Microsoft kicked off their press briefing by going straight for the throat and leading off with the Halo 4 live action teaser followed by a campaign CG cut scene and then actual campaign game play. Most shows MS leaves that juicy morsel for later, but I liked how they went straight for it as it’s what everyone wanted to see.
No one to introduce or speak to the games features, 343 lets the videos speak for themselves, though I’m sure there will be a lot more info later on in E3. The game is looking great and thus far 343 seems to be living up to Bungie’s previous titles in the series. The proof will be in the pudding later this year when Halo 4 releases on November 6th.
Don Mattrick, President of Interactive Entertainment, takes the stage, and thus starts the industry/sales pitches, back patting and hopes for applause. He announces proudly that the Xbox 360 has moved from number one in sales for North America to number one worldwide. It would seem that Nintendo’s Wii has officially lost steam. My guess is that MS is still trailing in Japan given that any western console is received poorly there; a fact they did not touch on of course. Don also clearly stated MS’s goal, to have all your entertainment in one place. Let’s see how they plan on delivering on that goal now shall we?!
Splinter Cell Black List campaign footage is shown next. The series seems to have gotten a much needed kick in the pants as the game looks and appears to play much better than the last title, Conviction, did. The game takes place on the Iraq/Iran border and Sam now has command of 4th Echelon and can call in aerial strikes while in combat. The game seems to mix its long standing stealth game play with a healthy dose of gunplay. A great scene that proves the point that even Splinter Cell is better with Kinect has Sam hanging over the ledge of an area a guard is patrolling when the player literally calls the guard over and the proceeds to yank and throw him over the side. The cinematic feel is strong, being carried by an amazing game engine and superb character animation. Old school fans of the series will be glad to hear that single player, coop and one of the series true gems, spys vs mercs, will all be included when the game releases spring 2013.
Next up is EA sports and their plug for Kinect. Fifa is shown first and sports the ability to use Kinect voice commands to perform player substitutions, change formations, and to trigger specific moves on offense and defense. Madden is up second, (when does Madden ever take a back seat to Fifa?), and similar commands are shown for it. Fifa is scheduled to drop in fall 2012, while Madden has the less nebulous release date of August 28th, 2012. I’ve never been a big fan of EA or Madden (see the killing of the 2K football series by Visual Concepts for my major qualms), but seeing how they have made it “better with Kinect” and added another new feature you’ll learn about further down the page, I may just have to drop my disdain long enough to pick up a copy.
A cut scene for Fable The Journey flashes across the stage. This Kinect only entry for the franchise reminds me a lot of Child of Eden in that you are dual wielding using both arms. This was a short video montage of cut scenes and game play, both screen and player footage. It was a pretty short video and left you with more questions than answers.
The Gears of War Judgment trailer kicks in just in time to shut up Phil before people start rolling their eyes. The ending of Gears 3 left us wondering if we’d ever get another game, though the series sales figures always provide reassurance, and we are not likely to be disappointed with this prequel set around Baird and the events of E-Day.
The Forza Horizon trailer follows showcasing an open world environment located in Colorado. Driving fans only need to lug their lead foots around till October 23rd, 2012, when they can plant them firmly on the gas pedal of their favorite rides.
Yusuf Mehdi, head of marketing and strategy, steps up to bat and delivers a bolus of information regarding TV, movies and music content. Basically all the non-gaming aspects of Live. Bing search/voice recognition is being added for 12 different countries. Nickelodeon, Paramount movies, Machinima, and Univision are the big additions as well as dedicated sports content for the NBA and NHL. ESPN is also expanding its presence online with more channels and live shows. Xbox Music is also announced with support for the 360, PC’s and Window’s 8 tablets and phones, making me wonder what is happening to the Zune marketplace and if the Zune device itself will continue to be supported.
Nike + Kinect Training looks to take the fitness games to a whole new level. Its also the first fitness game for Kinect that looks worth a purchase to me. Nike has been working with athletes for years to improve their performance and now they are bringing all that training wisdom to your 360. Like many other workout games you will get assessed and then have a personal workout program designed for you. Phone reminders and real online workout buddies will keep you motivated and their universal measure/unit called “Nike fuel” will allow you to compare yourself against friends and foes alike when the game releases during the holiday season later this year.
