AAG Feature: Detailed Microsoft E3 Press Conference Summary - PART 1

7th June 2011 - The biggest names and the biggest games – each year E3 houses some big announcements, trailer and all the juicy info in between. So strap in with AAG as we bring you all the info with a twist – as we don’t just deliver the news, we deliver E3 the AAG way!


CoD Kick-Start!
In an excellent move, Microsoft began the show with a live demonstration – not to mention the very first gameplay footage – of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. The demo started with the player underwater decked out with a full scuba kit, before arising from the deep blue to see a sight to behold: Ney York City. Missiles flew into the Big Apple, and a feeling of genuine fear came over the audience – this was Call of Duty, the world’s biggest video game, showing an all out attack on one of the world’s biggest cities and benchmarks of modern civilisation.


The player then took the fight onto, or into, an enemy submarine. Exploring the halls, we got the first footage of in-game fighting of Modern Warfare 3. To be honest, it looked exactly like Modern Warfare 2, graphically and all. It was full of the usual scripted moments that makes CoD seem all the more epic without lifting too much of a finger, and after a moment of corridor action, our player was presented with a door. In true CoD fashion, let’s just say the usual happened. That being, a breaching charge was placed on the door, and upon detonation, a wonderfully slow motion shootout occurred with the player being able to take out a handful of enemies as they scuttled to gather themselves. We’ve seen it in almost every Call of Duty game before, and countless similarities in what could be called the markets ‘CoD Rip-Offs’.


After the Sub-battle, the fight was taken back to the water. This time on top, the player was given access to a speed boat. Followed by a heavily scripted Chase sequence, we were given light to the beauty of Call of Duty explosions we’ve come to expect with close calls, heart racing moments and plenty of on-screen action.  Out gameplay demo ended with the player hoping aboard an army helicopter and getting a good view of the chaos that was unfolding; on the water, in the skies, and in Manhattan. It was an epic firefight, on a very serious scale.


Personally, I think the game doesn’t look like anything new in the series. The gameplay is the same old scripted and over the top action we’ve seen too much in the past, and while the scale is certainly taking a turn for the better, it’s Call of Duty – not Battlefield. It seems like the game is trying a little too hard to be the latter, and shows awful similarities with the upcoming EA DICE title. It will be an interesting fight of the acclaim (we all know nothing will beat Call of Duty sales!) later this year when the game releases alongside the next most anticipated shooting game of the year.


A kind Thankyou
We were then treated to a very kind thankyou and confirmation that 2010 was in fact the biggest year for sales in Xbox history, and that 2011 aims to top that. I believe this is a very plausible scenario, but not for the way I would personally like it to be. Im glad the console is going so strong, but I think things have shifted a little too much towards the casual crowd as the slew of later announcements will surely demonstrate...


Tomb Raider
Then came a rather brilliant live gameplay demo of the upcoming Tomb Raider reboot.  I heard a lot of the ridicule and immature comparisons between the new Lara and the classic icon, and I must say, this new one is a far better character. Ditching the stereotypical big-breasted, short-short wearing super-model bodied (lack of) character, the new Lara is a down to earth realistic woman. Still totting looks to die for, but with a far less reliance on pure sex-appeal and more believable style and attire, not to mention personality.


The gameplay demo showed one of the games earlier levels, seeing Lara forced to escape to rather grim fate with classic survival skills. It proceeded to showcase what the game is aiming for; its a much darker, far more realistic and believable experience with a real character. Lara isn’t made of stone – she gets hurt, and easily. It’s up to her survival skills and players reflexes to ensure she survives. There was quite a few Quick Time Events through the demo, giving a very cinematic feel to things. One thing I picked up was that the game looks and looks like it plays, almost exactly like the Playstation mammoth Uncharted. The way the camera moves with the player, the style of animation, all of it – it’s like a female Uncharted, and that’s not a bad thing. I just hope this isn’t what they are trying to pull off and have the end product completely feel like a Uncharted rip-off.


I have never really been a big fan of the Tomb Raider series – admittedly because I hate the main character of the games so much. But this reboot, or reimagining, whatever you want to call it, looks to change that. The demo changed my outlook on the game showing some stunning visuals with some very cinematic and engrossing gameplay. I will definitely be keeping a keen eye out for this one.


The future of EA Sports?
A representative of EA Sports then came out on stage. To either everyone’s surprise or complete lack of, it was announced that 4 of the Upcoming EA Sports games would feature Kinect integration.. He failed to really delve into details as to what extent they would be playable, but ive detailed some ideas below.

Here and now, he announced that the following titles would feature Kinect play;

Tiger Woods PGA Tour – How this one will work is a no brainer, making players stand tall in their lounge room and swing their arms. My only thought is, the Tiger Woods games are extreme detailed and almost simulation-like. How will Kinect play allow you to play with as much detail and precision of a controller?

Madden – Again, the game is highly complex. How will Kinect allow players to completely experience the title? It may allow you to throw the ball, run and palm off the opposition, but how will it allow complete control over the character?

FIFA – “Image playing the worlds biggest sports game with Kinect” says the EA rep... Okay. Now what? I lack almost all control over the field and cannot shoot for the life of me.

A Mystery – he left the final game a mystery, to be announced later. Stay Tuned for the complete EA Conference recap which will include this final title.

