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Microsoft showcase – full report on Gears of War 3, Crysis 2 and more

Friday, 25 February 2011 04:54 GMT By Justin Kranzl

Last night’s Microsoft Showcase turned it up to eleven. We have a full report from Justin Kranzl.

Event report: Xbox Showcase 2011

Date: Feb 24, 2011

Venue: Terra, San Francisco

Gears of War 3
The big kahunas. It was hard to miss Microsoft’s monster franchises at their Xbox Showcase event in San Francisco. The first thing people saw as they entered the venue were two rows of five Xbox 360s running a build of Gears of War 3. Next to them – more banks of consoles, this time running the new Halo: Reach Defiant map packs. Double the trouble? For first person shooter fans – sure.

However Gears 3 was clearly intended to be the big first party gun at the event. The build, likely to form the basis of the soon-to-be-released multiplayer beta of the game, offered team deathmatch with a little twist. In addition to the standard scoring regime – points for kills, assists and the like – players had a strong incentive to not hurl themselves carelessly into battle. A shared pool of “lives” amongst your team meant teams featuring the kamikaze-inclined were at a distinct disadvantage to more cautious types.

One side product of the mechanic is more players were actively trying to revive fallen comrades. This in turn lead to cunning players resisting the temptation to finish off fallen foes in favor of trying to lure more victims into the killing field. It lead to a clash of two standard gamer behaviours: the hero urge, where players dash in under heavy fire to rescue a downed teammate, and the desire to score as highly as possible. Players who resisted the urge to pick off a crawling enemy for a few points generally helped their team more in the games we played.

Highlights

Gears of War

Halo: Reach Defiant maps

Torchlight

Child of Eden

Fable III – on PC

Crysis 2

The Gunstringer

If one word could sum up the experience, it would probably be “balanced”. Gears masters “the formula” – the tricky equation of just long you should have to pump bullets into an enemy before they drop. Not that a standard stream of automatic fire was the only option on offer. Players who were deft at sneaking up on others made good use of the sawed-off shotgun, which at close quarters will kill a player in one shot. The lengthy reload time was a fitting punishment for those who got it wrong.

Also the option of using a “retro lancer” meant players could plunge a bayonet – as opposed to the standard lancer chainsaw – into people foolish enough to venture into melee range. Melee is generally an unpleasant range to be in for the less-proficient Gears 3 player. In addition to the risk of being chainsawed, bayonetted, or one shotted by a sawn-off shotgun, players also have to heed the melee attacks in game. Land a couple of these and your foe will hit the deck, ready for a curb-stomping finisher that will have vegans cringing. This too is an example of sound balancing – the time between melee attacks means the onus is to strike first and accurately. Don’t expect too much in the way of flail-spam melee encounters here – it’s a more precise, deadly affair.

The maps too extended the balance theme. Even on the relatively spacious confines of the Thrashball map, players trying to set up camp and snipe with impunity found there were too many entry points for a savvy foe to track them down and brutalise them. Some maps – like the nigh claustrophobic Trenches (our fave) managed to walk a very fine line between offering short-to-medium range shootouts and ample opportunity for melee engagements. We didn’t play any map where conflict devolved to players settling for plinking at each other from long range.

Gears of War 3’s public beta is expected to go live “mid April” – plenty of time for the Epic team to decide what four maps will be included. Voting is currently taking place on the Gears Facebook page.

Crysis 2
While Gears of War 3 and Halo: Reach’s new Defiant map pack monopolised space upstairs, EA’s Crysis 2 lead a charge of plucky third party games aiming for much the same market.

Crysis 2 was our early candidate for “game most likely to steal the show from Microsoft” for a couple of reasons. One, EA had the stones to demo the game in 3D only. If you weren’t wearing the glasses – and sitting at eye level – you were missing out.

Crysis 2 executive producer Nathan Camarillo made two pretty surprising assertions. First, the game’s detail level and framerate are unaffected by 3D mode. Camarillo stated there was no performance hit – a claim reminiscent of Mark Lamia’s one applied to Call of Duty: Black Ops’ 3D mode. Camarillo said the 3D mode wasn’t just tacked on, but had been something the team had been working on for the past couple of years.- when 3DTV was really in its commercial infancy.

The second revelation (at least to me) was how Crytek are addressing the “problem” of a dimmer games experience – something people may have noted in relation to Killzone 3 and Call of Duty: Black Ops’ 3D modes. The solution is nothing grand – it’s a simple crank of the gamma up a couple of notches. Camarillo likened it to adjusting the f-stop setting on a camera – only in this case you’re not letting more light in, the game is putting more light out.

