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Microsoft Xbox 360 E3 Press Conference Wrap-Up

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Posted June 6, 2011 - By Kevin Kelly








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Microsoft's E3 2011 Press Conference

Shrouded in green, the Galen Center at USC was center stage for Microsoft's Xbox 360 press conference, and Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 kicked things off. Robert Bowling from Infinity Ward steered us through an underwater sequence which was interrupted, comically, by a "Please Reconnect Controller" message. Whoops. Sort of embarrassing in the middle of a huge press conference. In the gameplay footage, a team of special operatives had to swim through wreckage to plant a mine on a sub. It's all very James Bond-y, and your underwater movement torpedo is equipped with a motion tracker, a la Aliens. The sounds of a battle rage overhead, and you can hear sonar pings reverberating throughout. When the sub roars by above you, it's like a Star Destroyer from Star Wars passing overhead.

You attach a mine to the back fin of the sub, and then bug out of there. Surfacing, you see New York under siege, while the sub surfaces in front of you and your team boards it in a hail of gunfire. Skipping ahead, you're still storming the sub, breaching and clearing, You blast through the door to the control center and access the sub's missile key and launch the nukes. Ships in the harbor all around. Missiles erupting from the sub. This is exceptionally more exciting than the footage that was shown off Pre-E3.

Don Mattrick, President of the Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, came out to kick off the event, and to thank everyone for making last year the biggest year ever for the Xbox 360. Well, you're welcome.

Crystal Dynamics came out first out of the gate to show off Tomb Raider, unveiling the new reboot of everyone's favorite, not-so-buxom-anymore, adventures. The game looks like equal parts Uncharted, Indiana Jones, and G.I. Jane, with Lara starting off having to pull a chunk of debris out of her gut. She's not the same gymnastic loving, dual pistol wielding character from before. But where is looks much tougher this time around, she certainly makes all the "Eeks!" of a damsel in distress. While the gameplay we were shown looked like one long quicktime event, the game does look extremely impressive. Look for this to be one of the top games at E3 this year.

Peter Moore was next, quipping "This feels very familiar," as he trod the boards of his old company. He came out to tell us that four EA Sports titles will be adding support for Kinect, hopefully justifying your months-ago purchase just a bit. FIFA 12, Madden NFL 12, Tiger Woods Golf and one title to come later. Then Dr. Ray from BioWare came onstage to pimp out Mass Effect 3. As rumored, they announced that the game will support Kinect through voice activation. The hushed audience watched as they demoed this voice recognition for the dialogue choices. But, you can also issue squad commands to your team, ordering them to move up, take cover, and engage. Big audience reaction to this one, and it looks like it will make it worth the delay.

Ghost Recon: Future Soldier Rumored To Include Project Natal Support

Next was Tom Clancy's Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, showing off a truly bizarre free-frame snapshot of the battlefield, ending with a soldier yanking a drone out of mid-air, pocketing it, and cloaking. And it was all set to opera music. What the heck? At least we're seeing more of this game, which has been in a near radio-silence mode. It's also getting the Kinect treatment by adding GunSmith, a weapon customization feature that gives you Minority Report-style hand controls over your guns, offering up exploded views and voice recognition. "Optimize for close combat' gives you a loadout for. "Randomize" gives you something totally different, and you can jump into a virtual firing range to try things out. While the shooting controls in Kinect look a bit awkward, that GunSmith mode is impressive. They closed things out by announcing that all future Tom Clancy titles will support Kinect … whatever those might be.

Xbox Live's General Manager Marc Whitten took the stage to show off how they're adding Kinect to the entire Dashboard experience, going Home, switching to Music, Games, Video, and even voice search via Bing, Microsoft's search engine. YouTube is also coming to Xbox Live, as well of "more partnerships" that will be added in the future. Of course, Live TV is now finally coming to Xbox Live in North America this fall. There weren't many details, but that's a service that was promised four years ago. Will it pan out? We'll have to wait and see.

Dana White from the UFC follow up the lengthy "Xbox, Do My Bidding!" video to show off how the UFC will be be adding a "Watch It Live" app to the Xbox, providing you with stats, enhanced viewing options, and the ability to predict who might win a match. ESPN on Xbox Live hasn't really set things on fire just yet, but this looks impressive enough to add a new dimension since you're not just idly watching recaps.

Phil Spencer then came onstage to talk Gears of War 3, introducing Cliff Blesniski and Ice T to play through some previously unseen campaign footage from the game, which included a ginormous Leviathan, powered mech suits that look entirely awesome, although they house puny humans that are nearly Fenix-sized once they strap into that army. While the game footage looks truly amazing, it was just bizarre to watch Ice T onstage with his shades on, playing the game. Then the T announced that his band Body Count would be reuniting and providing a song for Gears' Horde mode. So you've got that to look forward to.

Next we finally got a chance to look at Crytek's Codename: Kingdoms, which looks like it will now be called Ryse, and it works with Kinect. You'll be swinging your sword, virtually, to hack and slash through an onslaught of enemies. The trailer looked bloody and nasty.

Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary was also finally announced with a November 15, 2011 release date. Finally we can stop hearing rumors about Halo: HD. While the game has been uprezzed and adds a lot of multiplayer functions, it still doesn't look as good as recent Halo games like Halo: Reach.

Forza Motorsport 4 To Include Kinect Support

Then, a peek at Forza Motorsport 4 provided a lot of car porn: closeups of engines, openings doors, hoods, and sleek and sexy curves. There are a ton of features coming to the game, including Kinect head-tracking and voice control. If a car game can look x-rated, Forza managed to pull it off. The tease was very brief, but … shiny. It looks impressive, but as with most racing games, I'll reserve judgement until I can get my hands (and voice) on it.

Peter Molyneux was next, promising to make you feel 100 times more involved in the world of Fable: The Journey, and guess what? It's getting Kinect support as well. While we're all for a return to Albion, the Kinect hand controls look awkward as the guy onstage demoing the game popped reins with hands, blasted magic, and rode through an on-rails experience.

Shocking the entire crowd, Phil Spencer announced that Minecraft would be coming to the Xbox 360 later this year. That got a sustained round of applause from the crowd, and maybe will finally convince millions of players (like me) to actually try and figure out what the hell Minecraft is.

Spencer also announced a Microsoft partnership with Disney, bringing Disneyland Adventures to Kinect, and showing that they haven't forgotten that kids like this system too. Two little tykes took to the stage to fly through the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland, which has been transformed into an entire experience via Kinect. Two other kids on the opposite side of the stage then flew through the Alice in Wonderland part of the game, running in giant hamster balls through the Red Queen's army of cards. The cute as a button girl closed it out shouting "Fist Bump!" to her male counterpart. Damn, that's cute.

The only thing getting bigger applause than Minecraft was John William's Star Wars score, and we finally got our look at Kinect Star Wars, complete with it's purple Star Wars-esque logo. Gameplay footage showed a battle raging during that Clone Wars (I'm assuming) and showing us that you have to say "Lightsaber, On!" to ignite your laser sword. That seems a bit clunky. Does your saber always listen? Let's hope so. The game has a fairly cinematic look to it that instantly looks better than The Force Unleashed, but the Kinect ducking, jumping, and saber flailing looks like it misses the mark a bit. The controls seemed to lag behind the guy demoing the game onstage. It' not clear who you're playing us, but the demo ended with a promised square off against two dual-saber wielding baddies.

Tim Schafer from Double Fine was next, talking about their adorably cute Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster title. "Unleash the simulated family," he quipped. A faux father and incredibly cute little boy took the stage to show off the Kinect gameplay, which had them stomping around and acting like a scary monster. Parents and kids are probably going to eat this title alive.

Okay, forget what I said about prior applause. Kudo Tsunoda came onstage to talk about how awesome Kinect is. Yeah, yeah, yeah, right? Well, it literally is awesome. Kinect Fun Labs showed a "Kinect Me" feature that makes your avatar look MUCH more like yourself. You'll have to see it in action to understand what I mean, but it truly looks amazing. Next they showed off how you can create a 3D photo of yourself and add effects by tracing your finger in the air (through finger tracking) to jazz up your photos. Kinect Googly Eyes is another new feature, allowing you to scan in objects that you can bring to life. Just imagine what perverts will do with this! Kinect Fun Labs is live today, and we'll see how long that takes.

Kinect Sports: Season Two
showed off a slew of new sports coming to that title, including Darts, Football, Tennis, Golf, Skiing, and more. They're also adding in-game voice, and more gestures. It's about time, right? I don't know how many times I wanted to talk to Kinect Sports. Oh, wait. I didn't want to talk to it. But, I'll easily admit that I wish everything in the world had voice control, so I'm all for that addition. You can now shout "hike!" at your Kinect. Football fans, rejoice!

Kasson Crooker appeared to talk about Dana Vinson's favorite upcoming game, Dance Central 2, which will be bringing a campaign mode to the game, and the ability to import all of the songs from Dance Central. Plus, the title now supports two players simultaneously. While everyone in the world could flail around in the last version, it only tracked one player at a time. Now those danceoffs can actually happen in your living room.

Thankfully, Microsoft seemed to learn from Steve Jobs (who is also giving a keynote and introducing new features today) and they had One Last Thing. Halo 4. It's actually happening for reals, and it's now the first installment of a new trilogy. The teaser, featuring Master Chief and Cortana in a ship on fire approaching what looks like a gigantic Halo World looked impressive. Impressive enough to get hoots and hollers from the audience. Then Oprah came onstage and gave everyone a Kinect-powered car. Okay, that didn't actually happen. And with that last game tease, the press conference was over.

What do you think? Did Microsoft manage to impress you? Or are you Kinect-ed out and feeling more meh? Let us know!

Microsoft Xbox 360 E3 Press Conference Wrap-Up
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