Inside the West Hall at the LA Convention Center right now, it doesn’t look like E3 is on the verge of death. Microsoft has the West Hall partitioned off and decked out in black and green; it looks like all their other E3 press conferences of years past. But those have been held off-site, recently at the Shriner’s Hall, or at last year’s ampitheatre. That’s because at this point in years past, West Hall would already be full of massive booths and demo kiosks. This year, this is the only thing going in the hall today. Look past the black partition curtain and there’s a whole lot of nothing.

From the outside, you wouldn’t know E3 is happening either. No massive banners adorn the outside of the convention center; there are no military humvees with hopes of inducting gamers into the army; the Batmobile, famously parked outside the West Hall to advertise Batman Begins, is nowhere to be found.

Enough of that for now, though. The remix of Nina Simone’s ‘Sinnerman’ has faded down so that big guitars can come in, which I think means we’re almost ready to start Microsoft’s 2008 Press Briefing. Oh, the anticipation! 

(10:31) VP Don Mattrick is out. DRY. Jump up on that teleprompter, man. He’s going to ‘kick off the next wave of blockbuster games that is packed with adrenaline and…’ yawn.

(10:33) Fallout 3, Resident Evil 5, Fable 2 and Gears 2 represent half a billion dollars in projected sales. Oooh.

Now to Fallout 3. Cute faux ’50s bomb info video. ‘Not an actual atomic blast.’ I want my own underground vault!

(10:35) Todd Howard, Game Director at Bethesda comes out. The stuff we just saw is the first half of a trailer that’ll be online and on Live in a couple hours.

Fallout 3 live demo! ‘Please reconnect controller.’ Ha. First and third person shown. iBot passes, broadcasting the last remnants of government. PipBoy3000 looks a lot better than it did last time I saw it. He’s promising a lot of ‘ridiculously violent ways’ to kill people. Stealth, combat and, once again, with speech persuasion.

Also showing real-time and pseudo-turn based combat. I can see using the latter A LOT. Slow-mo death might get old after a while, but right now it’s pretty funny.

100+ hours of gameplay promised, including a trip to the top of the Washington Monument, should you like. All stuff we know, which leads me to wonder if any actual revelations are going to be doled out.

OK, I dig the mini-nuke launcher. Nice stuff. And the demo is over….oh, one more thing. DLC promised. ‘Substantial’ DLC for Fallout3, and all exclusive for the 360 and Games For Windows.

(10:42) RE5 producer comes out to show RE5 in playable form. Starts with Chris in the basement of a house, shoots one zombie that dissolves into some mass of bubbling worms and oil. We see that more clearly now than we were allowed to at Captivate a couple months ago.

Online Co-Op mode! Holy shit. Sheva, the female character we saw in the last trailer, is brought in with an AK to take out zombies on one rooftop while Chris helps out with a sniper rifle from the other.

Demo ends with a new version of the chainsaw dude from RE4; we saw him briefly in the trailer released recently, too. Supposedly by teaming up Chris and Sheva will be able to beat him. Really? Wow, man.

And one more thing….RE5 simultaneous worldwide release Friday March 13 2009.

((10:48) Peter Molineaux — “Fable 2 is finished.” Pretty new trailer with falling frozen birdshit hitting a character…which is meant to be lucky.

There’s a dog that is an ‘incredible AI agent’. But that’s not what we’re going to see; we’re seeing co-op over Live. Interesting, actually. Glowing orbs hover around, which represent your friends playing their own solo Fable 2 games. Go up to one, hit a button and they’ll come into your game. That’s fucking cool.

Peter says (and we know that Peter says a lot) that bringing people into your own game — playing co-op — will change your character and your world. You can work together, obviously, but also just hang out and get drunk. Which I can do in real life, but whatever. We’re seeing Peter’s character’s wife and his son.

October 2008 release.

(10:53) Gears 2. “I have a rendezvous with death.” New trailer looks pretty…huge. A lot of combat happening everywhere. Using a locust as a human shield while running at a host of fightin’ evil. Need to find the source of the ‘I have a rendezvous’ quote. It’s neat.

CliffyB…er, Cliff Blezenshlksidjkyi comes out. He looks so cleaned up and matured. Going to live demo a fight against a locust sinkhole. A HUGE one. Everything looks bigger and more expansive. MUCH more variety, it seems. Cliffy is playing as half of a 2-player co-op, but we’re only seeing his efforts so far.

There’s a lot more color in the palette this time. Not as monotonous and grey. Looks great. Same basic combat mechanics, nothing seems radically changed with respect to your control set. Getting hit with an RPG, though, gives a cooler spatter of gibs.

Small building collapse setpiece. Nothing you didn’t see in Alone in the Dark.

Lot more fire in this one. Stuff looks great. Now facing down a massive locust assault that looks harrowing. Leads into a weird sideways elevator escape. Fighting a Brumak; thing is ginormous. Killed the pilot, now going to ride it. And that’s the end of the demo. Big promise, then: bio-vehicles.

Also, new mode: HORDE. 5-player co-op survival mode. November 7 release date.

(11:02) Don Mattrick is back out to dry up the room. He’s talking about all the gamers working in tandem around the globe, and the new family game night. “dogs and cats living together, mass hysteria!”

Oh, good. It only took 33 minutes in this presser for the ‘games make more money than movies’ saw to be played.

Good time for a bathroom break. The sales charts are coming out.

