Modern Warfare 3
The Microsoft briefing opens with a familiar sight: The pulsing green of the Modern Warfare 3 logo. After a few moments, we're taken to New York Harbor. A group of U.S. soldiers is attempting to sneak onto a Russian sub. Armed only with their weapons and small submersible vehicles, they sneak through the mine-infested harbor toward their target. It's a tense sequence, as the harbor has poor visibility and the only way to avoid mines is to use sonar. Before long, they reach the submarine and plant explosives on it, and this does enough damage to force the submarine to rise to the surface.
From here, the action switches to something more classically Modern Warfare. While New York burns in the distance, the soldiers break into the submarine and brutally kill anything that opposes them. The quarters are cramped and close, but that works to the soldiers' advantage, giving the Russians little room to hide. Eventually, the group reaches the main control room and uses an explosive to blow open the door, stunning everyone inside and giving the player a few moments of "bullet time" to kill the startled foes. Once the opposition is dead, the soldiers quickly search the captain and steal his launch keys before arming the submarine's missiles and launching them toward an unknown target.
As soon as that is done, they're forced to escape. A small escape craft is waiting outside the sub, but now the harbor is a flurry of activity. Ships, helicopters and giant carriers are engaged in a huge battle as the group battles Russian soldiers and tries to avoid missiles and explosives. After an intense chase through the harbor, the escape craft safely docks with a helicopter, and the soldiers escape unharmed.
The big news is that all of Modern Warfare 3's map packs and other downloadable content will come first to Xbox Live and later to PS3 and other systems.
The second big game at the show was the newest Tomb Raider title, which is a pseudo-reboot of the franchise and chronicles one of Lara Croft's earliest adventures. The demo opens with Lara suspended upside-down in mid-air in some kind of cloth cocoon. She's dirty and wounded, but her surroundings make it look like the least of her problems. The unfortunate adventurer is trapped in a dingy and dirty cave, and she's covered with bones and blood. In a similar bundle next to her is a skeletal corpse, a blatant foreshadowing of Lara's eventual fate. Without much of a choice, Lara swings back and forth. Her swinging knocks the corpse into a nearby fire, setting the cloth bundle aflame and dropping the skeletal remains to the floor. Swinging nearby, Lara sets her own bindings aflame and barely escapes.
Unfortunately, it's not a soft escape. Compared to the almost sterile acrobatics and jumps from the previous Tomb Raider titles, Lara's adventures here have a pretty violent and visceral impact. Lara falls to the ground painfully, a sharp shard of something stabbing into her side. She barely manages to pull it out with the aid of a Quick Time Event (QTE) button sequence and then begins to stumble away. She finds herself trapped down a long rock corridor, seemingly with no way out but forward. Lara stumbles around wounded, tripping and barely remaining upright. The only help she finds is a torch on the wall to provide a source of fire and light, allowing her to see ahead of herself and light other lamps.
Lara's first encounter with more sentient danger comes when a mysterious man attacks her. He claims he wants to "help" her, but his violent actions tell a very different story, and whatever help he offers, it would be bad news for Lara. Another QTE breaks her free and lets her stumble into a small cave just before the wall collapses behind her. Unfortunately, the new cave is filled almost to the top with water. Lara can barely remain afloat, and it's everything she can do to keep her head and the valuable torch above the water.
Once she escapes the cave, we get our first glimpse at the puzzle-style gameplay for which Tomb Raider is so well known. Lara now has an ability called "Survival Instincts" that will highlight important objects in the environment, not unlike the Detective mode in Arkham Asylum. Using only her torch, some convenient gondolas and flammable objects in the environment, Lara is able to successfully transfer some objects from one side of a cave to another, allowing them to detonate explosives without Lara blowing up at the same time.
Unfortunately, setting off the explosives makes the fragile cave begin to collapse. This is where the classic Tomb Raider platforming and acrobatics comes into play. Lara has to jump, climb and slide her way through the cave as it falls apart around her. The acrobatics looked smooth and intuitive, but it's early to judge what Lara can do. There's certainly more of a sense of realism when compared to other Tomb Raider titles. Everything has more weight and realism; whereas classic Lara would do implausible backflips and handstands, the new Lara looks like she's hanging on by the skin of her teeth. The demo ends with Lara climbing out of the cave and getting her first glimpse of the desert island on which she is stranded; the only signs of life are a bunch of shipwrecks along the nearby rocky shores.
EA Sports announced its support for the Xbox 360 with four upcoming sports titles being confirmed to use the Kinect's various features: FIFA, Madden NFL, Tiger Woods PGA Golf and an unannounced new game. Each will include various game-specific Kinect features. The new Madden will allow you to use the Kinect voice recognition to call an audible.
In addition, other upcoming Electronic Arts titles will also feature Kinect support. Although most are unannounced, it was confirmed that The Sims 3: Pets and Family Game Night 4 will both contain Kinect features.
