As the dust settles on another E3 Conference, what have we learned from Microsoft’s presentation this year?
They kicked off with Halo 4, and why not? Halo is still a massive deal and all eyes are on 343 to see whether they can follow in Bungie’s substantial footsteps. All evidence points to a resounding yes. Even in the twilight of the 360’s lifespan we are seeing some amazing visuals, not to mention enemies that move like we’ve never seen before and Forerunner weapons that ASSEMBLE IN MID AIR.
Up next, Splinter Cell Blacklist and sweet baby Jesus does it look good. It appears they’ve taken all the great things from Conviction such as the Mark & Execute feature and brutal takedowns - expanded on and refined them – and added some old-school Sam Fisher moves like the Sticky Shocker for the long-time fans. The gameplay we saw looked very Future Soldier – all explosions and guns from the world’s noisiest spy , but that was to be expected, as darkness and stealth don’t really translate well to a conference demo. Expect plenty of sneaky-stabby action in the full game.
Here's the awesome demo:
FIFA 13! Yes, it’s that time again. More life-like players, refined collision mechanics to avoid those comedy clashes and if you have Kinect you can now swear at the referee.
Microsoft continue to expand the Xbox experience beyond the games with several big announcements. ESPN, NBA and NHL are coming to the Dashboard – all premium services no doubt like MLB TV. Xbox Music is attempting to blow Spotify clean out of the water with, count them, 30+ MILLION GAZILION songs. Internet Explorer is finally coming to our beloved console and all of this – TV, music, web browsing - will incorporate something they are calling: Smart Glass. Check out this video:
If there were any Nintendo executives in the room as this ball was slugged for the fences, I’m sure their shoulders sagged a little. Basically the Xbox will be doing all the things the Wii U is doing, but with the devices you already own. And it’s out of the park!
EA Sports had none other than Joe Montana up on stage to demonstrate the Kinect voice commands for Madden NFL 13, and impressive they were too.
Crysis 3 was also shown and the visuals, needless to say, are nothing short of breathtaking. This can also be said of Medal of Honor Warfighter which has been given the Frostbite 2 treatment and looks simply stunning.
And of course, we have another entry in the Need for Speed franchise. This year sees Criterion - makers of Burnout and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit - taking on everyone's favourite, Need for Speed: Most Wanted.
Ubisoft were up next and having already blown us away with Splinter Cell earlier in the day, they turned to Assassin’s Creed III. Some gameplay footage in the snow? A Revolutionary fracas with the rank and file of the redcoats perhaps? Nope. None of that. They only went and slapped us around the face with a bloody great naval battle! Cop for this:
Matter, Ascend: New Gods and Loco Cycle were announced by Microsoft, but with little in the way of details. Are they full games or XBLA titles for the summer? Time will tell.
The new IP that got everyone talking though was Watch Dogs - a techno-cyberpunk-open world effort where you hack and control electronic infrastructure such as phones, lights and traffic signals. And you can slide across car bonnets and shoot people in the face. What more can you possibly want? There are already a few videos for this posted on YouTube, so be sure to check them out as this is looking very interesting.
Not a new IP, but definitely worthy of a mention is the new Tomb Raider. Billed as a reboot origin story set before Lara, you know, developed. Joking aside, this is looking super dark and gritty.
A couple of things stand out from Microsoft’s conference. The war is over. They no longer seem bothered with what the other guy is doing. The figures show that the Xbox has nothing left to prove this generation, and the continued expansion into other media – for better or worse – is clearly the direction this company is looking for the foreseeable future.
And as for the future? It’s notable that all the reveals are for releases later in the year or early 2013. Beyond April we have a blank slate akin to Command and Conquer’s fog of war. We can’t see beyond it, but we know what’s there. The next E3 will assuredly be ground zero for the new Xbox.