E3 2012 Microsoft Press Conference Coverage

Microsoft held their E3 conference earlier today. The following details the key points:

* After a single phrase of welcome, a live action sci-fi trailer began to play. People in military uniforms seemed to be panicking and getting thrown around in spaceships. Eventually, a confident-looking Master Chief is shown holding a gun as a giant lava ball flies by him, confirming everybody’s suspicion that this was a Halo 4 trailer. Some gameplay was shown, most of which consisted of Master Chief walking through a tight jungle corridor, shooting a few aliens here and there. At the end of the trailer, Master Chief gets ambushed by some strange new form of alien and seems to get killed or captured before the trailer cuts out.

* Don Mattrick, the President of Interactive Entertainment, came out and introduced the conference. He announced that the Xbox is now the #1 selling console worldwide. He made a comment about taking the Xbox to phones and tablets but didn’t clarify what he meant.

* Next, a trailer began with a man in military garb carrying a dead body into a camp. Several people began to talk frantically in Arabic as they examined the body. Eventually, one of the Arabic-speakers confronted the man who had carried the dead body into camp and he started shooting everyone, and then Splinter Cell: Blacklist‘s logo appeared. Afterwards, gameplay footage played as two developers started to talk about the game. Some surprisingly fluid parkour was shown as Sam killed groups of people in rapid motion. Eventually, Sam lost his secrecy and entered a shootout with the remainder of the camp. The game features co-op.

* Andrew Wilson of EA Sports announces that Madden ’13 and FIFA ’13 are going to incorporate Kinect. Apparently, you speak your orders into the game without using menus. For example, in Madden ’13, a former NFL quarterback was seen shouting plays at the game, which the on-screen players followed.

* A trailer for Fable: The Journey showed a man wielding fire magic and blowing things up. Various other kinds of magic with slightly different effects were shown too, but the over all point seems to be some kind of FPS based on throwing fire magic at them.

* In a new Gears of War trailer, intense music plays while a city burns in the background. No gameplay is shown, and the trailer is relatively short.

* An action racing game trailer for FORZA: Horizon shows several cars driving on both sides of the median at various exotic locales. October 23 is confirmed to be the release date.

* The head of marketing for Microsoft showed the enhanced ability to search the Xbox store through voice. More countries will receive this capability, such as Austria, Australia, Spain, New Zealand, Mexico, Germany, France, and others. To demonstrate this, a man is shown navigating through the menus in Spanish.

* Nickelodeon, Paramount, Machinima, and Univision will all be providing content for the Xbox entertainment store. On the sports side, the NBA and NHL will be joining the Xbox in manner similar to MLB.tv. Furthermore, all of ESPN’s channels will be available live in HD on the Xbox.

* Xbox Music is a new service by Microsoft that’ll be available on Xbox, tablets, and PCs. It will feature over 30 billion music tracks.

* A Nike representative announced Nike+ Kinect Training, which appeared to be some kind of digital personal trainer. A trailer of it is shown and features in-game models doing various workouts as a rep counter goes up.

* Xbox SmartGlass was announced. It allows greater connectivity between a smartphone or tablet and movies, games, and TV. After a demonstration and a movie, the tablet started to list information about the movie and also offered the ability to pause the film. Game of Thrones started to play, and a map popped up on the tablet that tracked the action of the show. A video played afterwards, showing a tablet making and editing plays for Madden ’13 on their tablet, and another tablet played extra video during Halo 4 and arranged multiplayer matches. SmartGlass is coming worldwide this fall.

* The Xbox can now browse the Internet through SmartGlass and Kinect. The Xbox will use Internet Explorer, Microsoft’s in-house web browser. You browse the Internet by speaking URLs and using SmartGlass to navigate the pages.

* Xbox games, music, TV shows, and SmartGlass will be available with Windows 8.

* A new Tomb Raider game played. Lara Croft was seen fighting in a shootout with a composite bow. After some acrobatics, she drew close enough to use melee combat. Later in the video, Lara gained the ability to set her arrows on fire, which seemed to cause a lot of explosions. She was also seen using a shotgun at several points in the video. At the end of the video, there was a cutscene where Lara was sliding down a waterfall, and then, after falling off a cliff, parachuted to safety.

