E3 2011 started with a blast, as the Microsoft conference provided the first gameplay peek at surely the year’s biggest gaming release, Modern Warfare 3. The packed out Galen Centre in Downtown Los Angeles was treated to a level of explosiveness that would even rattle Michael Bay’s temperament – submarines explode, bullets are fired rapidly and New York’s coastline gets completely obliterated. Sheer lunacy, sure, but it’s some of the most impressively bombastic imagery from the Call of Duty series to date.
It was a thrilling kick-start to proceedings that unfortunately lost momentum rather quickly as Don Mattrick, president of Microsoft Interactive Entertainment Business, hit the stage to welcome everyone.
That was followed by a brief look at the Tomb Raider reboot, which saw a young Lara fighting off cannibals while trying to escape a cave using just her cunning, along with using survival skills to forge items to solve puzzles. It was brutal and slightly uncomfortable demonstration, showing Ms. Croft getting stabbed, dragged and slapped around with reckless abandon.
A quick rundown from EA Sports’ main man, Peter Moore, details that the next FIFA, Madden and Tiger Woods, along with one unmentioned title, will support Kinect. An interesting announcement but one that lacked any specific details to hold interest.
It was the start of a Kinect-focused conference that showed off a few nifty tricks but held few surprises. The best use of the tech came from BioWare’s hotly anticipated sci-fi trilogy capper, Mass Effect 3. The voice recognition technology is the type of ingenious implementation of Kinect that many gamers hoped would be seen at launch. The game recognises the player reading out the dialogue options on the screen and also stretches to the player being able to command their squad while on the battlefield. It sounds intriguing but it could prove deadly for your squad when you’re told to take the bin out.
Ghost Recon implemented Kinect in a more showy fashion, allowing players to pull apart and rebuild a weapon in twenty different pieces using the flick of a finger. You could also use voice recognition to quickly select a weapon. Shortly after, Gears of War 3 showed its own visual treats via the age old method of giant monsters attacking people with guns (with Ice-T on stage helping with the presentation on stage).
How Kinect would be shaping the future of Xbox really took precedence throughout. Crytek’s new Rome-based head-butt-a-thon, Ryse, looked like a first-person Kinect God of War. The beautiful majesty of Forza 4 briefly appeared just so fans don’t forget. Even the announcement of Fable: The Journey, which allows players to cast spells and ride horses with Kinect didn’t make much impact – even the usually hyperbolic Peter Molyneux seemed half-interested.
One Kinect title which has had gamers salivating since its announcement is Star Wars Kinect and we got our first look at it in action. A montage of all things Star Wars, the game thunders through many popular locations including Tatooine, Coruscant and Endor. It looks like the game could possibly span the length of the prequel trilogy, with the Episode I pod race making an appearance. The lightsabre fighting seemed to be a bit reliant on random flailing but it looks like a fun take on the series – although there’s still concern with player feedback in terms of lightsabre battles.
It was then a mix of family-friend Kinect guff (Disneyland Adventures, Kinect Sports Season 2 and Dance Central 2) that looked rather uninspired save for Tim Schafer’s (of Brutal Legend and Psychonauts) endearing Sesame Street title.
The conference did finish with one major piece of news. An announcement that wasn’t so much surprising as the end of a good year of spot-on speculation. Yes, Master Chief is back in Halo 4 and while all we saw was a nice teaser of an exploding ship and Chief escaping, it was a successful close to a rather tepid opening to E3.