The last of the “big three”, who’s in a bit of a different situation than Nintendo and Sony since their next-gen effort is already on the market. I was curious to see what announcements would be made and if any new games would be announced for the Xbox 360. Not only did they pull through in the games department, but they also unveiled a whole slew of peripherals and gave 360 owners lots of things to get excited about.
The conference opened with a new trailer for one of the most anticipated Xbox 360 titles, Gears of War. The trailer revealed a bit more about the story line which until this point had been kept quiet. Once the trailer finished they cut to Cliff Bleszinski – lead game designer at Epic Games who then plays through the first level of Gears of Wars. I’ve been stoked on this game since it was announced and to finally see someone simply playing it was amazing. The scene was pure carnage. Everything is in ruins and there’s fire everywhere. The movement of your character is awesome. Very similar to G.R.A.W. in that it’s third person and you can take cover behind objects, lean out or over them to shoot while remaining protected. It’s much more fast paced than G.R.A.W. and going from cover to cover seemed more fluid. There were buildings falling all around, shit blowing up and mass dudes coming at you with huge guns. The amount of blood when you shot guys, get shot yourself or hack them apart with the chainsaw extension on your gun was fucking unreal(pun intended)! It’s not cheesy, Mortal Kombat blood, though. It’s thin, spraying blood that actually looks like liquid. Really cool shit! It ends with this huge, spider-like creature coming out of the ground that we’ve seen in previous trailers. No release date was given but I get it’ll be the week of November 17, if you catch my drift.
Now down to business, Peter Moore enters and starts hyping everyone up. He drops some stats and numbers, the usual stuff from him. But when talking about the release of the Xbox 360 he admits there were several bumps in the road and many challenges they had to face that weren’t expected.
Through-out the rest of the conference, several game montages are shown, starting with what’s headed to Xbox Live Marketplace. There’s a few huge sequels announced for Xbox 360 exclusive titles like Fable 2 and Forza Motorsport 2. But perhaps one of the biggest announcements of E3 2006 was Grand Theft Auto 4 being released on the 360 the same day as the PS3. How it was announced was absolutely hysterical! Peter Moore starts building it up to the point where he says he has to take his jacket off for this one. He then rolls up his right sleeve to show off his Halo 2 release date tattoo and states “Some guys do rubber ducks (sticking it to Sony for their PS3 rubber duck demo they showed at every event last year), some guys do tattoos.” He then rolls up his left sleeve to show a Grant Theft Auto 4 logo and lets the cat out of the bag. But it gets even better! Apparently, Microsoft and Rockstar Games have a deal to bring exclusive episodic content to GTA4 via Xbox Live. And as expected, at the very end of the conference, the trailer for Halo 3 was shown.
There is some seriously awesome stuff headed our way in the form of first party peripherals for the 360. Among those mentioned are a racing wheel with force feedback, wireless Xbox Live headset, Xbox Vision video camera (sorry, couldn’t find decent pic) and an external HD DVD drive. All of which are said to be available this fall.
About a third of the conference was dedicated to Windows Vista and Bill Gates himself was there to speak. Boring, would be a massive understatement. Although, they demo some cool interactivity between devices. One in particular was an Xbox 360’esque blade system in Vista which lets you interact with people on a 360 and even invoke cross-platform gaming. Not sure how I feel going up against a dude with a keyboard and mouse while I have a controller in my hand, but we’ll have to wait and see how that goes. There was also a heavy emphasis on unified membership that would be carried from your Windows PC to your 360 and even onto your cell phone and PDA. I guess you could think of it as a next-gen Passport. During this segment they also showed off some PC titles including the next game from Crytek (creators of the FarCry series), Crysis.
During the week of E3 Microsoft did a massive push on Xbox Live. Verizon sponsored a week long freebie for all 360 owners and Microsoft made the most of that time by offering a shit ton of content on the Marketplace. Dozens of trailers all in 720p were released daily. Some free gamer pics and themes from Adidas soccer and X-Men 3 along with some fresh Halo 3 content. As well as three playable demos – Test Drive Unlimited, Moto GP 2006 and Lost Planet. I didn’t bother getting the majority of the trailers as I had seen them online anyway. But I did grab all of the demos. I must have played the Lost Planet demo a dozen times over. It’s simply amazing and I cannot wait for that game to be released! The only downer to this whole thing was the download speed in the evenings. It was near impossibly to even download a theme, let alone a trailer at over 100mb. During the day it was ok, though. I was pretty stoked to see MS making use of the Marketplace as they did during E3.
This year is going to be a good one for the Xbox 360. It might have had a rocky start, but with the game line-up that’s in the pipe, the new hardware that’s said to be available this fall and the rumored improvements to the Dashboard and Xbox Live Marketplace, Microsoft is demonstrating how serious they are with bringing to us the best gaming experience possible. At the end of the week, I was definitely most excited about all the new shit that’s headed to the 360 over the other consoles. This might be because I already have the system, but game wise, I just don’t see titles on other platforms that have impressed me as much as those on the 360.