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E3 2010: Microsoft Press Conference

E3 2010Microsoft

Microsoft’s press conference at this year’s E3 was a meandering, lengthy conference with few surprises. There weren’t very many big announcements, although the first handful of games showcased, along with some of the games launching with the Microsoft Kinect (formerly known as Project Natal), were moderately enjoyable to watch.

Treyarch kicked things off with a demonstration of Call of Duty: Black Ops. The demo began subtlety with an underground segment and resumed above ground after several minutes without a reaction from the crowd. While not initially impressive, there was a segment nearing the end of the demo in which the player is put into the gunner seat of a helicopter and is tasked with wreaking havoc on enemies below. This looked particularly interesting, although whether or not helicopter gameplay will be implemented online remains to be seen. There was also an exciting announcement of a new deal between Activision and Microsoft to release future Call of Duty DLC first, on the Xbox 360.

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Following that, Metal Gear Solid creator Hideo Kojimi was brought out to showcase Metal Gear Solid: Rising. Ditching the stealth-heavy elements of prior games in the franchise, Metal Gear Solid: Rising focuses on sword-based gameplay. Series regular Raiden uses uses katana to toss enemies about in the air. Closing out the demonstration, he was shown slicing apart a watermelon several times over. If handled properly, slicing and dicing through flesh and melons looks like it could be a lot of fun. Before making any qualitative statements about the game, it would be necessary to see more.

A Gears of War 3 demo showed off the game’s four-player co-op and the neat weapon-passing feature which allows the player to throw ammunition to a friendly player. Rather than simply implying that the ammo had been collected, as in the first two games, the character bent down and picked up the gun, handing off to Marcus. Other than that, it looked like the same Gears of War you’re familiar with, albeit with four-player co-op. I’m still curious about the underwater segments, which I believe could potentially make or break the game.

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Halo: Reach was shown in a single-player capacity with awkward guitar-driven background music falling flat behind the game’s action. The only surprising attribute of the Reach demo was a quick glimpse of what looked to be space-combat in some kind of a fighter plane. It was a little obscure and felt like a reminder of why the beloved franchise is coming to an end with Activision’s acquisition of Bungie for the next decade.

Codename Kingdoms is a Crytek joint shown through a hokey trailer featuring some dude I’d imagine to be a Kratos-like protagonist. He looks very manly and brooding, probably has daddy issues, to boot. There’s very little known about the game. Your guess is as good as mine. Similarly obscured through a short trailer, Fable III made a minimal appearance in the conference, and it felt that simultaneously, Microsoft had run out of steam.

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So they began showcasing the Kinect’s interface functionality, including some pretty clever voice and motion commands. By waving at the device, it seemingly recognizes your build and signs into your profile. Waving at it once more brings the 360 to a satisfyingly simplified shell of the console’s applications which you regularly use. By addressing the console vocally, followed by a voice command, you’ll also be able to navigate through these menus and even interact with your media by ordering it to pause, stop, fast forward, etc.

Furthering the 360’s status as a non-gaming platform is Microsoft’s exclusive deal with ESPN. This will enable Xbox Live Gold members free access for up to thousands of live sporting events free of charge. Features included while watching the events include live polls, trivia, scores, stats, and highlights, all of this can be viewed alone or within an Xbox Live party, with friends.

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If that’s not enough to bring casual gamers on board for the Xbox 360, Microsoft’s focus on Wii-centric Kinect games just might. Six of the upcoming fifteen titles announced for the device’s launch were shown, including Kinectimals, Kinect Sports, Kinect Joy Ride, Kinect Adventures, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, and Dance Central. While it’s disappointing to see Rare slated as the developer for Wii Sports knock-off Kinect Sports, the game will offer up six motion-controlled sports mini-games and will likely prove to be popular amongst the casual crowd, if they’re not already busy with the like-minded Wii Sports, Wii Sports Resort, the PS3 knock-off, or Hudson’s upcoming Deca Sports 3. The Kinect is set to launch November 4th, in North America.

Also shown for the Kinect was a new title based on the Star Wars property as well as a slightly confusing Forza III re-release. The Star Wars trailer showed the limitations of the Kinect, as forward movement is constrained to quick dashes, and otherwise, you’re only given a small area in which you can move. The trailer closed with Darth Vader emerging from a space ship and the promise of light saber duels. The guy on stage showing off the Forza III demo seemed disconnected from the action on screen. Following a brief racing segment, some interaction with a top-of-the-line Ferrari was shown off, an admittedly impressive display which allows the player to interact with the various car parts through the motion controls and walk freely around the exterior of the vehicle.

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After about 30 minutes of dry presentations, the most exciting part of the conference had nothing to do with the games, but with the new Xbox 360. Slimmer, more streamlined, and glossed over with a black exterior, this thin alternative to the regular 360 comes at the same price but includes built in Wi-Fi, a 250gb hard drive. Not only does it look slick, but it’s being shipped to retailers tonight and will be made available for North American consumers within the week and to UK audiences July 17.

The author of this fine article

is an Associate Editor at Thunderbolt, having joined in July 2007. Get in touch on Twitter @Calvin_Kemph.

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