Microsoft kicked off E3 2011 with a pretty lackluster press conference, which seems to be becoming a bit of a tradition. They spent a lot of time talking about Kinect (and getting others to come on stage and do the same) without really offering much for the non-Kinect crowd. Below is a summary of what Microsoft did with their stage time.
- The conference opened with lots of green lights and a demo of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 in action. It doesn’t look much different from the last outing – lots of bullets and action sequences. The visuals are crisp and the game has a gritty feel to it. Let’s be honest though, Call of Duty is a franchise that sells itself.
- After the MW3 trailer, the new Tomb Raider trailer, which has been making its rounds on the Internet, was shown. The visuals are incredibly impressive, but we shouldn’t expect a release until next year. This definitely seems like a new direction for the series.
- Peter Moore, president of EA Sports, showed up to announce some Kinect integration (be prepared to get tired of that phrase very quickly) for this year’s line-up. He confirmed that Madden, Tiger Woods, and FIFA would all have a fully functioning set of Kinect controls when they release this year.
- Reps from Bioware took the stage next to confirm Kinect integration for Mass Effect 3. This seems to be a bit different from the other Kinect announcements made during the show. Bioware promises full, flawless voice command for the upcoming title, which will allow players to use their voices to interact with NPCs during combat segments and the rest of the game.
- Next up was a presentation of the Kinect controls for Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. Using the device, players will be able to assemble and reconfigure their weapons; additionally, voice control features were touted. The Kinect controls are very intricate.
- For no logical reason, we’re now given a taste of some upcoming features for the actual 360 hardware. Kinect user can expect a new dashboard navigating experience. Bing will arrive on the system at some point this year and will allow you to search the Marketplace, Hulu, and other online marketplaces for specific content. Finally, in one of the most impressive announcements of the entire conference, it was announced that a live television service will soon be coming for the 360, which will see the console turned into a DVR service.
- It’s time to talk exclusives. First up is Cliff Bleszinski playing Gears of War 3′s co-op mode with Ice-T. Nothing particularly new was revealed about the game, due out this fall, but it was nice to see it in action. Gears of War 3 will not have Kinect integration, so it was nice to get a few minutes of Kinect-free violence.
- Crytek, developers of such visually-stunning (and PC-obliterating) titles as Crysis and Far Cry, will be releasing Ryse, an action game, set in ancient Rome with, you guessed it, Kinect integration. Details are still a bit scarce about the game, so we’ll have to wait until the convention floor opens up tomorrow to get some more info.
- Next up was the announcement of a remaster of the original Halo, with updated graphics and a “remastered” campaign. No word on pricing or just what is so “remastered” about the campaign. The game is due out later this year.
- Forza Motorsports 4, a title shown in part last year during the Kinect hardware announcement, received some love. Most of the time was spent demonstrating various Kinect controls for the title.
- Peter Molyneux took the stage next to show off Fable: The Journey, which is a Kinect (exclusive?) title. The game began with a cinematic introduction of a bug flying around and then shifted to find the player character, driving a horse carriage in an attempt to escape some sort of death cloud. After that, we were given a taste of what gameplay will involve. Basically, Fable: The Journey will be a first-person, on-rails adventure game, in which players will
wildly flail their arms engage in Kinect-based combat movements in order to defeat enemies.
- Last year’s indie blockbuster, Minecraft, will be making its console debut this fall, arriving on the XBOX 360 with, you know the drill, Kinect integration (the game is playable without Kinect though). Don’t expect much to change from the original version, though I would imagine there will be some new online features. No word on pricing or a concrete release date.
- At long last, the Kinect Star Wars title that was teased last year rears its head. The motion controls seem thoughtfully-designed and, for the most part, well integrated (with the exception of having to say “Lightsaber on” to activate your weapon). There seems to be a notable lag between movement input and the actual performance in-game, but it’s difficult to be sure at this point. We’ll have to see if that’s an issue with the game or the audio/visual set up at the presentation.
- A stream of kid-friendly Kinect titles were shown next – more Kinect sports games, a Sesame Street title, and a few others that I won’t mention here.
- Dance Central, the critically well-received Kinect launch title developed by the masters of music gaming at Harmonix, had its sequel officially announced today. As is typical with Harmonix sequels, the formula remains the same, but players can expect updated visuals and new features to make a purchase worth their money. This marks the fourth year in a row that Harmonix has made an announcement at Microsoft’s press conference.
- As the show closes, we were reminded that all Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 DLC will launch on XBOX 360 first.
- Finally, Microsoft announced a new Halo will begin next year, with the arrival of Halo 4, the first main entry in the franchise not developed by Bungie. I doubt we’ll hear much about the game for the rest of E3, but I’m sure just the announcement alone will set off a craze among devoted Halo fans. The trailer has made its way onto YouTube already.
So there you have it, Microsoft’s incredibly Kinect-heavy presentation. Of course, there was no announcement of a successor to the 360, an idea speculated upon by analysts and journalists in the last few weeks leading up to the conference. Barring any unexpected announcements from Sony, Nintendo’s Project Cafe is in position to steal the spotlight this year. For XBOX 360 owners who haven’t made an investment in Kinect, this conference doesn’t really offer much. Sure, there are some cool things on the horizon for Kinect (especially the voice controls for Mass Effect 3), but it seems odd and, a bit alienating, for the company to be focusing on a product that not all of their customers have invested in.
Maybe this just speaks more to the state of the game industry. Gone are the days where the Big Three’s conferences would herald an avalanche of new titles and fanboy excitement that would set the tone for the entire week. Developers can create enough buzz on their own without having to fly their flag on the Big Three’s ships nowadays. The true heart of E3 now lies on the convention floor, where attendees can interact one-on-one with the games, without Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo standing over their shoulders.
Stay tuned to Comic Booked for more E3 coverage. Sony’s press conference begins tonight at 5:00 PM PST. The only way to watch the conference is to log into PlayStation Home’s Virtual E3 booth. Nintendo’s conference is tomorrow morning at 9:00 AM PST and will be streamed live on a special website. After that, we’ll be bringing you coverage of all the hottest games from the E3 floor.