E3 2008 Recap: Part I

Here's a quick rundown of some interesting events that transpired at Microsoft's E3 press conference.

In my opinion, E3 a.k.a. the Electronic Entertainment Expo is like a dying horse that should be put out of its misery. If you haven’t got the analogy yet it’s probably because you’ve never seen E3 in its prime. Back in the day E3 was a flourishing event full of life, booth babes, games, excitement, and earth-shattering announcements. Over the years, however, it’s become painfully small in size and dreadfully boring in content, this year probably being the worst.

My disappointment mainly stems from the fact that games actually took a back seat this time to make way for tons of casual stuff and a bunch of boring marketing crap that no one gives a rat’s ass about. I mean, which gamer in their right mind cares how many PS3s/Wiis/Xbox360s are sold worldwide?

Minor rambling aside, there was some cool stuff that went down at this expo at the end of the day, and if you’ve missed our E3 coverage, here’s a quick recap of all the major happenings that transpired at this event. Today we touch upon the more interesting aspects of Microsoft’s press conference.

E3 2008 Recap: Part I

Bethesda’s Todd Howard kick-started Microsoft’s press conference with actual gameplay footage from Fallout 3 (that by the way should span over a hundred hours) in which we were shown a glimpse of life outside the vault. As expected, Washington D.C. circa 2077 isn’t a very friendly place and in a matter of minutes he was blasting mutants away using real time combat as well as the game’s V.A.T.S. system.

Amidst all the gorgeous dismemberment (kids, stay away) he also announced that gamers who pick up the games for the Windows (PC) or Xbox360 version of Fallout 3 will enjoy exclusive downloadable content (DLC), the details of which are unknown at this point in time.

Next up was Capcom’s Jun Takeuchi, who blessed us with some Resident Evil 5 footage. Not only is the game looking ZOMG! sweet; it even boasts of a cooperative mode, a first for a Resident Evil game. He wrapped up the presentation with a 13 March 2009 release date for the game across all platforms. And just so you know, Capcom has now officially entered the Indian market via Milestone Interactive, so expect this game to be launched officially here as well.

Peter Molyneux then came on to talk about Fable 2 and how seamless the entire cooperative experience would turn out to be. While playing Fable 2 you’ll actually come across tons of orbs in the game that are actually your friends who can be called upon to aid you in a particular quest. He went on to introduce the audience to his in-game wife and child for some reason. The best part about the whole presentation was the announcement that the game’s now officially completed and should hit the stands this October.

Then came the man everyone loves to hate, Epic’s Cliffy B, who showed off some brand new Gears of War 2 gameplay footage. The game is definitely looking Bigger, Better and more Badass, but one thing that had me worried was the frame rate that seemed pretty erratic at quite a few places. Other than that, Gears of War 2 does look pretty Epic (pun intended) in scale and there were times when the game’s intensity actually reminded me of Call of Duty 4.

Gears of War 2 will boast of some brand new gameplay mechanics as well, the details of which weren’t revealed – but we do know that Marcus and his compadres will now actually be able to ride a Brumack. Multiplayer is all set to get a brand new component as well, called Horde, that’ll allow you and four of your friends to cooperatively take on a barrage of locusts in a particular level a la Serious Sam. Gears of War 2 releases exclusively for the Xbox360 on 7 November 2008.

After all the mainstream games were done impressing us, we were introduced to the Xbox360’s brand new interface as well as their Avatar system that should be available in a mammoth fall update. While this new interface looks sleek as hell, one can’t dismiss the fact that MS seems to have liberally "borrowed" certain elements from Sony’s Home and XBL avatars (developed by RARE) and bear an uncanny resemblance to Nintendo Miis. Here's a systematic look at the new dashboard features, courtesy of gamersblog.com:

Play from hard drive: Copy your games from the game disc and play directly from the hard drive. Not only will the drive not spin, but load times are quicker as well. Of course, you will still need the disc in the tray to prove you own the game.

Access Xbox LIVE Marketplace on the Web: Browse and purchase Marketplace content whenever you want from Xbox.com, and it downloads automatically to your console. Purchase that new map, television episode, the latest Xbox LIVE Arcade game, or set up a movie to watch when you get home from work.

Dashboard built into the new Xbox Guide: For everyone who loves the blades interface, it’s not going away; they are now built directly in to the new Xbox guide. Every feature and option is available right from the guide. You can even access your full games library at all times. No matter where you are (in dash or in game), immediately call up your games played list and directly launch a game.

LIVE Party system: Create a party of up to eight friends, and stay with them from one game to another, or watch a Netflix movie together, or share a slideshow of your personal photos. It works with all Xbox 360 titles, not just upcoming games. LIVE Party allows up to eight people to chat in the dashboard, so you can meet up before playing.

Xbox LIVE Primetime: This whole new category of games is going to give you more reasons to get online with your friends. Games will support everything you’d expect, like Achievements and leader boards, but many of these games will include real prizes. You can invite your friends, and even set a reminder for an upcoming show. Each game is broadcast simultaneously, so everyone is answering the same questions. Many events will have a live host, calling the shots as they happen.

Avatars: Your online identity started as a Gamertag – it then grew into a personalized Gamercard. Now, it has evolved even further into avatars. You can express your style, check out new outfits, and share this with the community. Avatars will also be integrated into Xbox LIVE Arcade games, LIVE Party, as well as retail games.

New display support: Because you asked for it, we are adding 16x10 over VGA or HDMI, and support for 1440x900 or 1680x1050.

Microsoft showered much love on Arcade games by announcing a bunch of new XBLA titles like the original N64 version of Banjo Kazooie, Geometry Wars 2, Galaga: Legions and Uno Rush. In addition to these games, they even announced two new IPs: a South Park game based on the crude, not-so-funny-anymore TV Show of the same name, and Portal: Still Alive, an enhanced version of Portal that'll ship with an all-new challenge mode and achievements.

Next came announcements that really don’t affect our lives, considering our horrendous bandwidth and all, but here they are nevertheless – just in case some of you have a US gamertag and a service provider that doesn't disconnect you every two minutes (yeah, I’m looking at you, MTNL). Microsoft has teamed up with Universal, NBC and Netflix to bring a plethora of HD content to Xbox Live in the form of HD movies and shows like 30 Rock, The Office, Monk, Heroes and much more. Users who have both an Xbox Live Gold Subscription and a Netflix account will be able to stream movies free of cost.

The conference ended with what was supposedly a "megaton" announcement but it really didn’t do much for me considering that (A) I’m not a big fan of Japanese RPGs, and (B) I was pretty depressed from the lack of any Alan Wake or BioShock 2 information. Anyway, Final Fantasy XIII will now be coming to the Xbox360 – which I guess is a real big deal for fans of the series. So Microsoft did score some major brownie points with that announcement.

And there you have it: a quick rundown of all the interesting stuff we could dig up from Microsoft's press conference. For more in-depth E3 2008 coverage, head right here.

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