by Dick Ward
We get a look at 'Halo 4,' 'Black Ops 2,' as well as new 'Forza,' 'Tomb Raider' games and the 'South Park' RPG. There was also a significant amount of time dedicated to a tech called SmartGlass, which will link your 360, phone and tablet together.
Things kick off as expected – with a ‘Halo 4’ promo. What might not be expected is that they actually showed off some gameplay footage. They show off some jungle environments that look absolutely gorgeous and we get to see some interaction between the covenant forces – they bump into each other and do a bit of socializing.
After the first fight with the traditional ‘Halo’ baddies, we get a look at something new. You’ll be fighting non-organic life forms that have some very cool new weapons and defenses. One drone like enemy was able to catch grenades and throw them back at you. Another was able to warp towards you and quickly deliver a melee attack.
New weapons included the Light Rifle and Scattershot, both of which seemed to morph from the same base gun. The game has you looking through a visor the whole time and shows some of the visor at the edge of the screen. You’ll also be able to switch up your visor to detect enemies that aren’t quite so easy to see. Oh, and Master Chief is back.
Everything ‘Halo 4’ looks very cool. It’s a new developer, so hardcore fans will certainly be wary, but that trailer is going to get plenty of people excited.
Next up is a brand new ‘Splinter Cell’ game – ‘Splinter Cell: Blacklist.’ After a quick cutscene, we get to see some gameplay. Sam Fisher cuts through a tent, stealthily takes down a target from behind and then runs through a camp doing some crazy badass moves.
It’s being referred to as “Killing in Motion” and it allows you to take out targets while on the move without all the usual run-and-gun inaccuracy. Fisher also moves around terrain incredibly quickly and fluidly – ‘Assassin’s Creed’ like in some ways.
The presenter showed off a bit of Kinect interaction – shouting “hey you!” to distract an enemy. Not exactly the most essential of functions, but it could be neat if you’re into that sort of thing. You can do a bit more too, including calling in aerial strikes.
Next up – EA Sports. Kinect features are big for ‘FIFA 13.’ It allows you to change up plays on the fly, make substitutions and more without ever having to stop gameplay. It also detects the way you react to referee calls and if you end up getting a little inappropriate, you’ll be carded by the refs. Considering the way I curse at my games, that might be a bit of a detriment.
Joe Montana comes out to play some Madden. ‘Madden 13’ is also big on Kinect features. It allows you to call out plays and set up your players as you like. Probably not the best for playing with your friends in the same living room, but it could be cool for those that want to get in the action a little bit more.
‘Fable: The Journey’ is next. It looks a little silly to be honest, but hey, ‘Fable’ has always been silly.
A new “action racer” is on the way, but after a quick tease about that we see a new ‘Gears of War’ trailer. Probably not a surprise – you play as Marcus Phoenix and you kill aliens. It’s coming in 2013 and we’ll certainly find out more as E3 continues on.
A new ‘Forza’ game is headed to the 360, and it brings a new kind of feel to the franchise. It still offers the realism that you’re used to from ‘Forza’ games, but with more attitude. ‘Forza Horizon,’ due out on October 23 rd, features street racing and off-road racing in addition to all the stuff on the track. It's incredibly nice looking, but we've come to expect that from 'Forza.'
Bing voice search is getting an update this fall, as is the video platform. You’ll be able to search by genre, which is pretty hip. Even cooler though, is that when you find a video, you’ll be able to see where that video is available and watch it on your existing subscriptions.
More than 35 new entertainment providers are coming to the Xbox, starting with Nickelodeon, Paramount Movies, Machinima (yay!), and Univision.
More sports are coming to Xbox too. Both the NBA and NHL are coming to Xbox and they seem like pretty slick packages. For example, you’ll be able to choose between home and away commentaries.
Woah, ESPN is getting a nice boost. Watch ESPN is coming to the Xbox, which allows you to simply watch ESPN over your Xbox. This includes ESPN, ESPN 2 and ESPN U.
From the demo video, it looks like you’ll be able to easily switch between two different games – pretty slick stuff. Of course, it’s all very Kinect oriented.
Xbox Music is on the way, and it’s going to allow you access to a huge amount of music whether you’re on your PC, phone or Xbox 360. IT seems like a Spotify sort of setup, but Microsoft hasn’t announced pricing at this time.
There’s a new fitness program coming to the Xbox Kinect thanks to the people at Nike. The Nike rep on stage talks a bit about all of the measurements that they take when pro athletes come into their campus, and the amount of feedback they can give to help inspire those athletes.
The new program is called ‘Nike + Kinect Training.’ It’s a program designed to give you that same kind of feedback that the pros get. You’ll also get feedback on your form for exercises you’re doing, updates on your progress and more. You’ll even be set up to compete with other athletes and gamers across the Xbox Live and Nike networks. It’s due out this holiday season.
Time to talk smartphones and tablets! Microsoft’s head of Xbox Live says that the devices just aren’t that smart if they’re not working together. Microsoft, of course, has the solution. “A breakthrough in entertainment” that they’re calling Xbox SmartGlass. It’s not just for Windows phones and PCs either – this is coming to Android and iOS devices as well.
The first feature revealed is the ability to start watching a movie on your tablet and zing it on over to your TV. Once you do that, the tablet will bring up information regarding the shows and movies you’re watching.