Mass Effect 3
Mass Effect 3 is no particular surprise, but its Kinect support was quite the revelation. In this particular case, Kinect voice recognition can be used to decide what Commander Shepard says. During the demo, we see Commander Shepard talking to Mass Effect 2 squadmate Mordin, who is attempting to rescue female Krogans from certain death. Since the Krogans are a species on the verge of dying out due to a genophage that made it nearly impossible to reproduce, female Krogans are quite important. Kinect allows you to say the line you want Commander Shepard to say, and he (or she) will repeat it. It's not full recognition: You're simply picking the same options you could with a controller, but it's a neat feature. You can also use the voice recognition to order your squadmates to attack, move to certain positions or use their special powers.
Ghost Recon: Future Soldier
The new Ghost Recon game from Ubisoft will contain special Kinect-only features. In this case, the Kinect features involve the Gunsmith option, which is a new feature in Ghost Recon: Future Soldier that allows you to customize every part of your gun: the barrel, chamber, scope, side rail, etc. The Kinect lets you navigate this menu with voice options and gestures. You can wave your hand to move the gun around, separate the various parts, or even use voice commands to switch to certain predefined modes, such as "close combat" or even "random."
Once you've built a gun, you can even use the Kinect to test it out on a firing range. One of your hands holds the "gun," and the other the "trigger." Moving one hand around aims the gun and allows you to target the foe you want to shoot. Opening your other hand pulls the trigger, allowing you to roughly replicate the act of firing a gun. If you attached a scope to the gun, you can even pump your hand in the air to zoom in and out. It's a small but neat feature, and it shows that Kinect has the potential to allow for realistic shooting games. It was also confirmed that all future Tom Clancy titles will have some form of Kinect features.
The Xbox Live Kinect experience is also set to be improved. Microsoft will be increasing the number of partnerships it has with various corporations — including YouTube and Bing — to allow for more movies, games and music to be available on Xbox Live. The interface will be improved to make it easier to use the Kinect to browse these features. By using Bing, you can ask the Xbox to search for any subject, and it will bring up a list of games, movies, television shows and other available items that match your criteria.
Xbox Live will also include new forms of entertainment. Microsoft has a partnership with the Ultimate Fighting Championship to allow viewing of matches directly through Xbox Live. You'll be able to view old matches, shows and stats, and you even challenge your friends to see who can predict match outcomes, complete with online leaderboards. There will also be live television, including shows like "Castle," which can be viewed at any time through your Xbox.
Gears of War 3
As expected, Gears of War 3 is right on track to be released. Not a lot has changed since the last time we saw Gears of War 3, but we were given a brief glimpse of an early level. In this level, Marcus, Dom and their friends are living on an abandoned ship in the middle of the ocean. It seems safe enough until a monster squid launches an attack on the ship. While the rest of the team tries to kill the monster, Marcus and Dom must draw its attention. This involves a running gunfight along the ship as the two are forced to dodge tentacles and unload countless bullets into the monster's glowing yellow weak points. Eventually, one of them enters a Silverback robot suit to take on the monster with greater firepower. Marcus and Dom are able to lure the creature to the front of the ship so that their allies can drop a load of bombs onto it. The demo ends with our heroes jumping off the ship moments before the creature lands on them.
Developed by Crytek, Ryse is a Kinect game that's set during the fall of Rome. You play as a soldier caught in the middle of a bloody battle. The game is set in first-person view and controlled using the Kinect. You can slash and block by using gestures, and it looks shockingly violent. Aside from that small bit of information, though, there was little else about Ryse.
Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary
One of the few non-Kinect games on the list, Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary is an updated port of the original Halo: Combat Evolved. Although the gameplay looks quite similar, the campaign and visuals have been updated and modified to be head and shoulders above the original title. The game's multiplayer will also be ported over, allowing for Xbox Live cooperative gameplay. Seven of the original Halo maps will be ported to the Anniversary edition, although they will be modified for Xbox Live play.
Forza Motorsport 4
Another Xbox 360 exclusive title, Forza 4 is the latest in the long line of Forza Motorsport games. There was very little gameplay footage in our brief preview, but a few things were confirmed. There will be Kinect integration, including voice commands and headtracking. Community car modes and rival modes will make an appearance, and the title will support up to 16 players in a single game. Over 80 manufacturers are lending their cars to the game, and monthly expansions will continue to add new content. The game is due out Oct. 11.
Fable: The Journey
The latest in the Fable franchise is actually a pretty big departure from the norm. While the three previous Fable titles were action-RPGs, the new Fable: The Journey is a Kinect-enabled rail shooter. Set sometime after Fable 3, the world of heroes has died out. The recurring character Theresa encounters a seemingly normal young carriage driver, who saves her from a mysterious evil. She enlists him to become one of the first new heroes, and there the game begins.
