You've read the bullet points. You've heard the announcements. You've seen the screens. What you need now is some perspective. What does Microsoft's press conference today mean for the future of the Xbox 360… and for the future of gaming? Is Kinect the end of us all? How excited should you be about Halo: Reach, Gears of War 3 and Fable III?
Here's what we think. Let us know your opinions in the comments below.
Jon Hicks, Official Xbox Magazine UK
As expected, Microsoft went big on the newly-christened Kinect - and as expected, there were fitness games. But the hardcore weren't left out: the brutal slicing of Metal Gear Rising is about as un-family-friendly as it gets, the CoD deal means Xbox is going to stay first for shooter fans, and new exclusive Codename Kingdoms means we've got something to follow the killer lineup of Crackdown 2, Halo Reach, Fable 3 and Gears of War 3.
And the Kinect upgrades are seriously cool - voice commands for menu navigation and movie playback is sheer sci-fi. The Xbox hardcore might begrudge the time spent on family games like Kinectimals and Kinect Adventures, but they'll play well with the wider market - as will a more capable and quieter console. I'm sure many would have preferred more guns and gore, but they can't argue with a massive leap forward for the hardware, a great lineup of exclusives. I don't think Microsoft could have done much more to keep all sides happy.
Corey Cohen, Official Xbox Magazine US
From their opening salvo, Microsoft made it clear they were ready to play in 2010... and beyond. The demo of Call of Duty: Black Ops showed off some sweet-looking gameplay, and the following announcement — that all Call of Duty map packs and add-ons from Black Ops through the end of 2012 would debut first on 360 — was great news for Xbox fans.
We’re not totally sure what to think of the Metal Gear Rising demo (which seemed to be a mixture of cutscene and gameplay), but the onscreen swordplay was damn cool-looking. “Cut what you will” and “The blade is in your hands” were the slogans, and we watched as the protagonist sliced a guy in half, hacked off another dude’s leg, and then chopped apart a couple of... watermelons, just for fun. It was wacky, funny, and a great closer.
As expected, Gears of War 3, Fable III, and Halo: Reach made brief appearances, but Kinect stole the show for us. Using it to control your 360 with just your voice was impressive enough: we can’t wait to say “Xbox” or “Zune” to switch channels, as the Microsoft rep did, or to navigate a movie or bookmark our favorite scenes; chat with friends on Video Kinect; and shout “Replay” to rewatch an awesome play in a tense football game. (Yup: that new deal with ESPN, which brings “over 3,500 live and on-demand” events to your 360, should be a sports fans’ dream.)
The Kinect launch games were a pretty interesting assortment, too. Of the six launch games, we were most impressed by three. Kinectimals, which lets you reach out and pet one of dozens of animals (the demo used a tiger cub), and also give it various commands, looks addictive and cute. Your Shape: Fitness Evolved seems like a great way to actually get in shape, with Kinect-tracked knee raises and squat thrusts in personal-training classes, plus the option to take classes like martial arts or tai chi, with Kinect making sure you follow the movements shown onscreen. And the clincher? Harmonix’s Dance Central, a game that might actually teach some of us to dance. Emulate various moves shown onscreen — the Swing, Elbow Throw, Hitch Hike — and then put them together in a routine, to the beats of “Hella Good,” Bell Biv DeVoe’s “Poison,” and other tracks? Seems pretty cool...and Harmonix has more then proven themselves in the rhythm-game category.
Robin Alway, GamesMaster
After yesterday night's Natal experience, it was a relief to sit down in a dark room without any French circus practioners and be shown some new videogames. And not wear a poncho. Overall Microsoft did more than enough to reassure the hardcore gamers that for all of Kinect's yoga and tiger petting, they've got most of the world's biggest games. Halo Reach, CoD Black Ops and Gears 3 looked as solid as you'd expect and demand. There wasn't much breadth though with the announcements divided between the ultra violent like of MGS Rising's new dismemberment direction and Kinect's ultra casual offerings.
There still doesn't seem to be anything for real gamers on the new device and the Star Wars game and Forza didn't really convince. But the fact you can say "hello" to your Xbox and not have to find a remote or controller to navigate means most of us will want one anyway. And just to seal the deal, Microsoft giving out the redesigned 360 free to the US press predictably bent the needle on the E3 whoopometer even if all those new vents are going to make it a bitch to dust.
Next page: Impressions from GamesRadar editor Charlie Barratt