Gut Reactions: Microsoft E3 Press Conference

Find out what the GameSpot editorial team thought of Microsoft's E3 event.

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It's not even the first official day of E3, but things are already starting to heat up in Los Angeles. Microsoft just completed its E3 2010 press conference where the company finally took the wraps off its new hardware, called Kinect. It is a camera that lets you interact with games and the Xbox 360 dashboard without the aid of a controller. We saw a variety of games that will support the new device, including a rhythm game called Dance Central, a new version of Ubisoft's Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, an interactive animal adventure called Kinectimals, and more. Of course, Kinect wasn't the only big thing on display. Various developers took to the stage to show off their latest and greatest, including Call of Duty: Black Ops, Gears of War 3, Metal Gear Solid: Rising, Halo: Reach, and Fable III. So with all of this on display, what did the GameSpot editors think of the show? Read below to find out.

Brian Ekberg, Senior Editor

Some highlights and a few "meh-lights" (is that even a word?) from the Microsoft press conference for me. Thumbs-up to the Call of Duty: Black Ops demo, which sets a new standard for South Asian explosions-per-minute. Gears of War 3 delivered just the kind of bloody thrills I was anticipating (though more Baird would have been a good thing). Chopping up watermelons (and bad guys) in Metal Gear Solid: Rising looked surprisingly fun.

As for the "meh" demos, I'd lump a good chunk of the Kinect-specific games in there. In fact, after what we've seen, I'm less interested in Kinect as a way to get me off the couch and more interested in it as a way to keep me on the couch as much as possible--using voice chat or simple gestures to control video and music playback, for example, or watching ESPN coverage.

Finally, and this is of utmost importance: I want a kitty named Skittles!

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Justin Calvert, Senior Editor

After watching the Microsoft press conference from the GameSpot booth, my first reaction at the end was that--after registering and RSVPing--I should have actually gone to it. That way I'd be getting one of those redesigned consoles for free, and I'd feel a lot better about the fact that my regular Xbox 360 red-ringed just a week ago. As for the rest of the conference, I'm now significantly more excited for both Gears of War 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops than I was before, and all of the cutting going on in the Metal Gear Solid: Rising demo definitely piqued my interest. Otherwise, I thought the event was underwhelming. Molyneux was only onstage with Fable III for about a minute, Kinect Sports looks a lot like a game I already own on the Wii, and Microsoft's reluctance to confirm a price for the Kinect hardware suggests that perhaps it's rethinking it in a hurry. Honestly, I think the highlight of the press conference was the performance of the little girl who demoed Kinectimals.

Sophia Tong, Associate Editor

Microsoft started its press conference with an impressive list of games that many of us are really excited about. It kicked off with a ton of violence and blood, and I couldn't help but feel all giddy after watching the demo for Gears of War 3 and the trailer to Metal Gear Solid: Rising. I was also looking forward to Fable III, but seeing images of the game didn't really do much for me. I need to play it. Kinect was obviously the star of the show and was a continuation of last night's Cirque du Soleil presentation. Even though I'm looking forward to shooting berserkers in the face, I have a soft spot for that adorable tiger kitty and can't wait to virtually cuddle with my exotic zoo animal. If Kinect is as responsive as it seems, then I will gladly put away my controller and bark orders at my Xbox 360 all day.

Jane Douglas, Section Editor | GameSpot UK

Surprise: Kinect's showing at the conference was all casual. The new Turn 10 title with Kinect interface, presumably the next Forza Motorsport game, was the only nod to the hardcore. Fair play, we've been getting the hint about controller-free accessibility for traditional non-gamers for a while now, but I thought we might have seen something about Fable III and Kinect. Still, Dance Central could be a fun dance game (and a better workout than Ubisoft's Your Shape: Fitness Evolved, it looked like) if the dance-move recognition turns out to be accurate. And the voice commands for movie playback and the rest will be great. I'm not entirely sold on the angular shape or gloss finish of the Xbox 360 Slim, but you can't argue with the size or the built-in Wi-Fi. We'll hear how "whisper quiet" it is or isn't later on. Slice-em-up Metal Gear Solid: Rising was the highlight of the conference, though. Slicing through pillars and bullet-time dismemberment were excellent "wow" moments.

