Today was a pretty big day for the geek in me, and I made sure to watch the Microsoft keynote today at E3. From Microsoft came news of some really neat Kinect integration with a brand-new dashboard, games galore using the world record holding hardware and a teaser from our favorite Spartain.
First up, Microsoft keynote awash in Xbox green. There is a new dashboard for the Xbox 360 coming in the Fall Update. It is very clean, and white, featuring panels that look alike like the ones in Windows 7. One of the most sought-after features of the new dashboard that wasn't even announced at the keynote itself is cloud integration of both your Xbox Live profile and game saves. Also mentioned in the post-keynote press release is a 'beacon' that lets your friends know that you want to play certain games.
The new dashboard is looking like it integrated Kinect into the UI seamlessly. The demo showed the power of voice. You still have to activate Kinect by using the word “xbox,” but now you can pretty much speak whatever you command the 360 to do. Also, the 360 has been added to the long list of devices that are “binged.” Now you can use your voice to search across the 360. Be it a game, a video, Netflix, or even live TV. Bing is there to allow you to avoid digging through menus, and display results right there in front of you. Now, I personally hate Bing, and was shocked to see that Youtube, which is owned by Google, would make it on a Microsoft machine, and was hoping for Google search, but also there is Microsoft shoving Bing down our throats again. It looks like a winner though, and my personal feelings aside, should be a huge improvement moving forward as the amount of media that the 360 can digest grows.
There was the usual gamut of games, most of which are supporing Kinect in some form. Forza 4 looks great, and supports Kinect by tracking your head, and panning the camera as you drive. Kinect Star Wars is looking better than we saw last year at E3, and looking like it is a retail release. Also shown is a gladiator Rome-looking hack and slash game in a first-person view, and Dance Central 2 is finally supporting side by side dancing. Mass Effect 3 actually uses voice commands and gestures to augment gameplay in a positive way.
Overall the Kinect games have shown a massive leap forward from the games that we have currently, but still seem like they are first-gen games. The most impressive Kinect demonstration was Kinect Fun Labs.
Fun Labs is a (free!!!) download available now that lets you use some of the new tools available to the dev community. Kinect finally supports finger tracking and you can actually scan yourself into the game as an avatar. You can also scan anything you want to, say a creepy pillow, and interact with the pillow in the game, which will put really spooky googly eyes on the object, and you can dance with it. This fun little game is free and a really fun way to show off the potential of something that hacker have been showing off for almost a year now.
Halo:CE is ten years old and getting a Cata-style remake. The game is called Halo Combat Evolved Anniversary, and looks good. It is going to feature multiplayer and the difference between Xbox's must have launch title and the power of the mature Xbox 360 is quite stunning. While it didn't look as good as the game below, it is going to strike the nostalgic nerve in gamers like me while we wait for.
Halo 4. Teased in all the right ways. The teaser was short and the view of the Master Chief was even shorter, but I noticed a couple of things right off: jet packs, customizable weapons! The game looks sick and I hope that 343 is using the in-game engine to power its cut scenes because John has never looked so good.
The other game that has had me drooling is Battlefield 3. I got to see a live demo of a tank battle and I cannot say just how stunning the graphics on this game are. It is the best looking game that I have ever seen—ever.
This is game of the year material, and the combat is intense and realistic. I can't say enough about this game, I may break down and get a PC rig just to see this game in all of it's glory.
There was also footage of Modern Warfare 3, but honestly, I just looked like more of the same. Which isn't a really big deal considering the drama surrounding Infinity Ward, but nothing new or groundbreaking.