E3: Xbox press briefing decompression

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In case you haven’t seen Al’s previous posts, a few of us at Tech-Out are actually attending the sea of gaming madness called E3. Today was press-con day: Xbox, Electronic Arts (which I almost forgot I registered for), and Ubisoft. Instead of inundating you with reams of text about stuff you’ve probably already heard about (see links on the right side for actual news), me and Reggie will share our thoughts about some of the things that really clawed at our eyeballs and collective gaming psyches. No tears of joy were shed in the viewing of these conferences … except perhaps the from the Final Fantasy crowd. Oh yeah, and Steven Spielberg, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney showed up. That sets the tone for the discussion, which comes after the jump.

I start it off after the jump. And no, we haven’t forgotten the fact that Hideo Kojima was there.

Redmond: Judging from the sheer amount of star power, exclusives and new tech, I think Microsoft was looking for the early knockout. They KNEW they were the first conference of the day, and this might be the most confident and utterly dominant Xbox E3 presentation I’ve ever seen. It was relatively efficient — here’s what we’ve got, deal with it, love it, and by the way, we have a crapload of money at our disposal. Just so you don’t forget. After all, the conference began with The Beatles: Rock Band presentation being capped off by Ringo and Paul showing up. Then they roll out this staggering list of exclusives and end with Project Natal … which, by the way, has scary potential.

Reggie: It’s really Microsoft’s way of replacing your children, but more on that later. Kudo Tsunoda took the stage to show it off and Natal should worry Nintendo for a good reason: The technology looks like it’s the real deal. One of the games they had demonstrated was called “Ricochet” which had the demonstrator jumping around, leaning to the left, right, and swatting at virtual dodgeballs to smash onscreen targets … all thanks to a small device that looked like the Wii Bar built up on protein shakes and steroids which followed every movement they made.

But the strangest, and potentially the most innovative use of Natal, was when Lionhead’s Peter Molyneux had come out to show off a virtual child that interacted with a user via the device. It reminded me of how a person would be speaking to someone via a virtual camera, only in this case, the individual on the other end was not real. Milo, which was his name, reacts to voice inflection … picking up on how you were feeling via your voice…and the demonstrator actually helped him with his homework which involved drawing a fish. They “walked” over to the water, put their hand out into the “liquid”, and in the end, drew a picture, held it up to Natal, and Milo “received” the paper on the other end.

As bizarre as that may sound, the potential that this has goes beyond gaming. I could see this being used in other settings, not necessarily the living room, but as an interactive tool for rehabilitation within a variety of alternative settings. It won’t replace your children, although I can imagine that some might want it to, but the interactive doors that it literally opens up could be incredibly diverse.

They didn’t mention pricing, though, but it will be compatible with every Xbox 360 out there. One thing that April from Gaming Angels had noticed was that there was a larger drive on the Xbox that was being used as the demo unit. Will it need a larger drive? They say it won’t, but it was interesting to point out.

It is capable of learning on its own? As another friend had pointed out, we’ll just hope it doesn’t turn into Skynet.

Redmond: Yeah, I like how instead of saying he was working on a game, Peter Molyneux was working on making a child. There was a little bit of a creep factor with how responsive Milo was, and I’m sure there are going to be questions about the reality of the video. I think that would be almost missing the point. The fact that this kind of stuff is even being conceived is leaps and bounds ahead of what we as gamers were generally talking about at this time a year ago. It’s exciting … now let’s see if it actually happens.

The other aspect of the Xbox conference that was intriguing to me was the list of exclusives the 360 has in its stable: Tony Hawk Ride, Modern Warfare 2, Final Fantasy XIII, Shadow Complex, Joy Ride, Crackdown 2, Left 4 Dead 2 (that was fast, and really, 360 exclusive? What about the PC gamers? Did they get a big bowl of jack?), Splinter Cell: Conviction, Forza Motorsport 3, Halo 3: ODST and finally, Alan Wake.

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I was a little underwhelmed by what I saw from Alan Wake, but it’s not really the game’s fault. Let me explain. From a gameplay standpoint, I enjoyed how the game looks like it would be one of the scariest titles out there. It made brilliant use of the cover of darkness, and, I thought the use of the flashlight as a way to “burn” and push back the crazed lumberjack people (these lumberjacks are not OK) was a nifty idea. However, the game’s backbone is its complex, intricate storytelling, and I’m not sure you can capture that in the snippet of a few minutes. For something like Modern Warfare 2, you can get a decent idea of the direction the game is going within 30 seconds. It’s like the first time people encountered something like Indigo Prophecy. Some people just didn’t know what to make of it within the first few minutes … or even the first hour. I’m thinking Alan Wake’s going to be one of those instances where your mind needs time to sit in the game’s mental oven for a while. Then you can see where you’re at after a few hours. Hey, at least we know the game exists. It’s slated to come out in Spring 2010.

Here are some shots of other games:

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Final Fantasy XIII

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Forza Motorsport 3

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Halo 3: ODST

The one game we don’t have pics for deals with Metal Gear Solid: Rising. Yes, it’s a Metal Gear Solid title for the 360, something that’s been speculated and hypothesized to death for almost as long as I’ve had the system. That was put to rest when the legendary Hideo Kojima, the creator of the series, showed up on the Xbox 360 press-con stage. Looking back, it made sense … there was a countdown on the Kojima Productions site that ended around roughly the same time the 360 press conference started.

And if you played MGS4 and saw how much of a true badass the oft-maligned Raiden had become (he held a sword with his foot, for crying out loud. And still killed people), you had to at least think he was going to get his own game at some point. We didn’t really find out much at the press conference, other than the fact that the game’s been announced, but I’m really curious as to how much more Kojima can do with this MGS universe he’s created. I thought he was done, or at least supposed to be, after MGS4. Shows how much we know.