E3 2010: Microsoft Press Conference
Written Tuesday, June 15, 2010 By Jason Debelyak
As we did last year, we want to bring you the most in-depth coverage that's possible for E3. Therefore, in case you missed any of the Microsoft press conference, or simply want a refresher course on what went down today, we've got your back! Read on for all of the details that came out of the media briefing, as well as yours truly's take on some of the major announcements and demos that we saw on stage today. Sit back, relax and enjoy the read!
The press conference opens up with a trailer for Treyarch's Call of Duty: Black Ops. How will Call of Duty live on with the departure of Infinity Ward from Activision? Well, the debut trailer certainly looks quite impressive, maybe not as impressive as Modern Warfare 2's was at last year's E3, but impressive nonetheless. The end of the trailer confirms a concrete release date: November 9, 2010.
Treyarch's Studio Head, Mark Lamia, comes onto the stage to do a live demonstration of the game. The demo starts out in a dark tunnel with dead bodies all over the ground. As you crawl through, you'll encounter a few parts that will make you jump, including some enemies attacking your allies. The demo switches over to another scene within the game, where you're in a jungle and attempt an ambush in order to hijack an enemy helicopter. Once you jump into the chopper, it's time to blow stuff up! Firing missiles, a wooden bridge, an outpost and some boats on the river all get blown into pieces. Then, an enemy chopper comes at you, which is taken down in another brilliant explosion. This is definitely the most impressive part of the demonstration, but just like the trailer, still doesn't pack the same punch that Modern Warfare 2 did last year. Still, quite impressive.
Don Mattrick comes on stage to talk a bit about a new partnership between Xbox and Activision. This agreement states that all game add-ons and map packs starting with Black Ops will launch first on Xbox 360 from 2010 through 2012. This is definitely why they decided to start the press conference with Call of Duty, and is probably a huge selling point for many people when it comes to buying a new Call of Duty game for a particular system.
Don continues to talk about the biggest games in the industry coming out on Xbox 360 this year, including Halo: Reach, Fable 3 and Gears of War 3. Also, he confirms the new name for Project Natal, which we now know to be Kinect. Just like last year, Mattrick promises that they are here to "show and not tell".
Hideo Kojima comes out to show the very first footage of Metal Gear Solid: Rising. It turns out to be a very short appearance for Kojima, as he brings out his Producer to do a bit of talking. He explains that they came up with a new mechanic called Zan-Datsu, which means to cut and take. They then bring up a trailer where we see Raiden cut through a machine and take out its insides. He then seems to absorb its energy, which could end up being a very interesting aspect within the game. We then see some gameplay footage and the cutting mechanic in action, which is absolutely incredible! The sword cuts through everything from enemies, vehicles and even buildings. The physics from the cuts is equally impressive. This is definitely promising to be an epic addition to the franchise.
Cliff Bleszinksi from Epic Games hits the stage to show the first footage of Gears of War 3. Three other people join the stage to show off the brand new four-player co-op aspect of the game, and to also show off the brand new playable female Gears, Anya and Sam. The demo kicks off and one of the first things we see is a brand new way to use the chainsaw, which is basically ramming it straight through a locust. Another useful tactic, which will hopefully be used online, is the ability to transfer guns to your fellows Cogs. The new lambent locusts make an appearance, with plenty of mutations and new attacks. Now, the grand daddy of the demo shows up, the lambent berserker. Throwing a car after appearing on the scene and then charging at the Cogs, this one doesn't seem to be as big of a pushover as the original berserker. The Cogs rush through a gate and then lock it, but that's not enough to keep the berserker out, as it leaps over. This is where the demo cuts out. Cliffy B announces that they will be unveiling a new game mode called Beast Mode, which hopefully we will learn more about before E3 is over. Definitely a good demonstration for a Gears head such as myself!
Peter Molyneux comes out to talk about Fable 3, and announces that it will launch on October 26, 2010. A brief trailer hits the screen, and pretty much looks like typical Fable aspects that we are used to by now. The tag line at the end of the trailer proclaims that "It's a revolution". Well, that's it for Fable 3!
Now, a brand new announcement (finally!). Microsoft Game Studios has entered into a new partnership with Crytek, the makers of Crysis, in order to bring a new IP to the Xbox 360. The brief trailer (if you can call it that) doesn't really show much about what the game could possibly be about. However, the game is entitled Codename Kingdoms, and looks like it will probably be some type of action or strategy game.
