Monday, June 1, 2009

Microsoft's E3 Press Conference Part One: To All The Games I've Loved Before

Microsoft’s E3 press conference has come and gone, and what an event it was. In what turned out to be a star-studded journey down a magnificent lane of computerized entertainment, Microsoft set the bar incredibly high for Sony and Nintendo.

No charts or graphs this year, just a straight up bevy of game announcements from a procession of companies ranging from UbiSoft to Bungie, and even a sneak appearance by Hideo Kojima.

First on the gravy train was to be the announcement of Beatles Rockband, and who better to announce it than Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney? The game looks pretty good, playing on the myriad sets of imagery used by the Beatles throughout their long career. Over 45 classic Beatles songs will be featured on the disk, and some more coming to X Box LIVE.

For Rockband enthusiasts, this was certainly an exciting announcement. I’ve never been a big fan of the Beatles, but I can see why their appeal is so large and multi-generational.

After the Beatles made their announcement, skateboard poster child (man) Tony Hawk took the stage to describe how the next game bearing his name in it – Tony Hawk: Ride – is going to revolutionize skating games. To that effect, he demonstrated Ride’s motion control board, which will probably function a lot like the Wii Fit board. In essence, it will be like actual skateboarding, but without the risk of either breaking several bones or getting laughed at by teenagers. Whether or not this will breathe new life into the Tony Hawk series remains to be seen, but I can imagine that this game will not be cheap. Prepare to shell out some cash for the opportunity to get the closest to physical activity that Tony Hawk fans have ever come.

A couple developers from Infinity Ward hit the stage to show off Modern Warfare Two, which consisted of scaling a cliff with ice picks, using a UAV radar attached to a rifle, and firing your pistol “derty” style while riding a snow-mobile. If IF’s success with Modern Warfare one is any indication, this game is going to sell like hotcakes. Hopefully, they’ll change it up enough that it doesn’t feel like MW 1 with a few minor changes.

Final Fantasy Thirteen, announced last year amid much hullabaloo, is going to hit in Spring 2010. No surprise there.

After a couple X Box LIVE Arcade announcements, Microsoft revealed that Ruffian Games (who said that they were not working on Crackdown 2) is – surprise - working on Crackdown 2. Crackdown one was a massive hit among the “hardcore”, and Crackdown 2 looks to be a further extension of what fans loved about the first one. Unfortunetly, it’s following a current trend for open world games to have some sort of zombie/hideous monster plague hit the city. Maybe being a super-cop will be enough to off-set it, but I doubt that you really need to add a zombie disease to make your game feel innovative.

Left 4 Dead 2 was announced, being set in the southwest of the United States. No idea why this is a full game; it would have probably made more sense for this to be branded as Left 4 Dead: Ragin’ Cajun expansion or something. Valve is adding melee weapons this time around, including the ever-requested chainsaw.

Splinter Cell: Conviction, after being stuck in development hell (it was rumoured that a team of “closers” were brought in to get this game back on track), made an appearance with a brand new look for the game. This is definitely a Sam Fisher who’s out for revenge, and it features some sweet objective update interfaces. At one point in the trailer, “Find Sarah’s Killer” popped up on the wall as a reminder of what your ultimate goal is. Pretty slick, and marks a definitive change in the HUD heavy Splinter Cell games of the past.

Next, Bungie story crafter Joe Staten took the stage to give the world its first look at Halo 3: ODST, and does it look fantastic. Instead of playing a SPARTAN super-soldier, you take on the role of the “Rookie”, an Orbital Drop Shock Trooper, who are basically the far-future equivalent of Seal Team Six or Delta Force.

After ODST “dropped”, Bungie also revealed that they are working on Halo: Reach, a prequel of sorts. The novel Fall of Reach chronicled what happened before the events of Halo: Combat Evolved, so one could assume that this is the interactive entertainment retelling of that story. It hits in 2010, however, so we have a lot of time to see how it will develop.

Then, Hideo Kojima, developer of the Metal Gear Solid series took to the stage to announce that he was proud to bring his venerable series to the X Box 360. Nothing much was revealed about the game besides the fact that development is currently taking place, and it is going to star Raiden, girly man turned cyborg ninja from Metal Gear 4.

As excited as many people are to see the Metal Gear franchise finally make the jump to the 360, I doubt that many of the “purists” are excited about playing as Raiden, who is infamous for stealing the spotlight from series star Solid Snake in Metal Gear 2.

All in all, Microsoft revealed a very impressive line up for the coming holiday season and beyond. They also revealed a whole bunch of technological improvements for the LIVE interface, which I’ll discuss in part two of my Microsoft E3 breakdown.

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