Microsoft was the first among the big companies to announce the big upcoming projects for the new year. The announcements as they were made are outlined below:
MW3 Demo – After an embarrassing “Please Reconnect the Controller” message, we were shown a glimpse of the campaign. The demo shows our protagonist on a secret mission taking place under water. After the player plants explosives on an enemy submarine, the sub resurfaces and you and your squadmates are able to enter and clear it of all combatants. It was certainly nothing we’ve never seen before. The demo even featured the standard “breech the door and clear the room” scenario that we’ve seen past CoD titles. We’re then placed on a speedboat as multiple explosions take place, and the demo ends as we race onto an aircraft that takes the player to safety. As the player is flown away, you can see the backdrop of a city under siege.
Tomb Raider Demo – We all had high expectations after that gorgeous cinematic trailer that was recently released, and the demo shown today did not disappoint. It showed Lara as she tries to make her way out of a dark and damp cave. The familiar puzzle gameplay that has been present throughout the series will clearly return for the new installment. As the cave begins to collapse, the player is forced to make a run for it and Lara soon finds herself next to the plane and ship wreckage featured in the cinematic.
EA to Feature Four Kinect Titles – PGA, Madden, FIFA and a title to be announced later will all feature Kinect support, though not much information was given regarding how that support will be utilized. Peter Moore’s reference to EA’s motto of “get the f@*k out of my office”, made famous by South Park, was definitely appreciated.
Mass Effect 3 Will Have Kinect Capabilities – Mass Effect 3 will indeed have Kinect support. Players will be able to choose dialogue options by voice command, but perhaps more importantly, you can also command your squad by giving them orders such as “move up.” The short demo ends with an imminent, robotic boss battle.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier – Kinect Support Confirmed – From what we saw of the demonstration, players will be able to choose weapons and and fire them with a Kinect monitor. As the “demoer” displayed, players will open and close their palms to control the rate of fire. It was also announced that all future Tom Clancy titles will have Kinect support.
New Xbox Experience/Dashboard – Microsoft clearly does not like controllers anymore. The Xbox dashboard is set to respond to voice commands to get to the different music, video, and games hubs. It was also announced that Youtube, Live television, and Bing will be coming to Xbox Live. Bing will allow you to voice search for games and movies of the same series so it will be easier for users to find titles similar to their preferences.
Predict UFC Fights and How They Will End – Xbox Live customers will now be able to vote on who will win major UFC bouts and if they will end in a knockout or decision.
Gears 3 Demo – Cliffy B was joined on stage by Ice-T (he has some relevance to the game as he voices one of the characters) to demo the Gears 3 campaign. Highlights included the ability to man what looks like a walking, cybernetic turret and an enormous Locust boss which will require you to shoot his eyes in order to take him down.
RYSE – This Kinect title certainly looks to be one of the first attempts at a “hardcore” game for the motion sensor device. Taking place in Rome, the player, wielding a sword and shield, will have the ability to slash enemies in battle and will be able to throw their weapon at bad guys.
Halo: CE Anniversary – The 10 year anniversary update was confirmed with 7 classic CE multiplayer maps and an updated version of the renowned campaign. The game will also be updated to include the latest mechanics in the franchise, such as assassinations.
Forza 4 – The trailer for Microsoft’s popular racing sim included the featuring of monthly expansions for the game, Kinect voice command capabilities and head tracking for a better sense of your surroundings while in a race.
Fable: The Journey – the Fable franchise is coming to Kinect. The demo started by contolling a horse-drawn carriage, which quickly led into some good looking gameplay. Players will have the ability to cast spells toward enemies using hand gesture combinations and from the look of the demo, a variety of smooth hand motions will be included. This was one of the more seamless-looking Kinect titles that was showcased.
Minecraft, Disneyland Adventures, Star Wars, Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster Announced – The popular indie game Minecraft will be coming to the 360 and will have Kinect support. Disneyland Adventures will allow Kinect users to take a virtual walk through the theme park and revisit some of their favorite rides and attractions. Star Wars Kinect still looks as laggy as ever, and any other action that didn’t involve the waving of a lightsaber took a good second to correspond.
Kinect Fun Labs – This new edition to Kinect will highlight some of the motion sensor’s new features which include a realistic avatar creator, “finger tracking” for 3D animation, and “object capture” which looks to be the most intriguing. It will reportedly allow users to scan objects such as cars and skateboards and then integrate a virtual rendering of those objects into games.
Kinect Sports Season 2 – The golf and football demos highlighted the same problem that Star Wars Kinect seemingly suffers from – laggy controls. Any time the person performing the action moved their arms to simulate a golf swing or the throwing of a football, it took some time for the game to correlate.
Dance Central 2 – Voice control and a campaign mode were announced for the game. Unlike many of the other Kinect titles shown off, the moves from the presenters looked like they corresponded well to the Kinect sensor which tells us that the technology for the motion device is there. Of course, looking like an idiot in front of our friends is the one action for the Kinect that doesn’t lag.
Halo 4 – This would have been such a bigger announcement (shocking really) if it had not been reported hours before the press conference even began. 343 Studios will release the new installment in the Fall of 2012. What was surprising however, was the announcement that the game will begin a new trilogy for the franchise and only time will tell how an elongated story and development by anyone other than Bungie will sit with Halo fans. The teaser featured Cortana calling upon the Chief as the ship they are on begins to destruct.
Verdict – B
It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great by any means. I think any 360 gamer would agree while the expansion and evolution of the Kinect is important to the company, Microsoft placed way too much emphasis on the motion sensor. There was simply not enough to appease the “hardcore” gamers that have arguably been getting less and less focus as the industry continues to grow. Since the report has come out that over 40% of 360 consoles are used for applications other than gaming, Microsoft has clearly switched their attention to making the 360 more of a media hub. The additions of Youtube and Bing to Xbox Live will certainly be welcome, but Microsoft should hope that the concept of multi-platform games will be able to keep less “casual” gamers occupied.