E3 2012: Microsoft Fires First

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Microsoft officially kicked off the E3 2012 festivities with its press briefing dubbed “Xbox 360 Entertainment Evolved 2012.” While it was a little light on huge surprises, they did show off exciting demos and some interesting new features hitting the Xbox 360 in the coming months.

E3 2012: Microsoft Fires First

Here are some of the highlights.

  • Halo 4
  • The show got rolling with an absolutely incredible looking trailer and demo for Halo 4. It started off with things going bad on a UNSC ship that eventually causes it to crash down on an unnamed planet. Luckily for all involved, Master Chief is on the scene. He has a small skirmish with some Covenant forces, but before he can finish them off, the last one standing is taken out by an unseen shooter. As Chief moves closer to the downed ship, he starts encountering what appear to be robotic A.I. enemies. While Chief is dispatching these new foes Cortanna mentions that she thinks she recognizes who they are…the Forerunners.

    This demo completely blew me away. The graphics and animations have gotten a complete overhaul since Halo: Reach. It appears that 343 Studios is more than capable of taking the reins of Bungie’s storied franchise. I can’t wait to see more. Halo 4 is scheduled to be released on November 6th, 2012.

  • Splinter Cell: Blacklist
  • Sam Fisher is back. In the newest installment of the Splinter Cell franchise, Sam is tasked with taking down terrorists who want US troops out of their country. The area they showed during the demo took place along the Iran/Iraq border. This game looks very much like a sequel to Conviction, but everything has been given a nice visual upgrade, especially the animation. Mark and execute makes a return, along with the more action based pace that the series seems to be taking a turn towards.

    They also showed off some optional Kinect support. You’re now able to actually say “Hey you” to grab the attention of nearby enemies. You’re also able to use your voice to call in air strikes.

    Unfortunately, it appears that the iconic voice of Fisher, Michael Ironside, is sitting this one out. Bummer. Other than that the game looks great. It’s out spring 2013.

  • EA Sports
  • Madden 13 and FIFA 13 are better with Kinect. Normally you have to take this kind of statement with a grain of salt, but what they showed off here makes it seem like they’re starting to figure out what the Kinect is actually good at when used in honest to goodness real games.

    The Madden stuff isn’t all that surprising. You can call plays, audibles and say “hike” to actually hike the ball. The kind of stuff you’d expect Kinect to do in an American Football game. FIFA, on the other hand, had some more exciting implementations. Aside from the standard stuff, changing defensive positioning and play calling, FIFA 13 uses Kinect in one other quite ingenious way: If you disagree with a call by the ref and vocally make your opinion known while sitting on the couch, the in-game ref can actually call a penalty and give a yellow card. If it works as advertised, it could be a very amusing new feature in future sports games.

  • Fable: The Journey
  • Lots of magic and horses. You know, Fable stuff.

  • Gears of War: Judgment
  • There wasn’t an on stage demo for this one, only a trailer (really?). It’s a prequel starring Baird and Cole from the main Gears games. Launches sometime in 2013.

  • Forza: Horizon
  • Lots of cars driving on scenic vistas. Also, dubstep. October 23rd, 2012.

  • Smattering of non-game stuff
  • This was the section where they rattled off a whole bunch of stuff outside the realm of games. You’re not able to search Bing by genre. 12 new languages for Bing voice search. New partnerships with Nickelodeon, Paramount and Machinma. NBA and NHL on Xbox. Lots and lots of new ESPN live content. Xbox Music (clever name), which looks to be replacing their current Zune branding. A new partnership with Nike and the announcement of Nike+, which appears to be a new fitness program using Kinect.

  • Xbox SmartGlass
  • At first this seemed like it was going to be another of the “blah blah look at all the cool but ultimately useless stuff that your Xbox can do but you’ll never actually use” segment, but they actually showed off some useful looking features. SmartGlass is a new application that brings the stuff you already own together. They showed off examples of being able to start a movie on a mobile device (whether it’s iOS, Windows, or Android) and finish it up on the Xbox. Even more than that, when you transfer the film from the small to the big screen, your mobile device will display information about the movie you’re watching. They also mentioned possible implementation with games. The examples they showed were more “what may happen” rather than “what it happening,” but it was interesting nonetheless. First was SmartGlass in a football game like Madden. You’re able to call and alter plays on your mobile device. Second was Halo 4. Not a whole lot of information there, but they had an example of you seeing something in game and then having information about that item popping up on your device, along with some multi-player implementation as well.