Guy Cocker, Editor | GameSpot UK

Microsoft's E3 2010 was always going to be headlined by Kinect (previously Natal), and there's no doubt that it impressed from a technical perspective. The body recognition worked flawlessly in a stage environment, which bodes well for the finished product. Some of the new games looked really fun, too, particularly Dance Central and Forza Motorsport 4, although many seemed boring and predictable.

On the traditional games side, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Metal Gear Solid: Rising, Halo: Reach, Fable III, and Gears of War 3 all looked great, but they're based on existing AAA franchises. It was disappointing to see no real shock announcements--something that Microsoft has frequently delivered over the past few years. I was also surprised at the lack of Xbox Live Arcade content. Microsoft has made a big thing about the Summer of Arcade over the past two years--is it now dead?

Finally, as a European, I was also pretty disappointed about the lack of Euro-specific info on the big announcements (Xbox 360 Slim, Natal launch date), I hope to find out more over the next few days.

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Randolph Ramsay, Editor | GameSpot AU

Remember Microsoft's Natal presentations at last year's E3? You know, those demos where they showed you could have a natural conversation with a virtual character (where are you Milo?), working with a system that could seamlessly track movement in 3D space? Well, that's not what they had at this year's press conference for the newly renamed Kinect. What they showed was a bunch of games that have already been seen on the Wii, with very little of the innovation promised in 2009. So, yes, I have yet to be convinced of Kinect's worth (although Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II has potential). But when it comes to core games, the 360 has a solid lineup. Halo: Reach looks great, Gears of War 3 looks brutal, and I'm excited to see what Crytek is working on with Codename Kingdoms. As an Australian, though, I'm extremely worried that the slow-motion, methodical limb chopping of Metal Gear Solid: Rising will have a tough time getting past our stringent censors. Better have a good argument heading into the Australian Classification Board, Konami.

Giancarlo Varanini, Editor-at-Large

Wow. I think this was one of the few press conferences where I was genuinely still entertained despite the fact that most of the pertinent stuff either leaked or we've already seen it in some form. But let's start with the elephant in the room--Kinect. I don't care for the name at all, and the games we've seen thus far are mostly derivative of the stuff we've already seen on the Wii, but there's real promise to the technology that I can't quite put my finger on. I guess you could say that there were genuine flashes of brilliance in each Kinect demo, but on their own terms (and even though that little girl playing with the tiger in Kinectimals was adorable), the games did nothing to impress. That doesn't mean I'm down on Kinect. I just suspect that we'll see the more amazing stuff a bit down the line.

Otherwise, it was an all-around impressive showing. I'm not a huge Call of Duty fan, but Black Ops looks great, and more Gears of War is always a good thing. But I think I was most impressed by Metal Gear Solid: Rising. When Kojima announced the project at last year's conference, I immediately had dreams of a game similar to Ninja Gaiden II, but in the Metal Gear Solid universe. And from the looks of that brief presentation, I'll be getting my wish--plus, the super-focused slash attacks are just plain awesome.

Kevin VanOrd, Editor

I admit it: I am a core gamer, probably not one of the sort Microsoft is trying to recruit with all these Kinect games we saw at the company's E3 2010 press conference. Yet I am still charmed by Kinectimals. I like the idea of a Nintendogs: Best Friends-type game with animals you can't (or at least, shouldn't) raise in real life--at least, not in a suburban California apartment. Your Shape: Fitness Evolved also intrigues me, not because I need to shed a few pounds (I need to shed more than a few), but because if the one-to-one motion works well, the game could truly change what we expect from fitness games. As for the rest, well, color me unenthused, which is a dull shade of tan. Watching Kinect Joyride in action, I couldn't help but think, "Well that could be fun if only I had a controller in my hand while I did it." The "flail about in your living room" revolution has yet to sweep me up in its furor.

