It seems like days ago, not hours, but I guess that’s the point. 6AM start to queue for two hours to watch my first live E3 press conference turned out better than I’d thought – there are few things a good strong coffee won’t get you through anyway, right? And so, after an hour’s walk back to the hotel and a club sandwich that was so big it came with a massive gerkin to hold it all together, here’s more ramblings from me as I make my way around Los Angeles.
I can see from TSA’s draft schedule that the staff back at base are rounding up their thoughts on Microsoft’s Media Meeting, so there’s little point in me running over the same things as they’re talking about – instead, some rather more personal thoughts on the whole affair, and perhaps from a different perspective.
It all started, as you might expect, when news got out that Halo 4 (and friends) would form the bulk of the conference – literally an hour or so before it started, as we were all still waiting outside, a page was published to Xbox.com that gave away the ending to what would have been a brilliant last minute and a half or so. It was disappointing to have the games leaked in such a fashion, but that’s just the way the industry is and there’s no accounting for mistakes.
Anticipation was still pretty high, though – Microsoft had a lot to prove after what’s been an all-too quiet hiatus – and as we finally entered the massive centre the sheer scale of the thing finally hit home: this was massive, seemingly hugely expensive and – as I’d find out soon enough – bloody loud. There was also a complete internet blackout for a lot of people: 3G was down and the available wi-fi simply wouldn’t budge. I could see some blogging, albeit slowly, but most didn’t bother.
Call of Duty was the perfect opener, too – the battery thing surely intentional to show Bowling was playing live – and true to form Modern Warfare 3 looks like it’s going to surpass the previous games in terms of that all important wow factor. In the middle of the conference, with the complex screen array in front and enough bass to move your chair, MW3 looked and sounded the part, and the sequence on the water’s surface was breathtaking.
But regardless of what you think about the games going forward, this was Microsoft playing some clever cards – Tomb Raider’s showing on Microsoft’s space a nod to Uncharted, EA Sports and the Kinect sign-ups another bulletpoint and the voice control for Mass Effect 3 showed that the game really will be ‘better’ with the new technology. I saw a few people moaning on Twitter about Ghost Recon’s Kinect Gunsmith mode, too – unfounded in my opinion, it looked superb.
But in amongst all the TV licensing, Youtube tickboxes and a confusing display from the UFC chap, Microsoft’s Kinect showing was far stronger than last year’s laughable, GIF-worthy efforts. Integration with Forza looked smart (head tracking) and the new stuff, especially Kinect Fun Lab, shows a side to the console that we rarely get outside of the odd Indie game. And speaking of which, grabbing Minecraft was a smart move, but they’ll need to clarify that Kinect involvement.
Things I didn’t like: the demo of Star Wars was terrible, Fable Journeys seemed more on rails that I’d have hoped and surely that Kinect Sports Season 2 golf hole was pre-recorded and mimed? Things I did like: Dance Central 2 is going to be brilliant, Halo HD will mean I get to run through the campaign at least one more time and the Ryse thing from Crytek could be rather spectacular if it’s done right. And, of course, Gears of War 3 will be perfect for the fans.
So onwards it is. I’m meeting up with lots of developers shortly, then hoping to be dashing back across LA for Sony’s presser in a few hours after; then on to play lots of games tonight, have some beer and some food, and a much needed (and, I think, deserved) sleep. Until then…