Gaming | E3 2012 Debriefing – What does it mean for Xbox 360? | This Is Entertainment

Oooo greenGoing into this years Electronic Entertainment Expo (that’s E3, technophobes), there were no illusions that the current console generation is approaching its end.

Nintendo is on the eve of announcing a release date for its new WiiU, revealed last year, and the speculation about the PS4 or Xbox 720 has reached boiling point. Luckily the signs that this generation wasn’t just a giant waste of time are there in the form of Nintendo‘s ‘Pro Controller’, which looks suspiciously like an Xbox 360 pad. Before all that excitement of shiny new things though, we need to be entertained in the meantime – so what’s left for 360 players?

A cynic would say we are at the bottom of the barrel, scraping together sequels to drag out the life of a console which is past its sell-by date. Ever the optimist however (hmm…) I thought I would take some time to contemplate before dismissing this year’s E3 offering as disappointing and think about what it means as we creep ever closer to the next generation.

Microsoft‘s conference this year wasn’t surprising, it wasn’t unexpected, what it was was logical. What makes the Xbox an effective games console is that it’s no longer just a games console, it has diversified into the multi-media hub which MS always envisioned.

The harsh reaction to the latest changes to the dashboard earlier this year gave a pretty clear message from those who would happily call themselves ‘gamers’ however, so it remains a fine line MS must tread to keep everyone happy – from the hardcore Halo fans who dress up as John 117 on the weekends to the working mums who just jump onto Your Shape for 15 minutes every Tuesday morning after Loose Women.

Get your Spartan onTo address these concerns, MS‘s E3 conference began by taking things back to the console’s roots, with a new instalment in their flagship franchise. In the hands of a new developer, 343 Industries, the game offers a fresh breath of life into a series which began at the original Xbox‘s inception back in 2001. There are new enemies, new weapons, new locations, but still the familiar touches which make the series what it is, including its protagonist Master Chief (who is John 117, if you were scratching your head earlier).

Next to be flaunted were (among others) a new Splinter Cell title subbed ‘Blacklist’, which seemed to throw away even more stealth than its predecessor, Tomb Raider, which still featured Lara Croft making odd sexual noises and a new Gears of War (Judgment – missing an ‘e’), this time with Damon Baird in the spotlight. Plus there were three blink-and-you’ll-miss-it Xbox exclusives, but very little was revealed about them other than the names: Ascend: New Gods, LocoCycle and Matter.

In terms of numbers of games at least, things were going well, and the 360 has always been at home with action-heavy gun-dominated titles like Gears and Halo. “…but what about innovation?!” I hear you cry.

Can you watch two screens at once?Xbox Smartglass, technology which allows you to use the smartphones and tablets you already own to control your 360, was undoubtedly the biggest innovation. While convergence of technology is nothing new, utilising products consumers already own is a masterstroke. The only problem is what about the people without these add-ons, are they going to get left behind as a brave new world comes along to slide its shimmering glass surface across their face?

With another console not a million miles away, this is software which will make the jump, and in many ways ease the transition between today’s gaming world and tomorrow’s. There are undoubtedly tons of things which can be done with touchscreens, but like the possibilities presented by Kinect, it will take a long time for them to be used effectively, and most importantly to enhance the experience rather than intrude on it.

After a few more services, including the shrug-worthy Xbox Music and marginally more interesting film and TV deals, featuring copious amounts of American sports which all have their own acronyms, it was time for more games.

Resident Evil 6 looked the part, albeit with plenty of potential to stray down the path away from its roots, something so commonly picked up on these days that it practically becomes a given. There was also a good show from South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker, who notably mocked Smartglass‘ drive for interconnectivity, and surprisingly the pair proved to be the more civilised and fitting ‘celebrity’ guest appearances compared to the shocking performance from Usher in conjunction with the inevitable Just Dance 3. Jaws across the auditorium must have been on the floor for all the wrong reasons.

The grand finale was Call of Duty: Black Ops 2, which was the least surprising sequel of the day, but the footage shown was undeniably impressive, causing those who had sworn of ‘COD’ for life to sheepishly reconsider.

