Microsoft opened this year’s conference with a live demo of one of the most anticipated games of the year, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3. In the demo we were shown a part of the single player campaign which includes an underwater mission. In this mission what appears to be the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel is underwater and littered with abandoned vehicles and corpses of their occupants. The team is sent to plant a mine on a Russian submarine, along the way they need to dodge mines previously laid throughout the tunnel. The team achieves its objective and the submarine surfaces and they then proceed to board and head to their next objective, the missile control room. Gunfight battles occur as the enemy tries to stop them from reaching their goal. The control room comes into view and the door is blown so they can enter. The enemy is eliminated and the launch keys are now in the team’s possession and they launch the missile. Their next objective, escape the harbor and make it out of there in hopefully one piece. A massive boat battle ensues as they are making their way out of the harbor. The team makes it to their awaiting helicopter and the demo ends with them flying above a war torn backdrop of New York. We are then introduced to Robert Bowling from Infinity Ward and Glen Schofield of Sledgehammer Games. They express their gratitude to the fans for their input and support on what they are calling the biggest, most epic Call of Duty game ever. They remind everyone that the game will release on November 8th and on screen we are reminded that add-ons and map packs will be released first exclusively on Xbox 360.
Don Mattrick from Microsoft Interactive Entertainment takes the stage and thanks the fans and partners for making last year the biggest year for Xbox 360. He talks about how this is an incredible time for growth and innovation in the gaming and entertainment industry. He states that the world’s greatest storytellers are redefining the industry with technologies that see, hear and connect us. They are changing the way we play, interact and have fun. He states that people are flocking to interactive entertainment and that Xbox has the hottest blockbuster games, the next wave of Kinect experiences, more Xbox Live entertainment choices, and unveil a better way to enjoy television.
Daniel Neuberger and Darren Gallagher from Crystal Dynamics take the stage to show us gameplay from the new chapter in the Tomb Raider series. The game is the origin story of Lara Croft and how she goes from being an ambitious 21 year old to a hardened tomb raider. The gameplay they are showing is from the beginning of the game where Lara is shipwrecked from a massive storm and held captive on a mysterious island where she must use her survival instincts to escape her captors. The demo begins with Lara tied up and hanging upside down trying to figure out a way to break free. She swings herself into another tied up bundle causing it to swing into a fire where in a puzzle type chain reaction sequence she sets herself free. She falls to the ground where she lands on something that pierces through her body. Using the controls she then has to pull this object out to help stop the pain. Next she makes her way through what appears to be a cavern of some type and comes across a torch she can pick up and help light her way. As she makes her way through the area she is grabbed from behind by one of her captors. She has to fight him off and continues to make her escape through both water and cave environments. We are then told that using her survival instincts she can highlight various items that may be needed to help make her escape. She then finds a way to relight her torch and stumbles upon another puzzle like contraption that she must figure out how to use to her advantage. After setting parts of it ablaze, she then causes an explosion that frees up an exit for her to use. As she then again makes her way through the cave avoiding falling debris and jumping over gaps, she falls through the floor to another area where her pursuing captor catches up to her. After another battle to break free she escapes and her captor is crushed by a falling boulder. Another sequence of running through the cave and avoiding falling debris and hazardous jumps, Lara makes her way out of the cave by crawling through a small gap. She finds herself outside where she sees in the distance various types of shipwrecked boats from over the years. The demo ends and we are then told that the game will include visceral combat, survival exploration and open world environments when the game launches in the Fall of 2012.
Peter Moore, President of EA Sports takes the stage to announce that they have been exploring the ways that Kinect can enhance the experience of gamers in their games. He then states that four EA Sports games will be releasing with Kinect functionality in 2012, Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Madden NFL, Fifa and another that will be announced later. You will be able to call audibles at the line in Madden, have the fidelity of motion while swinging your club in Tiger Woods, and the various Kinect functionalities in Fifa. EA will also support various non-sport titles in the next twelve months, such as The Sims 3 Pets and Hasbro Family Game Night 4 later this year. He then brings out Dr. Ray Muzyka from Bioware games to talk about the newly announced Kinect support being added to Mass Effect 3. Voice recognition will be added to the game to enhance the immersion the player has with the game. A sample of how this will work is then being shown where you will be able to use your voice to converse with the various NPCs that you will interact with in the game. You will also be able to use your voice to give your squad commands when in battle which will add strategic control and tactical assaults against your enemies.
The Ubisoft logo flashes on screen followed by the Tom Clancy logo, and then we have the gameplay trailer of Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. Yves Guillemo comes onstage to talk some more about how Kinect will enhance their core games with body tracking and voice. He then tells us that they will be showing what they have in store for Ghost Recon using Kinect. A new feature in the game called Gunsmith will allow you to customize you weapons down to the core with hand gestures or voice control allowing up to create 20,000,000 unique weapons. This customization will be available throughout the game, so you can have the weapon you need for every type of situation in the game. Once you complete your custom weapon, you then are able to try it out at a gun range. He then announces that all future titles in the Tom Clancy franchise will be Kinect enabled.
