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Xbox at E3: GOW3, MW3, Mass Effect 3 and the return of Master Chief

Today kicked off the three day spectacular that is E3. E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, is the foremost expo when it comes to all things gaming. You’ll see major video game announcements along with console releases and everything in between. Video game enthusiasts flock to coverage of E3 to see the newest and most exciting teasers and footage of future games. This year, SpikeTV has decided to provide extensive coverage of E3 and the conferences that take place throughout along with exclusive interviews and footage. Microsoft opened up this year’s E3 with their press conference for the Xbox which provided us with many highlights.

• The conference opened up with live gameplay of a level from the much-anticipated Modern Warfare 3. It was pretty much a given that we were going to see something like this coming from Modern Warfare thus the anticipation was high but it delivered fully. We were treated to a run through of a level that presented us with what seems to be a full scale assault on Manhattan and the breach of a submarine by Navy Seals. The gameplay was rife with action throughout which at this point is expected from a game with the Call of Duty namesake. I think one of the more important things was how visually beautiful it looked and the attention to detail throughout the video. Per standard operating procedure, we can expect 6-8 hours of action packed gameplay from this latest installment of Modern Warfare, which is needed because they will be facing tough competition from DICE’s Battlefield 3 which also drops this fall. The most important thing, which we will obviously be finding out about more as time passes, is how much multiplayer is improved upon as this has been the factor which has been driving gamers from Modern Warfare to play the Battlefield series. Modern Warfare 3 was touted as being the best Modern Warfare yet, but we will have to wait until this November to find that out for sure.

• Something I was skeptical about when they first presented it was the newest installment of Tomb Raider. Lara Croft has been around since the birth of the original PlayStation and the series has gone through various re-boots since then. It almost seems like to me like they are beating a dead horse and hoping to get whatever they can with this series. This latest installment of Tomb Raider brings us back to the roots of Lara Croft to find out how and why she is who she is. Like I said, I was rather skeptical going into this, and I’m sure many gamers felt the same way, but after watching this video, I’m sure excitement has been ramped up about this game. If there was one thing that this video left you with, it was the fact that this game is going to be visually stunning. Sure, the video showed us the standard running,jumping and climbing of Lara Croft, but it also showed us how downright beautiful the environments in this game are going to be. The big question is going to be whether or not graphics alone are something that can draw gamers back into a once-revered series that has fallen by the wayside.

• Another expected game that was presented during the conference was the final chapter in the Gears of War trilogy, Gears of War 3. This was presented by Gears of War guru, Cliff Bleszinski, better known as “Cliffy B”. Cliffy B came out and presented us with a live gameplay demo. To further enhance the experience, he played in co-op mode alongside video-game enthusiast Ice-T. The footage showed Cliffy B and Ice-T battling an insanely large sea monster while running through the various decks of a boat. We were presented with a few new gameplay features, one of which was a new and innovative way for the characters to take cover during battle. There is a lot of hype surrounding GOW3 to see if the series can deliver a finishing blow to the Locust for the final time and pay off for all the time gamers have spent with the series.

• Much of this press conference was dedicated to building steam for Xbox’s much maligned motion capture gaming system Kinect. Gamers have been grumbling about Kinect since it’s’ release, complaining about the lack of hardcore games and the lack of integration with the system itself. I think this press conference is going to help put some of these qualms to rest. One of the first things we learned about is the integration of Kinect into some of Xbox’s mainstay gaming franchises. For instance, the final chapter of the Mass Effect trilogy, Mass Effect 3, is going to have Kinect voice control integrated into it. Instead of selecting conversation options with the controller, you can now choose them via voice. Also, during battle, you will be able to direct your fellow team members as to how to attack, which should be interesting to see how it comes out, as it seemed to be confusing during the live gameplay footage. The newest Fable game “Fable: The Journey” looks as if it is going to have full Kinect integration complete from driving a horse-drawn carriage, to walking around and fighting enemies and using spells. The Fable series started out as a traditional RPG and has turned into a more action driven game and I think that transformation is going to continue with this latest installment alongside the Kinect integration. It was also stated though that the game can be played with a controller.
One of the Kinect based games that was shown that is sure to excite Star Wars fans and has been floating around for a while now is “Kinect Star Wars”. A live demo was given with the introduction to this game. The graphics look solid while the gameplay may be a worry. There was lag galore during the demo. The player on stage would jump and swipe his hand to use his lightsaber, but the movements were not registered on the screen until well after the player finished his movements. This is one of the worries about the Kinect. While integration into hardcore games is something that has been clamored about and is something we are beginning to see now, the question is if the performance can keep up with the games and only time can tell. Obviously there are going to be some kinks with any of the these games, but Microsoft needs to be fully committed to make sure the product that they are putting out there lives up to the hype they are billing.

