E3 2009: The Microsoft Press Conference
Written Tuesday, June 02, 2009 By Jason Debelyak
Well, the first day's down and we've brought you every bit of information that we could! Now, we're going to bring you the big daddy of them all with the best coverage that you'll find anywhere on the internet, the Microsoft Press Conference. Included in this editorial is the most in-depth coverage of every moment of the Microsoft press briefing, including trailers of nearly every game and feature that was showcased in the 90+ minute presentation. So give this a good read, especially if you didn't get a chance to see the conference. Even if you did, I'm sure there was something you missed! So, sit back, relax, grab a cold one and enjoy. Make sure to give us your thoughts on what you thought about this groundbreaking press conference.
The conference opens up with a bang right away! We are introduced to a brief animated sequence featuring none other than The Beatles. This could mean only one thing, and that of course is The Beatles: Rock Band. This is extremely cool because it's almost as if Microsoft is trying to feature the game as being their title, thus possibly taking away from the potential Sony customer. The animated feature goes on for a couple minutes, taking us on a tour of The Beatles career with the extremely colorful themes that you would expect from The Beatles. After which, Alex Rigopolous and Van Toffler come onto the stage. They reveal that the animation feature that we just witnessed was actually the opening cinematic to the game. The game will be released on September 9, 2009, which is the same day that their entire 13-album catalog will be remastered and released. Alex joins the Harmonix House Band as they demo the game. Here we can see three singers at once, which shows that the game could possibly have multiple singers at once, allowing for certain harmonies. Giles Martin, the son of the producer of The Beatles comes on stage and announces that all the tracks will be remastered and that the game will also include studio chat of the band that has never before been heard. There will be forty-five songs within the game, ten of which are now revealed:
The game will also feature loads of downloadable content, including full albums, the first of which will be Abbey Road, which will be available shortly after the launch of the game. Also announced is that the song "All You Need Is Love" will be available to dowload exclusively on Xbox Live and that all proceeds will be donated to Doctors Without Borders. Two other important people that supported the game then come out onto the stage, Yoko Ono Lennon and Olivia Harrison! No words were spoken, but they exchange a hug and then walk off the stage. But is that all? No! Enter Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr! The two stand up there for a couple minutes and share a few words. Ringo proclaims, "The game is good, the graphics are very good and we were great!" What a great way to kick off the show!
Now, coming to the stage is Vice President of Xbox, John Schappert. He proclaims that they won't be showing any charts and graphs, but instead will be showing and not telling. There will be 10 world premieres of games that have never been seen. Well then, let's move on to the next game, Tony Hawk: Ride. Tony Hawk himself comes out onto the stage, carrying the brand new skateboard peripheral. Tony talks about the controller and how advanced it is, basically throwing a bunch of technical terms together to explain how the game will react to everything from turning to grabbing. A video pops up on the screen with a bunch of pro skaters talking about what skateboarding actually means to them and how they feel about the new innovation of the skateboarding genre of video games.
Next, the trailer for possibly the most anticipated game of the year, Modern Warfare 2, plays. It is definitely an extremely well done trailer, featuring a few of the things we've already seen as well as some other gameplay elements. As previously revealed, the game will release on November 10, 2009. Jason West and Vince Zampella from Infinity Ward hit the stage in order to demo the game. The demo opens up in the snowy mountains of Kazakhstan where he scales the side of a mountain while using picks to make his way up. Upon reaching a cliff, he lunges to the next one, nearly falling to his demise, but uses his picks to barely save himself. The demo moves on to another area where there are near-whiteout conditions. Here, he can barely see in front of him so must be extremely stealthy. The snowy conditions clear up and the demo now shows off a much faster and more action packed sequence, showing off the beautiful visuals. Next in the demo is the snowmobile section that everyone has been anticipating. The combat while using the snowmobile seems extremely on-point and fluid. The demo ends, and it is announced that there will be two Modern Warfare 2 map packs that will be timed-exclusives on the Xbox 360. Take that Playstation 3!
Yoshinori Kitase and Motomu Toriyama come on from Square Enix in order to demo Final Fantasy XIII. Last year, they dropped the major bombshell that Final Fantasy XIII will be coming to the Xbox 360 at the same time it is launched for the Playstation 3, and this year they will be giving the world it's very first look of console footage, and it will be shown by using the Xbox 360! The demo starts up and shows off a battle against a giant boss. The battle scenes are different than were previously seen. One of the major differences is that there are four active time guages, which will allow for more powerful attacks and strategic tactics. The demo then shows off Odin, one of the summons within the game, for the very first time. It is then announced that they are planning on launching the game in Spring 2010.
