Microsoft unveiled some stunning ideas and blockbuster titles at their E3 keynote speech.
Microsoft has shown its plan for the future with their E3 presentation, focusing less on hardcore gamers than on integration into every part of Xbox 360 owners’ lives. They continued their commitment to core gamers, however, with blockbuster announcements and premieres scattered throughout the presentation. The first was a cinematic and gameplay trailer for the highly anticipated Halo 4.
The tagline “an ancient evil has awoken” seems to imply that the third race seen in the gameplay is the Precursors, a race mentioned in the Halo lore but never seen in the games. There seem to be some gameplay enhancements and graphical flourishes that haven’t been seen in previous games in the series. We will keep our eyes open about this one as the release date, which was vaguely hinted at being sometime “this year,” draws closer.
Also shown was a new Splinter Cell game. Subtitled “Blacklist,” this game sees Sam Fisher in the role of the leader of his shadowy organization, calling the shots and attempting to stop a terrorist plot to strike at a set of countries on the “blacklist,” to whom they have issued an ultimatum to withdraw all troops or “[they] will bring the war to [the blacklisted countries’] home lands.” The demo showed off the execution mechanic, which allows Sam to mark multiple targets before taking each of them out in a cinematic flair. The developers emphasized that this mechanic, previously seen in the last game, was more fluid and dynamic, allowing for more kill opportunities, such as a moment where Sam ran through an encampment and killed three guards without slowing his stride. The game is due out in the spring of 2013.
EA Sports was next, with lots of emphasis on Kinect integration within the games. They demoed FIFA 13, which uses Kinect’s voice recognition to allow for substitutions and formation changes without entering a menu. Interestingly, and somewhat hilariously, the game will issue a yellow-card to a player if they swear at the referee for a bad call. Next, Joe Montana, famed quarterback for the San Francisco 49’ers, came out to demo the play-calling and audible calling features in Madden 13 with Kinect’s voice sensor. He was able to seamlessly change plays and call hot-routes on the fly. Madden 13 was also used in another demo, but we’ll get to that momentarily.
More videos were shown, with a Fable game tied into the Kinect sensor, which seemed like it will be just another disappointing Kinect shooting gallery tie-in, Forza Horizon, coming out October 23rd, which takes the Forza level of detail on track racing and translates it to road races, and the next Gears of War game, Judgment.
The trailer seems to show the humans losing the war, then drops a bomb by showing the main character, who the viewer assumes to be the usual Marcus Fenix, to instead be Baird, a supporting character from the previous three games. All we know at this point is that it looks to be the same Gears you know and love, and it releases sometime in 2013.
Next, Kinect was showcased, as the presenter announced that Kinect’s voice recognition software was getting support for 12 new languages, before proceeding to demo the Spanish capabilities of the device. He then announced that Kinect and Xbox would also be getting 35 new content providers, including Nickelodeon, Univision, WatchESPN, the NBA, and the NHL, all in full high definition, and all integrated with the Kinect sensor. Next, Xbox Music, Microsoft’s answer to iTunes and Google Play, was announced, with a library of “more than 30 million songs” at launch. No word was given on exactly how the service would function, other than that it was integrated across Windows 8, Windows Phones, and Xbox.
Next, Nike announced that they were bringing their Nike+ fitness program to the Kinect, tying it into their other services and using it to deliver “the same training [they] give [their] star athletes” at the Nike Training Center. Kinect’s motion sensor reportedly allows them to give feedback as accurately as their specialized equipment at the Training Center does, which is good news for gamers wanting to get into shape. The program will launch during the holiday season this year.
Other games were announced throughout the presentation, including a demo of Tomb Raider, more information on the South Park game, now subtitled “The Stick of Truth,” as well as various Xbox Live Arcade games. The most impressive idea, however, was Xbox SmartGlass.
SmartGlass is Microsoft’s method of integrating themselves into your life at every level possible, and I for one welcome our new Redmond-based overlords. By tying your smartphone, tablet, laptop, and console together into one seamless environment, Microsoft is looking to deliver a far richer multimedia experience. For instance, your Windows 8 tablet could be used to control a video game. The example used here was Madden 13, where a player doesn’t like his play choices for the current situation; he uses his tablet to draw a new play, and then runs it in the game, tapping the player on the tablet to pass the ball to him at just the right moment to score a touchdown.
SmartGlass isn’t just for games, however. Imagine you’re sitting at home, watching the Game of Thrones on HBO Go (again, the example used). Your tablet could become a map of Westeros while you’re watching, letting you know where events are taking place and providing more information on the world of the show. Or maybe you’re watching a movie on the go, but you get home before the movie’s over; rather than sit and finish watching on the tablet, you could send it directly to the console, continuing from the moment you were at on the tablet, which now becomes a method of receiving information on the cast, plot, characters, whatever the director or producer wants to provide that they couldn’t before without breaking your immersion in the movie.
Internet Explorer was also announced as coming to Xbox, with SmartGlass and Kinect integration. Kinect works as a voice-input device, allowing you to control the browser with your voice, while your smartphone, which tends to be within arm’s reach of almost a billion people around the world while they watch use their TV at home, becomes the cursor and, presumably, the keyboard, allowing you to interact with the page exactly as you would normally.
The final demonstration was for the highly anticipated Call of Duty: Black Ops 2. The game was shown in a playable form, with some interesting weapons and situations, ranging from a sniper rifle with variable power that can shoot through walls and equipped with an infrared scope, to automated flying drones that attack targets marked by the player. The plot revolves around terrorists taking control of armies of automated drones used by the US military, and the player has to fight back.
Look for more of our E3 coverage as the week goes on.