E3: Microsoft Press Conference

As per always, Microsoft starts off the E3 festivities by gracing us with their massive press conference that all of the major companies hold yearly. Last year, we saw announcements such as Fable II, now bundled with the Xbox 360; Gears of War 2, one of the highest selling 360 shooters; You’re in the Movies, a silly webcam-based casual game; Lips, Microsoft’s exclusive karaoke game; and the new Xbox 360 Dashboard which we’ve come to know and love over the past year. This year, we expect the best of the best, as is the same every year, and here is what was announced at the 2009 Microsoft E3 Press Conference on Monday, June 1, 2009.

The Beetles: Rock Band
Publisher: MTV Games
Developer: Harmonix Music
Release Date: September 9, 2009
Multiplatform

At first, one would say that this is just another version of Rock Band, except this time it’s featuring all Beetles songs. If you thought that, you would be right, mostly. While this is just another stab at an already huge franchise, the revamped “classic” graphic style, and the difference of the look of the characters is actually quite remarkable. Instead of just rehashing the game that they already have, they actually spent some time to make this one look unique from the rest of their franchise. While the game will only ship with 45 songs, full albums will be available for download through their store. This game releases simultaneously with a special Beetles 12 album release, coming on 09.09.09.

Tony Hawk Ride
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Robomodo
Release Date: October 2009
Multiplatform

This really seems like something that should come out for the Wii exclusively, but none the less, the newest Tony Hawk game was announced today. This one will be unique because it is coming with a brand new skateboard controller, similar to the balance board for the Wii, except shaped like a skateboard, and chances are much more sturdy since it will be jumping around a lot. Other than skateboarders, or wannabe-skateboards, I can’t see this product being very popular among very many people. Then again, the Tony Hawk games to begin with have always been for that specific audience.

Modern Warfare 2
Publisher: Activision
Developer: Infinity Ward
Release Date: November 10, 2009
Multiplatform

Infinity Ward comes back again for another go at the Call of Duty franchise, and they don’t fail to deliver either. In the end, it is still just another war shooter, but looking deeper, this game actually looks a lot prettier than it’s previous renditions. In the past, one of their main problems has been the lack of single player campaign support, but with new, varied gameplay tactics, it looks as if this will bring something unique to the table. Many aspects of the demo they played made it look as if it were an interactive cutscene in many areas, which has worked for other games in the past. While the weapons look slightly futuristic, this game looks as if it will deliver once again.

Final Fantasy XIII
Publisher/Developer: Square Enix
Release Date: Spring 2010
Multiplatform

Yet again we are told that Final Fantasy XIII is being ported for the Xbox 360, but this time, they bring a working demo which proves to be a lot more interesting than originally planned. Within this actual running demo, the characters were using English voices, and the menus had all been successfully localized. A few weeks ago, Square Enix was touting that they were trying to work on getting the final game localized faster than they have before, so that there would be a shorter delay between the Japanese and English release. It’s unclear if they just did a piece to show off, or if they are actually quite far in the process. None the less, they are bringing back an Active Time Battle-type of system, but supposedly if you store it, you will be able to pull of more powerful attacks. They didn’t explain much, but this was still some new insight into the game. The battle system still looks a little too “real-time”, and if it follows through more like Final Fantasy XII, I have a feeling it won’t be as good as it could be.

Shadow Complex
Epic Games
Xbox Live Arcade

The next Epic Games game will be a side-scrolling, 2D kind-of 3D game, which reminds everyone who’s seen it of Metroid. The assumption is that this is what it’s based off of, but the hope is that it’s at least something a little more unique than a copy. While it is 2D in the side-scrolling aspect, there is some movement “forward” and “backward” that makes it at least look something like 3D. This game will be available for the Xbox Live Arcade only later this year.

Joyride
Xbox Live Arcade

Joyride is a Microsoft Game Studios game which will be released exclusively on the Xbox Live Arcade for FREE this winter. With that being said, it is highly probable that, in order to acquire more unique items for your in-game character, they will need to execute microtransactions. The game itself is a racing game which features your XBL avatar as the driver. It will be multiplayer so that anyone with a XBL Gold membership will be able to play online with their friends for free.

Crackdown 2
Information Unknown

Very little was shown about this game other than a brief trailer, but the sequel to Crackdown was announced today. A lot of the same stuff that you can do in the original Crackdown looks to be prevalent in this one as well, although this was a cinematic trailer, so there is no information on any of the gameplay aspects of the game. We look forward to seeing what new information comes out later this week.

Left 4 Dead 2
Information Unknown

Once again, nothing but a trailer was shown of this game, and a cinematic one at that, but other than the fact that the hand on the box now is holding up two fingers, to symbolize the second game of the franchise, and that the four playable character cast is now different, an African-American group if I remember right, this game is still Left 4 Dead, and will still be just as popular as the original, without a doubt. It will be released on November 17, 2009.

Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Conviction
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft Montreal
Release Date: 2009

If you are a fan of previous Splinter Cell games, there is a good chance that this game will continue to impress you. A demo was shown off during the show which showed off an amazing graphical power that this game will provide. Sam Fisher, now a lethal badass, is on a hunt to find out who, assumed killed his daughter. Unlike the previous games, there are a lot more unpleasant ways that he can get his information, and while there still is the sneak factor involved, there are more opportunities for him to be able to move in running-and-gunning. I can’t say if this was just from the demo, or if this will be in-game as well, but mission objectives and clues to the puzzle were “broadcast” on the walls around you, which I found to be very unique, and very cool.

