E3 2012 – Xbox highlights

Microsoft shows off new Halo, Gears of War, Forza, Call of Duty and Airplay-style mobile gaming app in packed E3 press conference

We might not have a new Xbox to look forward to but Microsoft’s E3 press conference proved that there’s plenty of life in the 360 yet.

Kicking off with a live-action Halo 4 trailer that was so heavy on Hollywood-level CGI it could’ve passed for Avatar 2, we then had our first glimpse of Master Chief’s return to action with a short but intense gunfight in dense forest against enemies not seen in the Halo universe before.

Next it was a short galactic hop to the Iran/Iraq border for Splinter Cell: Blacklist – a sneak ‘n’ shoot full of dramatic slow-mo and nimble climbing that made Sam Fisher’s latest feel a little like Max Payne meets Assassin’s Creed. We particularly liked the use of Kinect’s voice control to get a guard’s attention before heaving him over a balcony to his death.

Kinect was also at the centre of Nike+ Kinect Training, a fitness game that uses the motion sensitive camera to track your movement and provide the same real-time feedback that Nike usually reserves for its elite athletes. Whether its elite athletes are as fond of cakes as the rest of us wasn’t mentioned.

Wannabe Alex Fergusons will also be pleased to hear that Kinect is coming to FIFA 13, with voice control allowing you to change tactics and make subs mid-game by simply barking them out from the touchline/sofa. It also allows you to instruct your teammates during Be a Pro mode. Swearing when you get caught offside or one of them misses a sitter will even get the commentator calling you out for your potty mouth.

There were also glimpses of Forza Horizon (which adds a street racing slant and lots of generic dubstep to the series), Gears of War: Judgement (Marcus Fenix is out, an equally thickheaded, gravel-voiced hero is in), Resident Evil 6 (zombies, fire and crashing helicopters), Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (more of the same but in the future), the gritty new reboot of Tomb Raider and a special introduction to South Park: The Stick of Truth by the show’s creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker.

But it wasn’t just about the games. SmartGlass is a new Airplay-style app that’ll allow you to watch a movie on a tablet or phone and transfer it to the TV via your Xbox when you get home. It also adds a second screen to certain games and TV shows, with map info to complement an episode of Game of Thrones, or, as seen in a couple of concept videos, spaceship schematics in Halo 4 and as a fully interactive playbook for Madden NFL. Best of all Microsoft said it’d work with Windows, Android and iOS devices so no one will be left out when it launches worldwide in the autumn.

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