It’s a simple enough answer. Hands on, the game is super sharp. The visual acuity on a 3D TV – the screen being used was a LG – is something else. However strolling about underneath the towers of a stricken New York by its very nature is a gloomier affair than gambolling out on the sunlit plain – we’ll wait to check out some sun-drenched climes before we know if a simple gamma fix is all that’s needed.

Control in Crysis 2 – albeit on the console version, the only one available – is precise and sharp. There’s room for some flair in your play as well, players can make use of a feet-first skidding stop, complete with simultaneous gunplay for the dextrous. The game’s nanosuit also presents a sound layer of control complexity for punters seeking more from their FPS than the next wave of AI drones marching to the slaughter.


Twisted Pixel’s new Kinect title lets you pew-pew with your hand.

The best of the rest?
While Gears of War 3, Halo:Reach and a hands-off Batman: Arkham City demonstration dominated real estate upstairs (and Crysis 2 commanding eyeballs downstairs), it was fair to say the Xbox showcase was more than a two (or four) horse show.

Fable III on PC put in a strong showing ahead of its March 20 (EU) release. Xbox 360 players have the Traitor’s Keep expansion to look forward to on March 1st to boot. Twisted Pixel’s new IP The Gunstringer also showed a pretty handy way to use Kinect – literally. Players use one hand to control the marionette cowboy protagonist, and the other to aim and shoot. We saw a functioning cover system at play, as well as a third person mode racing/shooting mode as well. For a XBLA title the production values are high, reflecting the level of competition out there.

Speaking of which, XBLA also scored a 3DTV compatible title in the sequel to Dead Samurai, The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile. The side scroller showcases a 2D sprite-style but the addition of 3D support no doubt will make it an anticipated pick up for early adopters.

But of all the Xbox Live Arcade titles giving their full priced brethren a run for their money, it was Runic Games’ Torchlight port to Xbox 360 which stood the best chance of stealing the show. Like many games at the showcase, Torchlight was only on show on one unit, but the game looks to have made an exceptional transfer over to the console platform from PC, where it garnered no shortage of praise in 2010.

Runic CEO Max Schaefer – who worked on the original Diablo – agreed that the console version of the game not only borrowed from Blizzard’s hallowed dungeon crawler, but in execution owes some inspiration to the likes of Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance. Schafer said the success of BGDA on console proved the interface could work on console, and that elements of Torchlight were inspired by the top down, isometric title.

In practice, Torchlight just works. It’s the essence of pick up and play, which is ideal for the XBLA crowd. PC fans of the game can attest Shaefer and Runic have a real gateway drug of a franchise on their hands – plenty more players will be getting familiar with RPG conventions like gearing, talent trees and more. Priced at 1200 MS points – around the cost of a month’s subscription to a MMO – it should move at a tidy clip.

Child of Eden in action.

Probably the biggest fish out of water – flanked as it was by Halo: Reach and Gears of War 3 was Q Entertainment’s Child of Eden. The quirkily psychedelic music shooter’s Kinect version was available to play to punters who may have found the lustre of Halo’s armour fading or Gears’ bloodshed blending into the background. With Rez a decade old the time seems ripe, and Child of Eden doesn’t disappoint. Aside from subjective appraisals of the game’s abstract presentation the only real criticism we could make of the game was its on-rails nature. Players control the action via aiming a reticle (you couldn’t something this flamboyant a “crosshair”) with their hands, with special moves being unleashed by raising or clapping both hands. Then again, if any game gets a pass for taking you on a ride (on rails) it’s this one.

It won’t be every gamers’ cup of tea, but as project manager Lindsay Gray observed, for players looking for a different – yet still skill intensive – take on a shooter, it’s bound to leave a mark.

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10 Comments

  1. Gheritt White

    Do exclusives really make a difference this gen? They generate a lot of online buzz amongst super-hardcore enthusiasts and occasionally sell very well… but do they shift consoles?

    #1 4 years ago
  2. Gheritt White

    …either way, this is a poor start to the year from MS. Why have they not invested in original first-party IP? When was the last time they published a non-Kinect game that wasn’t a sequel?

    #2 4 years ago
  3. Blerk

    Getting a bit late to be announcing stuff for 2011 now. Poor show, Microsoft. What are you doing?

    #3 4 years ago
  4. Blerk

    Nice write-up by the way, Justin!

    #4 4 years ago
  5. datamonkey

    I think MS put so many resources into Kinect the last few years they forgot about their traditional games. This is starting to show now.

