This year's conference proved many things, one being Microsoft can't put on a good conference. I'm not going to say Nintendo "won" the conference - though they were leagues ahead of Microsoft - but M$ should really ask the Japanese how to perform on stage. Not EVERYTHING needs Kinect support. Not EVERY conference has to start with fifteen minutes of Call of Duty. Lastly, the BIGGEST announcements SHOULDN'T be leaked before the damn event.
We start with a hilarious opening: Robert Bowling's controller dying. Some preparation and a flawless presentation is appreciated. Modern Warfare 3 looks generally the same as its annualized brethren, with explosive action and an extremely detailed look at Manhattan. Arguably the coolest mission in Modern Warfare 2 is back as the protagonist, known as "Frost" alongside partner "Sandman", must tail a Russian submarine underwater. A crazy raft sequence followed, reminiscent of the snowmobile chase from Modern Warfare 2. Fans of the franchise can expect the same gameplay and hopefully a better constructed storyline.
Lara Croft is back, and bloodied, and can seemingly travel long distances with a few broken ribs. I'm not doubting her ability, just those ribs shifting would cause extreme pain. The new Tomb Raider showcased several minutes of the first gameplay shown, and I am mightily impressed. The young heroine is now 21 and shipwrecked on a dangerous island. She's eventually captured, and that was all revealed. This game oozes grittiness and definitely takes a more believable look at the adventures of Ms. Croft. This will be an origin story and it's great to see Lara's background, whereas before she's often an attractive, forgettable template. One prominent mechanic was shown: using "survival instincts", Lara is able to pinpoint items in the room to help solve puzzles. This better not make the game easy.
Kinect. Kinect, Kinect, Kinect. Too much Kinect. Motion control overload. For some games the application of voice recognition is just badass, like in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, and very applicable to difficult scenarios in Mass Effect 3. One concern I have is the EA Sports lineup being operational on the device. Tiger Woods, Madden NFL, FIFA and others are getting integration while no news was divulged on other franchises. Cryptic also showed a Roman-era gladiator combat game titled Ryse; nothing to report as of yet. Microsoft is making a poor attempt on trying to appeal to the hardcore. If I ever considered buying the device, I'd want solid Kinect exclusive games where a controller can't be used. Good games, and not ones already done by the Wii.
Hearing Mass Effect 3 is getting Kinect support wasn't a major surprise and the gameplay demo did reveal some things. First off, there was a major spoiler. For people paying attention to the dialogue, did they find a cure to the Genophage (a disease introduced by the Salarians aimed to quell the Krogan Rebellions)? If so, Wrex can finally rest in peace. And it was finally great to see Ashley let her hair down! I work my best to notice the smallest things.
Microsoft LOVES the colour white. I was watching the conference sitting about eight feet from the TV, and yet the new dashboard still hurt my eyes. But a new dashboard does make sense for their rebranding measure, changing from a gaming machine to an entertainment center. YouTube is finally seeing the light on Xbox Live, stuff is now searchable using the Google-wannabe Bing, and live TV will now stream on the service. Think of it as a virtual cable box, bringing channels like HBO and Showtime to the mainstream gaming audience. Partnerships are still to be announced, but the package is promising. The most awesome aspect was the UFC being available with an informative dashboard and to communicate with friends while streaming. Tons of interactivity as well.
Silverback mechs! I cannot wait. The Gears of War 3 campaign demo was exactly what any fan could ask for, showing an intense boss encounter with a Lambent Leviathan. That freaky eye gave me nightmares. Clear and easily identifiable objective markers were also added (more useful than people think). I got lost a few times playing through the Gears of War 2 campaign.
The console's baby franchise, Halo, made news before the conference, as Microsoft made the stupid mistake of leaking their biggest announcement, the finale of their damn showing, BEFORE the fun started. Halo 4, the start of a new trilogy by 343 Industries, revitalizes the franchise as the Master Chief is awoken and welcomed by what looks like a Frontrunner vessel. The Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary Edition will hold over fans until next year with high-definition graphics, co-op and online multiplayer.
Other major announcements include Minecraft on consoles, Fable The Journey, more Forza Motorsport 4 tidbits, the Sesame Street simulator Once Upon A Monster and Kinect FunLabs (let the imagination run wild).
Microsoft has never truly been successful at E3, and we have yet to see a mind-blowing showing. Disappointing really because this year Microsoft had the most to prove. More announcements would be nice, and not every single thing needs Kinect support. There's always next year.