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Hands on With Holmes: Microsoft E3 Impressions

Well… that was certainly a thing.  With this generation of consoles definitely coming to its inevitable conclusion very soon (or just barely passing the midway point), it’s time for the “losers” to play the catch-up game.  Nintendo is making a huge leap with the Wii U and Sony is trying to flesh out and define its exclusive library of games, almost all to keep up with the undisputed current champ of this gen, the Xbox 360.  So why does it feel like Microsoft are the ones desperately trying not to fall behind?

Past Microsoft conferences have been showcases for the new tech that was the Kinect, putting staged modern Leave it to Beaver families on stage to fly through rushing rapids while giving unenthused and overacted yelps.  But this year, the focus seemed to be on making the Xbox a multimedia device first, and a game system second.  While introducing refinements and additions to their existing interface, video, and music services, there was also a greater emphasis on using the 360 as an internet and a social device.  It actually is not very unlike what we saw with the Wii U in yesterday’s Nintendo Direct presentation.  It doesn’t help that with Nintendo going first, Microsoft kinda gave off a serious “me too” vibe if it weren’t for the new tablet device that they announced to work in tandem with the 360.

Now, there’s both ups and downs to the introduction of this tablet.  On the upside, if the 360 is going to be sticking around with the Wii U for a bit, this mean that games that can be made for the 360 to utilize the tablet can be replicated on the Wii U and vice versa.  This is both setting a good stage for Nintendo to get some great multiplatform games and for Microsoft to have a slice of that pie if Nintendo is successful.  On the other hand, the 360 is beginning to get that Sega Genesis “life support” feel.  With both Kinect and SmartGlass integration, this is beginning to look like a lot to manage when playing a game and consuming media– and that’s considering that Microsoft is suggesting you even use your phone at the same time.  I shudder to think of the clustercuss of a game that’s going to take full use of these features.

Aside from the new tech Microsoft put forth, there were a few games on display.  Literally a few.  It’s easy to complain about Microsoft not having much on display, but what they had looked pretty promising.  The gameplay of Halo 4 they showed had a very strong Metroid Prime feel to it, with the helmet hud and “man vs wild” aesthetic and gameplay.  While Black Ops 2 and Splinter Cell: Blacklist both looked like solid titles, the real star of the show for me was Resident Evil 6.  It looks like a refinement of the modern Resident Evil 4 gameplay model while returning to the form of the original PS1 classics.  With gamers tired of casual games, motion controls, and having the wool pulled over their eyes, I’m surprised that more of the show didn’t focus on these pure and exciting gameplay experiences that can be found on the 360.  The only reason I can think of that would be because many of the strong titles coming to the 360 this holiday season aren’t all exclusives.  For almost every exclusive Microsoft had, they only showed brief pre-rendered trailers.  Probably a strong sign that many of these games are in the most preliminary stages.

I don’t necessarily think that Microsoft or the Xbox 360 are done for.  In fact, the little gameplay they did show looked really solid.  I just think it’s safe to say that 2012 is not gonna be Microsoft’s year at E3.

Oh and that Usher show was pretty cool too.

John-Charles is an avid video game enthusiast who loves games with strong story, smart design, and a lick of fun. He's very hopeful for the future where others are doubtful and looks back on retro games with fond memories. With a long history with games, both old and new, he tends to Defaullt Prime's veritable museum of games, The Bitereon Collection, with a new entry every week. He's also a studying engineer turned communications with an eye for design. He also thinks cartoons are neat.

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