X'07: Microsoft's Holiday Games Preview

By Eli Green
August 31, 2007 - 19:40

This Tuesday, August 28 th , in downtown Toronto, Mike “Sock” Sokolowski and I attended Microsoft's annual holiday preview event, “X”(insert year here). The event is meant to show off the products, both games and accessories, that will be arriving on store shelves in the coming holiday season, while giving media and a few selected invitees the opportunity to play them hands on. Aside from its own first party games, Microsoft was also hosting third party publishers like 2K, Electronic Arts, Ubisoft, Capcom, Activision and more. The list goes on.

Before Mike & I even hit the door, we could feel the high energy atmosphere, because right outside the main entrance were two Ariel Atom sports cars, a Ferrari and a souped-up Porsche, there to promote Bizarre Creations' Project Gotham Racing 4 (v isitors were given the chance to ride along inside the racers as part of the experience).

Once inside, the energy went up from there, as the sounds of many games being played simultaneously, and talk between media and publishers filled the room. After a brief explanation of where everything was from one of the Microsoft staff, we headed over to the accessories table to take a look at Microsoft's new gear for Xbox 360. We got a first hand look look at the new Halo 3 Xbox 360 and spoke with Ran Feder, product manager for Xbox 360 accessories, about the new design, its differences compared to the current Xbox 360 models, and about the other accessories.

The first thing that anyone who has seen pictures of the Halo 3 Xbox 360 will notice, when looking at it in person, is that the design actually looks good. I, personally, was appalled by the new design when I saw its pictures, but when I picked up the console and looked it over I was considerably pleased with the look. The “visor”
gold shine of the DVD drive and the trim around the HDD is quite nice. Feder also explained to us that the new console is designed to be more equivalent to the Xbox 360 Premium rather than the Elite because it is meant to be more for Halo fans, not people looking to get an Elite. The Halo 3 Xbox 360 has all of the same accessories as the Xbox 360 Premium, all designed with a “camouflage” green and “visor” gold Halo theme. It also has one other addition – an HDMI port.

We also got to take a look at the new Halo 3 Wireless Headset (sold separately), the Halo 3 Wireless Controllers with artwork from Todd McFarlane (they come with a Halo figurine that was also designed by McFarlane), the new coloured Xbox 360 Wireless Controllers and the Xbox 360 Messenger Kit, which comes with a  Chatpad for easy typing use. Out of all the accessories that Feder showed us, the Messenger Kit turned out to be the most interesting. Its ease of use, mixed with the fact that it doesn't interfere with gameplay and that it comes with an Xbox 360 Wired Headset makes it a very convenient accessory.


Once we were done taking a look at the accessories, we started towards the Halo 3 area, but got distracted by a strange looking Xbox 360 controller we had never seen before. It had a big red button on top and four letter buttons going down in a row. It turned out that this controller, one of four of the same type on the table, was the Big Button Controller for the new Xbox 360 Scene It? game. We sat down and played with another Microsoft staff member for a few minutes. She showed us how easy it was to play the game, spoke to us about Microsoft working towards making the Xbox 360 a more inclusive system, and how games like Scene It? are essentially the
first steps in that process. After playing Scene It? Mike & I finally made our way towards the Halo 3 area, where we spoke with Bungie's Francois Boucher-Genesse, one of the mission designers, about the game and got our asses handed to us by a group of pro gamers in multiplayer team play. We did manage to get some kills though, and had a great time playing, plus Mike's Warthog handling skills were quite impressive.

Of course, that wasn't the end of the day for us, because the first party games were only the appetizer. We went on to play Devil May Cry 4 next, which, to say the least, I was not very good at in the short time I had to play it. Mike on the other hand ripped

through, was ripping his way through it, while I moved on to play Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock at the Activision booth. I got to play Weezer's My Name is Jonas with Peter Nowak from – I played on medium and he learned a little bit about trying to play a music rhythm game on hard in a room where you can't hear the music and have never played that track before. Activision has seriously upgraded the game's graphics from the previous two games, and made the entire Career Mode co-op capable, which was a very nice touch. I'm also glad to say that the game plays just as smoothly as Guitar Hero II , if not smoother.

Having played Guitar Hero III I knew exactly what I wanted to play next, and after some careful maneuvering around some of the other booths I managed to make my way to Electronic Arts' Rock Band area. It took a bit of waiting, but I got to sit down and play the drums for a bit, trying my best to keep the beat in Queens of the Stone Age's Go With the Flow , and tried my hand at singing Black Sabbath's Paranoid
and David Bowie's Suffragette City. Mike even got in on the action after we did a couple more interviews, with Steve Frost from EA Sports Label and Shirley Chu from EA Games Label, jamming together to OK Go's Here It Goes Again (Mike on the lead guitar and myself on the drums).

Unfortunately, since EA sent someone from Harmonix to be in charge of the Rock Band area, we weren't allowed to ask about the similarities between Rock Band and the Guitar Hero franchise, but we did manage to get an answer to our question as to why Rock Band for Playstation 2 was only announced for Europe, and not North America. Apparently Electronic Arts feels that since the Playstation 2 is still selling so popularly in Europe, compared to North America, that it is more worthwhile to bring the game to Playstation 2 there than it is here. That does not rule out Rock Band from being introduced here though, it just means that they haven't confirmed it yet.

We got to play one more game at X'07 before our day was abruptly ended by a sudden power out in the entire building, and that game was the new Simpsons video game. While playing, EA's Alex Charlow told me about how this Simpsons game differs from all of its predecessors, the biggest difference being that it isn't a disappointment for Simpsons fans or gamers. The game has a completely original story, which EA's development team created with the help of some of the most notable Simpsons writers, and there are plenty of references to the Simpsons universe to make any Simpsons fan happy for quite some time. It's just a shame we weren't able to hear any of the lines (the Simpsons game was right next to the Rock Band area). The power went out while I was playing, and that pulled the plug on the rest of the day's gaming for us. We decided to wait for a bit to see if the power would come back on – Mike managed to carry on an hour long conversation with Charlow all about the Simpsons.

Unfortunately, one hour later, the power was still not back on and we had not played many of the games that we were hoping to. We stayed a little while longer, speaking to some other members of the media. I even got to have a conversation with Ed the Sock, thanks to Shane MacDonald, owner of pointing him out to me.

Overall, it was a great day, and we came away quite pleased with what's coming for Xbox 360 this holiday season. As I expected, the biggest game of the day for me was Rock Band . It was everything I expected it to be, and I loved it. There are still some minor glitches that need to be fixed before the game releases, but we were playing a beta copy, so they were to be expected. The biggest surprise of the day was Scene It? . I was not expecting to see anything like it at X'07, and it will be an obvious choice for Xbox 360 owners looking for family oriented games.

That may the end of the article, but there is still more to come. We're still working on our video interviews from X'07, and hope to bring them to you soon.

Last Updated: August 31, 2023 - 08:12

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