Forza Motorsport 3
Publisher/Developer: Microsoft Game Studios
Release Date: 2009

The rivalry continues as the Forza series continues to deliver with their third installment, Forza Motorsport 3.  Boasting a total of 400 cars, they claim to have the largest amount of cars in a video game to-date, which is still to be proven once more information is released about Gran Turismo 5. Unlike Gran Turismo though, the Forza series continues to show damage on their cars, as well as have some of the most realistic graphics out at the moment. Also continuing to bring back in the player-created paint shop for cars, which allows players to completely customize the skin on their car. I still find that to be one of the most beautiful and immersing features so far. Finally, they are adding in a new video editor, which allows players to record high definition video for editing and uploading on the Xbox Live network. Based off of the video demo that they showed, this feature would be one of my favorites, as they allow for a lot of customization of how you want each shot.

Halo 3: ODST
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Bungie
Release Date: September 22, 2009

Halo 3: ODST takes place weeks before the events of Halo 3, and you play as the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers, or ODSTs. You start by playing as a rookie ODST dropping to New Moobasa as the Covenant warp out of the city, destroying it in the process. As you progress through the story, you play as each of the different ODSTs in your squad, reliving the events between when you painfully dropped to the city and where you are now. There is also a co-op mode that they are calling “Firefight” which will be included in the game. In the end, this is a Halo game. With this, though, will be a voucher to be able to participate in the Xbox Live Multiplayer Beta for the newest Halo game, Halo: Reach.

Halo: Reach
Information Unknown

Halo: Reach takes place after, what we should assume, is Halo 3. This was a secret project that Bungie has been working on that was just announced today. The trailer that they showed didn’t show much, but it can be assumed that Master Chief was possibly found as the wreck of the ship he was in makes it’s way back to some sort of civilization, when the planet is then attacked by some unknown force. The final quote from the trailer states that Spartans had landed. Actually, scratch all this, it’s all speculation. IT’S HALO! AGAIN! OKAY?!

Alan Wake
Publisher: Microsoft Game Studios
Developer: Remedy Ent.
Release Date: Spring 2010

Alan Wake is a survival horror game with a huge twist, and I feel that this game could redefine the genre. Mr. Wake is a writer, but the books in which he writes seem to come true. You play as him as he attempts to find out what happened to his wife after these odd events began. It’s told as a narrative story; as you go along in the game, Alan speaks to you and tells you what he feels he has to do, or what he feels about the events unfolding around him. It’s almost as if it’s a movie, and you’re just the main character playing in it. The demons around you require light to be hurt, so you carry around a flashlight, and can activate lights as you go around, in order to keep the demons at bay. Overall, the graphical style of this game is, a word I didn’t think I would use today, “epic”, and I’m more than interested to see how this game continues to play out.

Xbox Live Announcements

Xbox Live announced a huge amount of new features that they would be releasing between now and the end of the year. They started out by announcing that music would be coming to Live through a partnership with last.fm. It would be a free feature for Gold members, and would be available by the end of 2009. Next, they said that they would be increasing the functionality of Netflix through Live, and changing their video services’ name to Zune Video. Included in this major update is the ability to watch live TV for the U.K., courtesy of a partnership with sky TV. For TV and movies, all of them will be available in 1080p HD, and will be available instantly to your Xbox 360, with no download times or waiting. This feature was referred to as “Instant On 1080p HD”. Also, the amount of countries who would be able to receive these features were increased from eight to eighteen. The last feature on the video front was something called “Live Party”, which allows you to be able to watch those movies and TV shows that you are watching with your Xbox Live friends live, so that you would be able to discuss them while you watch them, or so I assume. The major problem that I can find with all of this lies with bandwidth caps that Internet Service Providers are becoming so trigger happy about lately. This is all great, but with a limit of how much one can download, all of these features become useless in a mear second. Finally, they announced that Xbox Live would now be compatible with Facebook and Twitter, meaning that you can now have yet another way of being able to access your favorite social networking sites. One word: “Whoopie”.

Metal Gear Solid: Rising
Lightning Bolt Action

Yes, it’s finally announced, the Xbox 360 is getting an exclusive Metal Gear Solid game titled “Rising”. It was specifically announced though that the main character would be none other than Raiden. Other than that though, there was no other information given. Hideo Kojima himself gave the announcement at the conference, but there was no information given as to a date, what the gameplay would be like, what the setting is, or anything at all for that matter. It was nothing but a tease, and we will be watching for more information in the near future.

Project Natal

Project Natal. Controlling without controllers. Basically, a full body motion capture camera with facial recognition and voice recognition. A new way to be able to control your video games. In what I think is one of the stupidest moves ever, Microsoft came out and announced this piece of hardware for their Xbox 360, as well as showed off a live demo of it, which proved to make it look even more dumb than just in the video. Yes, it can see your every move and give you much more control over what you’re doing, but it can only work for games made for it, similar to the PlayStation Eye games for the PlayStation 3. I don’t see how this piece of hardware will revolutionize anything, as it made the demo leader look like she was flailing about, running around in front of a TV screen. And that’s exactly what she was doing.

– Overall Impressions –

Microsoft had a lot to announce, that’s for sure. I was impressed by a lot of their announcements, as they got some good multiplatform exclusives at their conference. None the less, I’m quite interested to see what Sony has in store after this performance. Microsoft has a good amount of exclusives, but I just didn’t see much value in the ones that they showed off today. Most were either sequels, Xbox Live Arcade games or tech announcements, and none with a whole lot of “new” in them, or at least “interesting”. I feel that Microsoft could have done better, but at the same time, the other main publishers need to fight back with some big news in order to beat this. It’s a very interesting E3, and the further into the future we get, the more unique ideas start to come out of them! I think it’ll be most interesting, whenever Project Natal gets released, to see how popular it really does get, because this could either revolutionize gaming, or end up being a huge flop.

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