John Schappert comes back on to announce that every single thing shown from this point forward will be available ONLY on Xbox 360. At this time, Donald Mustard and Cliff Bleszinksi from Epic Games come out to announce a brand new game. It will be the first ever Epic Xbox Live Arcade game. It is being described as a mix between such games as Metroid and Castlevania. Here we go, the demo for the newly announced Shadow Complex. There over 120 hidden items in the game world and the campaign is over 10 hours in length. This definitely looks like a quality title for being an XBLA game. The game shows plenty of shooting and platforming aspects.
Next, the game Joy Ride is announced. This is the first title being made by the newly purchased Big Park Studios. The game will allow you to use your avatar within the game and it will also be completely free to download. However, there are plenty of cars and tracks that will be available to purchase, but you will be able to play those tracks with friends even if they haven't purchased it themselves. Joy Ride will hit the XBLA this Winter.
After these two arcade game announcements, a trailer comes up on the screen with the words "The city is infected.. You are the cure." Crackdown 2!
Directly afterwards, another trailer hits the screen, this time for Left 4 Dead 2! Plenty of zombie killing action in the extremely short trailer. Also revealed towards the end of the trailer will be the addition of chainsaws! The game will hit stores on November 17th!
Another trailer, well gameplay footage anway.. Sam Fisher playing the piano, that could only mean Splinter Cell: Conviction. The game is now officially demoed on the stage and the opening scene is extremely impressive. Fisher is choking a thug senseless while asking him who killed his daughter before smashing his face into a mirror. Objectives show up directly in the environment, such as on the side of a building almost in a movie reel type way. They now show off a new ability, which is known as "Mark and Execute". The demo definitely showed off how impressive of a game this could end up being, which is a good thing considering how long it's been in development. The game will (finally) launch in Fall 2009, exclusively on Xbox 360 and PC.
Next up on the stage is "the definitive racing game for this generation", Forza Motorsport 3. Dan Greenawalt from Turn 10 Studios comes out to show off the game, which has visuals that are absolutely out of this world for a racing game. Forza 3 will run at 60 frames per second on a brand new engine and will feature 400 vehicles from over 50 manufacturers. The game will have features such as one-button driving and gameplay rewind, which will allow even novice racers to jump right in. The game will also allow the community to connect and share like never before by customizing vehicles like never before seen. Users will also be able to create and share HD clips of their in-game footage, which is impressively showcased in a brief trailer. Forza 3 will launch in October 2009.
Immediately after Greenawalt walks off the stage, Joe Stalen from Bungie hits the stage to showcase Halo 3: ODST. Wasting no time, he jumps directly into the demo and we are introduced to one of the ODST's drops. You start off as The Rookie in New Mombasa weeks before the events of Halo 3. We are introduced to one of the new gears that ODSTs have that Spartans don't have access to. This includes two new sound-suppressed weapons as well as a visor, which will allow for a low-light vision mode to see clearly in dark places. The Rookie finds a detonator, which is a clue to the fate of another ODST, who's name is Dutch. Doing this, you will flash back and forth in time to other ODSTs and piecing together clues in order to find out the mysteries of New Mombasa. The game will "drop" into stores on September 22, 2009.
Revealed directly after Halo 3: ODST is the emergence of a new game that is being developed by a team at Bungie. This game is called Halo: Reach. Not much is revealed about the game other than it "falls" in 2010. Those that purchase Halo 3: ODST will be able to join in on the multiplayer beta when it takes place.
Sam Lake comes onto the stage to demo one of the most anticipated games on the Xbox 360, Alan Wake. The game opens up with a brief epilogue, "My name is Alan Wake. I'm a writer. I came to the small town of Bright Falls on vacation with my wife, Alice. Now she's missing. It's my fault. As insane as it sounds, my latest work, a supernatural thriller is coming true before my eyes. I'm trying to find the lost pages to make sense of what's happening. A horrifying dark presence has woken up. It's growing stronger. It's coming for me. I need to find Alice." Directly after, we are greeted by the words "Previously on Alan Wake", with a few flashbacks, which leads us to believe that the game will be episodic in nature. The game is then demoed on the screen, showing a very dark and brooding atmosphere. The use of light in order to combat the dark presense is extremely evident in the demo, and looks to be one of your most powerful weapons, whether it be a spotlight or a flare. All in all, the game looks absolutely fantastic and we can expect to see it in Spring 2010.
After seeing an incredible amount of great games coming to the Xbox 360, John Schappert shifts the focus over to other entertainment aspects of Xbox Live. First, is the announcement that Xbox Live will form a partnership with the online personal phenomenon of Last.fm. There will be instant access to millions of songs instantly directly through your Xbox 360. This service will be absolutely free for all Xbox Live Gold members.
Next, is the addition of new Netflix features. These include being able to browse categories directly from your Xbox 360 and adding titles directly to your queue or playing them instantly without having to go to your PC.
