E3 2012 - Microsoft Press Conference
I’ll be following the Sony press conference into the early hours – thank god for the Jubilee, four day weekend - and will be live tweeting to the best of my abilities @toomanywiresUK. My Sony round-up should be up at some point tomorrow, though the time difference will mean that it won’t be posted as quickly as this one.
Microsoft’s E3 2012 Press Conference
With a tall glass of Pimms – it’s a long bank holiday weekend here in the UK – and a screen full of windows ready for juggling, I was ready for the opening slice of E3 2012. Microsoft managed not to disappoint, initially at least, playing their strongest hand from the get-go with Halo 4. It started off live action, with a collection of vests and dog tags, before shifting to Master Chief and some exciting game play. I’m not a huge fan of the series, but even I couldn’t deny the quality of what was on show. Full of action and jungle-based blasting, it was rather impressive and set the bar high.
With Halo 4 done for the evening, MS President Don Mattrick came on stage and demoed his overactive hands. Thankfully, he kept it short and sweet, jumping straight into Splinter Cell: Blacklist. Sam Fisher, now in the Middle East, is still a very angry and stabby man, quietly despatching a legion of bad eggs in the most brutal but efficient ways possible. Kinect enabled Voice Commands were also introduced, as the presenter drew an enemies’ attention by shouting “Hey you”, at which point the soldier dutifully wandered to the edge of a roof, never stopping to question why someone was talking to him in English, to be flung from his perch by Mr Fisher. Sam might as well have shouted “Come over to this ledge so I can murder you”. We’ll find out if such honesty is possible when Blacklist arrives next spring.
Next up was Andrew Wilson of EA Sports, who talked us through Kinect voice recognition – here we go again -in FIFA ’13, but forgetting to tell us why on earth we would want voice commands in a football game. Joe Montana proved turncoat, as he abandoned his Mega Drive/Genesis licensed games by making noises at Madden. I can only presume that these grunts made sense to people living in the US.
Fable was up next, but I stopped watching and grabbed another cool glass of Pimms. That was followed by a brief trailer for Gears of War: Judgment and then something more substantial for Forza Horizon, at which point I was considering having a quick lie down. I’m guessing this part of the show was not designed with me in mind.
With games finally out the way, Microsoft set a new record for the longest time spent talking about non-game features during a video game conference, watched by millions of gamers worldwide. All the non-game stuff was here; from voice controlled Bing searches to sports passes. Xbox Music, offering a library of over 30m tracks, 90% of which is dub-step, was followed by something about Nike. This lasted five minutes, as a company exec made ridiculous statements about us all obsessing over our measurements and that “if you have a body then you are an athlete”. Tell that to guy in the second row, wheezing after a walk to the burger van.
Smart Glass was marginally more interesting, offering connectivity between your Xbox 360 and smart devices, in a similar fashion to the Wii U and its tablet controller. Aware that he was in danger of actually being interesting, the presenter quickly moved onto the arrival of Internet Explorer and how you can surf the web using your smart phone or tablet. Time for my next glass of Pimms.
With Internet Explorer out of the way, we moved onto Tomb Raider, and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier to see Lara Croft. The Tomb Raider reboot is shaping up nicely and this was an excellent demo - dark and painful and in keeping with what we have seen thus far. Lara absorbed Homer Simpson levels of punishment and I’m slightly concerned by the increased body count, though I’m definitely excited to see more.
A trio of quick-look games - Ascend: New Gods, Loco Cycle and Matter - were quickly forgotten when a Resident Evil 6 demo was rolled out. Leon was taking the brunt of a zombie apocalypse and there were lots of familiar sights and sounds. It was all suitably exciting, but for a two minute demo there were far too many QTEs for my liking.
Wreckateer gave us more Kinect, though the lady presenter’s tattoos attracted more attention than the game. The South Park RPG followed, as creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone took the piss out of Smart Glass, providing one of the highlights of the show. Usher would not be outdone, however, as he gave us a full-on performance of his latest single as a tie-in for Dance Central 3, repeatedly demanding that a room full of tired journalists get up and dance along. Oddly enough, Kinect works a lot better when performing on an exhibition centre stage - good luck getting five background dancers in your living room.
It was up to Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 to finish the show with a bang. It was certainly bombastic, featuring a demolished LA, a crouching President, turret and vehicle sections and a spot of sniping, but being a multi-platform title, one that we have already seen trailers for no less, it didn’t have the makings of a show stopper. I don’t think I was the only one who was surprised and disappointed when it turned out that Black Ops 2 was in fact the grand finale.
In a Nutshell
Microsoft’s presser was hugely disappointing. With the exception of Halo 4, which for some reason opened the show instead of closing it, the two biggest games on show were multi-platform, long since announced titles: Tomb Raider and Black Ops 2. Microsoft could’ve really done with showing some games and spending less time trying to justify the 360’s existence as a multi-media, multi-functional hub.