The E3 2012 extravaganza kicked off earlier today (or tonight depending on where you are in the world) with Microsoft’s press conference – the first of the three major conferences of the event. With no new hardware on show and a hard reliance on games and software to drive the event, Microsoft had a tough time keeping up with the pack and ultimately produced one of the most tiring, dull and lifeless E3 conferences in recent memory. Oh boy, where do I begin.
This post, and the others I will do on the other conferences, will be merely my brief opinions on the announcements and trailers. More posts, going into more detail, may arrive after these conferences are over and done with.
Halo 4 Gameplay
Microsoft’s conference kicked off not with the typical Call of Duty gameplay of previous years but with new footage from their biggest exclusive this year – Halo 4. It’s been two years since the last Halo game and five years since the last outing of Master Chief. Halo 4 has a lot riding on its back and from looking at the gameplay footage, I think it’s fair to say that it’s not going to fail. Everything looks ‘typically Halo’, from the Heads-Up Display (which looks a little too intrusive to me), to the guns on offer and the enemies being slaughtered, whilst still feeling relatively new at the same time. That’s not to mention the return of Cortana, who speaks so frequently that I want to gag her virtual ass rather than listen to her obvious instructions.
That being said, is this really going to be the dawn of a new era for Master Chief? I really don’t think so. The gameplay footage below looks alright and certainly acceptable but the franchise ended perfectly fine with Halo 3. Bringing it back for another trilogy, unnecessarily so, reeks of ‘milking’ the franchise for what it’s worth. It remains to be seen how much ‘new’ Halo 4 actually brings to the table but from the footage shown tonight, I’m not seeing an awful lot of innovation.
Splinter Cell: Blacklist
Is this really Splinter Cell? The last entry in the franchise, Conviction, moved significantly away from the stealth formula of previous SP games but this gameplay makes it look like they’ve completely abolished the concept altogether. Sam Fisher is running into crowds of enemies and dropping them like flies, climbing walls like a member of the Assassin’s Creed and generally making as much noise as humanly possible. Plus, the voice of the character appears to be different this time around.
I’m not sure about Blacklist. Conviction was a decent game if you ignored the fact it took the Splinter Cell name and concept and trampled all over it. Now it’s just an all-out shoot-em-up, with bloody violence mixed in for good measure. That being said, the return of Spy vs Mercs in multiplayer perked my ears up and that alone makes me thoroughly interested in purchasing Blacklist come next Spring.
Resident Evil 6 Gameplay
The following accurately describes the Resident Evil 6 gameplay: 80% explosive action, 10% running, 5% zombies, 5% Leon’s well-kept hair. Resident Evil, like the aforementioned Splinter Cell, is no longer the game it used to be and it’s very much apparent from watching this footage. I don’t doubt there may be survival horror elements in the game somewhere but there certainly aren’t any in this footage.
Oh, and look at all of those darned quick-time events! Memo to game developers: pressing buttons to continue on with the cutscene does not immerse the gamer in the experience, nor provide any form of realism. Anybody with motor function can press a button after a prompt appears on screen and filling your debut gameplay footage with said events does not do much to impress the audience.
Gears of War: Judgment, Forza Horizon
Firstly, the Gears of War: Judgment trailer didn’t actually reveal anything except for the fact it has Baird in it, guns and big locust beasts to fight. There is no gameplay footage nor extensive detail about the game, other than the fact it’s releasing in 2013. News has arrived of the multiplayer featuring a ‘Team Fortess 2-style’ mode and class-based action, but other than that, details on the game are relatively thin. Still, the trailer can be observed below.
Now, before I start talking about Forza Horizon, I have to confess that I’m not a big fan of racing games and nor am I overly familiar with Forza itself. That being said, is it just me or does this trailer look like any other trailer for a racing game? Cars go zooming around race tracks, all whilst looking pretty and shiny, with bombastic music in the background. Also, how many Forza games have there been now? 4 is it? 5? I’ve lost count, and that is never a good thing.
