CES: Oblivion readies for March release

Microsoft wasn't featuring Oblivion at their CES booth, but they did have a near final build to show-off under the press tent. Albert Penello, Xbox Hardware & 3rd Party Marketing, confirmed that the version on display contained the game's full content. Still, load times were painfully slow and slowdown during combat was a major issue. Penello did assure us that Bethesda will have all of these kinks worked out for the final retail version.

We were confined to an underground dungeon last time we visited with Oblivion, but today we were finally set free into the open air. And rest assured the air is fresh! We've never seen trees sway like this--at least not virtually--with leaves rustling and branches slowly bending--all things moving independently.

Another welcome surprise was the NPC voice work. Penello claimed that he had run through the village demonstration 12-15 times, and each time the old man that confronted him had completely different rumors to speak of and new requests he had come up with. Admittedly, the lip syncing was still a little off and the faces didn't display the quality of detail present in the environments, but hey, this is just nitpicking, trust us, Oblivion will blow you away.

Both versions of Morrowind quietly went platinum, so we know there are hordes of fans salivating over this release. If Bethesda can correct the slowdown and cut the load times then this is the next-gen title to watch for. Oh, and one look at the world map confirmed what we've known all along: Oblivion will steal your life away for a long time.

This article was originally published on Joystiq.