Microsoft E3 2012 Media Briefing in Review

E3 hasn’t even begun yet and already things are off to a rolling start with Nintendo’s pre-announcements and Microsoft’s media briefing.  Microsoft made some interesting announcements, opening up with a much-anticipated Halo 4 trailer with gameplay showing off a jungle and a new set of enemies while the player was tracking down a crashed landed ship.  Overall, it was a trailer that sent thrills down the spine, really setting the tone for the entire briefing.

Attendees were also treated to brief teaser trailers of new IP from Twisted Pixel, Gore Verbinsky (director of Pirates of the Caribbean), and Signal Studios.  Without more info, the best I’ve been able to come up with is Twisted Pixel continues on their path of creating the most random/bizarre (and hopefully entertaining) games; this time around being a female assassin… motorcycle.

The biggest feature shown off at the briefing was SmartGlass.  This allows the integration of your Xbox experience across all your smart devices, be it a Windows Phone/Tablet, iPhone/iPad, or Android device.  If this works as advertised, this could have a huge impact for the next year of gaming.  Given that Nintendo brought to the table a new controller which looks very similar to those of the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, attempting to bring the hardcore gamers back into the fold, Microsoft has provided a comparable alternative to the new Wii U controller using devices that you already own.

Imagine using your phone to control the playback of a video, or starting to watch a video on your tablet and swiping it to play on your TV instead, resuming where you left off.  Other features seemed to allow developers to produce additional content for videos/TV shows which could be used as companion material.

For myself, I think the real advantage will be in gaming if developers can leverage the technology effectively.  The demo included using a tablet to choose plays in a football video game and selecting who to pass the ball to – this type of gameplay is something gaming has sorely been missing.  The ability to effectively play versus other players in your living room without allowing them to see where/what you are doing until it is too late.  I have hopes the Wii U will be able to revive the local versus, but given that they only allow one new controller per console…we’ll have to see what happens.  Hopefully, SmartGlass will be useable on the floor in the coming days and will not hold similar restrictions.

Snuck in under the radar was Splinter Cell: Blacklist which was refreshingly different in combat, not following on the Uncharted style of bandwagon.  Instead, you line up a series of enemies to attack and it ends up being executed like a series of Jason Bourne moves.  Making use of Kinect, players will be able to catch the attention of guards by talking at them.  Just be sure you don’t need to yell at your dog at the wrong moment I suppose.  I can see that ending badly.

FIFA 13 and Madden 13 also made appearances, showing off how they’ve been integrated with Kinect using voice commands to call out plays/formations/substitutions on the fly.  FIFA 13 will be released internationally in multiple dialects this Fall, while Madden can be purchased August 28th.

Continuing on with Microsoft’s effort to turn Xbox Live into a media platform for all purposes: New channels such as Nickelodian, Paramount Movies, and Machinima will now be available.  Subscribers will also have access to NBA games and NHL Gamecenter (I assume if you already have a subscription).  Of course, ESPN will continue to grow, offering more programming and split screen options to see multiple games at the same time.  Finally, Xbox Music made an appearance, branded as a mix of music playing, smart DJ ability, and social networking all rolled into one.

Another big surprise (mainly because I don’t think most people could conceive of it) was Nike (yes, the shoe company) who has teamed up with the Microsoft Game Studio, putting together a fitness game which transcends your console.  Providing workout reminders to your mobile devices if you choose, helping those wanting to get in shape or those already on training regimes to keep up their routine into healthiness.  This will be available holiday 2012.

In an attempt to steamroll over all political correctness, Trey Parker and Matt Stone’s (in-)famous TV show, South Park, is making its way into a videogame where you will play a fully customizable new paper cutout kid who will join Kyle, Cartman, Kenny, and Stan in an effort to save the world in South Park: The Stick of Truth.  Remember to lock the kids outside while you play this in all its inappropriate glory.

The low point of the entire show was probably Resident Evil 6 (which takes first place ahead of Wreckateer, which is more loveable and cartoonish… and provides lots of Kinect-controlled exploding castles).  For a game that has been getting so much face time everywhere, it’s disappointing to see how choppy it seemed with its quick time events dominating the demo.  Perhaps these were just demo snafus – we’ll see more on the show floor this week.

Once again, Tomb Raider was shown off, presenting this more realistic, gritty, and violent heroine.  Some will enjoy the newer twist as the combat is absolutely spectacular, yet others may pine after the old days which she wasn’t ripping men’s throats out with her bare hands.  More on this in the future.

In a surprise performance, Usher showed off his dance moves which will be available on Dance Central 3.  As a finale, the audience was shown one more epic trailer to balance out the Halo 4 opener with Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, featuring guns, explosions, more guns, jet planes, and guns that shoot through walls causing explosions, and artillery to shoot down drones which explode.  I think you get the idea.  People were pretty excited.

Regardless of what genre you fancy, there are definitely some things to be enthusiastic about in the Microsoft camp.  I can’t wait to see what gets announced by Nintendo and Sony!

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