Microsoft’s E3 press conference ended not too long ago, but if you didn’t have the time or desire to watch through the whole thing, here’s are some of the highlights from a pretty disappointing conference. In addition to announcing a new feature coming later this year, which will allow you to browse through media content using Kinect voice, trailers were shown for some of the biggest upcoming 360 titles including Splinter Cell: Blacklist, Gears of War: Judgement, and Fable: The Journey. We also got some nice gameplay footage from games like Call of Duty: Black Ops II and Tomb Raider, and previews of new features coming to Xbox later this year. Check it all out after the break.
As usual, our intrepid Editor-in-Chief, Ron Burke, was present at the conference (video assistance provided by Breanna Goodman):
First up, welcome to Halo 4. It’s been four years since the war, and the best and brightest are proving no match against an unknown threat. The first UNSC ship commissioned in over a decade, the Infinity, is quickly brought down by an unidentified threat. It crash lands as Master Chief watches helplessly from the ground. The threat becomes visible, manifesting as a large orb that scans Master Chief before flying towards the crash site. We see Chief walking through the desert before we break to live gameplay.
The graphics look crisp and smooth. We stumble upon a Covenant scouting party. They are taken out easily until the last one charges towards us only to be vaporized by some sort of laser. Pushing further into the forest we encounter some sort of defensive AI ground crawlers. The smaller ones begin to retreat to clear the way for a new threat – some sort of biomechanical insect shocktrooper. It opens its carapace and launches a flying drone from its back. Taking down the creature, we retrieve its weapon – it’s Forerunner technology. Taking down a second of the same type of creature, we retrieve a “Scattershot” – a Forerunner shotgun. Pushing further we switch our visor mode to an infrared style mode only to see that we are completely surrounded by this new threat. The trailer closes with shots of Cortana completely losing her mind against this new threat, declaring that they will not leave this planet.
Don Mattrick takes the stage to confirm that the Xbox 360 has taken the #1 worldwide spot in sales. He believes that this is entirely due to the success of their games, as well as ability to deliver social and digital media.
We move forward with a live demo on Kinect of the new Splinter Cell title called “Blacklist.” Some Middle-eastern troops haul a body into the medic tent. Sam tags two of them, and then proceeds to break the arm of the third target. The Blacklist is a terror list ultimatum – get your troops out of our countries or we will bring the war to you. A much younger Sam Fisher must infiltrate a base on the Iran / Iraq border. “Killing in motion” allows Sam to fly through a landscape, using his sills to execute soldiers while on the run, disarming them and taking them down quietly. Scaling up a wall, Sam infiltrates a small village and shows off the Kinect voice recognition. Whispering “Hey you” to a nearby threat, he stabs him and pulls him over the edge. A technical heads into the plaza – he marks his targets and jumps down to execute them. When things get loud, Sam is able to bash through doors, scale walls, and leap onto enemies similar to Assassin’s Creed. Calling in an Airstrike via Kinect voice, Sam takes out the technical. Looking underneath the door with a camera, Sam takes out a few more targets and preps to extract his asset, only the asset doesn’t want to go, proving this point he demonstrates clearly by pulling the trigger of the gun that Sam has put against his neck. Splinter Cell: Blacklist is headed to shelves in Spring of 2013.
EA Sports grabs the spotlight now with a quick chat about bringing FIFA 13 to Kinect. Roll the video! Using the voice commands we can substitute people, change tactics, change formation, and give your strikers commands in mid-flight. Apparently the Kinect also helps the Ref hear your reaction to their crap calls and they’ll give you the yellow flag for being belligerent. Next up, Kinect support for Madden 13. Joe Montana takes the stage to talk about Kinect – he calls “Flip Run”and then “Set Hike”. He calls “Hurry Up” to his team to get them back on line. “Flanker Dig”, “Crabtree” and “Streak.” Next he calls an audible to pull through for the Touchdown. This tech allows you to become the play caller in Madden, allowing both offense and defense to call their own plays.
Fable: The Journey is up next. Heading back to the world of Albion, we see a short trailer for Lionhead’s next Fable project, clearly showing a great deal of Kinect interaction via hand motions.
