So E3 began as it always does, with Press Conferences. The first of these was the Microsoft Conference. So, if you want the lowdown on what went on, we’ve got all of that information for you in a neat digestible format.
I was at the press conference, and I’m here to bring you a firsthand report. In order to make this easiest for you to get what you want out of it, I’ve decided we’re going to split this up into three easy sections. Core Games, Kinect/Casual Games, and Non-Gaming. So feel free to just skip through and find the parts you feel best apply to you.
Microsoft came out of the game punching with their biggest hitter, Halo. They immediately showed a trailer for the much anticipated game, followed by a lengthy gameplay demo. The title was most certainly visually impressive, and brought a lot of interesting elements into play. The bold new and freaky direction they are going with enemies is quite the departure from the Covenant. The question is, will it pay off? Also of interest is how Cortana’s impending rampancy will affect the game. Looks like one way or another we are in for something big this winter.
Splinter Cell – Blacklist
They followed Halo up with another big franchise. Sam Fisher is back and in apparently classic style with his old outfit and trademark goggles. He’s out doing what he does best, eliminating terrorist targets. Mark and execute is back and enhanced along with the ability to move smoothly and quickly through an environment in a dance of death. Last known location and the cover system are also back, as is multiplayer and co-op. Multiplayer has the classic Mercs vs. Spies setup. In addition to all of this, Kinect integration was also shown off, being used to shout at and distract a guard. Sam’s got plenty of gadgets and a faster paced cinematic movement style. So will this be a return to style with the best parts of the new games melded in? We’ll know Spring 2013.
Gears of War: Judgement
So we all saw this coming, and Microsoft didn’t disappoint. A new Gears game was present at their conference and made quite the bang – A new protagonist, but the same antagonists. The new title will be developed by People Can Fly, of Bulletstorm fame. The trailer showed little as it was a teaser, so we’ll have to see if the new developer can deliver the same caliber of game.
Another mainstay of Microsoft, Forza was also present at the show, though unfortunately it was all pre-rendered footage. Again a new developer, and a new take on an existing franchise. This will be a more open world game in the vein of Need for Speed. Will this new direction work for the long standing franchise? One thing you can say is Microsoft isn’t afraid to change things up in established franchises.
The next core game of the night was an intense look at the new Tomb Raider. Scene after scene of Lara platforming and fighting her way through waves of enemies using guns, bows, or just fists. All culminating in a action packed sequence when Lara is pulled down some rapids and struggles to keep from being dashed against obstacles. Ending with her falling over a waterfall and into a crazy and painful parachute ride through a forest.
Resident Evil 6
Now we get another non-exclusive title. Still, an action packed zombie gunfest with bodies exploding everywhere. Punching zombie heads off and kicking them off and smashing them on walls. All with a climactic run against a wall of flame to chopper which proceeds to crash dramatically into a nearby building, filled with zombies – Definitely action packed and tense and plenty of gameplay to enjoy.
South Park: The Stick of Truth
Trey Parker and Matt Stone came in and announced a new collaboration with Obsidian. That’s right, a licensed game with a solid developer behind it. The trailer showed no gameplay, but lots of hilarity. It might be worth it just for the hilarity factor alone.
Call of Duty: Black Ops II
They started with a big title, and they finished with one. Terrorists have control of our drones and you’re escorting the president to a safe place. Chaos ensues, and explosions come aplenty. The gameplay is fast paced, beautiful and varied. Oing from using turrets, to sniping through walls, to getting air support from a raptor, to a near miss from a giant falling building, to piloting a raptor yourself – All through a fiery war-ravaged city.
EA was brought on stage to show off their new Kinect integration with their FIFA and Madden franchises. Using voice with Kinect to make substitutions in FIFA, change tactics, and yell commands. Not only that, but you can even yell at the ref if you feel he made a bad call. Though watch out, he will respond in kind. Madden was much the same, using the Kinect to call plays and audibles, to hustle your team and start the play. They had Joe Montana on stage to sell this. As impressive as he is, it remains to be seen how much value this feature will add to the average sports gamer.
Fable: The Journey
Fable was once again shown at this year’s conference. Nothing new was revealed, though there was a new trailer. Molyneux has moved on and this game is a large departure from the previous games. The demos we’ve seen have looked good, but Kinect games tend to be hit and miss. Hopefully this one will hit.
Ascend: New Gods
A new title aimed specifically for cross platform play with Windows Phone, Ascend is a new action title from Signal. It offers asynchronous play between Windows Phone and Xbox players.
It’s a game, about a smart Motorcycle. Maybe? It was perhaps the vaguest trailer of the night. Just a motorcycle that was Tron-like. We’ll have to wait and see what this turns out to be. Let’s hope it’s a Road Rash clone.
Just as vague, if with much more vague footage is this new title from Gore Verbinski, director of the Pirates of the Caribbean films. A glowing orb that looks like Guilty Spark fly’s through a technological Ton-like landscape. Could be fun?
Next they poured on the cheese, to introduce a new Kinect title – Which is odd, because the game looked surprisingly fun. Basically it involves using Kinect to launch siege weapons with various types of attacks to destroy castles. An interesting premise, it all depends on how well it works with Kinect and the kind of variety they can fit in.
Dance Central 3
A Microsoft Conference wouldn’t be complete these days without Dancing. This night’s offering was made by none other than Usher showing off the moves he put into Dance Central 3- An obvious next entry for Harmonix and Kinect. It’s pretty much what you’ve come to expect.
As with all press conferences, one thing that was focused on was sales. Don Mattrick took the opportunity to let us all know that the Xbox is now the best selling console in the world. Of course, that is not total units sold, but monthly sales – Still, an impressive feat.
Bing Search is being enhanced, allow you to search movies by genre and they are also adding new language support. 12 new languages will be added and the even demoed in Bing Voice Search in Spanish.
They also announced several new content providers coming to Xbox Live. The list is a pretty good one if you use your Xbox for entertainment:
Full Live ESPN Including NFL
So it looks like Zune is out of the window. Coming to takes its place is Xbox Music. Bringing over the 30 Million Songs over, they are rebranding the service. It is cross platform, allowing you to have access to service across Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Xbox. That is, when it releases later this year.
A partnership with Nike, to create a new fitness program for use with Kinect purported to be designed using data on their work with world class athletes. Kinect definitely has its uses for training, but we’ll have to wait and demo the product before we can make any more judgments on this one. Still it’s unlikely to have wide appeal.
Easily the most impressive non-gaming announcement of the night, although it had already been spoiled by leaks. Now you’ve got cross content from your phone, to your tablet, to your 360. Start a movie on one device and continue it on another. Use the tablet or phone to supplement info your watching on screen. One example was watching Game of Thrones while your tablet has a map following the sequence of the show, or can give you info on the world or cast. Beyond that, it lets you control your Xbox and integrate with game as a control scheme. One example was using it to choose plays in Madden. It’s also compatible with not only Microsoft OS’s but iOS and Android as well.
This lead to their next reveal- Internet Browser will finally be present on Xbox 360, facilitated by the use of your phone and tablet to control the navigation. Use it as a keyboard, or use it as a mouse. Kinect voice is also an option.
So how did this year’s E3 stack up for Microsoft. Well, they certainly had some impressive showings. Great new tech in the form of Microsoft SmartGlass, some varied new directions for their established franchises andall new entertainment offerings adding to the Xbox experience…. However, this year suffered from much the same as many other years. Where is the new stuff Microsoft? A few token titles, quickly glossed over that may be forgotten in a few months? There’s a lot of good to be had from your stable of franchises, but it’s about time we started working on some more new games.