    While PS3 is set to have its best year ever, mS is set for its worse. Or at least that’s how it looks right now..

    #5 4 years ago
  6. Moonwalker1982

    Damn, i really want to see something of Batman now.

    #6 4 years ago
  7. Dr.Ghettoblaster

    I believe exclusives DO make a difference Gheritt. If it wasn’t for Halo and Gears of War, I wouldn’t have bought a 360.

    #7 4 years ago
  8. Brettman2008

    Every year is the same, Sony announce most of their exclusive titles early and Microsoft leave most of their big announcements to the E3 game show in June. I just wish everyone would wait til after the E3 to make a final judgement for the year. However, Microsoft should have had one big exclusive for launch in early 2011. By not doing this it allows Sony to fill the vacuum with their exclusives. 2011 is the 10th anniversary of Xbox so I think that there will be some blockbuster non-kinect exclusives announced at the E3, likely with the much rumoured Halo CE HD remake.

    #8 4 years ago
  9. Erthazus

    @Brettman, ” Microsoft leave most of their big announcements to the E3 ”

    I can’t remember big announcements since E3 2009 from Microsoft.

    #9 4 years ago
  10. Gekidami

    @8
    Except that MS has had about 3 poor E3′s in a row now…

    #10 4 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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  • Battlefield Hardline: what’s the best Police sniper rifle?

    What’s the best bolt-action, Police sniper rifle for the Professional class in Battlefield Hardline? Let us help you answer that question. As you’re probably aware, Battlefield Hardline weapons are class specific and faction specific. This makes deciding on a good weapon and loadout much harder than it was in Battlefield 4. Which is where Westie […]

  • Evolve 1.3 patch nerfs Wraith, adjusts Kraken

    Evolve is receiving a new patch that aims to put an end to the Wraith’s dominance. Evolve developer Turtle Rock outlined a few of the changes coming in patch 1.3. The patch brings balance changes to the monsters – mainly the Wraith – as well as other various changes to Hunters’ tools based on player […]

  • Bloodborne: watch the opening 40 minutes

    The opening minutes of Bloodborne really do set the stage for what’s to come. They’ll also help you decide if this game is for you. Arekkz Gaming has captured the first 40 minutes of Bloodborne. Complete with the opening cutscene, and the first few obstacles you’ll face. The video is commentary free, so wear headphones […]

  • YouTube will relaunch livestreaming service with focus on eSports and gaming – report

    According to industry sources, Google is preparing to relaunch YouTube’s livestreaming service with a focus on eSports and gaming. According to anonymous sources speaking to TheDailyDot, Google is planning to bring back YouTube’s livestreaming service. The company is said to have started recruiting around 50 engineers with experience in the field, “a pretty big statement […]

  • I think I’m too old for Final Fantasy 15

    Final Fantasy 15 was nine years in the making – and counting. Are we the same people we were in 2006? Final Fantasy 15: Episode Duscae A demo available for PS4 and Xbox One. Offers a couple of hours of gameplay. More if you jump over the borders. Bundled with Final Fantasy 15 Type-0 and […]

  • New multiplayer mode for Splatoon announced

    Nintendo has sent over three screenshots for Splatoon along with information on the Wii U another of the title’s multiplayer modes. Called Ranked Battle, it keeps track of each player’s online ranking. Splat Zones is one of the additional ways to play online in this mode. It differs from Turf War, which is the main […]

  • 2015 WoW Arena World Championship has a $250,000 prize pool

    Blizzard has announced the WoW Arena World Championship will culminate at BlizzCon 2015. World of Warcraft 3v3 Arena teams from around the globe will compete for spot at the 2015 WoW Arena World Championship and for a share in the $250,000 prize pool. Online qualifiers will be held for North America, Southeast Asia, Australia, New […]

  • The Crew two-hour demo now available in US, tomorrow in the UK

    Ubisoft has announced a free trial of its driving MMO The Crew will be available tomorrow, March 25 in the UK. It’s live today in North America. For current players, the Vintage Car Pack and Vintage Live Update, including a new PvP mode, are now available. The Vintage Car Pack included the Chevrolet Corvette C2 […]

  • Minecraft Mass Effect Mash-Up and Pattern Texture Pack out from today

    A Mass Effect Mash-up pack and the Pattern Texture Pack will release on PlayStation 3, PS4 and Vita today in North America and tomorrow in Europe. The Pattern Texture Pack is also available for Xbox consoles today. The Mass Effect Mash-Up pack contains the Mars Facility from Mass Effect 3 plus textures and craftable items […]

