It started to seem like every year Nintendo could impress with their innovative hardware and nostalgic titles starring Mario, Zelda and the like. At this year’s press conference, however, things fell flat and at times felt downright boring. The robotic president of Nintendo of America Reggie Fils-Aime could not manage to lift spirits as he trudged through a small lineup of mostly typical games being produced for the Wii U. Besides a brief video detailing the Wii U Game Pad, Ninty spent no time discussing the new hardware; they didn’t even show off the Pro Controller that had many fanboys drooling when it was announced just days before the press event during the company’s pre-E3 online stream. We came into the Nintendo E3 presser knowing that it would likely be focused entirely on games; Reggie confirmed this at the very start of it. When the dust settled in the end, though, I wasn’t left very impressed.
If you think about it, this press conference was important for Nintendo. It gave them the opportunity to fully flesh out their next-gen console and sell it by showing off the innovative ways the Wii U Game Pad will transform the way people play games. The company made sure to lineup first party games like Pikmin 3, New Super Mario Bros. U, and Wii Fit U but they failed to really capture how they will take advantage of the Game Pad. They showed off quick pre-recorded game sessions, when instead they should have brought developers out to show gameplay in real time. That said, here’s what we learned. In Pikmin, the Game Pad enables up to four leaders to control standard and new “rock” Pikmin to preform a variety of tasks. The Game Pad shows you a map of the land and makes it easier to roam back and forth between your leaders. The new Mario title supports up to five players, four using Wiimotes and one on the Game Pad. Reggie says that the Game Pad gamer “can use the touchscreen to helpfully place blocks along the way.” And that’s it. Nothing more was revealed as to how the Game Pad will truly enhance the gaming experience. We do know, however, that you’ll be able to pause the game on the big screen and continue playing it on the Game Pad, which is a cool feature. Wii Fit U is tailored to once again take advantage of the Balance Board peripheral and this time also the Game Pad to aid users in new exercise routines and “off-TV play.” In the demo video, a women watches a nature channel while a man continues his workout session looking at a GamePad for support.
Third party developers also had a presence at the event, namely WB Games and Ubisoft. WB is bringing Batman Arkham City to the Wii U but with a subtitle Armored Edition. The Game Pad will provide gamers a look at the Batman’s inventory, among other things. The popular, fun title Scribblenauts is coming to Wii U as well under the name Scribblenauts Unlimited. Later Ubisoft showed off Just Dance 4 (up to four people can dance and the Game Pad holder acts as a “puppet master” selecting the dance moves) and ZombiU (the most intriguing of the bunch that turns the Game Pad into a sniper scope, an x-ray scanner, and code breaker). A game with the working title Sing showed off a karaoke-style game that fills the Game Pad with lyrics “so that you can face your friends instead of the TV screen” while you’re singing and dancing along to the music. Yeah. All the other titles that were revealed got packed into a coming soon reel that didn’t quite whet anyone’s appetite.
At one point a Nintendo rep tried to dive into what’s coming to the 3DS, but he barely had time to say anything at all. What we got was a quick look at two new Mario titles and one starring his taller brother Luigi: New Super Mario Bros. 2 (“this Mario is all about the gold”), Paper Mario: Sticker Star, and Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon. And then another coming soon reel displayed a bunch of 3DS titles so quickly you could barely muster up excitement for any of them.
Nintendo ended the event with the unveiling NintendoLand, a collection of mini-games that will ship alongside the Wii U that serves the same function as Wii Sports did with the Wii. Simply put, NintendoLand will help gamers understand the appeal of the second screen packed inside the Game Pad. NintendoLand is a theme park that includes twleve attractions. At the presser five of the twelve were announced and they are: Donkey Kong’s Crash Course, Luigi’s Ghost Mansion, Animal Crossing: Sweet Day, The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest, and Takamaru’s Ninja Castle. As you can tell, each attraction takes on a classic Nintendo franchise and when your Mii enters one it will also change appearance to match the setting. The theme park is an open world environment where Miis around the world can gather and interact with one another.
In the end, Nintendo spent way too much time talking about how they didn’t have enough time to cover everything. Reggie and company kept pressing that viewers visit e3.nintendo.com for more information regarding the games; during all that time they could have packed in more game reveals and proper demonstrations for both the Wii U and 3DS. In the beginning Reggie introduced the term “asymmetric gameplay”; he said, “this means putting one player with the Game Pad in a solitary role, competing differently, maybe even winning different. Pitting just you against everyone else.” Sound interesting, right? Though the term was bounced around a couple times thereafter, it wasn’t fully realized because none of the games were fleshed out with real time demos. They tried to do it at the end with NintendoLand’s Luigi’s Ghost Mansion mini-game, but that demo got boring quick because we were watching a pre-recorded demo that was too wordy and scattered.
Reggie also through this out: “Our goal with the Wii U this year…is to provide new and engrossing game experiences for every type of player–from the hardest of the core to the newest of newbies.” Batman and ZombiU are welcome entries for the hardcore types, but Nintendo failed to address that demographic here. Titles like Wii U Fit and NintendoLand dominated the show, and if Ninty was really dedicated to draw in the Xbox and PlayStation crowd they would have allotted time to more first and third party games that scream “I’m hardcore!” This they did not do. Since much really wasn’t discussed at Ninty’s presser this year, I will echo Reggie and advise you to visit e3.nintendo.com to learn more about how the new titles will integrate the Wii U Game Pad into gameplay. The 3DS is prominently featured there, too. The Wii U is releasing this holiday season with no hard release date, no price, and a launch lineup that barely has legs. Nintendo’s got to hold another conference before release time if they want to ramp up anticipation for their next-gen offering because this one didn’t do it.
Other announcements made at Nintendo’s press conference include: (Click here for more…)
E3 2012: Sony takes care of the hardcore gamers with exclusives ‘Beyond: Two Souls’ & ‘The Last of Us’
Sony was all about the games at this year’s E3. The company’s press event started off with a PS3 exclusive title from Quantic Dream, the development team behind the visually impressive Heavy Rain and the even better looking, emotional Kara tech demo that came out recently. Lead developer David Cage revealed his new project Beyond: Two Souls with an extended trailer that introduces the game’s main character Jodie Holmes. Cage hand-picked actress Ellen Page (Juno) to star as Holmes in a game that begs the questions what happens when you die? Cage describes the game as “emotional, mature, and unique, but also epic, breath-taking, and spectacular” and he teases that “if you make the right decisions, maybe you will discover what lies beyond.” Cage ranks up there with Avatar inventor James Cameron as a master of the performance capture technology. Visually mind-blowing with an intriguing storyline, Beyond: Two Souls is a strong exclusive for PS3.
