And we’re off! Although the doors to E3 don’t technically open until tomorrow, today is the unofficial kick off of the convention as most of the big guys set the tone for the coming show before E3 officially begins. Sony will take the stage this evening, EA and Ubisoft showed their wares this afternoon, and Nintendo will hold court tomorrow morning before the show officially begins.
But leading it all off is Microsoft, which held their press conference this morning in LA. It has been a good year for Microsoft. The Kinect is selling well, the partnerships continue to come, and the Xbox 360 is currently the best-selling system in the world over the last year. Along with a slew of software announcements, Microsoft showed off an impressive lineup of upcoming titles that will be exclusive to the system, or feature an Xbox 360 specific boon.
If you haven’t heard about Halo 4, then you probably aren’t connected to the internet. In that case, you probably aren’t reading this post either. Going in, we all knew that Halo 4 would be one of the biggest games of the year. After the demo shown, we are more sure than ever.
The video began with a live action clip that will instantly make any Halo fan yearn for the live action movie that seems to be cursed. The galaxy is at piece, and the UNSC has just finished construction on Infinity, the cutting edge in space travel. It is the proverbial unsinkable ship, housing thousands of humans. Naturally, it sinks.
After crash landing not far from Master Chief, the Chief and Cortana witness a new intelligence heading towards the wreckage. Naturally they decide to follow. Along the way Master Chief comes across a few members of the Covenant. After dispatching them, he soon encounters a new enemy using an new form of technology. While that may present a problem to some, to Master Chief it just means he gets to try out new weapons.
We will have more on Halo 4 later this week.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Next up, Microsoft shook things off with a bit of a surprise by announcing the next Splinter Cell game, something that was only rumored up to this point.
The demo began with Sam Fisher on the border of Iran and Iraq, hunting down a terrorist that was threatening the release of a Blacklist that would wreak havoc throughout the world. The voice was not that of Michael Ironside, but that will almost certainly change for the official release sometime next year.
The game seems to be following the path laid out by its predecessor Splinter Cell: Conviction. Marking and executing enemies will return, and fisher will be able to traverse obstacles on his way towards his objective.
The demo also showed a touch of Kinect integration, as the player demonstrated its usage by shouting “hey you” near a guard, which brought the guard towards him. Another example had Fisher calling out targets for a predator strike.
The demo ended with Fisher finding his target, a scientist that claimed to be a British agent, but was thanks to Fisher’s modern technology was proven to be lying. The scientist grabbed Fisher’s gun and pulled the trigger, killing himself and taking his secrets with him. We’ll have a long wait to find out what is going on and why.
There wasn’t much of a reveal for EA Sports at the Microsoft show, and EA’s tricks and surprises were introduced at the EA conference later this afternoon. What was on display though, was the long-promised Kinect integration.
To highlight this, Microsoft and EA brought out NFL legend Joe Montana to run a few plays on Madden 13 using the Kinect. Now, while it may be a fun gimmick for casual football fans to yell “hike,” this is one of the rare instances where the Kinect will actually favor the hardcore gamer. The Kinect will allow you to call out audibles, and even design a custom play on the fly, as Montana did when he created a hot route audible to receiver Michael Crabtree.
Montana seemed genuinely impressed, and as a quarterback he had the working knowledge to call plays and routes based on the defensive formations. For those that have been playing Madden to the point they could probably step in if an NFL offensive or defensive coordinator was suddenly struck by lightning and the team turned to the crowd for a replacement, this new integration is for them.
FIFA and NHL will also feature this, and you can now change formations with a voice command, and even call for the ball from AI teammates.
Fable: The Journey
We will have a closer look at this title later this week, but Microsoft is putting planning another big push for Kinect integration this year, and Fable: The Journey is likely to be the jewel in that crown.
Taking one of the most well-known Xbox exclusives and creating a Kinect-centric sequel is a smart move. It will allow users to cast magic, fight, and interact with the world they already have at least a passing familiarity with. The question really then becomes is this a Fable game that uses the Kinect, or a Kinect game that uses Fable.
Although this was meant to be a shocking reveal that would have game journos scraping their jaws off the floor, the early leaks of this title have already told us most, if not all of what we will know about this game for a while.
It will feature the characters of Cole and Baird, there will once again be Locusts to contend with, and there is going to be a huge multiplayer section. Other than that, details (including when this game is set and how it fits into the existing canon) are scarce. One thing we do know, however, is that it is due in 2013.
