E3 2010: The Xbox Stuff

Trying to wrap some of the little chunks of games and things that looked interesting from E3 into fewer, larger posts here’s a rundown on as much Xbox stuff as I can cobble together. Sony and Third Parties to follow. Here’s what I thought of Nintendo.

The Cirque Du Soleil Show
I like to think that this performance art/interpretive dance/marketing stunt wasn’t aimed at me. I’m sure with some footage of a kid on a robot elephant cut with b-roll from the show floor and some Kinect demos the general populace was really impressed but I’ll take my artsy-fartsy imagery in my games, thank you very much.

The Press Conference
Like all of the pressers at E3 I didn’t get to see it all and didn’t get to see it live but, for me, it didn’t start out very hot. They didn’t sell me on Call of Duty: Black Ops or Halo: Reach which I find interesting only because both of them are cramming in vehicles as if to say “what more can we do with an FPS?”. Gears of War 3 was also not for me; I can’t believe how drenched that game is with dude-bro spunk. I felt dirty just from watching it.

The Kinect demos were definitely the highlight of the show for me. The robotic dialog and corny presenters aside, the tech looked amazing. From the dashboard interface (can’t wait for another new NXE) to the video chat stuff and the games, which I’ll say a little more about below. Then they pretty much wrapped up by showing off the new, slimmer Xbox 360, giving one to everybody in the audience and announcing it was shipping that very day. It worked because Katy and I went out Saturday and bought one. No more ‘idling jet engine’ console for us, and hopefully they’ve finally gotten over that nasty Red Ring hardware defect!

Kinectimals looks so damn cute but it doesn’t seem like there’s more than $20 worth of “game” there, and that I put game in quotes makes me question how long it could possibly be entertaining. Kinect Sports and Adventures were clearly torn out of the Wii’s playbook but at least a few of the games in each look fun. I want to love Kinect Joy Ride because I’ve been waiting for it since it was first announced (sans Kinect) but all that I hear is that it’s not much fun. Lackluster as these first-party titles sound we’ll probably buy at least one of them at launch, for Achievements sake, of course.

Surprisingly, it’s the third-party games that seem most appealing. Your Shape: Fitness Evolved looks like a promising and pleasant piece of software as long as it lets you get to your workout in short order. Pretty interfaces and animations are great until you’ve wasted a lifetime sitting through them every time you just want to exercise. Tetsuya Mizuguchi’s Child of Eden looks like something out of the future, waving and triggering attacks at gorgeous (and insane) worlds while falling into the rhythm of another amazing electronic soundtrack. I can’t wait for this!

Now, you guys know me and dance games. I’ve loved DDR and Pump it Up for over a decade now and have played about as many rhythm games as anyone but it still surprises me that my Kinect “Game of Show” is Harmonix’s Dance Central. It plays exactly like Just Dance on the Wii but has style and a soundtrack to make it more than a passing diversion. Obviously I didn’t play it but word is that they’ve got Kinect working at its best here, tracking your moves reliably and not trying to map them awkwardly onto a 3D character. More than Your Shape or EA Sports Active, Dance Central may be the exer-game for me. Konami followed suit with their own dance/rhythm title, Dance Masters, headed up by the DDR team. It doesn’t look any bit as expertly crafted as Dance Central but watching DDR Producer, Naoki Maeda, play and talk his way through it (in amazing engrish) convinced me it might be just as much fun. Plus it totally makes you Para Para dance!

Xbox 360
One of the things I love best about Kinect is that when you get tired of moving around you can hop back to the Dashboard and play any number of controller-based games from the comfortable sitting-ass position. Some of the Xbox exclusive highlights from E3 that I’m anticipating include the fantastic looking Castlevania: Harmony of Despair (har har, the acronym is HD). Six player, online, co-op in a massive 2D Castlevania sounds stupendous but I’ve got a few concerns; nothing a pre-purchase Trial won’t remedy though.

I’m so pumped that Otomedius! Excellent is finally getting translated. I’ve always admired the Parodius series but never spent the cash to import any of them, I just hope I still enjoy bullet hell shooters enough to appreciate this latest anime-girl-wearing-a-ship experience. Comic Jumper continues to look all kinds of stupid fun, Fable 3 is a guaranteed purchase (maybe not on Day 1 though?) and Crackdown 2 is close enough it barely needs mentioning. The Summer of Arcade this year looks like a great lineup too with Lara Croft and the Guardian of the Light presenting an interesting isometric adventure, Hydro Thunder Hurricane rekindling some crazy arcade racer love, the silly-awesome Monday Night Combat and the grimly gorgeous Limbo.

In closing…
… I’m pretty surprised how few actual, exclusive Xbox games I’m looking at here. If it weren’t for Kinect there would only be a few Live Arcade titles on this list but there’s still a load of multi-console releases that I’ll definitely be playing on 360. And once again I’m really excited just to use the Xbox, with the Kinect interface and a refreshed Dashboard running on our super quiet new slim 360 it’ll be fun to simply poke around.

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