The yearly gaming convention that steals away many a gamer’s sleep has begun. Wake the fanboys, stoke the fires: E3 is upon us, and nary a gaming soul will be spared. E3 kicked off with Microsoft’s keynote this year. They announced a few doozies; Halo 4 and Gears of War 3 made an appearance. They announced a few things that will most likely be duds with the core Xbox gaming audience; A Disneyland Kinect game (they didn’t even get the better Disney) and a Sesame Street game developed by none other than gaming legend Tim Schafer, which still feels like a waste of Tim Schafer’s talents (he could be using them on Psychonauts 2!). A bunch of Kinect integration was discussed — some good, some forgettable — as well as the addition of YouTube, Bing, and an Xbox Live television streaming service. They also announced one big surprise: Minecraft on the Xbox 360.
Prepare to begin this year’s descent into E3 madness.
- Halo 4: Introduced by the tagline “Dawn of a new trilogy.” The game is slated for the 2012 holiday season. Yes, apparently, there will be a Halo 4, 5 and 6.
- Gears of War 3 made an appearance, introduced by the game’s design director Cliff Bleszinski and, for some reason, Ice-T, notable anti-police rapper who ended up playing a cop on television.
- Crytek, creators of the gorgeous-but-fairly-generic Crysis, made an appearance with a new game, called Ryse, which seems to feature a kind of Kinect-based gladiator style combat.
- Forza Motorsport 4: Just a sequel to Forza.
- Halo: Combat Evolved is getting the HD remake treatment, with co-op play over Xbox Live.
- A new iteration in the Fable franchise showed up to the keynote, dubbed Fable: The Journey. The short demo at the keynote featured Kinect controls and a first-person view of a character shooting a fireball. I guess we hit the trifecta of Xbox mascots: Halo, Gears of War and Fable.
- Kinect Disneyland Adventures was announced, and seems to be a Disneyland-based minigame collection for the Kinect. Available during the holiday period. If you want a game based on the lesser Disney, that is. That’s right.
- Kinect Star Wars was announced, and if you guessed that it wasn’t a minigame collection based on waving your arms around, you’d be right! Because it’s a minigame collection based on waving your arms around with a voice-activated lightsaber: “Lightsaber, on!” This is actually a thing that happened.
- Gaming legend Tim Schafer showed up on stage, which is awesome, because Tim Schafer doing anything anywhere is awesome. Even if it is to show off his studio’s new Sesame Street game, Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster. Kinect-enabled, as you might’ve guessed. The demo featured a “simulated family,” as Schafer put it, waving their arms in front of the Kinect — like you do — controlling Elmo and Cookie Monster in their attempt to pretend to be scary. This is also actually a thing that happened.
- Kinect Sports Season 2. Minigame collection featuring baseball, skiing, darts, golf, tennis, and football. We have Wii Sports to thank for this continuing onslaught of sports minigame shovelware.
- Harmonix showed up to show off Dance Central 2. Is this the first time in history that both Tim Schafer and Harmonix showed up on the same stage and it was underwhelming?
- Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 DLC seems to be a time exclusive on Xbox 360, though no other details have been given.
- Ghost Recon: Future Soldier, which will utilize Kinect to allow players to make 29 unique weapons through gesture or voice. The bigger news is that Yves Guillemot, Ubisoft head honcho, claims that all future Tom Clancy titles will utilize Kinect in some way.
- Four sports titles for Kinect: PGA, Madden, FIFA, and one undisclosed.
- Mass Effect 3 will also support Kinect, and players will be able to use voice commands to choose the dialog choices, as well as deliver voice commands to their in-game squad. You know, things that happened a decade ago. Also, a little under a decade ago, but that was terrible.
- A new Tomb Raider, which focuses on 21-year-old Lara Croft, and is about “how an ambitious 21-year-old Lara Croft becomes a hardened survivor,” planned for a fall 2012 release.
Big Awesome Surprise
- Minecraft was announced for the Xbox 360, and will release sometime in 2012. It will be Kinect-enabled. You know, kind of like it already is, but I guess it’ll be officially enabled this time. No other details were announced, such as exactly how Kinect would factor in, or if connecting to the various Minecraft servers around the Internet would be cross-platform.
- Kinect Fun Labs. A permanent addition to the Xbox Live Dash, which goes live today. It seems to be a very minimal creation, interactive art and general mucking-about tool, similar to the PS Eye screensavers.
- YouTube is coming to Xbox Live.
- Live, streaming television will come to Xbox 360, which can be voice activated via Kinect and searchable through Microsoft’s Bing service. None of the content providers have been announced as of yet, aside from ESPN.
So, there we have it. A little underwhelming. Did anyone not expect Halo, Gears of War, Fable and Forza? Not a disappointment by any means, if you’re into Xbox franchises, but not much in the way of huge fangasm bombs. Perhaps Nintendo or Sony can deliver the fangasms usually associated with E3, and hopefully Microsoft is saving something for the middle of the show. Hey, at least Minecraft happened, right?
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