E3 2012 has begun and after Xbox's opening press conference, I would say that it is off to one hell of a start. Of course Microsoft opened with its biggest gun, throwing ten minutes of Halo 4 gameplay at us right out of the gate, and it was gorgeous. Halo looked like it had been revitalized, with new enemies being showcased and old weapons making triumphant returns. As an opener Halo set the stage for big things to come.
Following in true fashion was good old Sam Fisher in Ubisoft’s newly announced Splinter Cell Blacklist. Blacklist, which feature Kinect compatibility, aims to give players an even more visceral experience by allowing players to give voice commands and even talk to enemies. That’s right, in the demo played by creative director Maxime Beland, we saw him climb a wall with Sam Fisher, then say “hey you!” and draw the enemies attention. That is just a little bit awesome!
Following the debut of these two games the middle, meaty part of their press conference towards the development of the Kinect, and the integration of new media. EA ran through their utilization of the device in their upcoming FIFA 13 and Madden 13, which was a little underwhelming, and we got to see a trailer of Lionshead’s new installment in the Fable series, Fable: The Journey.
After these short reveals we got to hear that Xbox’s available media will be expanding this year, and boy does it sound exciting. Microsoft has established deals with Paramount, Nickelodeon, Machinima, NBA League Pass and NHL GameCenter. They have also expanded on the relationship they had with ESPN. ESPN, ESPN 2, ESPN 3 and ESPNU will all be available to watch instantly on your Xbox.
Microsoft has also developed its music capabilities, reaching into our pockets and onto our desks to reach our phones and laptops with its music. Movies follow suit and you will be able to transfer what you're watching from your phone to your TV to your laptop almost seamlessly.
Further developments include a unique partnership with Nike+ which brings a personal trainer to your living room and Xbox SmartGlass which, like previously stated, expands your Xbox experience to other devices. Also coming to Xbox, finally, is Widows Explorer. Finally the Xbox will have a web based browser controlled via SmartGlass through your smartphone similar to the Apple touch pad.
The next part of the show was dedicated to upcoming titles. Tomb Raider made a gameplay appearance and Lara looked good. The visuals were sharp, full lush natural detail, and Lara’s animations were fluid and realistic. The gameplay did push the bubble of believability though. For some reason falling down rapids doesn’t sound like something you would get up from. It’s Lara freaking Croft though, so I cut her some slack. And if Nathan Drake can do it, so can she.
After Lara, Microsoft wheeled out three, never before seen, premier trailers. The first, for a game called Ascend: New Gods, was a little underwhelming. The short trailer looked a little weak on the side of graphics, and though I felt like I was supposed to feel something all I felt was confusion. And not the good type. Second, we saw a teaser for a game called LocoCycle, and based on the trailer, I have no opinion at all yet. Sounds like a cyborg, femme fatale, assassin game but who know at this moment? Not this guy. To round up the premieres we saw a Gore Verbinski produced puzzle game called Matter. Yes, the same man who directed Pirates of the Caribbean. Should prove to be interesting.
After these premieres we got a glimpse of Resident Evil 6 gameplay. The zombie slaying classic has a few tricks up its sleeve but still looks like something is missing, and before very much of anything was explained we were quickly thrust into a series of Michael Bay style cutscenes. Sadly these cutscenes lost my interest. In a quest for entertainment it seems that Capcom has thrown together so many over the top scenes that it might make Expendables look average. Hopefully the whole game isn’t so outrageous.
Next came a fun little Kinect game called Wreckateer. Wreckateer is basically Angry Birds 3D, which could be pretty amazing. The graphics were a little childish but how serious can a game about shooting catapults at castles full of little gremlins be? Regardless, the ballista centered game looks entertaining and worth at chance.
South Park’s new RPG “The Stick of Truth” looked genuinely funny. The trailer, narrated by none other than Cartman, tells the story of an epic struggle to save the city and ,the key to the puzzle, the Famous Four enlisting the help of you, the new kid. Naturally, the thought of being able to create my own South Park character gave me butterflies inside.
Then Ubisoft came on stage to show off their new Dance Central game and how do think they did that? They brought Usher on stage. Nothing says gamers like pop music and dancing girls right? Thankfully the display was over before I started pulling beard hairs out one by one.
To close their press conference, Microsoft showed off gameplay of the new and upcoming Black Ops 2. The future set action game, due to come out this fall, takes place after an enemy (currently unknown) takes control of America’s robotic defense systems and turns them against us. Of course it wouldn’t be Call of Duty without crazy action scenes and this showing was full of them, ranging from manning a multi-rocket, mounted turret, to flying a jet through the war torn city.
However, most of what I saw I felt like I had seen before. Nothing jumped out and said, “You have to buy this game!” And to be plain, several of the things I saw were way too unrealistic. Bullets from a sniper rifle don’t make people jump. Sorry that just doesn’t happen. And buildings don’t just tip over and fall; they crumble and collapse on themselves. Yes I know that may seem anal of me but it can’t be that hard for a game to be a little realistic.
As the Xbox press conference came to a close it was clear that this next year is going to be huge when it comes to games. Shoe-in titles and potential blockbusters litter the scene and the playing ground is even for everyone. As E3 gets started, there are no holds barred. Get ready for a ride!