Monday, June 4, 2012

Microsoft E3 2012 Keynotes!

 Well this sure did sneak up on me. Its time for our annual E3 2012 coverage, starting today with Microsoft's keynote speech. For those of you new to the website here is the drill. E3 is the years biggest video game trade show. The Big Three (Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo) all do live keynote speeches were they show off the latest in games, system exclusives, new features, and technology. This year we are expecting a big focus from Nintendo for the brand new Wii U hardware. While there are rumors that both Microsoft and Sony could have announcements about the next generation of hardware also.

How I cover the event is a little bit different from other places, I do something called a "live blog". Which basically means as I'm watching the live stream of the show, I type up my thoughts as to what is being shown and shortly after the end of the conference, post them for everyone to see. It is an interesting way (at least I think so!) to read about the even.. in a more opinionated way, instead of just seeing a list of straight facts. Which I don't think my readers would be interested in.

 As of the start of this post we are about forty five minutes away from Microsoft's keynote so I figured I would do some quick predictions for what I expect to happen. We'll see how many of them are correct.

As per the norm with Microsoft I expect a big, expensive looking stage. E3 has been described as a bit of a circus and Microsoft is one to embrace this philosophy ten fold. As a matter of fact one year they actually did have a high wire circus act preform in the middle of their conference. So who knows what they'll do to try to show up Sony and Nintendo.

It also would not be much of a stretch to assume lots and lots of Kinect related talk from the house that Bill Gates built. They have made lots of money from this unit and would like to find ways to get it into even more households. I am sure there will be plenty of casual Kinect experiences shown but I bet they try to push more of a "core Kinect" experience also.

But unlike last year, which seemed to be almost exclusively Kinect related pieces, there will undoubtedly be more focus on its core gaming experience. We already know about a new Gears of War title as well as the next Halo game. Maybe it is time for some new IP's to be shown?

As for hardware, if I had to guess I don't think we'll actually see anything on stage. But if anyone is poised to at least plant the seed of the next generation, its Microsoft. The 360 launched in 2005 so at the tail end of there conference maybe they give us a code name for the "next x-box" and say it will be shown off... at next years E3. Those are my quick predictions, we are about fifteen minutes away from the start of the show so let's get things underway!

I also would like to point out that for years G4 TV was like the place to go to get E3 information, but over recent years they seem more concerned  with doing twelve hour television blocks of "Cops" marathons followed by twelve more of "Cheaters" with a little "Ninja Warrior" sprinkled in. On the rare occasion that they feel festive, maybe they air the movie "Fight Club". G4 has really fallen off, so much so that long time X-Play host Adam Sessler left the network and is supposed to be doing E3 coverage for SpikeTV this year. Spike, on the other hand, has really stepped up its coverage. They are now my go-to station for everything that relates to E3 (them and the awesome work that Game Informer does, have to give them a shout out as well!)

And with that we are underway! Its time for Microsoft's E3 2012 keynote conference! Looks like the word of the day is "Entertainment Evolved" from Microsoft. I am quite curious to see what that means and it looks like things are kicking off with a Halo 4! A live action Halo 4 video that eventually switches to CGI game footage. Pretty neat stuff! This is our first look at the game and while I have never been to big of a Halo fan, I must admit that it looks pretty good. I'm sort of getting really burnt out on FPS titles this generation but the games jungle setting (which reminds me of the first Predator film) is intriguing. Graphically the game looks very nice, say what you will about this generations hardware being 'old' but it is still capable of doing some very nice looking graphics.

Don Mattrick is up on stage to start off the live show. I've always found Don to be the most annoying The Big Three CEO's ... something about him drives me nuts. He kicked things off by saying that there has never been a better time to own an X-Box and Microsoft is going to take the X-Box into our 'phones' ... whatever that means. However Don is quickly off stage and it is time for another game video.

Splinter Cell: Blacklist from Ubisoft is the game being shown. I've been a big, big fan of the Splinter Cell franchise for quite a while now and Blacklist looks to be another fantastic entry into the series. It reminds me quite a bit of Splinter Cell: Conviction... which is a good thing. That was one of my favorite 360 games this generation.. Blacklist features Kinect integration, by shouting "hey you" you can distract an enemy and pull them off a ledge in classic Splinter Cell fashion. That's actually pretty awesome! Looks like developers are slowly starting to figure out that games that use 100% Kinect controls are not the way to go... but integrating the unit with core games is a much more enjoyable experience.

