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Will you buy an Xbox One X on November 7?

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News
 Written by David Taylor  on July 14, 2008

News: Everything that happened at the MS conference.



This year's E3 festivities opened with Microsoft's press conference. Don Mattrick, Microsoft's Senior Vice President of Interactive Business, served as this year's presenter. He began the conference with information about four of the most eagerly anticipated Xbox 360 titles: Gears of War 2, Fable 2, Resident Evil 5, and Fallout 3.

Cliff Bleszinski, the design director from Epic Games, showed off a live demo of Gears of War 2. An off-screen companion and he played cooperatively in the series' typical bombed out setting. The game looks largely similar to the original title, although the graphics appear slightly enhanced. The game play likewise featured the same duck and cover action that Gears of War fans have come to know and love. Bleszinski announced that Gears of War 2 will feature new multiplayer mode called Horde. In this mode up to five players play join forces against a ?horde? of increasingly difficult Locusts. Gears of War 2 will be released on November 7, 2008.

Peter Molyneux of Lionhead Studios exhibited a few minutes of Fable 2. He promised a great deal of versatility, even more so than the original Fable. The most notable addition is that players do not need chat rooms when it comes to online play. Instead the player will see friends participating in their own single player campaigns via blue orbs that wander around the countryside (presumably mimicking that player's location). If a player wants some company, all he or she has to do is to go up to one of these orbs and the second player will appear in your game. Molyneux stated that the game would come out in October 2008.

Resident Evil 5 featured even more game play footage than before. The game looks and, at least outwardly, seems to play similarly to the fourth installment of the series. Chris moves and shoots in a similar fashion as Leon. The demo took place in a zombie-infested African slum. The fact that the horror occurred in the daytime actually served to make the game a bit more chilling (reminiscent of 28 Days Later). The zombies also seemed to move much faster than their Resident Evil 4 counterparts.

Perhaps the biggest announcement from Capcom was Resident Evil 5's cooperative online mode. In this mode, one player controls Chris Redfield, and the other a female agent named Shiva. The demo showed the pair helping each other to solve puzzles and fight the enemy. It is the team dynamic introduced in Resident Evil 0, taken to a whole new level. At one point Chris reached a chasm he could not cross. The player controlling Shiva then came along and Chris boosted her up so she could make the jump. From there Shiva engaged in ferocious close-range combat with swarms of zombies while Chris backed her up from afar with his sniper rifle. The game is slated for release on March 13, 2009.

Todd Howard from Bethesda presented a playable demo of Fallout 3. He displayed a number of unique features that take a stark departure from previous Fallout games. The game is set in post-apocalyptic Washington D.C. It can be played in first person or third ?person perspective. The game also can be played in real-time, like an FPS, or the player can target specific parts of their enemy and then watch the action play out in quick cinematics.

Howard showed off the Pip-Boy 3000, a device attached to the character's arm that displays stats, weapons, etc. The player can also use it to access radio broadcasts being beamed around the wasteland. For example, the Enclave, the last remnant of the U.S. government, has its own radio station. You can listen to this while running about the game, not altogether dissimilar from the audio logs in BioShock. He also tried out a few of the weapons including the Fatman? a portable nuclear device that he used to absolutely obliterate a group of enemies.

Some of the other games highlighted were Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paraside, and You're in the Movies. The last of these featured players performing actions in front of an Xbox camera. For example a player was tasked to swat at insects on the screen. The game would then take this footage and cut it into a B-movie. The one showcased at the conference involved a giant killer lizard menacing footage of Microsoft employees.

A rhythm title worth noting is Lips by developer iNiS (Gitaroo Man, Elite Beat Agents). Lips is essentially a karaoke game in which the player sings along to popular songs. However players can also import their favorite songs by hooking their iPod or Zune up to the Xbox (does anyone actually own a Zune?). The game seems to function like most rhythm titles. The player must sing lyrics in a certain amount of time to earn points. It also seems that the game requires you to hold the microphone in certain positions.

Microsoft also outlined a great deal of changes coming to Xbox Live. This fall players will have the ability to totally redesign their Xbox dashboards with a user-friendlier interface. This interface takes the form of windows not totally dissimilar from the Wii's menu. Likewise, a big new addition is the ability of players to create online avatars. These avatars are similar to Mii's, only with greater detail and feature a larger degree of customization. These avatars act as your in-game character for many of the future Xbox Live games such as Uno and the game show ?1 vs. 100,? the latter of which players actually compete live to win prizes.

Microsoft also announced a partnership with Netflix. Starting this fall Netflix subscribers will be able to watch movies and television shows via their Xbox 360. This function comes at no additional cost for current subscribers. Microsoft described how Xbox users can even watch these movies with friends, simultaneously across the internet. It's like watch a cheesy horror flick with your buddies, only you don't have to worry about them eating all your Doritos.

The conference concluded with some Square-Enix product updates courtesy of the company's president, Yoichi Wada. These included release days for Infinite Undiscovery (September 2) and Star Ocean: The Last Hope (Spring 2009). Wada also showed a brief trailer for The Last Remnant, which will be released for the Xbox 360 this holiday season. The game appears similar to the Final Fantasy series.

Speaking of which, Wada concluded his presentation with a long trailer for Final Fantasy XIII. The trailer was mostly made up of cinematics that featured some of the most photo-realistic characters I've seen in a video game. The in-game graphics also seemed impressive, and the drop down in quality from the cinematics was not as great as one might expect.

Overall this year's Microsoft presentation was a bit underwhelming. Much of the audience was aware of the really big titles going into the presentation. Most everything, from Gears of War 2 to Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts, is simply a sequel to a well-established franchise. This is not unexpected, or even unwelcome, but it would have been nice to see a few more brand new titles. The new content that was unveiled, namely the Xbox Live features, seemed neat. However a lot of this content is not terribly original either. The avatars are simply Microsoft's attempt to compete with Nintendo. Even the inclusion of Netflix support is something that most PC owners are already intimately familiar with. With any luck Microsoft's announcements will be a bit more substantive in the months to come.



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