Phil Spencer takes the stage to say “Only the best games are on Xbox”, declaring that this will be the best year for Microsoft. First up, we get to see the world premier trailer for Gears of War: Judgement. The cool part? The guys from Epic are sitting right next to me as it debuts.
Forza Horizon gets a very shiny new trailer and boy does it look beautiful. Showing rally racing, street racing with the 2013 Viper, and some beautiful day and night sequences, the game looks to bring the autoshow / street racing scene to our living room. It hits October 23rd, 2012.
Yousef Mehdi takes the stage to talk about the marketing side of Microsoft. Starting this Fall you’ll be able to use genre search by saying things like “Xbox – Bing Action” to find Action movies. You’ll be able to then watch them by saying “Xbox – Killer Elite” to select that movie. They will also bring Bing to 12 more countries, so you can expect voice search to hit many more languages. The demonstration in Spanish is equally as smooth. They plan to double the amount of items that will come to Xbox this year, controllable via voice. They are welcoming Nickelodeon, Paramount Movies, Machinima, and Univision to the Xbox 360 this year. Last year we got the UFC on Xbox Live, more recently MLB.TV appeared, and this year we are set to receive the NBA on Xbox 360. League Pass will bring you over 2400 games, but that’s not all. Next season we get NHL Game Center as well, with over 40 games per week. In addition, we are getting 24/7 programming courtesy of WatchESPN on Xbox 360, including ESPN, ESPN2, ESPN3, and ESPN U. If you are a sports fan, this is pretty huge news. A lot of new features including splitscreen, picking your winners, and going fullscreen with your voice are all coming your way.
On the music front, we are getting something called Xbox Music. It will launch with 30 million songs and will release on Xbox 360, Windows, Tablets, and Phones. It looks like you’ll be able to see what other people are listening to (potential embarrassment included), selecting all via touch or voice.
For Kinect we are seeing Nike come to the Xbox. Their newest franchise will come to motion controls, and Stefan Olander is here to announce it. The new title is called “Nike+ Kinect Training” and it’s goal is simple – helping you understand and measure your capabilities. With the ability to create a full assessment, you’ll get a personalized training system, with reminders via phone and re-assessments every 4 weeks. This will allow you to connect with your friends and coaches at Nike to help keep you motivated and moving. We could all stand to be a little more fit, and Nike is looking to make that happen with Kinect this Holiday season.
Marc Whitten takes the stage to talk about interconnection between all of our various devices. He is debuting Xbox SmartGlass – a way to integrate all of those peripherals with our big-screen experience. He demonstrates this by showing that he was watching the movie on his tablet on the flight here, but is able to flip it to the TV with the press of a button. The tablet then switches to an information panel to show all of the stats and info on the movie and cast. Showing a shot from Game of Thrones, he is able to see how these things interact with his other devices – it shows a map of where John Snow is riding beyond the wall without interrupting the show on the big screen. How does it work on games? Well, we get a video to show us. The tablet can be used to call plays, including drawing your own, for football. Player positions are reflected on the tablet, giving you a playmaker’s look at your team. Halo 4 shows waypoint data including videos, schematics, and other side data on the game you are playing. You can also game match and set up multiplayer from the tablet. Supposedly this can be used with any device. With Kinect and Smartglass you will also be able to surf the web with Internet Explorer at some point this year. Using “Web Hub” he is able to see his favorites, paging through them with his voice. With the browser, we hit up Fox’s website to see the new trailer for Prometheus. Next up, we check out Aston Martin’s website on the browser. You can use your phone or a tablet to surf, pinch and zoom, and otherwise control the browser via SmartGlass. Both will launch this Fall.
Crystal Dynamics takes the stage to show off the incredible new Tomb Raider title. Lara takes silently takes out two enemies with a bow before taking out a third as he flees behind a table. Blowing down a door with a shotgun, Lara uses a rope to descend to another side of the cliff. Enemies are near a flammable substance that Lara ignites to take them out with the environment. Similarly, a well-placed shot to an overhead oil lantern makes light work of two more. Winging another with a short to the leg, Lara closes distance and finishes him by shoving an arrow into his neck. Unfortunately she ends up in a rapidly moving waterfall, frantically shooting objects in her way. Coming to rest inside the quickly disintegrating canopy of a crashed plane, she carefully snags a parachute just in time to save herself from a quick death. Careening through the trees, Lara suffers a fairly painful fall through the canopy, coming to rest on the ground with a punctured side. Barely able to move, Lara stands up just as the demo closes. The first DLC will come to Xbox 360 before any other platform.