Now it's time to bring on the newest edition to the Halo franchise, Halo: Reach. The Halo franchise has sold over 44 million copies and has logged over 2 billion hours of online gameplay. It is announced that 7.5 million players made the Halo: Reach beta the most successful beta in console history. The world premiere of the campaign is now shown, and it is confirmed that the game will launch this upcoming September. Spartans are dropped out of a plane and make their way into a desert that is being bombarded by pods dropped by the Covenant as they try to make their way into the nearby base. They make their way into the base and jump into a spacecraft. Yes, that's right, a spacecraft! Rising above the planet, they launch into space and go to war with the Covenant in aerial combat. Halo: Reach will launch on September 14, 2010.
Corporate Vice President of Xbox Live, Mark Whitten, now hits the stage to talk more about Kinect and how the 25 million Xbox Live users can use the new device to enjoy the way they use entertainment in a brand new way. He claims that this is a revolution to not only video games, but for all forms of entertainment, "this is what happens when technology gets out of your way."
A demonstration shows Kinect at use on the menu. A simple wave will allow Kinect to recognize you and log you into your actual gamer profile. Kinect, as already seen, will also use voice recognition at a level that we've never before seen. Saying "Xbox Zune" will automatically bring up a list of videos that you have in the Zune Marketplace. Using your hands, you can fast forward or rewind through a movie in order to find your favorite scene. Using voice commands, such as "Xbox Pause" and "Xbox Play", you can pause and restart the current movie that you're currently watching, all without trying to find the remote in order to do so. I'm sure everyone has had an occurence where they want to get up and pause a movie but can't find where they set the controller. Now, you don't need to! These are definitely some impressive features for Kinect, all without even seeing any of the games in action!
Mark Whitten announces that Kinect and Xbox Live will be available in every country where Xbox 360s are sold. Also, on the Windows Phone 7, Xbox Live will be available. Achievements, friends and avatars will be with you no matter where you go!
Laura comes out to demonstrate Video Kinect, which will allow live video chatting over Xbox Live, as well as users on Windows Live Messenger. Laura enters into a video chat with her sister across the country, and to be honest, most of it seemed fairly demeaning to females in general, but we won't talk about that. The nicest feature about Video Kinect is that you can watch videos with people in your video chat, from recent news, sports and movie trailers. Laura then explains that Kinect can follow you when you move in a dumbed-down answer that it "follows your skeleton when you move". C'mon Laura, no need to talk down to your sister like that!
Next, there is a brand new partnership announced between ESPN and Xbox 360. This new feature will allow Xbox Live Gold members to stream live and on-demand sports events directly to their Xbox 360 for completely free. Over 3,500 sporting events will be able to be streamed, including college basketball, college football, soccer, NBA and Major League Baseball. John Elliott and Trey Wingo hit the stage to talk more about the exclusive partnership. A demonstration is shown from the USC-Ohio State Rose Bowl from the past year (disappointing for me in particular). You can easily bring up replays by using voice commands, and even answer real-time polls and trivia. Fans will also be able to access live scores, stats and highlights without even leaving the game that they are even watching. This is definitely an incredible addition for die hard sports fans such as myself.
Creative Director of Kinect, Kudo Tsunoda, hits the stage to help demonstrate some of the games that will be coming to Kinect during the launch timeframe. Kudo states that, "with Kinect, you interact with your Xbox 360 just like you interact with things in the real world, using your body and using your voice." Using Kinect will make playing games more social and will allow you to build experiences with your friends and family.
The first game to be demonstrated is Kinectimals. A little girl comes out to demonstrate with her pet tiger in the game which she has named "Skittles". Exciting right? She does tricks such as teaching him how to jump and how to roll over. When she hides behind something on the stage, Skittles realizes that she's gone and begins looking for her on the screen. One of the many activities you can perform with your pets is now demonstrated, which is jump rumping. Kids can adopt up to 40 different animals and play with them in over 30 different activities. Can anyone say easy achievements?!
Next up on display is Kinect Sports. Sound familiar to another motion sensing sports game? Hmm.. Anyway, Kinect Sports will offer six different sporting events to play. The sport that is demonstrated on stage is one of the track and field events, which is the hurdles. To run, you simply run in place and then jump as the hurdles appear, and Kinect will recognize your movements. The six sports that will be available within Kinect Sports are soccer, bowling, track and field, table tennis, boxing and beach volleyball.
Now, we see a demonstration for one of the big Xbox Live Arcade games that we were introduced to at last year's E3, Joyride. Well, as has been announced, this game is now looking to be a full title and no longer a free-to-play avatar game. The uses of Kinect are pretty interesting, using your hands as a steering wheel, you're able to turn in real-time, and even doing trips by spinning around in place. Also, moving your hands quickly out will give you an acceleration boost. Looks like decent fun I suppose.