  • The Talos Principle expansion pack Road to Gehenna announced

    An expansion for The Talos Principle has been announced titled Road to Gehenna. The expansion follows the narrative of Uriel, Elohim’s messenger, as he explores a “strange, hidden part of the simulation” on a mission of “mercy and redemption.” Uriel is attempting to free the souls of the damned “at all costs.” Road to Gehenna […]

  • Twitch Plays Pokemon finally catches ‘em all – even the rare Mewtwo

    Twitch Plays Pokemon players have captured all 151 original Pokemon which were included in a modified version of Pokemon Red, and this includes the rare Mewtwo. It took 39 days for Twitch players to catch ‘em all. Have a look at the impressive feat for yourself below. Thanks, Polygon.

  • GameStop will have limited units of Majora’s Mask New 3DS XL back in stock

    Those who missed out on the Limited Edition Majora’s Mask New 3DS XL will have another opportunity to purchase it outside of eBay. Tomorrow only, GameStop stores in the United States will have four units in stock, according to and internal memo sent to Kotaku. This is every store in the country, and again, only […]

  • Second phase of Fortnite closed Alpha launches today

    Fortnite’s second closed Alpha test will go live this afternoon, according to the official website. Those currently participating will have until April 14 to test the online aspects for 12 hours per day (noon -12am EDT). All progress from the previous Alpha test will be wiped, and other changes are listed in the patch notes. […]

  • Dragon Age: Inquisition: Jaws of Hakkon out now on PC, Xbox One

    As promised yesterday, the single-player DLC for Dragon Age: Inquisition, Jaws of Hakkon, is now available on PC and Xbox One. It will run you or £11.99 or your regional equivalent. The new content expands the land of Thedas with mountainous regions and forests, and it is full of “vicious enemies.” Players will also be […]

  • Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare trailer shows Ascendance gameplay

    Activision has released a new gamepay trailer for Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare to support the Ascendance DLC which releases next week. Ascendance, will release first on Xbox consoles March 31 and includes the next chapter of the Exo Zombies Saga, Infected, along with four new multiplayer maps: Perplex, Site 244, Climate and Chop Shop. […]

  • Batman: Arkham Knight will be a digital only release on PC – report

    It appears Batman: Arkham Knight will not see a physical release on PC, according to ShopTo. The retailer was told by its buyer the Rocksteady game will only be released on PC in digital form. ShopTo is currently double checking the information. If accurate, it is unknown if this will be case in North America […]

  • Bloodborne patch focusing on load times, performance optimizations in the works

    A patch for Bloodborne which will address load times is in the works, Sony has said The load times were one of the issues noted in Digital Foundry’s report on the From Software title. Sony told Eurogamer the patch would also explore other issues as well. “The development team is currently exploring another patch for […]

  • Gearbox would “love” to have entire Borderlands collection on current-gen

    An Xbox One and PlayStation 4 version of the original Borderlands game is something Gearbox Software is interested in, according to studio boss Randy Pitchford. Speaking in the latest Major Nelson podcast, Gearbox CEO Randy Pitchford said should Borderlands: The Handsome Collection prove successful, 2K Games might consider a current-gen version. “The fact that The […]

  • Wolfenstein: The Old Blood artwork shows the catacombs, dock, more

    Over the weekend we posted Wolfenstein: The Old Blood artwork along with news of a retail release in Europe. Today, we have better quality images of said artwork to share with you. Enjoy. The standalone prequel will be released digitally on May 5 on PC, PS4 and Xbox One in North America, and digitally on […]

  • Slender: The Arrival terrorizes PS4 and Xbox One this week

    In case you forgot, what with Bloodborne out today and other high profile releases of late, Slender: The Arrival is out today on PlayStation 4 in North America. The scary game will arrive on Xbox One tomorrow, March 25, and in Europe on PS4. Slender: The Arrival is an expansion on the original Slender game […]

  • World of Warcraft’s WoW Token rollout slated after launch of patch 6.1.2

    Blizzard has announced it will start rollout its WoW Token option in the weeks following the launch of patch 6.1.2 on March 24. WoW Token allows players to exchange in-game gold for game time and vice versa. Blizzard will release WoW Token first in realms serving North America, Oceania, and Latin America and will expand […]

  • The Evil Within: The Consequence dated for April, teaser video released

    Part 2 of Juli Kidman’s adventure in The Evil Within will arrive next month with the release of The Consequence. Above is a brief teaser showing some of the “madness” Kidman will encounter. The Consequence will arrive on Tuesday, April 21 on PC, PlayStation 3, PS4, Xbox 360 and Xbox One. European PlayStation players will […]

