Microsoft's E3 Press Conference Surprised and Enticed Us
McCartney and Ringo live, a new Metal Gear Solid game, a 3D motion sensor, Zune TV for Xbox 360 with 1080p instant-on--what didn't Microsoft bring to its E3 press show?
We knew something was up when Microsoft kicked off (as opposed to wrapping up) with two of the most celebrated musicians in rock history. The message? "Hey, it's the Beatles!" The subtext? "Hey Sony and Nintendo, we ain't messin' around." Classy, and not a little intimidating. Next? A battery of trailers and actual game demonstrations, including some tasty announcements for stuff like Epic's first Xbox Live Arcade game, Shadow Complex; Valve's zombie-blender sequel, Left 4 Dead 2; and a new stand-alone Halo game, Halo: Reach.
Games were foremost on Microsoft's itinerary, but the company still managed to sneak in a bunch of new media and social networking services, illustrating their commitment to broadening the Xbox 360's role in its users' lifestyle. Think live TV piped through the new Zune TV service, plus 1080p streaming video, instantly delivered.
Then there's Facebook and Twitter, fully integrated with the Xbox 360 dashboard. Track friends, issue status updates, and view your pictures, all in one easy-to-access spot. Cha-ching.
But the two biggest show announcements were probably (1) Konami finally hopping in bed with the Xbox 360 to deliver a brand-new Metal Gear Solid game, and (2) Microsoft's no-controller motion-sensing bombshell. Bypassing Nintendo's Wii and dramatically one-upping Sony's Eye Toy, "Project Natal" is a way to interact with games without wires, widgets, or other flimflammery: You are the controller.
The consensus among attendees of last year's E3 was that the show trended toward flash-in-the-pan disappointing; in contrast, this year's gathering is already surpassing expectations.
For all the latest E3 news and opinion: twitter.com/game_on
Meet The Beatles, Starring Paul and Ringo
Sir Paul McCartney and Mr. Ringo Starr took center stage to introduce 'The Beatles: Rock Band' from MTV Games and Harmonix, with an exclusive song for Xbox 360. How did the corporate buyers get 'em? Big money, big money.
The Beatles: Rock Band
Wanna rock out "under the sea"? Strum and thump along with Paul, John, Ringo, and George in an "Octopus's Garden" or "Back in the U.S.S.R." Each of the game's 45 songs looks to have its own unique theme.
Tony Hawk: Ride
The man himself showed up to demo a new balance-board-style skateboard with motion controls for his upcoming game, Tony Hawk Ride. "The best way to experience skateboarding is on a board," said Tony. ("The best way to experience skateboarding is to go skateboarding," quipped someone in a chat room.)
Modern Warfare 2
Activision took the stage to offer a preview of the sequel to its mega-popular shooter, at one point revealing that you'll be able to ride a snowmobile while firing a gun. Very "James Bond in Fargo" of you, fellas.
Final Fantasy XIII
Square Enix demoed Final Fantasy XIII running on the Xbox 360, which seemed to handle things more than capably. Still stings that we have to wait until Spring 2010 for this title, though.
The guys behind the Gears of War franchise walked us through their first Xbox Live Arcade title, Shadow Complex. Think 2.5D side-scroller with "tons of exploration and intense combat." It will be available on Xbox Live this summer.
Take the zany desert scenes in the Roadrunner cartoons and mash 'em together with Speed Racer, and you have the modus operandi for Joyride. Microsoft dubs it a "new social experience with the energy of a kart racer."
Left 4 Dead 2
We got only a glimpse of Valve's new zombie-blender sequel, but you can expect the usual stuff: heads exploding, bodies ripping open, swarms of bloody revenants scrambling over fences. It's slated to see daylight on November 17.
Splinter Cell: Conviction
"Each environment is built like a small sandbox," says the developer of sneak-shooter Splinter Cell: Conviction's emphasis on free-form tactical play. There appears to be improved ambient awareness, too. Shoot down a chandelier and enemies react even less predictably, or use the broken glass to peek under doors. The game is coming this fall.
Forza Motorsport 3
The best looking game of the show was a racer? Yep, hands down. But is it really a game...or a high-def satellite video feed? Good luck telling the difference when this ships in October.
Alan Wake, Remedy Entertainment's game about a writer whose supernatural scribblings are coming true, was demoed for the umpteenth time. It looks as though Alan can slow down time and target enemies with a tricked out flare gun. We also noticed tons of lighting effects, heavy-duty particles, and crazy flare bleed in darkened environments. Alan Wake will finally awake in spring 2010.
Halo 3: ODST
It's Halo 3 meets Gears of War, sort of. Instead of Master Chief, you're a rookie ODST (Orbital Drop Shock Trooper). You won't be totally downgraded though: ODST grunts evidently have access to gizmos that Spartans don't, including a low-light visor and two new sound-suppressed weapons. Look for this one on September 22.
Surprise announcement: We saw only saw a quickie trailer for this one, but Bungie seems poised to translate Eric Nylund's Halo: The Fall of Reach into something new and probably first-person-shooter-y.
Netflix you already know about, but it's acquiring a few improvements, including an option--finally--that will let you dig through its video catalog without firing up your PC.
Zune TV and 1080p HD
Zune is coming to Xbox Live with "instant" 1080p high-def streaming video (though Microsoft still isn't talking sample rates, so whether it's true 1080p is anyone's guess). Coolest factoid for our international readers: Microsoft is more than doubling the number of countries capable of using the service, from 8 to 18.
Facebook for Xbox 360
Was it inevitable? Probably. Facebook comes to Xbox 360 and enables you to do pretty much everything in the console that you can do with a regular browser. Love it or hate it, you're looking at a major social networking coup here.
Twitter for Xbox 360
Speaking of status updates, Microsoft supplemented its Facebook announcement with word of an Xbox 360 Twitter plug-in. You heard right, frequent updaters: On your mark, get set, annoy!
Metal Gear Solid: Rising
Though it isn't an Xbox 360 exclusive--because it's coming for PC and PlayStaion 3 as well--the Metal Gear Solid franchise is finally going cross-platform. No sign of a Metal Gear Solid 4 port; but with a little luck, Metal Gear Solid: Rising could be even better.
Project Natal, Starring Steven Spielberg
Filmmaker Steven Spielberg strode onstage to upstage Microsoft's head of Xbox 360, Don Mattrick, and introduce 'Project Natal'--Microsoft's surprise take on interacting with your Xbox 360, no controller required.
"You are the controller," teased Microsoft, firing the shot heard round the blogosphere: a no-controls-whatsoever motion-sensing device. "Can we make you the controller?" the spokesfolk asked, before answering with an Obama-like "Yes we can." Forget Steve Austin, it's The Six Million Dollar Design Grail: Gentlemen, we can rebuild you...we have the technology...better, stronger, faster...and did we mention the no-external-controller thing?