E3 2012: Microsoft press conference round-up

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Microsoft

E3 went in to full swing yesterday, kicking off with Microsoft’s Press conference at the Galen Centre in Los Angeles.

Microsoft kicked off E3 – and their own event – with a delightful live-action Halo 4 trailer with the iconic Master Chief moving through a jungle with the sexy-blue-assed Cortana talking his ears off. the live trailer then shifted to actual gameplay – and it seems as though 343 Industries won;t disappoint with Halo 4, which looks pretty incredible.

Xbox boss Don Mattrick then took to the stage – once the applause had died down –  to boast that the Xbox 360 – once the biggest selling console in North America, had become the global leader as well.

“Xbox is no longer the number one selling console in North America, but the number one selling console world-wide,” he chimed

While there’s usually a bit more in the way of congratulatory pats-on-the-back, Mattrick instead moved on to more games; as expected, a debut trailer for Splinter Cell: Blacklist.

A group of nations has created a blacklist – for kicking warmongering American’s out of their countries. A section on the Iran-Iraq border was demoed, with Sam Fisher  “taking out targets quickly and fluidly”utilising an evolved “Mark and Execute” from Conviction.

SCBScreen

Interestingly, Splinter Cell : Blacklist will feature Kinect integration in the way of allowing you to distract enemies using your actual voice. Yup, the neighbours are going to think you’re loony again. Ubisoft says its  “the most ambitious Splinter Cell yet,” and will be hitting consoles in Autumn next year

EA Sport’s Andy Wilson then took the stage, demoing – along with legendary quarterback Joe Montana – how Kinect will work in future sports games. Players will be able to address other players – and even swear at the referee.

Microsoft’s Phil Spencer then took the mic, demoing the breifest splinter of Fable: The Journey (still no gameplay!) before showing that explosive, but unfortunately wholly CG Gears of War: Judgement trailer.

Next on the actual worthwhile games list was Forza: Horizon, which showed fancy cars, mixed in with far too much dubstep. I was beginning to fall asleep at this point; sport followed by racing – so you’ll have to excuse my forgetting certain details.

Microsoft marketing head Yusuf Medhi, then came out and spoke to the Xbox in Mexican, explaining that Bing Voice search will be expanded into 12 different languages this year (no mention of any of south Africa’s 10 other official languages), potentially reaching another “half a billion people”. He then confirmed that Xbox will play host to new content providers, like Nikelodeon, Paramount, Machinima and a Spanish video channel, buffered with  NBA and NHL programming  – none of which mean anything to us in South Africa.

Xbox Music  – a spotify-like service that seemingly replaces everything Zune was announced, which will add 30 million tracks to the Xbox. Probably not yours though. silly regional restrictions.

And then, as if to kill off any journalists interest in the conference, Microsoft announced Nike as a major partner for Xbox, to deliver “the future of fitness” – by way of Nike+Kinect Training, a “personalised digital training experience”.

Smartglass

Microsoft’s next trick – and a genuinely interesting one was the announcement of SmartGlass – which sees your Xbox communicate with the tablets and phones – iOS, Android and Windows Mobile –  that you already own.You’ll be able to watch a movie on your tablet, stop watching and start watching again at the same place on your TV, through your Xbox 360. You’ll also be able to control your console remotely through SmartGlass. It can even be used for games – displaying map data from a game you’re currently playing on your tablet, for example – giving Nintendo and its Wii U a bit of a kick to the teeth.

Joining the smartglass announcement was one that sees the Xbox 360 finally get a browser – but as you’d expect, it’s – ugh – Internet Explorer.

“This is the web transformed for TV,” said Microsoft’s Marc Whitten

Back to, y’know, games, we got to see some actual  Tomb Raider gameplay. Having come full circle, the game seems quite heavily influenced by Uncharted – but it looks pretty incredible – save for the incredulous moment of nature seemingly conspiring against poor Lara as she hit in to to every possibly obstacle after falling. Why’s it shown off at a Microsoft event? The first bit of DLC will be exclusive to the 360.

Phil Spencer returned, announcing three new exclusive games; Ascend New Gods from Signal Studios LocoCycle from Twisted Pixel and Matter – a game seemingly about nothing.

Capcom showed a playable section of Resident Evil 6, a quick-time-event laden demo hat highlighted the massive scale of a city under attack from Bio-Terrorism, as Leon Kennedy battled through the streets, taking on zombies with a whole new array of abilities and weapons.

Alex Ruiz from the Xbox Live team, in the only embarrassing Kinect demo of the event,  showed of Xbox Live title Wreckateer- which has you wriggling your arms to destroy castles. South Park creators, the genuinely funny Trey Parker and Matt Stone came out on stage to make fun of Microsoft, and show off the Obsidian developed South Park RPG. It was the single best bit of the conference, if you ask me.

And then it all got really, really bad. announcing Dance Central 3 from Harmonix, Microsoft pulled out Usher for a stage performance that left ears bleeding. when was the last time this guy performed- because he didn’t really seem to know what he was doing.

The puntastic, but personality-less Don Mattrick  came back on stage, giving Usher a “well done,” and a slow clap, before saying that Microsoft is “ushering” in a golden age of entertainment. See what he did there?

Mattrick then closed off the conference with the sequel to the game that kicked off their E3 2011 conference; Black Ops II- showing a trailer and some gameplay. I have to admit, that Black Ops II looks really good. Once again, DLC will be a timed exclusive for the 360.

And that was it. Another year, and another underwhelming start to E3. I think Microsoft had some interesting things to show, namely the new Gears of War and SmartGlass – but their impact was considerably lessened by the fact that most of what we saw was already leaked on to the internet.

Last Updated: June 5, 2012

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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