• Microsoft's E3 2010 Keynote, Pt. 1

        The final stand of core gamers

        Of the three major keynotes that will serve as the official opening of this year's gaming pageant known as E3, the only one I was set not to attend personally was Microsoft's. 95% of the way through the presentation, I was thankful for that fact; in the remaining 5% of time that played out before Spike TV returned to showing us what would happen if the IRA were to take on the ancient Mayans in an all-out war, tears filled my eyes, brought forth from my unending jealousy and heartbreak.
        But, seeing as I'm no Tarantino, I really shouldn't start this with an ending. Let's try the beginning instead.
        For months now on one of the weekly podcasts that I do (Smart Video Game Fan, if I may be so bold to insert a cheap plug), I have been giving Microsoft's crazy new controller-eschewing Project Natal high praise such as "I don't know, it could be fun" and "I really want to give it an honest chance." All the while, my co-host used every opportunity to mock me for having such an open mind.

        And really, I can't blame him. Nintendo's decision to turn their traditional controller into a VCR remote was a crazy idea, but at least it was an idea that still contained things such as buttons and d-pads. In Sony's recent promotional video for their Wii-too Move, dreamy YouTube-beloved VP of everything Sony Kevin Butler took an extremely easy shot at Natal, saying (paraphrased), "We also have something important that we like to call 'Buttons', which it turns out are important to those millions of people who enjoy playing any game that doesn't involve catching a big red ball. Who wants to pretend that their hand is a gun? What is this, third grade?"

        The funniest part of Mr. Butler's snarky comment is that, in one quick joke Sony gleefully inserted into a silly promo video, the entire problem with Microsoft's venture into undiscovered territory was pinpointed with amazing accuracy.

        The reason I cared far more to see where Natal would go versus the PlayStation Move stuff was because I didn't know where it was going to go. Move knows what it is, what it can be, and Sony seems content to push it as that. No matter if the folks behind Move were working on it years and years ago, at this point all you can see is something that will give the PS3 a platform for Wii titles to quickly and easily be ported over. You know, all of those... stellar, high-level, blockbuster titles that hit the Wii every month from companies other than Nintendo. Well, give Sony a break. I'm sure it sounded like a good idea at the time.

        While Sony was putting out glamour images for the Move controller that you'd swear were just photoshops of Nintendo's early Wii press photos, Microsoft kept us in the dark as to what kind of experience we'd be having with Natal because it was just too damn mind-blowing. When nothing but upside-down living rooms hanging above the cast of Cirque du Soleil and a crowd of poncho-wearing observers can kick off the full official reveal of your new gaming platform, you know we're in store for some world of tomorrow Buck Rogers-level shit here!

        I wanted Natal to be something. I didn't know what, but that was why I was excited for it. As nice as the iPad is, when Steve Jobs brought it out on stage to reveal to the world, I could already imagine in my mind what the experience would be like. When he first pulled the original iPhone from his front jeans pocket, I had no clue what in the hell I'd be store for for the next 45 minutes, let alone when I'd finally get it in my hands. In that element of unknown, there exists a large chance for complete and utter disappointment, but there also exists the possibility that you'll have your life forever changed.

        So, as I sat down in my co-host's studio apartment so that we could watch the fun unfold live on Spike TV, I couldn't wait to see what happened.

        The keynote kicked off with what I suppose is now required: a Call of Duty game. Oh, but this one is sub-titled "Black Ops", which so far as I can tell could have been any random assortment of nouns and adjectives. The problem with showing off gameplay footage of a military-themed third person shooter is that at this point I'm not even sure the hardcore fans can tell them apart. A team of people who will end up being totally dispensable have fun chattering away as we gun down other soldier types in a jungle. I'm not sure who they are or why we're killing them, but I know they're evil (and thus must die) because when I shoot them they shoot back instead of yelling at me about "watching where I'm shooting!"

        The crowning moment of this presentation comes when the player and an NPC jump into a chopper to blanket the third world with napalm and lead. This part was somewhat exciting until I realized that it seemed pretty obvious the player wasn't at all controlling the helicopter, but instead just the targeting reticule as the world travelled down a pre-set path. In 2010, the Call of Duty franchise heads into brave new territory: that of a 1980's LaserDisc game.

        The rest of what would become known as the "part of the show where Microsoft showed off actual games" was about as blatant as one could be in targeting a very specific gamer type. A game on your Xbox 360 where you shoot stuff! Another game where shoot stuff, but now they're aliens instead of humans! Some more shootings aliens, looking suspiciously like Halo 2! Oh yeah, and then slicing stuff too, for those few times you need a break from shooting. To be fair, Metal Gear Solid: Rising had what has to be a completely ridiculous sword-slicing mechanic, one which makes me honestly curious to try it out. Thinking about it, gunplay in games is getting to be an art form, so why not elevate swordsmanship at least somewhat beyond "spam the A button to swing"?

        It was amazing how utterly un-original this portion of the conference was. Another Call of Duty. Another Gears of War. Another Metal Gear. Another Halo. Another Fable. With this except of a somewhat cryptic announcement of a special partnership with Crytek, Microsoft seemed to take an immense level of pleasure in showing you just how familiar the Xbox experience will be for the foreseeable future.

        I now wonder if this was done specifically to help off-balance what was to come next.
        This article was originally published in blog: Microsoft's E3 2010 Keynote Part 1: The Final Stand of Core Gamers started by shidoshi
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