Also announced, which we've already posted about here on x360a, is a partnership with Sky TV to bring instant watch movies and TV shows to the UK and Ireland this fall. You can also watch live Sky TV television directly through your console without any additional hardware.
The next announcement is Zune Video, which will take the place of the current video marketplace. This will mark quite a few improvements, including videos being instantly transmitted in 1080p HD. That means no longer wait for long downloads of your HD videos! The number of countries where the marketplace is available will increase from 8 to 18.
The next feature announced is one that we've been waiting on since it's announcement at last E3. Live Party will now allow you to experience TV, movies and music with anybody on your friends list without being on the same console.
Lastly, a partnership with Facebook is announced, which will allow users to access Facebook directly from their Xbox 360. To demo how this will work, Felicia Day hits the stage. A nifty feature that is shown is how your Xbox Live friends and Facebook friends will be shown in the same area, so that you can add your Facebook friends on Xbox Live and vice versa. Photos are easily viewed also, and will take up your whole TV screen which is a nice feature. Status updates are also easily viewed and able to be changed directly from the Xbox 360. Also announced is Facebook Connect, which will allow you to share screenshots and texts in real-time. Xbox Live will also be bringing you a Twitter experience for the Xbox 360 as well.
Senior Vice President of Xbox, Don Mattrick, now takes the stage. Directly after coming on stage, Don asks what the one franchise that every Xbox user has wanted to play, after which Hideo Kojima comes up and taps Mr. Mattrick on the shoulder. Kojima then reveals that the next Metal Gear Solid installment will be making it's way to the Xbox 360. The game will be titled Metal Gear Solid: Rising. On the screen comes a brief teaser trailer, which shows Raiden, who will apparently be the main character in the upcoming title. It's promised to be a brand new Metal Gear experience, and is possibly one of the biggest announcements at E3. Last year Final Fantasy, this year Metal Gear. Wow!
We all knew it was coming, well here we go! The simple tagline explains it all, "You are the controller!" There will be a motion sensoring camera that senses your every move, from driving to fighting. You will use your entire body to enteract with the game with the use of full body motion capture. You can use your own gear to scan images, such as a skateboard that will be translated directly into the game.
This new feature will also include voice recognition, for areas such as game shows where you will be able to shout out the answers and the game will understand what you say.
The device is shown at the end of the trailer, which is a bar with numerous sensors on it, which will be able to record your every move.
It is announced to be called Project Natal and will work with every Xbox 360 as well as being sold with Xbox 360s in the future.
Steven Spielberg comes on to talk about how this new technology will revolutionize gaming by allowing anybody to play video games by using your entire being instead of being hindered by a controller. Mr. Spielberg proclaims, "It's not about reinventing the wheel, it's about having no wheel at all", and then walks off the stage.
The creative director of Project Natal, Kudo Tsunoda, takes the stage. A demo is shown, starting with the Dashboard. As soon as you turn your Xbox 360 on, you will be automatically signed in because Project Natal will recognize you based on facial recognition. Wow! Also, you can navigate the Dashboard menus by moving your hands. The game Ricochet is demoed, which is basically Breakout, where your body is the paddle. The game recognizes your every body movement from head to toe. The technology will also allow multiple people to be recognized at once, allowing multiplayer games in the same room. Kudo takes a nice stab at the Wii by saying "This isn't a game where you end up sitting on a sofa and are just using some preset waggle commands." BURN!
The second game demoed is Paint Party, which also recognizes voice recognition by saying colors or actions, and by using your hands, you are able to splash colors onto the canvas. When forming actual pictures, you can use photo recognition by posing and forming a stencil. Kind of corny, but the way the motion sensor capabilities work are absolutely amazing!
Peter Molyneux of Lionhead Studios comes out and shows a video enacting Project Natal being used and how innovative this technology can become. The video shows a boy named as Milo that is able to interact directly with the person playing it, and is able to recognize what is said. Claire, the girl playing this interactive demo, was able to reach her hands out and catch a pair of goggles that Milo threw to her, and then put them on. Also, she is able to reach her hands into a pond and have the water react to every movement of her hands. Claire was able to draw on a sheet of paper, hold it up to Milo, who then took it and was able to recognize everything including the color.
This is some of the most innovative technology ever in video games, as long as it will work as it is intended to. Obviously, it won't work for your Halos and Gears of Wars, but it will be a completely new interactive experience that will revolutionize gaming.
WHEW! And with that we're done.. Easily, one of the best Microsoft press conferences to date! Plenty of groundbreaking announcements and features that will please everybody, along with all of the games that we really wanted to see. Not to mention, we got to see some huge celebrities in Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr and Steven Spielberg. All in all, an incredible showing from Microsoft!