Monday 20 June 2011

E3 Part 1 – Microsoft Press Conference

It's that magical time of the year once again when we are exposed to a plethora of video game content from the grand arenas of E3 in Los Angeles. As E3 draws to a close, people begin gathering their thoughts and start scrutinizing every single little aspect of what they saw and heard over the days events. I decided instead of live-blogging the content (which in my opinion was absolutely pointless since everyone interested was either watching live or catching up with archived footage), I would wait until the dust settled and express my opinions on content revealed. In Part 1 of my E3 blogs you will find my opinions of Microsoft and how they handled their content, the dramatic push for core Kinect compatibility and the assortment of high-profile games shown off.

So there was absolutely no surprise that Microsoft pitched their most successful franchises such as Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, Gears of War 3 and Tomb Raider. All three featured lengthy gameplay footage and were arguably the highlights of the presentation. In particular, the beautiful Tomb Raider footage showed off an exciting re-creation of a classic series into a new era of gaming. I can't help but hope that the release of Battlefield 3 crushes Call of Duty--I'm fed up to my teeth with the series and hope it follows in the footsteps of Guitar Hero and just dies out. Gears of War 3 is a slightly different issue because I know the multiplayer won't change, I've made my peace with that--I just want to see the ending of the story.

Microsoft's baby franchise Halo was also a heavy presence throughout with the announcement of a HD remake of Halo: Combat Evolved and an exclusive reveal of Halo 4--you didn't think they were going to let the series go did you? Many people wanted the series to end once Bungie were done but the amount of money Halo makes dictates further installments. So it makes a lot of money, but will it be any good? That's a whole different question.

The emphasis of the presentation was undeniably on Kinect--a peripheral that has tackled the casual market successfully for Microsoft, but is yet to capture the hearts of the console's hardcore market. Indeed this was exactly the point of the presentation--to offer Kinect compatibility to absolutely everything. EA announced that FIFA, Madden, Tiger Woods and a host of other titles will have Kinect compatibility. Bioware's hit title Mass Effect 3 will incorporate real-time voice commands and other options using Kinect, Ubisoft's Tom Clancy: Ghost Recon Future Soldier, Crytek's RYSE, Lionhead's Fable: The Journey, Kinect Sports Season 2, Dance Central 2, Kinect Star Wars and newly announced Minecraft, will all be linked to the Kinect one way or another. On top of this mass Kinect onslaught were the announcements of Kinect Live content and Kinect Fun Labs--both packages designed to enhance your offline and online Xbox experience through Kinect. This massive push I felt was subjecting a demographic of gamers to a piece of equipment that quite frankly, they are not interested in.

So this sudden burst of life from the Kinect seemed to me as an obvious answer to the lack of direct support it received upon launch. Gamers who have the Kinect will be happy to hear that mass content is coming their way and they won't be subjected to only casual games. More intense gamers who have been intrigued by the Kinect but opted to wait and see if support and content would arrive can also be happy--as it is apparent Microsoft are willing to back their state-of-the-art camera all the way.

The problem I have with the narrow path the press event took is we are yet to see something truly intuitive from Kinect, something with a little spark, something that we haven't seen before. These additions, voice-commands, hand-movements are all examples of basic things that we all know the Kinect is capable of. They are also mechanics that aren't necessarily crucial to the gaming experience--Mass Effect 3 for example, will be enjoyed just as much without a Kinect at all. Until we see a truly unique mechanic from the Kinect that changes the way we play and becomes indispensable, I think that core gamers will have a hard time justifying picking up the piece of kit.

Microsoft braved the stage first and came through waving the flag for Kinect. The presentation itself wasn't the best we've seen in the past few years, but I do like that their aims and goals were very clear and to the point. It's simply a shame that I do not agree with their aims or goals. Will the support for Kinect give gamers a reason to pick up the gadget, or are the days of casual gaming stagnating? Only time will tell.

Igor Kharin, CeX UK Contributor.
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