E3 2007 — thoughts about the MS press conference

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So begins the debut of the smaller E3 — I just came back from the MS press conference, and I’m dying of fatigue — so I will make this as short as possible.

If you were looking to be overwhelmed by the Microsoft press conference, it didn’t happen. And that’s the way they wanted it. Instead of promising a sparkling, idyllic future to the folks assembled at Santa Monica High School (the picture you see is from the school amphitheater — yeah, I know. My school didn’t have one of those, either) Ms decided it would concentrate on what’s coming out this year. As Peter Moore said near the end, “Our cards are on the table — this is who we are.”

We basically got a re-rundown of what’s coming to us over the holidays. Moore called it one of the greatest holiday lineups ever. Mass Effect, Halo 3, Bioshock, Call of Duty 4, Lost Odyssey, Blue Dragon … it’s a hell of a list. Perhaps MS didn’t feel the need to announce anything extraordinary this year.

I don’t want to bore you too much (plus, I’m tired), so I’m breaking down this entry into a mixtape of thoughts/highlights.

– I liked the intro. An actual band from Illinois (some would say “Illinoise”) played the actual theme from the “Halo” series, including one girl who tore it up with the violin. I’m almost scared to ask how many gamers asked her out after that.

– They played “Rock Band” at the early of the conference, with Peter Moore playing the guitar … and failing badly. Hey, I’ll give the man props for willing to perish on a grand stage, but I don’t even think the Turkish Princess failed a song quite like that. The game was also paused at least twice in mid-song. Other than that, everything went without a hitch.

– The hybrid RPG Mass Effect is coming out in November, and it’s looking more and more like a must-have game, regardless of what genre you’re into. Plus, it’s got Keith David’s voice in it. I’m ready for this, playa. It’s really shaping up to be a true space epic, and I can’t wait to see it in person.

– Jeff Bell, the VP of global marketing, got pwned by Reggie Bush in an impromptu game of Madden 08, with Bush scoring on a long TD run after flattening a defender. This would mark the first time I’ve seen Bush flatten anyone — I expected Bell to get juked out of his socks.

– Hey, Sonic, Golden Axe and Track & Field are coming out on Xbox Live! Apparently, Live also has 7 million members and MS hopes to have 10 million by 2008.

– Not really into racing games, but PGR 4 looks tight, especially with the introduction of bikes into the fray. We took a ride through Shanghai and got to see the trailer. We also got a peek at Lost Odyssey, which should help make a lot of starving RPG fans happy.

– Cliffy B showed off Gears of War for the PC. There are new single- and multiplayer modes, and you can actually fight the Brumak in this iteration of the game. Cliffy shot off both of the Brumak’s arm cannons before stopping the game in the interests of not ruining anything.

– Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare looks outstanding. We got a demo that featured snipers in camouflage — your partner pops up in front of you, and you don’t even see him coming — the camo was that good. Remember the sniper in “Clear and Present Danger” who was ridiculously adept at hiding? That’s you. Everything from the grass to the way the soldiers move feels very natural — almost organic. The demo ended with you and your friend crawling in the grass with an enemy patrol just a few feet away. Awesome stuff.

– Ooh, saw a quick teaser trailer for “Resident Evil 5.” It looks like it takes place in an African setting.

– We got an extended look at Assassin’s Creed. Um … yeah. I’m a little worried. The game didn’t look nearly as clean or crisp as I thought it would (especially in comparison to some of the other demos we saw), and it’s due out in November. You had a floating dead body, some herky-jerky movement, and a fight demo where a group of enemies did the Bruce Lee thing of attacking the hero one-by-one. There was some free-running stuff that was cool, but the game as a whole seemed to lack a lot of polish. Granted, it’s only July, but I just got a weird vibe — perhaps that’ll change when I see Ubisoft this week.

– The night ended with a larger trailer for “Halo 3.” It looked nice, but I can’t shake the feeling that “Halo” is on the verge of jumping the shark. Once again, it’s just a feeling, and something that could totally be changed by the end of the week. Tomorrow, I’ve got the Sony press conference, Capcom, and looks at Halo 3 and Mass Effect. The next time you hear from me, I’ll have thoughts. Cheers.