Next, the PlayStation maker brought out developer Super Bot Entertainment to play a round of PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale. It’s Sony’s answer to Nintendo’s Super Smash Bros., a game that pits classic PlayStation characters against each other in a battle to a button-mashing death. The game stars Kratos (God of War), Sweet Tooth (Twisted Metal), Sly Cooper, Mael Radec (Killzone 2), Fat Princess, and PaRappa the Rapper; at the presser Nathan Drake (Uncharted) and Big Daddy (Bioshock) were added to the mix. More significant than the on-screen battle was that the demonstration consisted of some players using DualShock controllers on the PS3 and others participating with PS Vitas. The game will be released on both the PS3 and PS Vita and will come packed with Cross-Play and Cross-Save functionalities. The former meaning that you can fight players on your PS3 and wirelessly with PS Vita owners; the latter meaning you can start a battle on your PS Vita, save it, and resume it on your PS3 (and vice-versa).
Following the innovations of Nintendo’s Wii U and Microsoft’s SmartGlass, Sony is looking to expand its services to a second screen, in this case the in-house PS Vita. In addition to Cross-Play and Cross-Save with Battle Royale, Sony also teased “cross-controller” downloadable content with LittleBigPlanet 2. Later this year the new DLC will allow gamers to “play, create and share using the PS3 and Vita” together. Sony’s Jack Tretton described the experience like this. “Utilizing dual-screen gaming in single player, Vita becomes an enhanced controller for the PS3. It’ll give each player their own controls and perspectives but working towards the same objective.” He summed up, “Cross-platform features will enhance gameplay and create completely new experiences.” They didn’t focus on cross-platform functionality as nearly as much as Microsoft did, but here’s to hoping that Sony is working closely with developers and content providers to enable this exciting technology more broadly across games and other forms of entertainment.
The PlayStation Move card was played this year by way of a new augmented reality experience called Wonderbook. Sony has invented a physical book filled with pages with AR markers on them that when laid out in front of a PS Eye camera will bring to life stories much like a pop-up book would, only on a much more grander scale. PS owners need only purchase one Wonderbook and it has the potential to tell theoretically an unlimited number of stories. Sony says they’re working closely with developers and authors to come up with various interactive tales. The first one comes from Harry Potter scribe J.K. Rowling and it’s called “Book of Spells.” It features “exclusive, new and original writing from Rowling herself.” The PS Move controller becomes a wand and the gamer-reader embarks on an journey that will reveal the origins of the spells introduced in the Potter books, like the levitation spell “levioso.” The book releases this fall. Sony makes a point that Wonderbook “isn’t limited to just stories.” It can also serve educational purposes: “imagine sailing the seven seas to explore an atlas, walking with dinosaurs, traveling beyond the stars to discover astronomy.” Though demos of this type of usage weren’t shown, Sony said that Moonbot Studios is developing “Diggs Nightcrawler,” a story inspired by film noir, so at least a couple of books will be ready when the physical Wonderbook hits shelves later this year.
Back to the games for the hardcore gamers… Assassin’s Creed III is coming to PS3 and its pirate-themed demo excited the crowd as did the announcement for Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation for the PS Vita. Link the two games together and another form of cross-functionality takes place. “Cross-goods” include bonus content like new personas for your assassin. Far Cry 3 enables four-player co-op; the prequel God of War: Ascension looks to be a bloody good time; and the next title from Naughty Dog The Last of Us faded out the press event with a bang. The visuals and mechanics of that game look stunning. With Beyond, God of War, and The Last of Us, Sony proved this year that they are fully committed to securing innovative and genre-defining games to the PS3. There’s a reason why PlayStation fans are so loyal; even though the PS3 is transforming into an entertainment hub akin to the Xbox, Sony never loses focus on what matters most: the games.
Other announcements made at Sony’s press conference include: (Click here for more…)
With no new hardware releasing this year, Microsoft made sure to focus squarely on games and new experiences powered by Xbox 360. It was announced that this year the company’s seven year old console went from being the #1 selling game machine in North America to being the best selling console in the world. And with everything that Microsoft showed off at their E3 press conference this year, you’d be remiss to think that they’ll lose the crown anytime soon.
Before jumping into the exciting software titles Microsoft has in store for gamers in the not-so-distant future, let’s dive into the most talked about announcement coming out of their presser: Xbox SmartGlass. Leading up to E3, a rumor leaked that Microsoft was cooking up a new Xbox feature that would work similarly to AirPlay from Apple; one could wirelessly beam video content from a smartphone or tablet to the big screen TV in your living room. The leak became official at Microsoft’s briefing, but it would be proven that Xbox SmartGlass offers so much more than Apple’s AirPlay beaming. Real world examples follow. Start watching a movie on your tablet and with one click transfer it to your TV. As the movie is resumes on the big screen, your tablet doesn’t remain idle; instead it provides relavant content to what’s being played on your TV. Say you’re watching Sherlock Holmes; while it’s playing on the TV you can use your tablet to delve into the movie’s synopsis, cast, bonus features, and other content that pertains to the movie.
A neat feature, it still might not stimulate your appetite for SmartGlass. This will. Hop onto HBO GO and watch an episode of Game of Thrones. Through the power of SmartGlass you can follow the story that unfolds on the TV using your tablet as a guide through Westeros. In real time SmartGlass will help you keep up with the large cast of characters and goings-on with an expansive interactive map of Westeros. Microsoft is working close with content providers to bring these kind of experiences to Xbox, so this is only the tip of the iceberg.
In additional to expanding the world of movies and TV, SmartGlass will serve as a gaming controller of sorts to enhance gameplay for compatible titles. In Madden, for example, SmartGlass transforms your tablet into a playbook and allows you to create and execute routes using an innovative, touch-based interface. Will you be able to take control of Master Chief in Halo 4? Definitely not, but Microsoft showed off another way SmartGlass can enhance even the most hardcore games they offer. In Halo 4, Halo Waypoint data can be unlocked in-game and later accessed on your smartphone. Stuff like that. Again, Microsoft is spearheading the SmartGlass initiative, and soon we’ll see what game developers can think up to enhance their experiences by making them more interactive across multiple screens.
Movies, TV, games. What else will SmartGlass affect on Xbox? It will (at long last) enable Internet browsing on the console. Internet Explorer is coming to Xbox, and SmartGlass allows you to scroll and pinch-to-zoom on-screen content. Using Kinect you’ll also be able to control the web browser with your voice. SmartGlass also gives you the ability to navigate the Xbox dashboard using your fingers, in addition to your voice (Kinect) and a traditional controller.
Xbox’s Marc Whitten summed it up best when he closed the segment like this: SmartGlass is ”when devices work together to immerse you in entertainment.” He also went on to make a great point. You already own the devices that will make SmartGlass a possibility: smartphones, tablets, PCs. There is no need to purchase an additional controller, peripheral or console (looking at you, Nintendo) to make a second screen experience a reality. The SmartGlass companion app will be compatible with Windows 8 PCs, tablets and phones, as well as devices powered by iOS and Android. There is one catch, however. If you’re planning on beaming content from portable devices to the TV, said content must be purchased and rented from within Microsoft’s ecosystem, i.e. the Xbox Video storefront. With that said, Xbox SmartGlass is coming to Xbox, Windows 8, and the other aforementioned mobile platforms this fall.
