E3: Microsoft Press Conference and Other Things

It was the first day of E3 today and as usual, Microsoft grabbed the first press conference. And I have to say, it was a big improvement over last years E3.

First up was “the Beatles Rock Band” which is coming out on 360 and PS3 this Autumn. After a performance of “Day Tripper” by the Harmonix team, some news was announced about it. First of all they announced a song exclusive to the 360, then confirmed 10 of the 45 songs  and announced Abbey Road would be downloadable for it and then dragged all the remaining Beatles and Yoko Ono on stage to say how much they were excited by this. Excited by the amount of money they will have in their wallets soon no doubt. ( you might have guessed i have no interest in this) Then we moved on to Infinity Ward as they carted out both a trailer and a gameplay demo of Modern Warfare 2. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to see this due to the live streams being busted, but by the sounds of it, MW2 will be like more COD4. Which is a good thing. Also they announced the first two pieces of MW2 DLC will be 360 exclusives.

Then they moved onto a demo of Final Fantasy 13 of which i caught the last few seconds. It seems like a final fantasy game, but a lot nicer looking and (hopefully) a bit more playable. Again this is something I have very little interest in, so if you want impressions go look somewhere else. They also confirmed a Spring 2010 release date for it, so it will be released around the same time as the PS3 version. Finally my video showed, allowing me to watch the stream properly, as opposed to crouching over live blogs. Epic Games (makers of the Unreal series and Gears of War) then turned on stage with an exclusive for 360. I first presumed it to be a new GoW but it was infact a new XBLA game called Shadow Complex. It looks like a very Bionic Commando Rearmed style game, being a side scrolling shooter. According to the guy who was narrating (the great Cliffy B wearing a Bill Gates t shirt) the game is based around “Big Guns and Big Bosses”. Looks interesting and also quite pretty. I guess it will be using Unreal Engine 3 which of course makes everything pretty. Immediately afterwards, the presentation continued on, with the announcement of two new 360 exclusives.

The first was Crackdown 2, which was heralded by the agility orb sound from the original. After a brief trailer, showing one of the agents chasing a criminal through the streets, it suddenly mentioned another threat to you, the player and finished the trailer with the sound of a monsters roaring. Possibly the freaks that you freed in the first game have become a danger to the entire city? This trailer was then followed up by one featuring zombies. At first it seemed like a random game. But after a bit the zombie sounds and models seemed familiar. And when a Tank showed up, it left me amazed. Valve are producing Left 4 Dead 2 already! With a new set of survivors and the introduction of melee weapons, as well a different setting (the Deep South) and also a linking story, Left 4 Dead 2 will becoming out in November (around a year after the release of the first one). I think i’ll be keeping my eye on it. At this point, several Ubisoft members arrived on stage to demo the new Splinter Cell Conviction. This looks to be a huge change for the series, making a bit more shooting based than previous entries. For example, the stealth was all about getting in a good position to kill someone rather than avoidance.

Microsoft then announced a new XBLA game called Joyride. By the sound it, Joyride is a Korean style cart racer, free to download and play, but payed for with microtransactions. Based on the success of these in Korea, it might be a big hit over here. Or at least, a nice distraction. From Forza 3, which was finally confirmed after being leaked. By the sounds of it, Forza 3 is a big update, with a focus on the community as well as being better than Gran Turismo.

Halo 3: ODST

Then one of the crazies from Bungie jumped onto stage and started demoing Halo: ODST. It looks a lot like Halo 3, but with silenced weapons and in a much darker setting, surrounded by rubble. Combat looked solid and the idea of using stories from multiple squad members will help to vary the settings rather than just being in a wrecked city. This was then followed up with an announcement of a new halo game, entitled Halo: Reach. Based on the name, its sounds like a prequel to the first Halo game, as Reach is where most of the Spartans getting killed by the Coveant turning the planet’s surface to glass (nice one guys). The only other information was that a multiplayer beta would take place and was open to those who purchased ODST in September, using the same sales grab as Crackdown did with the Halo 3 beta. Just after this, another game was pulled out of the Vapourware pile. Alan Wake appeared, in a playable form and looks quite good. By the look of it, its quite similar to Resident Evil 4 with the controls but depending on light as a weapon against the creature in the dark. Plot seems a bit familar though (Guy starts writing novel and it comes true)

