These things are made to seduce us, and as a natural born cynic I’m supposed to take every E3 announcement with a grain of salt, because while everything is ambitious and amazing now, we are far away from these companies delivering on these promises and living up to the hype.
With that said though, as a lead off for E3, Microsoft got things started right — showing us a look at games like Halo 4, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Splinter Cell: Black List, Tomb Raider, and everything that the Kinect and Xbox Live can and will do on the 360.
There was no mention of a next generation console, but plenty of talk about knocking down the walls that keep our numerous devices separate. The voice recognition on the Kinect is the first part of Microsoft’s 3 tiered campaign toward evolution — with voice command you can choose a film genre, then a film, and have your Xbox respond. While playing a game like Madden 2013, you can stand in and call audibles at the line and call out individual players to run routes, as was demonstrated by NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana.
The second part of Microsoft’s plan is Xbox Smart Glass, a way to bridge the gap between your Tablet, Microsoft enabled smartphone, and your console. With Smart Glass you can watch an episode of Game of Thrones on HBO GO on your console and your Tablet will show you a map of Westeros, detailing where each character is (particularly helpful when there are 272 main characters on the show, I guess). Don’t want to call in a play using voice command while playing Madden? Take your tablet and draw up a play, Xs and Os style, changing routes on custom plays mid game.
The third part of the evolution of the Xbox is real web browsing via Internet Explorer on Xbox Live that allows voice command to help you use Bing search for whatever you need. You can also navigate the web via a downloadable ap that lets you use your smartphone as a mouse. Not just a Windows 8 enabled smartphone either, but any smartphone, including Android and Apple devices.
All of this together certainly gives Microsoft an edge and increases their lead in the motion “peripheral” field over Sony’s half-assed Move and even the new Wii U because of the hands free nature of Microsoft’s device and it’s increasing ability to be intuitive and user friendly. This also comes about because Microsoft has another advantage over Nintendo and Sony, they’re Microsoft, and really, for the first time that is something that they are taking advantage of, sharing the benefit of the upcoming Windows 8 with Xbox console havers. Now, with a full Windows 8 enabled line of products — from Tablets and phones powered by the OS to Xbox Live and your console, there really is no wall left standing and nothing to hold us back from full immersion. So basically, goodbye sunlight.
Another big Xbox Live announcement is all of the content that the service is promising to provide. The NBA, the NHL, Paramount, Nickelodeon, and Univision, are all signed on to provide movies, live sports (which can be watched via a voice controlled split screen), and more. There is also Xbox Music, which promises 30 million songs and a revolutionary way to share and listen to music.
So basically, this is Microsoft going after iTunes and Apple, and really, you have to marvel at Microsofts balls here, because they’re trying to become the ultimate entertainment hub, and they have the resources to do it, and no one, not Apple, not likely Sony, and certainly not Nintendo, have the software or the support to beat them to it. The question is, how long will this hardware, this generation be the hub, and there was nothing offered that shed any light on that. The thing is, these promised improvements aren’t really Xbox 360 dependent, with changes taking place on XBL and the new Windows OS, meaning they could easily function as well and probably better on a next gen console, whenever Microsoft feels the need to invest in that. Bottom line: These improvements, if implemented properly and as promised (always a big if), can extend the Xbox 360′s lifespan for a good long while.
With that said, now on to the games!
As you can see, Halo 4 looks brilliant. I gave up on 360 last winter and got a PS3 because I’m a baseball sim freak and wanted The Show, and also I wanted Uncharted and a Bluray player, but Halo 4, and all the above mentioned enhancements honestly fill me with regret. The environments look brilliantly detailed, and the cinematics are a knock out. The chances of me not re-buying a 360 are minuscule at best, in part because of my excitement level over this game.
Splinter Cell Black List has smooth animation and Kinect voice recognition support that allows you to call over to a potential mark, or alert that mark to your presence when your dog barks, or the phone rings. The game looks as if it lacks the fluidity of motion that Max Payne 3 has, but it’s a clear upgrade from past iterations. I’m the wrong guy to talk about Sam Fisher games, as I left the franchise a long, long time ago.
Fable The Journey looked like a fun Kinect game, but the animation disappointed me, as I favor as realistic a look as is humanly possible. Same goes for the teaser trailer we saw for Ascend New Gods, though Ascend had giants ripping people in two, so you know, it’s got that going for it.
The new Gears of War footage was all cinematic trailer that had all the usual pretty bells and whistles, but these show nothing substantial to game play, so we’ll have to hope for more footage at a later date.
The new Tomb Raider, which is an origin story, was the second 3rd person shooter we saw, and it looks much quicker than Splinter Cell, and more immersive with water and debris hitting the screen, as if it were built for a 3d experience. The sequence where Lara Croft falls down a waterfall may have been the visual stunner of the entire presentation and this might be the Tomb Raider game that reclaims the adventure title belt from the Uncharted series, though it’s goona take more than amped up action to do that.
I mentioned Ascend New Gods before, but there were 2 other snapshot teasers — one for Loco Cycle, which looks to be an assasain motorcycle, and man should they have showed more of that to earn a bit more buzz and a few less eyerolls. Speaking of showing more, all I know about Matter from Gore Verbinski is that it is called Matter, it’s from Gore Verbinski, and it may be starring the Toclafane from Doctor Who, or something of close relation.
The gameplay from an extended look at Resident Evil 6 looked great, with solid combat and up close and personel zed kills. The zombies look great, but if I have to have a complaint, I’ll note that some of the after-effects of the bombs and up close shots dont live up to the impressive graphics. I imagine a grenade thrown into a hallway of 7 or 8 zombies doesn’t leave little to no damage on the structure and it surely doesn’t divide the horde into a tidy pile of cleanly severed limbs. I fully expect and fully hope to see that corrected by the street date though, as that can be a little distracting if left unresolved.
South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone were probably the best part of the presentation in terms of showmanship, though the pretty yet overly enthusiastic girl who demonstrated Wrecketeer sure gave it her all to take that crown. While on stage the guys poked fun at Microsoft’s cross platform ambition, while also talking up South Park: The Stick of Truth, an epic adventure game that really does look as if you’re playing through an episode of the show as a new kid who is a part of the gang.
Following the guys from South Park was an Usher song and dance number that I was super excited to see, because it meant I could get up and take a piss. When I returned, I was treated with another extended gameplay look at what will likely be the biggest selling game of 2012, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which toured the (in the future) destruction of LA from an on the ground perspective. What can I say, it’s a COD game, and it looked stupendous, and also, I swear I heard Michael Rookers voice in the cast, but that could have been a joygasm afterglow hallucination.
Well, that’s everything I saw watching Microsoft’s live E3 Xbox presentation. Over the next few days NerdBastards.com will bring you recaps like this for Sony and Nintendo, as well as trailers and video game news as they break. So keep checking back, tell us what you’re excited about in the comment section, and happy gaming!
If you want to watch or re-watch Microsoft’s presentation, go here.