Thursday, June 4, 2009

E3 Conference Summary Part 1 - Microsoft

The big three (Microsoft, Nintendo and Sony) have done their E3 presentations for the year and I thought they were pretty awesome, especially after a dissapointing E3 in 2008. All three presentations were great and it's hard to tell who "won" E3, but it was either Microsoft or Sony. Anyway, I'll give you the lowdown of what happened and even provide my own opinion on the parts that interested me. So, get ready because first up is the Microsoft conference.

Microsoft's press conference started off with the Fab Four's (The Beatles, of course) Rockband title. The intro movie was shown and it was quite good indeed. It featured some slick animation and of course, some great Beatles songs. There will be 45 songs in total, with whole album downloads (Abbey Road being the first) coming soon after the game is released on 09.09.09. They also mentioned the whole Beatles catalogue (13 albums) will be released as remastered editions in music stores at the same time. Sounds good to me. There will also be an exclusive song "All you need is love" for sale soon after launch with all proceeds going to charity, not for homeless people but for "Doctors Without Frontiers". George Harrison's wife and Son showed up without saying a word as well as Yoko Ono-Lennon, which the less said, the better. The anti-climactic finale had the two remaining living Beatles members, Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr take the stage, being unprepared, unprofessional and fumbling for words on what to say about the game apart from, "The game is great". A waste of time, then. Oh yeah, forgot to mention... some people also played a Beatles song from the game, complete with all the instruments and singing and it was excruciatingly bad. I had to skip this part.

Moving on, Microsoft didn't spout out numbers and sales figures and instead focused on showing game footage and displaying demos, something Sony still hasn't stopped doing. We were treated to 10 world premier titles. This part was great.

First up was Tony Hawk showcasing his new game (Tony Hawk Ride) and acting professional and able to talk about the game unlike a certain pair of Beatles. Anyway, a new Skateboard controller, which is basically a skateboard with no wheels or trucks, just the skateboard deck. The skateboard has good detection capabilities thanks to infrared sensors all over and it seemed to work great with the new game and understands kicks, grabs of the board and grinds. A video was shown of pro skateboarders playing the game and commenting on how close it is to the real thing. Looks good, let's just hope it can deliver. The game itself looked okay, let's hope it's better than the mediocre Tony Hawk games of the last few years.

Next up was probably what most people were waiting for, a certain title called Modern Warfare 2. This of course being the sequel to Call of Duty: Modern Warfare. Of course, it didn't dissapoint and it's shaping up to be even more awesome than the first game. Feels very "Hollywood". Comes out 11.10.09.

After that great presentation, we were shown some footage from the surprise announcement of E3 2008, Final Fantasy XIII. Most of it was basically what's in the PS3 demo on the Advent Children Blu-ray release, but it also featured english voice acting. Looks very similar to the PS3 game graphics wise and still looks like a great game. Spring 2010 for this, damn.

All the above games are coming to other platforms, but the rest of the 10 games shown are all exclusives, starting with Shadow Complex. Oh my, this was definately one of the low points of the presentation. For such an underwhelming game, Shadow Complex sure recieved a lot of presentation time and enthusiasm from two members of the development team responsible, Epic Games. Using the Unreal Tournament 3 engine, Shadow Complex doesn't show anything amazing at all and is a 2D plane shooter like Contra, with okay graphics. I guess it's okay for an Xbox Live game, but like I said, there was too much huzzah from the devs for such a mediocre looking game. Not interested, sorry.

Joy Ride came next, with an okay trailer showcasing a kart racer for use with your Live avatar. The best thing about the game is that it will be a free download off Xbox Live, so can't complain even if it sucks (like PlaySation home), well we can, but we shouldn't. Additional content purchases for the game will incur a fee. It'll be interesting to see how good it is.

Away from the XBL stuff, Crackdown 2 was shown with a short trailer. Didn't tell us squat, so there's not much to report on here apart from the fact that it exists. Same thing happened with Left 4 Dead 2, a trailer with no ingame footage or details.

Splinter Cell Conviction was one of the high points. This game looks freaking awesome and the amount of different ways of going about missions and the combat possibilities needs to be seen. A true next gen title and a 360 exclusive. A "must get" for me.

The Forza 3 presentation was impressive and the dev was sure to point out multiple times that Forza 3 will be THE driving game of this generation. Well, not totally empty words after Forza 2, but Gran Turismo 5 will provide stiff competition. Game runs at 60fps, with 400 cars from 50 manufacturers. It's coming this October and it looks good.

Halo fanboys probably enjoyed the Halo 3: ODST presentation. Playing a human soldier named the "Rookie", it's your job to find out what's going on. I found the gameplay shown very underwhelming, bordering on lame. What was shown just wasn't interesting and when a ladder was climbed with no animation for climbing, just the running movement, the game felt half-assed. But, we shall see. Unimpressive from what I saw.

Alan Wake looked pretty cool, it's kind of like Alone in the Dark, but only you know, GOOD. Anyway, I thought it was pretty cool how Alan narrates some bits and the combat looked fun. Nice graphics and atmosphere, could be a hit.

That's it for the games, next up was announcements about the movie service on XBL, with movies now being available to stream at 1080p and available in more countries. Facebook and Twitter came next, I skipped these bits and won't go into any detail, sorry.

Okay, back to the games. Metal Gear Solid: Rising, the next game in the series starring the Ninja, Raiden is also coming to Xbox 360. Microsoft was reeeeeal happy about this. PS3 just lost it's last important third party exclusive, ouch. It's going to be a different game experience, probably something like Ninja Gaiden.

Finally, the big surprise, Project Natal. It's basically a camera which tracks motion and can be used to control all games. Not only that, it also has voice recognition. Steven Spielberg came along and gave his praise for it. I think it's best you watch this promo video to see the possibilities:

A few demos were shown and it does indeed seem to work well. It might even put the wiimote to shame, but I'll need to try it for myself. So to conclude, it was a great presentation and Project Natal was a pleasent surprise. Good job Microsoft.

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