Well Day 1 at E3 2009 is coming to a close. Even though the floors don’t officially open tomorrow, Microsoft, EA, and Ubisoft had their big press conferences. Big splashes were made to be sure, so let’s take a look at what was announced:
Microsoft decided to completely skip bragging about numbers and attach rates in favour of actually showing 10 exclusive games that will be coming for the XBOX 360, as well as some new XBOX Live features and a potentially amazing new peripheral.
The peripheral was unveiled, but no release date (or even window) was given. There is not even a final retail name – they were still referring it as Project Natal. Basically, they intend to take the simplicity of what Nintendo did with the Wii Remote & Nunchuck, and make it even easier for non-gamers to get into. In other words – there is no controller at all.
The trailer they showed (check it out below) ranged from extremely cheesy (the driving game looked kind of retarded) to actually pretty F’n cool (The XBOX Experience can now be controlled by waving your hands, much like they did in Minority Report). They actually had it up and running, and demoed a neat little game similar to a first-person Breakout where you control a silhouette of your avatar to punch and kick balls to the other end of the screen.
I see Natal as being even more of a gimmick than Wii (and Wii Sports). Unlike the Wii, which actually does have some actual real games that can be played on it, I don’t see how they are going to make a real game that gamers will want to play. It will probably be a fun whacky toy for “non-gamers” to play around with for a while, and get bored of, just like they did with the Wii. Or maybe, just maybe, this is the one step that was needed to make non-gamers actually stick with it for longer than a few hours. We’ll have to wait and see what the games and applications look like when it finally does come out. I was quite impressed with the resolution of it (it uses two cameras for 3D, and can do facial detection).
The other big news of the morning was when they actually brought Hideo Kojima on stage, to announce that the next Metal Gear Solid game will be on XBOX 360 (they didn’t actually specify whether it was exclusive or not, so assume fully that it will also be available on PS3). The game will feature the cybernetically enhanced version of Raiden (which is pronounced “rye-den” by the way) so gameplay should be somewhat different from MGS4. The game will be called Metal Gear Solid: Rising.
Bungie was there, and if you thought they would try using their talent to create the next big franchise, think again. Nope, they showed some “gameplay” footage of Halo 3: ODST (I put that in quotes because most of the demos they showed at the conference consisted of a lot of in-game cut scene watching) and briefly announced their next game: Halo: Reach. Literally no details of the game were given, other than it having a multiplayer mode (which you’ll be able to beta test if you buy ODST).
They showed some Final Fantasy XIII being played on the 360, and said that it will be released next spring.
Many exclusives got some trailers and brief gameplay demos, including some pretty decent surprises: Crackdown 2 (oh yes!), Left 4 Dead 2 (already?), Splinter Cell: Conviction (looks totally different from the screenshots they showed before. Sam Fischer is now a video game version of Jack Bauer), Forza 3 (which now has an in-car views, and cars are no longer glued to the road), Alan Wake (Alan can actually move, can you believe it?), Joy Ride (Microsoft’s Avatar game, looks completely annoying and retarded. After this conference, I truly hate how Avatars look). Modern Warfare 2 was played (it plays like, well, a COD game. With snowmobiles). One of the announcements that I was most happy to see was Epic’s XBLA game, Shadow Complex. A modern Metroid-Castlevania style that has a lot of platforming exploration and weapon finding. Awesome!
They made a few announcements regarding some non-gaming XBOX 360 features. You will be able to stream Last.fm music to your console soon, and it will be “free” for Gold members. I started getting excited when they talked about how Netflix was only available in the US (by the way, Netflix will soon be controlled only from the console), and that they have a solution for “people around the world” (direct quote right there): Sky streaming TV for UK. Huh? How does that affect “people around the world”? There was some good news though – XBOX Live Video Marketplace (renamed Zune Video) will be streaming 1080p video, and will be available in 18 countries (instead of the current 8). Will this include Hong Kong? I hope so. Finally, they showed the ability to goof around with Avatars while watching streaming video. Yee-fucking-haw. God I hate Microsoft Avatars.
Finally, these additions to XBOX Live will be considered either really fricken cool, or lame, depending on which side of the Social Networking fence you sit on (and whether you’re a social luddite or not). Both Twitter and Facebook will now be fully accessible from the XBOX 360. You will be able to do new things like challenge people on Facebook, etc.
Other announcements were made after the press conference, including Games on Demand, a service that allows you to purchase and download full retail XBOX 360 games over XBOX Live. They are also enhancing those goddamn Avatars, with the ability to win clothing and items as achievement rewards, and even purchase (yes, with money) clothing and gear.
Here’s the Project Natal video, so you can get an idea of how it works:
EA pretty much stuck to the games we already knew about, unless you are really interested in Littles Pet Shop Online and Charm Girls Club: Pajama Party. Even their big announcement – Crysis 2 – was revealed earlier. Crysis 2 will be available XBOX 360, Playstation 3, and PC. Can you guess which platform it will look best on? All Points Bulletin (an MMO verison of Crackdown) is now an EA game (it is made by the makers of the original Crackdown, which makes me wonder how good Crackdown 2 will actually be). They also announced EA Sports MMA, which I imagine will include many of the non-UFC fighters that are currently signed on with promotions such as Strike Force, Dream, and Affliction. If you’re just a UFC fan, you are missing out on a lot of great fighters, including Fedor Emelianenko, who is considered by many to be the top fighter in the world. If they have the Fight Night guys working on this, it could be even better than UFC 2009. Fight Night 4 is a great game, but it’s being held back by the fact that it is still just boxing.
Ubisoft also stuck to showing off the games we already knew about, and more annoying casual kids games. Assassin’s Creed 2 is their big one of course, and will be out on November 17. They announced that Red Steel 2 will include the required MotionPlus addon, so we won’t have to wonder if non MotionPlus owners will be interested in another crappy swordfighting game. Did you ever read those Belgian TinTin comics? I know I did.. And a TinTin movie is coming out, co-directed by Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson! Oh yeah, Ubisoft is publishing the licensed game. Get this – Ubisoft is making a fitness game that uses a camera to see your body movements, and will require no peripherals. Sounds like the first 3rd party Project Natal game, right? Wrong, it’s for the Wii, and you have to buy another fucking camera if you want to play it. Sometimes I just don’t understand video game publishers. Finally, they announced Project Eden, made by the guy who created the awesome Rez. Absolutely no details were given, but you just know it’s going to be cool as hell. The old-school styled TMNT: Smash Up looked pretty cool as well.
In the end, it was a pretty interesting Day 1 for E3 2009. At least Microsoft made some cool announcements including both rumor-confirmations and complete surprises. There were still no “OH MY GOD!” shocking announcements though, but we still have Nintendo tomorrow, who definitely have the ability to make such an announcement.