Andrew Wilson, the head of EA sports is next up on stage. Talking about how Madden 13 and Fifa 13 will use Kinect. I am really interested to see what they plan on doing with Madden and... apparently they know so is everyone else because they are starting off with some lame Fifa demonstration. Hey! Here comes Joe Montana to talk about Madden! Oh Madden has the obvious pre-snap controls but they don't really seem to work that well and Joe Montana clearly didn't know what he was doing. Think I'll stick with Madden on the PS3.

Phil Spencer, the head of Microsoft Studios is out now talking about how the 'best games are on X-Box' such as Halo 4 and the new Fable game. First off is a trailer for the new Gears of War title, however. Gears of War: Judgement is coming in 2013, just a teaser trailer with not much game footage is shown. This quickly gives way to a  Forza Horizon trailer, coming October of this year.

Microsoft's marketing and strategy guy is out talking now. Entertainment is the key that they are trying to push. Currently showing off its bing search results now with Kinect voice commands. You can also sort your results by genera or looking directly for movie titles. Or you could, you know, use the analog stick that comes on your controller and just click on the damn thing instead of yelling at your TV set like a mad man. But what do I know. =)

Well this is strange, Nike is taking the stage. Yes that Nike. Looks like some interesting fitness and training features will be taking advantage of Kinect and the Xbox 360. For as much as everyone rags on Nintendo, Microsoft is doing a pretty blatant attempt to copy Wii Fitness. Yes its through Nike but its pretty much the same thing.

Xbox SmartGlass is some new concept Microsoft is working on. Showing the ability to to do things such as starting a movie on a tablet and then finishing it on your TV set. Basically giving you the ability to have your cellphone or tablet show additional information alongside your TV set. Wii U anyone? Especially with this Madden demonstration that shows someone doing play calls on a tablet and having it translate to the game.  They are also showing how you can now use your smart phone to control your 360 dashboard, that is pretty sweet. Also being shown off is Internet Explorer coming to Xbox. People still use Internet Explorer?

Hey its time for some new content for Tomb Raider! I remember playing this game back in the early Playstation days and quite like the new direction they are taking this genera. It reminds me a bit of Uncharted only with Lara Croft in place of Nathan Drake. Its actually a really smart direction for the series to go. It has a lot of the same duck and cover mechanics of Uncharted and graphically looks pretty close to it as well. Looks like a really solid game, if not a little formulaic. In no real surprise the first bit of Tomb Raider DLC will come to the Xbox first.

We have our first new IP of the day! Three of them to be exact. First The is Ascend New Gods and looks kind of like a God of War clone but I liked the brief clip shown. LocoCycle had an extremely strange and short video shown. I'm not even sure what it was exactly. And finally a game called Matter was shown for Kinect. All very short teaser videos but I am excited to see some new IP's from Microsoft.

But its quickly onto some Resident Evil 6 footage. Showing Leon taking out zombies and doing plenty of quick time events. Basically looking a lot like Resident Evil 5. Take that for what you will. I still wish Capcom would return to a bit more of the classic 1-3 style puzzle/horror game.

Oh hey, here comes the casual Kinect period of the show. The name of the game is Wreckater which basically has you shooting cannon balls and castles. Giving you the ability to control them in mid air. Looks like typical Kinect crap.

This however does not. Its the South Park RPG game that looks freaking exactly like the show. I have no idea how they managed to pull it off but the damn thing does. Here come Trey Parker and Matt Stone. Ohhh holy shit as soon as they hit the stage they made fun of the Xbox SmartGlass stuff. Joking about how you cannot play the South Park game on fifteen different devices at one time "while sitting in the fridge" ... best part of the show, hands down! Oh and the game looks great.

For some reason Usher is on stage dancing. Its technically for Dance Central 3 but umm... nobody really cares. Looks expensive, though. I said earlier that Microsoft likes to spend a lot of money at these shows and this proves it. It also proves to be a gigantic waste of time. I wish the South Park guys would come back on stage.

The last game of the day for Microsoft is Call of Duty: Black Ops 2! Say what you will but I love the Black Ops games and will be buying this game on day one. If there is one thing that Call of Duty does better than everyone else it is gigantic set pieces and Black Ops 2 looks to have them in spades. Yes, we have seen the whole 'destroyed large American city' backdrop before but you know what if it can pull it off, why not. Hell they are showing off a gun that can shoot through walls during this section of the video. You know even if you don't like the Call of Duty games, at this point it is just not an E3 without one being shown off. I like them and enjoy seeing them each year.

This is it for Microsoft, be sure to stay tuned throughout the day and tomorrow for Sony and Nintendo as well as a wrap up coverage piece!

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