The next game is the most impressive of the six that are displayed, Kinect Adventures. The first part of the game that is shown is an obstacle course, where you have to duck and jump over certain obstacles, and then do certain body poses in order to collect tokens. Multiple players can play at a time, at Kinect will even take photos as you play to capture certain moments and experiences that you share with your friends. The next part of the game is now displayed, which is a river rafting adventure, which you can play with a partner. Players have to move from side to side in order to turn the raft, and jumping will give the players extra height and boost. There are over 20 different adventures to go on in the game, and you can even post your pictures to the internet, including Facebook.
One of the many fitness games that will launch with Kinect, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, is shown next. Using Kinect, it will automatically calibrate your physical dimensions in order to cater workouts to your personal shape. You get your own personal coach, and you will be given on-screen instructions and demonstrations for the different exercises that you will do. This seems extremely helpful and is something that other fitness games haven't been able to offer. They show some gym activities, which will allow you to do fitness activities, such as combat training, while playing competitive games. The one that was shown had the demonstrator punching oncoming blocks in order to build up her score. Another mode that was shown was a Zen mode, which had the demonstrator doing certain poses, and having Kinect track her body to make sure that she was doing it correctly. Probably not everyone's cup of tea, but easily one of the most impressive fitness programs that will be out on the market.
The last game that is shown for Kinect is one that is being developed by MTV Games and Harmonix. Dance Central is basically a Dance Dance Revolution game that uses your entire body instead of just your feet. During a song, you are shown the moves that you are supposed to do, and you are then scored on how well you execute those moves. This will be another exclusive title for Kinect. The game will feature a soundtrack which includes artists such as Lady Gaga, No Doubt and The Beastie Boys. There are over 600 moves in over 90 routines, some of which will be recognized as being taken directly from the music videos. A mode called 'Break It Down' is now shown, which teaches the dancer how to perform each individual move and then how to stream them together. This moment in particular made me feel like I was watchin the Nintendo press conference instead of the Microsoft one, as the demonstrator had backup dancers join him during his dance. A bit corny, but it can't be argued that this will be the most in-depth dancing game to be released on consoles as long as it is executed correctly.
Phil Spencer comes back on stage to announce that Kinect will launch worldwide this holiday, starting with North America on November 4th. The game will feature 15 titles at launch, and there will also be an exclusive agreement with LucasArts to bring a Star Wars game to the Xbox 360 which will use Kinect. The brief gameplay trailer shows an action scene where a light saber is used to deflect bullets and defeat enemies, as well as using Force maneuvers and kicks. I would definitely love to see this in actual action before passing judgement, but this definitely looks fairly promising.
Turn 10 Studios come out next to demonstrate how Forza will make use of Kinect. By putting your hands at 10 and 2, you are able to drive a car by using your hands as the steering wheel. Of course, it's doubtful that this technology will handle any intense racing, but the demonstration that was shown was pretty satisfying. The next feature that is shown is that you are able to use Kinect to inspect a car in real time. You are able to walk around a car and inspect any part of it, and experience the car in a whole new way. This "feature", or whatever it may be called, will come in 2011. I'm not completely sure if it's going to be a new game or some kind of downloadable feature for Forza 3. Hopefully we'll find out soon enough, and we'll let you know as soon as we do!
Don Mattrick comes back out to end the press conference with a brief recap on some of the big things that was covered during the briefing. One of the biggest announcements is now made that there is a brand new Xbox 360 that will be bundled with a 250 GB hard drive, as well as built in WiFi. It is sleeker, smaller and whisper quiet, and will be available for the same exact price as the 120 GB bundle ($299 in the U.S.). The biggest part of the announcement is that the brand new Xbox 360 has begun shipping to retailers TODAY. That means that the console will be available in stores later this week! However, for those in attendance for the media briefing (lucky SOB's), they will receive a console for free right away!
Definitely a great way to end the conference, especially considering it may be seen as lackluster when compared to last year's. All in all, Kinect stole the show, as was probably expected. The hardcore gamers may be a bit disappointed, even if they did get some brief looks at some of their most anticipated games. However, Microsoft's main goal this year seemed to be to reach out to a brand new demographic, which we can't totally blame them from a business stand point. If Kinect sees even a small fraction of the success as the Wii has seen, Microsoft will be taking another huge chunk of the gaming market. Stay tuned for all of our impressions from E3, especially including the first impressions of Kinect!