Microsoft E3 Press Conference 2016 recap - Gears 4, new Xbox console, more Forza

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The first 'big three' presser of E3 2016 came strong, even with the lineup leaking well ahead of time. Microsoft teased plenty of exciting games like Gears of War 4, ReCore, Scalebound, and Sea of Thieves, and made wallets whimper by showing off the Xbox One S and teasing at the power of the beefed-up Project Scorpio console. If you missed the press conference or just need a recap of all the goodness you witnessed in that jam-packed hour-and-a-half, click through our gallery for the complete rundown. 

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Xbox One S coming soon, starting at $299

Slim is in. It leaked a bit early, but there's still a lot to love about the new Xbox One S, which shrinks the Xbox One to be 40% smaller, supports 2TB of storage, and doesn't come with a brick of a battery. The new controller to go with the XOS boasts a textured grip, increased wireless range, and a nice white coat. You won't have to wait long to get one - it'll be available this August. 

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Gears of War 4 has grotesque cover, a sawblade launcher, and crossplay

Gears of War 4 will usher in the Xbox Play Anywhere program, meaning Xbox One and Windows 10 get crossplay for co-op (in the campaign, multiplayer and horde mode) with shared achievements between platforms. Esteemed voice actress Laura Bailey (who plays new character Kait) took the stage to show off new gameplay footage. We see a squad of three soldiers - one more than the previous trailer, with the newcomer speaking like Cole's understudy - who are on a mission to save someone named Raina (implying that Gears 4 will follow a new squad of four). They gun down some gangling-looking Locusts in the eye of a lightning storm, then used a catapult-like 'siege beast' to take out an opposing turret. Eventually, you get some cooperative door opening into an infested building covered in tentacle-like growths (which can be used as cover, gross). They can be popped opening with a sickening splat, which is done easily when wielding a new sawblade-launching cannon. Destructible cover looks like a huge part of Gears 4, as do environmental hazards including a terrifying lightning storm. Suddenly, a new enemy appeared that looks like a cross between a crab and a gorilla. Turns out, Raina is Kait's mother, and she'll do anything to get her back - something she makes very clear when stomping the creature to death. It all ended with a shot of James' father: an aged Marcus Fenix. 

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GOW4 also gets its own Xbox Elite controller

It looks like it's covered in mud and blood, if you're into that! 

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Killer Instinct adds Gears of War's General Raam

The beefcake Locust boss of the first Gears will be eviscerating enemies in KI, and will be available for free this week only. Not a bad cameo, along with Battletoads' Rash and Halo's Arbiter! 

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Forza Horizon 3's Australia looks stunning

Forza's next entry is looking stupidly gorgeous, which should pretty much be expected at this point. The tracks, both onroad and off, look flat-out real, and the variety is fantastic, showing off jungles, beaches, deserts, and suburbs at sunset. Forza Horizon 3 is set in Australia, and yes, it includes kangaroos hopping around some backdrops. You'll also have choppers and jets screaming overhead in certain races, letting other racers drop right onto the track and start gunning it. FH3 promises the most cars of any Horizon game, and will include a four-player co-op campaign, putting the focus on races against friends. If you've ever wanted to drive a swanky sports car in a foreign country, this is probably your best chance - just don't forget to drive on the left side of the road. The game will be out on September 27th. 

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ReCore has plenty of robot buddies

We got a better look at Joule Adams, the engineer hero of ReCore, a mech-filled journey through the desert (which now boasts a slightly redone visual style). She's joined by her trusty robo-dog Mack, who can bash his way through enemies, Seth, a crawling spider-like blaster who can help Jule grapple, and Duncan, the heavy-hitting brawler who can blast the ground with fire shockwaves. The environments look fantastically diverse and colorful, and you should expect some demanding platforming. 

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Final Fantasy 15 has battles on a titanic scale

Next up was FF15's Trial of Titan, a three-way battle between Noctis and his roadtrip boys, a colossal monster, and enemy soldiers. The titan's arm is so giant that Noctis can leap atop it to dole out damage to individual parts of his limb (and can somehow survive a punch from its five-story fist). The scale of the battle was impressive, and the combat was filled with last-second dodges and cooperative offensives. The battle culminated in the crew throwing pokeball-like freezing orbs, then a short quick-time prompt for Noctis to slice the beast for the final blow. FF15 will be out on September 30th. 

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The Division Underground expands NYC

The first expansion to Ubisoft's MMO shooter will debut for Xbox One first on June 28th, adding subterranean dungeons for those agents still fighting the good fight in post-outbreak New York City. The best new setting: a black-light chamber full of neon paints. 

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Battlefield 1 pops its head out of the trenches

EA saved the best stuff for it's own press conference, giving Microsoft the same trailer from Sunday. But the takeaway was that EA Access lets Xbox One players get in on the WW1 action early. Moving on! 

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Xbox Live continues to improve with clubs, LFG, and tournaments

It's not sexy to talk about Xbox Live on the E3 stage, but it's necessary. Xbox Live is getting more servers, background music (about time), language selection regardless of location, and the Siri-like Cortana program. But the real biggies are coming this fall: Clubs for community-building, Looking For Group to help you link up in multiplayer games, and Arena to help you discover and set up tournaments. EA will be supporting tournaments with its suite of sports games. 

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Minecraft gets crossplay, dedicated servers, and texture packs

This perpetually popular world-builder will be getting crossplay between all of Minecraft's platforms supported by Xbox Live (XO, PC, iOS, and Android). It's also getting dedicated servers thanks to Realms, hurrah! Then we all squirmed through an awkward play session - with a surprise appearance by Gear VR-wearing John Carmack, who then rode an amazing roller coaster into an underground lava pit and decided to stay there. The final reveal: new texture packs, including a modern cityscape, and add-ons coming this fall, which introduce aliens and shades-wearing agent villagers. NEXT GAME PLEASE! 

