Microsoft once again took pole position at this years E3, showcasing in-depth portions of some key announcements that were previewed at last year's event. The Kinect was once again the highlighted piece of hardware, with voice integration from titles like, Madden 13, Fifa 13, Splinter Cell: Black List, as well as Bing Voice activated search for entertainment. What impressed me was the new coup type integration with mobile devices, along with their choice to branch out beyond just Windows 8 devices, and incorporate both IOS and Android devices as well. Of course they started out with their flagship title, Halo 4.
With the release date approaching, Microsoft finally showed actual gameplay being performed live on stage. It seemed to be living up to the hype that the fanboys are demanding, and introduced new creatures and weapons. This time it seems that you are fighting against the protective AI Defense system built in to the planet that you have landed on. With organic looking robots both big and small, they introduced new weaponry to fight against a new enemy. The light rifle was showcased and looks different then any other weapon previously available in the game. Also they showed a grenade being bungied around a shield of an enemy, leading to new options with physics based attacks. Heat tracking systems were also shown, leading me to believe they will be introducing new "viewing" options as you progress further.
Splinter Cell Blacklist, the latest addition to the title, looked amazing. With classic tricks from the Splinter Cell series like audio based diversions being run by the Kinect, you can hoot and holler at your system and it actually accomplishes something. Voice controlled AI allies are also controlled by the Kinect, freeing your hands up from having to multitask. Using your environment to relay electrical shocks and blowing up items, should make the surrounding areas much more important when barreling through levels. Coming out Spring 2013.
EA sports is back with their two most popular titles, FIFA 2013 and Madden 2013. Featuring play calling and formation changes for both games controllable by the Kinect, the real highlight in this presentation was the demo by Joe Montana. Calling plays and shifting the line in front of the crowd, seemed to be an ideal demo of how you could control your team if you were actually one of the best quarterbacks to have ever lived. The only other celebrity appearance during the event was a dance performance by Usher, showcasing the dance moves he submitted for Dance Central 3. Singing his single Scream, he dance with several backup dancers, while showcasing his contributions to the game. It was quite obvious which moves were his own, and which he had to modify to be brought into the game.
Forza Horizon demoed their first entrance into the Street Racing world. They may have been influenced by the Need For Speed series, which works against the strong platform they were already standing on. They were on point to knock Gran Turismo off its high horse, but have taken a different path down already well treaded territory.
The entertainment section of Xbox Live is still ever expanding. Branching to movies and television episodes available from the four main providers, Hulu Plus, Netflix, Amazon Video and CinemaNow. They are still attempting to incorporate more sports with the addition of NBA Season Pass, NHL Games, and a new 24/7 live streaming option from ESPN. They also brought their competitor in the music arena to the forefront with Xbox Music. Launching with 30 million tracks available, it has yet to be seen if this is a subscription based service or pay by the download option.It will also integrate with all Windows 8 tablets and phones bringing Xbox live to the mobile arena.
Allowing you games to span across all your devices has long been a gamers dream situation. Bringing their version of this (Smart Glass), XBox games will now expand additional content to all mobile devices including IOS and Android devices. Examples listed consisted of drawing custom plays for Madden and having them available in real time during the game. As well as being alerted to multiplayer game requests via your tablet device and responding to them to be able join up with your friends. Start watching a movie on your phone on your way home, and seamlessly switch it to your big screen right were you left off at. Less impressive was the IE integration, allowing you to browse the web. While they said it would be the best console browsing experience, the demo they showed seemed to highlight its good points, while ignoring the navigation flaws of voice search. The phone can be used as a wireless mouse with multi touch gesture support, but that has been around in the IOS world for a while now.
The one highlight that surprised me was the South Park: Stick of Truth game. Custom South Park style character creation lets you bring yourself straight into the game, where you are the "new kid" on the block . The graphics looked as though they were directly ripped from the show, personally making me smile that they didn't try to "3d" South Park into something that it is not. They didn't show much of the game, but what they did show looked promising.
Call of Duty Black Ops 2 was closer, showing a world where our own drone tech has been turned against us. With a little bit of a yawn, it felt like much more of the same FPS genre we have come to expect the last few years. While bringing new tools for you to use like drones for suppressive fire, and penetrating sniper fire, it still made me wonder how much this genre can really evolve beyond barreling through levels taking out as many enemies as possible, then hiding to regenerate health. Maybe once I get my hands on the game, my opinion will change, but until then I am not too interested. —Nick Lattner / Juxtapoz Video Game Editor
Photos / Videos Nathan Smith