E3 2010: Xbox 360 Press Conference

E3

Here at Faux we’ve been watching the E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) conference, held yearly in L.A, very closely. We’re big gaming nerds and are always look for the biggest announcements and exclusive info with what’s going down in the gaming industry. Every year at E3 the 3 big gaming companies Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo all hold a press conference where they show off their new titles & developments etc. So this is the first of 3 reports where we will be looking at the biggest announcements and games to come out of 3 major briefings.

So first up was Microsoft. Their briefing was the usual Microsoft “hand in the cheque book” extravaganza which we’ve come to expect from the newest member of the gaming industry. It focused mainly on their new motion control technology Kinect (previously called Natal).

Kinect is very different from the Nintendo Wii’s motion control which relies on an accelerometer and optical sensor to detect movement of the controller. Microsoft’s Kinect uses a two camera system developed by an Israel based tech firm called Prime Sense. One camera takes a full colour shot of the room and another measures the depth of objects in view and the console uses the combination of the two to map the human skeleton. Wow, geeky…so lets get to the important bit…the games.

They unveiled a list of no less than 15 confirmed games than would be compatible with the hardware, its a mixed bag that ranges from boring nonsense meant to show off the hardware that might entertain your mum for 30 minutes and genuinely interesting and challenging looking games.

Lets start with the bad. Kinectimals is a pet sim, except instead of those boring old cats and dogs everyone has you get to pick from Lions, tigers and 50 other animals to adopt. It looks very very basic and only serves so show off the cameras interactive features on a simple level to a younger audience. Its this kind of simple shovelware that plagues the Wii’s game catalogue and the kind of thing I hope Microsoft strives to avoid later in their expansion or only make available over Xbox Live for a much lower price tag.

Similarly Kinect Sports looks like a simple set of mini games created to push the idea of motion control into new hands. Its also hard to look past that its a blatant copy of the Wii Sports disc shipped with the console. It has six games – Soccer, Volleyball, Track & Field, Bowling, Table Tennis and Boxing – all with Full Body Input. The major redeeming feature that the Xbox version has over the Wii version; Gamerscore, your efforts to defeat the computer characters will be awarded with points and you can progress up online leader boards. Couple this with expected full online play and Kinect Sports will be everything Wii Sports should have been, a sports sim that emulates the purpose of sports…to win!

Speak of Wii-a-likes…Your Shape is the Xbox version of Wii Fit, and in a similar vain to Kinect Sports, it looks to be a massive improvement. More of a focus is placed on the console providing the actions you need and want than forcing you to adapt your work-out routine to the plastic step on the floor. Its been developed by Ubisoft and features a host of routines developed by “famous” fitness instructors. Its not my kind of thing, i’d prefer to just go for a jog, but I can see its value, and like before it has the ability to incorporate the rewards system into its structure very well.

Kinect Adventures is a outdoor adventures themed set of 12 mini games that focus on team play and team interaction – coupled with a heavy focus on traditional high score gameplay. There’s not a massive amount to tell you as individual details of the games havent been released, but the clip below shows off some of the action they played through and includes the very very impressive “walk on player & join” moment, which if it works as well as looks to do on screen, is a huge development.

Had enough of Kinect? Well there is a lot in development for it and the whole system looks pretty impressive, lets hope it works as well as it looks to do on screen and in Microsoft’s little skits. I for one cant wait to get my hands on it.

There was a slew of obvious announcements, like Halo Reach, we got to see the first single player in game footage, a detailed glimpse of the games setting and an out of blue moment, where lead character master chief launches into space and engages in seemingly playable space combat, not unlike the average dog fight in Star Wars.

Call Of Duty: Black Ops is just more Call Of Duty, not that that’s a bad thing really. It is however a completely new setting for the franchise as the story revolves around the Cold War and most of the action is set in Vietnam. Microsoft pulled a nice surprise at the end of the gameplay video by confirming that all expansion packs and downloadable content will be exclusive to Xbox 360 for all Call of Duty titles first, for the next 3 years.

New business announcements included a landmark deal with ESPN that will see over 3500 live and on demand events streamed free for gold members over Xbox Live. The ESPN sports centre anchors came on stage to show of the technology and the impressive built in Kinect voice command system, which allows you to trigger replays and pauses just by talking to the Xbox system. We spoke to Microsoft earlier and they confirmed that a similar service will be rolled out in the UK with Sky Sports.

“‘Xbox LIVE delivers exciting global and local sports content with industry-leading, regional partners, including Sky Sports (BSkyB) in the U.K., which offers industry-leading coverage of the Premier League and Champions League soccer.’” – Microsoft PR.

Couple this with a music subscription service via the current Zune interface, not dissimilar to Spotify that will allow users to stream a library of over 7 million tracks through there Xbox 360. No prices have been confirmed for the service, but id say look for a competitive price tag of around £7.99 a month. All in all, business is good for Microsoft right now.

Perhaps the biggest announcement to come out of the conference came right at the very end when they unveiled a brand new version of the Xbox 360 console. It includes a 250gb hard drive, a built in wireless adapter and full support for the Kinect system. It has also had a full re-design, which you can see in IGN’s full un-boxing video below. It ships to the UK June 16th and will retail for only £199!

Anyway, that’s about it. A fairly good, if not a bit pedestrian set of announcements. Its left us with plenty to look forward to and a host of exclusive games and items to look forward. You check out our full report on the Playstation conference and the Nintendo conference over the next couple of days.