Calling all nerds, E3 has officially begun. And while Nintendo beat the other main companies to the punch with a “Pre-E3 Conference” yesterday, Microsoft was first on the docket this morning. I can’t say that this year’s E3 has started with a bang, but let me lay down all the announcements here for you and you can make your own call.
Of course, Microsoft opened their press conference with one of the biggest, most hotly anticipated titles of the upcoming year – Halo 4. With a look at some gameplay, I have to say the engine is looking very nice graphically. Other than the graphics, it looked pretty standard for FPS games – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. There seems to be a new threat in the Halo universe, and it looks like it’s going to be your job to investigate and eliminate that threat.
New Entertainment Partners
Microsoft was very excited to announce several new partners in non-video-gaming entertainment that would be teaming up with Xbox360. Announced so far, we have Nickelodeon, Paramount, and Machinima alongside the NHL and NBA. Microsoft seems to be slowly changing the face of television entertainment. With more partners still waiting for their official announcements, could this perhaps be the first step in changing the current cable television model? (This writer, while not convinced, can certainly hope.)
Splinter Cell: Blacklist
With a new Tom Clancy game just recently released, Microsoft has announced the upcoming Blacklist. We were treated to some game cinematics as well as what developers have called “killing in motion”. This seamless, action-film styled combat will include Kinect-enhanced gameplay elements.
Sports Gaming Gets Kinected
Two of the biggest sports gaming franchises out there include the Madden NFL series and the Fifa series. These two powerhouses in sports video games have always been the mark of excellence (especially where FIFA is concerned), and Microsoft was proud to announce that Madden 13 and Fifa 2013 will bring along new Kinect functionality. This voice-recognition implementation makes calling plays much more intuitive for Madden and could even get you a yellow card in FIFA if you’re not careful to watch your language!
Fable: The Journey
I really wanted to be excited by the big RPG announcement from Microsoft’s press conference this year. And here I am, disappointed. After the horrendous atrocity that was Fable 3, I’m really not sure Lionhead studios can pull this particular franchise from the downward spiraling inferno. Don’t get me wrong, I’d love to see the game come out on top and really make good on its promises (and perhaps some of those never achieved by its predecessors), but I’m going to take this announcement with a grain of salt.
Gears of War
To be honest, I was expecting this announcement. It didn’t bring a lot of anything new to the table. A little fancy trailer for the Gears fans to oogle over, which at this point is probably just what they needed.
This racing game looks incredibly slick. No word on Kinect functionality yet, but my guess is that there will be some. The trailer we saw for this was extremely short and gave us precious little other than a few glances at shiny cars and open blacktop.
Bing Gets Upgrades
Perhaps not the most exciting announcement on Microsoft’s docket, it was still put out there. Microsoft, having partnered with Bing ages ago, has been working on updating the search functionality of this program. New languages and dialects are being added to the search function. Microsoft’s entertainment partners will also be “searchable” now, allowing you to use Kinect’s vocal recognition software to search for, say, a movie, and then see what partners have the film available for you to watch.
This possible rebranding of the Zune Network intends to take Microsoft platforms into a new age of music discovery. Precious little information was given to us, but I think it’s safe to assume that Microsoft does have plans to modify the existing Zune Network into this new platform. Their insistence on a new way to “discover” music makes me hope there might be some music suggestion software a-la Pandora included.
Biggest Nike Ad Ever
It’s no secret that the Kinect is a wonderful tool for at-home fitness. With the capacity to accurately track minute body movements, Kinect is a natural way for couch potatoes (admittedly like myself) to get moving and back in shape. Today, Microsoft announced a partnership with athletic apparel powerhouse Nike to continue to push Kinect’s fitness potential into new areas. With the ability to compete with others working toward similar goals across the world, there’s a lot of potential here for fitness buffs and couch potatoes alike.
This announcement was the one that really caught me off-guard. With the Nintendo WiiU offering multi-screen functionality on a future home console and Sony already starting to offer that between their existing PS3 and Playstation Vita, I suppose it was only natural that Microsoft would jump on board. The difference between Xbox Smartglass and the options being explored by Nintendo and Sony is that Microsoft’s set-up will not require an additional peripheral. It is designed to work with any smartphone or tablet, be that an iPad or an Android phone.
Browsers, Browsers, Everywhere.
One of my biggest personal complaints with the 360 was always that there was no internal browser. Not that I’ve particularly enjoyed web browsers on other platforms, but at least the option was there. In today’s press conference, Microsoft announced Internet Explorer would be coming to the Xbox360 in conjunction with Xbox Smartglass.
This sort of weirdly off-handed announcement confirms the development of a tablet using the Windows 8 OS.
Fans of this series have been aware of the more mature look at the iconic female heroine Lara Croft for some time now. But today’s E3 press release allowed fans to get an eye full of new action sequences. Lara was making great use of a bow to ping off some enemies (which was very reminiscent of the bow functionality in Skyrim). The game looks absolutely gorgeous, and the much more appropriately proportioned Lara is looking like an action hero I can get behind. With the game’s first DLC already announced, it’s nice to hear that there will be a lot of support behind the revamp of this franchise.
Smaller Game Announcements
Signal Studios announced an upcoming title, Ascend: New Gods that they describe as having “asynchronous gameplay”. The game itself looks sort of like Warhammer 40K come to life with lots of blood spewing forth from strangely unrealistic characters. Twisted Pixel announced Loco Cycle a game which, from everything I can tell, has you playing as a self-aware motorcycle that looks strangely like a light cycle from Tron. Matter, a game coming out for Kinect, looks to be a physics puzzler with some almost pinball-like qualities. And, finally, Wrecketeer for XBLA was announced. This game has a very Angry Birds feel, but is done with Kinect functions instead of a touch screen.
Capcom Awkwardly Presents More RE6
Two men from Capcom briefly took the stage to quickly announce a new trailer for Resident Evil 6. After a few seconds of zombie-slaying and tons of slow-motion explosions, this graphically beautiful sequence was over and the conference moved on.
Trey Parker, Matt Stone, and The New Kid
Creators of South Park Trey Parker and Matt Stone came out to show off a bit more of the game based on their animated television series. With an obligatory off-color joke, the trailer was off and running, rapidly followed by Trey and Matt, asserting that the game still needed a lot of work, which they were on their way to take care of. The new trailer offered little in the way of a glimpse at gameplay.
With all of the Kinect functionality being pushed, the Microsoft conference wouldn’t be over without a Dance Central announcement. Dance Central 3 is officially on its way. While some may shake their heads, I for one am excited about it. I love rhythm games, and as far as dance games are concerned, the Dance Central series is top tier. What I was not excited for, however, was the weirdly forced mini-performance by R&B Artist, Usher. The performance was unnecessary and really could have been used for other announcements, in my opinion.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Closing out the show was, of course, the other major announcement for Microsoft. Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 got its due share of the stage and fans got another enticing look at the upcoming blockbuster FPS.
While Microsoft’s press conference may have been a bit lukewarm, the show is just beginning and there will be tons more announcements to report on. Is there anything here you are really excited about? Something that grinds your gears? Let us know in the comments.