Signal Studios gets an exclusive announcement for Ascend: NewGods. The game looks very much like action fantasy with archery, a warrior, sorcery, and giants marauding through a castle ruin.
Next up, a trailer for LocoCycle, courtesy of Twisted Pixel, which is coming in 2013.
Gore Verbinsky brings us his next new vision, giving us a look at a puzzle title called “Matter” for 2013. It looks not unlike Marble Madness.
Hiroyki Kobayshi takes the stage from Capcom to give us a look at Resident Evil 6. The demo opens with Leon in a burning cityscape. Moving through tight corridors, using cover mechanics, grenades, and quicktime-style action moves, Leon heads outside to see a landscape full of zombies and abandoned cars. The landscape gets a little more dangerous when a Harrier jet spins out of control and into a nearby building, triggering a massive domino effect of explosions as the cars go up in flames. Running to the relative safety of a nearby helicopter sent to rescue them, Leon has to take control of the bird as the pilot is killed. Using more quicktime events, the player kills the now-zombie pilot, but finds himself in the path of an oncoming train. He barely escapes before the chopper crashes, dropping the player into what looks like a mall full of zombies.
Alex Ruiz from the Xbox Live team takes the stage to introduce a new title exclusive to the Xbox – Wreckateer. Using Kinect, Alex grabs the strings of the giant ballista. Picking various ammo, she was able to fire the various projectiles by using motions to adjust the trajectory. The final projectile used the flying mechanic of the Kinect to guide it in.
Next up is South Park: The Stick of Truth. You are the “new kid” and you represent the only chance to save South Park. Trey Parker and Matt Stone come to the stage to represent their game. The folks at Obsidian managed to bring the signature “crappy” look and feel of the game. This gave the pair the chance to really map out the town of South Park to give the player a chance to ‘become cool’ – the objective of the game.
Harmonix takes the stage to show off Dance Central 3 – not a big surprise given the smash-success of the previous two titles. Usher helped choreograph two of the songs, including his new track. Usher shows to sing and show off the moves that are in the game. The game looks like it’ll feature a lot of the same style as the previous title, but the fidelity of movement looks a lot stronger this time around. We’ll have to see it in action to really know for sure.
Don Mattrick returns again to close things out. Reinforcing some of the points of the brief, especially the SmartGlass and Kinect’s ability to change the way we play.
Closing things out, we get to see Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. The folks at Treyarch take the stage to demonstrate the title live. D. Mason, Codename “Section,” starts off in a Humvee, talking with what looks like executive goverment staff, including a Female President. Scrambling to escape the city, the first and most obvious thing to happen is that a helicopter crashes in slow motion in front of the Humvee convoy. With the vehicle flipped over the player crawls out into the war-torn street. Jumping to the remnants of the Humvee, he mounts the missile cannon, taking out a swarm of incoming jets that are under enemy control. A harrier descends to provide armed over watch as she engages nearby drones that could kill our VIP. Laying down sniper support as the team fast-ropes from a broken bridge, we use a new scope optic that is able to see through solid surfaces, allowing the player to take out enemies that might be in cover. With the area clear, we fast-rope down and then skip forward in the demo in the interest of time.
Near a downtown plaza the action resumes. Making our way through a mall section, we call in a drone using our wrist-mounted controls. Air raid sirens scream overhead as the city burns in the distance. Making our way through the devastation, we witness an entire building crumble to the ground, washing the entire area in smoke and debris. Jumping into a nearby landed FA-38, we follow our ground convoy providing air support. Gunning down incoming enemies, we dodge in between the densely packed buildings, our vision obscured with explosions and smoke. Taking the game in a different direction, we engage in a little bit of dogfighting before the demo, and this press brief, closes.