E3 2010 – Day One – Microsoft

So the first day of E3 is official over, and I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Here’s whats happened so far, with a press event by event break down:

Microsoft:

We’ve been expecting a lot from Microsoft and the 360.  While we didn’t see anything unexpected from what we already knew was coming, we did get to see a lot of gameplay – never a bad thing. First we got some gameplay from Call of Duty: Black Ops. With everything that’s happened with Infinity Ward, the COD franchise has fallen back to Treyarch, while everyone still has Modern Warfare 2 on the brain, Black Ops looks like it’s not just going to honor the roots but embrace what we got from the Modern Warfare branch. Gameplay looks solid as you’d expect so unless there’s anything super-dooper ground breaking, it will fall to how solid the multiplayer system will be (which is where MW2 seemed to start having hiccups) and how the story will play out for those of us who still play the campaign of this series. I’m looking forward to the era jumping a lot and it should be cool to see that works and how the weapons transition from conflict to conflict; the whole premise really has me excited. Will we get a “No More Russians” caliber or type of level? I don’t know, but this looks to be shaping into an awesome game – if there was any doubt. Next, Kojima-san walked out and after passing the torch to Shigenobu Matsuyama we got a trailer for Metal Gear Solid: Rising. Following with the stunning level of quality we get from Kojima Productions, the graphics look incredible and right on par with what we got from MGS4. The only gameplay we got was showing off the cutting mechanic. And when I say cutting mechanic, I mean it looks like everything can be sliced multiple times over. Environment, enemies, watermelons, everything can be sliced and diced. Looks like there’s going to be some kind of bullet time mechanic that allows for precision slicing along a plane chosen by the player. The possibilities seem limitless but given his roots and being a robot samurai-ninja, I presume that Raiden will have some stealthing, but considering that the tag line is “Lightning Bolt Action” that might not happen. Before the trailer, Matsuyama-san gave a description of the gameplay showing the term Zan-Datsu meaning “cut-take”, part of the prerendered trailer showed Raiden dicing up a robot and then yanking what looked like a glowing spinal cord from the remains and then absorbing something. Since the gameplay only showed the Zan part of Zan-Datsu, we can only guess as to what Raiden is taking. My guess is something like energy or life. But it could be more Mega-man-ish and give him abilities from who he already killed. Your guess is as good as mine, but I’m excited beyond all reason for it; the cutting mechanics alone sold me and I’m getting a headache just thinking about how someone would code that. After Rising, they told us that everything else was a 360 exclusive, but they could have just gone and said Kinect exclusive too. Before I get to that, there were some awesome gameplay videos shown with some Halo: Reach campaign play which looks gorgeous, Gears 3, a sprinkling of Fable 3, and a Crytec 360 exclusive going right now by Codename: Kingdoms that looks like a gladiator game. Reach look absolutely beautiful. It’s got great music, the gameplay 360 owners got to see with the multiplayer beta, and just to put icing on the cake, the end of the trailer showed us space ship combat. It’s almost crazy that Bungie can still pull some surprise gameplay mechanics out of their hat after the beta, but damn it looks good. There’s not much to say about it besides simple oggle. I’d be even more surprised if they end up having multiplayer spaceship battles, but I won’t count them out entirely. Gears 3 gave a glimpse of the 4 player co-op, weapon swapping, and a bayonet charge on the old gun. I’d like to see more gameplay of the female Cogs but so far so go and at this point I think Cliff can do no wrong. They also told us of a new mode called “Beast”; everything is still up in the air about it but some think you can be one of the giant monsters in the game while your friends try to murder you. Fun times. Fable 3 looks very intriguing, I don’t know if it is possible, but I got a serious vibe about a dual story, since it seems to follow two separate countries of the continent. We saw some gameplay and again, looking great. Now, for the rest of the event we get Kinect, Kinect is Natal’s official name (and when i first saw it I kept thinking “Kinetic”). As a device, I have no qualms, it looks amazing, voice activating, hand-motioning, video chatting goodness. However, as a gaming hardware, I’m not a 100% sold yet. The applications do show promise, but as one of the G4 hosts aptly said everything looks like what Nintendo already did and if I might add, minus the cute charm that came with the Wii. While this isn’t a bad thing I guess, it doesn’t really seem to show off the power of the system on its own. Now, from the 3rd party developers, that looks like where the Kinect will start to shine. Ubisoft is bringing what is essentially a more robust and deeper WiiFit called Your Shape Fitness Evolved. Some cool applications and it has grown one me somewhat. Really the only thing that super stood out for me was Harmonix’s offering to the dance game, Dance Central, which actually looks fun. I’ve never been much of a DDR player, and I doubt I’ll play DC, but it does look cool and seems to really utilize Kinect to its fullest for something devoted to purely fun. I also think it will be more accessible that DDR since the coordination seems more natural than the flailing about on a giant D-pad, but we’ll see. We get a release date for the thing but no price point. The rumor at one point was that it would be $150 which I think throws it out of the price range for the casual audience Microsoft wants to attract, especially if they don’t already own a 360. Unless it’s somewhere in the $50 range I don’t see mobs of people lining up to grab the thing and an Xbox along with it. The biggest thing that made me drool though was what was shown next: Star Wars. I’m a Star Wars nut and the fantasy to swing a lightsaber around since the Wii came out is still there. It looks like we’re getting a rail-shooter type game where you control a Jedi. It was just a video so you couldn’t see what motions correlated to what was going on screen, but if a game made me buy Kinect, that might be it: Star Wars Kinect Lightsaber game (Yep, they don’t need a better name than that to sell me. Told you I was a nut). All and all, Star Wars aside, nothing really made me want to buy the Kinect game wise. Everything just looked kind of ‘meh’ to me. The technology looks cool enough and I love the applications of working a 360 with voice commands and minimal hand gestures – I mean who wouldn’t? Connectivity through Xbox Live and the camera on Kinect also shows some cool possibilities (as long as your friend on the other end has it too) for networking and video chat. But as a gaming platform, I’m not biting, not yet at least. It also raises a point that Sony used when the Move popped up: Sometimes you just need a controller. The game’s with driving left me a little bewildered as to how you control speed. Speech commands can only go so far before they get annoying and none of this looks like something I can last playing a long time. Sure quick games are nice, but that’s what my iPhone is going to be for, sometimes you want a meaty game to sink into and not only did I not see it, I’m not sure I could last playing a game like that on Kinect for very long. I’m not sure when or if we’ll see that type of game either. With the controller already established, I see Kinect as falling to number 2 unless a developer sees it as a means to something they couldn’t do before, like Harmonix. I’m interested to see where this tech goes, cause it really is cool, but it looks like it should come as a pack in, not something I want to go blow extra money on as opposed to a second controller and a copy of the latest Gears or Halo game. The final bomb from Microsoft was the Xbox Slim, they aren’t calling it that but that’s what it is. The shape is kind of growing on me, it matches the sleek shiny black of Kinect, but it’s just not there for me – course this isn’t a beauty contest. 250GB HDD and the latest in WiFi do make it a pretty nice package and a $299 price point should move units handily and possibly give the PS3 a run for the top seller position. And to cap the whole thing off, everyone in the audience got a slim for FREE. If you never wanted to go to E3 before, you sure as hell will now.

Since this post ran a long, I’ll be breaking it up. EA and Ubisoft will be up next, look for them later. Enjoy the rest of E3 and follow all the press events at G4tv.com

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