E3 2011 Press conference round-up : Microsoft

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We were filled with excitement for the first of this year’s major press conferences; Microsoft’s event at the University of Southern California’s Galen Centre. We got up ridiculously early to ensure that we’d get access to event, because Ian wasn’t pre-registered for the event. W were ready and waiting outside the event centre by 7 am, such was our enthusiasm.

As those of you who read our live blog of the event would know,  that unbridled optimism rather quickly devolved in to something that can only be called “being severely underwhelmed.”

It started off on a high note; the explosive action of Modern Warfare 3 – pretty much as expected, following last year’s E3 template. Modern Warfare 3 looks slick and action packed, with tightly scripted action sequences..once again, exactly as you’d expect. It’s all about the ware being brought home, much like Modern Warfare 2, really.Nothing deviating far from the COD we all know and most of us love.

Next we’re shown some footage of the new Tomb Raider game, that has the usually strong Lara as a young, vulnerable and scared lass in a pretty incredible looking origin story. It’s an open-world adventure that looks nothing short of amazing right now.

Mass Effect 3 was then shown, also with the “war at home” as its focus. The reapers, stalwart enemies in the franchise are attacking Earth, and it’s up to you as Shepard to put paid to their plans. What was quite impressive was the implementation of the rumoured, and I guess now confirmed, Kinect features for the game. Instead of useless waggling, the game uses Kinect’s voice features to allow you to speak your RPG lines and have the game pick up your voice; it’s a mostly silly feature – but it’s a step in the right direction. What is actually useful is the robust voice commands you can issue to your squad – which makes fights and battles more fluid. FIFA, Madden and PGA golf.

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The next game shown was Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon, which has a really rather affecting Kinect implementation as well; you can use your voice – and your magic, controller-free hands to customise your gun in the game’s weapon forge. Shouting out “optimise for range” will give you a weapon designed for just that. Waving and flicking your hands around gives you minority-report styled control over gun building. It all just seems to work, and impressively so. It’s nice to see how far Kinect has come, and it’s exciting to think of how far it’ll go – but it’s just not there yet.

Microsoft then focused on the non-gaming, media-focused features of the Xbox 360. Y’know..all those cool video and music rental and streaming abilities of Xbox Live that we as South African’s don’t get to use. Well, the Xbox is getting more of that. Xbox Live will be getting integrated YouTube, which is fantastic. It’ll also be getting integrated, Kinect/voice-controlled Bing search and Live TV streaming. For fans of muscly men beating each other senseless, there’ll also be live UFC streaming directly through the console. Problem is it’s unlikely that any of these new features – which go live with the Fall update towards the end of the year – will affect South Africans much at all, so move along…nothing to see here.

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It’s back to games – and everything after this point in the conference is exclusive to the Xbox 360. Problem is, beyond a a handful of titles, those exclusive experiences don’t seem all that fantastic. The first of them, and quite honestly the best, was Epic Games’ Gears of War 3. This game is a beast of a thing, and the reason to own a 360 if ever there was one. Thanks to a few advances in the Unreal 3 engine, Gears 3 is one of the most impressive looking titles to grace consoles. Game designer Clifford Bleszinski demoed the game with a chilly leaf-based beverage as his co-op partner. The game now has Mech suits, which is pretty good cause for a giant nerd boner. If you were watching closely, you’d have seen that CliffyB and Ice-T were playing with customised red controllers, which have been revealed as part of a spiffy Gears of War 3 branded console.

Last Updated: June 7, 2011

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Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I’m old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time – they were capable of being masterpieces. I’m here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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