E3: The beginning of E3 and Microsoft’s Presentation

It’s the start of E3 and gamers around the world are all anxiously awaiting the announcements and presentations of our favorite publishers and developers. E3 this year has been downsized. What was once a large showroom of booths and bling is now a “let’s get right to it” down-to-earth way for companies to announce their product.

Since we were not lucky enough to land any form of invitation to E3, Graev and I will be bringing our coverage to our readers based on what we see on TV, live feeds, and read from various news sources. We hope that our opinions and insight into this year’s largest entertainment expo will be interesting and helpful to all of you out there.

So let’s get to it! Last night Microsoft gave the first major presentation. With our computers tuned in to 4 different live feeds and our TV on G4 we made sure to catch every moment of what was sure to be a fantastic hour. The presentation began with Peter Moore, the lovable vp over at Microsoft, giving us the usual commentary on what a wonderful year it’s been for Xbox360 and Microsoft. The most interesting line of possibly the entire briefing was when he said every title they would talk about is coming out this year (2007). So right off the bat Microsoft makes it clear they are going all out to make 2007 their year.

Read on for our full coverage of Microsoft’s Presentation!

The first thing our pal Peter does to reel in the audience is strap on a Rock Band guitar and have a jam session live on stage with Harmonix (creators of Rock Band). He prefaces their mini-concert by saying he is never afraid of making a fool out of himself – which he backs up by accidentally pausing the game mid song. But oh well! We love you anyway Pete. Creating a band online or at home with drums, a guitar, and bass really appeals to a lot of gamers out there. Microsoft knows this, and it shows. Rock band looks to be an interesting game to compete with Guitar Hero 3. Funded by MTV who knows what could happen.

Next up is everyone’s favorite thing to beat with a stick… Viva Pinata: Party Animals! In their latest game you take on the roll of your favorite pinata and compete against others in a mini-game like atmosphere. If you’ve played Mario Party then this should have looked familiar the moment they showcased shaking a bottle and burping to propel boats on water. I’m a real fan of little games like this because what it comes right down to is fun. These games are entertaining, bright and cheerful, and usually never get old.

Mass Effect, being touted as a Microsoft Exclusive which won best RPG at last year’s E3, looks to be nothing short of amazing. With a futuristic setting, rpg elements, and stunning graphics, Microsoft found themselves a winner. Just from the trailers alone Mass Effect gives you chills. A fantastic announcement that Mass Effect will be on store shelves in November is definitely a big, big plus.

Peter Moore continued on in the Media Briefing by going over Microsoft’s Xbox360 success. Highlighting at every chance he could get that Xbox360 was leading the way in growth and development for gaming, he does make it clear who is in the lead. This isn’t news to any of us though. It’s well known that the PS3 is struggling and has struggled to get started and the Wii, being the newest of the three, is just beginning. It’s also no surprise to anyone when Moore announces that the top five best selling games of 2006 were from only two series. Grand Theft Auto and Halo – SURPRISE! No really like I said I’m not surprised. San Andreas, Vice City, GTA 3, Halo 2, and Halo were definitely all blockbusters and amazing successes. So much so that Moore had them tattoo’d on his arm. Going back to what I said already about Microsoft pushing 2007, they announced that holiday season 2004 was the biggest year they’ve ever had. Microsoft is vowing that with GTA4, Halo 3, and Madden 08 (You can only play all 3 of these on the Xbox 360) they will have the largest year yet. These three games have the potential to drive 1/3 of all game sales for the year. I tend to agree.

Peter Moore, at this point nearly salivating, gave us a teaser of the solid titles coming to back up the three previously mentioned blockbusters. Project Gotham Racing 4, Dynasty Warriors: Gundam, Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (more to come on this later!), Stranglehold, Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock, Beautiful Katamari, Lost Odyssey, NBA Live 08, Mass Effect, Fatal Inertia, Medal of Honor Airborne, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08, Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation, NHL 08, Assassin’s Creed (more to come on this later!), Spider-Man: Friend of Foe, The Simpsons Game, Splinter Cell Conviction, Nascar 08, Eternal Sonata, BioShock, Tony Hawk’s Proving Ground, Crash of the Titans, Harry Potter ootp, The Orange Box, Bee Movie Game, Rock Band, and finally Naruto: Rise of a Ninja. I was completely shocked when I saw all of these games. I will be truly in shock if all of these games make it out in 2007 as Peter Moore stated at the start of the presentation. There’s simply so many fantastic titles on the way. I went ahead and put my most anticipated titles in bold.

