It’s been little time since Microsoft wrapped up their presser at this year E3 expo, and aside from the surprise of Splinter Cell: Blacklist it was the mediocre presentation that gamers were expecting. That’s not to say that there weren’t glimpses of hope throughout the presentation though – the conference did start pretty damn well - however these were ultimately drowned out by a mixture of lacklustre announcements and performances (looking at you, Usher).
What Microsoft Did Well
Halo 4 - The presentation opened with a brand new gameplay reveal of blockbuster exclusive Halo 4. It’s safe to say that 343 have seemingly refreshed and reinvigorated the game with the inclusion of new weapons (THANKGOD THE BR IS BACK!!!), and badass fire breathing, teleporting enemies. The new HUD system was also a nice touch, with objectives now popping-up at the top of your screen, and visual transmissions from allies such as Cortana can be seen for the first time. Whilst the gameplay wasn’t as lengthy as gamers would’ve hoped (with multiplayer nowhere to be seen), it certainly left viewers wanting more. The environment looks bright and beautiful, and new enemies and weapons are exactly what the franchise needed. Did I mention the BR is back?
Splinter Cell: Blacklist - As I touched on earlier, MS’ conference really did start convincingly. Straight after Halo, viewers were taken to a terrorist camp in the Middle East, with stealth gameplay elements becoming noticeable within seconds of this intriguing trailer. Sure enough, a few badass slow-mo kills later and the game is revealed to be the next entry in the Splinter Cell series. Series protagonist Sam Fisher returns, this time with a new arsenal of ways to dispose of enemies. Sam is now the leader of the newly-formed Echelon unit, giving players access to weapons and tactics like never before. Kinect voice integration is also an innovative new addition to the series, with players able to speak (using Kinect) to distract and take out guards, in given situations.
New media partnerships - Whilst the majority of the channels featured in Microsoft’s announcement will more than likely only be available in America, it’s importance should not be underestimated. Here they’ve launched an attempt at the more casual Xbox 360 owners, with Nickelodeon a smart move for the younger generation, as well as access to a slew of ESPN channels and NBA and NHL games for sports fanatics. They didn’t forget about gamers though, with Machinima revealed as a partner. If Microsoft bring exclusive Machinima content to the Xbox, whether it be in the form of weekly videos or challenges, they could really be onto something.
What Microsoft Didn’t Do So Well…
Usher's unforgettably terrible performance - If you haven’t seen it, check it out below and enjoy (not the good kind of enjoyment either). In what will surely go down as one of the most laughable moments of this year’s E3, Microsoft for some reason thought Usher would actually do a good job of promoting new instalment Dance Central 3. Nek minnit, Usher is leaving most of the singing to the backing music being played behind him, and his dancing has barely anything to do with the game. The musical segment was nothing short of an embarrassment and I’ll doubt we’ll see anything remotely similar from Microsoft at next year’s event.
Lack of gameplay from new exclusives - Microsoft revealed new exclusives in the form of assassin machine LocoCycle and Gore Verbinski’s Matter. Whilst the premise behind both games looks promising, we weren’t really shown a whole lot in terms of gameplay – the thing that really gets people excited. Though undoubtedly we’ll hear a lot more regarding the two in coming months, MS really could’ve cast a larger spotlight on them during the conference.
Too much software, not enough games -
Whilst new media partnerships and the addition of Xbox Music and SmartGlass are all well and good, they’re simply not enough to have consumers excited, and for the majority of people, interested. When people want to listen to music at home, it’ll be through their computer, which in the overwhelmingly majority of cases is connected to iTunes. Xbox Music really isn’t going to change anything in that regard – iTunes is far too dominant. SmartGlass, on the other hand, is basically Microsoft’s take on the Wii U GamePad. It’s a nifty little feature that we’ll see in Windows 8-enabled tablets and smartphones in the future, providing real time info about our favourite games and shows/movies, and even allowing us to interact in some cases. However, again, this won’t excite the majority of people. Sony’s presser only hours ago showed cross-platform play between the Vita and PS3, new exclusives and PS1 classics announced (for the Vita), as well as several exclusives for the PS3. Microsoft did not offer nearly as much (in terms of first-party offerings), and I won’t be surprised if Microsoft lags far behind Nintendo and Sony for the next 12 months.
Whilst what we saw from Halo 4 and Splinter Cell: Blacklist looked promising, the Xbox 360 is going to have to heavily rely on its third-party offerings to compete with Nintendo and Sony. Games such as Resident Evil 6, Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, Assassin’s Creed III and Tomb Raider will certainly provide gamers with hours of entertainment, but Microsoft desperately needed something new to rouse the gaming world – perhaps we’ll see this next year with Bungie’s Destiny? It was never a secret that Microsoft weren’t going to announce anything special at this year’s E3 – but they damn well need to ensure that they come out in 2013, guns blazing, next-gen console in hand.
By Jake Galouzis - Bio