This year Microsoft's E3 conference took place on a large lavish green stage (as usual), they kicked off with their flagship franchise Halo 4. Commencing with a live action/CG trailer depicting the UNSC Infinity's back story, it then moved on to gameplay footage showing off new weapons, enemies and a very angry Cortana. Halo 4 looked very impressive and looks to be sticking to Halo's infamous gameplay formula and started the conference on an epic note.
The next game on show was a surprise, Splinter Cell: Blacklist showed some exciting features while keeping Convictions core gameplay. One new feature is "killing in motion" where you kill tagged enemies while moving to cover. Kinect voice capabilities are integrated into the gameplay such as distracting your enemies with voice commands.
Next came EA Sports with FIFA and Madden 13 which will both feature Kinect voice recognition to control the action, while this was fine on FIFA, Madden's voice controlled gameplay seemed to stutter. These problems will most likely be fixed later as Madden is due to be released on August 28th (in America) and FIFA was just labelled to be released in Autumn.
A trailer for Fable the Journey showed a man powering spells in real life and then throwing them in the game, no actual game demo was presented on stage. Gears of War Judgement was finally unveiled with a flashy teaser trailer and a 2013 release.This was followed up by a video for Forza Horizon, an open world racer with street racing, auto shows, helicopter chases and a sprinkle of wub wub dubstep.
Microsoft's main focus this year seemed to be enhancing the Kinect enabled entertainment features of the Xbox. Starting with Bing, they demoed a new search function which allows you to search movies and TV shows by name or genre, Bing will then take you to installed Apps with those titles. Microsoft are also putting their efforts into doubling entertainment providers during the next year, which lead to the announcement of Nickelodeon, Paramount Movies and Machinima all being added to Xbox's entertainment line-up.
Sports was another main focus with their addition of NBA, NHL and ESPN 24/7 live events. No release dates were mentioned for these features and I'm sure these will most likely be America only. Microsoft moved onto Xbox Music, a new feature for Xbox, Windows Phone and Windows 8 PC's and tablets. They boast the availability of 30 million tracks and multi-device connectivity.
Now a brief flashback onto games (sort of), a partnership with Nike was announced with a new game, Kinect Nike+. A super advanced Wii Fit style game that tracks your stats, personalises training sessions and gives you reminders on your smart phone when you have been lazy and not done a work out.
Back to odd announcements, something that was really unexpected was Xbox Smart Glass, an app that will be available on all smart devices to control your Xbox and enhance gaming and entertainment experiences. Some examples shown were live maps of Westeros while watching Game of Thrones showing where other characters are during the action on screen, and game enhancements such as live codex updates during a game of Halo 4. This announcement went over a little weird since Nintendo have already announced similar things with their Wii U tablet. Microsoft also really reiterated that these experiences were available on devices you already own nullifying the Wii U's "unique" features.
Microsoft will be bringing IE to the Xbox which will be navigable with a smart phone or tablet using Smart Glass. They ensure that it will not be slow and unusable like browsers on other consoles, but with no real demo it is hard to tell. IE will also feature Kinect functionality to browse, another feature I'm not entirely sure about.
After a lengthy entertainment briefing we go back to what consoles are all about. A New gameplay sequence of Tomb Raider was revealed. It featured Lara in several tormenting predicaments where she escaped using stealth, flaming arrows and deadly close quarters kills. This certainly looked promising and an interesting twist to the Tomb Raider franchise, however Uncharted-like it may have seemed. The first dose of DLC will be released first on the Xbox 360.
Three short trailers for Ascend New Gods, Loco Cycle and Matter were displayed, they are all new IP's created by studios newly partnered with Microsoft that have popular games on XBLA already. These were then overshadowed by the showing of a Resident Evil 6 demo featuring Leon, I actually know little about this franchise so I will leave it at that.
Coming to the end of the conference, an XBLA Kinect game arriving this summer, Wreckateer is an avatar game where you control a ballista and destroy castles filled with goblins. This was followed by a video of South Park The Stick of Truth, an RPG with a customisable main character. Matt Stone and Trey Parker made an appearance on stage making jokes clearly directed at Xbox Smart Glass which lightened up this otherwise quite dull conference.
FINALLY a game that can teach me how to dougie! Dance Central 3 was unveiled with little show of gameplay but Usher came out and had a sing and dance about it, no really, he did, it was awkward. The actual finale was Black Ops 2, they showed a gameplay demo showing off futuristic weapons and interfaces as well as campaign path options and jet flying.
Overall this was quite a dull conference with the only real surprises being Splinter Cell and Smart Glass. Halo 4, Splinter Cell and Tomb Raider were probably the best games they had to show, while Gears of War is interesting, the teaser they showed was too fast and doesn't seem to bring anything new to the franchise. Smart Glass is a clear advancement of the Wii U's entertainment capabilities, which will keep Nintendo on their toes and I fear that they will lag behind in the next generation.