Next up is Jeff Bell (another MS VP). He starts off by immediately jumping into the family friendly console bit and announces the newest exclusive: Scene It?. Along with this announcement Jeff gave us a look at the newest controller coming to Xbox360 which is being made for peopel of all ages, newcomer or veteran gamer *drumroll…* The Wiimote! Oops no it’s something that looks like a Wiimote but it’s not. With Scene It? you get the game and all four(4) of these baby rattles, err controllers.

Jeff Bell continues and gives us a look at Naruto, a game coming out for Xbox360 that is currently a major TV show on the Cartoon network. Did you know Naruto is the most popular show for boys ages 8-14? Do we have any readers out there who are 8-14? Raise your hands boys don’t be afraid. Naruto: Rise of a Ninja, whileappearing to come off as a game for… well 8-14 year old boys… actually looks fun. I’m a fan of a few Ubisoft titles and I can be the first to admit I’m just a kid at heart. With great colors (looks cell shaded), atmosphere, and what looks to be cool gameplay, this could be a decent title for anyone who just likes to sit back and enjoy. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t dancing on the inside while listening to the theme song.

Microsoft and EA, the first partnership to bring sports games to HD (heh, I sound like Jeff Bell now), announced that games this year are going to run at twice the speed as previously. My guess is they are upping the FPS from 30 to 60 because, as Jeff Bell said, speed in sports is everyone. And who knows more about speed than Reggie Bush? It was awkward watching Jeff give Reggie that “brother shoulder hug” and then face off in Madden 08. I’ll admit I don’t like sports games. They are always too… sportsish? That a word? But I must admit of all the sports games I have seen so far the 08 lineup definitely looks good. And most importantly the games were running fast. Good job Reggie.

Now for Xbox Live. Touting numbers again Jeff Bell said that last year’s 6 million goal was surpassed at 7 million and by next year they expect to reach 10 million Xbox Live subscribers. I really wish I had some of that stock. XboxLive Arcade is being heralded for being a huge contributor to this success. With over 45 million downloads and games like Geometry Wars and Worms it’s no wonder they are loving life. The following games were announced: Bomberman Live, Undertow, Hexic 2, Sonic the Hedgehog, Golden Axe, War World, Sensible World Soccer, Every Extend Extra Extreme, Geon, Wing Commander Arena, Feeding Frenzy 2, Track & Field, Spyglass board games, Space Giraffe, Super Puzzle Fighter II Remix HD, Word Puzzle, Marathon Durandal, Poker Smash, Switchball, Tetris Splash, Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords, and Boku Sudoku. It was announced that Sonic the Hedgehog and Golden Axe are available to download immediately. Hurray!

Jeff Bell also announced far too many movies on Xbox Live that are available to download immediately all in HD. If you like to rent movies online on your Xbox360 then I am sure you are too excited for words. A partnership between Microsoft and Disney… Also Xbox Elite and these services are coming to Europe.

Shane Kim, the head of the Microsoft Studios, was tasked with giving us a first look at a few games. Starting with Project Gothom Racing 4, showcased by the gave devs, I was starting to get bored quickly (I was never a fan of racing games and never will be). However lucky for Microsoft Mr Kim picked up the pace and hit the gas to something interesting. Lost Odyssey looks to be a fantastic epic RPG with an asian market flare. With no gameplay and simply a teaser trailer there isn’t much to write about other than it “looks good”.

Now for the PC stuff! Now you’re speaking my language Shane. First out of the gate is Viva Pinata. Well I own this game for Xbox360 so it is highly unlikely I would buy it for the PC. However the game is still fantastic and I really, really enjoyed my time spent in my pretty garden of pinatas. But uh *clears his throat and grunts* on to something more uh, yeah.

Gears of War for the PC! No surprise due to the leaks out there but this simply looks fantastic. The graphics and gameplay are simply phenomenal and the extra content for the PC is already giving Graev a nasty case of the “WTF’s”. With a game editor, online multiplayer, and the announcement that Gears of War is hitting shelves this holiday seasons… I was in shock. Graev was about to have a fit when we thought it was going to be a “Vista only” game however the little line at the end mentioning XP/Vista made him all happy inside.

A very subtle but hugely important detail mentioned by Peter Moore (who by the way is back out on stage, thank god) was that the Games for Windows interface will be consistent across platforms and will in fact be built into Epic’s Unreal 3 Engine. That’s huge. Games are going to be designed from the ground up to take advantage of Microsoft’s Online interfacing. They’re making it easier for developers to make games that can be brought to Live and join Xbox360 and PC users together. I’m excited about this. However I almost stopped watching when I heard this line. “Vista is the most game friendly operating system ever”. Horse Shhhhh….. It’s no mystery that Vista has enormous problems. So aside from this foul untruth I will give them the benefit of the doubt that Windows Vista might have the ability to bring tools to developers that might enhance online gameplay. Maybe.

