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Monday, June 4, 2012

E3 2012 - Part 4: Microsoft Press Conference

Okay.  This is going to be a long one.  The event opens with a full-motion trailer for Halo 4.  It was big, bold and exciting, but it still seemed a little dopey, but it got the message across.  The trailer was massive in scale and utterly beautiful, as we'd expect form a showing of Halo.  We transitioned into gameplay with Master Chief's helmet HUD that looks stunning.  From here we go directly into gameplay we say earlier today.  Halo 4 is definitely one of the top titles of the year.

We were then treated to exclusive footage from Splinter Cell: Blacklist that looks very, very good.  It appears to utilize a sold mix of stealth gameplay and reactive action called Killing In Motion, a new Kinect-integrated gameplay element that uses the Kinect voice and motion controls to enhance the gameplay.  It looks quite good.  It is an understatement to say that Ubisoft has thus far made an impressive showing at E3 this year, and Blacklist is no exception.

We then received a presentation from EA Sports regarding Kinect.  Madden 13 and Fifa 13 were both announced as having Kinect support.  The demo showed the player using voice commands to quickly sub out players and change tactics without using menus, even give commands to other AI players while you play.  An angry reaction can even get you flagged by the ref!  Very cool stuff.

In Madden 13, Joe Montana took the stage and we got to see how Kinect will allow you use voice commands to call plays and communicate with individual players and issue commands, even calling and audible!  It definitely brings a new layer of immersion into already deep and exciting games.

Following EA Sports we got a glimpse of the Kinect-integrated Fable action title that more closely resembles a rail shooter than an actual Fable game.  Kind of disappointing and it points to a lack of imagination on the developer's end.  Fable, being an innovative and immersion experience, is above this mess.  Still, you never know, it may turn out to be good.  I have been wrong before.

Gears of War: Judgement made a showing with a teaser followed by Forza: Horizon which promises the classic Forza experience in an open world.  This is a truly exciting proposition.  The teaser was quite exciting but with an October 23, 2012 release date, I would've liked to see some gameplay.  Maybe on the floor coverage.

We got to see Kinect used to search new movies using Bing and Kinect Voice.  When you search a movie you can chose from a list of providers that off the movie, so instead of browsing Netflix, then going to another provider, you can see all the providers that host the movie or show you want to watch.  After a brief demo of the 360's multilingual capabilities, we saw a demo of additional studios including Nickelodeon, Univision, Machinima and Paramount.  UFC on Xbox is supposed to offer additional content and we were introduced to NBA and NHL on Xbox as well, hosting more highlights and sports content on the Xbox Live network.  Xbox is also providing 24-hour streaming ESPN content live.  Popular shows and sports coverage are included in HD!  This is an example of integration of interactive television, ESPN being, thus far, the only network forward-thinking enough to capture this technology.  There will, however, be more to come.

Continuing on the path of entertainment media outside of gaming, Xbox Music was announced.  An integrated music experience that offers streaming on multiple Smart Glass devices.  It essentially appears to be similar to the interfaces we're used to, just a little more polished and part of a larger existing network.

We also saw more from Nike and Kinect for their interactive fitness training system that uses all of Microsoft's best technology to further enhance the fitness gaming experience.  This feature is called Nike+ Kinect Training.  It was designed by real trainers from the major leagues to get the most advanced, real-life training and it offers online training with others around the world.  The trailer shows some of the interface but doesn't really get into the guts of the game.  It still seems like impressive technology nonetheless.

Xbox SmartGlass was given a big introduction, offered as a means to provide additional supplementary material through your smart phone, tablet, ect.  Smart Glass offers streaming from the tablet and easy transfer to your TV through the 360.  Once the streaming switches to the TV, the tablet transforms to a page containing additional information about the film, which the movie continues on the 360.  This sort of integration allows for more expansion and immersion in the story, encouraging interactive elements for movies and TV at home.  We then saw the same footage from before regarding SmartGlass' integration with Madden NFL as an interactive playbook, which is a cool feature.  In Halo 3 it displays interactive menu content, maps and data about that game as you play it, as well as your progress through the game.  It is definitely a nice touch.  It was also added that SmartGlass can be used as a remote, so you can use your smart phone to control your 360 menus, even a web browser in the form of Internet Explorer for Xbox that is controllable with voice or your smart device.  We saw a specially-formatted version of the website for the movie Prometheus that allows easy interactivity for the website through the 360 menu.  We received a demo of the smart phone used as a touch pad to control a cursor on screen.  This leg of the demo was closed with an announcement of 360 integration with Windows 8 for gaming and entertainment.

Next up we got to see new footage from the upcoming, long awaited Tomb Raider title.  The game looks great, obviously taking a few pointers from Uncharted.  The action is big and explosive, and looks to be quite fluid.  The environmental graphics are lush and dynamic, with interactive world elements and destructible surroundings.  The demo exudes a sense of danger, something welcome in a game of its type.  if the gameplay is good, it definitely stands to be a lot of fun.

Ascend: New Gods is a new IP demo'd on the event that integrates Xbox live with Windows Live Games.   The teaser looked good, but doesn't offer a great deal of information as to what type of game it is going to be.  Thought the battle at the end with the colossal fella was quite intense.  Following that we saw a trailer for a new title called LocoCycle from Twisted Pixel and a look at the teaser for a game called Matter, a Kinect title that, once again, offers no information on gameplay.

Resident Evil 6 was on display next, looking polished and as grim as ever, the game looks like it is attempting to renew some good will after the backlash from RE5.  The game looks good, with a stunning city scene and lots of lovely gore.  The fast-paced gunplay on display was a lot of fun to watch, and possibly could be fun to execute, if the game plays well.  The climax of the demo featured cars falling down around hour heroes as they attempt to GET TO THA CHOPPPAAAHHH!!  The obvious inclusion of quick time events is kind of a downer though, I was hoping we were past that by now.  I guess not...  I did like the trailer overall though.  Resident Evil 6 looks like a lot of fun.

Wreckateer is a new Kinect title that allows the player to demolish massive castles with balls using catapults and trebuchets.  This is kind of a bleh idea, but the way Kinect is used to manipulate the projectile as it if you were using wind to put spin on the cannonballs.  It looks okay for casual gamers.

Immediately following that was the brand new South Park title the Stick of Truth, which appears to be a fun arcade-style action game with all of South Parks signature humor.  The game was introduced by South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone themselves and they gave their insight on the development and how, for the first time, we will be able to explore South Park in its entirety.

Next up was an introduction of Dance Central 3 for Kinect complete with a bad live performance by Usher!  The game doesn't look bad, and the previous games were fun, though I'm not really cut out for that level of activity, lol.  I can appreciate a game that gets you off your butt, especially one that encourages it with bouncing music.

We closed with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.  A solid demo for a game that looks great.  This is going to be one epic game, with beautiful scenery, massive set pieces, intense action and high-tension pacing.  Black Ops 2 is going to be one of the big ones and from what I've seen, we have a lot to look forward to.

Well, that's it for E3 Day 1!!!  We made it!  Whew!  I'm beat, even thought I never left my chair!  I will pick up with day 2 coverage as soon as coverage starts tomorrow.  Stay tuned everyone!

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