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Microsoft at E3 2011

Instead of bogging down the site with tons of content, we’ll offer our readers a simple recap/links to the major announcements for each of the big 3 press conference.

Microsoft is the first one up, and it seems like they have quite the line-up balancing Kinect titles while leveraging some of their core IP into the holiday season and beyond.

But really there’s only one place to start with this conference, and that’s Kinect. Kinect seems to have its hand in every pie on the Xbox. We’ve got announcements of “Core” titles, “Casual” titles and popular sequels.

The one that caught my eyes was the Disneyland Adventure Kinect title. While the idea of traversing a popular park at home seems kind of lame, I think the mini-game/ride aspect of the game looks like a fun time. And doesn’t lose anything by being on Kinect.

Another game that looked promising was from Crytek, developers behind Crysis, and that was Ryse. The game that was teased last year at e3 as Project Kingdom turned out to be a Kinect-only, first person melee/combat game. It is an interesting premise and has a ton of potential. Sadly, we were only given this cinematic trailer. http://www.gametrailers.com/video/e3-2011-ryse/714807

The other game that looked promising, though more for families, was Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, which has players taking on the role of Elmo and the Cookie Monster. Like I said, if you have small kids, I could see this game being a kick to play with them, for anyone else, I would pass. http://www.gametrailers.com/game/sesame-street-once-upon-a/14567

In addition to these three titles, Microsoft also showed off Kinect support for Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, Mass Effect 3 and EA Sports Line-up (yeah just bunching them together as one entity!). The Ghost Recon stuff looked pretty interesting but honestly add so little to the experience, and the on-rail/Kinect controls just looked awkward. The Mass Effect 3 thing again is something that is cool in principal but actually serves to be more work than pressing the controller. It also highlights the problem with the franchise in between what you pick on-screen and what is said by your main character. Finally, there was only an announcement of EA Sports support going forward, but none of the games were shown.

The rest of the Kinect line-up just left a bad taste in my mouth, most of all was of Star Wars Kinect. As the demo went on longer, you could just see the input lag get worse, and that’s just a huge hurdle to overcome for enjoyment. I also felt Fable: The Journey demo was a bit of a wash since the game seems to use an auto-aim system defeating the purpose of even being on-rails if there’s no challenge in the gun/magic play.

Dance Central and Kinect Sports are known quantity, and it was nice to see Dance Central 2 had co-op play, but other than that it looks like Dance Central.

On the flip side was Microsoft’s “hardcore” offering, which really wasn’t anything special or new this year. They started off the show with a 10 minute demo of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, which still looks like a Call of Duty game, and starting with an underwater sequence really didn’t help to grip the audience. http://www.gametrailers.com/game/call-of-duty-modern-warfare/14839

The next demo was a lot more promising. Tomb Raider looks to be the kick in the arse the series has needed for some time. It seems to put an equal emphasis on puzzles as it does exploration. There were one too many QTEs for my taste, and Lara has the most interesting sound effects, but being more than a year out, the game has a ton of raw potential.

Gears of War 3 is a tough nut to crack since we’ve seen so much of it before including a month-long beta that its hard to get excited about more footage of it. The game looks good, but sure the Gears fans have made up their mind either way.

Now we’ve come to Microsoft’s bread and butter, the Halo franchise. There were two games announced during the show. The first titled Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary:

Is a remake of the original title using the Halo Reach engine. Microsoft was wise to announce this without putting a huge focus on it, only so far you can go with a remake. That said, they seem to be doing it right. The game will use the Reach engine for both single and multi-player, and gives you the option to toggle between classic and remastered graphics. The game will also import 7 of the classic Halo 1 maps to the Reach online component. And most importantly, the game will add co-op play online.

The second game is a bit more interesting, though the surprise was a bit tempered due to the early morning leak of its existence and well SpikeTV all but confirming the rumors. Halo 4:

Picking up where Halo 3 left off, this seems to be the start of a brand new trilogy (okay its confirmed as such!) in the Halo franchise.

Besides the games, Microsoft made several other key announcements throughout the show:

  • YouTube will be coming to Xbox 360
  • Bing will be coming to Xbox 360
  • Kinect Fun Labs is NOW available on Xbox Live
  • Finger tracking, object scanning and body recognition coming to the New Xbox Experience
  • Live TV coming to Xbox 360
  • UFC stuff, I wasn’t really paying attention.

Some of these announcements were cool, others were just re-introducing features we were originally promised about 2 years ago, and some really wouldn’t be that important if Microsoft just included a proper web browser with the Xbox 360.

All in all, it was not Microsoft’s best press conference. It would be difficult to give it a grade right after, but things aren’t looking promising for them for a second year in a row.

Earl Rufus

The owner of this little chunk of the internet. Enjoys having a good time and being rather snarky!

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