Next up, Mark Whitten from Xbox Live takes the stage and tells us that their goal is “All the entertainment you want with the people you care about most, made easy.” So Xbox is going to give you more games, movies, music, television, applications and ways to connect with your friends. He then shows us a demo of the new Kinect enabled dashboard using just your voice. Whether you use your voice, a gesture or your controller you will experience effortless control of your Xbox 360. Partnerships will increase by a factor of 10,content will grow from hundreds of thousands to millions, giving you new ways to enjoy your entertainment. YouTube will be coming to Xbox 360 in the fall and Bing Search is being added to make finding the content you want much easier. Also, live television will be coming to the console this fall offering you a new way to enjoy your favorite TV shows.
Dana White, President of Ultimate Fighting Championship comes onstage to announce that UFC will be coming to Xbox Live this holiday season. Not only will you have a new way to watch your favorite fights, but you and your friends will be able to interact with them. UFC fans will now be able to earn achievements and points based on the fights you watch and how you interact with them. The example shown was from UFC 129 where you could choose the outcome of the fight, by choosing who will win and how they will win.
Phil Spencer from Microsoft Studios joins us and talks about how Xbox will always be about games, especially those you can only find on Xbox 360. He then talks about the franchise that has defined this generation of gaming and that one million people have already pre-ordered and the biggest exclusive of the year. Gears of War 3 pops onto the screen and we see the newest trailer.
Cliff Bleszinski enters the fray and thanks everyone that participated in the beta because they helped make this the best and most polished game in the series! (Easter Egg – Cliff is holding the newly announced limited edition GoW3 controller in his hand.) He is going to be showing us part of the campaign and since Gears is always better with a friend, he brings the newest cast member onstage to play with him Ice T. The game takes place two years after the events of the second game. Marcus, Dom, Cole, and the gang are out on the ocean thinking they are safe until they see the terrible sea creature that has caught up to them. They need to figure out a way to take this creature down and the team is split into two with Marcus leading one team and Cole leading the other. Marcus and his group head to the maintenance bay to get the new Silverback Suit for added firepower. After one member enters the suit, the team heads up to face the monster where you hear them telling each other to focus on its eyes. They eventually shoot one of his eyes out to get him to move off the boat. Delta team continues to battle the various Locust enemies that come after them while the creature is getting its second wind. Once the creature emerges again, the team focuses its power on it again while telling Cole he needs to hurry up and take this creature out. A cut scene starts and we see the other team dropping tickers onto the creature. Marcus tells the team to take cover and when they see what is going to happen next he tells them all to get the hell outta there! That is where the gameplay demo ends and Ice-T announces that he has reunited Body Count to do an exclusive song to be used during Horde mode and in the GoW3 commercials.
The Crytek logo appears on screen and a trailer begins to play talking about ancient Rome and how there is two sides to every coin, Order and Justice. As we follow a hungry looking dog through the streets of Rome, we see images of conflict and dead citizens in the streets. The narrator talks about a kingdom so divided that it cannot stand. “An empire will fall and a hero will rise.” More battle scenes are shown and then we see the game player in his living room playing the game with Kinect. The words “You are the controller, you are the warrior. “ comes onscreen and then the title Ryse appears.
The Halo theme song begins to play and images of Halo are being shown on screen as the narrator tells us how ten years ago Halo changed the way we game. He says that was then and this is now as the Halo graphics change to a newly upgraded look. Halo remade and remastered combined with seven classic multi-player maps updated for Xbox Live online is coming to Xbox on November 15th, 2011 as Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary.
Dan Greenawalt from Turn Ten Studios is announced as shots of past Forza games are shown in the background. He states that coming this holiday the car racing experience will be changed by innovation and quality. Showcasing the power of the Xbox 360, Kinect, and Xbox Live, Forza Motorsport 4 will deliver entirely new racing experience. Gameplay footage mixed with interior and exterior shots of all your favorite cars is then coming up on screen. In the trailer it is announced that Kinect integration is coming to the game with voice and headtracking features. Other features include Community Car Clubs, Rivals Mode, 16 player online play, 80+ Manufacturers, Epic Monthly Expansions, and an Epic World Tour all coming on October 11th, 2011.
Lionhead Studios Head, Peter Molyneux makes his way onstage as Fable: The Journey is shown onscreen. He tells us how Fable has always been about showing you the player a living, breathing world where you are the hero. For the next iteration of the series they wanted to find a way to make you feel a hundred times more involved in the game. He then announces the trailer mixed with gameplay footage showing how you can now be involved in the game. At the start of the trailer we hear Theresa, the Blind Seeress telling us about Albion. She tells us how for centuries great heroes have defended Albion, but the age of heroes is over. That when once upon a time heroes were born and now they must be made. She says Albion’s end is coming and that all that matters now is the journey. (Hence the title.) Next we go into the gameplay demo where the developer is using the Kinect camera to control the reigns of the carriage he is driving. The carriage comes to a stop and Theresa tells us that the creatures must be destroyed or they will alert our pursuers. The player is then using hand gestures to shoot spells at the various enemies in the distance. With different hand gestures, you can change the type of spell you are using, make it stronger, control its direction, and manipulate it. The end of the demo shows that the game will release in 2012.
