E3 2011 - Microsoft Press Conference

I’ll be following the Sony press conference tonight and will be live tweeting some sort of nonsense (if I’m awake!) You can follow me at @toomanywiresUK. My Sony round-up should be up sometime tomorrow, though the time difference means it won’t be posted as fast as this one.


So Microsoft’s E3 press conference is done and dusted.  It’s time to do away with lofty expectations and wishful thinking and deal in the cold, hard facts.

So without further ado, here is a look at Microsoft’s E3 2011 press conference. Let the facting commence.

Microsoft’s E3 2011 Press Conference

The show opened with a Modern Warfare 3 demo, which ticked all the usual boxes. There was plenty of gunplay, a visit to a besieged New York as well as a Russian submarine thrown in for good measure. The numerous set-pieces were impressive, but it was Crystal Dynamic’s demo for Tomb Raider which appeared to evoke the best reaction from the audience, and it was arguably the highlight of the show.

Tomb Raider came across as dark and atmospheric, featuring a beat-up Lara pursued through a series of claustrophobic, collapsing caverns. QTE’s were present throughout the escape/chase, though they didn’t overwhelm the scene.  It is difficult not to make comparisons to Uncharted –there was even a moment where Lara, hanging one handed from a ledge, struck an identical pose to Drake on the cover of Uncharted 2 – but that’s far from a bad thing. Is Tomb Raider Uncharted-like, or are we too quick to forget that it is Tomb Raider which first influenced Uncharted? We shall find out more in autumn 2012.

Next up was EA’s Peter Moore, who announced Kinect integration for upcoming EA Sports titles including Tiger Woods, FIFA, and Madden. Sticking with Kinect, which I’ll be doing a lot of here, Bioware showed off Mass Effect 3 and it looks great. They were eager to demonstrate Kinect being used for voice commands and selecting and reading the various dialogue options. As great as it looked, I just can’t see the average gamer wanting to talk to their TV.

Yet more predictable motion controlled frolics ensued with Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, with voice controlled load-outs being demoed. I’ll quote someone on Twitter - sorry, but can’t remember who said it – who hit the nail on the head when they tweeted that there are too many games with Kinect and not enough games for Kinect. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Next up, MS did their best to convince us of the advantages to controlling Xbox entertainment with your voice via – you guessed it – Kinect.  Bing search engine and live TV were the focus, but I really can’t see people sitting at home saying things like “Xbox, home” or “Xbox, Harry Potter & the Deathly Hallows Part 2”. The mantra was “You say it, Xbox finds it”, but I’m not convinced that gamers will embrace shouting from their sofa.

With Kinect out the way for five minutes, MS looked to one of their top, exclusive franchises to raise the stakes. Ice T and Cliffy B playing Gears of War 3 co-op was definitely one of the more entertaining moments of an otherwise dry 90 minutes. GoW3 was content doing what it does best; showing off a frantic battle with a huge, ugly boss spiced up with lots of jock-speak and bulging biceps.

Crytek’s Ryse, a gladiatorial Kinect based title offered something a bit different, but it was quickly forgotten once the trailer for the much-rumoured Halo remake was unleashed. Halo Anniversary will feature HD graphics and updated gameplay, including co-op and all the multiplayer goodness you have come to expect from MS’s premier franchise. This wouldn’t be the last Halo appearance.

Forza Motorsport 4 was nice and shiny and Peter Molyneux made an appearance to talk about Fable Journeys, and for once he didn’t promise the world. To no one’s surprise, it was demoed with Kinect. A man named Dimitri exhibited the motion sensor controls, all the while looking deadly serious and failing to crack a smile. Perhaps he was as sick of Kinect as everyone else was. Minecraft was next on the cards, being announced as a 360 exclusive, without Kinect. Sorry, I meant with Kinect.

The kiddie games were next up to bat, as we were treated to a number of Disney demos. Tim Schaffer then appeared on stage, unveiling Sesame Street Once upon a Monster. Double Fine is a very interesting choice of developer for such a game and this was one of the few genuine surprises of the morning. There was also Kinect Star Wars, but as someone with a complete disinterest in the Star Wars universe I will refrain from passing judgement, lest I be lynched.