Other announcements made at Microsoft’s press conference include: (Click here for more…)
Ahead of the Electronic Entertainment Expo that officially begins on Tuesday, Nintendo has kicked off the festivities with a “Nintendo Direct Pre E3 2012″ video featuring the company’s president Satoru Iwata and the upcoming Wii successor. He informs the press and gamers around the world that Nintendo’s E3 press conference will focus mostly on Wii U software, and so the Pre-E3 video is used as a platform to expand upon Wii U hardware and social infrastructure.
First, Iwata unveiled the final product version of the Wii U’s tablet-esque controller that is now officially called the Wii U GamePad. (The name is derived from the original NES controller that was also referred to as a “GamePad” since it was the first of its kind to not feature a joystick.) The controller has been tweaked and refined since its prototype days to provide maximized comfort. Most significantly, the two Circle Pads are have replaced by clickable analog sticks. Underneath the D-pad there’s a marker for the controller’s built-in NFC functionality; it is here where gamers will be able to place physical objects to enhance gameplay. The plus and minus buttons have been moved to the right side of the controller underneath the ABXY buttons. Along the bottom underneath the touch-capable screen is a new button labeled TV Control; clicking it opens up a TV remote app that turns your GamePad into an infrared remote control and guide for channel surfing. Around back the grips have been slightly transformed to improve ergonomics.
Next, Iwata unveiled a new accessory for the Wii U. Yet another controller and this one’s called the Wii U Pro Controller. Taking design cues from the original Wii’s Pro controller and Microsoft’s Xbox controller, Iwata describes the new peripheral as a “lighter, and maybe more attractive for longer, more intense forms of gaming” alternative to the GamePad. As you’ll notice in the gallery below, the Pro Controller is shown off sporting a slick coat of black; perhaps this is a sign that the Wii U will also come in black when it ships later this year.
Iwata wrapped things up by introducing Nintendo’s giant leap into the social space with Miiverse. When you turn on your Wii U, the Miiverse serves as your homescreen. It looks like Mii Plaza from the current Wii, with all your custom-made Miis mingling around a big white space, but this is so much more than that. Miiverse brings together your avatar, all the avatars you’ve created on the console, your friends’ avatars, and avatars of people from your country that are playing the same games as you. Miis are organized around the games and apps they are currently involved with. You can interact with this giant community of Miis via text messages and drawings that are sent through the GamePad. In addition to sharing messages to gamers in your locality and around the world, you can capture screenshots from games and share these too. Iwata says that developers will be able to take advantage of this messaging system inside their games to make for a more communal gaming experience. (Iwata makes the point that even if you are playing a game alone in your living room, you are not truly alone because the sense of community with the Miiverse is always there.) Iwata confirms that the Miiverse is destined to bring Nintendo gamers together like never before by making it accessible through web browsers on PCs, smartphones, and of course Ninty’s portable offering the 3DS. This social expansion, however, will not be available immediately at launch.
E3 is just around the corner, and Nintendo is ready to show off what really counts (read: the games) when they take the stage for their press conference on Tuesday at 9AM PST. The Wii U hardware and social network contain a goldmine of gaming potential, but in the end it always comes down to the software lineup. Will Nintendo impress with games beyond their typical lineup of first-party gems starring the company’s mascots Mario, Zelda, and Metroid? Keep it right here for the latest from Nintendo, Microsoft, and Sony as E3 kicks off later this week.
Check out the gallery below to see pictures of the final Wii U GamePad, the Wii U Pro Controller, and glimpses at the Miiverse interface. Jump after the break to watch Iwata’s half-hour Pre-E3 clip.
The second big E3 press conference was hosted by the PlayStation makers. Again, here’s all the info in easy to digest bullet-point form.
- President of Sony Computer Entertainment of America Jack Tretton started by addressing the elephant in the room. He apologized to everyone for the recent PlayStation Network outage.
- Sony announced that the PS3 is the leading Netflix streamer amongst consumers, account for almost 30 percent of Netflix’s streams. Coming this fall to PS3 owners is Best Buy’s CinemaNow video service, providing consumers with access to more than 12,000 TV episodes and movies for rental or purchase.
- Upcoming PS3 exclusives include: Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception (a demo was played and a 3D trailer was shown, due out November 1, 2011); Resistance 3 (Sony will ship a Resistance 3 Sharpshooter bundle dubbed the “Doomsday Edition” and it’ll come with the game, the gun accessory, the PlayStation Eye, and Move controllers, $150, due out September 6); the God of War Origins Collection will bring the PSP games Chains of Olympus and Ghost of Sparta to the PS3 remastered in HD and 3D; the Ico and Shadow of the Colossus collection is also coming to the PS3 with support for 3D gaming.
- Speaking of 3D gaming, Sony plans to drive adoption for the new in-home format by selling a PlayStation-branded 3DTV. The 24-inch set features a mode where players can view individual, unique, full-screen images of gameplay when playing two-player games; the bundled set of 3D glasses do the trick. Other specs: LCD display, 1080p, 2D/3D support, high contrast (5000:1), wide viewing angle (176 degree) high response time (4ms GTG average), slim design, high quality sound, 2 HDMI ports. For $499.99 you get the 3DTV, Resistance 3, one pair of 3D glasses (PS-branded 3D glasses will sell separately for $69.99), and an HDMI cable. It’s a good idea, but question remains: is the lower barrier of entry low enough to get you to buy into 3D today?
- Upcoming games to utilize Move include: NBA 2K12 (Kobe Bryant popped by for the demo); Medieval Moves: Deadmund’s Quest (made by the devs who brought us the Move launch title Sports Champions); inFamous 2 (out now); deeper Move functionality is coming to LittleBigPlanet 2 this September; Starhawk; Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time (he’s back in 2012); Dust 514 (this PS3 exclusive releases spring 2012 and will extend to the NGP); BioShock Infinite (Irrational Games’ Ken Levine had to be convinced by Sony to incorporate Move support in this new title; though skeptical at first, Levine has found potential in it…he also announced that a new game set in the BioShock universe will release for the NGP some time in the future…and Infinite will come packed with the original BioShock); and Star Trek (will release next year alongside the J.J. Abrams sequel and will ship with a phaser-like accessory).
- New games from EA will provide PS3 exclusive content: SSX (Mt. Fuji map), Need for Speed: The Run (exclusive cars), and Battlefield 3 (Battlefield 1943 comes on the disc).
- Sony honcho Kaz Hirai also addressed the PSN outage and said, “We learned a lot during the recent outage of the PlayStation Network and one of the most important things we learned was the trust and loyalty of our customers.” On that higher note, he talked up the PlayStation Suite and PlayStation-certified Android devices.
