The Microsoft E3 2012 Conference.
E3 2012 has quietly crept up on us. It doesn’t seem like a year has passed since Microsoft’s poor excuse of a conference at last years E3. But how have they fared this year? Well, not bad actually; there were some shining lights to dazzle us and draw us away from some of the ’lesser’ announcements.
The opening to the show was pretty epic. Many people (including myself) thought that, as usual, the Microsoft press conference would kick of with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. This was not the case. Instead we were treated with a level taken from the forthcoming Halo 4. A jungle environment, that included brand new enemies and a new weapon. As you would expect, it was definitely Halo and looked incredible. 343 Studios have also added some great animations for when you change your weapons.
Forza Horizon was also on display at the show. A cross between the normal Forza style and something out of a Dirt game. Launching on October 23rd, it definitely looks like one to watch.
Then comes Splinter Cell: Blacklist, a brand new game starring Sam Fisher (although, I don’t think Mr. Ironside will be lending his voice this time). The slow motion kills (similar to Conviction) look amazing and it also includes Kinect support for when you want to distract enemies. One new feature seems to be an ’Uncharted’ style of terrain traversal.
Some new Tomb Raider footage was aired; an action packed level that ended with Lara having parachute issues. The game has moved away from the old style of gameplay and gone for a more action orientated makeover; clearly taking a cue from Uncharted. The Xbox 360 version of the game will get timed exclusive DLC.
For fans of South Park, Trey and Matt took the stage to show us South Park: The Stick of Truth. A game where you will be the star and try to become the 5th member of the gang. Not a great deal was shown, but the South Park humour was there to be seen. They guys promised us that Obsidian have done a fantastic job of recreating the feel of the cartoon.
Microsoft also announced a brand new way to connect with your Xbox 360, SmartGlass.
SmartGlass is an app that will connect you with both your Xbox and the entertainment content that you play on it. From using your tablet to display facts about the TV show you are watching, to organising plays on Madden 13 on your phone and then sending them to the game. The SmartGlass app with be available for Windows 8, iOS and Android. This app will be released later in the year, in conjunction with Internet Explorer for the Xbox 360. You will be able to use the SmartGlass app as a Keyboard and Mouse and use your Xbox to surf the web. Kinect support for IE will also be available.
The show ended with a bang- Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. The level shown was set in the futre and Saw Alex Mason’s grandson try to keep the President safe. Some of the gameplay included controlling drones to clear areas, snipping enemies that were hiding behind concrete pillars, and taking to the skies in a plane to take out ground vehicles. The whole thing looked incredible. Count me back on board with CoD.
The Not So Good:
As expected, the trailer for Gears of War: Judgment was shown. Colour me unimpressed. It showed nothing of gameplay and alluded to a 2013 release.
Three new titles have been announced, these will all be XBLA titles and comprise of Ascend New Gods, an action game from Signal Studios, the people behind Toy Soldiers. Lococycle from Twisted Pixel and Matter, a Kinect title from Gore Verbinski. In all honesty, there wasn’t enough gameplay footage to see what these games had to offer.
EA announced that it’s two biggest sports franchises, FIFA and Madden, will be getting Kinect support in their 2013 games.
In FIFA 13 you will be able to change formations, substitute players and even shout at the referee if he makes a bad call.
Madden 2013 will allow you make plays, call out players and change the flow of the game, all with your voice. Seemed completely unnessasary and I will be surprised if anyone uses those features.
Later in the year Microsoft will be enhancing their Bing search functionality. This will allow a great search of content and will also support more languages. It will also introduce voice control for the dashboard.
This is also the year of additional entertainment partnerships. New deals with Machinima, Paramount Movies, and Nickelodeon will increase the amount of content you can stream to your Xbox. You will also be able to watch NBA, NHL and the ESPN app will transform into the WatchESPN app that is already available on PC, smartphones, and tablets. This will allow you to watch live ESPN programming (like SportsCenter) that air on ESPN, ESPN 2, and ESPN 3.
Not everything was awesome. There were a few thing that would have struggled to raise an eyebrow.
Xbox Music is an attempt for Microsoft to ditch the Zune branding. The service will allow you to download music to your Xbox, Windows 8 Tablet and Windows 8 Phone. Seeing as Zune didn’t exactly set the world on fire, I fail to see what changing the name will do (unless they change it to iTunes).
A chap from Nike came on stage to announce Nike+ Kinect Trainer, a new game for Kinect. This will give you workouts, allow you to track your progress and challenge friends. It will link up to your smartphine to remind you to work out. Have they forgotten who they are pitching to? The only way I would start running is if my sofa was on fire.
Another thing that failed to get me excited was the Resident Evil 6 showing. Unlike Call of Duty, the play through failed to show anything new or interesting.
The R & B Superstar, Usher, took the stage to perform his new single, Scream; while at the same time promoting Dance Central 3, another pointless sequel. He said that they game recreated his routines perfectly. Really Mr Usher?
Finally there was Wreakateer, a new Kinect only game that involves you shooting catapults at castles. It reminded me a lot of Sony’s Sorcery E3 demo, in the fact that it seems nothing more than a tech demo. The only thing memorable about it was that the girl who was demoing it made a poor choice in what vest to wear…it had unfortunate button placement.
All -in-all it wasn’t that bad a showing for the console leader. Far better than last year, with some real interesting ideas, especially SmartGlass. With fan friendly showings like CoD and Halo, along with some pleasant surprises like Splinter Cell and Tomb Raider, this could be a great final E3 for the 360.