Last week, Microsoft held a media event to showcase their upcoming Spring games to press. Xbox head Phil Spencer had previously noted that this was merely an event to allow the gaming media to get to grips with the company’s upcoming games, and stressed that fans shouldn’t expect any massive announcements. Nonetheless, some interesting news has filtered out this week, after the short press embargo expired on Tuesday.
A big focus of the preview event was the upcoming Quantum Break, out on Xbox One and Windows 10 on April 5th, while Dark Souls 3, Capybara’s top-down adventure Below, and a handful of other titles were also available to try out. But there was still plenty of room for the odd new announcement. Read on to get all the news delivered direct to your eyeballs.
Gears of War hits Windows 10 Store
We’ve known for a while that Gears of War Ultimate Edition, The Coalition’s thorough rebuilding of the 2006 cover shooter, was coming to the Windows Store at some point. We just didn’t have a definitive date. Rather surprisingly, as the embargo lifted on Tuesday afternoon, the game also became immediately available to download, and for the very reasonable sum of £22.79, at that.
Of course, some will remain sceptical of Microsoft’s ambitions when it comes to PC gaming, having had their fingers burnt with the company’s previous attempt, Games for Windows Live. And while Gears of War Ultimate Edition offers a range of graphics options, including support for resolutions up to 4k, limitations in the Universal Windows Platform mean that things like GSYNC, multi-GPU support, modding, or even Fraps won’t work.
Still, the fact that Microsoft are beginning to offer some of their bigger IPs on PC is a good first step, and hopefully they can continue to work on and improve their store offering. Spencer is also well aware of the limitations, and told PC Gamer that the team are committed to buffing out some of the issues, saying: “…I don’t want people to look at this as a passing fancy on our part of, ‘can we just quickly port some console games over to PC and hope to make a little bit of money?’ It’s not all about that. We are the Windows company, and ensuring that the Windows gaming ecosystem is strong is important, and that means supporting these features.”
Forza Apex announced for Windows 10
Microsoft also announced Forza Motorsport 6: Apex, a free version of last September’s Xbox One racer for Windows 10 PC. A slimmed-down take on the original, Apex will see release this Spring and take advantage of DirectX 12 and offer rendering resolutions up to 4k. While it doesn’t have the breadth of content of Forza 6 on the console, it offers 20 tracks across six different locations, with a total of 63 cars to race across them, though these have not been fully detailed yet.
Although the game is free to users, Microsoft have confirmed that Apex won’t be driven by microtransactions, and that you will be able to unlock new cars, tracks and events simply by playing. So why is it free? Well, the publisher also announced, via IGN, that all future Forza titles will also see release on Windows PC. Apex will, then, act as a taster to get a PC-gaming audience interested in the series as it looks to establish itself on the platform.
Ori and the Blind Forest Definitive Edition lands this month
One of our favourite games of last year is finally getting a definitive edition. Originally announced at Gamescom last year, Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition brings a sizeable new play area called Black Root Burrows, which expands on the past of Ori’s mother figure, Naru, as well as a couple of new abilities for Ori to wield throughout the game. To this end, the entire game has been rebalanced to a degree, to make the new moves usable across the entire game world. Moon Studios have also added a few more difficulty modes – easy, hard, and ‘one life’ – as well as greatly expanded the existing game’s theatre mode, weaving in plenty of behind the scenes material.
Ori and the Blind Forest: Definitive Edition will launch on Xbox One, Windows 10 and Steam on March 11th, and there will be an upgrade path for existing owners.
Killer Instinct Season 3 hits Xbox One and Windows 10 this month
Another one we’ve known about, but simply been awaiting a release date for, is Season 3 of Microsoft’s fighting game, Killer Instinct. On March 29th, the game finally hits PC, on the same day Season 3 launches on Xbox One. Season 3 will bring eight new fighters to Killer Instinct, with four available at launch – Killer Instinct 2 veterans Kim Wu and Tusk return, while Rash from Battletoads and Halo‘s Arbiter make their series debuts.
Pricing has yet to be confirmed, but considering that previous seasons were around the £16 mark, it seems a safe bet to assume a similar price point. Additionally, if you’ve already bought the game on Xbox One, you’ll also get all your content (and progress!) at no extra cost on PC. The game will remain free to play (with one rotating character) on Windows 10, so if you’ve wanted to try the game out, you’ll get your chance in just a few weeks’ time.
Phantom Dust lives!
Originally announced back at E3 2014, many assumed that Microsoft’s reboot of the cult original Xbox action/strategy/card-combat game was dead after the small independent team developing it were forced to close their doors last February (as reported by Kotaku). Since then, Microsoft have been fairly quiet on the subject, with the last piece of news coming from Xbox head of Marketing Aaron Greenberg, who said that the game wasn’t currently in active development.
At the Spring Showcase, Polygon sat down with Phil Spencer and asked whether Phantom Dust‘s fortunes had changed. While he answered in the negative, he reaffirmed that the project remains on the table, telling Polygon: “… we started down a path with a developer, and it didn’t work out. There’s no — on my side, at least — nothing negative about that: it just doesn’t always work out. [Microsoft Studios head of publishing] Shannon Loftis and I talk often about what we want to do with Phantom Dust, so it is a thing from the conversations. She has ideas that she’s working on that she won’t show me yet.”
Most importantly, it seems the game’s rather tumultuous development may mean that original creator Yukio Futatsugi (of Panzer Dragoon fame) could return to the project: “He would definitely be attached to anything we would do with Phantom Dust, assuming his schedule allowed for it and everything else,” said Spencer. “I’d say from the Japanese sensibility he has, being a Japanese game designer, I’d want to make sure [he’s involved] – because that is kind of core to what that franchise is about.”
Xbox dashboard March update, features and rollout.
Microsoft have been doing a great job of updating the Xbox One dashboard and OS, and that continues this month. The new update, out now, brings achievements back to the guide, boosts party chat from 12 to 16 users, adds options for GameDVR “Xbox, record that” clip length, and, perhaps most importantly, makes backward compatible Xbox 360 games directly available from the Xbox One store.
Previously, if a user wished to buy a digital copy of a backward compatible title, they would have to either do so on the Xbox website or an Xbox 360, and many have wondered if the inability to easily buy 360 games on the XBO has led to publishers holding back some of their bigger games for the backward compatibility scheme. Hopefully we’ll now see the games that sit at the top of the uservoice voting page, like Red Dead Redemption, Skyrim and Call of Duty: Black Ops, begin to filter through.
See the full feature set of the Xbox One March update below.