Fortunately, Microsoft showed off enough core games to make me happy--though not enough to get me giddy. There were a few nice highlights, however. First, we saw the world's best watermelon-slicing sim in Metal Gear Solid: Rising, which has me very excited to see Raiden carrying an entire game on his own. (For what it's worth, I liked the Raiden half of Metal Gear Solid 2!) I'm also digging Halo: Reach's dark art style, and I was as excited as anyone to see the ship combat that ended the brief demo. Gears of War 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops made strong showings but not unexpected ones. Aside from the exciting announcement that the newly slim Xbox 360 goes on sale this week, there wasn't anything truly surprising. Last year, the Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Conviction demo sent chills down my spine. No chills this year, though I did manage a few bright smiles. Score: 7.0. (Good.)

Tom Mc Shea, Associate Editor

I don't want to be the cynical guy who is negative about every new announcement, but Microsoft really left me no choice. First, I'll talk about the good stuff. Halo: Reach looks incredible, and I cannot wait to see how Bungie tackles ship-to-ship battles in space. Fable III also looks like top-drawer entertainment. I have always loved Lionhead's artistic design, and this looks like it captures the Fable charm well and has plenty of dark elements to boot. Plus, who doesn't like battling on the high seas? I'm sure Gears of War 3 will be fun, but nothing mind blowing was shown today.

Everything else left me feeling cold. As much as Microsoft is preaching that the Kinect is for everyone, I didn't see one game that I would like to play. Yes, Kinectimals is amazingly cute, but it looks like an HD kitty version of Nintendogs, a game I got tired of after an hour. Kinect Sports could be the beginning of the end for Rare, an uninspired clone of Wii Sports four years after the party. I was a lot more excited for Kinect Joyride when it was free and could be played with a controller, and Star Wars: The Force Unleashed II looks like it would struggle to hold my attention for one level. And though my sedentary ways may argue otherwise, Your Shape: Fitness Evolved and Dance Central are not exactly for me.

With two massive games this fall and one more next year, Microsoft should have a good future. But its focus on casual games and non-game applications today made this an underwhelming press conference.

Dan Chiappini, Associate Editor | GameSpot AU

I'd wager dollars to doughnuts there were more than a few concerned head scratches and double takes at the conference schedule as Microsoft took fans on an emotional roller-coaster ride to launch E3 2010. A far sight from the star-studded cavalcade rolled out at last year's show, the event came frontloaded with key franchises like Halo: Reach, Fable III, Call of Duty: Black Ops, Gears of War 3, and Metal Gear Solid: Rising. Latecomers and those who stuck around were treated to the bevy of inevitable motion-sensing minigame compilations, fitness titles, and a cautionary tale of the very real dangers of wild animal ownership.

Periphery services like Kinect video chat, ESPN's free sportsgasm, and virtual tours of cars you'll never afford to own are all well and good, but it will be the design aesthetic and hardware configuration of the Xbox 360 Slim that will rumble around the E3 halls a little longer.

Laura Parker, Features Editor | GameSpot AU

Given that last year's E3 kicked off with an appearance by the two surviving Beatles, this year's start has let me down. More than 50 percent of Microsoft's press conference was dedicated to its new motion-sensing system, Kinect, which is dishearteningly simplistic. Nintendo is probably still trying to shake off the feeling of déjà vu, while the rest of us sit and wonder why it feels like we've just taken a giant step backward. Microsoft promised innovation and leadership when it first announced Natal, but what we got instead was a party sports game, a DDR rip-off, and a realistic-looking yoga instructor.

There were some good bits though: Kojima debuting the new Metal Gear Solid: Rising trailer, the hot blonde from Gears of War 3 (women soldiers FTW), and the new Tetsuya Mizuguchi game Child of Eden, which looks like it will actually be doing something cool with Kinect.

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