Phil Spencer returns to the stage to tell us that a year ago an indie game came out of nowhere and became a worldwide hit with millions of players around the world creating their own worlds and exploring those of others. He then announces that Minecraft will be coming exclusively to Xbox 360 and Kinect this winter. He then tells us how last year Kinect transformed the way we enjoyed games and entertainment. That with tens of millions of games sold new franchises were made hits and the new wave of Kinect games will be hitting store shelves later this year. A new partnership with Disney brings us Kinect Disneyland Adventures, a game that brings the magic of Disneyland into your home. The entire park has been recreated for your family to explore with all the rides, characters, and magic that you love. Players will even be able to create their own souvenirs and share them with others on kinectshare.com We are then shown a demo of two of the rides you can experience.
We then move onto a trailer that shows the name Kinect Star Wars. From the trailer it appears the game takes place over the entire six movies and possibly the clone wars animated series. We then see a player showing us a demo of the game. Using a lightsaber and force powers he battles clones and moves objects out of the way. The demo ends when the pair of jedi run into a pair of sith
Cookie Monster’s voice comes on announcing Tim Schafer who comes on stage to Sesame Street music in the background. He announces Sesame Street Once Upon a Monster the upcoming game for Kinect from Doublefine Studios. In the game demo we have a father and son playing the game controlling Elmo and Cookie Monster. In the chapter they are playing the meet a monster who wants to be friends with some other monsters in the forest. The first part of the demo shows the players imitating the monster. The second part of the demo has them catching giant lightening bug type creatures. The game is releasing this fall.
Kinect Director, Kudo Tsunoda comes on stage to talk more about Kinect and other upcoming titles and features. Kinect Fun Labs is a new feature that is immediately available for you to use on your Xbox 360. This software includes fun, creative things for you to do with Kinect. First up is people scanning where you can scan your body to make your avatar look exactly like you including what you are wearing, called Kinect Me. Next up in the labs is finger tracking and Kinect Sparkler. In the demo, you basically take 2 pictures of yourself and then with finger tracking you can draw in 3D around the images you took earlier. Finally in the labs is object capturing with Googly Eyes. In this program you can take an object an create a 3D replica of it in the game and bring it to life.
As Kudo exits the stage a trailer pops onscreen for Kinect Sports Season Two. In the trailer it shows Baseball, Skiiing, Golf, Darts, Tennis and Football as the sports you can participate in this time. Nicole Makala comes on stage to tell us more about this upcoming title. The new game will include in game voice and new kinect gestures, such as telling the game to switch your club in golf and getting a bird’s eye view of the golf course. The game will be available this holiday season.
Kassan Crooker from Harmonix Games is next up on stage with Dance Central 2. This game will include new features such as a campaign mode, voice control and a redesigned break it down mode. All Dance Central songs can be imported into the new game, with over 100 songs available at launch. The best new feature being added to the game is simultaneous multi-player dancing which is being demoed live onstage.
Don Mattrick returns to the stage to tell us how Kinect changed gaming last year and how the power of Xbox, the simplicity of Kinect and the intelligence of Bing, Xbox 360 will change living room entertainment forever. He then sums up everything that we saw at today’s conference. He states that Xbox 360 will go from being the #1 selling console in North America to the #1 selling console globally with everything they now have to offer gamers around the world.
He announces that he is proud to announce the dawn of a new trilogy coming only for Xbox 360. The theater goes dark and onscreen we see what appears to be space with a voice barely audible in the background. As what appears to be a glowing lifeline twists and turns through space. The voice comes more into focus and you hear the words “Wake Up!” and “I need you!” The glowing lifeline turns into more of a heartbeat and then a glowing heart. The voice screams “Wake up, John!” and if you know anything about this game universe, you know that is the biggest clue as to what this new trilogy is! The trailer then focuses on what appears to be a cryo-pod and the voice screams “Chief!” and then he appears bursting out of the pod. Master Chief is back and we also see that the voice is indeed Cortana! He tells her he is here and he grabs her chip and inserts it into his helmet. Then Chief seems to gravitate through what appears to be a ship that is falling apart and exploding. He makes it outside and stares off into the distance. Queue the Halo theme and the title Halo 4 appears on the screen. The game is official and will be available Holiday 2012 from 343 Studios!
My Conference Report Card: C
Overall I was very disappointed in this conference. I was excited to see the announcement for a new Fable and the return of Halo and Master Chief, but I think that Microsoft is focusing way too much on the Kinect peripheral. There are plenty of non-Kinect titles they could have shown such as Battlefield 3, Silent Hill, Final Fantasy XIII-2, and many more that would appeal to the people who have no desire to own a Kinect peripheral. Seeing YouTube and live television coming to the console is nice, but let’s face it they are still trying to catch up to Sony who already offers these things are their console. Unfortunately, I see myself buying only exclusives for my Xbox 360 and the majority of cross platform titles for my PS3. I really think that Microsoft is trying way too hard to get everyone to go out and buy a Kinect. If I had a bigger apartment with the required space needed for it to function properly I may go out and buy one, but it seems that Microsoft forgot that not everyone lives in a huge house.