Another year, another E3.
The overwhelming emotion as a gamer is best described through a 3 letter word;
Microsoft kicked off the show, repeating the method they followed last year, showcasing another Call of Duty demo. Early on the controller disconnected. Looking back it was an ominous sign of things to come. The demo played out exactly as anyone would expect, i.e. simply another COD (Yawn!).
Moving on we saw a demo of Tomb Raider, best described as an Uncharted rip off which also borrowed from a porno flicks soundtrack.
EA came on stage to announce Kinect support in future sports titles. A pretty meaningless gesture that can easily be backtracked on especially as they didn’t show anything. They did however, demo Kinect support for Mass Effect 3. Instead of pressing a button for dialogue you now shout out a phrase only for the main protagonist, Shepard, to repeat what you have just said but in different words. This is a use of Kinect that totally bypasses the whole idea of motion control while also showing nothing that could not be simply integrated with the cheap headset that the Xbox ships with. Well done EA.
Next up, Ubisoft and Ghost Recon, ignoring the presenters irritatingly high pitched voice, they demoed Kinect integration. The American audience went wild over a feature which allowed you to break apart any gun and add attachments with your voice. While it was a neat trick, the next second they demoed trying out your new gun and all excitement evaporated. The aiming was inaccurate and slow. To look down the scope a user would raise their hand, not the best idea for a sniper. To fire, you would have to open your fist in an exaggerated manner.
This demo served to highlight how Kinect simply does not work for games as we know it. It makes developers resort to exaggerated gestures to perform the simplest of tasks.
The one positive to take from the conference was the redesign of the Xbox dashboard. I really like where MS is going with their unified approach to design, and being able to search with Bing is pretty neat. However, ever the cynic, I would question how well this will work in countries outside the US with their limited content support.
Gears of War 3 again showcased nothing new and was not enough to win me back after the shotgun-fest that the Beta proved Gears multiplayer remains to be.
Then a new game, excitement abound, we got to have our first look at the game Crytek have been working on, initially called Codename: Kingdoms, now entitled Ryse. Unfortunately, it appears to be a simple head butt simulator, using Kinect.
Forza 4 time now and it shows nothing to justify why MS are so keen to pump a new one out every other year.
Core audience satisfied (yeah right!) Microsoft proceeded to show the very best of what Kinect has to offer. From a laggy on rails Star Wars game to a laggy on rails Fable game.
Neither looked remotely sophisticated and I would argue that not even children could be satisfied by the pre 90’s arcade like gameplay.
The best selling Kinect games, Dance Central and Kinect Sports received their obligatory sequels (although I would argue with an attach rate of 1:10 neither can really be classed as “best selling”) while a new Disney game and Sesame Street will have surely excited the massive number of children eagerly tuning into E3.
So Microsoft was left to round the conference off with an announcement of a new Halo trilogy barely 6 months after they shipped the last one.
So what have we learnt from Microsoft at this years E3?
Firstly, that their promises of not forgetting the Core gamer were correct, but not in the way most were thinking. Instead of showcasing stunning new franchises for us gamers to get excited about, they have attempted to shoehorn Kinect into existing titles with pretty meaningless functions or features.
They have shown that they believe a cycle of Gears, Forza and Halo is what they expect to rely on the next couple of years as they have done the last few.
Quite simply they have shown how out of touch they are with the Core gamer.
The Core gamer does not want mindless rehashes ala COD, they do not want motion controls full stop. What they want are exiting new games which thrill, games which define the reason for choosing one console over another, games which companies like Rare are capable of making but seem content to be consigned to history.
Games which, sadly, no longer exist on the Xbox.
the better twin.
(Images courtesy of Joystiq)