Monday, July 14, 2008

Microsoft E3 08 Press Conference Recap

E3 is here and now in full effect as Microsoft draws first blood again this year with their Press Conference. After watching the whole thing online, I think 360 is in good shape again. Even with the early leaks, Microsoft still pulled it off revealing some surprises and one big one in the end. I'm going to run it down Bullet-style.

  • The conference starts big with a Fallout 3 demonstration. One of the big third-party titles coming out this fall on 360 from the folks that brought you The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. So far it looks good being a brief demo and all, but the gameplay felt a little awkward at first, but I guess it works well.
  • Next demo is Resident Evil 5 showcasing the online co-op (Yes!!!!) and it is looking good despite being RE4 again gameplay-wise (even some of the sounds are recycled from RE4). Capcom also revealed a March 13, 2009 date as well (Friday the 13th).
  • Peter Molyneux is next to show more Fable 2 (coming to October) in a brief demo showcasing the interaction elements with characters and whatnot. I'm still not buying this game.

  • A new Gears of War 2 campaign level was by shown by CliffyB from Epic, which they were revealing co-op for the first time in this sequel. This level already feels better than any of the Gears 1 levels with scope and the size of Locust to defeat. Cliff also announced a new 5-player co-op mode called Hoard, which seems like a survival mode of eliminating the toughest Locust opponents as a team. A November 7 release date (a Friday) is also announced by Cliff too.
  • Don Mattrick talks some business and numbers (blah blah blah....) along with a new partner for movies / television releases, which is NBC Universal. That means u can watch Heroes, Battlestar Galatica, and other Universal shows and movies on your 360.
  • John Schappert is next to speak and reveals the new 360 dashboard (coming out this fall). It looks pretty sweet - totally a new facelift compared to the dashboard currently up.
  • He also shows off the Avatars (their version of Nintendo Miis) and they are more customizable than Miis with appearance, outfits, and more. It is cool that Rare made it happen. I still wish gamerpics are still in for this new dash update.
  • The Live Party functionality is pretty cool too (The Halo party system of sorts) on your 360. They can watch the same movie or TV show, or play the same game (Uno Rush announced = Yes!!) at the same time by one button click.
  • Xbox Live Primetime seems interesting too which is their Game Show Channel of sorts. 1 vs. 100 was shown with Avatar support. Deal or No Deal is also planned for release for Primetime.

  • Xbox Live Arcade announcements (I love XBLA!!).... Geometry Wars 2 finally shown and planned for release next month (more modes and 4 players in one screen is nuts).

  • Galaga Legions also finally shown for the first time (also out next month) and looks amazing. This is definitely the Pac-Man CE for Galaga.
  • GLADOS randomly speaks and announces Portal: Still Alive for XBLA release this year with new challenging levels (Awesome!!)
  • A short teaser for a South Park XBLA game was also shown - Cool for South Park. (That's it for big XBLA announcements).

  • XNA stuff now being shown and still coming out this fall (No Dishwasher footage in their clip).
  • The heavily rumored Netflix partnership is finally official and that's good. Doesn't mean I would use it though.
  • Rare games now being shown.... First was a new trailer for Banjo Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts (I'm still excited). Then Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise was shown and it is definitely VP. Shane Kim also announces the original Banjo-Kazooie for XBLA release later this year (Yes!!! - I beat this game 100% on N64 and I won't mind doing it again for achievement points).
  • Scene It! Box Office Smash is the next game up as it still has the 4 button controller and this sequel has Avatars support.
  • Surprisingly, a new game is announced called You're in the Movies (by Codemasters) and definitely feels like a Eye-Toy ripoff doing mini-games acting crazy. It also has director-ish features of making short movies within what the game offers. This game will be bundled with a Live Vision camera (I have already one though... Doesn't matter I'm not buying this game anyway).
  • Music games (Finally...) are the next thing Microsoft focuses on in this conference. This segment disappointed me a little bit (more on that later). First up was Guitar Hero: World Tour as some RedOctane guy talks some GH stuff with the custom songs and GH Tunes. R.E.M. DLC is announced as well as the whole new Metallica album at the same time of the album release on stores (Also coming to GH III DLC too).
  • Lips (from the leaks) is next being shown, which is from the Elite Beat Agents guys. It is obviously a karaoke game (SingStar's major competition now) and it can use iPods and Zunes to play any song from those devices (that's cool!!). Randomly, Duffy performs "Mercy" with the Lips game and this will be out this fall (I might buy it).
  • Rock Band 2 (Finally!!!) is last up for the music games as Harmonix mastermind Alex comes up to the stage to announce some stuff like the full track list (in my last blog post), RB1 disc songs and DLC playable in RB2, more bonus songs as RB2 DLC when it launches. Unforuntately, no gameplay footage shown of both GH World Tour and RB2 in this show.
  • Finally, Square-Enix is last up to show some of their upcoming games (Kind of weird they're last - something fishy is going on). They announced Infinite Undiscovery release dates, Star Ocean 4 dates, and Last Remnant (brief trailer shown too) dates and a PC version (The ONLY PC announcement of the whole show).
  • Don Mattrick closes out the show and the Squenix guy comes back up with a surprise.
  • The first bombshell or "Megaton" of E3 2008 is here and it is Final Fantasy XIII coming to 360 next year!!!! A lengthy trailer was shown (my feed wasn't direct when the clip showed up) and I'm wandering how the hell Microsoft got this to happen. I can't believe Squenix is doing this (U.S. and Europe release only on 360 - no Japan release for 360). I'm pretty sure NeoGAF exploded when it was shown. Fanboy wars are going to be interesting this week.
  • End of conference.

What struck me from the conference.....
  • Microsoft still had surprises despite the early leaks.
  • Final Fantasy XIII coming to 360!!!
  • Resident Evil 5 online co-op!!!
  • Gears 2 impresses once again.
  • New XBLA games blew my mind.
  • New dashboard is pretty cool with Avatars and Live Party.
  • Fallout 3 also impressive.
What was missing....
  • No PC (GFW Live) presence at all!!!!! Where's this so called resurgence of GFW Live Microsoft?? Only PC announcement is Last Remnant coming to the platform.
  • Forza Motorsport 3 - it was in the early leaks.
  • The heavily rumored motion controller - Probably the most disappointing absence of the conference if people really care for motion control on 360 (I don't care).
  • Halo-related business - Pretty surprised no Halo was mentioned at all (Halo Wars no-show, Peter Jackson game no-show, Bungie secret game still unknown).
  • Alan Wake!!!!!
  • Montages - I missed those montages of retail games and specifically the XBLA games too.
  • Demonstrations of GH World Tour and Rock Band 2 during the conference.

I think Microsoft had another good E3 press conference despite what was missing. It is clear what they were focusing on for this briefing and delivered on that front. The new dashboard is impressive and the games will do the talking this fall too. Obviously, the FF XIII to 360 announcement shook the whole place apart and who knows what will Sony do counter it (I have a feeling Bungie will show a PS3 exclusive game).

UPDATE - Now updated w/ Final Fantasy XIII Trailer - Not yet up on Marketplace.

Speaking of RPGs, a demo of Tales of Vesperia is out and since I'm not really into JRPGs, this one is not grabbing my attention. I would buy FFXIII however though.

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