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E3 2011: PING/PONG: Microsoft Press Conference Review
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E3 2011: PING/PONG: Microsoft Press Conference Review

Microsoft led the charge with the first official press conference of E3 2011. How did they do? Our biggest blowhards share their thoughts.

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Microsoft helped kick things off a bit earlier by hosting the first official press conference (for major console manufacturers) of E3 2011, and while we’ve covered many of their biggest announcements right HERE, we felt a little post-conference quarterbacking was in order. In this mini-edition of our classic PING/PONG series our biggest blowhards, Nathan Evans and John Lucas, share their thoughts on how Microsoft did, what they liked (and didn’t), and what this could mean for the remaining two competitors – Sony and Nintendo.

For even more record-keeping fun, check out their official pre-show prediction PING/PONG right HERE and see if these two know-it-alls really do “know it all”…or not!

E3 2011 Microsoft Press Conference Review

OK, let me just say that I was almost completely wrong in my prediction that Microsoft wouldn’t be showcasing that many games; their conference – which ran way too long – was absolutely chock-full of of real, honest-to-goodness gaming bits and bytes that should appeal to fans of practically every age and demographic, and this is probably exactly what Microsoft was going for. I don’t think anyone will fault them for packing so much into what might have been their best-ever E3 Conference yet, despite having some of the most awkward and embarrassing moments I’ve ever seen at one of these things.

The Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 went on for hours (it felt like it), but the game looks great, as did the Tomb Raider reboot, even if both games are also headed to PlayStation 3. I started to get a bit worried that we wouldn’t see anything unique or original to the platform, but the second half – mostly focusing on Kinect-enabled stuff – was a revelation. Ghost Recon, Mass Effect 3, and Forza 4 all looked great on the Kinect, and while I thought the Disneyland game looked pretty bad, Sesame Street looked like it could be fun (Cookie Monster!). Star Wars and Fable: The Journey may be glorified rail-shooters masquerading as platformers, but they did show off what the Kinect was capable of and got me interested more than I ever thought I would be.

Yeah, that Modern Warfare 3 thing went on and on, didn’t it? I wasn’t so impressed by that because it seems like it has already been done before a million times already, subject-wise anyway. Show me some Foreign Legion troops or some Canadian soldiers for once. Here’s an idea: How about a game featuring gay soldiers and call it DADT’s Revenge? Or how about take the same scenario we saw in MW3 in dialogue and action but put in some anime-style characters for irony? It’s all serious and moody, “Roger that. Approaching rendezvous,” then you see this strange anime-character with giant sweatdrop on the side of his head. I get tired of the same old overly serious predictable stuff all the time.

Anyway, we might have gotten the proportions wrong but pretty much everything happened like we thought. The traditional games, the “Better with Kinect” enhancements, Kinect games, and the all-entertainment angle. Random side note: I liked the water drip effects in the cave on the new Tomb Raider (but is Tomb Raider even the same with Lara Croft’s exaggerated physique?). Say what you will about Microsoft but at least they made sure to actually produce for Kinect. Mass Effect 3’s use of Kinect looked interesting with the voice recognition but I bet most people will probably just tap the buttons (what could have been if Nintendo ever used Wii Speak effectively!). Ghost Recon: Future Soldier’s Gunsmith feature looks pretty fun. Lots of gunnuts will get a kick out of customizing their own weapons part by part and testing them in the range by Kinect motions and chat. I wonder about that firing range part though. Reminds me of the Kevin Butler commercials and the PEW PEW!

Kinect as an enhancement works out pretty good but as I thought last year and as was shown today, Kinect creates a divide between the established base of 360 owners and the new breed when it comes to games made exclusively for the peripheral. A game has to be made from the ground up with only Kinect in mind for it to be a fully-fleshed out title. No crossover with those who want to use the old controller. Fable: The Journey, Star Wars, Disneyland Adventures, and Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster (what?!) show that Kinect games have to be pretty much on-rail adventures to work. But games are not all Microsoft had in mind for Kinect at E3 this year. What’s your thoughts on your IPTV prediction coming true? And please talk about this Bing stuff!

I’m not at all surprised to hear that IPTV (or BING) are headed to the Xbox 360, as we’ve known for some time that Microsoft has been working on both for some time now. But it was nice to see them finally pull back the sheet and give us an actual street date. Again, with MMA shows (live!) also headed to Xbox Live, one can easily see how the plan for the console to effectively replace the cable box and serve as the single entertainment solution and dominate all other puny devices in your living room. It’s about time they added YouTube video, though, but I guess that’s what we should expect from a service that wants to bring you everything that’s great from the internet – minus the internet itself, of course. They still gotta maintain that last bit of control.