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You can now craft custom Xbox One controllers

In a sizzle reel that evoked the days of Game Boy Color, Microsoft introduced customizable Xbox One controllers with 8 million color combinations for joysticks, buttons, and D-pads. You can even engrave your handle into them, provided it's not ridiculously profane.  

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ID@Xbox shows off INSIDE, the next game from the makers of Limbo

They don't get much more atmospheric than this. We got a brief look at Playdead's INSIDE, coming June 29th. More than 1,000 games are now in development for Xbox One, some of which were shown off in a game-packed highlight trailer including Cuphead, Outlast 2, Deliver Us the Moon, Flinthook, Far, Slime Rancher, Shadow Tactics, Figment, The Culling, For the King, Beacon, Stardew Valley (OH HELLS YES), Hand of Fate 2, Below, Raiders, Bloodstained, Yooka-Laylee, and Everspace. Phew! Those who bought dino-survival game ARK on the Xbox One Preview platform will get a Windows 10 copy free of charge, which you can likely expect from future games. 

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We Happy Few is so happy it hurts

Microsoft then gave us another look at We Happy Few, coming next month. Its dystopic vision of a drug-addled 1964 looks suitably trippy, with our hero resisting the pull of mind-numbing drugs called Joy, even in the face of painful memories. Cue some freaky-faced denizens popping pills and smiling grimly, as the protagonist wandering through a sterile, profoundly creepy office. The best part: a group smashing a pinata making squishy noises and spurting with blood, because oops, it's actually a dead rat. This is environmental storytelling and first-person creepiness at its best, coming to Xbox Game Preview on July 26th.
 

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Gwent gets a standalone version next month

Arguably the best part of The Witcher 3 - the card-based minigame known as Gwent - is breaking off into its own game. We knew about this already, but the mere mention of Gwent is enough to get us all riled up. The UI is looking suitably sleek and accessible, with each card getting a sweet intro as you play it. The closed beta is coming to Xbox One and PC this September. 

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Tekken 7's story mode is full of spiffy cutscenes

Guest Street Fighter character Akuma and angry geezer Heihachi square off in a dojo, which then transitioned into gameplay (a key feature for the story mode of this 3D fighter). Heihachi seemed to have won out, but then - SATSUI NO HADO - Akuma laid the smackdown right back. Tekken 7 will be coming to Xbox One, and Xbox Live Gold members are getting free copies of Tekken Tag Tournament 2 during E3 week. Sweet! 

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Dead Rising 4 confirmed, now with Christmas jingles

Frank West is back, and he's slaying zombies with Christmas cheer. Blasting the undead with candy canes and electrifying them with Christmas lights... it's enough to make anyone jolly. 

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Scalebound attacks a giant spider for massive damage

Hideki Kamiya, legendary developer at Platinum and crafter of seething tweets, took the stage to show off "the biggest boss fight Platinum Games has ever made." That would be a colossal spider-Kraken hybrid, which you fight alongside other youthful teens and their dragon companions. The ensuring battle looked like a cross between Panzer Dragoon and Monster Hunter, as our heroes blasted the monstrosity with fireballs and chipped away at its shell. All the while, our intrepid hero cracked wise in Dante-esque fashion, though he sounded a bit less confident in himself. After he laid what seemed like the killing blow, the creature sprang onto the ceiling. Headphones were put on, swords were drawn, and the battle really started, backed by cheesy rock music. Weak points were sliced, blood was drawn, one-liners were spoken, and eventually the day was won. 

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Sea of Thieves gameplay shows off pirate-y adventures

We got a cinematic, time-frozen look at the swashbuckling tales you can tell in Sea of Thieves, including: diving from treasure in shark-filled waters, clashing swords with reanimated skeletons, and surviving a shipwreck at the tentacles of a giant squid. Rare's Craig Duncan then took the stage to show off the actual first-person gameplay of three mildly annoying crews. They drank grog, chuckled at the kinds of antics typical to exploring a new MMO, and sailed the seas while gawking at the gorgeous water effects. It all built up to a flashy battle of explosive cannons and desperate repairs as the losing ship took on water. All in all, despite the banter, it looked like the pirate game of our dreams. 

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State of Decay 2 coming next year

Not sick of zombies yet? Great! Xbox One and Windows 10 are getting a new exclusive: the sequel to State of Decay. Three undead slayers took over a gas station to fuel up and search for supplies. The tagline of "Nobody survives alone" suggests that this particular zombie apocalypse is all about banding together with other players. State of Decay 2 will be out in 2017. 

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Halo Wars 2 beta starts now

A beautiful cinematic of Halo's soldiers, Warthog vehicles, Brutes, and mech suits ushered in 343 Industries' upcoming strategy sequel, Halo Wars 2. It'll be out February 1st, 2017. A week-long beta starts on Xbox One right now, and runs until June 20th - so if you're interested in this Halo-themed RTS, get to steppin' and start that download! 

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Project Scorpio promises a powerful new console

Phil Spencer's 'one more thing' to close out the show was a sizzler. The next step for the Xbox platform, still known as Project Scorpio, will be getting 4K gaming and VR courtesy of a new console "with no boundaries". It'll have the most powerful GPU of any console currently and plenty of teraflops, which in layman's terms means 'prettier graphics'. The games and accessories will work on Xbox One, Xbox One S, and Project Scorpio, with the new console coming Holiday 2017. 

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