Well, E3 2012 has come and gone, and like anyone who followed it, I have quite a few opinions on it. But that’s no surprise; E3 is where most companies show you what they want you to see the most (for that year), and I’m sure that these companies want you to talk about their achievements, developments, reveals, and the like. So I’ll be happy to oblige. First off, we’re starting with Microsoft, a company that has failed to really impress at E3 the past few years. And this year happens to be more of the same, though with a few twists.
As you may have seen in the E3 predictions post, it seems as if Microsoft really followed my predictions quite well. Black Ops 2 and Halo 4 were very noticeably on display, along with a new Gears of War, a new Forza, Splinter Cell, Tomb Raider, and more. Halo 4 was pretty impressive in that it looks very much different from previous outings. A plot that deals with the Forerunners, very unique weaponry, and completely alien enemies makes Halo 4 something more than just your average sequel. The graphics for the game look stellar, and are probably some of the best on the 360. The visor mode feature reminds me of the Metroid Prime games (an interesting feature, considering the two series sort of had a feud back in the day). All in all, Halo 4 looks to be a pretty exciting new entry, one I can’t wait to play.
And that’s about as far as my interest with this conference goes. I can’t say I’m really all that excited for Black Ops 2. Though it seems the campaign changes things up a bit with the setting, I don’t know if it’s worth it. I also can’t see multiplayer changing all that much, and the multiplayer in the series is a rather large turnoff for me. Still, for fans of the series, I imagine what’s shown is enough.
Meanwhile, Gears of War: Judgment looks to be more of the same Gears of War. I don’t see many major innovations in this game, but they did add a class based system to the multiplayer (which kinda makes it feel like Mass Effect 3’s multiplayer, making a sort of third person shooter closed loop of inspiration). Cliff Bleszinski also mentioned that the game’s difficulty will naturally be high, citing the lack of difficulty in many of today’s shooters. I don’t know if that’ll considerably change tactics from the series pop-up shooting gallery style of play, but it’d be cool if it did.
However, that’s about it as far as notable games go. Microsoft’s conference was mostly dominated by services (and a terrible Usher segment), many of which having little or nothing to do with games. Sure, you could now watch some TV channels and ESPN on your Xbox, but I can’t say these are really awesome features. I guess Microsoft is still really pushing the Xbox as the entertainment device that does everything.
Probably the most notable thing at their conference was the unveiling of a new technology, SmartGlass. SmartGlass seeks to connect all of your electronic devices through Xbox. For example, you could use your smartphone or tablet to display game maps in real time. However, I’m not so wowed by this either, as there are already iOS and Android applications that link devices already. The only thing different here is the Xbox in the equation, something that those applications can’t very well do. However, Nintendo’s Wii U already has a tablet controller that promotes gameplay with multiple screens. Even the South Park guys poked fun at it while showcasing their RPG, even though it’s all in good fun. What I’m interested to see is how they’ll take the whole gamut of smartphone and tablet devices into account, and if there’ll be any games that use the feature well. While I get the feeling SmartGlass will be another feature Microsoft pushes that will fail to catch on with their core audience, I’m not totally going to write off SmartGlass. I’m going to have to see it in action before I jump on-board.
Unsurprisingly, there was also a ton of Kinect shown at the conference. Fable: The Journey was on display (which is still an on-rails arcade like game, though with a bit more interaction), and you can also use your voice for some commands in several games. I still don’t see a reason to get a Kinect. In fact, none of what’s announced was a deal breaker. I feel like everything they announced wasn’t to draw in new customers, but to get people who have 360s to stick with it.
Overall, while Halo 4 looks great, as does the South Park RPG, I think every other part of the conference was varying degrees of underwhelming. Call of Duty certainly has its fans, but though the setting of Black Ops 2 is new for the series, I can’t see much in terms of gameplay that makes it distinguishable from other titles. I’d say the new Gears of War suffers from this as well, though it happens to be more promising. However, with the Usher performance, all the Kinect stuff, and the SmartGlass, I get the feeling Microsoft really doesn’t get its core audience all too well. Unsurprisingly, this conference was much like their previous conferences, with a couple of important core games, some stuff that doesn’t appeal to core gamers, but to other people, and some useless crap no one cares about. All in all, though a standard conference for Microsoft, it’s still really underwhelming.