Monday, June 6, 2011

E3 2011 - Impressions of Microsoft's Keynote Presentation

I think that I'm a special kind of nerd. I look forward to E3 each year like douchebags look forward to new hair-bleachings and tanning salon grand openings.

I go out of my way to watch press conferences, read blogs, and I have missed college classes just to make sure that I didn't let any of the big gaming announcements get past me. Good heavens, I skipped an exam so that I would hear about Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword the moment it was revealed!

I'm planning to do a little write up for each of the Big 3's press conferences, and I would LOVE to have you along for the ride! Please, hop into the 8BitVS "Black Van O' Gamin'", take a seat on the mattress in the back, and prepare for E3 coverage, 8-Bit Variety Show style... (It's just like everyone else's E3 Coverage, but with more humor, and racism!)

First up: Microsoft! 
Call of Duty - Modern Warfare 3: The first game featured in the entire conference, and it was a good one. The game certainly has a sense of spectacle to it, especially the first time that the guy demonstrating MW3 broke the surface of the water, and we caught of a glimpse of a New York City, actively transitioning from bustling metropolis to war-torn hellscape. Just watching the missiles streak toward buildings was interesting enough, but there was so much going on that taking too much time to drink in the destruction would probably cost you your life.

Gears of War 3: That boss was very big, very imposing, and not as threatening in practice as it looked like it would be in theory. Still, the Silverback mechs looked great, and the weapons felt like they really had some heft to them.

Tomb Raider: Man, does this game have a polished look to it. The scrapes on Lara are impressive, her clothes are suitably tattered, and there seems to be some pretty cool ideas at play. This is definitely a gritty, inexperienced, YOUNG Lara Croft, so there is a lot of room for growth in this installment, provided the narrative is strong enough to carry it. That said, the portion we saw seemed to be one "quick time" event after another, with nearly every interaction (Lara to environment, Lara to enemy, Lara to Lara) turning into a button mashing contest against the computer. This could just be the portion of the game we saw, because escaping from chains and crawling through crumbling caves does make for some great reflexive situations, but only time will tell.

Ghost Recon - Future Soldier: Gunsmith mode was REALLY cool. This is one of the first Kinect features that caused my eyebrows to raise in astonishment of their own accord. The hand movements seemed pretty natural, they were VERY WELL recognized (which doesn't happen as often as it should, regrettably), and his ability to convert the weapon to exploded view and reassemble in an instant, though simple, was very impressive. I liked that you could use a combination of voice and gesture to customize your weapon, and the ability to test your new configuration right then and there was great. With 7 million possible weapon combinations, I am excited to see how this game progresses.

Live TV with Kinect: Live TV, using your Xbox as a DVR? That sounds great to me. Good idea, and from what I could see, it looks like a great interface, as well.
On the other side, does anyone else think that constantly yelling "XBOX" at your television all night makes you seem like a complete crazy person? "Honey! Lock the doors and call 911! The neighbors are screaming at their television again!" There's a reason that the remote was invented... You can push buttons faster than your can speak, and no one has to wonder whether you've finally had one "Bacardi and Meth Mixer" too many.

"Uh-oh... Looks like Korean Grandpa is arguing
with the Xbox again."
Fable - The Journey: It would appear that Xbox Kinect is the new go-to place for on-rail games... Some of the spells looked very cool (especially the ice missile thing at the end of the demo), but having so little control over your character's movement is reducing immersion, not increasing it. Until they can come up with a way to control movement of characters without sacrificing the ability to do cool things with your hands, these games just make it seem like the developers misunderstood what "increasing immersion" meant.

Star Wars Kinect: Who DOESN'T want to be a Jedi, slicing down your enemies with hot, lightsaber-ey justice, and fighting against (or for) The Sith with your own body as the controller! Sounds awesome, right?! That's because that game would be awesome. The game showed at Microsoft's press conference, on the other hand? NOT so impressed. Like Fable, this game feels like a re-branded on-rails shooter. Seeing the body motions required from the user to do simple things like dodge left and right made this game seem like it would be WORK just to play it. Not only is it work, but it seems to be more work than it's worth to play this game, which is a complete tragedy! Nonetheless, I withhold final judgement with the hope that Star Wars Kinect is not as un-fun to play as it was to watch.

