E3 ’11 in review: Microsoft

I’m not a ‘fanboy’ of any of the big 3 developers in particular, instead interested in what all 3 are working on. I’m going to give all 3 their own own post in order to sum up their press conferences in a bit more detail. Microsoft was first up at E3, so it’s first up with a post.

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3
For starters, I loved that Robert Bowling from Infinity Ward showed himself to be only human by having the controller disconnect during the cutscene of MW3. It’s been a while since I’ve played any CoD game, let alone Modern Warfare 2, but the trailer did interest me enough to consider trying MW3 when it’s released.. The underwater stuff looked simplistic enough but interesting, and the speedboat escape through the wrecked ships and aircraft carriers seems like a good adrenaline rush. Glen Schofield from Sledgehammer did a good job of thanking the fans without giving anything else away, but the November release day should see great pre-Christmas sales. I’m a little surprised they’re releasing it so far from Christmas- past releases from the series suggest that the true CoD fans that Schofield was addressing will line up to get the game on release, not wait to get it as a Christmas present. Then again, with DLC these days you never quite know what extras you’ll be able to get for the holiday season.

Tomb Raider
The new origin story of Lara Croft starts off fairly brutually according to the demo shown, but looks to be a good take on the character in her earliest days of being a tomb raider. The running-jumping-climbing stuff gameplay is still there, alongside the occasional Quick-Time Event; not an unexpected addition, considering the more physical take on gaming that Microsoft is pursuing. The ‘instinct vision’ that allows Lara to highlight items needed to traverse the environment should make the game pretty accessible to new players, and suggests that difficult challenges lie further on in the game that require some serious strategic thinking. The Q3 2012 release date is promising, and I’ll probably be picking up a copy of it to see how much they’ve done with one of the most famous females in the gaming world.It should be good.
(And to be honest, I don’t think anything will match the terribleness of Angel of Darkness).

EA Sports
To be honest, this was no big surprise. Sports games getting Kinect support seems a logical step forward, especially for the Madden NFL series. With Nintendo’s motion-controlled golf games doing well, building Kinect into Tiger Woods PGA is another no-brainer; but also goes a step towards the whole VR-sports concept that motion controls were talked about when they were first announced.

Mass Effect 3
One of the first things I heard from this year’s E3 was ‘Voice recognition in ME3?! Hell yeah!’ (via a friend on Twitter). With the amount of dialogue options in the previous two Mass Effect games, I was interested to see how the Kinect voice control system would fit in. The smoothness of using the voice to select dialogue options was impressive; but the strategic combat commands concept was the real deal. If the finished game responds as well as Bioware’s demo, I think ME3 will beat its two predecessors in player popularity; a core concept of the game is making ‘choices with consequences’, and allowing the player to command their team in battle gives them a higher level of personalised control than ever. I hate to use the word ‘immersive’, but it looks like the Bioware team have made a sci-fi action RPG that will make players feel like they are Commander Shepard.

Ghost Recon:Future Soldier
Yes, another Tom Clancy game. But the Gunsmith feature alone piqued my interest; the almost Minority Report-style use of Kinect to swap out different parts of the weapons and fit it to each player’s preferences looked scarily intuitive. The fact it works with both gesture AND voice commands impressed me further; with presets for different combat situations (as well as a ‘randomise’ command), I think this feature alone will sell a good few copies of the game.
(Also, the fact that firing can be triggered by opening a closed fist and stopped by closing it again? Brilliant way of showing the level at which Kinect can detect motion).

Xbox Live
Youtube and Bing coming to Xbox Live? Not unexpected, and should be very well used. Live TV from Sky (in the UK)? A bit more impressive. I’m looking forward to seeing what other partnerships Microsoft unveil throughout the year.

Gears of War 3
I’ll hold my hands up right now and admit that I haven’t played Gears of War 2. I played about a quarter of the first one, but it never really grabbed me. And I have to admit, 2 and 3 seem like additions to the series rather than improvements on it. Still, I know a lot of people who really like the series and who will enjoy the latest game. It looks good, and the Leviathan creature battle seemed pretty intuitive even for someone like me who hasn’t played much of the series. It has a big fanbase, and from the demo it seems the fans won’t be disappointed. The return of Horde Mode will be much appreciated.

