“Today, it’s all about the Xbox 360, the only device that brings together all your entertainment all in one place,” said Don Mattrick, president of Interactive Entertainment, but what good is this for Gamers?
The last few E3 expos have been, arguably, a little disappointing. The focus for Xbox has been Kinect and now the newly announced SmartGlass. These are to improve the system’s entertainment experience, appealing more to families and amateurs rather than the hardcore gamers among us.
The new Microsoft SmartGlass was the only kind of hardware-related announcement. This new technology will allow you to use your smart phones and tablet PCs to navigate your console. There will also be games that use your devices to improve the experience and immersion. While this looks to be really good technology, it was the biggest announcement in terms of new innovation, which was disappointing.
This year’s Microsoft Press Conference started with Halo 4, a two-minute live-action trailer followed by in-game footage. There was a lot of anticipation to see this title, as it is the first in the Halo-series not to be developed by Bungie.
The game is being created by 343 Industries, another company founded under Microsoft Studios to oversee development of the Halo franchise. For many, this was a highlight of the show, as the game is obviously moving forward technically and graphically, looking really impressive during the demo.
There were many good games being shown at E3 this year, however many of them were sequels and not new titles. Following Halo 4 was another sequel: Splinter Cell: Blacklist. This, too, looked great, though wasn’t groundbreaking. In terms of gameplay, it has come on leaps and bounds since the much acclaimed Splinter Cell: Conviction, showing fluid motion in combat and the ability to climb walls. It also makes use of Kinect with voice commands, you can call in tactical commands or use the catchy “hey you!” phrase to call enemies over.
Good news for many came when the head of EA Sports, Andrew Wilson, took to the stage to announce Kinect features coming to the two biggest sports video-game franchises in the world, Madden NFL and FIFA.
An announced feature for the Xbox console is more coverage of American sports. The NBA and NHL will have live coverage, highlights and more. See the full trailer here.
These titles get voice commands so you can control players and tactics on the pitch, without having to stop the action. This sounds great, considering how annoying it is to be playing FIFA with a mate, and they have to wait while you pause the game just to switch out a player. There is also a referee feedback feature in FIFA, where the game will react to how you react to the ref.
One game sequel made a surprising announcement to be a full-Kinect game, Fable: the Journey. The game seems to focus on magic-wielding rather than sword or bow, obviously to make good use of the Kinect features. Time will tell how a big series like Fable is transformed using Kinect.
Other announced titles include the new Gears of Wars: Judgement, which will be a prequel set 14 years before the first game. The story will look at when the humans first made contact with the Locust, and the protagonist will be Damon Baird.
Forza Horizon was also announced, which will be an open-world racing game set around a music festival. It looks to be a really fresh take on the Forza series which was becoming a little dry, and it could turn out really good. Horizon will release October 23 this year.
In terms of console development of the Xbox 360, the Bing feature, which was first released last year, will be useable in 16 new countries. The Xbox will also be getting 35 new entertainment providers over the next year, including Nickoldeon, Paramount Movies and Machinima.
Another new fitness franchise for Kinect was announced, Nike+ Kinect Training. Nike has teamed up with Microsoft to bring “elite level training” into the home. Supposedly, the game uses the same technology used with professional athletes and it can help consumers to train on a new level. If you are someone who uses Kinect to keep fit, this could be a whole new way to measure your progress and to keep fit. Although the announcement isn’t that interesting if you aren’t someone who uses Kinect for fitness.
A title which everyone was looking forward to seeing was the new Tomb Raider. The developers, Crystal Dynamics, aim to take a new mature angle on the series in a completely new and unrelated game. The gameplay showed has been received really well, and there has been great anticipation since the game was announced in 2010. The game, unfortunately, won’t arrive until 2013.
Don Mattrick started the conference saying that this year’s mission was to “make the entertainment that you love, even more amazing”, but did they accomplish this? While there are many games to look forward to, they are all sequels. There were no new consoles or external hardware announcements outside of SmartGlass, and the PC announcements were lacking severely. I used to love watching the E3 live-stream every year, but it has lost its flair. Maybe next year’s conference will be more interesting, when the next-gen consoles will probably be announced.
What did you think of Microsoft at this year’s E3? Leave comments below.