Microsoft kicked off its big E3 press conference this year with a brand-new Halo 4 trailer showing in-game cut scenes and gameplay from the hotly-anticipated shooter. The footage revealed new, non-biological enemies and new transforming forerunner weapons. It also revealed that the character of Cortana will feature heavily in the game’s story.
After the Halo gameplay footage ended with an exciting series of smash-cuts, Ubisoft representatives took the stage to debut Splinter Cell: Blacklist gameplay footage. It was demonstrated that the game will feature Kinect voice-commands, with air support called in using a simple phrase.
Next, Andrew Wilson, head of EA Sports appeared to show off the new Kinect support built into Madden 13 and Fifa 13. In Fifa 13, Kinect commands will allow players to perform quick substitutions, change formation, and show in-game reactions to referee calls. The Madden 13 Kinect commands were demonstrated by Joe Montana (yes, that Joe Montana), who called plays, hikes, and audibles. “This brings back some great memories, and I might just have an advantage, being a quarterback,” said Montana.
Fable: The Journey was previewed next, showing actors using Kinect motion controls to cast spells in the game. It appears to be Microsoft’s answer to PlayStation’s Sorcery.
Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft Studios took the stage then, and debuted the Gears of War: Judgement trailer. The end of the trailer featured the announcement of a summer 2013 release date. A Forza: Horizon trailer was also shown, which included tons of dubstep and scenic landscapes.
Microsoft then began the portion of the press conference covering new Xbox-related features that don’t directly deal with gaming. The Xbox will be getting expanded Bing search with Kinect voice-command capabilities. For example, “Xbox, Bing action” would search the Xbox for action movies. Also, voice search is expanding to include new languages, including Spanish.
Microsoft’s new content partners will be Nickelodeon, Paramount, Machinima, and Univision. The Xbox 360 will soon be able to stream NBA basketball with the purchase of a league pass, and the NHL is on-board for Xbox streaming as well.
In one of the more unexpected announcements from the presentation, it was announced that ESPN will begin streaming 24-hour programming from ESPN, ESPN 2, and ESPNU live in HD on the Xbox 360, meaning SportCenter will soon be viewable on home consoles. It is unknown whether Xbox LIVE members must have a cable television subscription to watch the content.
Marc Whitten, head of Xbox LIVE then took the stage to debut Xbox SmartGlass. The software is a suite of apps that will sync content over multiple devices. For example, video playing from a tablet or smartphone could be resumed on an xbox. Also, SmartGlass can display information pertaining to on-screen content. The example during the presentation showed off a map of Westeros on a tablet that followed the action of a Game of Thrones episode streaming on an Xbox 360. Also shown was a playmaker app for Madden and Halo waypoint on a tablet.
Microsoft then announced that Internet Explorer will be coming to Xbox “this fall.” The Xbox IE browser will feature support for mouse-like touch controls using a smartphone. Oh, and the Xbox games app and Xbox SmartGlass will, of course, be included with Windows 8 when it releases this fall.
Stefan Olander, Vice President of Nike, then took the stage to announce Nike+ Kinect Training. The app will function as a personal trainer, and will keep track of your real-life stats to compare them to other people. Nike+ Kinect Training uses the Kinect sensor to watch a user’s training movements.
The remainder of the conference was devoted to demos, trailers, and gameplay footage from a multitude of upcoming games. We will have in-depth coverage of each of these games:
- Tomb Raider gameplay was shown off, and looked exciting. Laura Croft is shown using a bow and shotgun during a non-stop action sequence. At one point, she stabs a man in the neck with her knife. Croft is also shown taking a beating – evidently a more “mature” Tomb Raider means Croft having ribs broken and covering her with dirt and bruises.
- Ascend: New Gods debuted a teaser trailer.
- LocoCycle, a game from Twisted Pixel was teased.
- Matter, a Kinect game for Xbox, got a very vague teaser trailer.
- Resident Evil 6 gameplay footage was shown, with Leon rolling around on the ground and shooting zombies. The game seems to be a more “classic” Resident Evil, with a city setting and classic-looking zombies. The controls and camera angles were all from modern Resident Evil games, though, and there were several quicktime events shown.
- A Kinect game for Xbox LIVE called Wreckateer was demoed. The game is basically a 3-D angry birds using Kinect motion controls.
- Matt Stone and Trey Parker were on-hand to show off South Park: The Stick of Truth. In the game, players will take on the role of the “new kid.” The game is an RPG and looks to combine references from every season of South Park including crab people, evil Christmas animals, and Mr. Slave.
- Dance Central 3 footage was shown, and Usher performed on-stage. Usher is doing choreography for some of the songs in the game
The conference came to a close with some Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 game footage. The gameplay shown featured heavy urban combat in downtown Los Angeles, including a shopping mall. The name “Mason” was used referring to the player, and the game invoked 9/11 imagery when a falling building covered the area with ash and debris clouds. The game looks exciting and action-packed, but the story bits and the dialogue were, quite frankly, ridiculous.
More E3 coverage is coming this week, as Nintendo, Sony, and LucasArts all have press conference events on the way.