In a thankful departure from the keynotes of 2010 and 2011, Microsoft provides a solid showing this year, but many of us are left with the impression that Microsoft might be playing it too safe.


If I was a shareholder invested in the fortunes of the Xbox 360, I would be completely comfortable with what was just displayed to us.  This years Microsoft keynote was all about the action game.  Games that are tightly scripted action sequences and QTEs.  If that sounds like your cup of tea, and lets agree here, games like Halo4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 are going to sell extremely well, then Microsoft has the console for you.  


Gone are the staged skits of performers pretending to play the Kinect in any kind of ‘real life’ circumstance.   Microsoft shocked us by coming out of the gate with Halo 4.  Halo, being developed by the dream team at 313 Studio brings us a return of the Master Chief.  Production values are way up for this new Halo.  Live action scenes with well done CGI and realtime gameplay graphics are squeezing every last bit of performance out of the aging Xbox 360.  


Next was the new Splinter Cell: Blacklist.  From what what was shown of the game, a no longer so stealthy Sam that is suffering from a sever case of “ action game influence” that is changing games like Dead Space 3, Resident Evil 6 and Tomb Raider.  That sickness is a quick time event ‘Push A to win’ gameplay thats becoming main stream.  This kind of cookie cutter gameplay really only has gamers to blame, as it can’t be denied that these games always make for big profits for game makers.
 Not long after Splinter Cell were two quick looks into Forza 5 and the new Gears of War: the younger years.  


Gears of War doesn’t look too ready for the show floor yet, as all that was shown was a pre-rendered trailer and the promise of 2013.  Indeed, there really isn’t much to say for what games are coming out this year as the majority of what Microsoft showed today were mostly all pushed to 2013 with the exception of Halo4 and Call of Duty: Black Ops 2.  
 So these two high profile games not withstanding; Microsoft is spending much of its efforts on getting you to uses your Xbox to NOT play video games.   Microsoft is looking for more people to watch, workout, and interact with there console in 2012.  


A newly announced partnership with ESPN promises 24/7 access to the channels sports cast over Xbox Live Gold.  One top of that, cable provider permitting,  sport fanatics will have new access to all NBA, NHL, MLB, and UFC broadcasts.  Xbox is the system to own if your serious about watching your sports of choice, no doubt.    But don’t just watch sports, be part of it.  A collaboration with Nike+ is on the way to the Kinect that is touted to offer high performance training that will sync with Nike’s Fuel exercise tracker.  Something to look into if all that ESPN turns you into a couch potato.


Next up was a large chunk of the keynote focused on a closer look into project Smart Glass, and what it’s going to be.  Smart Glass itself really isn’t a new product Microsoft is expecting you to go out and buy.  Its more of an app that you can run on your Windows mobile, Android, or iOS device that takes control of the Xbox’s interactions.  You can now interface with movies, games, and soon a edition of Internet Explorer.  Gamers can select Madden 13 football plays from a mobile device while leaving their TV screens obstruction free, was Microsofts concept example.  As of now, Smart Glass seems to be fleshed out for all of your interactions with Xbox live.  For gamers, we are going to have to wait on developers to find new and interesting ways to integrate the new control medium into their games.  This is an interesting development, we won’t know till Nintendo’s press conference, but it seems that the Xbox and Wii U are blending into each other. 


So outside of the sure to make TONS of money sure bets of more live sports; more action game action action, there wasn’t much of a surprise to any of todays announcements.  The most entertaining, and thankful break up in pace was a close look into the new Southpark RPG.  The game promised the same famous humor of the show. And its really impressive to see how THQ nailed the look of Southpark.  It looks exactly like an episode.  Trey Parker and Matt Stone made a surprise visit onstage to talk about the game, and to make a few good natured jabs at Microsoft Smart Glass and their promise to let you control your xbox with a toaster, from inside your oven.


Oh, and Let’s Dance 3 is still a game.  Usher made himself a cool ten million dollars from Microsoft to dance in front of a auditorium of groggy game journalist.  Good Times! E3 madness remains in full swing hear in LA.  Stay tuned for more coverage from CVgames!  Its only just started.

By Dominick Fleres – 06/04/12

Screenshots for Microsoft Keynote at E3 2012