- And then the announcement we’ve all been waiting for…the NGP is officially called PlayStation Vita. Where does the name come from? Sony explains: “Derived from the Latin word “Vita,” which means “Life,” this next generation portable entertainment system enables a revolutionary combination of rich gaming and social connectivity within a real world context.” It ships this holiday season and two models will be offered: WiFi only for $249.99 and WiFi+3G for $299.99. Sony has partnered with AT&T for the 3G data (the crowd moaned in laughter when this news was announced). The following games will be coming to PS Vita likely as launch titles: Uncharted: Golden Abyss, LittleBigPlanet, Ruin, Wipeout, and ModNation Racers. Capcom previewed Street Fight X Tekken; the game will feature InFamous‘ Cole MacGrath as a playable character. For a more in-depth look at the PS Vita, click here!
- Some DJ concluded the event with thumping beats.
Like Microsoft’s presser, I was left somewhat unsatisfied after watching Sony’s outing. They failed to excite me with a new franchise or by reinvigorating an old classic (though the return of Sly looks promising). PS Vita is an odd name for the PSP successor, but that won’t matter in the end if the content developed for it is good. And by the looks of it many developers are jumping on board to produce all kinds of fun, interactive experiences with the handheld’s OLED touch display, tilt functions, camera, and back touch pad. Here’s to hoping that Nintendo brings the goods tomorrow when they announce their new home console and new 3DS titles.
Today Microsoft kicked off E3 2011 at the Galen Center in Los Angeles. So many game trailers, demos, and Xbox Live and Dashboard updates to talk about. Ready, set, bullet points!
- The press conference got started with a demo of Infinity Ward’s Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2. It is described as being “the biggest, most exciting and epic Call of Duty ever.” I can confidently back that statement up. MW3 downloadable content will be available first on Xbox 360. Due out November 8, 2011.
- Crystal Dynamics showed off the Tomb Raider reboot. Lara Croft is getting down and dirty in this game that shares style and gameplay with Uncharted. The developers explained that the game reveals “how an ambitious 21-year-old Lara Croft becomes a hardened survivor.” Due out Fall 2012.
- EA Sports president (and former Xbox honcho) Peter Moore announced that four sports games will support Kinect this year and they are Tiger Woods PGA Tour, Madden NFL, FIFA, and Mass Effect 3. ME3 utilizes Kinect with voice control. Kinect’s built-in mic will pick up your commands. RPG decisions and tactical team controls can be carried out by your voice. Due out March 6, 2012.
- Next up was Ubisoft’s Ghost Recon: Future Soldier. This title will also feature Kinect support, but this time it’s hand and arm gestures in addition to voice control. You can create various weapons by exploding them into their small parts using Minority Report-style gestures. This demo really wowed the crowed. Voice commands like “optimize for long range” will also piece together a weapon for you. The weapon customization process with Kinect looks very fluid, fast, and super cool. Ubisoft announced that all future titles in the Tom Clancy franchise will support Kinect in some way or other.
- The Dashboard is getting yet another facelift. Somehow Microsoft has made it cleaner and more streamlined. It was built from the ground up specifically with Kinect voice in mind. For example, saying “Xbox, music” will bring you directly to the Music section. The new UI contains the following sections: Home, Social, Live TV, Video, Games, Music, Apps, and Settings. That’s right–I said live TV. Microsoft is forging new partnerships to bring live television to Xbox LIVE in the US and around the world, adding to their current partnerships with Sky TV in the UK, Canal Plus in France, and FOXTEL in Australia. TV listings and a DVR manager will be accessible from the Dashboard. Also coming to Xbox is YouTube, UFC, and Bing search. UFC president Dana White came out to show off the interactive UFC content. You can call fights and compare results with your friends. “You say it, Xbox finds it” is the new Bing motto when it comes to searching for and discovering content on the console. “Xbox, Bing, X-Men” will prompt the console to bring up all games and videos (including movies and TV shows) related to your query.
- The following upcoming games are Xbox 360 exclusives: Ice-T joined Epic Games’ Cliff Bleszinski for a demo of Gears of War 3 (due out September 20, 2011); Crytek’s Ryse will take advantage of Kinect as you violently slash your way past enemies in Rome; To celebrate Halo’s 10 year anniversary a remastered version of the original game will release November 15, 2011 and it’s called Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary (co-op over Xbox Live and classic multiplayer maps included); Turn 10 Studio’s Forza Motorsport 4 releases October 11, 2011 with Top Gear content and Kinect support for voice and headtracking; Head of Lionhead Studios Peter Molyneux hopped on stage to reveal the next Fable subtitled The Journey (this game too will come packed with heavy support for Kinect, due out in 2012); Minecraft is coming to support Kinect this winter; other exclusives include Kinect-based kids games Kinect Disneyland Adventures and Sesame Street: Once Upon a Monster, and Kinect Star Wars.
- Microsoft’s bearded man with designer shades Kudo Tsunoda came out to show off the latest updates of his pet project the Kinect. He announced that Kinect Fun Labs is a permanent addition to the Xbox Live Dashboard and it will serve as a portal for the developer community to share their latest Kinect innovations. Three Labs games were shown off. Kinect Me will capture your face and clothing to create an avatar that looks just like you; in Kinect Sparkler you make poses for the camera, it captures them, and then you can use your fingers to draw sparkling lines of light in the image in three dimensions (you can manipulate the image to make it appear as if it contains two layers); Kinect Googly Eyes allows you to scan real-life tangible objects using Kinect and them manipulate their actions on-screen (at the conference a plush toy was scanned without issue). Kinect Fun Labs is accessible today to all Xbox Live members.
- More Kinect games coming to Xbox include: Kinect Sports Season 2 (baseball, skiing, golf, darts, tennis, football); Dance Central 2 (which now features a campaign mode, voice controls, and a revamped Break it Down mode, and simultaneous multiplayer dancing…plus all songs from the original an be imported into the sequel).
- And then came the “dawn of a new trilogy for Xbox 360″…it’s Halo 4! A brief teaser trailer was played. Master Chief returns Holiday 2012.
And that was the Microsoft press conference. Though most of the game trailer and demos were stimulating, the overall presentation was lacking in explosive, heart-stopping content. The Dashboard update is nice, the Xbox exclusives are impressive, and the push for Kinect is full speed ahead. It will certainly be interesting to see developers make new and exciting uses of the Kinect peripheral; Microsoft seems to be goading developers into incorporating it into their games somehow. Voice control seems overly gimmicking, but at least new approaches are being made to interactivity. And I gotta say, ending the event with a tease at the birth of a new Halo trilogy was a nice touch.
I attended the press conference this morning, so make sure you check out the pictures I snapped in the gallery below!