  • Bloodborne sometimes “struggles to run at a smooth frame-rate” per performance analysis

    Bloodborne has been analyzed by Digital Foundry and according to the report, even with a 30fps cap the game sometimes “struggles to run at a smooth frame-rate.” The game’s day-one 2.69GB update 1.01 is “essential” as it contains improvements to game performance and stability and the frame-rate tests run by Digital Foundry were in single-player […]

  • Borderlands: The Handsome Collection reviews round-up

    Borderlands: The Handsome Collection reviews are out in the wild so we decided to catch a few of them for you. Borderlands: The Handsome Collection is out today on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. The collection packages Borderlands 2 and Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel along with each game’s DLC content on one disc. Better graphics and […]

  • Evolve, Forza Horizon 2, WWE 2K15 are this week’s Deals with Gold

    Evolve, Forza 2 Horizon and WWE 2K15 are just some of the games which are part of this week’s Xbox Deals with Gold. You can also pick up the Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare Pro Edition for 20% off as well as the standard edition for 33% off. For the Xbox 360 crowd, there’s also […]

  • Xbox 360 2015 Spring Value bundles now available starting at $250

    Microsoft is offering a discount on three Xbox 360 bundles with prices starting at $250. The Xbox 360 2015 Spring Value bundles feature various content such as a Kinect, 500GB console bundle and one month of Xbox Live Gold. Xbox 360 500GB Spring Value Bundle: comes with Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare download and Fable […]

  • Rainbow Six Siege beta sign ups now open

    Ubisoft is letting everyone register for the upcoming Rainbow Six Siege closed beta. Rainbow Six Siege is due for a closed beta sometime this year. Ubisoft has opened registration to everyone. All you need to do is enter your preferred platform and log in using your Uplay account. You will be entered into a waiting […]

  • Advanced Warfare: Exo Zombies map Infection is creepy

    The upcoming chapter in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’s Exo Zombies mode is called ‘Infection’ and Activision has been slowly revealing bits and pieces about it. A few teasers have been dropping ahead of Ascendance launch this month. The teasers are about the second episode in the Exo Zombie story, Infection. First off, the map. […]

  • This is the Bloodborne press kit in all its glory

    Bloodborne is a gorgeous game so it’s only fitting that the press kit it came in is a reflection of that. The pictures capture the many amazing bits of the Bloodborne press kit. A press kit is what’s usually sent to the reviewers alongside the review copy. They’re usually very ornate and almost all of […]

  • This Hearthstone turn is taking over 40 hours and you can watch it happen

    A very smart Hearthstone player has rigged his game to make one turn take over 40 hours, and it has been going for over 22 already. Hearthstone player Mamytwink set up a game against his friend to try and achieve the record for the longest turn in Hearthstone ever. Basically, Mamytwink set the game up […]

  • The Witcher 3: Geralt’s beard grows over time, but not Gandalf-long

    The beard of The Witcher 3 protagonist Geralt will grow over time, but you can trim it if you choose to. As part of a recently published impressions piece by German magazine Gamestar (translated by NeoGAF), The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt developers revealed that Geralt’s beard will in fact grow over time. Not content with […]

  • Sony mistakenly abandons Bloodborne trademark in the US

    The administration side of Sony Computer Entertainment has not been in the best of shapes recently. Sony has abandoned four game trademarks yesterday, one of which is for Bloodborne. The trademarks were all registered with US Patent and Trademark Office. All of the games trademarks pertain to unreleased games and Sony would’ve had to either […]

  • Payday 2 will be supported until 2017

    Payday 2 developer has announced that it will continue to support the game for the next two years. Payday 2 developer Overkill has revealed today that it’s planning to support the game until 2017. What this means is that more free content as well as paid DLC are in the works for release later. Payday […]

  • These are the top Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare weapons, according to the developer

    Based on their overall kill-to-death ratio, what are the best guns in Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare? Developer Sledgehammer reveals the top 5. Sledgehammer’s Michael Condrey has revealed on Twitter the top 5 weapons in Advanced Warfare based on their overall kill-to-death ratio. Here’s the list: ARX-160 – Hole Puncher Ameli – Heavy HBRa3 – […]

  • H1Z1 has sold more than 1 million copies

    H1Z1 has already sold over 1 million copies on Steam. H1Z1 may still be in Early Access on Steam, but it has already sold more than 1 million copies. Daybreak president John Smedley announced on Twitter earlier. H1Z1 launched in January and instantly became a hit. The game has consistently been on Steam’s top 10 […]