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Live E3 Coverage – Microsoft Press Conference

In Videogames on June 14, 2010 at 9:01 AM

Microsoft’s E3 press conference will be kicking off the festivities at 10:30 AM PST.  Last night Microsoft unveiled the official name for Project Natal as Kinect.  As soon as the Microsoft conference goes live, I will be reporting live updates of the announcements, including some anecdotes and thoughts along the way.  Check back and constantly hit the update button for the full scoop.10:07 AM – GameTrailers just got the inside scoop on the upcoming Alan Wake DLC.  The episode, titled The Signal, will expand upon the Wake story and be a full fledged episode on the level of the six that shipped with the main game.

10:13 AM – Still on GameTrailers…world premiere trailer of Hunted: The Demon’s Forge.  Looked like a typical fantasy brawler.  Some of the enemies and weapons looked decent but nothing really unique.

10:19 AM – Trailer for Deadliest Warrior, a fighting game that pits anyone vs. anything.  This featured lots of cool customization, everything from knights to pirates to prehistoric tribal warriors.  If the gameplay can hold up with the premise this could be a pretty sweet party game.

10:22 AM – Dust: An Elysian Tale trailer debuts next.  This XBLA title looks gorgeous, with some of the smoothest 2D graphics ever.  Why can’t more games look like this?  The gameplay looks Metroidvania inspired, but with visuals somewhere between Bambi and anime.

10:30 AM – Main show is about to begin.  How exciting.

10:32 AM – The briefing starts off with a Call of Duty: Black Ops trailer.  The game looks like typical the Call of Duty fare, a blend of World at War mixed with the urban and snow settings of Modern Warfare 2.  After the trailer they show a playable demo.  The opening cave looks like something out of First Blood.  I wonder if this game was inspired by Rambo at all?  Once the demo reaches an enemy, the showcase skips into another non-combat situation.  Now we’re in the jungle and it looks really crisp – maybe not as good as Crysis but close.  Now there’s combat as the soldiers approach a helicopter.  Now the helicopter is airborne.  I don’t think he’s flying the copter, but more controlling rockets and firing at encampments.  An enemy copter comes out for a cool midair firefight.  So far this is pretty unimpressive though.  I’m sure Call of Duty fans will get their kicks though.  This trailer looks much closer to Modern Warfare gameplay than World at War could offer in a WWII setting.

10:39 AM – A rep comes out to welcome us to the show.  He hypes the 10 year anniversary of the Xbox brand.  Then there’s a mention of Natal, now with its official name Kinect.  Again, this year is about “showing not telling.”  With that, here comes Hideo Kojima.

10:43 AM – Here’s Kojima, discussing Metal Gear Solid: Rising.  He says we’ll get world premier footage.  Kojima then introduces Shigenobu Matsuyama, the designer for Rising.  The trailer starts with a soldier who looks like something out of Star Wars: The Clone Wars.  However, Raiden bursts out and cuts him to size, literally.  Then we see some gameplay footage, including Raiden not just cutting through enemies, but also vehicles and environments.  The level design looks similair to Metal Gear Solid 4’s first act.

10:47 AM – Bill Spencer comes out and hypes the upcoming list of games, including Crackdown 2, Halo: Reach, Fable 3 and more.  He then hypes that everything from this point on will be exclusive to Xbox 360.  Then he introduces Cliff Blezinski, aka Cliffy B.  That means Gears of War 3.  For the gameplay, they showcase four player co-op story mode.  Unfortunately the big screen only shows one perspective.  Other than healing and weapon sharing, it doesn’t look like much co-op is going on here.  Before he leaves, Cliffy mentions that at the floor they’ll be showcasing a new mode called Beast.

10:54 AM – Here comes the antichrist himself, Peter Molyneux, showcasing Fable 3.  Despite my negativity towards Molyneux, Fable 2 provided ample entertainment and the trailer for Fable 3 looks like more of the same on a much grander scale.  The trailer doesn’t reveal too much though, just more of the same with some crisper graphics.

10:57 AM – Next is Microsoft’s newest partner, but before we find out who it is we get a teaser trailer.  And its…CRYTEK!  This teaser looks something like Crytek meets 300.  The game is called Codename Kingdoms.  No gameplay is shown.

10:58 AM – Nearly a decade ago, one game changed everything.  Of course, he’s talking about Half Life.  Wait, no.  Ocarina of Time.  No?  Grand Theft Auto III?  Still not?  Shenmue!!!???  Oh I give up.  Oh, it’s Halo.  Of course…because this is Microsoft.  And Halo is still relevant to them.  So here comes the Halo: Reach trailer.  The trailer showed nothing, but now there’s gameplay footage and it looks swell.  Anyone who’s played Halo will be instantly at home here.  The stage looks like some sort of futuristic D-Day mission with the player storming a beach and blasting through waves of foes.  This video is going on forever.  I know it’s Halo and all but not much is happening.  At the end the spartan crew blasts off into space and we get a nifty cutscene.  Now we’re fighting in space, but no gameplay out there, just video.

