Xbox 360 Exclusives
While the XBL is moving towards more entertainment than gaming, the Xbox 360 itself remains a gaming console at heart, and always will be. To emphasize that, Microsoft showed off a handful of Xbox 360 exclusive titles coming out soon.
Gears of War 3
Easily the biggest Xbox 360 exclusive of the year, Gears producer Cliff Bleskinski took the stage to play a bit of the campaign. To help him with the co-op, rapper-turned-actor Ice-T joined him.
The stage was a quick look at the opening level. Two years after the events of Gears 2, Marcus Fenix and his team are living on a carrier away from the war. They think that they are safe, until an infected leviathan attacks.
Halo: Combat Evolved
The original Halo returns to celebrate its anniversary. To commemorate the game that put Xbox on the map, Halo: CE will receive an HD facelift, with full remastered graphics and a new look to many existing levels. So while the paths you take may look familiar, the areas you wander through may look entirely original.
There will also be co-op, both online and off, and the seven classic multiplayer maps that came with the original will be available to play online.
Forza Motorsports 4
The biggest and best competitor to Gran Turismo 5 couldn’t let the release of GT5 go unanswered, and the fourth title in the Forza series will be out later this year in October.
Forza 4 will feature Kinect support, including head movement recognition. More on this game later in the week.
Kinect-specific Xbox 360 exlusives
Microsoft is gambling heavily in the Kinect, and to support the gesture based controller, it is planning on releasing several new titles to help.
Crytek is back, this time with a Kinect-exclusive game set during the fall of Rome. This was the first official look at the game. You are a Roman citizen, fighting for survival as Rome burns and the Roman Empire comes crashing down. Although the clip was brief, the idea is that you wield a shield and a sword, and through the gesture controls, you fight off enemies.
Kinect Disneyland Adventures
Microsoft and Disney have joined forces to present a game that will allow you to wander through a realistic interpretation of Disneyland, and several of the locations will lead to playable mini-games. The two levels displayed were both movement based games. The first was based on Peter Pan, and was a flying game that had the players moving around to capture items and avoid obstacles. The second was based on Alice in Wonderland and was a similar design, only the player was in a ball on a ramp, and you moved side-to-side only. It is due out at the end of the year.
Sesame Street: Once a Monster
A game geared for kids and families, Sesame Street: Once a Monster combines mimicking movement and mini-games. It is made for families, and should appeal to younger gamers.
Kinect Sports Season 2
The best-selling Kinect game returns with more sports and more options. Six options in total will be available, including: baseball, football, tennis, golf, darts and skiing.
Dance Central 2
A sequel to the game that has become a party hit is on the way, with more tracks and a few improvements. DC 2 will feature voice support, and allow two players to dance at the same time. It will also be compatible with all the original Dance Central tracks, so the new library will instantly double if you own the original game.
Kinect Fun Labs
Although not quite a game, Kinect Fun Labs will expand the potential of the Kinect. Available to download today on the XBL dashboard, Fun Labs has two new features that all Kinect users should like. The first is with scanning. You can now scan yourself with the Kinect, and create a new avatar that looks like you. It will map your facial features and even the clothes you are wearing, then recreate them as your new avatar. Item scanning is now available as well, and long awaited things—like the ability to scan your skateboard into a game and then use it—are available.
The second feature was based on finger tracking, which was on display though Googly Eyes, a program within Fun Labs. Simply take a picture of one object (maybe yourself), then take a background shot, and then you can edit the picture with your fingers. Best of all, the image will be rendered in 3D, allowing you to rotate it.
All of the new Kinect options will also be available to share online in the Kinect library, so you can show off your pictures to your friends.
Fable: The Journey
The next installment of Fable is on the way, and it will take the game in a new direction. Fable: The Journey will be a first-person game designed for the Kinect. The demo we were shown featured a sequence driving a carriage, where you move the reigns for speed and maneuverability. But much more interesting was the combat mechanism, which was gesture based.
Although there is certainly more to the game, the action demo we saw used magic to fight off enemies. With a pushing movement, you launch a fireball, a slashing movement sends an energy ribbon. If you rub your hands together the magic charges up, and if you roll your hands in a circle, you can create new types of attacks. Expect to hear more about this game.
Star Wars Kinect
The biggest of the upcoming Kinect titles is without a doubt, the Star Wars game. Although it is set in the time of the prequels during the Clone Wars, many of the original trilogy’s settings were shown, including Cloud City. The game is broken up into two sections, one flying and one combat (lightsaber) based. The flying seemed straight forward enough — you move to maneuver the craft and fire with a hand gesture. The combat was on rails, but it allowed some movement based on your actions.
Swiping your arm down brought your lightsaber down. Kicking made your character kick. You could also dodge and use force powers with gestures. The look may not appeal to those that aren’t a fan of the new films, and the on-rails action might not be ideal, but it is still Star Wars, and fighting with a lightsaber looks cool.
And to close the show…
To finish off the conference, Microsoft had one more trick up its sleeve, as it officially announced Halo 4 with a trailer.
When Bungie announced that it was moving on to create multi-platform games, it was assumed that Halo would still live on through a new company. We all knew it was coming, but it was still good to see Master Chief once again. The trailer was brief and inconclusive, but Microsoft did specifically say that Halo 4 would be the first game in a new trilogy created by 343 Industries, one of Microsoft’s in-house production teams. It also announced that Halo 4 would be due out at the end of next year.
Microsoft did exactly what it needed to with its E3 press conference. With Nintendo poised to steal the show with the Wii 2, and the still-vulnerable Sony likely to push its exclusive titles post the PSN-debacle, Microsoft put the emphasis on the Kinect, and on the future of Xbox Live as an entertainment service that does far more than just games.
Microsoft through the gauntlet down to start E3. Now it is up to the other guys to try to rise to the occasion.