Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Microsoft E3 2010 Press Conference Round Up

Here's a round up of Microsoft Press Event in E3 Los Angeles. It seems like yesterday that I watched and discussed Microsoft’s embarrassing conference where the creator of the Fable franchise Peter Molyneux, took to the stage and we were treated to nothing more than an extended tale about how great Fable III was going to be. Well thankfully, things could not really get any worse than that this year and they didn’t, which is always a joy to behold. Here is a rundown of everything new and exciting Microsoft had to offer and a little of my opinion with regards to the content, enjoy!

The event began with a Call of Duty: Black Ops trailer. In typical fashion, lots of things blowing up, lots of Commandos killing and destroying things, it was very gripping. The graphics were of high quality but little can be said yet about the next instalment in the Call of Duty series.

We were then treated to a monologue by the Senior Vice President of Microsoft, Don Mattrick about how awesome the Xbox is, how much it has progressed since its launch and how much better it is going to be with the new Project Natal, now officially renamed to Kinect.

He then left the stage introducing the legend himself, Hideo Kojima. Kojima had little to say other than introducing the producer of the next step in the Metal Gear franchise, Matsuyama, the creator of Metal Gear Rising. Cutting to the chase, a trailer emerged and this was particularly exciting. It depicted Raiden, still in his Cyborg Ninja form slicing and dicing enemies and his surroundings but removing what looked like inner energy cells of his enemies and absorbing the power to perhaps charge his suit and body? The most important thing we learnt from this trailer is you will be able to cut in any way you see fit and this was shown with a clever and witty scene where Raiden was cutting apart watermelons, oh such typical Konami fashion.
Corporate President Phil Spencer was next to grace the stage, boasting about the Xbox’s top titles such as Halo, Fable and Gears of War. On that note he introduced Cliff Beszinski, the guy behind Epic Games and consequentially, the Gears of War series. A live game-play demo was then shown off showing expected similar game style but with tweaks and subtle touches to change the game for the better. For example, Marcus was spotted tagging an enemy with a grenade and then kicking the enemy into a group of the Locust, blowing them all up. The demo also showed weapon switching between teammates, which is very handy, not to mention this was a 4 player co-op demo and included female Gears. The demo finished with the team fighting a Lambent Berserker, the Lambent being mutated Locust and are a new host of enemies throughout the third instalment of the series.

Oh a familiar face, Peter Molyneux himself jumped on to the Microsoft stage once again to talk about Fable III. For some this may be fantastic news but I am so bored of him and the franchise that I really wanted him to get it over with. He showed off a brand new trailer for the game that suggested there would be a revolution in Albion and you will be the hero to guide the people. The graphics have taken a slight tweak, still cartoon like but a little more serious.

The event moved swiftly on to one of Microsoft’s new game studio partners Crytek and their upcoming release Codename Kingdoms. The trailer showed nothing other than what looked like 3 gladiators standing side by side, nothing was told of what kind of game it will be and so forth, so no comment this early on.

The crowd was then subjected to some figures about how amazing the Xbox is, with over 34 million games sold and 2 billion online hours clocked, they were certainly proud of those numbers, and who wouldn’t be? A guy from Bungie hit the stage next and thanked the 2.7 million fans that logged on to the Halo Reach demo, making it the largest console Beta to date. They then proceeded to show off in game content of Halo Reach, in particular the campaign. Landing on an alien planet, 4 Spartan soldiers began to take on numerous Covenant forces. The HUB was very reminiscent of any Halo game, it was seen that the special powers you got in the online beta such as speed, invisibility, Spartan shield and jet pack, can all be used in the campaign mode. The graphics were absolutely beautiful as expected and this was definitely one of the highlights of the press event.

The next step of the event came in the form of Kinect. Marc Whitten, the Corporate Vice President of Xbox Live came on stage with a helping hand to show off their incredible new toy and boy is it impressive. He signed into Xbox Live by waving to the Kinect camera, which then opened the Kinect HUB, very reminiscent of the Nintendo Wii home screen except you navigate by using your hand as opposed to the Wiimote. He then showed off voice commands, you can say whatever you want and the Xbox will do it, as long as you say Xbox first. The very strong X sounds in the word Xbox means that Kinect will not accidentally switch on and do things amidst chatter in the room, it picks up specific voice signals for optimal control.

