Tuesday, June 22, 2010

E3 Postmortems Round 1: Microsoft - Resting on casual laurels ?

Sitting comfortably from their second place perch, Microsoft is booming, a bit high on their own success. Exclusives here, pre-emptive releases there, it's funny watching them now, 5 years into the current generation, in a position no one expected them to be in the first place. They've spent the previous years capatializing on their competitors mistakes to great effect, but now things are starting to get interesting. In the face of Sony's strongest year so far, and Nintendo's slow and steady caterings to the hardcore, MS now needs to prove that they can still hold their ground.

Did they? Highlights and thoughts on the jump.

Practically solidifying the annnoying stigma that the Xbox is the console of choice for all shooting men in the face enhusiasts everywhere, they kicked off the conference with a bit of Call of Duty: Black Ops, and I'm not gonna lie, what I saw was indeed impressive. I'm not a fan of ANY of the Treyarch developed Call of Duty games (I don't own ONE.), but what was here was impressively cinematic, intense, and looks to be the first CoD game they've made with some soul. The pervasive explosions and muted rock music blaring in the background may be the crow I eat for giving them this muc credit over a 5 minute demo...but if the campaign can keep up this level of polish, I won't mind breaking tradition.

Later came an announcement that all the DLC for the forthcoming years will be released first on 360, with other consoles to follow whenever they get around to it. Nice, but not world shattering. Shooter console stigma bolstered.

Kojima took the stage next, and it's something that still surprises me. They have such a good relationship now, if you'd told anyone at Sony that a new Metal Gear game would debut at Microsoft's conference before theirs, you might've been met with bouts of laughter. Now, for the second year in a row, Metal Gear Solid: Rising takes the stage, and I'm tempted to say, this was the most exciting trailer of their show.

He really did cut an Astro in half! While I have no doubt that this will look nothing short of amazing, I hope they can keep up the gameplay end of the deal. MGS4 had notoriously complex controls, and if they can dial that back for this game and make this extremely intuitive (looking) cutting mechanic simple and fun to use, I'm there on day one.

Some dude calling himself uh..Cliff Blez-

Cliff Bleh-


..So CliffyB took the stage, and we already know what that means.GEARS OF WAR 3. Arguably more Halo this generation than Halo has been (in terms of relevance), Epic's trailblazing action title shows no sign of slowing down in terms of intensity or spectacle, which looks to push this system to its limits, vast improvements to the core combat (bayonet rush?!?) and 4-player co-op notwithstanding--

What can be said, really? This game is going to be ridiculous. New, grotesque enemies, impressive sense of scale, RIDICULOUS graphics..it's going to rock. This isn't hyperbole, either. Epic always executes with an extreme level of polish, and even when they falter slightly with choices we may not agree with (GoW2's multiplayer, looking 'atcha.) you can't ever accuse their games of being unplayable. This is one I'll follow closely.

..Peter Molyneux even came out and talked about Fable III...but my brain shut off as soon as I saw his face. Yeah, it looks cool, but I'll eat my own hat** before I indulge his grandiose empty promises again.

Then the Kinect rolled out, and I stood up.

But don't let the obviously focus-tested shenanigans at play fool you. This video is corny, yes, but it's a good representation of what they were able to show off. Impressively lithe, and functional in ways that neither the Playstation Move or a Wii Remote can match, any non-believers in Microsoft's motion control answer were quickly converted once the software came into play. No, it isn't entirely perfect at this early stage, but it was impressively so, down to its seamless integration of controlling the dashboard, Minority Report style. The Kinect's full body tracking camera also lends itself to an entire suite of possibilities game wise, and if standout titles like Dance Central, Kinectimals, and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved were any indication, we're in for a REAL treat come November 4th.

(Well, aside from the slimmer, cooler, more functional 360 upgrade that followed its announcement. 802.11 N WiFi built in, 250 gb HDD, 5 USB ports, Built-in Kinect port, and all for the same price as the existing Elite, with a $50 price drop for all existing models? Available NOW? Nice. Very.)

The big question remains though...was I blown away by this year's keynote?

Not really. While I'm all for promoting the Xbox 360 as a massive social networking and home entertainment device, I think things may have gotten out of hand. While bonuses like an improved Netflix, and full ESPN integration into the console are nice, they have nothing to do with the console's core strength; why we chose to play in the first place -- the games. Don't get me wrong, there were some nice titles on display, but I couldn't shake the notion. This year saw an increased focus on the Kinect and the system function and less on the games, and it gave this show a bit of a foul air for me. I really like the Kinect and what it represents for our gaming future, but it also points to a more casual, non-gamer audience that the Wii has seen fit to attract for the past four years. I've said it before, but believe me when I say the future isn't heading in that direction, and with this year's show, I walked away impressed, but also wondering what exactly the 360 has in store this year for the hardcore audience, if anything substantial at all.

I don't think I've ever felt like that before.

**I don't wear hats. Haven't in nearly a decade. Exactly.

1 comment:

  1. I didnt watch the nintendo press conference but I did watch Sony's and Microsoft and aside from Kevin Butler's short speech Sony did not impress me at all, twisted metal looks horrible and I have no interest in wearing 3d glasses all the time just to play a game, the whole motion controller seems to be the only direction to go in

    I can't seem to think of anything else that would be more innovative for the gaming industry other than 3D (Sans the glasses of course)

    but Microsofts motion controller is the most innovative one, after all you are the controller.

    The only new IP that I heard about that looks to really make a mark is Devils Third but thats two years down the pipeline :-\ oh well, it might just be time to grow up and leave gaming to the coming generation :-\

    and what the fuck is up with assassins creed having a multiplayer?!!?