(Update: Now includes debut trailers for the revealed games, including Metal Gear Solid: Rising, Left 4 Dead 2, Halo: Reach and others.)
The beginning of the Microsoft Press Conference was nerve-wracking to wait for, as there were all kinds of possibilities to come, but we seemed to get a few exciting announcements, with Xbox 360 exclusives and special reveals, and a new motion control system demonstrated to good effect. Read on to find out what happened at Microsoft’s E3 2009 Press Conference, below:
The event began with Beatles music, hinting at what was to come next, accompanied by a long Beatles music montage, which was apparently the very first trailer/opening cinematic for The Beatles: Rock Band. Alex Rigopulos from Harmonix and Van Toffler from MTV Networks Music Group then took the stage, and started talking about their next game, The Beatles: Rock Band.
A Harmonix house band began to demo the game with six people playing, three of whom were singing, which is seemingly a new feature for The Beatles: Rock Band.
The team then revealed ten of the 45 in-game songs from The Beatles’ recording history, including I Saw Her Standing There, I Want to Hold Your Hand, I Feel Fine, Day Tripper, Taxman, I Am The Walrus, Back in the U.S.S.R., Octopus’s Garden, Here Comes The Sun and Get Back, while downloadable albums, such as Abbey Road, will appear shortly after the game’s launch on September 9th this year.
It was further announced that a special version of “All You Need is Love” will be available exclusively through Xbox LIVE, while all Apple Corps, MTV Games, Harmonix and Microsoft proceeds from the song will be donated Doctors without Borders.
Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison made a quick appearance on-stage, while Paul McCartney and Ringo Star also appeared (to a standing ovation) to make a short thank you speech, and talked briefly about the game, saying how much they love it, making fun of their own appearance in the game.
John Schappert (Corporate Vice President of Interactive Entertainment LIVE, Software and Services Business) then took to the stage and spoke about how people want have fun, especially considering the state of the world economy, and then proceeded to show off ten games that he claimed would be never-before-seen titles for the Xbox 360, including totally new entertainment innovations, and new ways to connect with your friends.
First up, Tony Hawk appeared on stage to demo his new game, Tony Hawk: Ride, with the motion-controlled skateboard peripheral, accompanied by a new trailer for the game.
Next was a trailer for Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2 (the same one we’ve seen before), after which Vince Zampella and Jason West from Infinity Ward walked on-stage and gave a live demo of the game, showing gameplay of climbing across a snowy mountainside, peppered with a bit of gun-toting (one of the guns had a special radar on the side of it to help see enemies in a snowstorm) and snowmobile action, all to a rousing applause.
Once the demo was done, John Schappert came back on stage to announce that two map packs for Modern Warfare 2 would appear first on Xbox LIVE.
Next, the producer of Final Fantasy XIII, Yoshinore Kitase, and director of Final Fantasy XIII, Motomu Toriyama, then walked on stage and spoke a bit about the history of the Final Fantasy series, including the fact that it has sold 85 million units combined so far. This was followed by the very first footage of Final Fantasy XIII running on the Xbox 360. Once the short demo was done, they announced that they are aiming for a Spring 2010 release.
Once again, Schappert appeared to announce an upcoming slew of games that will appear only on Xbox 360, at which time Donald Mustard and Cliff Bleszinski from Epic Games were welcomed on to the stage to speak about their new Xbox LIVE Arcade title, a side-scrolling game called Shadow Complex, in development at Chair under Epic, which is apparently releasing this Summer.
Schappert then went on to introduce a new, free to download Xbox LIVE Arcade game called Joyride, a kart racing game that uses your Xbox Avatars. While the game is free, you’ll be able to buy additional tracks, cars and upgrades to personalise your experience when the game is released this Winter.
Next, Crackdown 2 was confirmed to be in development at Ruffian Games, as a trailer revealed some in-game action for the game, while Left 4 Dead 2 was confirmed as an Xbox 360/PC exclusive, to release on 17th of November this year.
A Splinter Cell: Conviction pre-rendered trailer was shown next, casting protagonist Sam Fisher as a ‘renegade’ and a ‘loose cannon’ in the next outing in the Splinter Cell franchise. The Splinter Cell developers from Ubisoft Montreal (Maxime Beland revealed as new creative director, joined by Alex Parizeau) then walked on-stage and played a live demo of the game.
The demo showed Fisher torturing someone for information about his murdered daughter, after which Fisher was shown climbing like Assassin’s Creed protagonist, Altair, with a new feature called ‘The Mark.’ All out action, as well as stealth, are both options available to you in Conviction. Weird text messages also appeared on the side of buildings and on the floor as part of a new game mechanic. The game is to be an Xbox 360 exclusive for the Fall of this year.