One billion dollars spend on Xbox Live since 2005. Stressing the awesomeness of the Live entertainment library. ‘Worlds largest provider of on-demand high def movies and shows.’ Account for a third of all downloads.

New partners: NBC and Universal Studios.

(11:09) New suit (I missed the name — need to turn my IMs off) stressing the ability to improve gaming through innovation. What’s next?

System Update Available. ‘A consumer electronics device will be completely reinvented through software’.

Ok, this is pretty cool. MUCH more like Sony’s, ironically. Dashboard is all new. Gamercard is re-done. Now has Miis! Er, avatars.

Rare is building the avatars. MS has to have them do SOMETHING, I guess. Much more detailed than Miis. This is looking like Sony’s Home plus Miis plus the fact that everyone is on Live.

‘Integrating avatars across the new Xbox experience’. New dashboard tailored for the living room. New community channel. You’ll see friends differently, represented by avatars.

New feature: ‘Live Party’. Basically a chat room for up to 8 people. They need to up that number. Can share photos. Gus leans over ‘this will be awesome for pedophiles!’

Another feature: Primetime. Basically, XBL game shows. Partnered with the people that make Deal or no Deal and Fear Factor. First game: One Versus One Hundred. MMO game show. Wild. Live host, real prizes available.

Games channel. (Including new Uno — Uno Rush. Geddy Lee not included.) Showing how the Live Party can be used to launch a game like Uno for all players at once, bringing everyone into the game.

GEOMETRY WARS 2. Multiplayer! August.

And the ‘first true sequel’ to Galaga. Galaga Legions. Available in August exclusively on XBLA.

GLADOS is speaking. Portal Still Alive exclusive to 360. (Many of you already knew this.) New levels and achievements, fall 2008.
And South Park hits XBLA in 2009.

First round of community generated games going to launch in fall with the new XBL experience.

One more new partnership — Netflix. No surprise there. XBL Subscribers can use the ‘watch instantly’ feature whether you’ve got a Netflix subscription or not. huh. And in Live Party, you can share movies and shows with the other people in the party. Watch together, apart. That’s your new tagline, MS. No charge.

(11:24) Shane Kim. Now all the suits will be introduced by their avatars, it seems.

First GTA IV DLC ‘later this year’. But first Kim is pushing games rated ‘E’.

New Banjo-Kazooie. With a sort of Lego/vehicle building thing built in. Make planes and cars, tanks, etc. Looks kinda neat. You know, for kids. Also, the original game on XBLA this fall.

And Viva Pinata: Trouble in Paradise. Now adults secretly addicted to Pinatas get more crack. Scan stuff with the Vision Camera to make new pinatas.

Scene It! Box Office Smash for XBLA. In other words, a movie game about big movies that anyone can play. No Fassbinder questions in this one.

You’re in the Movies from Codemasters and Zoe Mode. ‘About making short, campy b-movies where your friends and family are the stars.’ That is, people stand in front of the camera and act out charades, and the video is incorporated into goofy little onscreen animations during mini-games. Then the captured video is incorporated into a silly movie trailer. Kinda like video Mad Libs. We learned nothing from the Eye Toy. If only I could quickly shoot and embed video here, because it’s as idiotic as you think.

(11:38) Red Octane’s Kai Huang emerges to talk about Guitar Hero. Doesn’t get much applause.

Guitar Hero: World Tour. More than 85 songs. So, what? 86?

GHTunes — premiere online music platform. Or, that’s the idea.

Announcement: with World Tour, REM track pack with 3 new songs. No surprise. Also: Van Halen and The Eagles as exclusives…and Metallica’s new record offered as DLC in it’s entirety immediately as it is released.

Almost no applause for any of that.

(11:42) Xbox version of SingStar. Lips.



Created by Elite Beat Agents guy. You get to sing along with your own music. Motion-sensitive mics that light up. And Duffy comes out to sing. I think I’m meant to be excited about this. She looks like Fergie went through a Play-Doh machine with Hilary Duff. Which makes sense, I guess.

Duffy is passing the mic back and forth in front of her mouth to prove that she’s really singing.

Rock Band 2, exclusive 360 premiere this year. Alex from Harmonix is on stage. Entire set list announced. 84 songs. All masters. Guns n Roses track debut rumor is real. And Dylan, ‘Tangled Up In Blue’!

AC/DC. Fuck yeah. ‘Let There Be Rock’. Can’t wait.

Bonus tracks this year will be free DLC.

Almost all Rock Band tracks will be exportable to RB2. DLC is forward compatible, too. By the end of the year, over 500 songs in the Rock Band platform.

(11:54) Square Prez shows up. No one seems to care. Square’s stock has really fallen in the last two years.

Infinite Undiscovery. Exclusive 360 title. Sept 2nd in North America. Star Ocean comes to 360. And The Last Remnant is another holiday 360 exclusive. 

Maybe no one cares because this looks like more regurgitated JRPG nonsense? The Last Remnant is, at first blush, wholly indistinguishable from three dozen other games. It’s hard to follow AC/DC finally hitting Rock Band, though.

Aw, shit. We thought there’d be no Final Fantasy. But Square guy just popped up again to show the trailer for FF13. ‘No recording of this video please.’ I see at least a dozen cameras that didn’t comply. Some of the trailer is similar to what we saw, what, two years ago? All CG so far, nothing that seems in-game. Very good CG, though. Oh, wait, there was something at the end that *might* be in-game.

Big applause for FF13.

(12:05) Don talks about the long list of ‘former PS2 titles’ on Xbox. And that’s it. Lunch time.