Microsoft E3 Press Conference Highlights

Microsoft’s E3 press conference was earlier today. Here is a general rundown:

* The festivities started with a demonstration of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. No new information came out about the game, though an impressive submarine level was shown off. They did confirm that the reported television series being given with Call of Duty: Elite is going to happen.
* Next was a demo of the Tomb Raider reboot, showing a 21 year old Lara Croft getting out of some sticky situations. Embargoes for most outlets will be ending this week. The game will see release in Fall of 2012.
* Peter Moore from EA Sports stepped up, and announced that four EA Sports games would support Kinect: Madden, Tiger Woods, FIFA and an unnamed fourth game.
* Bioware’s Ray Muzyka was next, to talk about Mass Effect 3. The game will also feature Kinect support. where players will be able to give commands via voice instead of just the dialogue wheel. To use an example, I – Chris Bowen – can audibly say “let’s save our crew”, and Bus Sheppard will say those lines in the video game.
* Ubisoft CEO Yves Guillemot took the stage to talk about Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. It – and all future TC games – will support Kinect. Kinect support in GR:FS will be granular; for example, you can say “optimize for distance”, and the game will bring up scopes for your gun to customize.
* Microsoft’s Mark Whitten unveiled a new Kinect dashboard for the 360. He also announced some of the entertainment features that are coming to the 360: Youtube support, Bing support, and partnerships with television providers to provide live television content. All of this will be voice enabled via Kinect. Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White came on to talk about UFC partnerships that would allow gamers to purchase UFC pay-per-views via Xbox.
* Cliff Blezinski took to the stage to play Gears of Wars 3 along with rapper Ice-T.
* The following games were announced in a quick span of time: Ryse (Roman-based Kinect game where you can “fight” with your arms, which uses the Crytek engine), Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (a remade version of the first Halo, scheduled for release on November 15th), Forza Motorsport 4 (also suports Kinect, including head tracking, scheduled for release October 11), and Fable: The Journey (also supports Kinect).
* A Kinect-enhanced version of Minecraft will be coming to the Xbox in wintertime.
* Disneyland Adventures recreates Disney World. One guess what peripheral it heavily supports.
* Kinect Star Wars was announced, where you can use your arms to use a virtual lightsabre.
* Tim Schafer introduced Once Upon a Monster, a Sesame Street game for Kinect.
* Kinect Fun Labs was actually released today, and is essentially a set of tools showing off Kinect’s capabilities, such as the ability to draw with your fingers. Also announced was Kinect Sports: Season Two.
* Dance Central 2 was announced, which includes the ability to import songs from Dance Central 1 (think Pinball FX’s ability to import tables to the second game).
* Finally, Halo 4 was officially announced. Halo 4 will be the first part of a new trilogy, and will come out during the holiday 2012 timeframe. Halo 4 was initially leaked early by Microsoft’s web team.

Analysis: Let me translate the Microsoft keynote in practical terms:

Kinect Kinect Kinect Kinect. Kinect. Kinect Kinect Kinect, Kinect Kinect. Kinect! Kinect Kinect Kinect, Kinect Kinect Kinect Kinect Kinect Kinect Kinect Kinect Kinect.

Finally, Kinect.

To be fair, a lot of what they’re doing is interesting. What impresses me is that most of what I saw was optional. In a lot of cases, there’s not a lot of value add (do I really need to be able to verbalize my commands in Mass Effect? And what the hell was going on during that Disney World video?), but in some cases, there’s quite a bit (Dance Central 2 will be awesome for the casual crowd), and in some cases, the effects are understated but impressive nonetheless (I will be really interested in how Forza 4’s head tracking works). Also, some of Microsoft’s additions in regards to non-gaming content are impressive, especially the addition of live television. However, I would like to know: is anyone taking into account internet data caps? The more content that is available for streaming online, the harsher line ISPs are taking on data travelling their network. Comcast customers have a 250GB cap, and some AT+T customers are running 150GB; in Canada, it’s much, much worse. The American caps seem high, but all of this streaming data is going to start adding up. This will become a bigger issue in the next couple of years.

I’ll use bullet points for the rest of my thoughts:

– I admit: the new Tomb Raider looks impressive. Even if it plays like shit like all of the others have, it still looks impressive, and might not be as bad of a travesty as other games that it has been compared to turned out to be (see: Metroid: Other M).
– It’s interesting that even with CoD: Elite coming for MW3, Microsoft will still get timed exclusivity on the DLC packs. It’s amazing just how little Activision regards their non-Microsoft gamers. Why should they? They’ll buy the games anyway, they get paid either way.
– It’ll be intersting to see just how Kinect integrates with Minecraft, and what will be different about the 360 version of what is now a modern PC classic. Either way, whatever makes Notch a richer man is A-OK with me.
– Kinect Star Wars is basically an on-rails lightsabre game. Great fanservice, but little else.
– I’ve heard some good things about Once Upon a Monster. That could be a Kinect seller for kids.
– I say, give 343 Industries a chance to do something with Halo. I’m seeing a lot of trepidation over the first Halo game to not be developed by Bungie, and I think some of it is warranted, but one of the great things about Halo is that Microsoft has taken pretty good care of it. Even with the expansions and the spinoffs, they’ve put out a fairly quality product, and this is coming from someone who isn’t necessarily a Halo fan. I will admit, though: even as a casual fan of Halo, I’m intrigued at the prospect of a remake of the original game.

Overall, I wasn’t too impressed by the press conference. As someone who does his gaming in a relatively tight space, I’m not excited over the prospect of having to build an extension onto my house to get the most out of my 360, no matter how impressive Kinect’s technology is. In a few years, when Aileen and I are having kids, maybe then I’ll be more excited for Kinect or whatever successor is out by then. But until then, between Microsoft’s pounding on Kinect and Sony’s pounding on 3D, I just kind of want Nintendo to come along and pound on what I care about: games. Even with Sony’s insistence that 3D Is The Future™, they blew Microsoft out of the water, mainly because I would like to make the kind of love to the Vita that only my fiancée knows about.

Lastly, I hope against hope that I never have to type the word Kinect ever again after this. It’s a funny word to look at over and over in a piece.

Christopher Bowen

About Christopher Bowen

Christopher Bowen is the Editor in Chief of Gaming Bus. Before opening Gaming Bus in May of 2011, he was the News Editor at Diehard GameFAN, a lead reporter for DailyGamesNews, and a reviewer at Not A True Ending, also contributing to VIMM, SNESZone and Scotsmanality. Outside of the industry, he is a network engineer in Norwalk, CT and a veteran of Operation Iraqi Freedom.