And just like that E3 2010 has come to a close. Oh, was it a wonderful three days of gaming. Things kicked off with Microsoft’s bizarre “Project Natal for Xbox 360 Experience” Cirque du Soleil event where we learned Natal’s true name, Kinect. The Big Three’s press conferences proved to be eventful and packed with awesome new games. Microsoft showed off exciting trailers and demos for Call of Duty: Black Ops, Metal Gear: Rising, Gears of War 3, Halo: Reach, and Fable III. Kinect was finally detailed at length, and we got a sneak peek at the Kinect Hub and many of the casual launch titles including Kinect Adventures!, Kinect Sports, Kinect Joy Ride, Kinectimals, Dance Central, and Your Shape: Fitness Evolved. Sports fanatics were happy to hear news that ESPN content is coming to Xbox Live. And to conclude the conference Microsoft unvield a refreshed Xbox 360 model that features a sleek, black finish and “whisper quiet” internals. Nintendo harnessed the power of nostalgia to excite the long-time fanboys (and girls). Appearences by The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, GoldenEye 007, Kirby’s Epic Yarn Metroid: Other M, and Donkey Kong Country Returns did not dissappoint. Before Nintendo’s conference could come to a close the Nintendo 3DS was officially unveiled. 3D glasses are not required to experience the 3D effect and Kid Icarus: Uprising is a launch title; I want one. Sony’s press conference pushed for 3D gaming with an impressive demo of Killzone 3 in 3D (glasses (unfortunately) required). Sony’s turn at motion-based gaming with PlayStation Move was demoed and titles like Sorcery and Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 utilized the new controllers well. The introduction of PlayStation Plus (Sony’s subscription based online gaming service), a fantastic trailer for Portal 2, and demos of LittleBigPlanet 2 and Twisted Metal rounded out the conference. All in all, the Big Three were successful in making gamers ’round the world happy with their upcoming offereings.
After the press conferences ended, the show floor exploded open with hundreds of game demos. Fortunately almost every booth was filled with knowledgable game developers who were kind enough to speak with me about their creations. Games like The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, Donkey Kong Country Returns, SOCOM 4, Fable III, the Kinect games, Super Scribblenauts, Tron: Evolution, and the OnLive service impressed me to no end. But there’s one game that stands out the most. My favorite game of E3 2010 is Epic Mickey. The various types of gameplay, visual style, and controls made for an extremely fun and rewarding experience. I can’t wait for it to release on the Wii this holiday season.
To sum up E3 2010 in so many words–motion-controlled gaming (w/ Kinect & PS Move), 3D gaming (w/ PS3 & 3DS), and fantastic titles (that are both classic and new). I had such a great time attending this event for the very first time, and I hope you found my extensive coverage to be interesting, informing, and engaging. I look forward to attending next year’s show and I already have plans to make my coverage even more exciting and comprehensive! I’d like to give a huge thank you to Regina Durkan and Talia Chriqui for their help on the show floor and behind the scenes.
If there’s any E3 content you missed or like to read/watch again, take a look at the links below. Or you can always click the “[experience-it-all] at E3″ coverage button that’s located at the top right-hand corner of the home page.
Pre- E3[experience-it-all] @ E3 2010 E3 2010: What to expect Preview: Project Natal for Xbox 360 Experience
Pre- show floorDay Zero: Project Natal for Xbox 360 Experience E3 2010: We’ve arrived Microsoft press conference highlights: Kinect, ESPN, Xbox slim Nintendo press conference highlights: Nintendo classics make a comeback, plus 3DS handheld Sony press conference highlights: Move, 3D gaming, PS Plus, Portal 2
Hands-onHands-on: The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Hands-on: Nintendo 3DS Booth tour: Nintendo (plus hands-on) Hands-on: Kinectimals Hands-on: Joy Ride Hands-on: Kinect Adventures! & Kinect Sports
Interview + hands-onInterview + hands-on: Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker Interview + hands-on: SOCOM 4 (w/ PlayStation Move) Interview + hands-on: TV Superstars (w/ PlayStation Move) Interview + hands-on: The Fight: Lights Out (w/ PlayStation Move) Interview + hands-on: Fable III Interview + hands-on: Super Scribblenauts Interview + hands-on: Epic Mickey Interview + hands-on: Tron: Evolution Interview + hands-on: OnLive
Booth toursBooth tours: Capcom & Sony Online Entertainment Booth tours: 2K, Konami & Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment Booth tours: Square Enix, Ubisoft & Disney Interactive Studios Booth tours: Sega, THQ & EA Booth tours: Microsoft & Sony Booth tours: MTV Games/Harmonix
And that marks the end of the interview + hands-on content. Now it’s time for the booth tours! On the last day of E3 2010 I decided to hit record on my camcorder and capture the highlights of almost every booth on the show floor. I did it so you can get a real sense of how each booth was set up and what it all looked like from the perspective of an attendee. Sure E3 is all about the games, but game studios put a ton of effort into making extravagant booths to attract those in attendance; the booths (and requisite booth babes) play a big part in making E3, well, what it has come to be. No, there’s nothing like actually being there and speaking with all the developers and playing all the games. But the following videos and pictures will bring you pretty darn close to the action.
Here’s how the booth tour posts are set up. You’ll find an embedded YouTube video at the top; this video will contain 2-3 booth tours. Below you will see various picture galleries separated by company. Next to each company’s name I hand-picked the most popular games featured at that booth. And that’s it, really. So go ahead and dive into this first one here–it’s Microsoft and Sony, two of the biggest booths on campus.
Microsoft: Kinect games, Fable III, Crackdown 2, Halo: Reach, Gears of War 3
Sony: PlayStation Move games, SOCOM 4, LittleBigPlanet 2, Twisted Metal, Killzone 3
Sega: Sonic Colors, Sonic Free Riders, Sonic The Hedgehog 4: Episode I, Conduit 2, Vanquish
THQ: The Last Airbender: The Videogame, Homefront, Warhammer 40000: Dark Millennium Online, UFC Undisputed 2010
EA: EA Sports, Medal of Honor, Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, The Sims 3
Square Enix: Final Fantasy XIV Online, Kingdom Hearts: Birth by Sleep, Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light
Ubisoft: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood, Shawn White Skateboarding, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved
Disney Interactive Studios: Epic Mickey, Tron: Legacy
2K: Bioshock, Mafia II, Carnival Games
Konami: Metal Gear Solid Peace Walker, N3 II: Ninety-Nine Nights, Saw II: Flesh & Blood, Def Jam Rapstar
Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment: LEGO Harry Potter Years 1-4, The Lord of the Rings: Aragorn’s Quest, LOTR: War in the North, Mortal Kombat
Somehow the video footage from the MTV Games/Harmonix booth got lost in the archives…but I have pictures to put in its place!
The layout of the MTV Games/Harmonix was pretty straightforward. The bulk of it was filled with the current Rock Band titles and they include The Beatles: Rock Band, Green Day: Rock Band, and Rock Band 3; a section of the booth contained Dance Central stations (that’s the Kinect-enabled dance party game). Speaking of RB 3, the brand spankin’ new keyboard was playable at the booth. It’s a very solid piece of hardware and a welcome addition to the guitar, drums, and mics. The new Rock Band Pro guitars, including the Fender Mustang and six-string Fender Squier Stratocaster, were on display. Man are they beautiful, and they look so real (in fact, the latter one is real)! But don’t take my word for it; look in the gallery to see for yourself.
