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Microsoft gaming at CES: Little news, very cool game demos

Microsoft Game Studios had some fun demos set up, but not much actual news.

Microsoft didn't have much in the way of actual announcements, but it did offer a nice selection of game demos at its CES booth. E3 may be scaled back, and the big consoles may be already out, but Microsoft Game Studios showed off several reasons for gamers to be excited in the coming months.

Hellgate: London looks great and has the potential to fill the Diablo-shaped hole in all our hearts. Blizzard has been focusing almost entirely on World of Warcraft, so the hack-and-slash, click-fest genre has been neglected for quite a while. Fortunately, the developers of the Diablo series formed Flagship Studios and are working on the modern-day demonic gorefest that is Hellgate: London. The demo they showed off looked smoother and more stable than the demo portrayed a few months ago at Digital Life in New York, and it included the new gun-happy Hunter faction.

Supreme Commander also showed a lot of potential. This spiritual sequel to strategy classic Total Annihilation will have over two hundred different units and maps spanning hundreds of square miles. Like Hellgate, the preview they showed at CES seemed smoother and more stable than the preview version we saw a few months ago.

Much as it chagrins this avid RPG player to say it, Shadowrun also looked good. The multiplayer cyberpunk shooter supposedly takes place in FASA's Shadowrun universe, where teams of magic-wielding warriors and megacorporation soldiers duke it out in Counter-Strike-style team combat. The game play we saw looked fast-paced, strategic, and pleasantly violent, but the game's format still seems like a waste of a rich fictional universe. The minigun also felt a bit sluggish for my tastes.

Microsoft also showed Lord of the Rings Online, Conan: The Hyborean Adventures, Crackdown, World of Conflict, Fusion Frenzy 2, and a handful of other games. The various titles are scheduled to ship later this year.