• Alongside the Kinect improvements, we saw a lot of future changes to the Xbox dashboard as well as the accessibility of the console itself. YouTube and Bing are a few of the new partners coming to Xbox Live. For this demo, a woman onstage was using her voice to navigate through the new Xbox dashboard, coming this fall, to go through the different tabs. She also voice searched through Bing “X-Men”, and the Xbox brought up games, movies and shows based on X-Men. A video was shown of a couple sitting on a couch voice navigating through the Xbox, using it to search and watch videos. Basically Xbox is touting that if you want something, the Xbox finds it. Microsoft is making a full move toward making you the remote and giving you full access over the control of the Xbox without a physical controller. I think Microsoft is making the right moves when it comes to the changes to the accessibility of the Xbox as well as using the full power of the Kinect. Granted it took some time, but we are finally starting to scratch the surface of the full benefits that the Kinect has to offer.

• To me, one of the biggest moments of the Xbox press conference had to do with a franchise that I personally love, Halo. Xbox released details on two rumored Halo projects that fans have been waiting and hoping for. The first is a remake of the original Halo dubbed “Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary”. It is touted as being an HD remake complete with original multiplayer maps and co-op play over Xbox Live. I think there is a lot of excitement following this project. Halo was a launch title with the original Xbox and has been played by millions of people across the world. For anyone that has played on Chiron or any other of the great multiplayer maps from this game, this is sure to be a trip down memory lane and a game to look forward to in the fall. The bigger piece of Halo news to come from this conference though was the video that Xbox closed with. This video showed us the return of Master Chief himself in what was revealed to be the beginning of a new trilogy. That’s right, in the holiday season of 2012; Halo 4 will be released. This is a game that I personally couldn’t be any more excited for. I waited in line for the midnight launch of Halo 3, and in late 2012, you’ll find me in line waiting at GameStop for Halo 4. The video, while brief, showed us a new graphics engine along with some nifty explosions and action to push the return of Master Chief. This video alone is enough to send buzz around this announcement sky high. This was a great move by Microsoft to re-visit the Halo series as it will draw in long-time fans of the Halo franchise while introducing new gamers to the Halo Universe. It was a great way for Xbox to close out a jam-packed E3 press conference.

Overall, I think we are being ushered into a new age of the Xbox. One in which Xbox is finally putting its’ full weight and effort behind the Kinect and the positives that it can provide. We were introduced to long-awaited footage and gameplay as well as some surprises along the way. It was a great way to start off what is sure to be an E3 to remember for gamers of all platforms. Developers will be releasing more details about games like Mass Effect 3 and Gears of War 3 as time passes on during the next three days. What does PlayStation have up its’ sleeve for the press conference later in the day, and can they bounce back from the recent problems they have been having? Will the Wii successor keep to its’ roots, or will Nintendo change things up to try and draw in more hardcore gamers? Can Battlefield 3 can be the Call of Duty killer that is being hyped as? Will “Star Wars: The Old Republic” get a release date? The search for the answers to these questions begins at this year’s E3 which has already shown it is a great time to be a gamer.

The Electronic Entertainment Expo

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