After this, Microsoft announced some updates coming to the 360 Dashboard. Lastfm is going to be integrated into the dash, allowing access to the radio setup and to stream U2 (awesome). Then some Netflix upgrades were detailed for the US users, stuff like being able to add more movies to your list without going onto your pc. And so us UK users won’t go mad, they just properly announced the new Sky feature coming soon. After this, they carried on by talking about the changes to the video marketplace. Video will now be under the Zune marketplace name and will now be avalible almost instantly even in full HD which sounds good on paper, but i think in practise this probably will not work very well due to most peoples internet connection. Additionally, video can now be watched in a party with other XBL users, allowing emotes during playback. This includes the Sky stuff such as the live football.

Facebook on your 360

After this, Felica Day (of the web series The Guild) turned up on stage to announce (in the fake “i don’t care about this but i’m being paid so what the hell” sort of way) that both Facebook and Twitter are being integrated into the dashboard. Facebook will also allow some integration with certain games, starting with Tiger Woods. This allows you to upload scores, info and pictures from inside the game. Which sounds ok. All that we need now is email support on the 360 and i won’t have to turn my PC on in the morning.

Then the moment we were all waiting for. Hideo Kojima appeared stealthily on the stage (complete with MGS sound effect) to announce Metal Gear Rising, a new MGS game rather than just a MGS 4 port. It also appear to be a Raiden game as opposed to one based around Solid Snake, complete with a new tag line. Could be quite interesting with less focus on stealth me thinks.

Natal in Action

At this point, Microsoft unleashed the next part of their Wii-ification of the 360. Codenamed Natal, they announced a motion controller. Don’t panic though, it actually looks a lot better than the  Wii’s wand waving. This is instead 2 cameras and a microphone, placed underneath the TV. This allows you to use the whole body as opposed to just the wrist. Also it can differentiate between multiple people very easily, as shown in a quiz show example in the trailer. The trailer also showed a racing game where one person drives, before pulling into a pit stop where another player actions unscrewing the tires and then putting a new tire on. The microphone allow for voice control on the dashboard, such as selecting a movie. And the trailer also showed them shutting off the console by voice command (probably artistic licence, but if its true its also awesome). After the trailer, one of the design leads came in and ran a demo through some features in realtime. First of all, Natal allows for facial recognition, meaning the 360 can work out who you are and auto login your profile. The dash can then be controlled by swiping you hand to navigate or you can just move around to control your onscreen avatar. Then, and XBLA game that use Natal was used and it actually looked like a proper workout as opposed to the Wii Fit thing. It also seemed very, very accurate. Finally in this section, a drawng game was shown off, with a mixture of both movement and voice commands which looked interesting but not gripping. Before the design lead left, he made a nice dig at the Wii.

And then Peter Molyneux unveiled the thing that will end the world,

Named Milo, the project Molyneux has been working on since the end of Fable 2 development is a quite scary piece of software. Its actual an ingame child that reacts to to you talking to it and is able to react to the way you say something or the way you are standing. It can tell your emotions as well as showing some its own. Its seems to be a way of string together some tech demos, like playing with fish done by waving your hands. It looks interesting, but how much of the demo was preplanned and how much was actual gameplay we are yet to see

And the the conference ended and the stream cut off. But there were other 360 announcements. A remake of the original Monkey Island will be coming to XBLA soon with new high res art and improved voicework, as well as a glut of arcade titles have been announced. The avatar system will be improved with the introduction of both pay for and ingame unlocked avatar clothing and props (like a remote control warthog from ODST).

Overall, Microsoft’s Press Conference was filled with promise. Everything shown was exciting and innovative and establishes the 360 as the console for both the casual and the core. And I just spoke in market speak. Eurrgh. I’m very excited about the next year for the Xbox 360. But where’s my G4WL and Zune information?

Post Originally appeared on http://hntdaab.co.uk/blog