Microsoft E3 Press Conference

4 06 2012

So here we go! the first press conference to take place at E3, Microsoft! Now that the conference is over we can breakdown to you what has come of the event and what we can look forward to for XBOX in the next year. The show was opened with Halo 4 but I was late to the event so I missed it.. I will have a full write up on it in a separate article. Afterwards Ubisoft was brought out to show off their newest title, Splinter Cell: Blacklist. This is the next installment in the SC franchise and takes place after Conviction. The game really ramps up the action as you will be in the Middle East combating terrorist organizations and completing covert ops. Sam is now the leader of a team (and voiced by someone NOT MICHAEL IRONSIDE!) and now has the ability to call in strikes when the fight becomes too much for him alone. Also shown off was a new combat in motion which expands on the targeting combat Conviction had, allowing you to mark enemies and take them out in quick succession. This is now done while on the move and is more cinematic in presentation. Blacklist will also introduce Kinect features like voice commands. You will use them to gain the attention of your enemies for surprise attacks and calling in your team strikes. The game is scheduled for 2013.

EA Sports was next to show what they have managed to do with Kinect for their various titles. The two shown off were Fifa 13 and Madden 13 and feature various voice controls. Fifa allows you to call out formations, tell your teammates when to pass, and when to shoot. You can also argue verbally with a ref for calls and if you curse the game detects in and can flag you, kinda shitty. For Madden they have introduced total play calling, as they brought out Hall of Fame QB Joe Montana to come in and call plays. Joe was able to flip plays, as well as call formations and move specific players. He could also call audibles and hike the ball. It was all fluid and worked fast and EA confirmed this will also work for defensive play calling.

A trailer was shown for Fable The Journey, a Kinect game where you are a magic wielder capable of using spells through hand motion control. It was brief but looked interesting, it was also all in first person perspective. Next up was Gears of War Judgement and like the info spoiled over the weekend described it is a prequel set 14 years before Gears of War 1 that is the origin story of Baird. They only showed a brief trailer but was able to get more info from the creators. The game is being made by People Can Fly, the makers of Bulletstorm and will focus more on the action and have less of the story driven cut scenes of the original trilogy. The game is still 3rd person and still cover based but People Can Fly will be adding their own bits of flair to the gameplay. One mode discussed was Overrun, which is described as a “Horde vs Beast” mode with a class based system that is unique to this installment when the game hits in 2013.

Gears was followed by Forza Horizons which looks to be a more arcade style game featuring cross country racing and various conditions you drive through. Think Need for Speed: The Run… but good.. and it has Dub Step! The game will be hitting stores this year (shock!) October 23rd. Now we hit the Dashboard portion of the show as we get a look at how Bing will be improved for XBOX Live. The search engine will now be able to look for specific genres when finding content (especially for films). Also the language recognition has been expanded to Spanish which I’m sure some people will find pleasing. Microsoft also announced new video services from Nickelodeon, Paramount, Machinima, and Univision, along with 31 other new apps that they will reveal this week.

More sports are coming to XBOX as their subscription service will expand to the NBA and NHL, with ESPN’s app expanding to provide all of their on air content from ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3, and ESPN U including Monday Night Football. Microsoft officially revealed their reworked music service called XBOX Music. It looks to be a repackaging of Zune with interactive and networking bits to show you what friends are listening to. It will launch with over 30 Million tracks. The service will be on XBOX 360, Windows PC, tablets, and smartphones. Nike was out next to show off a very innovative service for XBOX in Nike + Kinect Training. Nike + has been a service the company has developed for peak training of today’s athletes to optimize a workout solely for their needs. Now XBOX gets that same system for Kinect, as the program will run you through various tests, and based on your results a workout will be made tailored to your capabilities, to then improve your performance in various areas. Nike + will be able to assess your progress, plan workouts, and use a mobile app to remind you when you have a workout. The sessions you will be taking part in can range from various stretch and cardio exercises, to little games like dodgeball. You will even have an interactive trainer on screen for you as you work out.

Probably Microsoft’s biggest announcement as far as experiences past just gaming is XBOX SmartGlass. SmartGlass is a new connectivity between XBOX, Tablets, and Smartphones to expand your experience when playing games or watching movies and TV. The first feature shown off was the ability to have media transferred seamlessly from tablet to TV. A movie that you start watching on SmartGlass via your tablet can be picked up from where you left off on your TV. When you transfer the movie back to your TV, the tablet will change to an information hub sharing with you details on the film like the actors, back story, and other bits of info. Same for when watching TV through XBOX as shown via Game of Thrones. As he was watching the show, his tablet was able to keep track of where he was in the program and provide relevant information from scene to scene. Maps came up on the tablet outlining the area in which the characters were and various other little details. SmartGlass also has interactivity with games, for example in Madden 13 you can access your playbook via your tablet, pick plays, or even design new ones on the fly and execute them on the screen almost using the tablet as a controller. For Halo 4 the tablet was used as a way to upload information to Halo Waypoint as you played, as well as, accept game invites to a multiplayer match.

