What makes a good press conference? Well I've boiled it down to 4 things when it comes to E3, Games, Surprises, Hardware and Showmanship. So with those 4 traits on the table lets see how I think Microsoft did this year.
Fallout 3, Resident Evil 5 and Gears of War 2 cater to the 'hardcore' fans. Apparantly that means people who really looove them some grey and brown. Fortunately a revamped version of Uno was there to bring in the colour along with Rare's new Viva Pinata and Banjo Kazooie games. Fable 2 also had a nice bit of colour about it, and the announcement that you can chat up a mate's wife or husband which ought to make for some fun times.
Geometry Wars 2, Galaga Legions, Portal: Still Alive and that South Park game look like its going to be an interesting few months on XBLA. Having the Pac-Man CE devs behind Galaga really gives me confidence. The community games look about as exciting as they did last time round, that is to say they look like the bottom rung on the XBLA ladder of generic shitness.
Scene It is back and with online support this time which is very good as the original was a good game crippled by its lack of online. However You're in the Movies was a huge step back from that good bit looking as it did like Eye Toy Play with bad cut-scenes tacked on. Guitar Hero World Tour, Rock Band 2 and Lips brought in the music games and Lips does look like it could rival Singstar if that Zune/iPod idea works as well as it should. Tracking beats and pace for Audiosurf is simple, lyrics are a different matter entirely.
Square stole the show though, while Infinite Undiscovery, Star Ocean and The Last Remnant (hmm, wonder who's doing the character design there) all look very good and nice and will undoubtedly be as fun to play as most Square Enix games, but we all know what stole it.
Final Games Rating
Games are the most important thing, so they get a mark out of 20
You're in the Movies was weak, but the rest of the lineup is incredibly strong.
BANJO KAZOOIE ON XBLA!!
Oh fucking snap, guess we know where Rare's previous titles are all going then eh? Banjo Kazooie will launch on XBLA alongside Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts. The only moment in the conference where I actually had to rewind thinking 'did I hear right what he just said?'.
Wow Microsoft, way to really wrong foot everyone.
However, the internet went into meltdown with the next one.
FINAL FANTASY XIII ON XBOX 360!!
Its all I need to say really.
Final Surprises Rating
Microsoft killed the internet and delivered a nuke to Sony's doorstep.
The new dashboard update fits in here, and with it the Mi....Avatars. Rare have developed these seemingly, so they're clearly settled into the routine of kicking their old owners in the nuts. Nothing special about that really and even the new Dashboard looks like a reskinned XMB (that ought to poke the fanboys). The Live Party idea is pretty decent though, having 8 people going from game to game always sticking together is an excellent idea and will no doubt find its natural audience during Friday Night Fights and Shitty Movie Night with movie support confirmed.
Final Hardware Rating
Avatars and the new dashboard aren't anything particularly special or original, but the Live Party idea is a genuinely cool concept that will no doubt come to be incredibly useful.
It wasn't here, short of that last minute FINAL FANTASY XIII!! reveal, the You're in the Movies demo and Duffy singing the execs and developers were reasonably subdued and personality-less. With Kaz 'Riiidge Racerrr' Hirai on Sony's side and Reggie 'Meatfist' Fils-Aime with Nintendo this still risks being a forgettable conference once the dust has settled.
The dust however, might not settle for a few weeks.
Final Showmanship Rating
Must try harder Microsoft, the event may be more closed off but the fans are still watching.
A strong showing, exactly what Microsoft needed to shake off the doubters that had begun springing up.
Next to the plate is EA in about 2 hours as I write this, but the next rated one will be Nintendo's tomorrow afternoon. They have no chasing to do, but a lot to prove to the fans.