I also liked some of the non-gaming stuff they showed, particularly the Kinect FunLabs and the new Avatar creator, and was impressed they’d choose E3 as the day to unleash all of this new creative fun to the masses. I question its actual usefulness, however, and it was telling that even Microsoft’s Kudo Tsunoda (who looked like he just woke up on someone’s couch) was the only one clapping during the presentations – and he was clapping pretty damn hard. The 3D finger drawing and instant-image capturing was impressive, and I wonder what developer might have the talent to actually integrate these things into an actual playable game. To be honest, most of this looked mighty impressive, technically speaking, and it’s almost a good thing that Nintendo is putting their Wii console out to pasture, as some of what Microsoft showed for the Kinect made its once-revolutionary tech look like stale crackers.

Still, there’s no getting over some of those embarrassingly AWFUL demonstrations, especially the ones featuring the most programmed children I’ve ever seen; what kind of parents would ever allow that to happen? Same with the two tools ‘playing’ football on Kinect Sports 2 – yikes. It’s a shame that most of these demos make the people playing look like they’re having seizures. But other than that, I think this was a great performance for Microsoft and they absolutely nailed the very thing they had to do – they made the Xbox 360 look like a great console for just about everyone.

Don’t get me started on those kids! Those have got to be the fakest phoniest stage kids in entertainment history! Makes me long for last year with the little girl calling out for Skittles on the Kinectimals display. Fist bump??? Get the flock outta here! We all know it’s marketing but please Microsoft study pro wrestling and the art of kayfabe, OK? Those Kinect Sports Season Two guys (who were they? Rod and Todd?) looked like they were almost about to do a chest bump at the end then switched to a handshake. So corny. The Dance Central 2 dude talking about “Break It Down”? Really now.

If you can somehow get past that, Microsoft showed off more of Kinect’s potential at the show. I was impressed as well. That live capture/render thing worked pretty good for making dead-on Avatars (Kinect Me) and video replications of your random stuff around the household (Googly Eyes). I wonder if that 3D line-drawing Sparker thing works as easily the demonstrator displayed. Looked cool though and folks get a chance to make that conclusion for themselves seeing as the Kinect FunLabs features are available starting today. They’re definitely solidifying their audience with the inclusion of UFC pay-per-view fights on Xbox Live. Guess they weren’t joking when they talked about expanding their entertainment partnerships from the hundred-thousands range to the millions.

But what is the deal with them refusing to allow the Xbox 360 to browse the internet in total? Microsoft, the king of computers, NOT allowing travel on the internet superhighway? “You say it, Xbox finds it” ain’t enough for me. Bing, their own search engine, only allowing limited searching ability? Only to places Microsoft approves of? Can’t be that set-top box you wanna be if you put up restrictions like that. But enough about that foolishness. I want to know what you think about that psych-out they pulled with Halo and throw in your thoughts about Minecraft and Ice-T if you wanna.

Well, with Minecraft and the two Halo games (Anniversary and Halo 4), I’m surprised and than I’m not surprised, as these games typify what the Xbox 360 is all about. Minecraft has become one of the biggest online sensations in years, helping further dispel the whole HD graphics myth more than ever, and if they can bring this keyboard + mouse experience to the Kinect (and make it work) than I say go for it. I just wonder if the Xbox 360 version will be directly compatible with its computer-equivalent, at least in the homemade maps department, as it would be a shame to let such a cornucopia of talent go to waste.

I’ll wrap up my thoughts with the same game that Microsoft wrapped up their conference with, Halo 4, which had its existence unceremoniously uncorked just minutes before the show even started. We all knew it was coming, eventually, though I’m a little surprised that we’d be seeing two Halo games announced in the same event. I predicted the Anniversary game (like shooting ducks in a barrel), but I honestly didn’t think we’d see the first non-Bungie produced game for a few years yet. It’s telling that Microsoft began things with a super-long demo for Modern Warfare 3 and ended with a micro-blip for Halo 4. Some things change, some always stay the same. For the most part, this was an excellent showing for Microsoft and the millions of Xbox 360 fans who should be feeling a lot better about their consoles right now, provided they haven’t red-ringed yet.

About the Author: Popzara Press