Digital Foundry vs. E3: Microsoft • Page 3

A technical look at yesterday's games and announcements.

Kudo Tsunoda went on to talk about precision tracking of the fingers being able to accommodate concepts such as pulling a trigger on a virtual gun, but there was little evidence of this even in the finger-tracking demo, which essentially turned the painting on and off through recognition of the shape of the hand as opposed to high resolution mapping of the fingers themselves.

The overall Kinect showing was highly prolific across a large range of game and Kinect Labs was a stroke of genius, but it was really difficult to accept that the hardware had a home within traditional core gaming: the interface is just too different and too divorced from the requirements of fast, responsive control in something like a shooting title, and you can't help but feel that Kinect's place is in providing new types of game best suited to the hardware, as opposed to being shoe-horned uncomfortably into existing game styles.

Returning to those core game staples, Microsoft delivered the goods in the form of a new Gears of War 3 campaign demo, a Forza trailer and two Halo reveals. Gears demonstrated that what we've seen thus far in the multiplayer beta is just a sample of the kinds of outrageous action we'll see in the campaign, with this demo concentrating on a confrontation with a lambent version of the sea boss from Gears 2. It's much bigger than its predecessor, decked out with bonus dangling tentacles on its head and spitting out smaller creatures from its newly engorged eye.

It looked very, very special - frame-rate was smooth, and while edge-aliasing was occasionally noticeable in a couple of places, it was mostly hidden by consistent lighting between surfaces. There's almost no sign of shader aliasing and texture filtering on the ground looked good too.

Turn Ten says that Forza 4's intro is entirely based on in-game captures - we can believe it. That said, only the Ferrari showcase running in the background appeared to be running at the game's signature 60Hz, suggesting the 30FPS replay spec was used for the majority of the trailer.

The Forza 4 trailer, apparently based entirely on in-game assets also looked really impressive, with the Ferrari showcase in particular being a highlight. We believe Turn Ten's claims that this was all based on actual in-game assets - the reflections on the car had a fair amount of low resolution aliasing for example, but it looked as though the Ferrari section was the only aspect of the video that was running at 60Hz. A quick look at the 1080i60 transmission from SpikeTV seems to confirm that everything else was running at a solid 30FPS, perhaps based on the replay engine spec, which in Forza 3 halved frame-rate in order to accommodate 4x multisampling anti-aliasing (MSAA) and higher LOD car models.

Little could be discerned from the HD remake of the original Halo over what was obviously apparent from the presentation the footage itself - the artwork has been redrawn from scratch, numerous details have been added, lighting looked excellent in general. According to a 343 Industries interview with Ars Technica, the original code is being used with a secondary HD engine on top, ensuring the game plays identically to the classic. This also gives you the ability to switch between "original" and HD visuals. In terms of the new artwork, the redesign of the Mark V Spartan suit: the overall look and the chest plate in particular seemed to be far less bulky than we would expect, giving a more agile appearance. ( Engine details added)

The HD remake of Halo features all-new artwork in addition to the resolution boost, and you have the option of playing with both the original and 'remastered' graphics.

The Halo 4 reveal at the end of show, seemingly CG in nature, was more of a teaser than any kind of game preview. However, we can see that the Master Chief's suit has once again been redesigned, leaner-looking than it was in Halo 3, and it appears to have new low-G thrusters attachments and there's a new pistol attachment we haven't seen before either. The notion that this would kick off a new Halo trilogy was also intriguing - will we be moving to a yearly update, with all of the games appearing on Xbox 360 or will the franchise transition across to the next-gen, as before?

Microsoft will doubtless be congratulating itself on a job well done. It kicked off with a great reveal for what will almost certainly be the biggest-selling game of the year, it showcased a range of impressive exclusives and while Kinect was a bit hit and miss, the tech has already proven to be hugely successful outside of the core market and the products on offer looked likely to continue that.

The inclusion of more media options (including YouTube) is a big deal, and the voice-powered search options via Bing were cute - though once again the response time from the system from the actual command seemed a touch prolonged.

Microsoft came to the conference as the only platform holder of the Big Three not showcasing any kind of brand new hardware, instead focusing on its inherent strengths in the core game market, emphasising its links with Call of Duty, returning some sense of momentum to Kinect and attempting to seize back some of the ground Sony has claimed for its own in providing state-of-the-art, unmissable exclusives. In just about all of these cases, the platform holder acquitted itself well.

However, the event did leave us a bit puzzled. If development studio Big Park is responsible for Kinect Sports Season Two, what's going on at Rare?

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