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The Fight has begun: Microsoft’s E3 Kinectagasm

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Well, well, all three have entered yet only one can leave the champion, kind of, of E3 2011. Did Microsoft’s Kinect heavy showing complete with the Cookie Monster and Elmo turning up together on screen and in game take the prize? Was it Sony’s PS Vita that stole the show with its lovely next gen portable hardware….with three good looking games and a smattering of crap? Or did Nintendo crown itself King of E3 for a second year running?  We’ll be looking at that in this series of articles, starting with today’s future of the 360 revealed.

Microsoft opened with the casual gamer’s favourite shooter, Call of Duty Modern Warfare 3.  The game looked very nice, there were some pretty impressive water physics and the sonar use while underwater diving made for a very good game play demo. All it needs to do now is innovate some more rather than replicate previous entries in the series and I might consider it.

The live Tomb Raider demo is my second favourite moment from Microsoft’s conference this year, and the best bit is its going multiplatform. With appropriate dark caverns, some survival horror moments, and a situation that genuinely feels like a Tomb Raider game, I am excited about this game and I haven’t given a damn about Lara since Tomb Raider III. Showcasing a younger Lara discovering herself could make for some nice story telling as long as the core gameplay continues to improve upon what seems to be an early portion of the game.  This is definitely one to watch.

One of the 360’s core franchises, Gears of War 3, offered an impressive looking demo minus ageing rapper Ice-T of course.  Following on from the last game we find Marcus Fenix and his merry band of men having to deal with a frankly scary squid monster.  As you can imagine carnage ensued and it was glorious to behold, the added bonus of returning Horde mode seals this as a must buy.

And so began the Kinect portion of the conference.  Seriously every game seemed to support Kinect this year; this is neither a good nor a bad thing, just an observation. The best examples of how to use the hardware within games came via the joyous Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon, within the gunsmith mode. The ability to use one’s own hands to cycle through menus in order to create allegedly 2 million varied weapons is beaten only by the option to use voice commands to create said weapons. You want an automatic great for close range? Tell your console and it will happen. All future Tom Clancy games will come with this feature.  

Contrary to what games the Kinect has come to be associated with in its first year, Microsoft is offering up core games such as Fable with full Kinect use and EA are offering up Madden, FIFA and other titles with this feature.  The kids/casual gamer games are still present with Dance Central 2 making a sweat inducing showing and some pretty impressive 5+ games like Disneyland Adventure and the frankly fun looking Sesame Street game featuring Cookie Monster and Elmo, interestingly headed by Tim Schafer who worked on games such as Costume Quest and Brutal Legend.

The long awaited Star Wars Kinect was unleashed to many with a build up worthy of the wait for Phantom Menace. I was disappointed to feel the same way I felt after watching that movie as I did with the game. It looks to be an on-rails effort which in itself is depressing enough but couple that with some unimpressive physics and I just feel bored. let’s hope it improves before release.

There were also some nifty media features displayed. We saw full voice command for watching video and searching over new partner Bing and YouTube coupled with live TV coming to the 360, at least in the states. Then there was what looks like augmented UFC viewing including Kinect powered controls allowing viewers to vote on the outcome with the flick of a wrist is a nice little extra

Ok so the big core gamer reveals then, well first off the original Halo Combat Evolved is receiving a remake to be released later this year, fully re-mastered campaign mode and Xbox live multiplayer.  This should ship a fair number of copies on November 15th. The other big reveal also came from the heartland of Halo with a teaser trailer for Halo 4.  Not much to talk about really as the teaser doesn’t give away much, but the very presence of said trailer affords Microsoft some boasting rights.

Not a bad conference at all, some really good demos of how Kinect could appeal to the more hardcore gamers as well as continual support for core franchises and third party innovations afford Microsoft a nice lead in this year’s race.  Had they unleashed new hardware as well they would have won E3  with no competition.

8/10

Review of Sony Press Conference coming quicker than it took Kobe Bryant to score a basket in MOVE enabled NBA Basketball.

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