Microsoft have kicked off E3 2012 with their pre-show conference opening with 10 minutes of campaign gameplay from 343 Industries’ much anticipated take to on the Halo franchise, Halo 4. As expected it is not a huge departure from the tried and tested formula, and looks just as you’d expect your Halo game to look.
Following the Halo 4 campaign gameplay trailer, Microsoft’s President of Interactive Entertainment Business, Don Mattrick took centre stage to host the conference, starting off by ushering the Xbox platform into a new era of connectivity with several other devices like smart phones, tablets etc. And thus setting the tone of this year’s focus for the Xbox 360 group and paved the way for several Publishers to take the stage and demoing their games.
First off Ubisoft showed the next iteration of their stealty franchise, Splinter Cell: Blacklist with a rather nice gameplay trailer which showed Sam Fisher going through and Afghan soldier camp killing soldiers not so stealthily, I must say. The game ships Spring 2013.
Following, Andrew Wilson, head of EA sports took the stage and showcased their two biggest franchises, Madden 13 and Fifa 13, using unique and exclusive features when paired with Kinect, promising the most immersive experience yet for these franchises, so much so that they brought NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana to demonstrate the unique Kinect features on stage.
Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft Studios was next to take the stage to show Fable the Journey, Forza Horizon and the new Gears of War: Judgment which seems to be set to be a prequel to the much loved main trilogy.
Next it was time for the “Entertainment” segment of the conference where a plethora of new partnerships and services were introduced to the audience. Also an expansion of features to the Kinect side of the UI where you can search movies by genre through voice which will also be expanded to 12 more languages in the months to come.
As mentioned earlier this segment focused on partnerships with service providers, thus growing the entertainment side of the Xbox portfolio with additional services like Nickelodeon, Paramount Movies, Machinima, Univision, and also an expansion on the Sports services offered now, comprising the NBA, NHL and further ESPN channels.
A pleasant surprise was the addition of the new Xbox Music service which is promising to allow the user to have a library of more than 30 million songs available and be sharable with Windows 8 PCs, smart phones and tablets, no doubt through the new Xbox Smart Glass app which was extensively shown next.
Xbox Smart Glass is a new app allowing the Xbox experience to be shared throughout smart phones, tablets and PCs opening up endless possibilities of communication and interactivity, enhancing the user’s experience in methods not possible before. This is no doubt a move to counter the Wii U with its promise of interacting with the tablet controller in unique ways not possible on other consoles.
Before moving on to showing more game trailers, Microsoft showed the new Internet Explorer app for the Xbox 360, allowing users to browse the internet from the comfort of their couch through their console and also a new service called Nike+ Kinect Training which is aimed towards people who want to keep fit and the whole gym culture.
Microsoft closed the conference by demoing several big titles from third parties, like the magnificent Tomb Raider reboot, which impressed with the beautiful visuals and incredible set pieces, akin to another fellow raider of tombs. Capcom demoed the first gameplay ever of the upcoming Resident Evil 6, showing a segment with Leon, one of the protagonists, going through a city infested with zombies before taking to the skies in a helicopter, trying to escape the chaos surrounding him.
Matt Stone and Trey Parker of South Park fame took to the stage to present South Park: The Stick of Truth, an RPG by Obsidian Studios which follows the exploits of the famous cartoon characters as they embark on an epic journey which might or might not end up with Kenny dying this time, who knows.
Next, out of nowhere, the conference turned into a concert by Usher, which lasted way too long and I must say was very out of place and an embarrassment to the whole conference, all of that though served to announce the new Dance Central 3 by Harmonix.
The first of the big three conferences closed off with a ‘lenghty’ gameplay demo of Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, I must emphasize the word ‘lenghty’ here because it lasted way too long and honestly was a badly paced and boring showing, akin to the whole conference really. Let’s hope Sony and Nintendo can woo us more than Microsoft have, or should I say, failed to.