Kudo Tsunoda was next up with all things Kinect. Fun Labs, a title centred on user generated content and available to all Live users, showed-off some of the more impressive traits of the Kinect’s technology. Avatar creation and finger tracking, which allows you to draw around 3D objects, were shown as was the ability to scan objects and transplant them into your games. However, I think the host was getting a little carried away when she claimed that you could even import you favourite car! I guess the space requirements for Kinect are even larger than I thought.

Kinect Sports Season 2 was next on the bill, followed by Harmonix’s Dance Central 2 which was ably demonstrated by some people with rhythm. Harmonix were eager to point out that Dance Central was “the best-selling Kinect dance game”, which is quite the achievement.

Lastly, and most importantly, we were treated to the Halo 4 reveal. Introduced as the start of a new trilogy, it would appear that there is to be life after Bungie. The trailer was visually impressive, showing Master Chief emerging from a deep sleep/coma and escaping from a rapidly disintegrating space ship, but it didn’t seem to show any gameplay.

In Conclusion

It is clear that with a lack of new hardware, and only a few exclusive announcements, MS wanted to push Kinect as hard as they could. For better or worse, they shoved Kinect down everyone’s throats and went to great lengths to convince us of its merits and its being an integral part of the Xbox experience.

The whole thing was underwhelming, though it is perhaps unfair to call it a disappointment, as not much was expected from MS this year. Everyone knows that this E3 is Nintendo’s for the taking, and that Sony’s announcements should assure them of second place. However, with a strong showing and a bit more aspiration Microsoft could have salvaged something from what was always likely to be a relatively low-key appearance. Instead, I can’t shake the feeling that MS did little more than simply show up.


  1. Kind of a weak conference for me, but I am not interested in Kinect. So it wasn't really for me. Liked the Tomb Raider demo a lot. I don't think comparisons to Uncharted are accurate. I think once we see the gameplay on the outside and stuff we will see how different they are. I will play the Halo and Gears games. I was hoping to hear about the new Alan Wake game at this event. I guess not. The other two big conferences should blow this one away. Good write-up as always.

  2. I've noticed the generation gap on Kinect and Move seems to be about the highest the video game world has ever experienced. Among my old school gamer friends, resistance to the new motion control rigs is almost universal. (I think it has more to do with the Wii than it does the software that's actually available for either Move or Kinect.) It's exactly opposite with my younger friends. Every Under 20 I know on Live, except one, has Kinect and uses it often. Everyone I know with Kinect, including me, uses that dashboard voice command feature. (In fact, some people use it so much that you start to feel like the third person in a phone call.)

    I got that bored please move along vibe whenever they started talking about Halo or GoW, and to a lesser extent, the army games. What is there to say? Steroids, guns, explosions, a guy swears ruefully, a helicopter crashes, a missile code needs to be entered/stolen/downloaded/uploaded/grafted into/onto a laptop/satellite/mainframe/killerrobot/monkey for import/export to the base/helicarrier/satellite/alliedkillerobot/Congo... THERE I've just spoilered the next twenty years worth of all those dumb games and we'll both play them anyway so why do we need Steve Jobs Wannabe #11 to present them to us with the help of Snoop Dog, a ninety foot plasma screen, and the banjo playing koala from that youtube video?

    I'm just saying. haha

    Tomb Raider looked great. So did Kinect Sports 2 and Ghost Recon. The highlight, from my perspective, was definitely the thing about EA Sports making 2012 football and football games Kinect compatible. Especially football! I've been crying for that for months!

    And you know, I AM a huge fan of both Star Wars and Kinect, and whenever I see anything on that Star Wars Kinect game, I feel like I'm watching the Hindenburg come in to dock. It looks worse each time they preview it, and the fact that they still won't show someone actually playing it makes me think they're having major problems with what little interface it's got.

  3. @Trip - Shame there was nothing about Alan Wake 2. As you say, there wasnt much of interest beyond Tomb Raider. Cheers.

    @Reed - I can definitely understand the generation gap. Personally, i feel so much more comfortable with a traditional controller than having to wave a wand or my arms around.

    I shall look forward to the next Modern warfare stage show featuring Coolio.


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