Jon gives us the lowdown from inside the Galen Center at Microsoft's E3 2012 press briefing.
There was a strange atmosphere in the long queues outside Los Angeles' Galen Centre. Industry figures and fellow journalists alike weren't sure what to expect from Microsoft's press conference after a couple of disappointing years, and told me so while scarfing down hastily-purchased breakfast biscuits and energy drinks. Once sat down under the harsh glare of the green lights, this aura of anticipation and trepidation amplified tenfold, with a surprisingly subdued crowd talking quietly about the other pressers scheduled for later that day, as well as the welcome lack of white robes and other gimmicky paraphernalia.
And then the live Halo 4 demo blew us away, giving us a look at some lush jungle gameplay, vicious AI adversaries, forerunner tech and a wicked new visor mode. Even Mattrick's boasting did little to dampen the newfound sense of excitement, especially when the new Splinter Cell: Blacklist demonstration sneaked out and heralded the return of a new and improved mark & execute system.
The Madden NFL banter would have seemed more impressive if half of us couldn't see the autocue. Sad. Still, it's great to see more mainstream games taking advantage of Kinect in interesting ways.
Epic (in any sense of the phrase) Gears Of War: Judgement contrasted nicely with too school for school, wub wub-blaring Forza Horizon, followed by a big shout out to the increasingly popular entertainment apps. And an embarrassing focus on Bing, which needs to die already. On the plus side, Xbox Music will hopefully kill off Zune, and Nike might help me get some much-needed exercise. It's overlong presentation certainly helped me catch up on some sleep.
Xbox Smartglass? It's a neat idea, and a good way to plug the upcoming Windows 8 tablets/phones. I hope my Windows 7 phone will be compatible with it - if only to shut up Matt's constant (if deserved) crowing! So long as developers actually get on board, this could be an awesome three screen strategy. Better yet, the 360 is finally getting a web browser, and it looks brilliant, despite Parker and Stone giving it a sly dig.
A trifecta of exclusives made for an interesting watch, with Lococycle eclipsing Signal's ropey looking God Of War knockoff before being trumped by Gore Verbinski's exciting-looking Matter. Wreckateer looks set to be a right laugh in an Angry Birds vein, and isn't it nice that Harmonix are still getting some triple-A work? I must admit to not being one of the eight people who stood up during Usher's segment- know your audience, Microsoft!
All in all? A half-decent media briefing; unambitious, yet focusing on core games, key features and big-name franchises. Which sums up the Xbox 360 nicely, I suppose...