Well, Microsoft's press conference kicked off E3 2012 week with a... well, not a bang, but not exactly a whimper, either. It was just sort of right up there in the middle. It started off with some live action footage that had me thinking Wing Commander until we finally saw Master Chief. Of course, once it switched over to actual gameplay footage from Halo 4 of exploring and shooting up enemies on a jungle planet, I was having Metroid flashbacks instead. Then we saw some gameplay from the new Splinter Cell: Blacklist game before things switched over to EA Sports and I kind of tuned out for a bit. Although I will say that a lot of these "Better With Kinect" titles just seem to add in some voice controls. And this couldn't already have been done with the microphone because... why, exactly?
And that was just the beginning...
There were some games that just got quick teaser trailers, like Fable: The Journey (with a really cute model demonstrating the Kinect moves), the new Gears of War title and another Forza racing game. Then they shifted gears (you like that transition I did there?) to do the usual section where they tout the Xbox 360 as the ultimate set-top box that does so much more than just play games (even if that's what I use it for 98% of the time). They demonstrated a new Bing search where you can use the Kinect mic to ask it to search for comedies, and it will bring up a list of movie titles. You pick one, and it will give you the options for watching it. Obviously they want you to pay money to rent it from them, but you'll also get Hulu or Netflix or whatever other options you're signed up for. Nickelodeon, Paramount, Machinima and Univision are also joining Xbox LIVE, and I admit there's a little part of me that's kind of intrigued at being able to watch telenovela episodes on demand! Then they started yammering on and on about the four different ESPN channels and new ways to watch sports, and I tuned out again. (Although during the trailer they showed with the cute guys yelling at their TV while watching sports I had to wonder if the yelling would freak out the Kinect and screw it up...) They're also going to do something called Xbox Music, but the trailer wasn't exactly clear on whether it's like Pandora or iTunes. Either way, it seems redundant.
The tease of a new fitness game woke me back up again, and they announced Nike+ Kinect Training. I used to use Nike+ to track my runs before it quit working with my iPod and I upgraded to a proper GPS watch, and I quite liked it. So while the game seems to be more of the same type of exercises as YourShape Fitness Evolved and its ilk, the idea of the Nike+ interconnectivity and competitive leaderboards is kind of cool. (Although their mention of an app on your phone that lets you know it's time for your next workout has me hoping that's a feature you can easily disable!)
Xbox SmartGlass is a crazy new way that they want to link your Xbox 360, TV, and whatever smartphone or tablet you've got in your house. And impressively, while Microsoft naturally used Windows phones in the demonstrations, they also clearly mentioned that it will work with any iPhone, iPad, or Android device as well as Windows ones. So score a point for them on that one, playing nice with the other kids in the playground. Of course, the idea of being able to watch a movie or TV show on my television while browsing bonus content and info on my tablet sounds fine, but I usually use my tablet for other things while watching TV... you know, like checking E-mail or restocking my Tiny Tower. And I can already imdb the movie I'm watching to see why that guy looks familiar anyway. They're also including a web browser now (although it's Internet Explorer, of course), and demonstrated that you can use voice commands to browse and your touch screen device to control the mouse and browse. (They made a point of specifically mentioning it will work with the devices you already have, likely a dig at Nintendo's tablet controller for Wii U.) Xbox SmartGlass is an interesting concept, but we'll see how it actually plays. Personally, I'm still not sure how many people are really going to go through their Xboxes to do all this just to enjoy the SmartGlass connectivity.
The new Tomb Raider trailer looked pretty sweet, even if her running around with a bow and arrow and getting the crap kicked out of her made Lara seem like she was in The Hunger Games. Then there were some random teasers that were so short they barely made an impression, which is sad, because they're by some creative developers. Guess they didn't have much to show yet. Next followed an extended gameplay demo of Resident Evil 6 (although I've always believed the guy with the controller on stage isn't actually controlling anything and is just miming along to a video... seems too dangerous to risk something going wrong). The game looks good, especially the way Leon rolled, ducked and covered while shooting up zombies. Guess we can't complain about tank controls anymore...
There was a quick demo of a new Kinect game called Wreckateer where you take out towers with your catapult by steering projectiles with your body that seemed very Angry Birds-esque, followed by a trailer for a South Park game that seems about ten years too late, even if they did get Matt Stone and Trey Parker to wander on stage to half-heartedly promote it. (Even they seemed mildly surprised people still cared, although I loved their dig at the new interconnectivity trend!) Then my world exploded as they teased Dance Central 3, but my excitement quickly faded as they had Usher come out and perform a song of his that's in the game. Apparently, one of the new features is having actual choreography from the music videos used in the game now, which is cool, but they only showed gameplay footage for Dance Central 3 for the very end of his performance. Also, there was no info in the trailer about what's different enough in this new sequel that would necessitate a disc release instead of just being more songs released via DLC.
They closed with like, a four hour gameplay demo of Black Ops 2, which looked absolutely spectacular. I'm not denying the game looks great, but you could tell that within the first few minutes. It just kept going and going and going. If you weren't already sold on it, another five minutes of gameplay probably isn't going to change your mind. Also, it seemed weird that Microsoft wouldn't close with Halo 4, since that's an actual exclusive for their console. I get you want to open big, but Black Ops 2 would have still been an impressive first salvo, and left the exclusive for the closer. I mean, at this point, with all the multi-platform titles, the only exclusives anyone can really tout is getting DLC for a game before anyone else. That's a bit sad.
It was about what I'd expect from a presentation with no new hardware to announce or show off. Just a lot of games. Although I will say that there seemed to be a lot less focus on Kinect than last year. Or else Microsoft just got better about integrating it into the presentation. Mentioning the EA Sports titles had Kinect features, and then Dance Central 3 and Fable: The Journey were just presented with no fanfare. And the web browsing and Bing searching used the Kinect voice controls, too, but they didn't make a big deal out of it. They were pretty matter-of-fact about it. Are they just assuming that everyone's got a Kinect now so they don't need to push it as hard? Because I'm not so sure that's the case. Still, I appreciate not being smacked over the head with it repeatedly!