Here boy, walkies!The surprise of the week really came from Ubisoft‘s conference in the form of the gritty criminal underworld of the Watch Dogs, an original IP which nods to both Deus Ex and Grand Theft Auto IV. Grand masters of GTA themselves, Rockstar Games, were dutifully absent as usual, and no more was heard about the upcoming GTAV.

In all it was a business-sound case from MS, with enough games in the mix (predictable but present) to keep gamers occupied which they put the final touches on their new platform, sure to be revealed this time next year. The amount of services may seem dizzying, but with so many new partnerships and deals announced, it’s a safe bet the 360 will be around for a few years yet, even after its successor is released.

Now all we have to do is wait…in the meantime, have a listen to what industry veteran and passing colleague of This Is Entertainment Jon Hicks (@MrJonty) from Official Xbox Magazine, has to say about it all – and happy gaming.

James Michael Parry

pictures courtesy: gotgame.com, archetypegamer.com, openthefridge.net, monstervine.com

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Film | Review: Prometheus | This Is Entertainment

In director Ridley Scott’s mind, there are two kinds of people – those who have seen 1979
sci-fi thriller Alien, and those who haven’t. Prometheus tries very hard to cater to both
groups, and largely does a fantastic job.

The film begins with a beautiful sweeping landscape, immediately hitting you with the
beauty and vastness of the spectacle you are faced with, before contrasting it with the
appearance of a huge, flying saucer style spacecraft.

At once the strong sense of style which flows from the film’s director is apparent. The sets
ooze sci-fi stereotypes, but all taken from a style which Scott himself (with his team) set
up with Alien and BladeRunner. The ship, the space suits, the corridors all look just the
way you expect them too, and go a long way to convincing you that you are in the same
universe as the creepy face-hugging aliens from yesteryear.

The strongest link for Alien fans comes in the form of the world-building terraforming
company the Weyland Corporation, ‘the company’ who will send out Ellen Ripley and
the crew of the Nostromo some 30 years later. It’s founder, Peter Weyland, finances the
Prometheus mission to discover the origins of humanity after a string of archaeological
finds which point to a specific star cluster in deep space.

The discovery is made by protagonist Doctor Elizabeth Shaw (the original Girl with the Dragon Tatoo, Noomi Rapace), who is brought along with partner Charlie Holloway to conduct a scientific study of a moon which
contains an atmosphere capable of supporting life.

The ship’s crew is made up of a band of clashing personalities, frequently not given enough
time or material to develop into more than stereotypical supporting characters, who help or
hinder Shaw in finding the truth.

Shaw is gifted with more development, the daughter of a Christian father who finds
reassurance in her faith, literally wearing it around her neck with a sign of the cross, and is
challenged by the revelations she experiences throughout the film, taking her on a spiritual
journey as much as a dramatic one.

Rapace does Shaw justice as a doctor caught between science and religion, and convinces
the audience to follow her down the rabbit hole, though things don’t hold together quite as
smoothly as the action ramps up in the closing act.

The development of the story is interspersed with foreboding, and for many fans the
expectation for creatures to leap on faces or out of people’s chests at any moment, but
flows along at an even pace, with the intrigue of what exactly the team are looking for
growing with each new plot point. This leads to a sense that there are more questions asked
than answered, but for the majority of viewers the pay-off of the final climax is adequate, if
not definitive.

The star of the show is Michael Fassbender, as inquisitive android David, who’s motives
are vague, but the character is constantly irresistible – with a combination of childlike-
curiosity and a callous attitude to humanity. Fassbender delivers his lines with the
calculating precision of a machine, while giving the constant impression of emotion, which
remains unflinching throughout.

Charlize Theron’s evil overseer role as Meredith Vickers gives a first impression of being
one-note, but she allows the characters emotions to gradually bleed through a hard exterior
shell, creating a well-rounded, if not quite likeable representative of the company.

While not the ground-breaking slice of sci-fi Alien was, it would be hard for Scott to out-
do himself in the genre, but after so many years away, the film is fun, entertaining and
dramatic, something which has the inspired touch of a visionary but also the measured
approach of a master in his field. A few light years from perfection, but when you are
thousands from Earth, it’s quite difficult to notice.

Rating: 4/5

James Michael Parry