E3 08: Microsoft Press Conference

The weeklong deluge of gaming press conferences began this morning with Microsoft's third-party-heavy chat hour. First up was a demo of Fallout 3 that didn't expose anything new other than black and white propaganda commercials. It's super gory, looks freakin' amazing and was said to come loaded with future DLC plans. Bethesda was actually quite excited about the great amount of planned DLC. Hope you like paying for extra content!

Next up was a surprisingly brief demo of Resident Evil 5 that revealed online co-op with the other female character (couldn't catch her name). Our earlier preview covered most of the other details - the only other big piece of info is the worldwide release date of March 13, 2009.

Then came Fable 2. More dog, more talking, more running through woods. The lights quickly dimmed and made way for a huge Gears 2 presentation that showed off the co-op campaign. It began in a large sinkhole that'd swallowed an entire city. Cue lots of "let's do this" and "awwww shit!" followed by heads asploding. New enemies, like ground-based reavers and a mace-swinging locust showed up but were quickly shattered into blobes of red goo. Saw a bit of the flamethrower weapon but not much. It's worth pointing out that after seeing Fallout 3, RE5 and Gears 2 back-to-back, they all look remarkably alike. Grey, brown, blood, repeat. All gorgeous mind you, but verrrry drab.

Above: Gears of War 2

The next Gears set piece took place in a flaming elevator shaft. Halfway up it jams and you're tasked with downing one of the massive Brumak. "If they can ride 'em, so can we," and the demo ends to cheers and applause. Also, a new mode called Horde, is 5-player co-op with waves of increasingly difficult locusts. Launch date - November 7.

Microsoft then claimed 360 would sell more than PS3 this generation, hands-down, mainly thanks to Xbox Live and Marketplace. NBC and Universal are jumping in with such relevant movies as The Fast and the Furious, Mummy Returns and Scorpion King. In Europe they'll add Constantin Film and MGM. Then, "How do we welcome more people to Xbox 360?" leading to the next presentation.

Above: Is this really necessary?

Apparently, the answer is "avatars," with their own pants, hair shoes and hats omg! It's totally like having a Mii two years late. The update comes with a new dashboard update as well, a grey background with different scrolling windows that contain your videos, music and the game disc in the tray. Then came a rather long video talking about how amazing avatars are. Forced applause slowly creaked out of the audience, presumably because it's a room filled with gamers and not new users. However, the "friends online" menu was kind of neat, showing you all the avatars of people who're online.

You can now share photos with a group of friends live, streaming them to up to eight people. Or hop into the Primetime tab and play game show-style titles like 1 vs 100 that star you and 99 other avatars from Live users. Basically, it looks like they took Miis and actually did something with them, making them a core part of the dashboard. No word on what happens to the Gamerscore or the old dashboard. Then came a new UNO game, UNO Rush. One person cheered.

Above: Galaga Legionson Xbox Live Arcade

Far more exciting was the announcement of Geometry Wars 2 for XBLA coming next month. Four-players and tons of rainbow-y effects. Then came a new Galaga, which looked like Galaga on ten pounds of acid. Galaga Legions also lands next month on XBLA only.

Next announcement came from GLaDOS herself - Portal: Still Alive is coming exclusively to XBLA. Also a South Park came, as evidenced by a four-second trailer showing nothing. Xbox Community Games lands this fall as well, featuring user-generated titles. Then Microsoft was "thrilled" to announce a partnership with Netflix - 360 becomes the only console with access to Netflix's vast database at no extra charge. You can also watch films with friends via Live. Holy crap!

Rare grabbed the spotlight for a bit next, with trailers for Banjo-Kazooie and Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise. Looks like you'll be able to scan cards via the Vision camera for new piñatas, and the original N64 Banjo is coming to XBLA. Scene It: Box Office Smash is heading our way as well, with avatar support.

Then frontman Shane Kim revealed You're in the Movies, a new Vision camera game that "really puts you in the movies!" Kinda like the EyeToy, you act out gestures prompted by the game. Actually, it’s a lot like the EyeToy. The game then compiles all the footage into a movie of sorts. Ships this fall with a camera included.

Guitar Hero IV demo next, with more than 80 songs and an 8-player Battle of the Bands mode. Also showed a bit of GH Tunes, the distribution outlet for the game's music creation software. New REM track pack lands soon, along with new Metallica exclusivity. Death Magnetic, the band's new album, will be available right away as a GH download.

Above: Duffy demonstrates Lips

Microsoft's SingStar competitor, Lips, came next with a performance from Duffy. Then Rock Band 2's setlist! Disturbed, Tenacious D, Lit, Bosstones, Guns n' Roses, Bob Dylan and AC/DC, among 80 others, will star. Also, you're able to transfer the songs from the first Rock Band into the sequel. Neat!

Above: Final Fantasy XIII for 360... time to pawn your PS3?

Finally, Yoichi Wada from Square-Enix took the stage. Infinite Undiscovery and Last Remnant were mentioned, the former coming on September 2nd, and Star Ocean: The Last Hope landing next spring. Also, damn, Last Remnant looks exactly like FFXII. Right outta Ivalice. Then, at long last, came the movie for Final Fantasy XIII, lots of loud noise and pretty spaceships. Looks stupidly cool and typically well-directed The CGI is just incredible... but we knew that already.

Guess there's noHalo prequelafter all?

Nintendo and Sony tomorrow!

For more info on Microsoft's press conference and to voice your own opinions, check out our live-blog in the forumshere.

Jul 14, 2008

Brett Elston

A fomer Executive Editor at GamesRadar, Brett also contributed content to many other Future gaming publications including Nintendo Power, PC Gamer and Official Xbox Magazine. Brett has worked at Capcom in several senior roles, is an experienced podcaster, and now works as a Senior Manager of Content Communications at PlayStation SIE.