This was followed up by a showing of Forza 3 with Dan Greenawalt from developers Turn 10 Studios, as a demo of a new, highly detailed mountainside level was revealed, while new features were announced in the form of a high-definition video upload. Forza 3 is slated to ship on October 27th.
Halo: ODST then appeared on-screen, with writer Joe Staten on-stage to accompany the video showing a scene set weeks before Halo 3 in New Mombasa, as you, The Rookie, pilots a one-man dropship down to the Earth’s surface. New features, such as the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers having access to special equipment (new sound suppressed weapons for example, and a visor with low light vision) were announced. The HUD also looks a lot more reduced compared to Halo 3. Halo: ODST is set for a September 22nd release.
Bungie’s next game, Halo: Reach, was also unveiled and set for a release in Fall 2010 and, if you buy Halo: ODST, you’ll automatically get an invite to the Halo Reach beta.
Next on the reveal list was Remedy’s supernatural thriller, Alan Wake, with a bunch of footage revealing its ‘episodic’ nature, as the titular protagonist is seen protecting himself with his flashlight, with an over-the-shoulder perspective, while other creepy happenings were shown, such as a forest filled with axe-wielding men disappearing into flames when the light from the flashlight touched them ‒ it seems as though light will be Alan Wake’s most powerful weapon in the game. Alan Wake is set to ship in the Spring of 2010.
A set of Xbox LIVE innovations were shown next, as a partnership with LAST.FM was announced, with content available to Xbox LIVE Gold members for free, after which the new NetFlix experience was discussed, while Sky was also announced as a European Xbox LIVE partner going forward to allow live television shows to be streamed through your Xbox 360 with no additional hardware.
They then spoke a little about the new Zune experience, with full 1080p quality video content, which is being re-launched as Zune Video.
Next up, another new partnership with the social website, Facebook, was announced, as internet celebrity Felicia Day appeared on stage to show what seems to be a direct link between Facebook and your Xbox dashboard/Avatar system: also, a partnership with Twitter was revealed, as you’re now able to update your Twitter status through your dashboard. Both abilities will be coming this Fall.
Don Mattrick then sauntered on to reveal the one blockbuster that apparently every Xbox 360 owner would want to play… at which time Hideo Kojima himself appeared on stage to announce that the Metal Gear Solid franchise will become available on the Xbox 360. A new game, called Metal Gear Solid: Rising, is currently in development and will be the next major entry to the Metal Gear Solid franchise.
While a trailer from the new game was shown, not much was revealed, after which Kojima said he can’t talk any more about the game, but that we can expect “many great things.”
Don Mattrick came back to talk about the history of Xbox and Xbox LIVE, saying that they are ready to “dream the next dream.” He then started talking about motion controllers and their desire to “go beyond” controllers and how they can “make you” the controller, offering a new way to play without a controller.
A trailer was then shown, revealing a new camera, as fighting and racing games were being played without a controller, but using the gamer’s body motion as input. A piece of footage was also shown of a child ‘scanning’ his skateboard, using the camera, for use in-game, while facial recognition technology was demonstrated as two people engaging in a video chat. Voice commands were demonstrated as two women went shopping for clothes virtually, swapping out their wardrobe with voice commands.
Entitled Project Natal, the technology will additionally allow users to control on-screen menus with their hands (like in the movie Minority Report). The technology apparently tracks 3D movement and recognises voices through a device that looks like a combination of a Wii sensor bar and a camera.
Incidentally, Steven Spielberg took to the stage, joining Don Mattrick, to talk about how to make games more accessible and how important it is to make games as approachable as other media, such as TV and movies. The only way to do this, the pair say, is to make the technology invisible, as with Project Natal.
After Spielberg left, the creative director for Natal, Kudo Tsunoda, joined Mattrick on stage to demo certain aspects of the technology, such as signing into Xbox LIVE with your face, using the facial recognition technology, and navigate the menus with your hands, with the 3D movement system, without using a controller.
A tech demo, called Ricochet, was shown to further demonstrate the technology where you have to punch and kick balls to destroy a wall brick by brick, revealing the full body tracking in use with Project Natal. Yet another tech demo, Paint Party, revealed a collaborative and creative kind of gameplay where you use both voice commands (saying the name of the colour and then ‘Splat’ to paint a wall, for example) and motion recognition to paint a surface, such as a huge blank wall canvas.
Additionally, you can use your own body as a stencil and then re-use your outline to create scenes in the game. Apparently development kits for this new Project Natal technology are already on their way to Xbox 360 licensed developers.
Next up, Lionhead supremo Peter Molyneux walked on stage to talk about this new technology and what his company have been up to, showing a video of something called the Milo demo, about a virtual boy named Milo as he talks and recognises the emotion and facial expressions presented by a real woman speaking to the screen.
After the end of the Project Natal demo, Don Mattrick appeared back on stage to wrap up and end the show after recapping the exciting announcements.
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