    SmartGlass was something I wasn’t really aware of before, but now I’m quite interested in checking more of it out. The fact that you don’t need to buy anything new to have all this stuff work is very exciting. No release date was given.

  • Tomb Raider
  • An onstage demo for Lara Croft’s gritty reboot was up next. It started with Lara icing some dudes quietly with her trusty bow and arrow, but before long her cover was blown and it was officially on. The combat looked quite a bit like the Uncharted series. There was quite a bit of climbing and shooting, accompanied by some hiding behind cover, of course. Incredible looking animations were on display here, which appears to be a running theme for this show. They also announced that the first piece of DLC will be available first on Xbox. DLC announcement before the game even has a release date? Come on, guys.

  • Ascend: New Gods
  • Developed by the guys behind the Toy Soldiers franchise. Swords and sorcery with a Shadow of the Colossus kind of feel. Looks cool.

  • LocoCycle
  • LOCOCYCLE! Sorry, it’s just an awesome name. Developed by Twisted Pixel, it’s about a secret agent/assassin Tron motorcycle or something? Nothing was really explained in the trailer, but the developer is solid. Release in 2013.

  • Gore Verbinski’s Matter
  • Gives off a bit of futuristic Marble Madness vibe. Made for Kinect. 2013.

  • Resident Evil 6
  • The demo started off with rookie cop Leon S. Kennedy having a pretty bad day. He’s surrounded by zombies, everything is on fire and there’s a helicopter trying to take him out. After fighting his way out of that predicament, he has a chance to get some orders from the woman in his ear, who sounded a lot like Ashley Graham from Resident Evil 4. After getting his orders, he looks over the burning city and says “What happened, Chris?” referring to the series’ other main protagonist, Chris Redfield. After that little bit of introspection EVERYTHING STARTS EXPLODING. After outrunning explosion after explosion Leon once again finds himself surrounded by dozens and dozens of the undead.

    Resident Evil 6 looks to continue the series’ trajectory into full-on action game. This time around the shooting looks to be taking inspiration from more modern third-person shooters. If the story continues Resident Evil’s special brand of insanity, this very well could be the best one yet. Resident Evil 6 launches October 2nd, 2012.

  • Wreckateer
  • Demo for XBLA exclusive Kinect game. You launch boulders from a catapult to knock down castles and use an aftertouch mechanic to guide them on their way. Comparisons to Angry Birds are inevitable. Releases summer 2012.

  • South Park: The Stick of Truth
  • In this RPG developed by Obsidian, things are bad in South Park, Colorado, and it’s up to the four boys plus a new player created/controlled character to save the day. A trailer is shown which looked to show gameplay. If it is, it looks incredible and exactly like the show. Trey Parker and Matt Stone hit the stage to talk about getting the (crappy) look of the show into a video game and the challenges of designing and writing for games. I don’t think they’re reading off a teleprompter because they’re actually funny and entertaining. I cannot wait to see more from this game. It very well could be my current most anticipated game.

  • Dance Central 3
  • Usher shows up for an absolutely unnecessary performance in promotion of Dance Central 3. Some gameplay was shown; it looked like Dance Central.

  • Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
  • Last thing up is a live demo for the biggest video game franchise on earth. Taking place in 2025, you play as David Mason, son of the previous game’s protagonist, Alex Mason. In this demo they were tasked with saving the lady President (so you know it’s the future) from terrorists attacking Los Angeles. Being set in the future, it seems like they’re having some fun designing the weapons for this sequel. The one they primarily featured in this demo was a sniper rifle that could see and shoot through hard cover. There was a point in the demo where a choice in paths was presented. You could either hang back and snipe or rappel down a wall to get into close combat action. Branching paths in a Call of Duty game? Unheard of! The demo ended with a very impressive section where you pilot a VTOL jet. It looks like Call of Duty, yeah, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. Black Ops 2 hits on November 13, 2012.

    The opening shots have been fired. How will the other big boys respond? Stay tuned.

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