Ryse
Crytek does pretty visuals; and Ryse looks like it will have a fair amount of that. But with the Kinect control, it looks like it will also have a lot of headbutting, stomach-kicking and hack-and-slashing too. I want to read up on this one a bit more, but it looks like it will be a good no-holds-barred game for fans of gladiatorial fighting.

Halo: Combat Evolved – Anniversary
I’m surprised I didn’t see this one coming; but with ODST and Reach continuing to prove popular with online players, it makes sense that the first in the series should be remastered for better online multiplayer rather than local. I’ll probably add it to my collection for nostalgia, and a chance to see how much things have changed in the 10 years since it’s original release.

Forza Motorsport 4
I’ve always liked racing games, and I love fast cars. The huge list of cars available in Forza 4 is fantastic, and the promise of monthly updates to the game should give it a fair amount of longevity and replay value. Very much a multiplayer game, it seems slightly odd to have Kinect control included- headtracking and voice? I’ll do some more reading into this see what these functions will actually bring to the game.
However, Top Gear test track- I’ll be sending a Bugatti flying around that, thank you very much!

Fable: The Journey
Another thing I didn’t expect was a rail shooter set in and around Albion. The cart driving sequence seemed mundane enough, but it was how the player uses gestures to fire spells and create weird magical javelins that caught my attention. The demo seemed to use a lot of different gestures for various different things- as long as the game guides you though what each gesture (or combination of gestures) does, it should be an interesting game. There hasn’t been a rail shooter on current-gen consoles since House of the Dead: Overkill on the Wii (to my knowledge, at least), so how well it does will be something to watch out for. It’s a hell of a change from the normal Fable games, but worth keeping an eye on.

Minecraft
I’m sorry, what? But apparently yes, Minecraft is coming to Xbox 360 with Kinect this winter. Punching a tree for wood will now give you a real-life workout as well as the materials to make a crafting table. I’m looking forward to this one.
(apparently it will be a ‘console-centered’ version of the game, with differences from the original PC version; a sensible move, I feel).

Fun Labs
This was one of the things that impressed me the most. I know that a lot of people took the Kinect dev kit and played about with it to create many fantastic new things. Fun Labs gives Kinect owners some of these for free. Being able to put your face and clothes on your Avatar? A great step forward for personalisation. Scanning in your own objects to go into games? Ingenious. And Sparkler, the 3D light painting mode? I will have a lot of fun playing around with that when I have a few minutes to kill. Finger tracking is something I hoped the Kinect would be able to do, and it seems to work fantastically.

Kinect Sports: Season Two
This reminds me a lot of the Wii Sports Resort game, but without a motion controller in hand. The voice controls for things such as choosing golf clubs seems intuitive and surprisingly natural, and the multiplayer-oriented games such as Football will be good additions for party player. (Obviously, those of us who know nothing about American Football will have to learn what the different strategies are before we use our voice to select them).

Dance Central 2
There’s not much you can do to a dance rhythm-action game, right? Tell that to Harmonix. A proper 2-player mode is a very welcome addition, rather than the tag-team vesion from the original game. Not sure where the voice controls will come into play, but it seems like Harmonix are still on form with their rhythm-action stuff- I’ll definitely be picking up a copy on release.

And then, out of nowhere, came…

Halo 4
Call me a fool, but I honestly though the Halo series was done (except for reboots and updates like Combat Evolved: Anniversary). Obviously Bungie had bid their farewells to the series, but it seems 343 Industries are picking up Master Chief’s story for the future. Cortana is still around, but more trailers will be needed to see exactly what is going on in this new outing.

So, a whole new round of research to be done into these new releases, and a lot of budgeting needed for the numbers of games I’m tempted to try out…

Keep your eyes peeled for the Sony and Nintendo reviews (once I find a spare 3 hours to watch the press conferences again!)

Kinect Star Wars
I’m glad this got a cheer from the crowd, it has been much awaited since Kinect launched near the end of last year. Piloting Rebel fighters, speeding through a pod race, fending off droidekas- the trailer shows the game apparently covering all 6 films with many of the characters everyone knows. My one concern is how well the Kinect will cope with the reactionary movements used to, say, deflect a laser blast with a light saber; but Microsoft have had time to improve on many things, so we’ll wait and see is there really is a problem at all.
But come on. Gesture-controlled Force powers. That’s pretty damn sweet.

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~ by Tegan on June 15, 2011.

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