Thursday, 7 June 2012

Microsoft E3 Press Conference

It’s that time of the year once again as the video game industry’s biggest giants get together in Los Angeles to show off all their new upcoming content. With the Internet full of rumours it’s difficult to judge what exactly the likes of Microsoft have under their sleeve but whatever the case, those watching are always in for an entertaining show full of cool content. Here’s a summary of the event for those of you interested in what Microsoft have coming out in the foreseeable future.

Microsoft kicked things off with a bang by revealing new footage from Halo 4. The action demo began with a beautiful cinematic detailing a UNSC cruiser Infinity going into space for the first time without war being the intention. After some sort of gravitational breach the ship begins its descent onto a planet where none other than Master Chief himself stands and watches the giant vessel plummet. A target marker is set and it’s up to Chief to find the Infinity as a very familiar HUB opens up and control is given to the player. Early on in the demo Chief spots a Covenant patrol and while he takes out a few of the enemies, an orange laser vaporises an Elite and leaves you with questions on the tip of your tongue. Soon after Chief encounters mysterious biomechanical creatures with weapons that release the orange laser we saw before, which makes it obvious that there is a new type of enemy and potentially race present. The demo ends with Chief being overrun by these things and then a small montage wraps the Halo 4 presentation up – very cool stuff.

President of Interactive Entertainment Don Mattrick was on stage next and after a bit of Xbox number crunching and tooting, he gave way to the next reveal, Splinter Cell: Blacklist. The demo was set in a Middle Eastern war camp and unveiled Sam Fisher as he took down a bunch of guerrilla soldiers in a small tent. When the in-game action begins fans of the previous games will immediately feel right at home as Sam has access to all the standard gadgets and weapons. What was perhaps most exciting was the ability to fluidly move through the environment and use the Execute mechanic that allows players to target and one-shot a group of enemies in succession like in Conviction. The demo continued to impress with Kinect voice recognition as the player lead a guard to the edge of a drop by saying “hey you,” and then flung him over the rooftop. This fantastic Kinect integration went even further as the player was allowed to load up and use a missile (similar to a Predator Missile from COD) and take down an armoured target. I was certainly very impressed by the time the demo came to a close as this smooth Splinter Cell experience looks like it could be an absolute blast. We should be expecting Splinter Cell: Blacklist during Spring 2013.

The head of EA Sports Andrew Wilson was next up on stage to announce that Madden and FIFA 13 will become ‘better with Kinect’. New gameplay integration was then shown off on FIFA with on the fly substitutions, changes in tactics and on-field instructions all done with voice commands. Madden 13 was even more impressive with actual plays and commands shouted out before the plays begin. It really looks like the Kinect is coming into its own.

Fable: The Journey had the pleasure of being the next trailer and it pretty much confirmed what we already knew, a first-person rail adventure game designed especially for the Kinect. With very little to go by its impossible to comment at this point.

Head of Microsoft Phil Spencer graced the stage next to introduce the next chapter in the Gears of War saga, GOW Judgment. A very quick trailer showed that Baird was handcuffed by his own people, so perhaps a theme of treason might be the main plot here. Nevertheless, I can’t wait to see more in the upcoming months.

Following Gears of War Judgment another Xbox exclusive hit the screen, Forza Horizon. A whole montage with loads of beautiful cars and circuits showed off what will undoubtedly be another brilliant racing simulator.

The next section of the press event concentrated on Kinect’s ease of use in the media sections like film and music. Nickelodeon, Paramount Movies and Machinima are among a number of companies to now fall under the Microsoft umbrella. New sports channels including NBA and NHL also join the UFC and MLB on the Xbox. Finally, the new Xbox Music channel was revealed.

Next up was a pretty big announcement for something that quite frankly, didn’t warrant such mass attention. Nike have partnered up with Microsoft to create a new fitness game Nike Kinect Training. It has the ability to link with Nike’s calorie counter and can be accessed on your phone, but aside from that it looked like a generic fitness game with poor graphics and standard exercise routines.

Microsoft’s SmartGlass technology was next to be revealed. This clever application will allow gamers to merge their TV, tablet and smart phone into one synchronised apparatus. For example, gamers who are playing can use a tablet to acquire extra information, or use their smart phone as a touch screen to browse the Internet. Clearly the idea or merging and syncing all content is very important to Microsoft and everything that will be using Windows 8.

Back to games as Crystal Dynamics were up on stage to demo some new content from their highly anticipated Tomb Raider remake. The new Tomb Raider created a huge stir when it was first revealed last year but now gameplay footage shows a third-person cover-based shooter similar to Uncharted. Nevertheless, it looks very impressive on all fronts from gameplay to visuals so this is absolutely one to watch out for.

Three Xbox Live exclusives were unveiled next. Ascend: New Gods had a very Infinity Blade feel to it with a bunch of orcs and monsters running around killing each other. LocoCycle showed nothing but a futuristic bike and Matter looked like a puzzle game with the same vibes as Portal but built specifically for Kinect. With little to go by again we can only speculate and only time will tell.

Microsoft kept pushing the big titles with Capcom up on stage next showing off new gameplay from Resident Evil 6, which I’m already calling game of the year for 2012. The playable demo showed Leon trying to escape a zombie infested Tokyo and the whole way through I was sitting on the edge of my seat. A bunch of quick-time events and fast-paced shooting littered the playable demo all the way to the final scene where Leon and his female partner fell into a dome full of zombies. The Resident Evil franchise rarely disappoints and I have only the largest expectations for this to be incredible.

Another Xbox Live title Wreckateer premiered and the demo consisted of launching wrecking balls at castles, very much like Angry Birds. This was easily the weakest announcement and seemingly out of place after Resident Evil.

Rather amazingly the creators of South Park Trey Parker and Matt Stone came out on stage next to reveal Obsidian’s new RPG South Park: The Stick of Truth. If previous South Park games are anything to go by then this will probably be average at best, but I’m a massive South Park fan so here’s hoping.

Dance Central 3 is set for the Xbox and an out of place live performance from Usher was next as he revealed his choreography is in the game, oh joy …

To conclude the conference Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 was shown off but this isn’t anything we haven’t seen before. As always exclusive content will be on the 360 first.

Overall I wasn’t very impressed with Microsoft’s press conference. It seems their priority is clearly to try and make their machine a media entertainment system and the emphasis on this over video games is disappointing. However, some big games were shown off, in particular interest is of course Halo 4, Gears of War Judgment and Resident Evil 6, which you should all totally be stoked for. Now that Microsoft have shown their hand it’s up to Sony and Nintendo to try and trump them.

Igor Kharin.

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