Plugged In

E3 2010: Microsoft press conference reaction

Microsoft kicked off E3’s press conferences Monday afternoon with a resounding thud. After watching the 21/2 hour presentation, I have to say I was less than impressed and am completely underwhelmed with Kinect, the peripheral formerly known as Project Natal.

 First, the highlights:

 | The redesigned Xbox 360, with its slimmer, smaller form factor, looks sharp and should fly off store shelves. Complete with a 250GB hard drive and built-in Wi-Fi support, the new 360 would be a bargain at $399. But Microsoft is releasing the new package for $299, the same price as the current Xbox 360 Elite models. At $299, the redesigned Xbox 360 is an absolute steal. The new consoles will be available at retailers by the end of this week.

 | “Metal Gear Solid: Rising” was easily the most impressive game shown during Microsoft’s presentation. Legendary designer Hideo Kojima was on hand to introduce footage showing off Zan Datsu, the new slice-and-dice gameplay. Everything from bodies to buildings were able to be chopped into tiny pieces. It looked fantastic and I can’t wait to get my hands on it.

 | Campaign footage from “Halo: Reach” was shown. Not surprisingly, it didn’t disappoint. If anything, the set pieces were some of the most explosive that the series has seen.

| After plenty of speculation, ESPN was officially announced for Xbox Live. Gold members can expect to have access to more than 3,500 live sporting events this year, including college football, major league baseball, pro soccer and the NBA. Interactive content and live scoreboards and included, too. No launch date has been announced.

 And now for the not-so-impressive:

| Where were the surprise game announcements? I get it that Microsoft wants to make a big deal out of Kinect, but what about the hardcore gamers out there. We saw “Gears of War 3,” “Fable 3” and “Halo 3,” but we were expecting to see those games here. Doesn’t Microsoft have anything planned beyond this year?

| I was on the fence about Kinect, but after seeing the software planned for the add-on’s launch later this year, I have officially jumped off the fence and burnt it to the ground. OK, maybe that’s a little harsh. After all, Microsoft’s first-party titles looked OK, I guess. “Kinectimals,” a cutesy virtual pet game that allows users to interact with a wide assortment of animals, will probably be a success. Same goes for “Kinect Sports,” assuming Microsoft is smart enough to package it with the hardware. But the third-party support, for lack of a better term, sucked. A dance game from Harmonix? An exercise game from Ubisoft? An on-rails “Star Wars” game from Lucasarts? So much for Kinect appealing to hardcore gamers.

Microsoft’s lackluster performance Monday has opened the doors for rivals Nintendo and Sony to steal the show. We’ll find out later this week if either can step up to the plate.