If you will permit me to back away from profiler talk for just a minute, I saw a lot to excite me at Microsoft’s Xbox X05 event in Amsterdam. I’m not a fanboy enough to think that Microsoft will dominate the PS3 (especially in Japan), but I do think that they are setting themselves up very nicely to grab a much larger chunk of the next generation market then the original Xbox pulled in.
The thing that has me geeked (especially about the Xbox 360) is the fact that more and more companies are jumping on the co-op online multiplayer bandwagon. Almost all of my favorite games growing up were games that I played to beat the story mode along with a friend (Guardian Heroes, Twisted Metal 2, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the arcade game, Secret of Mana, Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and both the Halo games to name a few). As I’ve never been that interested in random deathmatches with foul-mouthed strangers (FPSs), carpel tunnel inducing time sinks with no plots (MMORPGs) or esoteric games that need far too much time to be an elite player (RTSs) I’ve never really been into online gaming. Now with a solid online service (something Microsoft has a very big lead over Sony on) and integrated voice chat I think the time is finally hear for more story driven, scripted games that can be played through with a friend or two, online or offline. The built in voice chat of the Xbox360 is clutch for this scenario, as part of the experience of gaming with a friend is being able to talk without the hassle of typing into a keyboard.
In particular, I saw that both of Rare’s big games (Kameo and Perfect Dark Zero) support co-op multiplayer (on Live and offline for Perfect Dark and offline only for Kameo). The co-op walkthrough of Perfect Dark Zero seen here (be prepared to crank up the brightness as the video is very dark) particularly impressed me as it appeared that Rare has taken the time to code sections of the game with co-op in mind. For example, the demo that they showed involved one character moving from rooftop to rooftop via ziplines while using a sniper rifle to support her co-op partner who was slugging it out on ground level. This is a big step up from the co-op in games like Halo (which is still very fun) which just have both characters follow the same path, only with more enemies in the way.
In short X05 showed me a lot of good stuff about the games coming out in the launch window and some neat teasers for games in the future, such as Bioware’s Mass Effect and Silicone Knight’s Too Human.