View from the ground at Microsoft’s Spring Showcase 2011

Michael Plant

Gears 3 Horizontal 4 1 wip10 simple 72dpi 1024x486 View from the ground at Microsoft’s Spring Showcase 2011

As the dust fell on Microsoft’s 2011 Spring Showcase it wasn’t just the Xbox 360’s – on the go from midday until midnight – which were relieved to have survived. Introduce into the mix 400 or so gaming journalists from across Europe, America and beyond, a smattering of PRs, all rushed off their feet by the organisation of interviews, enough cameras to film the FA Cup final and a shortfall of in demand designers, and a rapid realisation dawns that this is going to a hard day’s work.

But what of the games? Microsoft’s line-up of Xbox 360, Kinect and Windows Mobile games was further swollen by the addition of some third party, non-exclusives; as the only misstep is the absence of Forza Motorport 4 or any mention of the oft-rumoured Halo: Combat Evolved remake. “No comment,” being the party line of any and all Microsoft affiliated spokepeople we — or anyone else for that matter — were able to question.

Gear of War 3, so enthusiastically introduced by developers Cliff Bleszinski and Ron Fergusson at an exclusive unveiling the evening before, was Microsoft’s chosen highlight as a 20 September release date was confirmed. Demoed via 5 vs. 5 multiplayer, Gears 3 plays with a nod to the first game in the series but with even more emphasis on strategy and teamwork New maps – Checkout, Thrashball, Mercy, Trenches and Overpass – funnel players into cul-de-sacs and killing fields to great effect and, even better news: you’ll be able to try it for yourself in a public beta due to launch in April.

Child of Eden 300x174 View from the ground at Microsoft’s Spring Showcase 2011A short walk away and I’m taking in two of the most striking Kinect games on show at the event. Child of Eden, the creation of Tetsuya Mizuguchi, most famed for classic Rez, is a shoot-em-up in which lasers can be aimed with the hand and exchanged via a clap of the hands. It’s a subtle effect but one which demonstrates how simple yet effective Kinect can be, meanwhile the rythmic sounds and organic visuals mesmerise – if ever a game was to make hours seem like minutes this is it.

Opposite stands Twisted Pixel’s The Gunstringer, a Western-meets-zombies blaster for Kinect, whose gimmick is that both protagonist and bad guys are marionette puppets, strings and all. With the right hand used to aim and fire (with a gesture that’ll take you back to your childhood games of cowboys and Indians), and the left used to steer the puppet left and right there’s enough here to suggest it’ll be worth a download when it hits XBLA later in the year.

A further foray downstairs revealed the likes of Crysis 2 (in 3D no less), Sesame Street: Once Upon A Monster, Homefront, Beyond Good & Evil HD (just released) and more all playable, though none more striking than the bizarrely named The Dishwasher: Vampire Smile, a side-scrolling beat-em-up by one-man outfit Ska Studios and most assuredly one to look out for.

Halo Reach Highlands 300x168 View from the ground at Microsoft’s Spring Showcase 2011Expansions — the likes of the Halo: Reach ‘Defiant’ map pack and Fable 3’s Traitor’s Gate DLC — further point to the increasing importance of Microsoft’s online strategy, while a bolstered line-up of Windows Mobile games — the likes of Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode I, Angry Birds, Hydro Thunder Go, Plants vs Zombies and geoDefense — look to bring Microsoft’s mobile device in-line with the more comprehensively libraried iPhone and Android platforms.

All-in-all a good show then, but come on Microsoft, where’s the Forza 4? Oh well, we’ll ahve to make do with Gears of War 3 for now:

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