Marc Whitten, head of Xbox Live, takes the stage to introduce a very subtle yet pretty intriguing idea called SmartGlass. In a nut shell this is all about integration and connectivity using devices you already own. Your smart phone and tablet can now be connected to your TV and 360 in new and wonderful ways that are designed to enrich your existing experiences. Most of this stuff has been around before in various guises from various providers. Watching a movie on your tablet then transferring the viewing experience to your home TV mid way through watching. Using your smart phone as a remote control, yadda, yadda, yadda. It all seems nice and I can see myself using it occasionally but nothing that gets my inner gamer excited. That’s when they showed the game functionality. Being able to call, and modify football plays while the other player can’t see reminds me of the heady days of NFL2K1 on the Dreamcast and using the VMU in a similar fashion. Other game applications are neat but hardly essential, such as using a tablet to connect to Halo Waypoint to learn more detailed information about an in game object you just sighted with your reticule. Probably the biggest part of Marc’s talk came last when he announced that the entire internet, via Internet Explorer, would be coming to the console. This has been something MS has been adamant about despite consumer sentiment. They did not want the Xbox to be seen as a computer hiding in a console shell. This time around their reason was related; and mentioned that the living room was no place for a keyboard at which time he showed how you could use your cell phone to navigate web pages.
Crystal Dynamics show cased a high action sequence from the new Tomb Raider game. The reboot to this series and putting it back in the hands of Crystal Dynamics has served Lara Croft well. The sequence shown starts off with Lara tip toeing around using a bow and arrow to kill off enemies while traipsing around a canyon. The sequence shown could have been taken out of any action movie and was amazing to watch. Much like Splinter Cell, Tomb Raider looks very cinematic, very polished, and has great character animations. This looks to provide Uncharted fans with something at least as good if not better for the 360.
Phil Spencer is back out to introduce three new Microsoft Studios titles. Trailers are shown for Ascend New Gods, LocoCycle and Matter. Only gameplay footage shown for the three is for Ascend New Gods.
Ascend New Gods looks to be a great hack and slash adventure game with a good sense of scale to the worlds and enemies. Not to mention plenty of carnage and blood splatters.
LocoCycle’s trailer showed no gameplay and just spouts off accolades of the lococycle, so who knows whats up there. But given Twisted Pixels track record I’ll take them on faith for now that the game will be fun.
Matter was intriguing in that it seemed like a bastard love child of Tron and Portal with Gore Verbinski as the doctor in charge of delivering the baby. Only a CG cut scene was shown with no gameplay so this is still a bit of a mystery. It is a Kinect title and should be launching in 2013.
Easily the weakest of the games presented, Capcom shows off Resident Evil 6. Maybe its that I have never been able to really enjoy the series given that I am a run AND gun type yet the controls have traditionally been extremely limited when it comes to moving and shooting at the same time. This game looks to break that trend with much less restriction. In the end though what am I supposed to be excited about? Drop in, drop out gameplay? Meh, that’s been around since last gen. This game needs a reboot similar to what Tomb Raider just accomplished to get me to pay any attention.
Wreckateer, a Kinect based Live Arcade title, looks to be a mixture of Boom Blox and Angry Birds. Basically another reason to get off the couch and use your Kinect. This game has you firing a catapult at various cartoony looking medieval structures like castles and such. The ordinance can then be guided using Kinect and much like Angry Bird there are different types of ordinance such as the flying shot, which after launching, you spread your arms wide to deploy wings and you then proceed to fly the shot to its intended target.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone introduce South Park, The Stick of Truth. Obsidian has done a great job of recreating the exact “crappy” look (hey it was Trey and Matt’s words not mine) of the show in the game. The goal was to make the game look just like an episode of the show and they have succeeded. This game looks to be following the trail of other recent successes like Castle Crashers. Combine the game play of castle Crashers and the cannon of South Park and you’ve got a winner.
Harmonix steps up to present Dance Central 3. Not much new compared to the last two installments from what I can tell as they don’t say much about the game. Basically new songs and new dance moves. They dress up the whole thing with a live performance from Usher, who also worked on the game. In the end it’ll be a solid game, but with all three releases coming so close together, I feel as if Harmonix may be making a mistake in taking too close a page to the music game genre. You’d have thought they would have learned from that but apparently not. I see consumers burning out much quicker with the dance games though as there are no new instruments to add here… only songs and moves. And that’s why they should have taken some time off and just focused on DLC.
The finale was saved for Call of Duty Black Ops II. Fitting as it releases a week after Halo 4 on November 13th. Once again gamers will have to choose which series to pour their hard earned money and precious time into. Or they can just double down and go with both. Lately the CoD series has been suffering from a bout of Maddenittis; releasing a game every year with little innovation. This time around TreyArch seems to have turned the dial to 11 though. Its hard for me, a huge fan of all things Halo, to get too excited though given the return of the Master Chief, but I know that fans of the series are stoked.
And the show ends….