Crysis, Hellgate: London, Age of Conan: Hyborian Adventures, and World of Conflict are the front liners in Microsofts Games for Windows compaign. In addition to those big names we have Flight sim x, Thrillville: Off the Rails, Bee Movie Game, Age of Empires III: Asian Dynasty, Stranglehold, Gears of War, BioShock, Universe at War, Blacksite, Kane and Lynch: Dead Men, Zoo Tycoon, and More.

Call of Duty 4 was the next highlight of this presentation. With stunning graphics, intuitive gameplay design, stunning graphics, and even more stunning graphics, Call of Duty 4 is going to be a huge hit. Although many games this year are First person shooters it is my firm belief that none will do as well as CoD4. In the gameplay preview we were shown a sniper mission where crawling through the grass and hiding from the enemy was based on your movements and shadows, giving a normally fast paced FPS game more stealther appeal. I have high hopes for CoD4 and the announced open beta coming soon for Xbox360 is exciting.

Now for the highly anticipated Grand Theft Auto 4. Aside from showing us the trailers we have all seen a dozen or so times there wasn’t much to say here. However the release date of October 16th was a shocker for me. I was expecting to wait until November but surprises are nice. Here’s the big deal though guys. Only on the Xbox360 will you be able to get the entire Grand Theft Auto 4 experience. Apparently Microsoft somehow got the rights to this and they’re letting everyone know it. That right there seals the deal for me. I was going to get it on PS3 because I wanted more games to justify it’s existence. However, Microsoft has pulled me in with their iron grip on GTA4 content.

Resident Evil 5 is worth mentioning. The game looks interesting to say the least and the graphics were impressive. This is, however, still too early to comment on.

Now for my personal favorite. Assassin’s Creed! Set back in the time of the Crusades, you play the role of an assassin in an enormous city where according to the devs “is entirely interactable”. In the demo we watched as the assassin makes his way to take out his target. The city around him is entirely alive and the people walking the streets actually interact and act as an entirely new dimension to the gameplay. For example while chasing someone through the streets you may find yourself blocked, pushed, or accosted by someone in the crowd, causing you to have to think and know the streets more than ever. The combat is also something I am intrigued with. It’s based on reactionary counters where you might evade a blow and turn the enemies attack back at them. Another visual masterpiece for the Xbox360 and another game I simply can’t wait to play.

Now, could this be a Microsoft Presentation without giving us more information on something Halo? Of course not, which is why we were shown extensive footage of the Halo movie and Halo 3. The movie was nothing more than a teaser so I won’t spend my time talking about that. As for the game it was a let down. The things they showed seemed to be nothing more than a few seconds of cinematic or what I call fake gameplay. But in all the game looks to be another blockbuster for Microsoft and the Xbox360. Like many others I was hoping that they would give us more to go on with Halo 3 but it’s just that simple.

In closing I want to go over my thoughts of Microsoft’s Media Briefing and their presentation to the industry as a whole. There are many titles coming to the Xbox360 both exclusively and shared that are going to propel this console forward. Microsoft has made it clear they intend to lead 2007 with dozens of titles hitting shelves in and before November. Microsoft has won over more than half of the console gamers out there with their commitment to 2007 and the secured content exclusives. Sony and Nintendo are going to really have to step up their game to compete and nothing benefits the industry more than competition. The titles I am looking forward to most are Assassin’s Creed, Grand Theft Auto 4, and Mass Effect. This is going to be a great year for gaming!

Look for Keen and Graev’s continued E3 coverage all week!

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  • Gears for PC is something I would love. I simply am not a console player anymore and was hoping for this announcement. *Cry* No Assasin’s Creed. I may have to rethink that.
    Thanks Guys

  • I like the line that’s confusing is “You can only play all 3 of these on the Xbox 360”. That’s a quote from Peter Moore when he was saying that the only console you will find ALL of these on together is the Xbox360. They are of course spread to other systems and platforms but all of them in one place can only be found on the 360.

    So yep, Assassin’s Creed is coming out for the PC as well. Currently Xbox360 and PC are the two most popular choices. I’m torn on which system I want to buy it on – Computer… or Xbox360 with a 52″ plasma tv.. hmm..

  • Hey great post man! I found this facebook application for all you madden fans i hop you guys will like it. Ive been using it for about 3 days now and its cool but it needs more fans. Anyone here have Xbox live? Im looking for some more people to demolish. Here is the link Madden 08 Fan Club