He shows off another interesting feature involving ‘Game of Thrones.’ Using SmartGlass, he can track the character’s movements on a map, giving a feel for where everything is taking place.
A SmartGlass concept video shows how it might be used for a future Madden game – allowing you to pick plays and even select your passer. In ‘Halo 4,’ you may be able to use SmartGlass to see information about the game and take care of all of your social interactions.
SmartGlass will also work nicely with the Xbox 360 interface, so you can go through the touchscreen instead of having to use the controller.
Oooh, the internet is finally coming to the Xbox 360. You can use your smartphone or tablet to browse the internet. You can set favorites, of course, and watch videos online. It’s not specified whether the Xbox will be able to use Flash or not, but we’ll certainly find out. You can control the site with your phone or even with your voice – it’s an interesting concept.
Alright, back to games. Crystal Dynamics is on stage to show some new things about the new ‘ Tomb Raider.’ We see a few cool stealth kills and the a fully fledged gunfight.
When there’s dirt or water flying through the air, it shows on the screen, which might be the most annoying thing ever. For starters, it makes no sense because it implies that there’s a camera following your character, but even worse it looks like it’s going to obscure the screen pretty significantly.
Aside from that annoyance, the game looks incredibly good. It moves smoothly and combat looks fluid. Lara’s weapon of choice – at least for this sequence – is a bow and arrow that she can light on fire for the right occasions.
There seem to be an absolute glut of quick-time events, or at least there are in this sequence. Still, gorgeous. The first piece of DLC, by the way, will be coming to Xbox.
Unexpectedly, there are three new IPs in a row – not exactly playing it safe like we usually see. The first game is from the guys behind ‘Toy Soldiers’ and it looks pretty interesting. Third-person action with a kind of ‘God of War’ feel. It’s called ‘Ascend: New Gods’ and it’s coming in 2013.
Next up is ‘LocoCycle,’ which we learn nothing about except for that it involves a motorcycle. So that’s neat.
Finally, there’s a game by Gore Verbinski – yeah, the ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ guy. We see a robotic eye that looks just like the one in ‘Portal’ and not much else. It’s made for Kinect and it’s coming in 2013.
Capcom takes the stage to give us a look at ‘Resident Evil 6.’ The game incorporates some elements from tactical shooters like ‘Rainbow Six.’ You can open doors stealthily and peek through, use grenades, use melee attacks and even sneak up on the baddies for a quick kill.
On the down side, not only are there a ton of quick time events, but there’s even a section where you’re running towards the screen, which is always nice and annoying.
‘Wreckateer’ is a new Kinect game that looks like all sorts of silly fun. You shoot cannonballs, aim them, and kerplode some castles. It’s kind of ‘Angry Birds’ with a twist.
Bam – the ‘South Park’ RPG. It looks like we’re seeing gameplay footage in there with all the cutscenes – if so, the game looks crazy good. The opening scene was, of course, crazy cool.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone come out and start poking fun at Microsoft’s SmartGlass. Nice! They say that Obsidian’s big task right off the bat was getting the game to look just like the show, which they were able to pull off. The initial task of the creators? Figuring out where everything in ‘South Park’ actually is. Hard to navigate the world otherwise.
Both of the South Park guys are fairly nonchalant about the whole thing. It's hard to tell whether it's just that they don't care about E3 or if they just don't care about the game.
‘Dance Central 3.’ It looks like ‘Dance Central’ and ‘Dance Central 2,’ but, you know, three. Usher comes on screen to talk it up a bit and then shows up on the stage to perform. He keeps telling the crowd to “get up,” which makes me think he might not exactly know his audience.
This is all a little bit silly, but it’s also pretty ridiculous when members of the press cheer like they’re at a concert for the mention of Master Chief. So maybe it fits in just fine after all.
The close of the event is ‘Black Ops 2.’ DLC is coming to the Xbox 360 first – good news for 360 owners.
The cutscene begins with an intense driving scene in which you’re escorting the president – a lady! – to a hidden bomb shelter. From there, you jump into the expectedly massive set pieces that ‘Call of Duty’ is known for.
The action is absolutely nuts. You get to mount a massive gun, then you’re put in a sniper position, using a rifle that can shoot through various objects and a scope that allows you to see people behind cover.
“In the interest of time…” pops up on the screen and the game skips ahead to, presumably, later in the level. We see drones flying around to assist in the battle, jets flying around to assist, and finally, you get to use a rocket launcher to shoot down a building. I swear, there’s more happening on the screen than the mind is able to process.
Next, the presenter gets into a plane and escorts the President’s car. The plane – a Harrier I think? – uses jets that allow it to hover if the situation calls for it, which means you’re able to control your movement much like you would while walking – left stick to move, right stick to aim.
That wraps it up for Microsoft.
All in all, that was a fairly disappointing event. We got to see ‘Halo 4’ a bit, but that wasn’t much of a surprise. We then got to see some ‘Tomb Raider’ and ‘Black Ops 2,’ but the gaming was really the least interesting part of the presentation.
The highlight was really the SmartGlass tech that Microsoft is working on. The problem is, of course, the venue. SmartGlass is neat, but it’s a CES thing, not an E3 thing.
At this rate, it seems like Sony will have no problem one-upping Microsoft with their press event tonight. That and the Nintendo conference will stream live online and, like with this one, we’ll have recaps up quickly after the events.