The gameplay in Fable: The Journey looks like your average rail shooter with one big difference: Instead of shooting a gun, you're casting magic. Blowing up things isn't as simple as pointing and clicking because you must use the Kinect to make gestures to cast spells. Simple spells can be done with fast gestures, but casting powerful spells involves more complex and lengthy movements. It's an interesting twist on the rail shooter genre, although die-hard Fable fans may be disappointed with the direction the franchise is taking. It's due out in 2012.
Not a lot of information was provided, but Microsoft also confirmed that popular PC game Minecraft will make its way to the 360. While no release date has been announced, it can be confirmed that it will be exclusive to the 360 and feature Kinect integration.
Disneyland Adventures is a partnership between Microsoft and Disney, and it's an attempt to bring the fun of Disneyland to every home with a Kinect. Disneyland has been carefully modeled as an interactive virtual environment that you can explore using the Kinect and your Avatar. You can wander everywhere, from Main Street to Sleeping Beauty's Castle, and see the sights without having to leave your home. The various rides are represented by minigames, where players race through large rail-based areas to collect coins and avoid obstacles.
Kinect Star Wars
Kinect Star Wars is a new game based on the "Clone Wars" cartoon series. Players are put in control of a nameless Jedi and tasked with beating up as many deadly droids and evil Sith as they can. Players can't move around but use gestures to "pull" themselves to enemies. Swinging your hand will swing your saber, allowing you to slash foes or block laser blasts, although in the video they showed, this looked awkward. You can also use gestures to utilize your various Force powers, such as pulling wreckage out of the way or leaping over an enemy with Force-enhanced agility.
Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster
Doublefine Games, known for titles like Brutal Legend and Psychonauts, are taking a slightly more kid-friendly approach to the name game. Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster is an educational Kinect game built around everyone's favorite Sesame Street characters. The game is presented like a storybook, where Elmo and Cookie Monster team up to help an unfortunate monster make friends despite his scary appearance. This is mostly done through a series of minigames. One minigame has the players (in the guise of Elmo and Cookie Monster) mimicking the scary actions of the monster to show that they're not scared. Another has them collecting glowbugs with the Kinect to grab the flying creatures so they can light up the monsters to look less scary. It may not be the game that people were hoping for from Doublefine, but Once Upon a Monster looks like a solid game for younger kids.
A brand-new feature to the Xbox Live dashboard, available today, is Kinect Funlabs. The Funlabs is a community resource where new Kinect minigames will be created and shared. Three were shown off in our brief demo:
- Kinect Me allows you to automatically use Kinect's photo-recognition ability to make an Avatar automatically instead of asking you to do so manually.
- Kinect Sparkler lets you use your fingers to draw on pictures with glowing sparkles that can be drawn in 3-D around a picture, allowing you to draw both in front and in back of whatever you've photographed. You can even twist the picture slightly to see from other angles.
- Kinect Googly Eyes allows you to photograph a real object and transform it into an Avatar that can be used in games. Once you can it in, the object can be moved around using Kinect as if it was your body.
Kinect Sports Season 2
The sequel to Kinect Sports, Season 2 contains six new minisports games that improve upon those in the original Kinect Sports. There are six sports: Baseball, Darts, Football, Golf, Skiing and Tennis, although we only got to see two.
- Kinect Sports Golf looks like a fairly straightforward golf game. You can swing the club just as you would a real club by using body controls, and you can switch clubs by using vocal commands. You can also view the entire fairway by lifting your hands to your eyes. It looks simple, but also like a lot of fun.
- Kinect Sports Football is actually a cooperative game. Two players can work together to play a simple bit of football. You pick your play by using a vocal command, and then one player runs and the other tosses the ball. You have to time it right because throwing the ball too early makes it hard for the other player to outrun their pursuers, and throwing it too late gets the quarterback sacked hard.
Dance Central 2
The sequel to what is arguably still the best game in the Kinect line, Dance Central 2 doesn't contain many surprises. It contains the same basic gameplay as the first, but with a load of new features. This include simultaneous multiplayer dancing, a campaign mode and a redesigned version of the "Break it Down" mode. All of the available DLC and music from the first game can be ported to the sequel.
The biggest part of the show was, unfortunately, also the shortest. The brief video opens up with a glowing view of a person's heart and other organs slowly restarting while an indistinct voice yells. Eventually, the voice becomes clear and we recognize it as Cortana, shouting for Master Chief to wake up. The Chief quickly does, smashing out of the cryostasis chamber we last saw him in at the end of Halo 3. The ship explodes around him, the air and gravity failing, and as he rushes out of the ship. The camera zooms back to show a mysterious glowing object in the distance. Halo 4 is confirmed to be the first in a new trilogy of Halo titles.
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