Monday, 14 June 2010

E3 2010-Microsoft

This week sees the gaming world heading off to the Los Angeles Convention Centre to once more to partake in the biggest gaming event in the world. All the biggest players will be there and all will be trying to woo us with new games, peripherals and other surprises. If, like me, you’re a gaming addict then no doubt you will have been watching the live online feeds to get a sneak preview of all the new and tantalising goodies due for release over the course of the next year. Most important of these announcements will come from the three big gaming console manufactures; Nintendo, Microsoft and Sony-with the later two being the most curious as they take on Nintendo at their own game and venture into the world of motion gaming.

And so it is that that I’ve chosen to briefly cover the big three in my blog over the next few days.

After MS previewed their entry into the world of motion gaming at E3 last year in the form of ‘Project Natal’-video gaming where YOU are the controller-it was always going to split gamers down the middle when it came to opinion. ‘The future of gaming’ ‘Nothing but an advanced Sony Eyetoy’ being perhaps the loudest tunes over the last year. So when MS revealed all earlier today at E3 it came as no surprise that those very same tunes were still being sung. At it’s very core Natal, (or Kinect as it is now known), is a clever piece of hardware. Yes comparisons can be drawn against Sony’s Eyetoy when it comes to control, (even down to the onscreen selection animations), and there’s no doubt who MS are aiming for with this new project when you look at the line up of Wii Sport and Wii Fit clones.  But there’s no denying that there’s a certain attraction in being able to fire up the old Xbox 360 with a simple voice command or using the head tracking feature when participating in a live Cam Chat. Using hand gestures and voice recognition one is able to peruse their 360 dashboard without once having to take hold of the controller; from party invites to selecting a movie, all can be done using Kinect. It’s all very ‘Minority Report’ and is actually quite impressive.

The games on display, however, were less than exciting what with the vast majority on display being shallow, throwaway titles with little or no depth and/or creativity. Worst still, most showed signs of lag and a level of un-responsiveness. Whether these ‘technical’ issues will be smoothed out come Kinect’s launch in November remains to be seen. The most impressive title was a ‘Nintendogs’ styled game called Kinectimals where players can choose from up to 20 different animals, including tiger cubs, as a kind of virtual pet. Like Nintendogs, players can give their chosen animal a name which they respond too using voice commands with which to play games like catch and jump rope as well as other activities. How much was scripted, (if at all), for the event is unknown, but looking at how well implemented the voice recognition and motion control can be when in an un-demanding environment, (like in the 360 dashboard), it’s highly feasible that what was seen of Kinectimals was very real indeed.

Even so, more will have to be done on the gaming front if Microsoft is to pull in its core audience of Halo and Gears of War fanatics. There’s no doubt that MS are intent on stealing away some of Nintendo’s casual audience that saw the Japanese giant rise to fame once more with the Wii, however being as Kinect is an add on and not a stand alone unit Microsoft will have to play this one out very carefully as not to alienate their current fanbase. It’s an interesting time for Microsoft and also a tricky one.

So what of Microsoft’s current fanbase and was there anything for them to salivate over? Of the best, there was a jaw droppingly good demo of Gears of War 3 played out by Epic Games design director, Cliffy B and co. which certainly got a few whoops and cheers.  If that wasn’t enough there was a new trailer for Fable 3, (introduced by games design guru and the man behind Fable, Peter Molyneux).  And of course Halo: Reach, which showed all that is awesome about Halo but with added space combat in the style of Factor 5’s Star Wars: Rogue Squadron games. Yeah, I almost pissed in my pants at that one. Would have never of guessed I was 37, would you?

Then there was the final announcement of the Xbox360 Slim. At half the size of the original Xbox 360 it was a slick, shiny black piece of work with a 250GB HDD and built-in 802.11n wi-fi support. And if you were lucky enough to be a member of the press in Microsoft’s E3 conference that morning? Well you got one for free. On Microsoft. A week before launch.

The jammy bastards.

All in all, while it certainly wasn’t their best performance it wasn’t a bad conference from Microsoft. Those opinions are still divided when it comes to Kinect, and it’ll be interesting to see how things pan out for Microsoft and their new project. Even if you’re not sold on it, well, there’s always:

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