The big deal for SmartGlass is the emergence of Internet Explorer on XBOX Live.  IE can be used by SmartGlass and Kinect and when displaying sites it looks as if you are getting an XBOX enhanced version of the site (kind of like how certain pages have iPad versions of their site) and thanks to SmartGlass you can use your smartphone as a mouse of sorts, moving through the site page. All Tablets and Smartphones will be able to use SmartGlass and it all hits this Fall.

The true holy shit moment for me was the gameplay for Tomb Raider. Developers from Crystal Dynamics hit the floor to show a portion of a level late in the game. You can sense the Uncharted vibe of the game from the cinematic feel, the intensity of the exploring, yet it adds a complete new level of grit to it with the violence. The game transitions flawlessly between exploring, action, and survival. In the demo Lara was trying to find her friend and comes up on an enemy camp. She is equipped with a bow and arrow and is able to essentially snipe away enemies. The bow uses a sort of charging system with the target growing smaller the further you full the string back. When she took out two of the enemies the 3rd flipped a table to use as cover and began to shoot. The environments seem fully destructible as anything he shot as was blowing to pieces. Following this they showed off interactive environments as Lara lit an arrow on fire to shoot into a puddle of gasoline, lighting enemies on fire before blowing the tank and sending anyone in blast radius flying off the cliff. She was also able to shoot a hanging lamp that then exploded, raining fire on more enemies. The game showed off several interactive scenes when climbing or falling. One in particular was Lara falling downstream in a river and using her bow and arrow to clear away obstacles that would have otherwise killed her. When river turned to a waterfall she fell into a crashed plane, as she laid on the glass it slowly began cracking, she took a hanging parachute and you were able to glide her from there through the forest below. It looked completely intense and continued to play on how brutal this game treats it’s main character. Crystal Dynamics also revealed the first bit of DLC content will be an XBOX timed exlcusive.

After this we got a blitz of trailers for new franchises. First was Ascend New Gods by the studio that brought us Toy Soldiers. The game looks to be a 3rd person, extremely violent action game. It looks to feature battles with giant monsters and your ability to climb atop them to fight. Loco Cycle was next and it looked to be a futuristic, racing, assassin.. bike game? Next looked to be a puzzle game from Gore Verbinski, the man behind Pirates of the Caribbean, entitled Matter. It had a Portal feel in the way it’s designed and looks to be like a course guiding puzzle game. None of these trailers showed off gameplay and we may have to wait until later in the week for more details.

Next we got Resident Evil 6 gameplay reveal! It really looks like the development team got their inspiration from american action films as everything looks big and cinematic. All signs of a survival horror were not seen as it was more running and gunning. One thing new they showed off was the ability to jump to the ground and fire, also being able to tactical role and avoid enemies. Melee attacks after stunning enemies are back but seem to be more involved as Leon was able to kick enemies, knife them in the jaw, and even interact with his environment by throwing a zombie into a car. Lots of interactive cinematic scenes to show off the level of what is going on in the game. One part they showed was you controlling Leon as he ran from an exploding helicopter as it rolled down a street and caused cars to then explode. It was more involved then simply pressing A as you are freely moving him between obstacles to get to safety.

We got our one and only XBLA reveal for Kinect with Wrecketeer. You play your Avatar as you use a cannon to fire a variety of bombs at castles that are infested with goblins. Once you use motion controls to fire, you then use them to guide the shot and control hang time. It looked very boom blox but also could be a lot of fun. It hits this Summer. Another great reveal was South Park: The Stick of Truth. This is the RPG from Obsidian where you play the newest kid to move to South Park right as a full out war is breaking out. You will be recruited by the main characters into their group to help save South Park in what looks like a turn based RPG with elements similar to Paper Mario. The game features a full range of characters spanning the years of the show and many party members and special sidekicks. The game truly looks like you are playing out an episode of the show.

Dance Central 3 took the stage showing off songs spanning multiple eras and some songs choreographed by artists like Usher. The man himself then came on stage for a song and dance that looked like it was suppose to show his moves in the game, but he was out of sync from what the game was doing. It was still clear though that all his moves on stage were in the game.

Finally the show closed with Call of Duty Black Ops 2 gameplay, featuring a single player mission. The graphics engine does look to be revamped and polished but I wouldn’t call it a total overhaul. The mission in question was a protect and escort of the President of the United States through a war torn major US city. The demo really showed off the futuristic weaponry as the main character had a wrist hub, and took control of an auto multi-targeting rocket launcher. They once again showed off how so many things are going on around you as you try and complete your mission, giving you that summer movie feel. Another big weapon was a long range rifle with a scope that was almost infrared. It highlighted targets and wrapped them in a net that was green when you had a shot and they were living, and turned red when you killed them. The game then jumped inside a building to show you the use of drones as you are capable of marking spots out in front of you for the drone to go and attack. They are all small mobile drones that fly around you as you move through the area. Finally they showed off flight combat in the form of a dogfight over the city. The fighter jet was completely controlled by the player as he flew over the city and battled multiple enemy planes. Tons of explosions and chaos around him as he targeted and removed enemies from the sky. All in all an impressive display for the single player but was on par for previous showing by CoD at E3.

It was an OK show for Microsoft but to me nothing felt huge or major. Just a lot of interesting things for interactivity, and a lot of games we were already expecting to see. I will do my best to get as much video posted as possible on all shown in the conference.

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