The message Microsoft seems to be sending at this year’s E3 is that Kinect is the wave of its future. Of course, along with this are the usual game announcements, including the revelation that a new Halo 4, due out during the holiday season in 2012, will be the first of a new trilogy. Microsoft also showed bits of the Tomb Raider reboot and announced that the console version of Minecraft will be an Xbox exclusive with Kinect compatibility.
Big Games and Kinect
The Microsoft press conference was visual-heavy, starting with a look at Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3, due out November 8. After that Microsoft Interactive Entertainment president Don Mattrick told us that last year was “the biggest year in Xbox history.” And this year, it’ll be more so thanks to additional Kinect experiences.
Following his brief statements came a teaser for the new Tomb Raider, featuring the origins story of Lara Croft. She seemed annoyingly vocal about her clearly painful experiences, but we’ll excuse that because this is, after all, supposed to be her first time doing any of this stuff. It looked as though the game features some interesting story elements to go with the action/adventure parts.
EA Sports President Peter Moore came onstage to announce four titles that would use Kinect: Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Madden NFL, FIFA and one more, to be revealed later. Looks like The Sims will also jump on the Kinect bandwagon, with the next one featuring voice control. Family Game Night 4 was also named as a title that would utilize Kinect.
BioWare’s Ray Muzyka next announced that Mass Effect 3 will also support Kinect, with voice recognition being used both in dialogue and battle sequences – if the trailer is any indication.
Next up: Ubisoft’s Yves Guillermot and Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon. Yes, it will also support Kinect; in fact, you’ll be able to use Kinect to customize weapons as well as shoot them. A demonstration showed how players can actually create one of 20 million weapons using just gestures and voice. Guillermot noted, in fact, that all Tom Clancy titles from now own will leverage Kinect.
After a glance or two at these high-profile titles, we got some news about Xbox features; Xbox Live’s Marc Whitten said that this year Microsoft will “increase its partnerships by a factor of 10.” Here are some of the new features coming to Xbox:
-Bing voice-controlled searchability
-Live Ultimate Fighting Championship streaming
Following a little UFC action we get a cameo appearance from Ice-T to help show Gears of War 3 and the news that there have now been over a million pre-orders for the title.
A rep from Crytek comes on next to tell us that the game called Codename: Kingdoms is now Ryse, a first-person Kinect title. A trailer is shown.
After this, we see Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary footage; the reboot will have better graphics than the first one from ten years ago and features online co-op, online multiplayer and will be on store shelves starting November 14.
Then a bit of love comes to Forza 4, which has 16-person multiplayer and (surprise!) will support Kinect. We also see a Fable: The Journey trailer. Yes, it’ll support Kinect too.
The Minecraft announcement came next. Looks like Minecraft will make an exclusive console appearance on Xbox 360, and it will support Kinect.
For the Kids
The next few announcements made here appeal to the kid in all of us, and prove that Xbox is also looking to Kinect to made headway into family rooms across the world. First up, a collaboration with Disney is revealed and footage from the game Disneyland Adventures is shown, complete with actors using the Kinect to take on some of the adventures you get in the happiest place on Earth – fly like Peter Pan, or roll around in Wonderland, if it suits your fancy.
Next, Star Wars Kinect came up. Imagine virtually swinging around your non-existent lightsaber as battle droids attack. Pod races, the Cloud City, the Emperor and Kit Fisto all seem to be involved here.
Then we went straight to another iconic kid’s property, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster from Double Fine, an Xbox exclusive. I think you can imagine what we saw here – Elmo, Cookie Monster and some of our favorite characters from childhood. I probably don’t need to add here that Once Upon A Monster is Kinect-enabled.
Kinect Fun Labs
Microsoft’s Kudo Tsunoda announced Kinect Fun Labs, a tool that allows more innovations such as people scanning, which takes your picture and creates your avatar actually based on how you look. Kinect finger tracking was also showcased; it lets you draw more precisely, and even in 3-D. Finally, there was object scanning, in which any object – a toy car, a skateboard – can be scanned front and back to create a 3-D, animated, in-game object. Fun Labs is already available on your Xbox.
Sports and Dance
Kinect Sports Season 2 was the next trailer to come up, and it will apparently offer six new sports, including tennis and skiing. In-game voice and new Kinect gestures have been added to this, the top-selling franchise on Kinect to date.
Dance Central with voice control was next, and it turns out that all songs from the first Dance Central can be imported into the second one. Simultaneous multiplayer dancing is also supported in the new version, which provides endless dreaming for your teenage star wanna-bes.
And finally, the one everyone had been waiting for. A short teaser for Halo 4 was shown, with an announced date of holiday 2012. And it looks like this game will be the beginning of a new trilogy – and cash cow for Microsoft, most likely.
Mattrick, in his end of conference wrap-up, said, “Last year, Xbox 360 changed the game with Kinect. This year, with the power of Xbox, the simplicity of Kinect and the intelligence of Bing, Xbox 360 will change living room entertainment forever.”
Big words, Microsoft, for the only Big Three company that did not introduce any new hardware in its E3 press conference – but it does look like developers are starting to use Kinect in more interesting ways, so it’ll be nice to see if these games are able to change the landscape at all, or if Microsoft is just blowing smoke.