales numbers for Xbox One are getting better and better. The games line-up has never been brighter and in this Holiday period, Xbox showed up Sony’s lack of exclusives with an embarrassment of riches. The end of August had Gears of War: Ultimate Edition, the fantastic remaster of the Xbox 360 classic. September had us all racing to get hold of Forza Motorsport 6, which here on Xbox Enthusiast we gave a perfect score. October saw the latest entry in Xbox’s biggest franchise with Halo 5: Guardians. While November had the timed exclusive Rise of the Tomb Raider, a superb follow up to 2013’s reboot of the franchise.
As great as 2015 has been, 2016 is shaping up to be even better. Phil Spencer’s influence on the brand is coming into full effect. Since the first day that he stepped into the job, he has pushed the focus of the Xbox division to games and gamers. This year we got backwards compatibility, something that wasn’t needed but was welcome, and I’m fascinated to see what system updates, new upgrades and options we’ll get this year. But what really makes us gamers buy a console in the first place are the games. So what can we expect to be playing throughout this year?
First of all, let’s look at what sequels are coming our way in 2016. The biggest of these has to be Gears of War 4. The Coalition’s first original entry in the series has a lot riding on it. Microsoft paid quite a bit of money for full control of the IP and to set up a studio with the sole purpose of working on everything Gears-related. This year’s Gears of War: Ultimate Edition showed us that they are a solid pair of hands, and it’ll be interesting to see where they take the storyline and the Gears universe as a whole. Crackdown 3 had been rumoured for ages, but it is finally going to arrive this year, and with more destruction than ever before. The Gamescom demo, which showed the destruction physics powered by the cloud, was jaw dropping. This game has the potential to not just be a good game, but a real game changer for the industry. Meanwhile Halo has had a busy couple of years. 2014 gave us The Master Chief Collection, while 2015 saw the arrival of Halo 5: Guardians. Not one to rest on their laurels, we’re going to be getting yet another Halo game in 2016. This year will see a sequel to 2009’s Halo Wars. Like Gears of War 4, we know next to nothing about the story of this new entry in the series. What we do know though, is that Creative Assembly are developing it, the RTS legends behind the Total War series, and that is enough to further our anticipation.
As well as sequels we have some exciting new IPs coming this year too. The biggest of these is actually the one that is going to be released in a few months time. Quantum Break is the latest game from Remedy, and looks to be their most ambitious yet. Combining fascinating control of time with a shooter mechanic, and then coupling that with a TV show, this really shows a studio trying to stretch its legs as well as its imagination. Everything we have seen of the game so far looks great, and with a track record as perfect as Remedy’s, it’d be foolish to bet against them pulling it off. Speaking of a studio with a great history, Rare is back with a new IP this year. Having shrugged off the shackles of making games for Kinect, this sleeping giant of a studio looks to be crafting something uniquely ‘Rare’. Sea of Thieves is an online multiplayer adventure game, with the art-style, quirkiness, and creativity that we used to expect from the geniuses at Rare. Also coming this year is Microsoft’s exciting collaboration with Platinum Games, Scalebound. This action RPG sees you play as Drew who is able to command a Dragon. Action games are Platinum’s bread and butter, throw in a JRPG influence, and combine it with the powerhouse that is the Unreal Engine 4, and you have something very exciting indeed. Finally on the big new IP front, we have ReCore. So far, all we have seen of ReCore is a trailer, but what makes it so exciting is the team behind it. The Producer of the game is Keiji Inafune, the producer and illustrator behind Megaman. The Director of the game is Mark Pacini, who has previously directed the Metroid Prime games. The writer of the game is Joseph Staten who has previously written for the Halo series and the original story for Destiny. With this much talent behind the game, this could be something very special indeed.
Finally, let’s have a look at some of the indie titles that deserve attention this year. Cuphead has been on our radar for some time now. The game was first shown at E3 2014, and has been making regular appearances at industry events ever since. The game looks absolutely gorgeous as it blends its early Disney-style visuals with the best of the bullet hell games. As good as each screenshot for the game looks; actually seeing it in motion is a joy to behold. Aaero is a rhythm action shooter from Mad Fellows Games. This game is like a cross between Rez, Space Harrier, and DJ Hero. The game uses music in such a brilliant and unique way. It is an absolute blast to play and I cannot recommend it highly enough. Below is the latest game from Capybara Games, the twisted geniuses behind Super Time Force. This top down adventure game has a brutal difficulty level and features a tiny warrior exploring the depths of a remote island. With a great art-style and randomly generated environments this is one to keep an eye on. Inside is Playdead’s new game. The studio that bought us the superb Limbo are now bringing us, what they describe as the spiritual successor to that game. While the game does feature colour, don’t expect this to be a bright and cheerful affair, as the colour is very washed out. Once again the game is a 2.5D platformer and looks to tell another dark story.
Moving into the third year of this console cycle, the platform is still growing, still evolving. It is creating new possibilities through the power of the cloud and through the ingenuity of the developers creating the most advanced games ever. As we begin this new chapter in the console’s story, we look forward to games we know about and the many surprises to come throughout the year. Whether you’ve been on the system since the start, or have just arrived in the last few days or weeks. If you have a gamerscore in double figures or one that reflects a seasoned veteran of achievement hunting, all are welcome. In this time of console wars and fanboy scrutiny, let us all just revel in the games and the joy they bring. Thank you, and may God bless all gamers!