11:05AM – Here comes Mark Whitman to hype up XBL.  Except, his speech is really about Kinect.  They highlight the features of the device.  And now it goes 360 (see what I did there) by tying everything together to show how amazing and superior Xbox is.  Now we meet Ron, who’s signing into XBL using the connect.  He’s waving a lot.  Finally he gets to the “Kinect hub,” which is basically the main menu for XBL with Kinect.  By navigating the menu he just speaks keywords, eventually getting to the Zune marketplace.  Then he navigates the menu with his hands, choosing a movie and even fast forwarding through it.  This gets a round of applause.  He then pauses and plays the movie with his voice.  He can even summon the cool tunes of Justin Beiber by only saying “Justin Beiber.”  I think my life is complete now.

11:11 AM – Whitman now reveals that XBL will be available on Windows phones.

11:12 AM – Laura comes out to showcase Video Kinect, essentially Skype on XBL.  Utilitzing the camera and mic built into Kinect, Laura searches through her different buddy lists to set up a video chat with her cousin Kristen.  This would be pretty impressive if this wasn’t available for like the last 10 years on a computer.  The coolest feature so far is Kinect’s camera, which can follow you as you move around the room.  Whitman comes out to reveal that this will also be on Windows Messenger, meaning that it took them 7 years to copy Skype.

11:15 AM – Now we see a deal struck with ESPN and XBL, which I assume means streaming sports on your Xbox.  Though I don’t have my coverage from last year on this blog, I discussed this possibility last year when XBL showed a deal with SkySports.  Josh Elliot and Trey Wingo come out to showcase what ESPN on Xbox 360 will include.  They showcase a football game from last year, basically showing features similar to BluRay live.  Using Kinect, the two navigate the game and answer trivia questions and participate in user polls.  The coolest feature might be the interactive ticker at the bottom, allowing you to check every score for the day and even access other games and highlights live.  ESPN on XBL is free with an XBL Gold membership.

11:23 AM – Here comes a slew of exclusive Kinect launch titles.  To start, Kinectimals.  A little girl begins by playing with her pet Tiger Skittles.  After petting him, the girl commands Skittles to do some tricks.  However, she has to act the tricks out rather than just say them.  Skittles leaves to get a toy and the girl hides from him.  Skittles is confused and doesn’t know what to do, so he runs up to the screen and smiles.  She then plays jumprope with Skittles, but there’s a lot of clipping and the gameplay just doesn’t look very smooth.  In a nutshell, this is Nintendogs for Kinect.

11:27 AM – Next up is Kinect Sports.  Instead of actual sports though, we begin with about 30 seconds of an interactive audience.  Then its competitive track hurdles with a long wait before the race starts.  While the game looked interesting, it was hard to tell what their actions were doing to actually effect the gameplay.  They don’t show anymore of the title interactively, but do show a trailer that highlights soccer, bowling, track and field, ping pong, boxing, and volleyball.

11:31 AM – Kinect Joyride is next – basically a controller free racing game.  Again, this demo doesn’t do a good job of showing what the actions do to affect the gameplay.  The game looks like a typical Kart racer, but definitely not any better than Mario Kart Wii, which is essentially the same exact thing but with a wheel in your hand instead of air.

11:33 AM – Kinect Adventures is next, sort of an interactive obstacle course.  A friend jumps in and the game automatically switches to split screen.  Like with the jumprope in Kinectimals, I see a lot of clipping when the players try to avoid objects, making it difficult to see when they successfully dodged or not.  After the demo they show a cool feature where the Kinect camera takes pictures of you in real life as you play the game, sort of like the picture stills in rollercoasters.  These are savable and shareable on XBL, Facebook and more.

11:37 AM – Now we get Kinect games from third party developers.  The first is the world premier for Your Shape by Ubisoft.  Last year Ubisoft showcased the same title for Wii, but this is essentially a fresh title using the controllerless Kinect.  Basically think Wii Fit without a balance board.

11:45 AM – Next out is Harmonix for what looks like a break dancing beat game, titled Dance Central.  For fans of dancing games like DDR, this actually looks pretty impressive with a ton of moves built into the game, featuring a five star scoring system identical to Rock Band.  This is arguably the most impressive thing of the whole show.  Like any Harmonix game, Dance Central will feature downloadable tracks down the road.

11:50 AM – Phil Spencer comes back out to close out the Kinect segment, highlighting the diversity of the showcase.  Then Spencer gives Kinect an official North American release date of November 4, 2010, complete with 15 launch titles.

11:51 AM – Next we get a trailer for an exclusive Kinect Star Wars title.  The game basically looks like everything you’d want from the Force Unleash without all the suck.

11:53 AM – Now it’s Kinect with Forza Motorsport, showing some sleek interaction such as looking in windows and moving your head in the cockpit for different views.

11:57 AM – And here comes Don Mattrick.  He calls this year the biggest year in Xbox’s 10 year history.  Mattrick then reveals the new look Xbox 360, sleeker, smaller and quiter.  The biggest feature is the built in wireless, which was previously only available with the $100 wireless adapter.  Mattrick says the new design ships this week, but then he gives one away to everyone in attendance at the press conference.

That closes out Microsoft’s press conference.  While we got a lot of great stuff, the Kinect pricepoint would’ve been the biggest news of the show.

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