The Forza series has grown by leaps and bounds since its early days as a pale impersonation of the Gran Turismo series. It was a clone, and only a decent one. But things change, and you can make a solid argument that Forza 4 (and perhaps even Forza 3) stole the crown from GT, and became the pre-imminent racing simulation on the market. That said, it isn’t all that surprising that the series is set to expand.
Forza: Horizon is a street racer in the vein of the Need for Speed games, with races turning into chases on crowded city streets, and on populated freeways in the country. How the controls will fit with the apparently more arcade-ish style remain to be scene, but the Forza brand has earned the respect of racers everywhere. Forza: Horizon is due out on October 23, 2012.
The guys from Crystal Dynamics were on hand to show off a look at the gameplay for the upcoming Tomb Raider prequel. While not quite a reboot of the franchise, the new Tomb Raider is definitely a new direction for the series.
The clip shown had Lara creeping her way through enemy infested territory, silently killing enemies with a bow and arrow at first, then a shotgun taken from a fallen foe. Using the destructible environment as cover while it held, Lara entered a series of set pieces that culminated with a drop down a waterfall, a fall from a cliff, and a parachute ride through the trees.
You may wonder why a game that is scheduled for all systems was on display at Microsoft. The guys from Crystal Dynamics announced that it, like several other titles coming this year, will feature DLC that will appear first on the Xbox 360.
Ascend: New Gods
Coming up next was a game from the makers of Toy Soldiers. The game appears to be a hack n’ slash with a supernatural and divine slant. The trailer was brief and shown without context, but it appeared as if an angel (or something similar wearing the heavenly trappings of white armor), was greeted, then brutally slain by a demonic looking warrior in red armor who then went on to fight a giant that was crushing a town in its wake.
Very little was gleaned from this brief trailer except that it appeared to be centered around a sentient, futuristic motorcycle that the voice over explained was also a well versed assassin.
Director Gore Verbinski flexes his gaming muscle in a curious looking new game for the Kinect that looks like a cross between Marble Madness and Tron Legacy. The trailer shown was little more than a visual appetizer, so it is tough to know what to make of this one yet. We should hear more soon though.
Resident Evil 6
The boys from Capcom were in attendance to show off a bit of the upcoming Resident Evil 6, due out this Fall. The clip shown combined the Resident Evil action that was present in RE5, including the companion character.
As the player took control of Leon Kennedy, he encountered a world gone zombie. The character then heads through a series of set pieces, including a helicopter crash.
The reason this will hit the Xbox 360 first is that it will feature DLC firs ton Xbox.
For those that have been dying for a more interactive version of Angry Birds, Wreckateer is for you. The game is a Kinect-centric title that has you launching projectiles at castles. It will be out this summer.
Trey Parker and Matt Stone took the stage to show off their new South Park game made in conjunction with Obsidian, the developer behind Fallout: New Vegas. The game is certainly a South Park game. That much is obvious as Cartman gives a narrative voice over explaining that the town needs a savior. The boys look towards the new kid, who you will play.
More will be coming in the coming days and weeks as this game heads towards release, and it will feature DLC that hits the 360 first.
One of the areas that the Kinect has exceled at is with dance games, and on the top of that pyramid sits the Dance Central franchise. To show off some of the new moves, Microsoft unleashed the artist Usher on stage, who asked the crowd to stand up and move.
The confused and befuddled gaming crowd shuffle awkwardly as Usher sang and danced while the game played in the background, showing the realistic nature of the dance moves.
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
To close the show, Microsoft gave us a look at the biggest gaming franchise in the world. We already know that the game will be set in the future, specifically in the year 2025. In the demo shown, Los Angeles has seen better days. Following an attack, the protagonist, David Mason, is tasked with protecting the President in the middle of an all-out attack.
The gameplay is what you would expect from a Call of Duty title. The demo began as a freeway became the site of a drone attack. Using a new high powered sniper rifle with an x-ray scope, and a power up that can shoot through walls, David moved through the ruined freeway until he took charge of a missile launcher to take out drones.
Following that attack, he then was given a choice of what to do and how to proceed. The specific choice was whether or not to snipe or rappel down and fight on the ground. This is a fairly minor detail, but it will change the nature of Call of Duty.
Following the initial attack, the demo jumped ahead a bit, and the fighting was joined by a friendly jet that acted as an “armor overwatch.” As the fighting intensified, Mason made his way through the city, fending off both drone and enemy soldier, before coming across the wounded pilot who was forced down after providing cover. Mason then took control of the jet and took the fight to the skies.
As with the previous titles, Call of Duty will feature DLC that will be released on the Xbox 360 before it reaches the PC or PS3.
Expect to hear more about Black Ops 2, as well as all these titles in the coming weeks.