Squeals of delight are sure to emerge from the mouths of Halo fans as Microsoft anchored its E3 presentation with the news that Halo 4 marks the beginning a new trilogy. The game is visually stunning and with gameplay appearing to meet the series high standards with the triple threat in warfare; gameplay over air, water and land. This news is greatly appreciated. What is not, and very puzzling at an event such as this, was the attempt to fleece loyal Microsoft fans with the combat anniversary addition of Halo 1 (due no doubt in part because Halo 4 won't be around until 2012).
No amount of digitally remastering can hide the fact that this could be logically interpreted as a lack of faith in Halo 4, as the marketers feel that the Halo franchise needs a shot in the arm/sales until its release. The other option is that it is simply revenue raising, cashing in on the franchise's popularity. Either way, this is not ideal behaviour in regards to the anchor game, Halo 4, which should be the 'long anticipated big release' in 2012. As for the digitally remastered game, I personally would rather Microsoft spend its time and money showing off titles that offer something new or innovative. That is what E3 is all about after all.
In more positive news, the greatest excitement came in the form of Tomb Raider. I had high expectations, and I was not sure if they would be lived up to. The scene shown totally blew me away. Not only does the game feature frankly stunning visuals, the scene allows wonderful storytelling: a captive Lara Croft afflicted by agony, attempts to escape her captured confines, followed by a dash for freedom. Backed up with quality sound effects and music,a very tense mood is created. Whilst this does seem to be a completely new, compelling Tomb Raider, stepping out from its predecessors, to take a X-Men analogy, it appears to be more First Class then Last Stand. Importantly, the highlighted gameplay and platforming appears challenging and well executed, although the part where she holds onto a edge solely using a broken arm was more far fetched then anything else. This blip aside, the storyline in particular seems strong.
|This game is winning E3 all by itself|
EA appears to have embraced the Kinect, which is fair enough as sporting games have the greatest potential with motion capture. It is interesting that the sports they have picked are golf, NFL and Futbol/soccer (although no news of the authentic FIFA experience of a bribery option in manager mode), where it would seem far more logical for hockey/baseball/tennis or another sport focusing on hand-eye co-ordiation. One other exciting title, Forza 4, offers perhaps the greatest use of controllers with motion capture. The use of a steering wheel and pedal may create the most realistic simulation of any real life event yet. This game's visuals are excellent and the realistic simulation of racing may suit the Kinect movements perfectly. It looks an impressive title for the library. In EA's rather one-dimensional Kinect-a-thon it mentioned appropriating it for non-sport games as well. I dont mind waiting a while for more information for that.
The Kinect attack went all out, presumably in a bid to hone in on Nintendo territory. Its most 'impressive' title was Fun Labs which has the possibility to make home objects come into the virtual world, but some less savory gamers are notoriously odd individuals and some of the avatars/ abuse of this system will test the age appropriateness of this game. The less said of Dance Revolution 2 the better. Hardcore gamer fans may have been disappointed by the large Kinect bias of this event and it is a clear Microsoft policy to pay greater attention to the casual market.
|The future of Microsoft?|
Kinect voice does seems interesting to integrate, although how responsive it is remains to be seen. I get the feeling it may end up like a voice recognition on the other end of the phone, and my Aussie accent may attempt to order a virtual pizza in The Sims and end up declaring war on Vladivostok. It has the sneaking ability to add a level of frustration and rage to gaming not seen since dialup Internet. These two minor paragraphs may not do justice to the push applied on Kinect, but honestly, it has three features and the people who planned Microsoft's conference kept trying to rewrap the same lukewarm present.
The greatest addition to Xbox Live, and potentially a game changer for Microsoft, will be the link to the Internet and pay TV age with partnerships with pay-television companies and YouTube. Linking every aspect on a single system is very intelligent, and the partnerships with various pay TV networks will only enhance the process. The interactive options with live TV presents a great deal of potential, although Microsoft doesn't seem entirely sure how to use it, only presenting live sports predictions as a potential use.
|Sports and Shooters... you'd think there are the only two genres of game|
A plethora of shooters were showcased. Mass Effect seems great, all though despite attempting to sell it, open dialogue in a game will be a long way off. Modern Warfare 3, COD will be out November 8 and nothing more needs to be said. An unexpected diamond in the rough appears the be the use of Microsoft's most innovative design to create Tom Clancy: Ghost Recon. The option for stealth mode and the customisation of the individual parts is weapons demonstrated show gaming at its artistic, intricate best. If any game will make use of Kinect, perhaps it it this.
Gears of War 3 was always going to be a massive title and with millions of pre-orders you could forgive Microsoft for focusing on targets they needed to sell to, but the game looks slick and the obvious respect for the fanbase is something that garners the metaphorical bromance. Giving a taste of what to expect was a nice touch, much less was the blatant use of celebrity Ice T. Not as startling as the original, this new entity has impressively improved as the game has visuals that will, once more, define the benchmark in first person shooters for the next few years.
|Doin' this Kinect style|
The metaphor that a coin features two sides, like that of dark and light, is a metaphor that is overused . Despite utilising this, a strange yet compelling story in relation to a puppy searching through a ruinous Rome speaks volumes about a title that had largely gone under my radar. Not any more, for the first person shooter Ryse was a surprise packet and showed enough in its brief cameo to warrant further investigation.
The overall press conference was a little disappointing. The Kinect push got very repetitive and Tom Clancy/Forza aside did not offer as much as Microsoft seem to think it does. I was genuinely impressed by some of the visuals, but all of these games have been discussed well before E3. There was nothing groundbreaking and very few hardcore games. In its attempts to go after Nintendo, Microsoft may have forgotten its own niche. This could translate into a long 12 months. Still, it was not all bad. Ryse looks thoroughly interesting, we can wait 17 months for a Halo 4 that looks that good, EA and sports games will benefit greatly from Microsoft's push into kinect, Tomb Raider may have reinvigorated an ailing franchise with an excellent story and Ghost Recon may be the surprise packet of Microsoft E3.
- Owen S