If there is anything from the Microsoft conference that offered even a remote chance of bringing forth something innovative, it would be SmartGlass. The basic premise is that the Xbox Live experience will expand onto various tablets, smartphones and computers, connecting the devices in a way that allows seamless transfer of content and data between devices. An example given was watching a movie on a tablet device, stopping it and then picking up right where you left off on the Xbox. In terms of gaming uses, Halo 4 used an example whereby Waypoint data was unlocked mid-game, which was then accessible on the mobile device whilst still playing. It all sounds quite ‘cool’ but when you really think about it, is any of it necessary? What, if any, is the point? I can see where it might come in handy in certain games but other than that, I’m not seeing much of a point to it.
Also, an Xbox version of Internet Explorer was announced, moving the Xbox 360 away from being the only console of the three that doesn’t yet have an internet browser available. A demonstration was shown with the user using a mobile phone to control the cursor on screen. Again, what is the point? Surely it would be faster and easier to browse the web on the phone itself?
I’m going to spare you all much of the rubbish announced for Kinect as it mainly involved new voice search languages (is this really an announcement worth of E3?), as well as voice commands being in various upcoming games. It seems strange to me that one of the most used, and demonstrated, features of Kinect in games shown at E3 are the voice commands rather than the supposedly ground-breaking motion control technology. The examples used were yelling expletives/commands at your teammates in Fifa 13 and Madden. Combining Kinect demonstrations with sports games had the potential to immediately put me in a deep sleep during the conference but I withstood the temptation out of pure dedication. That was all. Really.
Tomb Raider Gameplay
Possibly the finest gameplay trailer to emerge from Microsoft’s conference comes from Tomb Raider – a game which isn’t even an Xbox 360 exclusive. Lara Croft is back with a bow and arrow and a gorgeous visual environment to work in, as well as the familiar sex noises whenever she moves from a standing still position. Yes, the gameplay looks similar to Uncharted but the two games have very similar concepts as it is and as such, becoming more in line with that formula of play isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
Also announced was time-exclusive DLC for the game, which I really don’t care about. I see no point in announcing DLC for a game that’s just recently been delayed into 2013. However, from what I’ve seen of the game so far, it looks spectacular.
Black Ops 2 Gameplay Footage
Another year passes and another Call of Duty title finds its way into the stores. This year, it’s the turn of Treyarch’s Black Ops 2 and as per usual, the first gameplay footage emerged during Microsoft’s press conference. Although it looks fairly decent in the visuals department (although not much has changed since Call of Duty 4), the gameplay looks exactly like any other Call of Duty title. The usual quota of quirky gimmicks have been added, along with plentiful explosions and vehicle play. We’ve been told how Treyarch plans to try and bring something new to the table with Black Ops 2 but it doesn’t appear to be coming from the gameplay department.
Oh, and the DLC was announced to be Xbox 360 timed-exclusive. And in other news, scientists have indeed discovered that man gets damp when submerged in water.
Other News and Announcements
The following is a trailer for the 2013 release of South Park. I honestly cannot say anything about this game because I know absolutely nothing about it and from the looks of it, you almost need to have some degree of familiarity with the TV show to appreciate its existence.
Dance Central 3 was announced, along with a cringe-worthy performance by Usher, who surely must’ve been paid copious amounts of money to attend this shoddy conference. I would spare you the video of the performance but you may actually take enjoyment from it. It really wouldn’t be a Microsoft conference without the token celebrity appearance that nobody wants or cares about.
So, that was the bulk of this year’s Microsoft E3 conference. Quite honestly, they dropped the ball in spectacular fashion. The actual gaming aspect of the show took a back-step for meaningless announcements concerning technology that doesn’t really serve a large purpose and Kinect demonstrations focusing on the least impressive elements of the actual technology. Besides that and a slew of sequels that brought about little to no innovation, it’s quite easy to already give Microsoft the losing position of this year’s three main conferences. Very disappointing across the board.