OnLive is a gaming on-demand cloud-based service that’s able to stream video game titles from massive servers around the U.S. straight into your home. Man is that a packed sentence. Let me break it down for you. OnLive has three data centers in the country (east coast, central, and west coast) that house large servers; these servers act as hosts to a bunch of video games. If you sign up for the OnLive service and become a member of the community, the servers will pump video game content from the data center nearest you to your Internet-enabled PC or Mac. Again, it’s essentially gaming on-demand. After installing a plugin in your browser, you can launch OnLive and gain access to a growing library of video game titles. It’s that simple, really.
The OnLive interface is neat. There’s a game marketplace that allows you to choose from a wide selection of games. With a single click you can play a game; or you can find out more about the game before you dive in by watching game previews & trailers. You can even watch other OnLive members play the selected game in real time. The interface drags you into the action of other players, and this is a great way to get a glimpse of a game’s visuals and game style. Besides strictly being there for on-demand gaming, the service hopes to form a community of gamers with features like profiles, friends lists, and brag clips (you can record gameplay and share these moments with other OnLive members).
What’s most exciting about the OnLive service is that it does away with the need for over-the-top and expensive hardware requirements for games. Crysis, a game that is known to be hardware intensive, will play smoothly and look great playing off an old Macbook or PC laptop. The secret formula is OnLive’s proprietary video compression chips that pump out the games from the servers over the Internet and to your computer. As long as you have a 4-5 Mbps Internet connection you will have no problem playing what used to be hardware intensive games in HD (a 1.5 Mbps connection is recommended for SD quality). I really want to hit this point home as well: Since this is gaming on-demand, the service brings together games from all major game consoles (Xbox, PlayStation, PC) and enables you to play them right on your PC or Mac. No need for proprietary hardware and cables. All you need is an Internet connection, a computer, and a keyboard and/or Xbox-type USB controller.
There’s gotta be some lag, you’re thinking to yourself. I was skeptical at first, too. But I gotta say, after playing Just Cause 2 off an old Macbook over the OnLive service, I did not notice the slightest bit of latency between my controller button-mashing and the on-screen action. It truly felt as if I was playing the game locally off a computer or video games console. And what’s fascinating is that Just Cause 2 was running off a server more than 500 miles away in Santa Clara! Though there likely is some latency if you want to get all technical, I honestly did not pick up on it during my brief session of gameplay. I was told that as long as you are within a 1000 mile radius of an OnLive data center you should not experience noticeable latency.
Now let’s talk pricing and availability. OnLive is available to use today (in fact it was turned on a day after my interview took place). You sign up for the service at their website. The “OnLive Founding Members Program” is backed by AT&T and it offers the first year of use for free (!), followed by a $4.95/month fee for the second year. There’s no contract requirement which means if there’s a month you don’t feel like using the service just don’t for it that month. Right now it looks like the company is slowly opening the gates to the OnLive community; if you want to sign up to play you have to sit on a waiting list. Bummer, I know, but the service is still in its infancy and I’m sure the company does not want to overload its servers this early in the game.
And what about software partners? You will not be disappointed on this front. Just announced was partnerships with Sega, Capcom, Konami, and Square Enix. Popular publishers like EA, Ubisoft, THQ, Warner Bros. Interactive, and Disney Interactive are also bringing their titles to the service as well. I’m told new publishers are jumping on the OnLive bandwagon all the time, and this is great news for gamers.
Beside the addition of developer support, OnLive will be adding their MicroConsole to the mix later this year. Basically it’s a small (and I’m told inexpensive) piece of hardware that will allow members to play the streaming games on their HDTVs. It will support up to four wireless controllers, multiple Bluetooth headsets, and it packs two USB ports for wired controllers and keyboards.
Is OnLive the future of gaming? Though it’s too early to tell, you can definitely see the potential it brings to the table. With OnLive there’s no need for high-end graphics cards and to run to a store to purchase a game disc. No longer do you have to worry about upgrading hardware to play the latest and greatest games. If you’ve got the proper Internet connection and live within range of a data center, you are golden. I’ve experience it with my own two eyes and thumbs–the latency was non-existent on the show floor. Though my skepticism has been lowered down a notch, I’m still going to wait for a final verdict after I give the service a try on my own computer at home. Even if OnLive doesn’t catch on and become widely popular, replace game consoles and eliminate the graphics cards arms race, you can bet everyone from industry leaders to gamers will turn to this service as an example of how the next phase of video game distribution was imagined and first put into place.
Game: Tron: Evolution
Developer: Propaganda Games
Release date: Holiday 2010
Tron is back, people. Coming soon to a theatre and video game console near you are all new experiences from the famed Tron universe. Tron: Evolution bridges the gap between the original Tron movie (1982) and the upcoming Tron: Legacy flick set to hit theatres later this year on December 17. In the game you play as a system monitor who investigates “mysterious goings-on” that’s happening in the digital Tron universe. The controls are best described by comparing them to Mirror’s Edge gameplay. You are a parkour champion and you move through the levels by completing wall jumps, among other high-flying, fast and fluid techniques. These are known as “mobility moves”. In combination with “combat moves” you will successfully defeat incoming enemies and move on through the game. Combat moves include typical melee fight style with punching and kicking, but you can also climb a wall and pounce your enemies from above. You wield a disc that can be thrown at top speeds towards enemies to knock them out. And if you have a few seconds to spare you can charge up your attacks and this results in a more powerful and effective combat move. In the demo above you can see all the different types of combo moves you can perform (there’s disc-disc-melee, jump-jump-disc, disc-jump-melee, and so on). Another neat gameplay features involves how you pick up health. Through the various environments there are glowing white lines that run along the walls. You can jump and vault along these lines to increase your health and energy meters. This encourages you to use mobility moves and always be aware of your surroundings.
And this wouldn’t be a Tron game without the use of Light Cycles. In the demo I hopped onto a Light Cycle and was being hunted down by enemies on their respective Cycles. These Cycles beat out the ones played in the original Tron arcade game; thanks to a full physics model the vehicles don’t just turn at 90 degree angles. Controls to accelerate and brake are simple. You can also throw your discs to hit enemies off their rides as you speed past them. This part of them demo was quite fun. As you’re trying to escape from your enemies the world is falling apart and collapsing around you. It’s you vs. the enemies vs. the environment. The only fault I have with the Cycles is that they’re not fast enough. If the devs bump up the speed this part of the game will be a whole lot more exhilarating.
A couple other odds and ends: Whatever you earn in the game can be used when you switch over to multiplayer, and vise-versa. When I asked about PlayStation Move support I was told “there’s still some issues to be resolved in that department.” We all know the movie will release in 3D, but what about that game? The dev I spoke to said “it would be fantastic if we could get the game in 3D” and he seemed a whole more positive about 3D support than Move capability. So we shall wait and see…
Overall Tron: Evolution is panning out to be one of the better game to movie to game adaptations I’ve seen in some time. The visuals are slick, the gameplay is fluid, and story should excite Tron fans to no end. Look for its release to coincide with the movie later this year.