Halo - Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition: Anybody shocked at this one? I'd be surprised if The Taliban didn't see this announcement coming -
"See? SEE, Omar?! I told you! I said, 'If they don't announce a remastering of Halo, then my name isn't Aakifah Parween Haafizh Nuzhat Thameenah Madani III!*
"You were right, my friend... By Allah, we will buy it, and we will teabag those American infidels!"

"Also, I heard that Master Chief is Iranian!"
 Halo 4: Considering we were only shown a short trailer, there was not much to see here that was particularly revealing. That said, I am absolutely riveted to see how the first post-Bungie Halo unwinds, as well as seeing where the story is goes from here.

Well, that's pretty much it for me on the Microsoft conference, but what did you think? Do you agree with some of my thoughts, or was I way off base? Is there anything you would like to see me cover in the remaining conferences? Should I tone down the Middle Eastern references, or should I increase my use of them (assuming, of course, that they continue to be directed only at terrorists)? Let us know what you think in the comments!


*I'd like to thank my friend Google for providing me with a list of middle-eastern names to use for this joke.


  1. Awesome - I have spent most of the last few years riveted by E3, often to the detriment of what I'm supposed to be doing - so hearing your history paralleling mine on that front was pretty cool. As always, well-written and amusing.

    This year however? *sad face* Have not gotten to see any of it yet. I've been reading blogs - yours being among the first, since I got home today. I'll have to watch it and later comment my thoughts on the specifics you've said, but thanks for the great first look!

  2. I've been wanting Kinect to be supported. It has so much potential. I just feel confused by the overall presentation. I didn't think it would be THAT Kinect heavy, and some of the biggest games, like Star Wars, just... don't... look... good.

    Strangely, the ones I'm looking forward to the most are Gunstringer, Sesame Street(!), and maybe the Disneyland game. But even then, I'm largely like "What the?"

  3. @ Chalgyr

    Good to hear that there are others out there whose priorities are as skewed as my own. :)

    I hope that my little preview here turns out to be helpful... Please let me know whether your thoughts line up with mine after you get a chance to watch the conference. I'm really looking forward to hearing them!

    @ Guy

    I feel the same as you do about Kinect... There's a ton of untapped potential in the thing, but it just feels either underused, or misused. It seems like either the developers don't really use their imagination (which is the same untreated malady that many devs have in regards to motion controls on the Wii), or totally misconstrue what a "good" use of Kinect would be!

    Two cases in point: Star Wars and Fable. Really, game developers? It never crossed the mind of anyone at your company that having almost no control over your character, and waving your arms wildly for the duration of a 6-12 hour game could be a bad idea? Factor in the lag, and the Star Wars game is even LESS fun. What were they thinking?

    Gunstringer does look like a lot of fun, I must admit. Did you happen to catch the way Kinect was utilized in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier? THAT was pretty cool, in my opinion.

    Thanks for the comments, guys!


  4. I had work yesterday, so I only read some summaries of it...but I immediately thought, "Well, that sounded like a borefest."

    Like Chalgyr though, I haven't watched it yet, but do plan on doing so.

    As for Kinect, it has been all about marketing since they unveiled it...I don't think we will really see many "serious" games that fully implement Kinect's uses. I saw Kinect in GR:FS, and though it looked interesting, I was thinking, "Well, I can stand-up and wave around, or just use a controller to do this a lot faster I bet."

  5. Finally got to watch it all (yay for lunch hour and um... some extra *cough* It's all about priorities)

    I would agree with your overall assessments though - not enough big announcements and too much time spent on Kinect and worse yet, time spent on non-gaming Kinect stuff.


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