Now I know why they refused to allow any cameras or recording equipment into the pre-E3 Project Natal presentation on Sunday night. Microsoft obviously didn't want any video evidence of the train wreck that was about to take place.
In what will undoubtedly go down as one of the most epically awful moments in E3 lore, Microsoft shot down any possible positive press, and turned the formerly promising Natal into a flat out joke. For those not yet in the know, Project Natal (which has been renamed with the dull moniker of Kinect), is essentially a webcam that tracks your every movement and translates it into an in game reaction. The technology behind it is admittedly impressive, but you wouldn't know it from the parade of crappy looking mini games and little else that was on display.
The evening began as ushers handed out white ponchos to everyone in attendance, an unfortunate fashion statement that only a certain well known racist organization would think was a good idea. Here's a tip for your next press conference: If you dress up attendees like cultists, they MAY resent you for it. At certain parts of the show, the ponchos lit up in various colors. The effect was not worth looking like a jackass for two hours. It was all downhill from there ladies and gentlemen.
There was nothing compelling about this show, nothing of substance to talk about, and nothing to even justify a raised eyebrow of curiosity from any gamer, casual or otherwise. All the positive press that Microsoft built last year with interesting tech demos like Peter Molyneux's "Milo" hit the Cirque de Soleil stage with a sickening thud.
The games on display are the same crappy mini-games that you've been playing on the Wii for four years now. There was a racing game that is steered with your hands, a game where you run in place, a game where you jump and tilt to move a raft around a track, a game where you pet a tiger, another game where you run in place, a javelin throwing mini game, a yoga game, a dancing game, oh, and the thrilling game where the player runs in place. It's all the same crap we played and hated when we reviewed You're in the Movies for the 360 over a year ago. Guess what? It sucked back then too, but at least the asking price wasn't more then $150 as rumours have estimated.
The Star Wars demo looked a little neat, but without any tactile feedback, it remains to be seen if the game can provide even a semblance of fun or fine control. It also didn't help any sort of credibility for the product when all of the videos were clearly choreographed and didn't sync up to the videos on the screens.
Oh, and the Natal/Kinect also allows for video conferencing. Congratulations Microsoft, you've built Skype into the Xbox 360. The value just goes up and up!
Seriously, who was this show meant for? It definitely wasn't for the gaming press, who will chew this travesty up and spit it out with reckless aplomb. It wasn't for Cirque de Soleil fans either, as the performers didn't do any sort of interesting tricks of moves that the troupe is known for. The games were lousy, the performances by the Cirque de Soleil players were subpar and nothing like you'd expect from these flexible high fliers, and the music was grating and irritating. The set design was extremely pretentious and overblown, with suspended couches from the ceiling and some blond chick that kept walking back and forth upside down on the ceiling, and backup dancers trapped in cubes. It was surreal, and not in any appealing sort of way.
I shudder to think how many millions of dollars Microsoft blew on this event, because it definitely did more harm than good. Remember when Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson's breast at the Superbowl? That was a brilliant PR move compared to this train wreck. At least that only took 4 seconds. If this is the sort of thing we can expect from Microsoft's latest toy, then it will flame out more spectacularly than the Virtual Boy, Sega CD, and the Power Glove combined in one spectacular nuclear explosion of suck.
With all that said, the Kinect may still prove to be an amazing piece of technology with extremely compelling games to appeal to a broad spectrum of gamers, but the presentation on Sunday did little to make those in attendance believe that.
Good luck cleaning up the mess from this one.
Editor's Note: This is an opinion piece, and does not reflect the official views of GamingExcellence.