Game: Epic Mickey
Developer: Junction Point Studios
Release date: Holiday 2010
A while back I reported on a new Wii title called Epic Mickey. After playing the expansive demo at E3 I am so happy to report back that Epic Mickey is everything I hoped it would be. In fact, it was my favorite game of the show! The visuals, the controls, the characters, and the environments all blend together to make an exciting Disney experience with our good pal Mickey Mouse at the helm.
It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what type of game Epic Mickey really is. It takes cues from platformers, role-playing games, and third-person shooters, even. It meshes 2D and 3D gaming to produce stunning color and black/white visuals that stem from classic Disney history. The first part of the demo took us to Wasteland, a place where old, washed up, and forgotten Disney characters hang out. Characters like the pirates Smee from Peter Pan and Scurvy Pat are there to give you tasks to perform. In a beautiful cut scene that features 2D paper animation, Smee is crying because all of the pirates are being turned into robot monsters. It is up to Mickey to save the pirates from their demise. At the Wasteland I was instructed by Tiki Sam (he looks sort of like Goofy) to find three masks that are hidden throughout the area. There is a lot of trading and bartering that goes on between all these different characters; one decision leads to another and this all eventually lands Mickey in the appropriate situation to help stop the machine from destroying the pirates. Your decisions to either help or ignore the characters around you will affect the outcome of the game.
The game is split into three different areas: quests, transitions, and actions. Wasteland is a quest area; it’s a place where interact with other characters to complete certain tasks. Transition areas take place in-between quest and action areas and they usually contain special items and collectibles that will help Mickey elsewhere in the game. The transition area I jumped into was a movie reel and it transported me to a 2.5D sidescroller based on Mickey’s first appearance in 1928′s Steamboat Willy black-and-white cartoon. There are about 40 of these sidescrolling adventures in the game; they are all based on classic Disney cartoons. Playing through Steamboat Willy was a ton of fun. I am really looking forward to discovering all the other transition areas in the game. There’s nothing like classic Disney lore.
At the end of the Steamboat Willy level I jumped into another movie reel that brought me to a new area in the game called Skull Island. This is an action area where Mickey will run into enemies to defeat and conquer and it’s the place where I’ll find a way to stop the machine from turning the pirates into robots. My first mission is to find three anchors to save Smee’s ship from sinking into the ocean. There’s no better time to talk about controls then right now. In the game Mickey wields a magic paintbrush. Paint is used to create objects in the environment. If you stumble upon an area and you’re stuck, more than likely a spray of paint will reveal a bridge that connects the gap to crossover. Paint thinner is used to destroy objects around you. It can also be a helpful tool to find hidden objects that reside inside rocks or trees. Throughout the game there are clues guised under dark silhouette shapes; if you keep your eyes open for these subtle hints you can use your brush to uncover what’s there. When it comes to enemy interaction you have one of two options. You can use paint thinner to erase them or paint to strategically turn them into friendlies who will fight for you. Mickey can also collect objects called “sketches”. In the demo I picked up a TV sketch; at one point during the Skull Island sequence the TV sketch was used to distract an enemy. Mickey literally places a TV in front of an enemy and while he was distracted by a scene from the original Steamboat Willy cartoon I picked up a missing anchor piece. Humorous, fun, and effective.
At its core, Epic Mickey is a true-to-form roleplaying game where your decisions will effect the way other in-game characters perceive you. If you use paint thinner to erase elements from the environment around you more than you use paint to create, characters will take notice. In this case, they will be less friendly and willing to help you solve missions. In fact, a little green sprite named Terp follows you around and lets you know what type of “play style” you’re currently engaged in (too much thinner or paint or a mix of both). And since your decisions alter the game, you can literally play through it numerous way and every time will play out differently. With intuitive controls, an engaging story with fun and challenging missions, and spectacular visuals, expect Epic Mickey to take over your living room when it release this holiday season exclusivel for Wii. The game truly is a sight to behold. And and if you’re a fan of Walt Disney creations you will certainly not be disappointed.
Game: Super Scribblenauts
Developer: 5th Cell
Release date: October 2010
The concept of the original Scribblenauts that debuted at E3 2009 really blew my mind. It was a game that allowed you to type whatever you wanted and poof! the object would appear on-screen ready to be interacted with. Due to a number of control issues the game did not successfully execute where it should have. Super Scribblenauts leaps ahead of its predecessor with improved controls, adjectives support, and better levels. The most exciting controls update allows you to manipulate Maxwell’s position (including walking and jumping) on-screen with the D-pad and action buttons; you are no longer forced to use the stylus and touchscreen to make him move. The addition of adjectives greatly increases the number of objects that can be spawned into the world. In the first game you could easily produce a “pogo stick”. In the sequel you now spawn an “angry armed metal pogo stick.” (That’s right–you can assign more than one adjective to an object.) As you can see in the demo above, the angry pogo stick will annoy and bump into you. By adding a “protective metal box” to the environment, it will protect you from the pogo stick. So in other words, objects can enhanced with artificial intelligence by adding an adjective before its name. With the addition of thousands of adjectives, the game now supports over a whopping trillion different objects you can spawn. The only restrictions you have in spawning an object are inappropriate words and the 100 character limit.
With over 120 new puzzle-oriented levels to play through, tighter controls, and the ability to make all kinds of objects with adjectives, Super Scribblenauts will likely fulfill that promise of bringing unique gameplay on a portable platform when it releases later this fall for Nintendo DS.
Games: Kinect Adventures! & Kinect Sports
Developers: Microsoft & Rare
Release date: Fall 2010
Let’s start with Kinect Adventures!, shall we? This Kinect game includes a bunch of mini-games, and I got to step into two of them. ”River Rush” puts you and a second player inside a raft that you must navigate through heavy rapids. Controls are simple: lean left and right to guide the raft and watch out for obstacles like big rocks; lean forward to make the raft go faster; leap into the air with your partner to make the raft jump off ramps to collect tokens for extra points. During the demonstration, the Microsoft rep instructed us to side-step left and right to steer the raft; I’m told it can be navigated either way. The second “adventure” I played was a mine cart obstacle course. While you’re traveling at a steady speed atop a mine cart you must jump (for speed), duck, and side-step to watch out for obstacles like metal padded bars. Collect tokens along the way by configuring your body into various positions.
Kinect Adventures! also includes a “camera moments” that pop up a number of times during the mini-games. A small camera icon alerts you when the game is ready to snap a photo of you in action. At the end of each game you are shown a quick montage of your jumping and spinning motions during peak moments of gameplay. They come complete with captions that relate to the action; if it catches a big jump it might say “impressive air”. Think of it like the pictures that are taken at theme parks during big drops on a coaster. Once the photos are saved, you have the option to share them with friends via email or Facebook. That’s right–now you can embarrass yourself in new ways!
