E3 2009: Microsoft Announces New Games, Tech Advances, More

e3_logo_mediumIn the eyes of many, Microsoft knew they were the underdogs going in to E3’s press conferences this year as it had barely any top titles set to come out the rest of the year. But today, they came out with all guns blazing, being the first to show footage, trailers and song announcements for Beatles: Rock Band. To be released on 9.9.09, Beatles: Rock Band features a uniquely animated visual take on the Beatles entire career and musical catalog, starting off in their simple black and white suits to the psychedelic color explosion of their later years.

Of the 45 songs coming with the game, 10 were announced: “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’ Garden”, “Here Comes the Sun”, and “Get Back”. In addition, the entire Abbey Road album will be released as downloadable content as will “All You Need is Love” which will give a donation based on sales to the charity Doctors Without Borders. Making sure to have E3 be the top spectacle of the industry, Yoko Ono and Olivia Harrison were welcomed to the stage before the first major celebrities of the event, Paul McCartney and Ringo Star.

Both men seemed excited to be there and about the game, despite Paul joking that they couldn’t actually play it themselves. Also for the Beatles: Rock Band demonstration, a Rock Band team played “I Want to Hold Your Hand” on stage using a Beatles: Rock Band kit including a drum set with cymbals and a bad ass looking Bass.

Up next came XBox corporate VP, John Shappert who talked about how the video game industry has done well during this turbulent financial time because he feels now more than ever people need to have fun. He promised a press conference with no charts and figures but instead 10 never before seen game premiers. First off, Tony Hawk came to the stage to discuss Tony Hawk Ride.

Tony displayed the final version of the skateboarding peripheral which included infrared sensors to make the skating experience as accurate as possible to real skateboarding. Pro Skater Rodney Mullen was featured in the video saying that with the “sense of flow (in the game), it is first time I could really get in to a game.” The video highlights the board’s ability to literally copy the motion of the player.

Much anticipated Modern Warfare 2 gave a glimpse of actual real time gameplay footage as the audience watched an abbreviated playthrough of the level “Cliffhanger”, an arctic mission that displayed amazing weather effects over the classic Modern Warfare gameplay. Most exciting changes came from a gun with a built in radar and the ability to drive a snowmobile and shoot while driving it. XBox was proud to announce that they’d be getting two exclusive multiplayer map packs for XBox Live users.

The Microsoft Press conference saw the world premiere of Final Fantasy XIII playing on an XBox 360. Featuring characters Lightning and Suds (who had a baby chocobo living in his afro), the demo showed a large boss mech battle featuring four recharge gauges and the beautifully rendered Summon spell, Odin.

From here on out, Microsoft announced proudly that the next seven titles were Microsoft exclusives , sorry Sony fanboys. First up for the exclusives came Epic Games announcing their first ever XBox Live Arcade game, Shadow Complex, coming in Summer of this year. Despite some audio issues, Cliffy B was able to explain the game briefly as the audience saw the side scrolling shooter from the people who brought Gears of War and Unreal Tournament. The unique aspect came from the use of certain weapons also as tools, like using a freeze ray both on enemies and as a way to make stairs to reach higher areas.

Additionally, environmental kills are also going to be an option in gameplay. Also for XBLA is Joyride, coming Winter ’09, a cart racer using players’ avatars as drivers as well as actual customizable cars like the original Volkswagen bus. The game will be taking an Eastern Free for Play mentality as the game itself will be free but different cars, upgrades and courses will cost money to download. But for online players, as long as one of the players has paid for a course download everyone else can drive it at no cost.

Two big exclusive trailers with no actual gameplay footage came with the announcements of Crackdown 2 and Left 4 Dead 2. Crackdown 2 looks like it took the supercop mentality of the original game and added new superpowered foes. Left 4 Dead 2, coming out November 17th,  takes a new group of four survivors through the zombie apocalypse in a locale resembling New Orleans, including what looks like new zombie types. The next iteration of Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell came to fruition with Conviction. This time, Sam Fischer has gone rogue and is taking the fight to the men who have killed his daughter.

A walk through of the first level reveals the new storytelling style as the game’s story and objectives will be revealed in real time as memories and objectives will be displayed along the walls as the gameplay progresses. Sam will be given new skills as he gains the “Mark and Execute” feature, enabling precision kills going in to new rooms proving him to be the ultimate predator, fast, ruthless and efficient in his methods.

Gran Turismo may be getting a run for its money as footage was premiered for Forza Motorsports 3 showed what looks like it may be the most aesthetically pleasing racing games ever. Coming of October of this year, Forza features 400 different cars from 50 different car makers and literally limitless car customization options with their car painter feature.

It will also feature a built-in high definition video editor to make custom game videos. The featured video made entirely from the in-game editor included insane driving stunts and choreography that could rival any Hollywood movie as many of the stunts could never safely be performed by real drivers.

It wouldn’t be E3 without Halo. As expected, Halo 3: ODST‘s first level was on display. Taking place three weeks before the events of Halo 3, ODST starts off with one of the Orbital Drop Shock Troopers being separated from his drop squad and working his way back to them. Using new equipment such as a lowlight improved vision visor to help targeting and two silenced weapons, the Rookie makes his way to find an old remote detonator. Finding this item triggers the game to change to the perspective of Dutch, another ODST. This is a storytelling method that takes place throughout the game to help the player understand the secrets of New Moombasa through the actions of various members of the ODST’s.

But that wasn’t all the Halo world had to offer. Following the Halo 3: ODST gameplay, a top secret project teaser trailer was revealed with the CGI images of a world being attached and destroyed from space. Following the image the words “Halo Reach” came across the screen, along with “Fall 2010”. Anyone who follows the Halo mythology knows about the planet Reach falling before the events of the original Halo. It is likely this is the prequel to the Halo series that could bring Master Chief back in the fold.  To help further the sales of Halo 3: ODST, Bungie promised Beta-Test access to Halo Reach’s multiplayer mode with purchase of Halo 3: ODST.

The finale of the new games trailers and gameplay footage came from an intense look of Alan Wake, the much shrouded in mystery psychological thriller that tells the story of a writer who has lost his wife in a small town as one of his own terrifying tales plays out in front of him. The walk through was reminiscent of a horror game like Silent Hill as the protagonist walks through the woods with his flashlight and shotgun dealing with enemies that art hurt by the light, and subsequently by his shotgun blasts.

Be sure to check back later right here for Part 2 of the Microsoft announcements featuring technology and the biggest announcements yet.

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