Monday, June 14, 2010

Editorial: Microsoft Press Conference: Initial Impressions

Usually when I post the happenings of an E3 press conference, I just make a bunch of bullet points to get the information out as easily and quickly as possible. I have decided to make these posts into an editorial to put my opinions into the mix. Here is not only what happened at Microsoft's E3 press conference but my opinions and insight mixed in.

First, a demo of Call of Duty: Black Ops took place on stage. It really felt like more of the same. Nothing really stood out for me. After that, Hideo Kojima took the stage along with the producer of Metal Gear Solid: Rising to show the game in action for the first time. This easily was the most impressive thing I saw during Microsoft's presentation. Raiden can cut through anything with style. Choose the angle at which you your enemies, vehicles, and yes, even watermelon.

Next, more demos of hardcore games took place. Cliff Blezinski took the stage along with three others to demonstrate four player co-op in Gears of War 3. The game looks a little bit prettier and the action looks just as intense. The new enemies known as the lambent look really creepy and offer something new. A new multiplayer mode called "Beast" will be shown on the E3 show floor. Overall, Gears of War 3 looks to live up to the hype when it releases on April 8, 2011

Peter Moleneux took the stage right after this to show off a new trailer for Fable III. It showed gameplay which looked exciting as you once again explore the Fable universe. Look forward to Fable III on October 26

One impressive trailer was for Halo Reach. The game looks beautiful and feels more epic than ever before. Although there was no live demo, footage of the campaign was captured and shown. The big reveal is that Halo Reach will introduce space combat allowing you to control a ship in outer space and fight the ships of the covenant. Halo Reach will release on September 14 and it would wise to consider playing it based on what was shown today.

Microsoft also announced a partnership with Crytek to make a game known as Codename Kingdoms exclusive to Xbox 360.

The Xbox Live update was partly predictable. The new big feature is the ability to use Kinect (formerly known as Project Natal) with the Xbox 360's interface. This controller free method looks easy and fun to use. Using your hands and voice, you can do anything from watching a movie, to checking Facebook. The big new feature with Kinect is video chat. The ability to chat with others through their Xbox 360 with Kinect or through Windows Live Messenger, share photos, and watch videos via Bing are coming to the video chat experience. The final piece of the update is ESPN for Xbox 360. Xbox Live Gold members will have the ability to stream 3500 sports games of all kinds in HD and even answer trivia or take a poll while watching the game. Kinect support was also shown for ESPN. Not being someone who enjoys sports, I really could care less about this. I will admit it is cool but I know it is something I will never use. Overall, Kinect looks like an amazing way to control the Xbox. I wonder how much of a problem it will be when I am watching a movie with friends and one of them says "Xbox pause". The fact that it will read anyone's voice seems like a problem to me.

Next, launch titles were revealed for Kinect. Kinectimals is very similar to Eyepet and Nintendogs as you interact with a pet and play with it. With over 30 animals to choose from, the game looks like a great time for kids and animal lovers who wish they can have a real tiger in the house. A virtual one is the next best thing. Kinect Sports from Rare Studios offers many different sports to play including Track and Field, Soccer, Volleyball, Table Tennis, and more. The game looks fun to play and will get you off the couch and moving around. Kinect Joy Ride will provide fun kart racing using your body. Activating boosts is as easy as pushing your hands forward and stunts are pulled off by tilting your body. The most impressive first party launch title I saw was Kinect Adventures. Over twenty different minigames from rafting to avoiding objects, there looks to be a lot to do in the game. The Kinect camera takes pictures of you while playing and posts them on the Internet for all to see.

Third party companies are also taking advantage of Kinect. Ubisoft showed off Your Shape: Fitness Evolved which is a workout game. It measures everything from your height to how accurate you are doing each exercise. MTV Games and Harmonix showed off a game called Dance Central. The game looks to teach you how dance effectively by using actual dance moves. Its great for experts or even those with two left feet. Other 3rd party launch titles were mentioned, most of them being sports and fitness games and others being games like Sonic Free Riders from Sega.

Kinect will have 15 games when it launches on November 4 but the titles for 2011 look even more impressive than any launch title. A collaboration between Lucasarts and Microsoft Game Studios brings Star Wars to life with controller free lightsaber action and force powers. Turn Ten studios showed off Forza Motorsport for Kinect which allows you to actually walk around a car and see every part of it along with beautiful graphics running at 60 frames per second. This shows that the first launch titles will most likely be full of rushed product but the best is yet to come in 2011

The final surprise is the new Xbox 360. It has a smaller, slimmer design, its really quiet, it will be more compatible with Kinect (the old Xbox 360 owners will have to have a spare outlet to plug Kinect into), a 250 GB hard drive, and 802.11 N Wi-Fi built in. It will be at the same $299 as the older Xbox 360 Elite and it will start shipping today. The big "Oprah moment" came when it was announced that all the attendees of the press conference would be getting the new Xbox 360 shipped to their homes.

Overall, I have to admit I was disappointed with Microsoft's presentation. The Kinect titles seem like all casual experiences at this point but 2011 does look promising. The best moment of the show in my opinion was the trailer for Metal Gear Solid Rising. The game looks incredibly fun. There really were no surprises. Everything was either announced yesterday or a while before that. Hopefully Sony and Nintendo can make up after what happened today. Look for my thoughts on those later on tomorrow. One ends when the other begins so it may take a while to get both posted.

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