* The newest release from Signal Studios (Toy Soldiers), Ascend: New Gods, has a trailer. It involved a man with a bow shooting a troll. Another man in red armor was seen killing goblin-like creatures. The video ended with the man in red armor climbing around a giant demon and fighting it, a là Shadow of the Colossus. The release date is 2013.

* Another trailer played reading out stats for some motorcycle. The Twisted Pixel logo flew up, and a release date was confirmed as 2013. Very little else was shown.

* In the next trailer, a giant eyeball flew around some kind of weird machine city. The trailer was for a Kinect title called Matter, coming in 2013.

* A Resident Evil clip played next. It showed Leon Kennedy and a woman fighting zombies in the streets. Eventually, they entered a building and engaged in some close-quarters combat with zombies, which involved quick-time events. When they left the hallway, an entire city was shown on fire and in chaos. A military plane flew into a city, causing a chain explosion with the cars on the street. Leon Kennedy then ran all the way to a helicopter as the entire city street erupted into flames. However, the helicopter stalled out, and, several quick time events later, Kennedy and his companion found themselves rocketing into a building full of zombies.

* Wrecketeer, a new Xbox Live title, was introduced. A woman pulled on a ballista through Kinect and then waved in the air to change the type of shot. The point of the game is to fly your shots into castles and knock them down. The release date is this summer.

* South Park was shown burning and in ruins. As Cartman narrates, for one reason or another, the town is in ruins and it is up to them and a new kid—your character—to save the town from a various array of baddies, which seem to range from vampires to Jesus Christ with an uzi. The game is called The Stick of Truth. Trey Parker and Matt Stone, the creators of the show, came out to talk about their experience working with Obsidian to make the game.

* New Harmonix’s rhythm game, Dance Central 3, was shown in a trailer. To promote the game, Usher came out on stage with a dance crew to demonstrate some of the choreography that will be available in the game.

* The show closed with a trailer for Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. A cutscene of several men in a jeep with many panicked (and one dead) politician talking about L.A. being evacuated. One of the women is revealed to be the president. Eventually, the jeep becomes overturned after an explosion, and the cutscene gives way to some gameplay. The player is seen in a SAM battery shooting down enemy planes. Afterwards, the player snipes some enemies as a squad leads the president away from the action. Then, across the screen appeared the words, “In the interest of time…” cutting to a new scene as the player fights across the streets of urban Los Angeles and inside shopping malls. After some time, a skyscraper gets knocked down, and the player heads over to an airlane and follows a truck through the ruins of L.A. The video ends with the player dogfighting some drones. The game is set for release on November 13, 2012.

Analysis: Microsoft’s E3 presentation went down almost exactly as one would’ve guessed. More Kinect interactivity, more sequels to the big blockbusters like Halo and Call of Duty, and more Xbox Entertainment stuff like the new sports coverage.

The only surprise was the SmartGlass announcement, but color me unimpressed. It’s a gadget thing, and it doesn’t seem like there’s any SmartGlass functionality that will significantly improve play. The Madden ’13 interactivity, where you could draw and edit plays, was probably the coolest SmartGlass feature shown, and that’s nothing to wet yourself over. Still, I suppose it’s prudent to give these things a chance; I thought Kinect would be just a passing phase, and now it’s one of the console’s major features. Perhaps SmartGlass will develop into a similar role.

As for the rest, it all depends on your taste. There’s a South Park RPG, a new Resident Evil, Tomb Raider, and various other games that may or may not interest you. There was nothing too exciting, though, and I feel like this press conference will do little else but impress the people who are already deeply impressed with the Xbox.

The highlight of the show, however, was definitely Usher prancing around on stage while his song played in the background. Watching him try and sing along without actually having to sing the song was almost as amusing as his increasingly raspy, out-of-breath voice. Music these days.

So, if I could summarize the entire conference in a single word, it’d be “predictable.” The whole gig felt like a smug Microsoft saying, “Yeah, we won. There’s nobody out there giving us a run for our money. Now pay us to rest on our laurels!” In that regard, maybe I’m a little bit more interested in the Sony press conference than I used to be. It’d be nice to have competition among the consoles again.

Connor Horn

About Connor Horn

Connor is a laid-back long-haired California hipster who listens to music "you'll never find on the radio" and who voted for Ron Paul to "make a difference." His favorite kind of games are MOBAs and rogue-likes, and he is a huge fan of PC gaming and the future of digital distribution.