Video Kinect was next to be shown off by 2 twin sisters going on dual-video chat and partaking in the most cringe worthy conversation you have ever heard. That aside they were able to watch movies, news, sports and so forth together while still being on chat and if you move around your room, Kinect follows you so you are always on screen, that’s very cool.
Moving on Microsoft announced an exclusive partnership with ESPN offering the service to Xbox Live Gold members for absolutely free. The package will allow sports fans to watch over 35,000 live sporting events this year alone, a lot of which will be in High Definition. Kinect was shown off further during a live Football game feed where one of the hosts said ‘’Xbox Replay’’ and a replay came up of a huge play. This is a massive deal, but more so for the Americans who are into college football, basketball, the NFL etc. It doesn’t hurt to be able to catch the games of Soccer on your Xbox if you do not have ESPN at home. Regardless, for free, it’s terrific.

The event finally moved on to the games Kinect will have on launch. The first to be demoed by a little girl as she played with an interactive tiger on the screen. The tiger reacted to everything she did, she even hid behind a desk and the tiger knew she was gone and went looking for her, it was very cute and a perfect game for younger children. This game was then acknowledged as Kinectimals. Kinect Sports was next, showing off various sporting games such as a sprint race, football, bowling, athletics, table tennis, boxing and everything else you would expect. I am going to hold my tongue with regards to copying Nintendo here and I will explain once I have finished discussing the rest of the Kinect games, so bare with me. Next up was Kinect Joyride that was basically a Kart Racer using your hands. Then Kinect Adventure showed off Kinect’s ability to detect a friend and automatically make the game two player as they competed in different challenges.

Next up were the more mainstream developers pledging their support to Kinect. Ubisoft were first showing off Your Shape Fitness Evolved. This game was demoed and it was very impressive how the game accurately scanned you into the virtual world, telling you every single detail about your body. The demo then showed off a virtual fitness coach who helped you exercise through various different things be it a form of martial arts, or yoga, muscular endurance, cardio and so forth. The woman demoing the game actually took her sweater off and inside the virtual world the same happened, it was very impressive. This is a rich mans Wii Fit if we were to compare here, once again, it is difficult to say because I would never buy it, but sales will dictate otherwise perhaps?

Harmonix were up next on stage to show off Dance Central, hello rhythm game! The demo showed off accurate duplication of dance moves and it was proper dancing not goofy nonsense, this could be a very cool party game.

Lucasarts got in on the action as well unveiling a Kinect Star Wars game that showed you being able to take on Darth Vader, now that is what I am talking about. Most likely you will be using your hands to use Jedi powers and such, this could be very cool.

The Kinect demos ended on Turn 10 and their presentation of the new Forza Motorsport. This I felt was the worst of the games, it showed off the ability to get inside a virtual Ferrari and find out lots of different statistics about it, all a waste of time. The driving just like Joy Riders, will be done with your hands and this I guess could be quite enjoyable, even though when I play racing games I hate the 1st person view camera.

So I am going to take a step back and discuss the Kinect. To put it simply, it is a Nintendo Wii, for the Xbox 360, if you understand what I am saying. Yes a lot of the games seem to be carbon copies of Wii Sports, Wii Fit and so forth, but make no mistake, this Kinect camera is one advanced tool that is going to be used for games almost as much as the central HUB for your Xbox 360. Kinect will be able to do things that the Nintendo Wii could not and the Wiimote is effectively obsolete now that you can do everything with just your hands. Saying that however, I bought a Wii, thought it was cool for 2 weeks then never played those games again, perhaps the same will happen for Kinect?

As the Press Event was coming to a close, Microsoft ended on a bombshell, unveiling the new Xbox 360 Slim. With Built in Wi-Fi finally, a much quieter game unit and a sleek design, it is incredible that it will be shipping as early as next week worldwide, for the exact same price as the previous Xbox Elite model.

Here's some gameplay footage.

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