Next up is Kinect Sports. This game is a Wii Sports knockoff for sure, but is it a worthy contender? It packs six sports in total–bowling, ping pong, volleyball, boxing, soccer, and track & field. Within the track & field section I did some running-and-hurdling. Ready for the controls? Run in place to make your avatar go and jump to avoid the obstacle beams. The fast your run in place, the faster your avatar will run on-screen. It’s like using the NES Power Pad but without the pad! This mini-game was a lot of fun, though it was frustrating at times. I had some trouble leaping over the obstacles; it’s all about the timing and I just didn’t catch on. My partner, on the other hand, managed to make almost every jump. Guess I need some practice. Besides that minor issue, I was whole-heartedly satisfied with my experience because it resulted in a great workout! By the end of the race my partner and I were almost out of breath and on the verge of sweating (it was hot in the Microsoft cube!). The results screen shows you a sped up video replay of your running and jumping action and then shows your avatars too with some Chariots of Fire playing in the background. Since I only got to the play a track-and-field game it would not be appropriate to say Kinect Sports is better or worse than Wii Sports. The verdict will have to wait until we all get our hands on the game this fall.
Game: Joy Ride
Release date: Fall 2010
Joy Ride is a simplistic racing game made specifically for Kinect. Setup is easy: Stand up and hold your arms out like your holding a steering wheel. That’s it. You don’t ever have to worry about gas and breaking, the game controls that for you. To steer your car left and right, simply use your hands to steer an invisible wheel in front of you. This might sound kinda lame to you Gran Turismo and Need for Speed hardcore games, but it’s actually a decent amount of fun. Obviously Microsoft is going after the casual set of gamers and late adopters to the modern video game craze with Joy Ride, but with motion maneuvering via Kinect this game will likely get all types of gamers off the couch at least a couple times. Virtual steering works surprisingly well. Beyond just steering around a racetrack, Joy Ride comes complete with speed boosts and in-air tricks. For an extra boost, bring your arms to your chest (still in steering wheel configuration) and quickly thrust them back out to standard position. To perform a stunt, move and turn your body in different ways after you fly your car into the air off a ramp. The car will mimic your body movements; for example, if you lean forward the car will do a front flip and if you spin around the car will spin. You can combine all these different moves to gain bonus points. The game has two modes that both support up to two players: racing and Stunt Mode. In the latter mode, you and another player steer your cars on a half-pipe to pull off as many tricks as possible to collect points. Again, this game is tailor-made for people who rarely play traditional video games, but casual and even hardcore gamers will want to get in on the fun at some point, trust me.
Developer: Frontier Developments
Release date: Fall 2010
Oh this might just the cutest game I have ever put my hands on. And thanks to the Kinect for Xbox 360 requirement, you can take that statement quite literally. Once the game boots up you are prompted to select from over 40 different virtual animals to interact with. I selected a cheetah pre-named Skittles. I’m told that players will have the option to personalize their pets with a name by speaking into Kinect’s built-in mic. After selecting the cheetah I called out “Skittles!” to bring it on-screen. By tapping my knees and calling out its name, Skittles recognized my presence, ran up to me, and left breath marks on the screen. I was able to use simple hand motions to wipe the foggy spots off the screen. If you hold your hands out towards the screen your pet comes closer to you for a scratching session. This part was particularly stimulating; it actually feels like you’re reaching out and petting an animal. Virtual hands appear on-screen to show the motions in real-time.
By holding your hand out for a prolonged period of time in the bottom right-hand side of the screen you can call up a menu. Scroll through the menu Minority Report-style with swipe gestures. Select an activity by holding your hand on an icon for about three seconds. Next up I entered tricks mode where you can make your pet mimic your every move and perform dozens of tricks. When I jumped three times in a row, Skittles jumped higher and higher; the third jump resulted in a Matrix slo-mo perspective sequence. When I held my arms up and stood on one leg, Skittles copied my exact positioning. Then when I fell to the ground Skittles played dead. Very neat!
The last activity in the demo was an obstacle course that involved jumping, running, ducking, and balancing movements to get Skittles from one end to the other. This section of the game plays out more like a workout if you ask me. And of course, to get Skittles to run the course faster continually scream his name.
All in all, Kinectimals is the perfect game for little girls who always wanted a pet but could never have one for some reason or another. With Kinect support, players will have a blast raising their own virtual pet by speaking its name and interacting with it by means of simplistic hand and body gestures. Oh, and there’s this: At the Project Natal Experience, Microsoft reps gave out tiny stuffed animals with scannable codes attached. Instructions reveal that players will be able to hold up their stuffed animals to the Kinect camera and transfer their tangible pet inside the game to play with it. Again, little girls will go crazy over this game. Look for Kinectimals to release alongside the Kinect this fall.
Game: Fable III
Developer: Lionhead Studios
Release date: October 26, 2010
Familiar, yet different. That’s the best way to describe the next game in the Fable series. Fable III take place 50 years after the events in the previous game. In the single player campaign you play as either the son or daughter of the Fable II hero. Your brother is the King of Albion and he is an evil tyrant who supports slave labor and as a result the people of the land are oppressed. As the game starts you are finally at the ripe age to do something about this; the throne must be reclaimed. In order to do this you must become a rebel and gain followers to your cause to take down your evil brother. Eventually at some point you will defeat your brother and become the next king (or queen) of Albion. And in Fable RPG style, it is up to you to decide (by your actions) if you want to rule the land as a terrible dictator like your brother or change things for the better by acting benevolent and kind.
The demo I played had two parts. In the first, I was plopped into a foreign land called Aurora where I was teamed with my mentor Walter Beck. Your mission is to gain followers to the cause. This demonstration showed off some combat moves; you can wield a sword, gun, or use some magic spells to fend off enemies. Discovering and controlling spells is a lot easier this time around thanks to a “spell gauntlet” that gives magic a physical representation. Other new features: your sword can be customized based on your decisions in the game and you can complete finishing moves to defeat enemies.
In the second part of the demo I was introduced to the new villager interaction experience. Now you can walk up to villagers and interact with them by shaking their hand, grabbing their hand and take them for a run, and even farting in their faces! Yeah, that’s a bit much but it’s quite humorous.
So, although the game looks and feels very much like the past Fable games, this one is definitely enhanced and differentiates itself thanks to a tighter story and refined gameplay. For the first time in a Fable game, characters are now more emotionally connected to the player thanks to voice acting. Also, the main menu has done away with the mess of the past and gives players a 3D portal to access various game options. There to greet you is a butler named Jasper voiced by none-other-than John Cleese. Co-op play is coming, too; the second player can also play as a hero and you have the option to marry each other, have children, share funds, and complete the game together. Have you been yearning for a more robust version of Fable? Well your wish will certainly be granted come October the 26th.