It seems to me, that unless only very slight integration, almost all sports games will suffer greatly at the hands of Kinect. At the very least he could have explained a little how these games will work with this new motion involvement. Perhaps a demonstration best left for the EA show? We’ll find out later with AAG’s full recap of the event.


Mass Effect 3
The stage was then made home to show off the highly anticipated Mass Effect 3. Where this wasn’t just an update, and more of an announcement, was with the confirmation of Kinect support. Yes, Kinect is a very serious Action-RPG.


While I started to dread the possible outcomes of this integration, what was shown was actually quite refreshing. Mass Effect 3 will feature use of Kinect’s voice recognition software. This can be used to fluently control all the dialogue of the game. Just say the on-screen option of what you want Sheppard to say, and boom – it’s said. Personally, I don’t think I want to waste the little energy it takes to talk to myself and my Xbox when I could easily point the Joystick in the direction and tap A instead with the exact same result. Some people may find more ‘Kinected’ in feeling like the conversation is actually happening to them, but it’s not something I look forward to using more than once or twice to try it out. Time may see this evolve though, so stay tuned.


It was then revealed the Kinect’s voice recognition would actually play part in something useful in the title. Players are able to control team mates with a range of commands via Voice in real time as you focus your gameplay on the action rather than the chunky command buttons that Mass Effect houses in order to usually give orders. We were given a live demo of both types of voice integration, and it worked great, with the player accurately and smoothly being able to select his conversation branches and order around team mates with a breeze. Definitely some of the best Kinect integration ive seen used in a hardcore title, and something that will only add to the experience, not take away.


Ghost Recon: Future Solider
Having been a big fan of the older games in the series, and Tom Clancy in general, Future Soldier is right up my alley. As soon as its demonstration began, I knew we were in for a treat.


After a short, and highly detailed CGI trailer showing off some of the advanced technology the game will utilise, we were given first look at actual gameplay. Or rather, one aspect of it. Titled ‘Gunsmith’, this mode allows for complete customisation and personalisation of all of the game weapons. You are able to play with and change absolutely everything with the weapon, including internal parts that play a part in how your weapon performs. There was a ton of unique pieces and types of add-ons shown, and to make things even more interesting, the whole things was controlled with Kinect. Yes, more Kinect. With waving of the hands, and even voice recognition, you are able to completely remodel your weapon with Kinect. Saying things like ‘Close range’, ‘Randomize’ or ‘Range’ automatically creates a weapon best suited to whatever scenario you requested.


The player on stage then demonstrated use of his weapons on a firing range. It was nothing special in the gameplay side of things, but I was highly surprised to see the player completely controlling the character with... you guessed it, Kinect! With his arms up like he was holding a real gun, the player used gestures to zoom in, reload and shoot. It was very fluent, but I was highly unimpressed with this. If this is the type of thing game developers think the hardcore crowd wants to use with Kinect, they are sorely mistaken. I was gobsmacked at the thought of how ridiculous I would feel playing the game like this, and to think, imagine trying to play the entire game this way. I don’t think im alone when I say give me a controller any day, and never create one of these games without what looks like it’s becoming a niche’, ‘Controller integration’.


Before ending, the presenter announced that every future Tom Clancy game would be Kinect-integrated. Hopefully not to the extent of the gameplay of this one, but rather cool little additions like what we seen with controlling Gunsmith.


The new, new, New Xbox Experience
Every time there is a firmware update on the Xbox 360, there’s something new and groovy introduced. This time around, there looks to be more than a few new recruits making their way to the dashboard, with yet another New Xbox Experience (or, NXE).


This NXE has a completely redesigned interface, able to be completely...controlled...with...Kinect. Im becoming very weary of having to write that, but it seems Microsoft are really marketing Kinect for use with everything and everyone. But back to the NXE, the new update comes with a ton of new features via Microsoft partnerships. Allow me to list them;

11 Million Songs – there is a new channel for all your music needs, allowing listening of over 11 Million songs from all genres and countries. Sounds very promising, but assuming you have to pay an additional subscription free, this is something I will likely miss out on. Especially considering we in Australia get the dirty end of the stick with new features like this, and usually completely miss out.
YouTube – yes, that’s right, there is not a completely dedicated YouTube channel on the 360 dashboard. Again, still no word on if they look to squeeze every cent out of you with a paid subscription type thing, but if not, this is a brilliant addition to the Xbox 360’s already impressive CV of features.

Live TV – you can now choose from tons of TV shows as well as films to watch when you want, how you want. With thousands of episodes from all the best TV programmes, the NXE will allow you to watch and follow them as you please. A very welcome addition, assuming it will stay up to date and at a moderate price. I mean, really, give us something that won’t temp us to instead go and illegally download these TV programs for FREE. I don’t mind paying for my entertainment, but don’t go overboard with trying scraping my wallet clean or I won’t have any of it.

Bing – and finally bringing it all together is Bing, Microsoft’s very own search engine. Bing on 360 allows you to search the movie, live TV, games, and music channels in one simple go, bringing you all the stuff you want on whatever you want to search. Given the range of options here, this is a welcome feature that should go down well with the masses.

Everything above is completely controllable with Kinect motion and voice. You can command Bing entirely without a controller using voice commands, allowing full access to everything the Xbox 360 has to offer. There was no word if we Aussies will be getting this voice feature though, considering Kinect still doesn’t allow us to control anything with voice in the land down under. It’s a shame too, seeing as though Microsoft’s promised voice features were the very reason I brought Kinect in the first place.


Article By John Elliott